At 68 there are many times I can feel my age. But it is only about the last year or two that I’ve noticed a definite slowing down. Which begs the question: What am I going to do about it? Fit it or accept the inevitable?
As I look around at other men my age, to generalize, I see men stooped slightly as they walk, with paunches or guts. And that is/was me. I say that because I’m working on it – more later. Actually, not the posture bit – I’ve always maintained good posture, and have to slump way down for my barber, because my usual position in a chair is bolt upright. When I walk, I am intentional in keeping shoulders back and head facing up and forward. But I’m ashamed to tell you that I porked up to 245 lbs. I carried it well, but my 38 waist trousers were getting tight, and I absolutely refuse to wear anything beginning with a 4. So I was at a crossroads: do I accept this physical slowing down, or am I going to fight it?
I decided to fight. With every muscle fiber I have.
For context, when I married, 44 years ago, I weighed 164 lbs. Skinny! For many years I maintained around 182 lbs. and wore a 33-inch waist. And I was pretty cut – I used to work out faithfully and have always enjoyed doing so. Never huge, but I had good definition. So I reason that if I did it then, I can do it now.
Mrs. Downing and I have done a lot of diet and nutrition research, as many people of our age do, and we learned a lot. Sugar does nothing good for the human system, and in fact has many deleterious effects. Grains cause inflammation, which isn’t good for a man’s prostate. Soy is full of estrogen, and men should avoid it or risk growing a paunch with man boobs. We follow a few different chiropractors on YouTube who espouse the ketogenic diet (Drs. Dr. Berg and Dr. Jockers, primarily, and also Thomas DeLauer, a fitness and diet expert). And full disclosure: I visit my chiropractor, Dr. Jason Castellanos, monthly for an adjustment. Keeps me standing up straight. So if I had an ache or a pain, my first visit would be the chiropractor and not a medical doctor.
The thesis of keto is that the body will burn the easiest fuel first, which is carbohydrates. If all your intake of carbs isn’t burned, they are stored as fat. In the absence of carbs, the body will then burn that accumulated fat. The weight loss equation remains the same: produce a calorie deficit, meaning eat fewer calories than you burn. So one loses weight by controlling diet and adding in exercise to burn more calories. And the results can be astonishing, as anyone who’s seen those weight loss competition shows can tell you. And if you really want to thin down, cut way back on the carbs.
A strict keto diet is way too much fat for us - 75% of caloric intake. So we’ve modified our eating to be this: moderate protein, all the vegetables we want, few net carbs, and all the good fat we want. Good fat is that from bacon, salmon, almonds, avocados, butter, etc. Vegetable oils are actually industrial by-products and not good for us at all.
The state in which the body begins burning fat is called ketosis. In ketosis you are burning up the stored fat, because the body has few carbs to burn first. This is a very efficient and relatively quick way to lose weight. There are blood prick tests available at Walgreens to measure the extent of your ketosis. It is eating the good fats that yields satiety. If I have a doughnut, I want another. If I eat bacon, it keeps me feeling full for hours. This is all controversial, and I’ve maybe not described it properly, and many would disagree – that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. What I can tell you is this: what we’re doing works for us, we like it, and find it sustainable. This is a new eating lifestyle for us, and it pleases us and gives us results. If we want a doughnut now and then, we eat it.
We’ve learned to couple this diet change with intermittent fasting, which is a trendy way to say skipping meals. Generally, I’m eating 2 meals per day now, and not very hungry in between. Fasting for longer periods, like 24-48 hours, yields tremendous health results, and I find that I’m able to do that fairly easily now. If I really get crabby and hungry just a tablespoon of butter – a good fat – will usually calm things down so I can make the fasting time goal.
My goal – and I’m really putting myself out there now – is 15% body fat. This would be fairly lean. A bodybuilder prepping for competition may get down to only 5% body fat, and look freakish and be unhealthy. But 15% should be about right, and I’m guessing that will take me to somewhere between 180 -185 lbs. Where am I now? At this writing, 220 lbs. So I’m down 25 lbs, representing more than 1/3 of the goal.
I’ve been doing really well, except for my planned binge in New Haven recently. Sally’s Apizza and Lucibello’s pastries. And yes - it is apizza, pronounced ah-beetz. Many Southern Italians came to New Haven early in the last century, so the pizza there is the Neopolitan version, hence the slangy Southern Italian pronunciation. Watch Dave Portnoy's barstool pizza review of Sally's Apizza. He uses a very limited vocabulary, as you'll hear, but makes his point.
A cheat day is okay according to the doctors and fitness guys I follow on YouTube – life’s for living after all, so the focus should be on making overall healthy choices, ignoring day-to-day fluctuations, and paying more attention to what happens week-by-week.
We’ve added natural vitamins to our daily intake, and buy only organic, free-range, pesticide free. That makes our grocery budget for two look outrageous, but since we are eating a lot less food, it isn’t too bad. And the other key to it: if not hungry, don’t eat. Seriously. If you’re not hungry, skip the meal. Maybe just a little bit of fat from an avocado or butter and skip the meal. The weight will come off easily.
I’ll cover the fitness part of the equation in another installment.
Best to all,
--Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®