Sunday, April 04, 2010

The N.E.P.

Always Hungry or Forever Fat

I’m always hungry. It’s by choice; a necessary discomfort I endure to get something I want more than feeling full.

Some years ago, at my annual Boy Scout physical, my doctor got me thinking. As we talked about the joys of grandchildren, he asked how my parents had died. Both died from heart disease. He told me I needed to get my weight and cholesterol down if I wanted to enjoy my grandchildren for long. “It would be sad,” he added, “to lose all that learning.” His warning still echoes in my mind.

Some days later, I took a look at my chubby reflection in the mirror. I had avoided looking in the mirror for a long time. I wore baggy clothes, sweaters, and suspenders, so I wouldn’t have to think about my tummy. I never posed for photographs. Rather discouraged, I got on the new digital scale in our bathroom. I weighed over a ton; the scale read 2030. Frantic, I burst out of the bathroom crying, “I weigh two thousand and thirty pounds.” My daughter comforted me, and pointed out that there was a decimal point in there. In fact I weighed 203.0 lbs., still a wake up call.

It was then I invented the N.E.P. (New Eating Program). We were studying Lenin in World History, and the New Economic Program was in my head. It took me one and a half years to reach a target weight (TW). I have weighed 130 lbs for a year and a half (my preferred weight (PW) is 128 lbs.) and I have decided that the N.E.P. really does work. Here it is:

1. Eat only three meals a day and take only ONE reasonable portion of food at each. Never eat until full; always stop still wanting more.
2. Never eat desserts.
3. Never eat snacks: no ice cream, no candy, no cookies, no donuts, no sugared pop, no fruit juice – nothing eaten solely to please the taste buds.
4. Take nutritional supplements. I take the following: a daily multi-vitamin, (Centrum Silver – I am an old man), a vitamin E capsule, 4000 milligrams of fish oil (four pills a day), one baby aspirin, 10 mg of Crestor, and 500 mg of Niaspan Er. (These prescription medications were prescribed by my doctor). I also take one red wine extract gell-cap (Resveratra) every day, and for my brain, I eat 22.5 grams of Ghirardelli’s intense dark 86% Cacao chocolate every Thursday at lunch.
5. Do moderate exercise. I do 200 pushups, 100 in the morning – 100 each afternoon, and 25 pull-ups each night. (I did not start out at these levels.) I also walk for at least 20 minuets every day.
6. Drink a liter of water a day.
7. Satisfy cravings with diet soda or calorie free flavored water.
8. Weigh every day. At first I weighed myself three times a week; this was a better way to see declines in weight. Now that I am in “holding” mode, I weigh myself every morning just before my shower. It is my goal to always be below 130 lbs.
9. Write goals down – I place my 130 lb goal in my New Year’s Resolution list in my journal every year. That pledge is always there to motivate my efforts.
10. Eat something you like every day. I eat a two cup bowl of Post Selects Great Grains, Raisin, Dates, and Pecans every morning.

By strict observance of this plan, I lost 75 lbs in just over a year. I started the NEP at Camp the summer of 2007 and by the end of camp 2008, I weighed 130 lbs or less. I had lost far more weight than I originally planned. I must admit that at first I didn’t know what weight was right for me. I just started losing weight and was surprised, and pleased at how much I did. Getting to and maintaining this weight for almost two years now was not easy; it is not easy. My experience has been that nothing of real value comes easy. There are advantages:

1. I feel better. I am free of the burden of carrying 75 pounds everywhere. I used to get winded walking to the campfire bowl at Loll. Now, I’m not concerned at walking any distance or climbing any hill. In the fall of 2008, our family took a trip to Zion’s National Park; I climbed to the top of Angle's Landing and didn’t even get my heart pounding –except from the fear of falling.
2. I enjoy my food a lot more. Before the N.E.P., I was full all the time, eating out of boredom or habit. Now, I have a sharp edged appetite and enjoy eating more.
3. I save money. There was a time when a trip anywhere necessitated a stop at the gas station; costing a $3+ treat expense –pop, cookies, and such. I no longer consume much expensive meat, cheese, or ice cream. There is a Diet Mountain Dew charge – but it is small by comparison.
4. I’m not ashamed to look in the mirror or see pictures of myself.
5. I have much more confidence. I may not be handsome, but at least I’m not fat.
6. My cholesterol is normal, my blood pressure excellent.
7. I (knock on wood) never get sick.
8. My clothes fit. I had to get a new wardrobe, new pants, belt, shirts, underwear, even sweaters. I bagged up all my old cloths and took them back to DI. The clothes I wear feel comfortable, never tight, never stretched.

Challenges:

1. People ask me and especially ask my wife, if I am dying of cancer.
2. There has been a rumor going around the scout council for two years that I was dying and that “this” will be my last year at Loll.
3. I look older than I did forty pounds ago. My skin got lose and baggy, it is getting to fit better, slowly.

Dangers that must be faced:

1. It’s hard to eat out. Avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants of any kind. They are a bane and an embarrassment to our culture; such public gluttony in shocking. I must attend such a restaurant twice a year with my father-in-law’s family. I take one small plate of salad and fish. I strengthen my resolve by looking at all the fat people in the room, and reminding myself that I want to live long enough to take my grandsons to General Priesthood meeting.
2. Be strong when you’re out with friends, or visiting with people who are hoping to entertain you. Here in Utah, one never serves liquor, but hosts make up for this by providing food at every meeting. Learn to say no and move quickly on to other things. People do not get offended if you are nice – and someone is always around to eat up your portion.
3. I’m hungry all the time. I tell myself that, “hungry is good”. In the days that I was trying to loose weight, I reminded myself that the hunger meant I was burning fat. Now I remind myself that I, not my appetite, am the master – and look forward to my bowl of cereal. I think of my grandkids.
4. Most of the folks I know who have lost weight by diet or surgery have gained it all back in a rather short time. It is so hard to lose weight, and so easy to gain it! So I remind myself that I cannot fail. I am even writing this post as a sort of commitment – a dare to myself to “keep it off”.

Some things I do for support:

1. I look at fat people and think to myself – there but for the grace of God and the N.E. P. go me. Wal-Mart is an especially good place to do this.
2. I look at the healthy and beautiful people that are all around me and seek inspiration in their strength and success.
3. I chew sugar free gum. It is like candy to me.
4. I play with my grandsons and enjoy watching them grow. I dream of seeing their sons as well. My father-in-law is a great source of inspiration to me.
5. I look forward to a long retirement; taking some satisfaction in realizing that my students will work many years to pay for my adventures yet to be. I know I could die at any moment, but it won’t be of being fat; over that I have, and have, taken control.
6. I fill my time with other activities so I don’t have to eat for entertainment. I draw, read, and write. I set goals for camp and school and work on them whenever I have free time.

The NEP was not entirely original to me nor is it without support in the medical world. I have been reading about it for years with my Greek and Roman History Class. In Xenophon’s ­­Laws and Customs of the Spartans, he recounts how Lycurgus guided the Spartans:

“As to food, he ordained that they should exhort the boys to take only such a quantity as never to be oppressed with overeating, and not to be strangers to living somewhat frugally; supposing that, being thus brought up, they would be the better able, if they should be required, to support toil under a scarcity of supplies, would be the more likely to persevere in exertion, should it be imposed on them, on the same quantity of provisions, and would be less desirous of sauces, more easily satisfied with any kind of food, and pass their lives in greater health. He also considered that the fare which rendered the body slender would be more conductive to increasing its stature that that which expanded it with nutriment.”

“Lycurgus, then, having found the Spartans, like other Greeks, taking their meals at home, and knowing that most were guilty of excess at them, caused their meals to be taken in public, thinking that his regulations would thus be less likely to be transgressed. He appointed them such a quantity of food, that they should neither be overfed nor feel stinted.”

"As Lycurgus observed, too, that those who , after taking food, exercised themselves, become well-complexioned, plump, and robust, while those who are inactive are puffy, unhealthy-looking, and feeble, he did not neglect to give attention to that point; . . . he ordered that the oldest in each place of exercise should take care that those belonging to it should never be overcome by taking too much food."

"With regard to this matter, he appears to me to have been by no means mistaken; for no one would easily find men more healthy, or more able-bodied, than the Spartans; for they exercise themselves alike in their legs, in their hands, and in their shoulders."

The N.E.P. has support in today’s scientific community. In a recent “Time Magazine”, (Feb 22, 2010), article by Bryan Walsh, the virtues of Lycurgus pronouncements are reinforced by modern research. The article titled, “Eat Less, Live Longer?” contains the following supportive commentary:

“Jon Apollos is losing weight the old-fashioned way – by eating less. . . Apollos has lowered his daily caloric intake 25% over the past eight months. The fat, not surprisingly, has melted away; the 52-year-old physical trainer has lost more than 25 lb. (11 kg) since the study began and is down to his high school weight. . . The researchers running the multi-center CALERIE study are trying to determine whether restricting food intake can slow the aging process and extend our life span. “I feel better and lighter and healthier,” says Apollos. “But if it could help you live longer, that would be pretty amazing. . ."

“. . . decades of calorie-restriction studies involving organisms ranging from microscopic yeast to rats have shown just that, extending the life spans of the semi-starved as much as 50% . . . finding that calorie restriction seemed to extend the lives of human like rhesus monkeys as well . . . any time you go on a diet, after all, you stand a good chance of lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol level and risk of diabetes and other health woes. All that can translate into extra years. With calorie restriction – usually defined as a diet with 25% to 30% fewer calories than normal but still containing essential nutrients – something else appears to be at work to extend longevity. . .”

“Scientists have suspected that calorie restriction could extent the life span of animals since at least 1935, when researchers at Cornell University noticed that severely food-restricted lab rats lived twice as long as normal ones and were healthier. Other investigators began exploring the idea and learned that the secret is not merely a matter of body weight: lab mice that ate normally but became skinny by exercising a lot showed no longevity improvements. Only the ones that didn’t eat many calories to begin with benefited. . .”

“Calorie restriction is pretty much the only thing out there that we know will not just prevent disease but also extend maximal life span,” says Dr. Marc Hellerstein, a nutritionist at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the biological effects of fasting.”

“The dieters lose weight almost immediately, usually reducing their body mass about 15% in the first year before plateauing. And they reap the expected health benefits: cholesterol and blood pressure drop precipitously. . .”

There are challenges mentioned in the “Time” article, and hope as well:

“In contemporary America, where calories are cheap and plentiful, cutting back 25% means almost constantly saying no. Alcohol is largely out, and dining with friends who aren’t denying themselves would become a chore. . . As for Apollos, who has 16 months to go on the CALERIE study, he has grown fond of abstention and says he wants to continue the diet even after the experiment is over. His improved health is, by itself, a form of renewed youth. But getting some extra years would be an even better one.”

So there it is – The N.E.P. Give it a try. For those who are interested, I hope to keep you posted on my efforts for a long, long time. As for grandchildren; I’m at five grandsons and counting!

16 comments:

Taylor said...

this is wonderful! I was certainly one who believed you were dying of cancer. Jodi and myself are at or near our target weight, but I really like the idea of more energy and the self mastery and control that this provides.

Lysis said...

Taylor,

I hear you’re a published poet – and at Harvard no less. There’s quality for you!

Reach Upward said...

I admire your determination. The "moderate" workout you outline would be extremely challenging (if not immediately impossible) for the vast majority of American adults. Bully for you!

As you know, I have battled the bulge since I was a kid. It is not an easy thing. In my years, I have learned a few things about what works and what doesn't. Your program includes many of the elements that work. Setting goals, measuring regularly, and having a plan are among those.

Perhaps the greatest factor is having some source of inspiration that drives you to do what must be done, difficult though it be. You have taken your grandsons. I have my health condition, and I still have young kids at home.

For a change to be more permanent, you must come to see yourself differently in the deepest recesses of your mind. Most people that lose weight never achieve this. They get skinnier, but deep in their subconscious they are still fat. So it is not surprising that they eventually get fat again.

Studies have found that it often takes some kind of serious shock imposed on us from an external source to cause this to happen. For me it was when I was diagnosed with MS. For you it was the doctor visit and the scale experience. Apparently most humans fail to achieve a permanent change just by their own willpower.

I have found that over time I must employ variety. No matter what plan I have found to be successful, it starts to become somewhat less successful after a few years, even when I remain diligent. I then do more research and find something else that seems like it will work. The change starts the commitment pattern over again. I think that in these situations, the change is perhaps even more important for me than the substance of the plan.

Lysis said...

Reach,

Your advice is wise, appreciated, and attested to by years of success. Thank you for your thoughts.

Todd said...

After completing two triathlons and a marathon last year, I still hadn't been able to shed the last 15 pounds by exercise only. Your story has helped me fill in the blanks. "We must all suffer from one of two pains - the pain of discipline or the pain of regret ." The late Jim Rohn

Lysis said...

Todd,

It is very nice to hear from you. I laud your participation in these demanding athletic activates, most inspirational. I am sure you will continue to benefit from the application of your physical abilities. Thanks for the great quote. It is one I will share with my students. I had not heard of Mr. Rohn, but I looked him up on the computer. Thanks for that tip as well.

Jewel said...

Wow, I guess I should stop by and see you next time I'm in town. 75 pounds? Congratulations! I need to lose about 15 myself - my metabolism finally caught up to me now that I'm nearing 30. C'est la vie. I'll give "The N.E.P." a try. Tell L. I said hello.

Anonymous said...

Lysis. I loved this blog it reminded Me of brasil and the time I spent starving there. Talk to you more love tatton

Lysis said...

Jewel,

Thanks for the note – I’m very eager to have you stop in. Lafe is in Provo at the BYU. I am sure he would love to hear from you.

Tatton,

It is so nice to hear from you. Come see us – keep in touch!!

Captain said...

A friend of mine once had a saying that went "Vivir con el N.E.P es vivir a medias. Meaning to live on the N.E.P. is like to half live or is a life half lived. Lysis writes well and sound reasonable but I have witnessed the N.E.P. up close if you're looking to loose weight and be healthy I would suggest the J.E.H.A.G.A.O.E.B.D.T.Y.F.S.S.O.M.P.A.O.S.O.C.L.A.C.P.M.I.A.T. The just eat healthy and get a lot of exercise but don't torture yourself for some masochistic pleasure and obsessive sense of control, like a crazy person, moderation in all things. This plan seems to work better with fewer side effects.

Lysis said...

When our young captain has navigated as many seas as I have, he might come to alter course on the subject of diet. His “just eat healthy” will come to be any way of eating that keeps his belly in trim. When he is my age, and a doing a lot of exercise becomes more torture than a little self control, I’ll check him out, and if need be, re-recommend the NEP.

Captain said...

Three points:
1. Shininess is not healthiness. Weight loss often accompanies healthy living but it also accompanies malnutrition and weakness. Skinniness can easily become unhealthy.

2. Diet control is not a sufficient substitute for exercise. Loosing weight does not improve lung or heart function in the same way exercise does. You claim your eating habits have raised your energy level but your energy could have something to do with the seven or so mountain dews you drink throughout the day.

3. Obsession is not Self Control. When you reach the point where any system or idea keeps you from acting in a rational manner then the obsession is in control not you.

Captain said...

Point one should say skinniness is not healthiness;
Also in addition to point two; Bone strength, joint health, even brain function are all dependent on exercise and an adequate diet. A skinny person, with a limited diet, could still suffer serious health problems in all these areas.

Lysis said...

In response to your comments on “skinniness” I refer you to the original post; particularly the claims of Xenophon regarding the Spartans and the quote from Dr. Marc Hellerstein, quoted in News Week. I would also protest that the NEP does advocate moderate exercise.

I would suggest that obesity, not skinniness, is the more pressing health concern. Moderation in eating and exercise will produce “skinniness” obsession with eating results in obesity. Obesity is a health problem of gigantic proportion in this country. We live in a culture which insists on having it all, a binge and bust mentality which seeks to indulge and then purge it belly and its conscience.

I do not disparage exercise – I merely point to the bloated “former” athletes who lost their self-control gorging their elevated appetites, while their life style covered their excess, and who now cannot muster the discipline to save their lives.

I admit to the Mt. Dew – although 7 would be an exceptionally high number for any given day. If it raises my energy level without requiring constant snacking on grease and sugar, I am grateful to have the option.

Captain said...

It doesn't matter which problem obesity or malnutrition is more pervasive they're both bad. If I'm struck with lung cancer it does no good for me to point out that bone cancer is a much bigger problem in our country.

Good healthy energy doesn't come from eating grease or sugar or carbonated artificially sweetened soft drinks. The best way to raise your energy level and metabolism is through activity.

We have to avoid extremes, arguing that your extreme is better than some other extreme is pointless. Choose the middle road.

You are right to advocate health and healthy body weight, so there is no need to imply that I advocate gorging I do not. The NEP as I have observed it does not create a healthy weight or a productive lifestyle. I challenge you to find one competent medical or nutritional expert who would support your current weight, diet, and exercise program.

Lysis said...

Oh Captain, my Captain,

You are not being honest when you claim that the NEP calls for malnutrition. (No more than I would be if I claimed you advocate gorging – so it seems odd to me that we should be arguing at these extremes.) As for producing “competent nutritional experts”, I have the evidence of my own health – and the arguments of the scientists and philosophers I cited in my original post – which I suggest your read again before you further misrepresent.

As for observations of the NEP: since I am the only person I know to be following it in its unaltered state, I can state important facts. My cholesterol, which was high despite the drugs I was taking, is now normal with less medication. I sleep better, have more energy to work and play, walk farther without fatigue, and actually get pleasure in exercise. I have not had a headache in months, although I once suffered from them regularly, and I am capable of physical exertion I would not have dreamed of attempting before I shed 75 lbs. of unnecessary me.

As for a “productive life style”, please consider: I teach with energy and pleasure every day; preparing for four different classes and tending to the needs of close to 200 students, while fulfilling a variety of school related responsibilities. I advise three clubs, providing lessons and training for Senior Class Advisory, and coordinating the graduation ceremony for close to five hundred students. I direct a scout camp with its attendant responsibilities, including working with the Park Service, the Forest Service, and the Council leadership. I speak publicly to various groups and coordinating my Camp Staff’s performance for others. I pursue a variety of interests and hobbies, including: writing, reading, and work on art projects. I keep abreast of nightly news and do some small services around the house. Since Christmas, I have been involved in two stressful and rewarding campaigns for causes I believe in – Mr. Smith’s retirement and Camp Loll camper’s hiking privileges in Yellowstone. I have recently taken a position as Community School Director at Layton High, and look forward to the experience, growth, and opportunity to serve this will bring. I am very active in politics, meeting with candidates, reading materials, attending debates, and representing my precinct as a State Delegate in the upcoming State Convention. My “lifestyle” allows me to provide for many of the needs of my family, a wife and two children still at home, the extra boy, and give support, financially and personally, to my children who have left my home but not my care, and I dote on my grandsons. I have many friends, and enjoy talking with them and being of any service to them which I can. I am up and active 17 hours a day, and sleep peacefully for 7 every night. As I said above, I don’t get sick. (Touch wood.) You must take my word when I testify that I feel better than I have in years.

I do not claim to be the most fit or powerful person around, I simply maintain that I have found a way to make myself feel better than I did before and hope I will continue to be able to maintain my resolve not to fall back into the less healthy condition in to which I had fallen. As the NEP worked for me, I recommend it to any who find themselves in similar circumstances.