Outside of music, battling weight gain has been the one consistent hobby I’ve had through my entire adulthood. Since I stepped off my last playing field as a high school athlete, I have watched the scale slowly spin upward for the last 25 years, from college to marriage to kids. I did not stand idly by, mind you, I have battled with great energy and vigor. If you could count it, whether it was calories, Points, or minutes of exercise, I could catalog it all. Well-intentioned people would gently remind me of my weight gain often, as though I weren’t already reminded of that every time I got dressed or walked past a mirror. Summarizing my struggles pre-SANEity, I settled on two words: despair and frustration. If you’re reading this, chances are you fall (or fell) into one of these buckets.
My turnaround started with self-education, more precisely it started with a walk through my old office. Passing through the door of our break room, a thought ran through my head like a bolt of lightning that said “If you continue to do what you’re doing, then you will continue to get the results that you’re getting.” I’ve heard it before, but this time it landed forcefully. I remember that Christmas that my wife gave me a nice belt as a gift, and I couldn’t bring myself to admit to her that I couldn’t get it to fit. The tips wouldn’t even touch.
I don’t recall how I discovered Dr. Lustig’s work, but I remember hearing a 30-minute program with him on NPR. Intrigued by what I heard, and I immediately went and bought his book FAT CHANCE. Learning about the effects of sugar and insulin resistance was both enlightening and eerie; with each page, I was convinced he had hacked my medical file. Weight gain, skin tags, sky-high triglycerides, HDL/LDL out of whack, I had it all. Now, I finally understood the problem. I devoured his book in 2 days but was disappointed to learn at the end that even with my new-found knowledge, there was no action plan moving forward to help me reverse it. Now, though, the pilot light was lit.
Oddly enough, my introduction to SANEity did began away from home. It began on a day trip to Colonial Williamsburg. Strolling down Duke of Gloucester Street on a cool March day, my family wound up in the Barnes & Noble there like we always seem to do. With the boys finally old enough to browse by themselves for brief stretches without reducing the store to a pile of books, I made my way to the Nutrition section. Looking over the racks of books, a bright yellow book cover bearing the title THE CALORIE MYTH caught my eye. When I spotted the title, random thoughts that had been floating through my head suddenly crystallized. This calorie-counting stuff is utterly ineffective crap, and somebody is finally calling BS on it. I was a little guarded in my optimism since the claims on the cover seemed far-fetched, but the endorsement of a respected physician sealed it for me. I remember thinking “I don’t know what’s in here, but I want it.”
I am probably not the poster-child for easing into the program; rather, I dove head-first into the deep end. Out went all the processed foods, gone was the sugar. In its place, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, greek yogurt and tuna appeared. My reward for that was two weeks of misery, but I was prepared for it. My body had been trained to sugar and highly-refined foods for 43 years, and it did not take these changes lightly. For two weeks, I felt as though I could rip the head off of anyone who came near me, and then as my hormones began the process of recalibrating themselves, that feeling subsided almost overnight. After two weeks of SANEity, the puffy feeling in my abdomen that had dogged me for years went quiet. At three weeks in, I noticed that I moved easier, that my arms swung freely when I walked and it seemed as though every joint had been oiled a la The Tin Man. At four weeks in, the sun poked through the clouds and the scale moved backwards for the first time. And then it took off.
Whey protein appeared in the cabinet. Stevia replaced Splenda on the countertop. And the weight kept sliding off, as though my body was agreeing that it had never wanted to be this heavy. Suddenly the Christmas belt fit in the first notch.
By mid-summer, my shorts were sliding down my hips at the boys’ swim meets and I had to begin wearing a belt with them. In late summer, they slid down my legs as I was (thankfully) carrying groceries into the house with both hands. I have since retired those shorts, and have had to replace my work wardrobe with smaller pants (WITHOUT the “comfort waist” or “relaxed fit”, thank you very much).
At a company biometric screening in October, I noted that my triglycerides had fallen from 314 (the previous January) to 160. My total cholesterol had fallen from 170 to 122. I have stopped taking all oral medication that is supposed to “control” my lipid profile.
As of this writing, I have lost a total of 47 pounds and am still slowly losing weight. My goal was to be down 50 pounds by Christmas, and while I might fall a few pounds shy, what a journey it has been. I hope to hit my stretch goal of 70 pounds before Easter, but whether I do or not, the incredible difference between December and March is the feeling of control that I now have over my health and the hope that I have for the future.
The belt is now on its fourth and final notch, and I look forward with great anticipation to retiring that soon as well. It won’t go away, though, it will remain as a trophy and a reminder of where I’ve been and where I’m headed.
– By Jay Utz