Successful Diets

Last week, I took a drive to my old hometown, Emigrant, where I happened to visit an old friend, one I had not seen in over two years. The first thing he said was a remark about my protruding belly. “Are you carrying a baby in there?”

A woman standing by responded on my behalf, “That’s what happens when you get married!”

“Yeah”, I agreed. “That’s what happens when you get married.”

But that’s obviously not true for everyone, and my experience in Emigrant gave me impetus to review some of my perceptions on dieting.

That friend in Emigrant has been married over 30 years, and both he and his wife are thin, active, and healthy. Another friend in Livingston has 6 children, the youngest still a toddler. She seems to have a thin disposition. She and her husband sometimes eat unhealthy snacks to be sure, but I think their “thin-ness” has something to do with their habit of always choosing small portions.

Dieting  is a scary word for some people. It never scared me; as a young man, my diet was whatever I liked to eat. My father was thin and emaciated for many years, after having major cancer surgery. He had trouble gaining any weight. No, it wasn’t in his genes. One of his sisters, and one of his brothers were both obese.

At the age of 19, I was with my mother visiting a Mr. Mac clothing store in Utah, getting measured for a suit. It was a ritual experienced by hundreds of prospective LDS missionaries every year. Mac’s brother was there, offering us suggestions. He ordered the waistline of my new pants to be a bit larger than the actual measurement, 32 inches, saying that most missionaries tend to gain weight on their mission. All my casual pants were a 32 waist, but my new suit pants turned out to be something like a 33 waist. They were a bit loose, so I had to wear a belt to keep them from slipping down.

I did not gain a pound during my missionary experience in New York. And that’s not for lack of trying. Some of my cherished memories from New York are Sunday dinners with the Lugo family. Sister Lugo set a table of food before us, the variety of which always amazed me. After I had tried a little of everything on the table, Sister Lugo followed up with ice cream. When I protested that I was too full, she told me to eat it slowly, and it would slip down easily.

One of my earliest food addictions was for New York pizza and calzone. Most of my lunches during my mission were simple, like a bagel and a bottle of soda. But once in a while, if we happened upon a new pizzeria, we had to try it. I remember ordering a large pizza at a certain place, because they did not offer individual slices for lunch. That pizza could have satisfied at least 4 hungry missionaries, but just the two of us finished it up. And we did not discard the hard crusts. The server remarked that he had never seen just two ordinary guys devour a whole pizza like that.

If it’s hard to imagine why I did not gain weight after eating enormous amounts of bread, cheese, and ice cream, perhaps I should tell the rest of the story. I rode a bicycle several miles a day, then walked a couple more, doing door-to-door contacting, or “tracting”. That exercise certainly affected my metabolism.

After I moved to Memphis in 1992, my diet changed. I gave up cheese, but replaced it with new indulgences. One month I had nothing for dinner except root beer floats. That’s when I noticed I had gathered some belly fat, or a “spare tire”. I developed a taste for pork barbecue, or BBQ, and key lime pie. I stopped bicycle riding, and my metabolism seemed to change.

I started to have some body image issues, but was in denial. When I was visiting a tuxedo shop to get measured for a tuxedo, the tailor learned from his measuring tape that I needed a 34-inch waist. I argued with him, saying that must be wrong. I had never worn pants that large, and my 32-inch pants all seemed to fit me just fine. He graciously ordered a 32-inch pants to placate me. And when it actually came time to wear the pants, I could not fit into them. I had to place a rush order on larger pants in order to make my sister’s wedding reception.

In 2008 I was a truck driver, and I wasn’t happy with my health. I was having panic attacks, symptoms of sleep apnea, and felt intuitively that something needed to change. I had given up most dairy products, but that wasn’t enough. I knew that high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and monosodium glutamate were the top three poisons of western civilization, but that was not the source of my problem.

If you read a couple summaries of any famous diet plan, someone will have bad things to say about it. How could I decide which diet plan was best? Maybe the exact diet was not so important as getting off the path I was on.

In Kevin Trudeau’s first book on natural cures, he suggested following a diet developed by Jeff McCombs, known as the Lifeforce Plan (not to be confused with the book by author Michelle Schoffro Cook). The main focus of this diet was to kill-off most if not all candida living inside a body. That idea intrigued me.

The food part of the diet is simple in theory. Aside from the prescribed daily supplements, you may drink only water, and eat only meat, whole fruits, and whole vegetables. Dairy, grains, legumes, sugars, vinegar, and oils are not allowed.

I thought this out very carefully before starting the plan. Whenever I went into a truck stop or restaurant, I would be tempted by cravings for chocolate, pancakes, donuts, sausages, hamburgers, fries, corn dogs, nuts, popcorn, tacos. I had obtained many buckets of dry food storage, over the years. Wheat, rice, beans, honey. Preparing for hard times was almost like the fourteenth article of faith. Could I give up those things for the rest of my life? Probably not, but I could certainly abstain for three months.

Giving up foods I enjoyed was brutal for those three months, but finding the right foods to eat was also a challenge. I learned that almost any place that sold food had bananas, so sometimes I had nothing for dinner but a banana. Was that tough? Sure it was. But there’s more.

I had to sit in a sauna three times a week. Living on a truck is in some ways similar to being in jail. You have to go where you’re told, when you’re told to go there, and leave when your time is done. You cannot usually go to a health spa or club to enjoy a sauna.

I made my own sauna in the cab of my truck. This stunt was only practical during the summer, on clear days. Whenever possible, I would park with the windshield facing the sun, spread a couple towels on the seat, and close the windows and sleeper berth curtain. The sun would heat up the cab to a temperature that made me sweat all over by the end of my 30-minute session. And I had to drink plenty of water.

After 3 months of following the Lifeforce Plan, I had lost the flab around my waist. My pants were extremely loose, and I felt good. It was a time of awakening. I proved to myself that I could lose body fat without strenuous exercise, without drinking nasty concoctions, and without making myself sick.

So what has happened to me in recent years? I weigh more now than I ever have in my life, but my wife insists I am not fat. She is insistent that we eat balanced meals. We’ve had some light-hearted disagreements over this idea. In a gift shop we recently visited, there was a plaque with this saying:

A balanced meal is a cookie in each hand.

I’ve thought a lot about this topic, and come up with some observations on fit people. You might call this, “7 Habits Of Highly Fit People“. I did not invent these ideas. I have only tested them.

1- These people do not eat when they are not hungry.

2- These people do not eat foods they don’t care for just to please others.

3- These people eat mostly raw, fresh fruits and vegetables.

4- These people do not eat close to bedtime.

5- These people drink pure water, first thing in the morning, and plenty of it during the day.

6- These people move their whole body daily, enough to cause perspiration.

7- These people use small treats to reward themselves on some occasions.

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