Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A little history...

I figured a little history would help to show where I am now.

As a kid, I didn't play sports but was pretty active and stayed thin throughout school. I had paper routes from the age of 10 through about 17 which kept me in decent shape (I walked and and carried all of the papers with me). I didn't have a clue about diet but we really didn't have snacks around much.

At age 16, I was 135-140 lb at 5' 9"-ish:

On my 17th birthday, I joined the Army National Guard. They had a program where you do basic training the summer between your Junior and Senior year of high school and then finish the training (AIT) after graduation. I did my basic training that summer and put on close to 30 pounds, dropped one pants size and grew close to 1.5". I came out of that the best shape of my life. Unfortunately, it didn't last.

I got back into shape during AIT (a lot of running and calisthenics) but I ate terribly while there. I would skip breakfast so I could sleep in before getting up to help clean the barracks. I would eat a decent lunch while in class and then buy junk from the PX for "dinner". For as badly as I ate, it was amazing how good of shape I got into (would have been even better had I eaten correctly). This junk food diet set a bad precedent as it was the first time that I really had access to that much junk.

After AIT, I started college (community college then) and worked a variety of jobs that were fairly physically demanding. I stayed in okay shape and only put on a little fat during this time.

When I was 20, I finally moved out on my own. I had gotten a job as a computer operator for a local bank and worked the graveyard shift. I rarely cooked for myself and the fast food diet, combined with the fairly sedentary new job, led to a fairly rapid weight gain. I didn't have a scale at that time but I know I developed a gut for the first time in my life.

I decided that I needed to learn about nutrition and went out and bought a bunch of books about it. Some of it was a little on the fringe, like Adelle Davis, but it helped. I came away with the main idea to increase my vegetables and to avoid refined sugar and grains. I decided that I would avoid the refined carbs and go from there.

It wasn't really a low carb diet, though. My dinners would be meat, vegetables and potato/rice. Very simple meals and almost no processed food, since it was impossible to find it without sugar or flour added. I did find a whole grain, no sugar added bread, so I had sandwiches for lunch. Knowing what I know now about carbs, it was kind of silly, but it worked - I dropped down to a 29/30 inch waist size and stayed there pretty effortlessly.

When I started dating the girl who I would eventually marry, it became very difficult to go out and stay on the no sugar/flour diet. I put weight back on fairly quickly, eventually ballooning up to around 185 lbs by the time we got married when I was 25 years old.

After getting married, I went back to school to earn my Electrical Engineering degree at Oregon State University. Walking all over campus carrying a heavy book bag helped keep my weight semi-under control. I fluctuated between 190 and 200 lbs during this time. I also tried to eat a lower fat diet to try to help control my weight but wasn't always successful. I also started really developing a bad habit of just plain eating too much. I would easily put away half of a giant pizza or four Taco Bell bean burritos at a sitting.

After school, the weight just poured on. Over the next few years, I eventually ballooned up to 225 lb.

I really never saw myself as fat I really was, though I felt terrible at the time. My wife tells me I was developing sleep apnea (I snore bad enough as it is) and I was tired all of the time. I was tired and irritable with my boys, who were very young at the time. I tried dieting on and off but nothing really worked.

During the summer of '98, I got a visit from my sister and was amazed at how she looked. She had been struggling with her weight also and here she shows up tiny! I found she was doing a program called Weigh Down through her church. The basic idea was to eat whatever you wanted but only in small amounts and only when physically (stomach growling) hungry. It sounded simple and I started right away.

By the next April, I had lost 48 pounds, to a low of 177 lbs. I eventually adjusted to about 180 lbs and stayed there for the next four years. I was truly eating whatever I wanted and it was extremely easy to stay on plan.

Around 2002, I inexplicably started to regain the weight. I believe now that there were a few factors. One was that the Weigh Down program was becoming increasingly legalistic. Basically, the idea was that it was a mortal sin to overeat or eat when not hungry. Being too strict can be a death knell for a diet. Another problem was I was eating too much at a time so I was getting into a "binge and fast" cycle. Finally, eating "whatever I want" didn't include enough protein and I had lost a fair amount of muscle. I believe that this slowed my metabolism and made it harder to actually get hungry, so that I ate when I thought I was going to be hungry rather than waiting until I actually was.

I struggled to get back on track but failed. I tried a different, but similar, program called Thin Within that wasn't as legalistic but I had lost my groove by this time. Because I frequently found myself craving sweets after dinner, I started thinking back to my no sugar/refined grains days. I started studying this aspect again and came across low carb nutrition.

The idea of whole/unprocessed food appealed to me (I never bought those low carb frankenfoods) and I started incorporating low carb into my eating style. I have been there pretty much since that time and my weight during this time has fluctuated between a high of 198 to a low of 181, with an average in the 190 range. The difference now is that I am able to put back on the muscle and my 195 lbs is a lot different build than it was when I was eating junk food in college.

Two years ago, I also found that I was gluten intolerant. Since that time I have eaten nothing with wheat, barley or rye (at least,on purpose). This hasn't helped with my weight or getting in shape, except it is a lot easier to avoid junk food if it is going to instantly make you sick. I feel a lot better, though.

Maybe I should have titled this "A LOT of history...".

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