At the top of the screen, you'll see three tabs. The home page is the blog, where I'll write about trying to change my body and my life without becoming an insufferable jackass about it. The program page tells you how I'm doing that. Finally, the progress page contains pictures and other milestones. Take a look around and feel free to leave a comment. Thanks!
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In which he drops below 290

517593613_43a2e71c60_mI got on the scale this morning (which I’ve been able to use since I fell below 300) and clocked in at just over 288.5 pounds. This is the first time I’ve been under 290 pounds in more than fifteen years !

Right now, I feel like I can do this indefinitely. There are no real hardships yet, though I imagine they’ll arrive in their own due time. For the most part, my thoughts are less “I don’t know if I can keep this up” and more “Why on earth did I think I couldn’t do this?”

I don’t think there are many visitors here yet. My fault for posting so sporadically and not reaching out more, but if anyone does surf by, please take this thought with you. I’ve lost this first 25 pounds or so with very little effort. If I can do it, you can too. I have no doubt. And even if my weight loss stopped today, I’d be significantly healthier and more comfortable than I was a few months ago.

It’s not an all or nothing deal, in other words. Don’t set those kind of conditions for yourself. Just start, and see where you end up. I suspect you may just amaze yourself.

Leo Reynolds Flickr (CC)

Once more, from the top…

2421140257_9f5ff175631Someone sent me a copy of the book The Beck Diet Solution, which I’ve been slowly working through.  It’s an extremely useful approach, I think, in that it begins to take a great deal of what we already know (and some things we don’t, of course) and pulls it all into a structured shape.  A program, in short.

Before you begin dieting, you’re asked to spend two weeks preparing yourself, laying the groundwork that will, hopefully, lead to success over the following weeks as you make permanent changes in your lifestyle and ways of thinking about food and exercise.

The first task is to identify a core set of reasons for losing weight, make a list, and then read through it at least twice a day.  I printed mine out on a B5 sheet of paper and keep it in my pocket.  Here it is.

  1. My dashing grin will no longer be buried deep in my cheeks.
  2. Women will whisper and swoon at my approach.
  3. No more wandering Japan in search of 4XL shirts.
  4. The mirror will be a friend.
  5. I won’t feel like a lardass in public settings.
  6. People will voice their awed admiration.
  7. I’ll be better, stronger, faster than I was before.
  8. Exercise will be a pleasure, a game…
  9. I’ll live longer for my daughter.
  10. I’ll live to accomplish my own dreams.
  11. I’ll have the energy of a bouncy superball.
  12. F***ing will be a lot more fun.
  13. I’ll take myself more seriously.
  14. I’ll be more in control of my own life.
  15. I’ll have accomplished something dramatic.
  16. I’ll be more confident and masterful.
  17. People will respond to the above.
  18. My self esteem will rise and ride the winds.
  19. I’ll be less self critical in all areas.
  20. I’ll enjoy hiking, playing, roaming the badlands again.
  21. My knees won’t hurt after clearing the dance floor.
  22. I’ll be more assertive, in command, intensely charismatic.
  23. People will keep their mouths shut about my weight.
  24. I will be feared and respected, for I shall be a mighty ape.
  25. I’ll set a better example for my daughter by not passing out on the sofa with potato chip crumbs scattered down my shirtfront.

And the list goes on…

Tomas Rotger Flickr (CC)

Summertime, and the Livin’ is Greasy

Summer is beginning to make itself felt here in western Japan, and I’m not all that thrilled about it.  I’m a cold-weather animal,  a woolly orca on legs.  Nothing like morbid obesity and body hair to bring a tear to a man’s eye at the approach of hot weather.  By August I’ll be beached half-dead on the couch, crying piteously for glass after glass of ice water.

More reason to get some of this weight off.  I remember reading once that if you’re freezing to death the best thing to do is to share a sleeping bag with someone else, both of you stark naked.  And the warmest partners?  Thin men.  They shed body heat so easily it’s like cuddling up to a steam radiator.

I’d rather freeze to death, of course…

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

952If you haven’t yet, you’ll eventually run across the claim that 95% of people who lose weight put it back on again. I’m not sure where the figure comes from; it’s become an orphaned statistic, wandering the Information Desert alone sobbing quietly to itself. I don’t even know if it’s true, but let’s assume it is. Would you tell a loved one, at the outset of any venture, that she faces a 95% chance of total and abject failure? I suppose you might if you fancy yourself a hard-nosed realist (or, in the local dialect, a heartless prick). Perhaps you offer the statistic in a cautionary mood, alerting them to the hard work ahead. Maybe you think some kink in their psyche will take the figure as a dare, inspiring their best effort. Because cheap, reverse psych-outs are always a thrill, right? We loved it when our mothers did it, so how much sweeter from the lips of a spouse…

First of all, I suspect (without testing) that if you take any activity with a 95% failure rate and announce those odds to everyone involved, you’ll very quickly raise the figure a point or two. Forewarned is forearmed, of course, but sometimes it best to keep the guns locked away a while longer.

Recent research suggests that if you tell a child her intelligence is in large measure under her control, the hard work and sense of self-determination that follows as she takes the message to heart will result in a higher IQ.  I don’t want to draw a flat equation between intelligence and weight-loss, but surely telling people that they can do something, and equipping them with the tools to do it, is a better approach than telling them that none but a select, miniscule band of Fat Heroes can ever succeed.

The last factor, being properly equipped, seems especially important with regard to fitness goals.  For clarity’s sake, then, shouldn’t we remove every dieter who has gone in unprepared from the 95% figure?  That means the friend who readied herself for Cancun by eating only half a banana for breakfast is out.  Likewise the college roommate who ate cabbage soup three times a day for two months, people who starve themselves, and anyone who’s ever lost weight on canned “milkshakes” the color of Pepto-Bismol.  Limit the field to people with realistic motivations, who have educated themselves, taken the time and effort to apply what they’ve learned and ordered their lives in accord with their goals, and I think that 95% figure will begin to look very different.

The good news is that there is no single, silver bullet.  People lose weight and keep it off in a lot of different ways.  If you have any stories to share, any at all, about what’s worked for you along the way, please do share them with me.  Becuase as certain as I am that it can be done, I haven’t worked it all out just yet.

Dr. Craig Flickr (CC)



 One of the great landscapes of my life, Mt. Sopris looms above Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, where I went to high school. I climbed the mountain several times and often spent days backpacking through the Rockies and the Utah canyon lands. I loved it, and remember well how wonderful it was to pitch camp after a long day on the trail, bathing in a clear river and cooking dinner on a hissing stove. You’d be miles from any road, three or four days into a two week trip, among good friends and astonishing beauty. Late in the second or third day, your body would find the rhythm, and the walking became effortless on the flats. Steep passes were a challenge, but gladly met and opening finally onto a new valley more beautiful than the one you left behind. In the canyons, you’d find yourself waist deep in a stream between narrow walls opening on a crack of blue sky hundreds of feet overhead. Round a bend to find an Anasazi ruin tucked into the cliff like a swallow’s nest. So many memories, far more than I can share in a post.

The last time I was backpacking was when I was 21, and now 21 years later I just wouldn’t be able to do it. My knees, heart and lungs would give out. I can’t tell you how angry and disgusted that makes me. I really can’t say why I let it go. I got distracted by life, drawn down other paths, and put on over 100 pounds. I’m not an athlete, never really liked team sports, but I miss the summits and the shadowed canyons. One of my goals in losing weight is to get back there, to climb up out of a valley into a pass so narrow you can almost span it with outstretched arms, and then race down into the next valley and sleep in tall grass by running water. I’ll make it, too.

Scott Ingram Photography Flickr (CC)

Week 1

Not a stellar first week. I did fairly well with the eating, until last night. I came home to find my house full of kids and my wife and another child’s mother baking fruit and chocolate tarts. I ate two, then went out to dinner with friends at a tiny place nearby that serves Hiroshima’s only decent Mexican food alongside the only pecan pie I’ve seen in all of Japan, outside my own kitchen. A funky little joint called Otis, with a sign out front promising “Tex-Mex Food and Black Music.” When you’re a Texan living in Hiroshima, and chicken enchiladas made with corn tortillas appear as if from a dream, there’s really no holding back. And guacamole, and nachos, and quesadillas and pie. I stripped to the waist and waded in, frightening the children with the greedy sounds of my hunger. Sorry kids. Next time you’ll remember not to get between me and the salsa.

On the exercise front, I’m still in a lot of pain from that idiotic dumbbell incident last week. I can barely find a comfortable position to sit in, let alone do pushups. Went for a walk yesterday and just the swinging of my arm was painful. I’m guessing that in addition to the neck problem I also hurt a tendon in my shoulder. Only a guess though.

I may have been a little too optimistic about the No S diet, too. The basic approach still seems sound. But I should probably pay more heed to everyone out there who insists that cutting way back on grain products was crucial to their success. But does that really mean I can’t have a bowl of oatmeal a couple of times a week?

I did finally weigh myself when I stopped in at the doctor’s office earlier today. 141.4 kilograms, or 311.7 pounds. That’s about four pounds lighter than the last time I stood on a scale, and I think I had put on a little weight since then. We’ll call that a plus, then, if you can put any positive spin at all on weighing nearly 312 pounds.

So that’s Week One of Project “Hey Lardass, What’s With The Huge Ass?”

Green Tea Weight Loss? Fat Chance.

As I roam the web reading stories of other people’s fitness successes, I often come across claims both for and against the usefulness of green tea in weight loss. Let me chime in with my own experience, for what it’s worth.

image0532The photo is the tea machine at school, dispensing one of the seven or eight cups of sencha I’ll drink at work today. Here in Japan this is the free drink option at the office, the local version of the communal coffee pot at the last job I held in the States. Tonight at dinner, most likely, my wife will put a pitcher of tea on the table. I drink, at a minimum, a liter and a half of green tea nearly every day. I’ve done so for nine years, and weigh over 300 pounds.

Tea is great. It’s delicious and healthy, and who knows, maybe I’d have had a heart attack by now if I didn’t indulge so heavily. Maybe I’d have gotten cancer from years of smoking. I’ll never know. But I can safely say that it hasn’t been the magic bullet that’s helped me effortlessly shed excess tonnage. Nicholas Perricone lied to me.

I know a lot of people skip the beverage and go straight for a pill containing concentrated green tea catechins. I think that’s a real mistake. The whole drink is almost certainly better for you than pills, and there’s some evidence that at artificially high concentrations catechins are toxic to the liver and intestine. Would you give up your morning coffee in favor of popping No Doz all day? That’s what green tea pills amount to, and to healthy Japanese tea drinkers it sounds a bit nuts.

I don’t want to turn anyone off tea. I love it. The real stuff is easy to make, pleasant to drink, and probably very healthy. Just don’t be disappointed if the improvements in your well-being aren’t the kinds that show on the bathroom scale.

Keep a Food Diary, Lose Twice the Weight

pocketmod5If you’re not keeping a food diary, you’ve overlooked one of the simplest, most effective tools for weight loss. Best of all, it needn’t be much more than a scrap of paper tucked in your shirt pocket. I’m not talking about counting calories, or attempting any sort of nutritional breakdown. Just jot down everything you eat, as soon as you eat it. It may sound slightly troublesome at first, but the benefits can more than make up for any inconvenience. Consider this, from a researcher at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research:

Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories.

The study, published last August, tracked the weight loss progress of 1,685 participants over six months. Food diaries help you to think about what you’re eating, increasing awareness of your food choices and revealing dietary patterns that may have gone unnoticed. And clearly, that can make a huge difference in your success.

There are online tools, like My Food Diary, but low-tech and free makes the most sense to me. I use pocket mods, little eight-page booklets made from a single sheet of paper. First, go here. Click “Build a Pocket Mod,” and choose Food Diary from the Organizers folder. Drag it onto each of the sheets, print it out, follow the folding directions and you’re done. In less than two minutes you’ve got a pocket-sized food diary for the week. Go make one now.

Orangeacid Flickr (CC)

Starting the No S Diet

Beginning today, I’m following the No S Diet. Let me explain why.

My goal is to lose weight in a way that’s simple, intuitive, and cheap, while avoiding obsessive involvement with food. I’m not a doctor, a nutritionist, or personal trainer. I’ve never been athletic, though when I was younger I used to do a lot of backpacking. What I am, I think, is relatively intelligent and fat. Like all intelligent fat people, I already have a fairly solid grasp of what it will take to lose weight. I read every newspaper or magazine article on weight loss that crosses my path. I have done for years, hoping for a magic trick that will allow me to quickly and effortlessly lose weight without substantial lifestyle changes. I have also, more than once, thrown myself into rigorous, slightly insane weight loss regimens with no real planning or preparation, and without exception ended up worse than before I started. And in every case, I knew exactly what had gone wrong. I knew even while I was floundering in the thick of it.

We’re all experts at weight loss. Big, fat experts.

The beauty of the No S Diet is that this is all there is to it:

No Snacks
No Sweets
No Seconds
Except (sometimes) on days that start with S.

This is something you can start immediately. Right this moment. There are no reading lists, no arcane supplements or silly paraphernalia to endow with talismanic power. Nobody’s going to have to nod politely through a deranged account of my Pleistocene lifestyle or the moral outrage I feel upon being confronted with a potato.

These are all traps laid for a certain kind of man. It’s the fondness for gadgetry that gives us fly fishermen and pale boys draped in consumer electronics, and the stiff-necked conviction of half-formed theories that make undergraduates in philosophy such intensely unpleasant company. Screw all that.

The No S Diet may not be the last word. I’ll certainly add other things to the mix. But for now it seems the perfect place to begin. Why don’t you start too?

Pain in the Neck

Well, in the first flush of enthusiasm I’ve made my first, embarrassing mistake.  Having glanced around at several fitness sites advocating the “greater intensity = better results” approach, I stripped to my tattered undergarments, loaded the up the dumbbells, and did my worst.  Woke up Friday morning feeling like someone had planted several pairs of kitchen scissors in my left shoulder, all sticking out at odd angles.  I toughed it out until around lunchtime, when I could no longer sit up straight or move my left arm.  My wife took me to the hospital, where I was told I had not injured my shoulder, but my neck, and the pain was originating there and radiating into the shoulder and arm.  Have spent the last two days on the couch, feeling very stupid.

The thing is, I know better.  Greater intensity is a fine idea, as long as you build up to it.  In their defense, none of the websites I looked at suggested that a sedentary 42-year-old man should rise from his squalid nest of potato chip bags and chipped beer bottles and lift heavy weights to failure.  Friends of mine have done similar things and I have laughed at them.  Oh yes, thrown my head back and laughed and laughed.  But it seems I’m not immune to this delusion that we can pick up where we left off twenty years earlier.

Anyway, I’ll try again in a week or so.  The doctor suggested 3 weeks, or even a month, but surely that was just professional caution.  Right?