The Thinker

The plate of brownies diet test

The worst thing about going to the doctor is not when they tell you that you have incurable cancer. It’s when they put you on the scale. I don’t want to know how much I weigh so I don’t peek, but doctors care. They are obsessed with weight, body mass indexes and other warning signs like blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

It seems that once again I have succeeded in taking off weight and then slowly but incrementally putting it back on again. Here I am hardly unique. In fact, it is hard to find the case of someone who after taking off large amounts of weight doesn’t put it back on again.

Permanent weight loss after decades of being overweight or obese most of the time is actually quite hard. Given our ever-expanding American girth, it seems like Mission Impossible. It is made harder by the tons of disinformation about healthy eating and weight loss out there, plus the heaping doses of guilt you absorb. You would think with all the money spent by the National Institute of Health they might have a study that would indicate the most effective ways of losing weight and keeping it off. Even if there were such a way, most doctors operate on the illusion that weight loss is handled through a one size fits all solution. “Eat less and exercise more,” is basically what they will tell you.

In fact, I had been eating less and I get plenty of exercise. While I get vegetables and lean meats on a daily basis, I clearly have been eating too many carbohydrates, which my body promptly turned into fat. This comes in part from exercise, which burns blood sugar and makes me crave carbohydrates. The Dark Chocolate M&Ms addiction has also contributed to my carbohydrate problem. Anyhow, my cardiologist felt the need to give me a stern lecture about my weight last week.

“Look doctor,” I told her. “I’m good at taking weight off. Like most Americans, I have done it lots of times. The only problem is keeping it off. I don’t want to waste my time with another trip to Weight Watchers when their success rate is as miserable as anyone else’s in the diet industry.”

This doctor though was prepared. Cardiologists see lots of overweight and obese people. They deliver this lecture dozens of times a day. Apparently this practice got so sick of not having any real solutions for their patients that one of the practice doctors decided to do something about it. He thoroughly researched the problem and then set up a clinic down the hall from their office. “If you want to take weight off and keep it off, go see them,” she told me. So I did.

Of course, what I really wanted was a diet where I could literally have my cake and eat it too. Every dieter wants a painless weight loss plan. We particularly want one that requires us to eat lots of easily processed sugary carbohydrates. Of course, no such plan exists that actually works. Lots of plans, including Weight Watchers’ newest one, wants to convince you otherwise. Weight Watchers has a relatively new “Fruit is free” plan. Their market has always been “eat what you want, just a lot less of it.” The new plan lets you eat as much fruit as you want but ups the points on everything else. You can lose weight if you follow their plan. But more than likely because your carbohydrate addiction craving has not really been solved, you will put the weight back on. It’s not bad for their business model. You reenter the program, take the weight off again, and their cash registers go ching.

Thus I found myself yesterday talking to my new diet coach at The Healthy Weigh Now down the hall from my cardiologist. While the doctor in charge and the nurses and coaches there actually work for the cardiology practice, the program they are following is really the Ideal Protein plan. No fruit allowed on this plan, or pretty much anything in the way of carbohydrates. Not much in the way of calories either. The plan is 900-1000 calories a day. It’s no surprise then that those who follow the plan take off weight, and quickly. Women lose on average 2-3 pounds a week; men 3-5 pounds a week.

This plan stuffs you with vegetables, but also “ideal” proteins. To burn fat, you must first use up sugar in the blood. The body will then turn to muscles for energy and finally resort to burning fat. Their “ideal” protein supplements keeps your muscles from losing muscle mass and convinces your body to instead burn fat. And so it goes if you can stick to the diet.

The first twenty-four hours has been a bit challenging but not too difficult. I find myself mildly hungry for much of the day, but that should pass in a couple of days. “Meals” though stretch the definition. Two out of three meals come from their prepared food packages, which are often powders combined with water. There is a daily snack from one of their approved snacks. All emphasize protein. Dinner consists of eight ounces of lean protein and certain vegetables. There are also numerous vitamin supplements, olive oil, fish oil and lots of water to drink. The food categories so far taste better than I thought, but calling a half glass of fruit flavored high protein “juice” a breakfast is a bit much. Just follow the protocol, they tell me, and those pounds will quickly disappear. “You will soon be punching new holes in your belt,” they assured me. It just works.

And I am confident that it will make me lose weight quickly. So I have really only one question: will my body rebel and I find myself at a Dunkin Donuts scarfing down boxes of French Crullers, the food I would prefer to eat?

If so then comes the real challenge: keeping the weight off for good. Here is where the plan will hopefully succeed where others have failed, as I transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2 and eventually all the way to Phase 4, with a doctor and coaches weighing and watching and adjusting and advising all along the way.

When I can pass a plate of brownies at the dessert bar without instinctively wanting to reach for one of them, that’s when I know I will have succeeded.


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