August 11, 2008

The "Virtue" of Suffering

Hatched by Sachi

I was just unceremoniously kicked out of a diet topic on a Japanese-language Yahoo bulletin board, where I'd been posting for the last couple of months. "How the heck can you be kicked out of a topic so benign?", you might ask. Well, I made an unforgivable mistake: I suggested that maybe the goal should be to lose weight without suffering.

That did it.

If you want to read this silly, sorry tale and learn why (liberal) dieters generally intend to fail, then follow the "slither on" to the rest of this post...


People as a rule tend to think that in order to gain something, they need to give up something. This concept is ancient and universal: "No pain, no gain;" "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch;" "good medicine tastes bitter." Such proverbs exit in every culture, and they reflect a common belief: If a story sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

A healthy suspicion is a good thing. We don’t want to be gullible, do we? However, some stories really are as good as they sound.

Who says losing weight has to be an act of self-flagellation? Why can't there be a way to eat anything you want and still lose weight? Plenty of people do; we all know someone who eats anything he wants but never gains an ounce. What's his secret? (Trick question; there isn't one.)

But what if someone invented a magical diet pill that would solve all your weight problems; would you take it? I suspect that an awful lot of people would not, even if believed it would really work. In fact, some of them would become violently angry: The very concept of easy and craving-free weight loss offends them, just as some people are outraged by the idea that we might somebody be able to solve our energy needs without any conservation ("making do with less") at all, or cure smoking-related diseases without forcing the entire country to quit smoking.

There is no such magic diet pill (yet!) But there really is a weight-loss system that works remarkably well for most people who try it; and it doesn't require buying special food, attending support groups, embarassing yourself on national TV, or spending any money at all. I made the mistake of alluding to it in the Yahoo topic -- and the reaction of the other posters was exactly as I said above; they were irate.


Recently, Dafydd and I both lost a lot of weight using a system promoted by British motivational speaker and hypnotherapist Paul McKenna. We first saw his four lectures on the Learning Channel (for free); we were skeptical, but we tried it... and without depriving ourselves or having any "forbidden foods," we lost a lot of weight.

For serious food lovers like us, this was an incredible solution. But McKenna didn't invent the program; all he did was observe the eating habits of NTPs and generalize to four basic rules. His real talent is actually getting people enthusiastic enough to give it an honest try.

I'm not an agent of McKenna, paid or volunteer; forgive me if I don't go into the details. If you're interested, I recommend you go to his web site and investigate it yourself. If you want to buy the book or DVD set, buy it. If not, then don't. (We bought a copy of the latter just to lend to friends and family who noticed we were suddenly much thinner and wanted to know how.)

But let me at least explain the four basic rules of McKenna system:

  1. When you are hungry, eat.
  2. Eat what you want, not what you think you should eat.
  3. Eat consciously, savoring every bite.
  4. When you even think you might be full, stop eating.

That's it. Too simple to work, right?

There are reasons why each rule supports the others; you need to practice them all, but that shouldn't be too hard. Anyway, since we weren't risking anything, we gave it a shot; and for us, the results were both quick and dramatic.


All right, enough about the program. Here's the point that leads to the story of the diet topic: The most refreshing thing about McKenna's program is that you don't have to suffer. You never go hungry; in fact, if you let yourself get too hungry, you're violating rule number one.

Since you know you can eat when you feel hungry and you're not stuck eating nothing but celery sticks and seaweed, you're under no pressure. You can easily do this for rest of your life; and that's the key.

For the past ten or fifteen years, I'd been battling ever-increasing body weight. I tried the Atkins diet, the 1000-calorie-a-day diet, the Slim Fast diet; you name it, I tried it. I always lost some weight, a few pounds, while I was dieting; once I even lost 25 pounds. But as soon as I went off the diet, the weight came back and then some. That's typical of most people's experience, as anyone who has ever dieted can tell you.

Most of the time, a diet fails because you think of it as a diet, something you're going to do until you get down to your "target weight;" and then you'll stop. It's too hard to maintain a diet forever; you're depriving yourself of everything you like to eat. So your diet is always temporary; when you lose X pounds (or get tired of dieting), you start eating like a ravenous wolverine again... and it starts all over.

But the problem isn't what you eat, it's how much you eat. There are no foods that are inherently bad; there are only bad eating habits. In fact, we eat the same food we always used to eat -- Chinese, Italian, sushi, pork chops, steak, pasta, tiramisu -- but we eat a whole lot less of it... literally half to a third of what we used to eat. What McKenna's program does is teach you how to eat what you want without eating more of it than you really need.

It worked amazingly well (along with exercising, which was never our problem; we always exercised). As my weight loss progressed, as I lost ten, twenty, thirty, forty pounds, I naturally wanted to talk about it with other people. But I understood that nothing is more boring than listening to someone else's weight loss story, unless you're also trying to lose weight. So I figured the best place to talk to others would be a (Japanese language) weight loss bulletin board. There, I figured, I could discuss various weight loss experiences with like-minded people, without boring everybody else.


There are many such boards. I tried a couple and immediately ran into a problem: Nobody had any interest in hearing about my experience. As soon as I said, "You can eat anything you want...” they tuned out. If they said anything at all, it was, “There's no such thing” or “It never works.” The fact I lost over 40 pounds didn't seem to impress them; some even called me a liar.

After b-board hopping for a while, I finally settled in a topic run by a woman who lost over 100 lbs in one year. Her handle name translated to “Three Digit,” because she used to weigh over 100 kilograms (220 pounds).

3D runs a blog called "Stoic Diet;" her method is the polar opposite of McKenna's. 3D was a huge eater as well as a heavy drinker; she used to eat an entire chicken for dinner and drink an entire bottle of sake. Her weight-loss method was to give up every food she liked -- and all alcohol.

I didn't agree with her system, but I was impressed by her effort. In any event, I thought it would be interesting to talk about various weight-loss techniques. We're all aiming for the same goal, right? Surely it would be beneficial to exchange information.

But I was careful this time. Remembering how some people are not comfortable listening to my experience, I tried not to sound too preachy or like an advertisement. I was respectful to others and never denounced or criticized anybody's diet.

But even that wasn't enough. On Stoic Diet, everyone is supposed to report what she ate and what exercise she did that day. Since I don't have any forbidden foods, my menu naturally looks very different from the others', which is usually some variant on tofu, bean sprouts, brown rice, a diet shake, alfalfa (what Dafydd calls a "grass sandwich"), and so on. My list contained pasta, steak, pizza, fried chicken, tapas, dim sum, salmon -- whatever we happened to make or order in a restaurant that day.

I could tell 3D was getting increasingly agitated by my posts. I knew she never liked me; ever since I told her that I do not give up any food, she made her dislike plain. But since I was not violating the topic’s rules, she grudgingly tolerated me.


The fit hit the shan a few days ago, when another poster complained about not being able to control her appetite; her post sounded like she was in tears when she wrote it. Although I'd been careful not to discuss the McKenna system in any detail, I couldn't let this woman just suffer: I made the mistake of giving her few possible solutions from McKenna's lectures; in particular, I told her to try close her eyes while she ate.

(Medical dietary researchers have found that if you eat while blindfolded, you feel full after eating significantly less food than if you can see your food while you eat. The visual stimulus of food makes you feel hungrier and overwhelms your stomach's signal that it's full. McKenna suggests trying it a few times if you're having trouble stopping, until you learn to detect your stomach's "full" signal.)

That advice set off one of the other posters -- not even the person I was talking to, but a different woman. She told me my "stupid advice" to the other woman was a distraction, like an annoying noise. Also, she told me that she had been really irritated by my food list. She was especially ticked off by my lox and bagel with cream cheese breakfast. "This is too much!" She said. "How can you eat such a high fat, high calorie, and high carbohydrate food combination when you're trying to lose weight? Your posts create a hostile environment, and you make me sick!"


Her violent reaction shocked me; but I was even more astonished when 3D, the moderator, sided with the complainer and handed me a "red card" for violating one of her topic rules: I had dared to mention a different weight-loss method than her “stoic diet.” I was never even aware of such a rule, which was not written down anywhere.

When I told Dafydd about this, he immediately said, "With that absolute passion for freedom of speech, she must a liberal."

I told 3D I was merely conveying a simple trick to supplement her method. She tells people to eat less; if there's a simple, easy way to control appetite, why shouldn't people discuss it? Our mutual goal is to lose weight and keep it off, so what difference does it make how we achieve that goal?

"No!" she wrote; "that's not my goal. That's not this topic's objective at all. I am not simply trying to lose weight and maintain it: The goal is to change one's lifestyle forever. Your goal and my goal are completely incompatible. Don't think even for a second that we're heading toward the same place." (I'm translating from Japanese, obviously.)

What does she mean by “changing one’s life style?” Obviously not simply maintaining ideal weight and staying healthy; she can only mean something simultaneously more spiritual and more ominous.

As I read her past blogposts, I realized she has a lot of what my sister-in-law, the MFCC, would call "issues." She used to be an emotional eater, someone who eats to feel better after some emotional upset: You don't get a promotion, you eat a box of doughnuts; you break up with your boyfriend, you go to KFC and eat an entire family-sized bucket of chicken.

She talked about how her mother was an alcoholic and often drunk; then Mom was diagnosed as a diabetic; she ignored the doctor’s advice and kept eating sweets and drinking sake -- and (surprise) eventually she lost a leg and is now bedridden. 3D and other family members take turns caring for this selfish, self-indulgent woman in her final days... I can feel the anger in her blogging about her mother.

3D often emphasized that we must figure out why we got fat in the first place, she decided it was "over-indulgence." Therefore, she concluded, the only way to lose weight was to deny herself all foods she actually desired.


She seems to have taken a single quotation from the Stoic philosopher Epictetus and turned it into a dieting program:

“Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of one's desires, but by the removal of desire.”

Of course, she hasn't removed desire... she just denies herself any food she desires. I don't think she really understands the point of Stoicism. Instead, 3D is like a Buddhist monk who deprives himself of every earthly desire in order to achieve spiritual "nothingness" (what a goal!) For her, the hardship of dieting is more important than losing weight.

If I can use some psychobabble I don't really understand, I don’t think she ever really faced her inner demons at all. It's true she used to be over indulgent, a fanatic about eating and drinking; now she's a fanatic about dieting. But as the playwright Eugene Ionesco once said in an interview (about twenty-five years ago in World Press Review), "A fanatic can never be convinced but only converted."

Extreme eater to extreme dieter; same car, different plastic. She should have gone one step further; she should have figured out why she was over-indulging herself with food. It's obvious she was an emotional eater. But why, what vacuum was she trying to fill? Probably the emotional hole left by her drunken mother.

She often analogized that diet is like a mountain climbing; each step is important. But on her climb up that mountain, she only allows one route -- the hardest one. My mistake was thinking that her goal was to summit; so I pointed out an easier route. This infuriated her. "How dare you introduce an easier route! Don’t you understand ‘suffering’ is the only noble path?"

Or to slightly misquote Ring Lardner (the sportswriter father, not the Commie screenwriter son) -- "Shut up, she explained."


3D claims she understands there are many different ways to lose weight. She even respects my way (so she says). It's just that she doesn't want me to talk about it; she doesn't want me to tell anybody about it; and most especially, she doesn't want "her" dieters to hear anything about it. When I "insisted" on talking about it (once), she suggested I should go somewhere else. She's all for freedom of speech, except when the speech is "just plain wrong."

I think Dafydd has it right: She is a liberal.

If you think anyone on that board would side with me, you're sadly mistaken. Nobody said a word except one woman, who wrote: “Please erase all the things you wrote about easy appetite control. They make me feel uncomfortable.” Isn't that what liberals like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi said about the things that Gen. David Petraeus was trying to tell them about how we could (and finally did) achieve victory in Iraq?

I think most people really don't want to succeed in life; they want to fail, then wallow in their misery. It's so much easier; once you've embraced failure and accepted suffering as your lot in life, you never have to struggle again. (Of course, it's never the leaders like Barack H. Obama who suffer; they tell you to suffer for their sins.)

If that's where the posters on Stoic Diet are headed, I absolutely refuse to follow; if I see someone drowning, I'll throw her a rope; I won't jump in and drown alongside her.

I think this must be one of the biggest distinctions between liberals and conservatives:

  • Conservatives understand there are no "solutions," only trade-offs; so they cut the best deal they can, a trade-off that actually makes things better. Even if some trade-off sounds "too good to be true," they will at least investigate before rejecting it.
  • Liberals see "solutions" to every problem everywhere; but they will only accept perfection. Any solution that falls short is not even worth the bother; they'd rather do nothing.

What a miserable world this is for anyone who follows the latter philosophy.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, August 11, 2008, at the time of 4:46 AM

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The following hissed in response by: ForNow

I haven't read your whole post yet, but I've been telling people those rules for years and years. Eat what you want and ONLY what you want - be finicky! (No more snacks that you don't really like that much - toast with marmalade, cheap doughnuts, etc. - instead, eat only that which you love.) Savor it enough that eating beyond incipient satiety is merely a rerun. At the end of a long hot humid day, have a pint of delicious ice cream - and nothing else! And so on. Nobody listens to me on any of it but it works. I have one more rule which nobody follows - replace that gigantic fridge with a medium-sized or small one.

The above hissed in response by: ForNow [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2008 6:44 AM

The following hissed in response by: Roy Lofquist

Dear Sachi,

Excellent way to make a point. As for the diet, it sure beats the one I'm on now: "If it tastes good, spit".


The above hissed in response by: Roy Lofquist [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2008 6:51 AM

The following hissed in response by: Steelhand

Sachi, I, too like the logic of your diet. (Or McKenna's)

The sad fact is that there are sacred cows in every belief system. Dieting, or body building, or politics. The only thing that differs is what the system's adherants "know."

The problem with postmodernism (which is really what we're talking about here) is that all that we think we know is what we have experienced. That is a most unreliable form of knowledge. Knowledge of truth is from repeatable events forming a logical argument. "I tried this, it worked for me, it will work for you" is illogical. Too many other variables. It may work for you is a better agrument, and the one you were trying to make. But the problem with those cows is, no matter how hard you push, you can't knock them out of the way for most people.

The above hissed in response by: Steelhand [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2008 7:02 AM

The following hissed in response by: leesus

I have also noticed this phenom, where i lost a lot of weight on atkins, and i noticed there was a strange party divide on this diet. Liberals uniformly denounced the diet, even though i lost close to 80 pounds in front of thier eyes.

It really seemed as if they insisted i suffer to lead an improved lifestyle, but i didnot consider thier suggestions to be an improvement, it was easier and more satisfying to eat steaks and lose weight.

i never did understand the partisan divide over the atkins diet though, i think you helped explain.


The above hissed in response by: leesus [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2008 9:03 AM

The following hissed in response by: wtanksleyjr

instead, eat only that which you love.

Sort of the "Anton Ego" diet ("I do not like food. I love food. If I do not love it, I do not swallow it.")? Makes sense.

Sachi, that's a great set of 4 principles. I stumbled on 3 of them about 7 years ago, and lost the extra 60 lbs I was carrying around (240->190lbs, I'm 6'2" so that's just about perfect for me). The one I missed was "Eat consciously, savoring every bite." I like that principle best of all... I'm adopting it now.

Thank you.

Anyhow, this is a great way to rejoice in living... Having lost weight feels SO good. My knees don't ache anymore.

The above hissed in response by: wtanksleyjr [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2008 9:13 AM

The following hissed in response by: Steelhand

By the way, I agree that this diet is a great way to celebrate life. Savoring each bite, not a practice I have ever subscribed to, is a great way to appreciate your choices. And it allows your body's satiation mechanism to do its job.

The above hissed in response by: Steelhand [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2008 11:01 AM

The following hissed in response by: BigLeeH

I had a markedly similar experience with a diet discussion website. After thirty-some years of varying degrees of fatness I found a way to lose weight a few years back that seemed to work for me. I wrote about it in my blog and, in my enthusiasm I may have sounded a bit like an infomercial. Someone posted a comment with a link and that link led to another which led to another which lead to a discussion thread of how terribly difficult it is to learn weight. "Aha!" I thought, "an opportunity to help out!" I posted a link to my blog entry and, hoo boy, did I make everyone on the list mad. I am convinced that it is only only the relative anonymity of the Internet that saved me from having my house firebombed by half the irate fatties of the world.

I have a number of theories about why any good news about weight loss is so unwelcome in such venues. The most likely theory is that there are two types of people who frequent the discussions: control freaks who are using eating as a proxy for all the things they can't control in their lives and hopeless overweight people who like to be told how terribly difficult it is to lose weight so they don't have to feel so bad about themselves for being unable to do it. Neither of them likes to be told that the process can be made easier.

The above hissed in response by: BigLeeH [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2008 11:53 AM

The following hissed in response by: Steven Den Beste

One thing that's amazing is the way so many progressives have adopted and secularized traditional religious concepts.

In this case it's the doctrine of "original sin". Instead of being in a state of sin because of expulsion from the Garden, however, we are all in a state of sin because we are a blight upon the holy body of Mother Gaia.

And because of that, we are scourged with all the plagues that have traditionally been unleashed upon sinners. Consider this: is there anything that Moses inflicted up on Egypt that has not in more recent times been blamed on Global Warming?

Of course, the modern secularist progressives cannot accept grace due to the sacrifice of Christ -- what an idea! Yet they yearn for redemption, and a return to the Garden of Eden. The only way to achieve it is to embrace privation: to use less, to live less well, to reduce their "footprint", and thus to cease to profane the body of Mother Gaia. And in so doing, they believe, they will gain a new kind of happiness, the happiness of the virtue and the happiness of the primitive, to offset the old obscene happinesses of consumption.

In this they adopt and secularize the teachings of John Calvin and the Puritans: a happy life is a life dedicated to service, which denies selfish pleasure.

Unless it's organically grown, of course... then it's holy.

The above hissed in response by: Steven Den Beste [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2008 1:37 PM

The following hissed in response by: Steven Den Beste

Interestingly, secularist progressives have also adopted a form of millenialism, which they've also secularized. That's what "Global Warming" and "Ecological Catastrophe" is about: it's the secular version of the Apocalypse, which can only be averted if virtually the entire world repents its evil ways and converts to the true faith of Mother Gaia.

The above hissed in response by: Steven Den Beste [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2008 2:58 PM

The following hissed in response by: boffo

I lost a bunch of weight six years ago (and have kept it off) with a diet I figured out for myself, which was quite similar to what you post of McKenna. I just developed a few simple ideas:

1. A diet isn't temporary. It's building healthier habits that you will keep for the rest of your life. Because of this, the habits have to be easy and not force you to do something you really hate or sacrifice something you really love.

2. If you eat all the same food you used to eat, but less of it, you'll lose weight.

3. Find lower calorie but still enjoyable substitutes for high-calories foods.

4. Think before you eat, and try to be aware of how many calories you're consuming.

Rule 1 is the most important part. This is why I turn my nose up at things like Atkins or gym memberships (for people who don't enjoy the gym). Yes, they can be effective in the short term. But unless you're planning to give up carbs or two hours of your day for the rest of your life, what's the point of losing weight only to gain it right back again? In fact, these can be counterproductive, as you'll get used to eating more and end up keeping that new habit after the diet's over.

By the way, there is a free lunch (so to speak) in weight-loss, which is to switch to diet soda. Few people realize how many calories are in sugary soda, how easy it is to switch, and how big an impact that can have. There are 150 calories in a can of Coke, and 3500 calories translates to about a pound. So if someone who drinks 2 Cokes a day switches to Diet Coke, he'll lose 30 pounds in a year with no changes to his diet and exercise habits whatsoever.

The above hissed in response by: boffo [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2008 3:38 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


If you eat all the same food you used to eat, but less of it, you'll lose weight.

Well, yeah. The problem is, how do you eat less?

My problem (not so much Sachi's) is that I have an extraordinarily efficient digestive system: If you and I ate the same volume of the same food, I would pull a lot more calories out of it than you or virtually anybody else I know.

I used to eat about 1400-1600 calories per day (by the calorie count on packaging and charts); and I exercised vigorously three or four times a week... yet I was gaining fat. (The American average for a healthy adult male without weight gain is about 2000-2400 cals per day.) The most logical conclusion is that I was actually extracting more than the listed calorie-count from that volume of food.

Nearly every biological process in the human body ranges through the human population in a bell curve; so it makes sense to me that digestive systems would as well: Some people would have inefficient systems, where they extracted fewer calories per volume than the norm; others would be the opposite, extracting more than the norm.

I am on the extreme right end of that bell curve, the opposite number to those people who eat like mad but never gain weight.

I tried eating just 1000 calories a day; but by focusing on the number, I always felt depived and unhappy. Using the current system, I discovered, to my surprise, that after about a month or two, I was only eating ca. 800 calories a day.

But because I wasn't "counting calories" as a way to eat less, but instead just eating whenever I was hungry, eating what I wanted, eating slowly and savoring every bite, and stopping when I even thought I might be full, I didn't feel deprived at all. So I was eating much less, especially when dining out, and feeling much happier (and less hungry) as well.

The McKenna program is more psychological than biological. Its main impact is on the brain, providing a way to eat less without feeling like you're not eating.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2008 6:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: Sachi


I read your blogpost. I really like your "holding your breath" analogy.


The above hissed in response by: Sachi [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2008 6:26 PM

The following hissed in response by: ForNow

Sort of the "Anton Ego" diet ("I do not like food. I love food. If I do not love it, I do not swallow it.")? Makes sense.

I'd never heard of Anton Ego, but found out via the 'Net, read summaries and a synopsis of Ratatouille - darned funny-sounding movie, and generously letting Anton Ego redeem himself in the end!

I'm actually far from being like Anton Ego - I'm usually satisfied with a nearby Chinese diner or the pizza place or whatever I concoct at home. But NYC's top Thai place happened to open next door to me so it's not seldom my food for the day. (That's where I learned that Vietnam's rice crop got damaged by snow - hardly any news of it in English).

The above hissed in response by: ForNow [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2008 9:44 PM

The following hissed in response by: MikeR

Heh - looks like this thread is turning out to be a diet forum!

I like the idea of this diet; I've started trying it. Funny thing, though - I've discovered that I am hardly ever hungry. Ate only a little lunch yesterday (after reading this post) - I wasn't really hungry, but I thought I ought to eat something. Last night, my wife served dinner - had to eat something since she served it, but I didn't feel hungry. Breakfast, had to eat something since my wife made it, but I was still not really hungry! I have completely got out of the habit of eating out of hunger. Weird.

By the way, how do you handle schedules? What is my wife supposed to make for dinner?

By the by, your mountain-climbing parable is interesting. You would probably agree that no one wants to climb a mountain just to get to the summit. If some clown took a helicopter up there, we'd all see him as missing the entire point. A mountain-climber is trying to prove something or accomplish something, through his effort.

The above hissed in response by: MikeR [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 12, 2008 7:00 AM

The following hissed in response by: BigLeeH


Thanks for reading my post. When I read yours I was struck that the strategy I found for controlling my weight is a great deal like the one that seems to be working for you and Dafydd.


Your metabolic efficiency component has proven elusive in scientific studies. When researchers follow people around and write down everything they eat they find that people with a history of weight-control problems do gain slightly more weight on the same number of calories when compared with their normal-weight companions, but nowhere near enough to explain their dismal results at controlling their weight. Metabolic differences explain only a few percentage points of the difference in outcome. The rest is explained by differences in caloric intake. Unsurprisingly, fat people eat more.

I'm not questioning your statement that you you could stick to a caloric-reduction diet and gain weight. I'm just pointing out that you are unusual. Many people say they can gain weight on 1000 calories a day but most of them consumed more calories than they thought they did.

As a matter of curiosity, your plan encourages you to eat when you are hungry -- does that tend to be more than three times a day?

I think that for a lot of people overeating is learned through experience. Because of the way their insulin levels respond to blood sugar, they will tend to get hungry four hours after they eat and the amount they eat affects that period only slightly. Given the assumption of fixed meal times they try to find the amount they need to eat to avoid becoming unpleasantly hungry before their next meal.

I suspect that one of the reasons you plan works, perhaps the main reason, is that by encouraging people to eat when they are hungry it allows them to unlearn the preemptive overeating they adopted to try to deal with fixed meal times.

Oh, and congratulations to both of you on finding a way to slim down. Arguably, the world needs more people like you ... but by count, not by weight.


The above hissed in response by: BigLeeH [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 12, 2008 12:47 PM

The following hissed in response by: BigLeeH

no one wants to climb a mountain just to get to the summit. If some clown took a helicopter up there, we'd all see him as missing the entire point. A mountain-climber is trying to prove something or accomplish something, through his effort.

There is a public restroom on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina not far from Mt. Rogers (which is just across the border in Virginia). The urinals in the Men's room are lined up under a large window giving a panoramic view of the mountains. It is one of the most scenic pissers in the world and well worth a stop even if one arrives by car.

The psychic benefits of proving one can lose weight the hard way are greatly outweighed by the health and lifestyle advantages of not being fat. Insisting on the former at the risk of the not attaining the latter is irrational.

The above hissed in response by: BigLeeH [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 12, 2008 1:08 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I'm not questioning your statement that you you could stick to a caloric-reduction diet and gain weight. I'm just pointing out that you are unusual. Many people say they can gain weight on 1000 calories a day but most of them consumed more calories than they thought they did.

I don't think I was clear: I didn't gain weight while on a 1,000-cal a day diet; I lost weight. But I always felt hungry and miserable... and when I went off the diet, I gained back all the weight I lost and then some.

On this program (which isn't a diet, and I won't "go off" it), I trend between 800 and 900 cals a day... but I don't feel "hungry" except when I'm actually physically hungry. For a few months, I was losing at a consistent rate of 2 lbs a week; I think it's slowed down to about 1.5 lbs a week, but I'm hoping it will pick up again.

But I feel satiated and pretty happy... and I'm exercising more since I started the program than I was before (4-5 days a week instead of 3-4 -- fencing, swimming, and gym-type stuff). I don't bonk.

As a matter of curiosity, your plan encourages you to eat when you are hungry -- does that tend to be more than three times a day?

Nope. After awakening, I generally don't feel hungry for about two hours. Then I eat "lunch" (which is usually in the afternoon, since I have weird sleeping hours which are normal for me), usually about 125-200 cals. I don't measure that much out; I eat until full, then afterwards figure out the calories -- something I'm not supposed to do, but I've always been fascinated by numbers.

Then I get hungry again around 6:30 or so, which is when we usually have dinner (usually works out to about 500-600 cals).

After that, I tend to nosh periodically throughout the evening... but nearly entirely in response to cravings for various vegetable items that have essentially no calories at all (a quarter of a head of red cabbage is one of my personal favorites, but also pickles, pickled peppers, celery, takuan [Japanese pickled radish], and suchlike). This isn't because I think I should eat such truck; I've always loved veggies.

The only thing I tend to have later that has cals is chocolate, typically a small (150-cal worth) bit of M&Ms.

This is exactly the way I used to eat before... except I have less of each thing now (even the veggies!) than I used to do.

I had to keep track of what I ate when I was working with a trainer at the gym, and for two weeks, I rigorously wrote down every scrap of anything that passed my lips. That's where I got the 1400-1600 per day figure. (We have a nutrition book that lists the most important data about nearly every imaginable food: calories, grams of fat, grams of fiber, grams of protein, etc.)

I'm quite certain that the figures are accurate -- so far as the "official" calorie count goes. At the time, I was working out four times a week, eating 1400-1600, and not losing an ounce over three or four months. Hence my conclusion that I'm at the far edge of the bell curve on digestive efficiency... that volume of those foods may have been 1500 cals for an average person, but it was effectively 2000 or more for me.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 12, 2008 2:37 PM

The following hissed in response by: nk

Great post, Sachi. And the comments, too. In my house the rule is "eat what you want as much as you want". My daughter and I are as skinny as too sticks while my wife is not comfortable with her weight. I suspect that it's because she has a sweet tooth -- she likes desserts -- and my daughter and I don't. I can't remember the last time I ate something sugary and my six-year old will take a bite from a candy bar and spit it out.
We do "breakfast for dinner" sometimes. She just had three ppancakes without syrup even though I put the syrup bottle on the table.

The above hissed in response by: nk [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 12, 2008 4:35 PM

The following hissed in response by: GW

Sachi - great post

Dafydd - As to your problem, it is supported by the research discussed in the NYT article, Fat Factors.

After the military, I poured on a lot of weight. I am still in the process of losing it using a system I designed for my own problem, which is one part your problem and one part binging at night. Like you, also, exercise has never been a problem. I do it daily and hard.

I actually started up a separate blog - Wolf Health - dedicated solely to diet, exercise and weightloss not long ago to start capturing peoples experiences. This post has been added.

The above hissed in response by: GW [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 13, 2008 4:44 PM

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