Keeping off the weight

I officially start the maintenance phase of my diet tomorrow. Thirty pounds of my body has been converted, principally from fat to energy. Curiously, in the process of losing those thirty pounds, I have avoided regular exercise. Whereas, when I was gaining weight I was in the gym three times a week or so doing aerobics and lifting weights, all to stay “healthy”. Exercise was probably good for my cardiovascular system as opposed to doing nothing. However, exercise was a bad way to think I could lose weight. To the extent it made me hungry and caused me to gain weight, exercise was bad.

For me, the value of exercise came from reading Jim Fixx’s book on aerobics. Aerobics opens more blood vessels, and that means you require more energy for the same amount of body mass, which means you need more calories. The exercise pros know to have that protein bar before starting exercise, so you don’t tend to crave food afterward. However, I saw eating food in general as “bad” as it was “calories” so I avoided eating before exercise. Sometime after the exercise was over my body noticed my blood sugar was low, so it sent me eating. Unsurprisingly, this often meant eating more in calories than I had just burned off. This silly strategy of mine recalls the legend of Sisyphus, who was doomed to repeatedly push a rock up a mountain knowing that at some point it would tumble back and he’d have to do it again. Using exercise to lose weight is a lot like that.

I’m not suggesting that exercise is unimportant. Doctors recommend regular exercise because it promotes cardiovascular health and body integrity. However, it’s based on the assumption that you are already at a normal weight. It’s not a bad thing to have muscle mass. It came in handy recently when I had to haul my daughter’s crap from Richmond back home (she finally got her degree!) and never once panted. Yet most of us are not laborers, farm hands or professional movers so we probably don’t need a lot of well-toned muscles. Mind you looking like one is not bad, if that’s your thing. I find it is curious that the weight lifters I mostly see at the local Gold’s Gym are obese. Yes, they have a lot of muscles but they also have large rolls of fat.

My takeaway from this weight loss experience is that to lose weight you should avoid exercise. Losing weight is really about calorie reduction. You don’t want to give into temptation, and exercise is likely to make you hungry, and thus you are likely to cheat. Moreover, diet marketing is mostly full of bullshit in an attempt to sooth your anxieties by parting you from your money. Any diet will take off the weight if you have the constitution to stick with it. Few though will work with your body rather than against it. Almost all of them will set you up to put the weight back on. Having just taken off thirty pounds, I remain skeptical about the long term success of the Ideal Protein Diet I used to take off the weight, particularly as I add back into my diet fats and carbohydrates. But at least their maintenance strategy makes sense. It helped me cut through a lot of the dieting bullshit.

Most of us Americans have gotten the message that the Western diet is bad. We know we should not eat a lot of junk food, and that stuff we do eat like pizza generally is not good for you. What almost no diet will tell you though is that a calorie is not a calorie. All calories are not created equal. Your body needs both fats and carbohydrates to maintain a healthy weight. You are doomed to fail if in your maintenance phase you do not get some of both, like the Atkins Diet. You just need to keep them apart. Put them together and you are asking for a heap of trouble. Basically, you are back on the Western Diet.

There are so many zillions of diet strategies and ideas out there it’s really hard for anyone to tell the good ones from the bad ones. From painful experience I can now recommend an article, one of the one percent or less of diet articles that actually imparts some useful information. Go read it. This is what happens when you eat carbs and fats together, at least in significant quantities. This is why it wasn’t a problem in the past. Most importantly, once you take off the weight, this is how you keep it off. Don’t mix the carbs and fats. You need both, just don’t put them together. Enjoy a nice Caesar salad for lunch but easy on the croutons. At dinner, have a plate of spaghetti but go easy on the cheese. Your liver will be much happier. It will be very confused if you throw them together, and it will attach the byproducts to your waist.

Americans like knowing that they should eat fats and carbohydrates. The part we overlook though is that the body also needs proteins and vegetables. What you need is a healthy balance of all four food groups. Every meal except maybe breakfast should include a vegetable or two. Every meal should also have a protein. These foods are essential to maintaining a healthy body, plus since they are relatively low in calories they will make you feel fuller.

So pick the diet of your choice to take off the weight. But to keep it off:

  • Protein at every meal
  • Vegetables at every meal but perhaps breakfast
  • Make one meal fat heavy and carbohydrate light
  • Make one meal carbohydrate heavy and fat light
  • Preferably, eat vegetables and proteins first
  • Watch your portions
  • One to three small snacks during the day will keep you from getting cravings

Resume exercise after you have lost the weight. Aspire to be an athlete or weight lifter only if that is your passion. Otherwise low impact aerobics like walking is fine. Lifting weights once a week or so is probably a good way to keep the muscles tuned as well.

If you have struggled keeping weight off before, I hope that I have saved you thousands of dollars and a lifetime of misery.

Thirty pounds and two months later

One of the curious things about dieting is that no matter how fast weight comes off it can never come off quickly enough. I’ve been on the Ideal Protein diet for a bit over two months and I have lost twenty-six pounds officially, thirty unofficially. Getting that amount of weight off in such a short period of time is amazing. There have been times when I have wondered if it was a safe way to take off weight, given that it comes off so quickly.

The general advice from diet coaches to take weight off slowly sounds reasonable until you consider that lots of people follow the advice, give up after a few pounds, and then end up putting on more weight. The other general advice is to make “lifestyle changes”. It makes it sound like you just throw a switch and somehow you move from daily dinners at the Old Country Buffet to eating little but tofu and beansprouts, and that eating habits of a lifetime can somehow suddenly and irreversibly change. So the Ideal Protein Diet is certainly radical in that it takes off weight very quickly. Considering the poor long-term success rates of all those other dieting schemes, it was worth the chance.

As I can attest, if you follow it, weight will come off quickly. Its claim that you should never feel hungry after the first few days, however, is dubious at best. I have no doubt that some and perhaps most of their dieters rarely feel hungry. I still feel hungry pretty much every day, just not all the time. For a while I would wake up in the night with my stomach hurting from hunger. When I feel hungry though it is usually genuine hunger, not because I have a sugar craving. Those particular cravings have largely disappeared. It is the sugar cravings more than anything else that I think are to blame for so many Americans being overweight. Consequently, for me the most challenging period of the dieting comes not during weight loss phase, but when I attempt to sustain a healthy weight. It’s pretty easy to see that I will need to eat a lot less sugar and a lot fewer carbohydrates in general.

Some of us carry weight real well. That describes me. While I have lost thirty pounds, it is curiously hard to tell. I never carried a beer belly (it helps not to drink beer). In addition, for more than thirty years I have gotten regular exercise, including weight training. To some extent my cardiologist overreacted because while I was overweight I entered the diet at the high end of the acceptable level of percentage of body fat. Basically, I retained a large amount of muscle mass from all that exercise, but not to the extent that I look like a weight lifter. So in that sense losing thirty pounds is a bit anticlimactic. I don’t look a whole lot thinner, at least to my eyes, but scales do not lie.

I have taken up a notch on my belt. It used to be that three notches were uncomfortable. Now I must use four notches to avoid a plumber’s crack. I notice my weight loss most where I least expected it: around my arms. My arms now look great, with little in the way of fat between my muscle and my skin. It looks like I do rock climbing every day. Yet I have lost nearly three inches around the waist. Being very daring, I recently bought a new pair of jeans a size smaller than normal, on the assumption I would keep off the weight.

How is the Ideal Protein diet? As far as getting protein and vegetables, it will deliver, and you will be amazed that you can live on half your body’s daily caloric intake with so little fuss. Like any diet it requires discipline. You often leave the table thinking, “Is that all?” Yes, it is. Dinner consists of eight ounces of a lean protein plus two cups of low or no carbohydrate vegetables (basically avoid vegetables with roots). Otherwise at least during Phase 1 of the diet, you are consuming their “foods” which arguably are not cheap. The foods cost about $90 a week, and supplements run out periodically and cost more. By eating less you need a lot of supplements. Their foods are low salt foods, but you still need salt, so you use their salt and sprinkle it on foods or add some to your water. Like most diets, you drink a lot of water, at least sixty-four fluid ounces a day.

For breakfast, I typically make eggs from their omelet mix, which is surprisingly palatable and filling. Lunch is two cups of vegetables plus one of their foods. I find most of their lunch foods remarkably unappetizing. The best I’ve found so far is the Chicken a la King pottage mix (add salt). Snacks are also not much to write home about. The best of them is the Caramel Crunch bar. It’s that and lots of water (I drink mostly zero calorie iced tea) and zero calorie salad dressing with salads. I liberally add spices to my dinner.

So off goes the weight in a rather predictable three pounds or so a week, although it is closer to ten during the first week due to water weight disappearing. Change vegetables, proteins and “food” mixes for some variety, but you will probably find some combination that work well for you. Eight ounces of protein for dinner is actually quite a lot for an entrée. It can be a huge hamburger (no bun or condiments, obviously) or four eggs. I supplement meals with lots of iced tea and usually have one or two cups of coffee (a little instant creamer and artificial sweetener) with lunch or breakfast.

Still, after two months, my body is now seriously complaining. It didn’t help that I spent two weeks mostly on the road. With no access to a kitchen, there was no way to make their omelet breakfast, so I fell back on their small portion and not particularly appetizing “Crispy Cereal”. Have I cheated? A little bit. When in Louisville with no kitchen I had to live off the land, which meant nearby restaurants and plain Subway salads with lunch. It also meant a lot of walking, generally three or more miles a day. My body complained. I ate a lot of Mediterranean food, as three of these restaurants were convenient to the hotel. If they added pita bread or some rice, I ate some of it. I still lost weight, but it was probably from the walking. Last Sunday I found myself at an Apple store waiting while they rebuilt my hard disk. With close to an hour to kill and my tummy seriously complaining, I succumbed to a cupcake from a nearby eatery. In the last week or so when I have felt particularly hungry I have added a quarter cup of peanuts as a snack. I don’t feel particularly guilty about it. I am still losing weight but when my body gives me firm guidance, I listen.

After some discussion with my counselor though I’ve decided to start the second phase of the diet, which consists of adding real protein at lunch instead of protein from a powder. I may extend it beyond the two weeks to take off additional weight, or not. Ideally I’d like to be at the weight I was when I was married, but I was a skinny thing then because I didn’t work out. I have added a lot of muscle mass and I think it is reasonable to keep that extra muscle mass.

In summary, the Ideal Protein diet does work, it is reasonably painless but it requires tenacity like any diet. It is not inexpensive so adding in coaching fees and food it can easily cost you $1500 or more by the time you are done with it. Its ultimate success will be vindicated if I keep the weight off. My pancreas should now be well rested as it has had little in the way of carbohydrates to process, so when I resume eating carbohydrates I should process them more efficiently. I hope that I will consume fewer of them, and keep up eating more vegetables as a percent of my diet. I am finding that I prefer steamed cauliflower. So maybe I can retrain my taste buds, at least to some extent.

More dieting episodes to follow.

A not so little Little Rock, Arkansas

Sequester madness is abating a little bit. There will be no furloughs in my agency, at least through the end of the fiscal year. I am not sure exactly how we are really saving any money. At least here within the water community, a lot of it is probably coming from funding fewer stream gauges. This is not a good thing from a science perspective. The fewer bodies of water that you monitor, the less rich your data set is and the chancier it becomes to draw inferences based on the data, like whether flash floods will occur. Doubtless contracts are being canceled or suspended as well, and maintenance is being deferred. Almost all of this is a false saving. If you don’t pay for maintenance, the cost of future maintenance becomes more expensive. But Congress seems to be saying “meh”. They are happy to leave it to some future Congress to act as genuine stewards. As for us employees, who haven’t seen a cost of living increase in three years, no furlough is welcome news. We’ve been pinching our pennies for years while the cost of living has steadily gone up. This direct attack on standard of living was scary, unnerving and pointlessly cruel.

Small cracks are emerging in the general travel prohibition. All it takes is a waiver from senior management. In general they are niggardly in handing them out. For someone like me used to traveling on someone else’s dime, it’s been a surreal six months close to home. Eventually we were granted a travel waiver, so here I am on the outskirts of Little Rock, Arkansas in hundred degree heat which is surprisingly bearable.

We are definitely not living it up. We spend nights at an upscale Holiday Inn. Getting to work means just walking across the grass to our building next door. There we are holed up in a conference room while the heat and humidity steadily builds outside. Lunch is usually at a Jason’s Deli down the road. Dinner of course varies from a nearby steakhouse to a restaurant in downtown Little Rock, where I found myself tonight. It’s a short ride. The heat may be high but after a day in a typically overly air conditioned conference room the heat feels kind of nice.

Little Rock has not lived up to my preconceptions. In a state where the governor gets only $30,000 a year (at least when Bill Clinton was governor) I expected Little Rock to be small, sleepy and prototypically southern. It’s not that way at all. It’s not a huge city but no one would call it small. And it is hardly sleepy. The traffic may not resemble Boston’s traffic but it is brisk during rush hour. In fact, Little Rock is imitating its northern cousin cities. A streetcar goes through the downtown. There is a long river walk along both sides of the Arkansas River. On this summer evening a band was playing in a small amphitheater along the south side of the river. Fans spraying mists of water tried to keep the audience cool. Further down the sidewalk were fountains that children were happily jumping through.

The population seems more than a bit metrosexual, much more trim in general than most cities in the South, with a preponderance of younger and athletic people. The bums smell as bad as bums anywhere, but panhandle more politely and seem oddly disproportionately white. The Arkansas River impresses, not so much for girth but for its swiftly flowing waters, at least today, coursing so quickly it is as if they could not wait to end up in the Gulf of Mexico. In general, despite the June heat Little Rock seems happy and reasonably healthy.

There is no question that it is the center of culture in Arkansas, such as it has. Arkansas is largely a rural state so Little Rock has become its cosmopolitan center. It sports the status symbols of a big city: a reasonably impressive convention center, a four-star Marriott where the porters are lined up in the driveway awaiting guests, a capitol dome (of modest size), restaurants where you can get craft beers and a general dearth of billboards, something rather exceptional for the south which generally turns its nose up at zoning laws.

Little Rock is also greener than I expected. The Ozarks are a short drive to the northwest. There are plentiful and lush trees and no sign of Spanish moss that I could see. The Arkansas River and its many tributaries provide plenty of fresh water. Consequently it feels more like North Carolina than Louisiana. At least in Little Rock the metrosexuals are moving in and everyone seems reasonably productive but chilled.

The Clintons have left a large imprint on the city. Its national airport is named for Bill and Hillary and of course President Clinton chose to leave his presidential library in the city. It’s a good tourist destination and quite impressive, or so I’ve heard. Since it closes at five p.m., I simply have had no time to visit it.

And Little Rock is growing. Out here in its western suburbs a huge new highway interchange is being built. And yet it is small enough where rush hour is bearable and getting to the airport is not a huge hassle. Coffee shops and Barnes & Nobles are easy to find. More upscale restaurant chains there are aplenty, but there are also quality local establishment.

Finding food I am supposed to eat on my crazy diet is a challenge. This is in part because when you are only eating certain vegetables and grilled proteins and you don’t have your own transportation you depend on the charity of others or you walk to dine. The hotel breakfast won’t do, so it is more packaged protein for breakfast instead. My powdered scrambled egg package won’t work as I don’t have a stove, so it is “Crispy Cereal” which is sort of like Rice Krispies, but not. Salads for lunch, another salad or grilled vegetables with dinner, and something grilled and about eight ounces for dinner without much in the way of garnishment. It will be good to be off this diet at some point, so eating off the land becomes less of a hassle and adventure.

Overall Little Rock is probably one of the jewels of the south, worthy of consideration if you like the climate. It was definitely worth the visit. I won’t be living here, but I can see where a true southerner could easily be captured by its modesty and charm.

Full steamed vegetables ahead!

So how’s that Ideal Protein Diet going, Mark? I just finished day ten of the diet and what a strange diet it is! It consists of a mixture of healthy food (you better learn to love carbohydrate-free vegetables) and what feels like mad scientist “food”. It’s hard to argue with results, however. When they put me on the scale I had dropped 9.7 pounds in eight days.

Yikes! If I maintained that kind of weight loss I’d be emaciated in ten weeks! That won’t happen. It’s true that when you get about 900 calories a day and burn 2500 calories a day you are going to take off weight quickly. Which means for me anyhow it should take about two to three days to take off a pound, if you can maintain this crazy diet. This kind of weight loss should rapidly slow down. What’s coming off now is mostly water weight. After you exhaust blood sugar, the body will hunt for calories in your muscles, specifically glycogen. Glycogen is bound to the muscle with water molecules. Burn the glycogen and that water finally exits the body. So it’s kind of like getting double for your money, while it lasts. Soon, if it hasn’t started yet, my glycogen will be exhausted too. Providing you can retain muscle mass (the whole point of the Ideal Protein diet) the body turns to burning the fat in fat cells for energy.

This is a crazy diet because this kind of extreme weight loss seems dangerous somehow. I had always heard that to take off weight safely you were supposed to take off a pound a week. In theory you were less likely to put it back on than if you took it off more quickly. The Ideal Protein diet seems to be rewriting the rules.

Whether I can continue holding out is open to question. I think so but not because of the “food”, which generally consists of powders in silver envelopes that you mix with water in a shaker they provide. This “food” makes up my breakfast, lunch and snack, which means that I have one real meal a day: dinner. You can have eight ounces of lean animal protein with dinner (or tofu if you are a vegetarian) and two cups of no-carb vegetables, which you also have with lunch.

While not a painless way to lose weight it’s incredibly quick and you don’t usually feel hungry (except in the first few days). After trying enough of their “foods” you can find some that are good enough and some that are quite good. As a snack person, the snack constitutes the food highlight of my day. The Caramel Crunch bar is quite good. Some of the foods are an acquired taste, at best. If you like your soup foamy, you may find some of the soups acceptable but I found them hard to finish with ingredients that were often gritty. There are enough choices where you can get by, but you won’t be raving about the food to your friends. My “omelet” for breakfast has the sort of consistency and look of eggs, but not quite. It’s acceptable enough and with little else but protein you shouldn’t feel much in the way of hunger until lunch. Protein suppresses appetite and vegetables fill the void in your tummy. Repeat indefinitely until you reach you weight loss goal. Then start Phase 2 and learn to keep it off. Or so they say.

I expect I can complete this diet, but it won’t be without giving myself some constant coaching. I am trying to be thoughtful to my pancreas, which for a couple of decades has been in overdrive, squeezing out extra insulin to handle the extra blood sugar. It certainly deserves a break. These weight loss people believe that with a long break it can function more like a normal pancreas. When I think of unpleasant ways to die, pancreatic cancer is probably number one. I doubt there is a link between it and obesity (this was never a problem for Steve Jobs, who died of pancreatic cancer) but why take a chance?

Aside from the weight loss, there have been some good things about this diet. I have more time because I am not exercising. It is specifically discouraged, because the body cannot draw calories as quickly from fat as it does from blood sugar courtesy of various sugar-laden fast foods. Exercise typically took six or more hours a week out of my schedule. I have them back, at least for a little while, which is giving me more time in the evenings to enjoy nerdy activities like writing code for my open source project. (I know, I know. I should be blogging more instead.) I’ll go back to exercise when I am off this diet, but it’s nice to have a break from that routine. It’s also strange to pass that plate of brownies and not feel a magnetic draw toward it. It took a few days but the sugar craving is gone.

In its absence is a kind of neutral zone. When we went to see the musical Next to Normal a couple of years ago, the severely depressed woman Diana spoke of life on antidepressants: no highs, no lows, just a boring steady state. She missed the lows because it let her enjoy the highs. I feel like that sometimes. I finish lunch and I am full, sort of satisfied but my stomach feels strange. I want to feel some gripping hunger. Since dinner is my only real meal, there are things that can be done to make it more interesting. Mainly, I can avail myself of spices, and I can add some olive oil when I heat up the meat in a skillet. That and some freshly heated vegetables liberally covered in the salt they want you to take regularly can make dinner pretty satisfying. I still need to find some calorie free salad dressing. Eating vegetables, particularly raw vegetables, gets somewhat dreary after a while. Mostly you drink lots of water. A little coffee is allowed. I did find a calorie-free iced tea/lemonade mix with Splenda that is really good. The diet coach said it was okay but recommended drinking it only at meals. Since Splenda is okay, a low-tech and cheap way to make drinking water more palatable is simply to add a couple packets to a bottle of water.

Doubtless I will develop more coping techniques in the weeks ahead. This diet will likely become more challenging the longer it goes on and particularly when I have to travel in a couple of weeks. But I will get through it somehow, I hope. Full steam(ed vegetables) ahead!

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.