08/03/2006: In September 1999, I weighed almost 200 pounds. My physician told me I was a heart attack waiting to happen. My face was flushed. I could not walk 10 minutes in a treadmill. From a medical standpoint, I was obese.
A year later–almost to the day–I finished my first marathon, weighing in at 140 pounds. From September 2000 to September 2002, I would go on to finish five marathons and one ultra-marathon (50 kilometers).
What special adjustments did I make from 1999 to 2000?
For the most part, it was the old-fashioned approach: eat less/exercise more. Only I moderated on the fats and protein and limited my junk/fast food. No protein supplements. No stimulants. No amphetamine. No fads.
I’ve observed people who have lost lots of weight using fad diets (Atkins, South Beach, Macrobiotic, etc.) or radical reductions in food intake. They almost always gain the weight back.
The reason: such diets are the products of marketing that do not take into account the dieter’s best interests. The diets are successful in that they make money for the authors, but their long-term effects can be fruitless and even dangerous.
The Atkins Diet may be the most successful con job in the history of nutrition. Most of the initial weight loss is water, and studies have shown that it hardly outperforms other diets. The high-protein approach is potentially dangerous.
Other fads–such as liquid diets–are also long-term busts.
In my observation, the only method that works–long-term is eat less/exercise more. (Then again, that is consistent with the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.)
How do you “eat less”? I’ve seen two ways that work long-term:
(1) Vegetarian. I have some friends who swear by it. I can’t seem to give up chicken and salmon, though!
(2) A diet of mostly complex carbohydrates and moderate protein and fat. (Dr. Robert Haas–author of the landmark book Eat to Win and former nutritionist for Martina Navratilova–has some of the best advice on this.)
Diets that are high in protein and fats, in general, are a disaster.
How do you “exercise more”? The answer to that is flexible.
Almost everyone can benefit from some weightlifting, although one should focus on repetitions of lower weights rather than sheer powerlifting. Building lean muscle mass is more important than bulk.
In addition, some aerobic exercise is necessary. This can include walking, jogging, biking, swimming, rowing, tennis, basketball, etc…for at least 30 minutes. I recommend an hour, but hey…some people actually have a life!
What about calorie intake? That is an inexact science. Some folks will gain weight if they exceed 1,200 calories while others will need at least 3,000 or more. To that end, I suggest the following procedure:
(1) Get your blood work done by your doctor. That will allow for you to set some target goals based on your blood chemistry.
(2) Start an diet/exercise program after consulting with your doctor.
(3) Monitor that for two weeks.
After two weeks, you should have an idea if the approach is going to lose or gain weight for you. From there, you can increase exercise and/or cut food intake accordingly. If you lose more than 2 pounds in a week, then raise your food intake so you can keep the weight loss at a moderate pace.
As you lose weight, consult your doctor perhaps once a month. He or she may let you know if you are losing too much weight. They might monitor your blood work to see if there are any anomalies.