Abnehmen und Zunehmen….weighty topics.


It was a chance event, as is so often the case.  About to take a shower, I happened to look in the mirror.  What I saw shocked me.  I had a protuberance in my abdomen.  No, it wasn’t ascites, or fluid, it was fat.

I got on the scale, to discover I weighed 172 pounds, about 78 kg.  I was shocked.  I hadn’t weighed that much in years.  What had happened?  I was older.  Apparently, my lifelong ability to eat just about anything I wanted was no longer lifelong.  I’m just under 6 feet tall (1.81 M), and I can carry about 180 pounds (82 kg) before I am officially overweight.  I was not overweight, but I didn’t like where I was.

I was a chemistry major in college and think in terms of thermodynamics.  If you burn more calories than you take in, you must lose weight.  You must.  It takes a deficit of 3500 calories to remove a pound of fat.  So, the first thing I did was start to exercise more, until I realized that while one burns calories, and fat calories, exercising, it takes a great deal of exercise to do such. One burns perhaps a net of about 100 calories running a mile and half that walking.  Net means the increase over doing nothing during that period.  I increased my runs to 2 miles and my walks to 3 miles, but that was only 350 calories.  If I doubled what I did, I could get a pound off in 10 days.  But that is a lot of time spent, and I was likely to get hungrier doing it.

So, I looked my diet as well and got a couple of shocks.  I was putting olive oil on my salad.  When I saw the calories it contained, I was astounded.  I shouldn’t have been, but I had never in 63 years looked at the calories something contained.  I stopped the olive oil and also eating peanut butter, which is arguably my most favorite food.  Peanut butter has 180 calories per tablespoon, 110 of them fat.  In short, I was really hungry several hours a day.

For two weeks, nothing happened.  I knew that would occur.

Then something nice did happen.  My weight started to fall.  I dropped to 170, stayed there another 2 weeks or so, then dropped to 168.  It took me about 4 or 5 months to get down to 162, where I wanted to be.  I looked better.  I started again with peanut butter, and I let my weight rise to 164.  It stayed there.

Then I made another mistake.  I stopped monitoring my weight, and we took a trip to Australia, where the food was good and the walking was less.  When I came home, I took another look in the mirror, and I didn’t like it.  I stepped on the scale,and I didn’t like that, either.  I was at 169.

The holidays are not a good time to lose weight.  There is a lot of food around.  But I decided I could eat that food, just not all at once.  I again stopped peanut butter, and I again put up with the annoying hunger between 8 and 11 in the morning.  After I ate lunch, I could get through to the afternoon.  After a week, I was holding around 168.  I could even see a slight change in the mirror, but it wasn’t enough.

Along the way, I have noted more cold sensitivity, too.  My metabolism has changed, and my weight goes to where it usually does in a man–the bad “apple” pattern.  From now on, I have to be careful.  But I didn’t wait until after the holidays to start. If I had, I might have been starting at 172 or higher, and I would then look wishfully at 168 on the scale and wonder why I didn’t stop sooner.

I’m lucky.  Most people would give their eye teeth to have my problem.  On the other hand, I don’t let friends talk me into eating something.  Fortunately, I don’t have a lot of friends.  But I know many who say “just a little, it won’t hurt.”  They aren’t true friends.  True friends keep you away from food.  They support you.

A recent video I saw in German chronicled a former British singer, who has dealt with 25 kg weight changes, 55 pounds, or almost 4 stones.  (I thought pounds were bad; the video was in German, and I was fascinated to hear the quick translation of stones–14 pounds– to kg.)  This yo-yo effect is not healthy.  The singer tried hypnosis so she would hate ice cream, and various other diets.  Part of the problem was her husband, who was not interested in controlling his weight, and thought she looked just fine–the “I like big butts”– approach.  This woman was a model,, and she had to keep her weight down.  She was frequently in places where there was a lot of food available, which didn’t help.

The saddest scene was her vacation, where she tried to see what would happen with ice cream, her favorite food. That was fine, but she should have had a small amount.  Instead, she ordered a glass that was about 20 cm tall.  She ate it all, and later said she had only gained 6 pounds that week.  That is a huge gain in a short period of time; when 6 pounds gained for a person with a weight problem is not a “big deal”, there is a problem.

Controlling weight is easier for me than it is for others.  It requires a change in lifestyle, which is terribly difficult to do.  But there are plenty of ways to fill up a stomach without gaining a lot of weight.  Get on a scale daily or every other day.  Look for low calorie recipes. Make good tasting food invisible.  Shop after eating, not before.

Obesity is a problem.  Too many look for sites where it is claimed that obesity is healthy, pretty, or fine.  It isn’t.  We used to say staying thin was a matter of willpower.  In part, it is, but only in part.  A lot of foods have become truly addicting, and it is difficult to break an addiction.  The Food Pyramid is a new concept; the old way of looking at a balanced diet favored milk farmers.  But, there are things people can control.  Early in life, we need to address obesity, when it is less and easier to change behavior.

Using an on line Body Mass Index calculator , we calculated the BMI in every sixth grader in one school district, 1100 children in 5 schools.  Seven per cent were over the 99th percentile, 14% over the 95th percentile, and the median was the 89th percentile.  Put succinctly, the typical child was overweight.  Nothing was done, when these data were presented to the school district.  Nor were these numbers known or repeated when there was a $15 million federal grant to reduce obesity in Tucson.  We have a willpower problem in our city; lack of will to measure problems that need measurement, and lack of will to deal with them.  We have an addiction problem, too; we are addicted to fluff TV ads to tell people to exercise and eat right.  Everybody knows that; if we started in childhood and really were serious about the problem, I suspect the numbers would change.  That, of course, requires yearly measurement, which is hardly rocket science, but is ironically not being done in an area that hosts Raytheon and the Titan Missile Museum.

I hit 166 the other day.  I look forward to lunch like I never have before.  The Christmas food gifts will last until late-January.

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