kitchen table math, the sequel: thinner

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Speaking of Randi Weingarten and the Campaign to Combat Childhood Obesity, I weighed myself the other morning and the scale said 125.5. Since September 25, I have lost 11 pounds.


That's a lot.

That's more than I've lost on any diet, ever, and I lost it during the fall & winter, which is to say I lost 11 pounds at the same time of year (the Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year's-Valentine's Day time of year) when normally I'm regaining the 5 or 6 pounds I managed to lose by dint of determined calorie counting & food logging in the spring and summer.

So, doing my bit for the Campaign, here's my story:
The diet is almost bizarrely easy. Most of what people say about it was true for me, e.g.:
  • you lose your taste for meat &, to a much lesser degree, fat, over time (but see below)
  • minimal hunger
  • more energy
  • so far, going back on the wagon has been as easy as going off the wagon, knock on wood
  • sounds dreadful going in but your tastes change

I deviated from the true path in two respects: I eased into the diet instead of going cold turkey, and I calorie-counted. Thanks to Magic iTouch, I plan to carry on calorie counting. Fuhrman, Barnard, and Esselstyn all say there's no need to count - or restrict - calories if you're following the diet closely, but given that I'm not following it as closely as I ought, I count calories. Also, I'm guessing that calorie restriction in and of itself is probably going to be as good for me as it is for yeast cells and mice (haven't read that article, fyi).

The hitch: I ended up having problems with the no-added-fat part. First I got cranky, then I started waking up in the middle of the night feeling despairing and grim. So now. . . now, I'm not sure. My plan at the moment is to a) add some walnuts & avocados to my salads and b) cheat more.

We'll see how that goes. Maybe Gerald Reavan is right that what some of us need is a relatively high-fat diet? Dunno.

  • apples & soup
  • apparently, vegetables actually do consume more calories than they contain
  • plant foods plants seem to increase metabolism (that may not be the right way to put it: Campbell found that rural Chinese peasants, who are essentially vegetarian, consume more calories than we do but weigh less - see here)
  • Campbell also found that animal protein promotes cancer growth (terrific summary)
I came across my cholesterol reading from 2006: 190.

Last month I had total cholesterol of 131, LDL (bad cholesterol) 62, HDL (good cholesterol) 60. (I know those figures don't add up.) Triglycerides: 43 (normal is below 150).

So that's it.

For me, adopting a don't-get-diabetes diet means placing a bet -- or, at this point, placing a bet on plant-based/whole foods/no added fat, sugar, or salt and hedging it with plant-based/whole foods/somewhat more fat & somewhat less carb. I don't know and can't guess which expert is right.

But there's no question this works brilliantly for weight loss.

books & blogs

blog: Happy Healthy Long Life

Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman (for diabetes: "beans and greens")
blog: diseaseproof
Emily's Postmodern Transformation

The China Study by Thomas M. Campbell
20-year study of Chinese diet & health – “this project eventually produced more than 8000 statistically significant associations between various dietary factors and disease...”
Introduction (pdf file)

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselsstyn - all plant food all the time, "not one drop of added fat"
Chapter One

The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds by Rip Esselsstyn (haven't read - Rip Esselstyn is Caldwell Esselstyn's son - 28-day before & after photos!)

Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes by Neal D. Barnard
Neal D. Barnard

The Calorie Restriction Experiment by Jon Gertner New York Times October 7, 2009 - people undereating for two years straight
Calerie study: Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Energy Intake
The "i" Diet by Susan Roberts (haven't read but it sounds great - Roberts is part of the Calerie study)

Just to confuse everyone: Syndrome X: The Silent Killer by Gerald Reaven, Terry Kirsten Strom, and Barry Fox

Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber "All of us have cancer cells in our body. But not all of us will develop cancer."
David Servan-Schreiber

Volumetrics Eating Plan by Barbara Rolls - "Eat big food."
Barbara Rolls

And: Younger Next Year

scared straight
the Ed diet
Barney adopts a healthy new eating style


Allison said...

So what do three days of eating on this look like? What are your meals and snacks?

Do you get any calcium?

Are you testing your blood sugar?

Are you eating supplements/vitamins? What about omega-3s and vit d?

Independent George said...

I've become a big believer in the Labrador method: that is, living in a 1-BR condo with a 2-year old Lab mix who goes bonkers without a daily 25-minute run. I lost about 10 pounds this summer, which I've since gained back on account of the Chicago winter.

palisadesk said...

There must be genetic variables here. There have been several times in life when I have tried a vegan diet. In every instance I actually *gained* weight and felt like sh** after a couple of weeks. On the other hand, the low-carb, high-protein regimen got me slim and fit and with cholesterol and triglyceride levels to rave about. A high-fat, high-meat diet suited the Inuit for centuries – they didn’t develop heart disease and diabetes until Westerners came along with candy bars and Coca-Cola. It stands to reason that differing population groups have differing optimal diet types, but trying to find solid guidance amid conflicting opinion is a challenge.

Nobody in my family has any known celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, but I find I do much better – no colds, no flu, more energy – if I avoid wheat and dairy products.

I second the Labrador method -- with a difference. I lived in the Labrador wilds for a year and that is a sure fire weight loss plan: you need over 6000 calories a day to break even. Trouble is, you get used to eating a LOT and gain weight when you return to civilization.

Crimson Wife said...

I've tried vegetarian diets and always wind up feeling lousy and craving animal proteins. I feel best on a moderate healthy carb moderate healthy fat "flexitarian" diet. Basically a semi-vegetarian version of South Beach. Primarily plant-based but with small amounts of lean poultry & fish. I will occasionally eat red meat at a restaurant or someone else's house, but I've stopped buying it at home.

stephen said...

Interesting stuff, check out the wide range of Discount Kitchen Tables from

Catherine Johnson said...

update - 1/10/2011:

I haven't used the Lose It app since April 2010, and I've spent the past 8 months eating a quasi-vegan diet supplemented by beaucoup pumpkin pies, potato chips, and Christmas cookies.

Last week I decided it was time to start recording my diet again, and today I screwed up my courage & weighed myself: 128.5 lbs.

I've re-gained 3 pounds in 10 months.

Not bad!

Catherine Johnson said...

btw, Lose It! now has a social media element, so if you want to be my 'friend' on the website, let me know.