I’d like to preface this post by saying that I am NOT a doctor, nor am I a nutritionist. I have no medical training, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. What am I about to share is my personal experience and the results I got when I adjusted my diet based upon the information that I gleaned from Wheat Belly, Grain Brain, Primal Body – Primal Mind, and It Starts with Food. With that out of the way, I would be curious if anyone who reads this has experienced similar results.
At my last job, I did an extensive amount of travel. On average, I spent about 2 weeks out of every month on the road. What you don’t notice when you travel that much is how you slowly start packing on the pounds. Sitting on airplanes, the lack of exercise, and the regular eating out does not lend itself to maintaining a healthy weight.
I did my best to stay active and eat properly while I was at home and not on the road. Still yet, I peaked at 180 pounds, which was well above what I consider my fighting weight of 160. After I left the job, I decided I would make an effort to lose the 20 or so pounds that had somehow deposited itself on my body.
Step 1: Feel the burn
I started by making an effort to go to the gym on a more regular basis and adding a cardio workout to my weight routines. I also did a lot of walking, average about 12 miles a week. Within 3 months, I shed 10 pounds. And then I got stuck. No matter what I tried in my exercise routines, I could not break 165. For the next 10 years, my weight fluctuated around 170.
Step 2: Eliminate sugar
It wasn’t until I made a concerted effort to cut sugar out of my diet that the game changed. For starters, it meant eating a lot less processed foods. I also found that I was starting to eat a lot more natural foods. Most important, I got much better control over my appetite. I was doing fewer and fewer pantry raids between and after meals. Within a few months, I found myself hovering around 165, an improvement of 5 or so pounds. I finally managed to breakthrough my plateau and edged closer to my goal of 160.
For the next 6 months or so, 160 was another floor that I was having a hard time punching through. When I shared my experience with a couple of close friends, they suggested that I take the next step and reduce my carbohydrate intake with an emphasis on eliminating bread. For weeks I resisted their suggestion. They told me that I should read Wheat Belly and Grain Brain. Both books highlight the problems with our modern wheat diet and espouse the virtues of putting it aside. I finally relented and read the books.
Step 3: Carb reduction, with an emphasis on the wheat-based variety
The suggestions contained in both books, as well as Primal Body, Primal Mind were radical. Like many, I have a natural affinity for bread. Bread was a staple of every dinner in all its forms – sliced, buttered, toasted, garlic, rolls. You name it, and some form of bread existed at our dinner table. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to give it up. In the name of science, I figured it was worth a shot. I wanted to see if cutting back on carbohydrates, with an emphasis on wheat, would make a difference.
After three months, I did it. Not only did I break through 160, I hit 155. I hadn’t seen 155 on a scale since, well, I couldn’t even remember. I know it was after college, but it must have been at least 20 years. I was shocked and amazed. Managing the processed sugars and carbohydrates in my diet had as much of an impact as exercise. However, it must be noted that I continued my workout routines throughout my diet experiments.
Over the course of 2017, I’ve stuck to my new diet. It’s become a habit, and I don’t think about it as much. I will occasionally stray from my strict no wheat rules. I’ll also indulge in an ice cream cone or dessert here and there. While I haven’t been able to maintain my weight at 155, I have had success keeping it around 160, +/- 2 pounds or so. Since I consider 160 my optimal weight, I’m very happy with where I’m at.
What I learned
So what did I learn through this process? While exercise is a necessary and essential part of one’s daily routine, it’s not the only or biggest lever when it comes to weight control. My experience is that watching your diet is just as important as activity when it comes to weight loss and control, if not more so. And when it comes to watching your diet, it’s not about denying or starving yourself. I still eat decent portions at every meal. Naturally, I don’t need to eat as much to feel satisfied since I can more readily control my appetite. Getting off the sugar and carbohydrate roller coaster is a good thing, trust me.
So the bottom line, do yourself a favor and exercise. It’s worth it, and you won’t regret it. But if you really want to go after weight loss, focus on diet, starting with sugars and wheat-based carbohydrates. You may be as surprised as I was at the results.