Happy New Year to all, and a prosperous and cancer-free 2012 is our collective goal! I have quite a bit of information from Sebastian (El Caligrafo) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Look forward to a post about his bladder cancer adventures next month. Why next month? Because in North America, every single person (it seems) is focused only on one objective every January - losing weight recently gained from Holiday celebrations! I disclosed last March that I would be embarking on new and quite unconventional approaches to both diet and exercise, and it's time to report on that now that it is a topic of interest to all. The bottom line? My results were entirely positive and somewhat surprising, but not quite the epic success I was secretly hoping for. What follows is a LONG post on that topic.
You should all be aware of my approach to diet and cancer - to avoid potential cancer-triggers prevalent in our modern food supply - preservatives, dyes, hormones, residual pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals, while growing healthy bacteria in the digestive tract to aid in nutrient processing. Avoid sugar in all forms to keep cancer from being overly well-fed. Avoid chlorinated water that kills intestinal flora. Exercise enough to get blood and oxygen flows to healthy levels. This change involved focusing on organic and all-natural foods, avoiding pork, shellfish, sugars (including fructose), and suffering through 30 min of aerobic exercise three times per week. The food becomes more expensive, and after a month or so when my system cleaned itself out, much more tasty. Lots of bottled water - spring water or filtered. I lost about 25 pounds, but slowly gained about half back. I was eating better, feeling better, and still overweight. It was time to try something new.
Like most Americans I have tried many diet programs, and all of them led to success in weight loss - but ONLY for as long as you followed them perfectly. No matter how long you stayed on the program or how much weight was lost, all the weight returned in a fraction of the time once I took a break from the program. Why take a break? Most of these diet gurus talk about a "lifestyle change" where one must follow the rules for a lifetime. The problem? No matter what the rules were, they became unsustainable. Give up bread forever? I am not even a person that likes bread very much, but after six or eight weeks I would have sold my mother for a crust of stale white, processed bread! The mind (and perhaps the body) will demand these "off limits" foods, and the rest of the world consumes them daily in your presence. At some point the mind gives in, and then there is a domino effect - "I just ate X (cookie, bread, pizza, beer, etc.) so I might as well eat Y (an entire bowl of gravy, the rest of that pecan pie, etc.). And since I ate all that, may as well eat the next thing, and the next..." And so it goes and you are "off" the diet. Even if your willpower is strong, eventually something will trigger this chain - a birthday, holiday, vacation, or whatever.
Formal diet programs address the physical component of reducing weight - limiting or eliminating certain foods that induce weight gain and/or limiting quantities of total intake. And so they fail entirely to address the mental component of dieting. For whatever reason (joy, depression, boredom) the mind will DEMAND that you:
A) Eat something forbidden, or
B) Eat all you desire, or
What the world needs is a diet where one can consume what one desires most at any given time in unlimited quantities - now THAT would be a plan that anyone could follow! Enter Tim Ferriss, the most unlikely of candidates, to provide a potential solution. For those unfamiliar with Tim, he was a salesman and fitness buff who started his own company selling fitness supplements. Upon finding the lifestyle of a company owner all-consuming and unrewarding (both emotionally and financially), he decided to extricate himself from his business. As he carefully removed himself from operation after operation, with the intention of just getting away from it, he found the business becoming more and more efficient and lucrative. When he had removed himself almost completely, he discovered that the break he needed to take provided the best operating model for himself and the business. He organized his story into the cleverly (albeit misleadingly) titled "The 4-Hour Workweek," which became a New York Times bestseller. I have this book, and while it "promises" a low-stress work lifestyle, it is actually an excellent book on time management. If you only incorporate one or two of Tim's ideas, 4HWW is well worth its purchase price. Financial success from the business and the book led him to re-evaluate his lifestyle, and he decided to pursue having fun as a primary objective. Ultimately he sold the business for a tidy sum and "retired" in style. His passion drove him to pursue fitness, fun, and other activities to the fullest. A year ago he published his second book, a massive tome entitled "The 4-Hour Body." This second book covers EVERYTHING - Losing weight, gaining weight, bulking up, running faster, holding your breath longer, hitting a baseball, and even "bedroom stuff." Avoid the audio versions (which are abridged), and also do NOT read the thing cover to cover. It will kill you! As advised in chapter one, read the chapter groups that apply to your situation of interest.
Lest one suspect that I am shilling for Mr. Ferriss, the observations are my own, and the links above are NOT affiliate links. I receive no compensation of any kind for ANY information in this blog.
What Ferriss has done is intuitively obvious in retrospect. The medical community and the engineering community are mutually exclusive. One is not both a doctor and an engineer - would require a lifetime of specialized study. Both of these fields (and many others) mostly ignore each other and fully ignore credible bodies of evidence and research because of their sources. For instance, body builders who take illegal steroids and experiment on themselves with diets, supplements, and exercise routines, professional wrestlers, and many others who choose to ignore convention and experiment on themselves. Do Tim and I recommend doing such? Absolutely not. But there are those who do, and they have collectively developed what could be viewed as a body of data that could be used to assess cause and effect when applied in conjunction with data and techniques from the accepted medical, scientific, and a engineering "gentry." If one sets aside the source and examines only the data, one can synthesize approaches that otherwise would not present themselves. Combine that with Tim's willingness to do even extreme experiments on himself, and his association with others who the same, and he delivers a set of very novel solutions. I set aside my prejudices as I read through sections of the book, and decided to give the weight loss regimen for diet and exercise a six month trial. Parts of it sound crazy, but rigorous detail and data collection (my passion) would serve to identify adverse effects, should there be any.
The first thing to cover is "Minimum Effective Dose," which is the smallest dose (usually of a pharmaceutical drug) that produces an effect. If this concept holds true for drugs, would it also hold true for other things like dietary inputs, exercise, sleep, etc.? Applying the concept to exercise, for instance, I found that I could potentially exercise LESS than I was and get the desired effect. This, of course, was good news to me, since I DESPISE exercise. Same applied to diet and environmental factors came up with the food input side. The next thing to change is WHAT to measure. Weight, of course! Well, not so much. Many factors influence weight, so along with weight measurements (which are not really necessary), we also need to measure our body size. Men need to take six measurements and total them up. There is no standard for this total, as if varies widely from person to person. But changes in this sum represent changes in body size and practical things like what size clothing one will wear. As such, it is a great measure of success before and after, or even of failure. The measurements are circumferences of::
Waistline at belly button
Hips at widest point
Left Quadricep (halfway between knee and groin)
for women - add Bust measurement
Only thing left was to figure out how to deal with the mental side - the insurmountable desire for "cheat" foods and binging. More on that below. Taken all together, Tim's weight loss plan has a number of elements, sleep, cold therapy, supplements, dietary restrictions, diet "breaks," and even exercise. We decided to implement the plan rigorously. I chose to wait until after my March, 2011 cystoscopy to provide motivation to make a change. It was all clear, and I was happy and ready to take the plunge. We will break the program summary into three parts: Diet, Exercise, and Break.
Diet - along with supplements and other practical advice (like start every morning with a liter of ICE COLD water and finish breakfast within 60 minutes of arising), Tim recommends a high protein, zero sugar, and low/slow carb diet. This is like a modified version of the infamous Atkins Diet with a few twists. There are limits on the amount eaten (4 small meals per day), and dairy (especially cheese) is forbidden, along with all fruits and any high glycemic index carbohydrates. Protein is emphasized in proportion, not quantity, and high fiber vegetables plus legumes (beans and lentils) for carbs. This diet is fairly limiting in scope - protein such as meat, fish, eggs, and soy (which I tend to avoid) plus beans, lentils, and vegetables. No sugars of any type including things like sorbitol or xylitol. Eliminating dairy eliminates lactose as a sugar source. The idea is to keep blood sugar at a constant, low level and avoid spikes. The biggest complaint most people have with the diet is boredom - eating the same things over and over again. This can be offset to a degree by mixing and matching the simple ingredients and creative use of spices, but even the tiniest of cheats introducing sugar or starch will completely negate the effect. This is a VERY strict diet, but only for limited time frames. Read on...
Exercise was consuming 45 minutes three times per week with 20 minutes in the "aerobic zone." This was well below any recommendation from the fitness community, but enough to satisfy my anti-cancer needs. Under Tim's plan I reduced this to 12-15 minutes of stretches and crunches three times per week - still not pleasant, but much more palatable, and definitely enough to get my heart pumping by the finish. In addition to other benefits my slouchy, swayback posture began to improve from this routine.
While this reduced exercise regimen was a positive mental influence to stick with the program, what about the uber-strict diet? Good news here - you only diet for a total of SIX days per week? What about Day 7? One still follows the morning routine including an on-plan high-protein breakfast. But after that until bedtime (or midnight, whichever comes first) one can have ANYTHING in ANY QUANTITY. It can be a complete binge day. No rules. No limits except the time frame. This clever interlude addresses a number of issues - the mental desire for "forbidden" foods in forbidden quantities. Shocking the system from a low-carb regimen into a high carb one. Keeping the body guessing about whether food is scarce but steady or abundant. Your body becomes accustomed to low doses of high-protein low carb intake and then gets a massive jolt. It tends to reject most of it and pass it harmlessly into your toilet, while satisfying the mental needs. Are you craving some forbidden food? Max wait is six days, and then you can have all you want of it. Trust me - you won't be craving much for the first couple of days afterward!
Clearly this is insane - eat more, exercise less, binge regularly to lose weight and feel better. It cannot possibly work. Several people have flat out told me that this is impossible and CANNOT work, including my doctor, a personal trainer, and assorted other smart people. I agree. It can't work. Except for one thing - it DID work for me. Measurements don't lie. See below for tale of the scales and tape:
One good example of the many negative comments is a review on Amazon by N. Watson, a Stanford educated physician and martial arts expert. He says what the smart people told me. This can't work and does not work on him. But he is already thin and fit. Watson flatly states: "It takes more than 4 hours a month in the gym to have a great body. I'm sorry, it just does." Well excuse me Dr. Watson, but that's BULLSHIT. I can factually report that the program worked well for both my wife (who is thin already) and for me. I have dropped 3 pants sizes, tightened my new, smaller belt 4 notches, have improved posture and attitude, and I feel great. My wife can document proportionally similar happy results. All despite eating the better part of a dozen KrispyKreme donuts and half a gallon of whole milk on my first break day. With similar behaviors on subsequent weeks, which do tend to tone down once the mental pressures reduce due to what I call "satiation therapy." I am not claiming that I have a great body - yet. But I can see that it is easily achievable given time and faithful adherence to the program. I am not thin by any means, but so significantly thinner than a year ago that people notice.
NOTE: The diet is for folks who do NOT have active cancer, so the "cheat day" does not feed the cancer directly with a bath of nutrients!
You will note the graph stops in October. What after that? I continued to lose weight and inches until Thankgsgiving - which became a 6 day binge. Bad form. Back on the wagon until Christmas. To this point weight went up slightly and inches stayed flat. But the Christmas break and 15 continuous binge days (not just normal cheating, but big time binging) was able to turn the inches line up. The belt had to loosen a notch, and pants (still 3 sizes smaller) became tight. But after 2 weeks back on the program the belt notch has been regained and the inches have leveled off. I am aiming to lose two more sizes and expect weight to level out around 180 pounds. And I feel great, as opposed to feeling like crap for most of the break.
For more details I will let you read the 4HB book. If you buy it used and get a first release, make sure to obtain and incorporate the errata sheet. Scroll down the page until you find the header 4HB Corrections and Typos. If you like the book, there is even more stuff that did not make the cut- CLICK HERE. The book is jam packed with information, and the chapters on sexual performance are right in the middle, so it is near certainty that, if you hand the book to someone, they will open to the middle and see VERY graphic diagrams (not photos) and text. You have been warned!
There are tons of websites out there from folks who have tried this with varying amounts of success. One of the most helpful I found is by Luke and Kat, the "Four Hour Body Couple." He was fit and she was struggling, and both are doing well on the program. Their website is free and full of good tips and advice from people who have lived it. It serves as a gateway to advertise Kat's music - she is a Jazz torch singer.
Here is a listing of the chapters and section headers in the book, which is enormous:
FUNDAMENTALS—FIRST AND FOREMOST
Rules That Change Rules: Everything Popular Is Wrong
GROUND ZERO—GETTING STARTED AND SWARAJ
The Harajuku Moment: The Decision to Become a Complete Human
Elusive Bodyfat: Where Are You Really?
From Photos To Fear: Making Failure Impossible
The Slow-Carb Diet I: How to Lose 20 Pounds in 30 Days Without Exercise
Damage Control: Preventing Fat Gain When You Binge
The Four Horseman of Fat-Loss: PAGG
Ice Age: Mastering Temperature to Manipulate Weight
The Glucose Switch: Beautiful Number 100
The Last Mile: Losing the Final 5–10 Pounds
Building The Perfect Posterior (Or Losing 100+ Pounds)
Six-Minute Abs: Two Exercises That Actually Work
From Geek To Freak: How to Gain 34 Pounds in 28 Days
Occam’s Protocol I: A Minimalist Approach to Mass
The 15-Minute Female Orgasm: Part Un
The 15-Minute Female Orgasm: Part Deux
Sex Machine I: Adventures in Tripling Testosterone
Happy Endings and Doubling Sperm Count
Engineering The Perfect Night’s Sleep
Becoming Uberman: Sleeping Less with Polyphasic Sleep
Reversing “Permanent” Injuries
How To Pay For A Beach Vacation With One Hospital Visit
Pre-Hab: Injury-Proofing the Body
RUNNING FASTER AND FARTHER
Hacking The NFL Combine I: Preliminaries—Jumping Higher
Hacking The NFL Combine II: Running Faster
Ultra-Endurance: Going from 5K to 50K in 12 Weeks—Phase II
Effortless Superhuman: Breaking World Records with Barry Ross
Eating The Elephant: How To Add 100 Pounds To Your Bench Press
FROM SWIMMING TO SWINGING
How I Learned To Swim Effortlessly In 10 Days
The Architecture Of Babe Ruth
How To Hold Your Breath Longer Than Houdini
ON LONGER AND BETTER LIFE
Living Forever: Vaccines, Bleeding, and Other Fun
APPENDICES AND EXTRAS
The Value Of Self-Experimentation
Spotting Bad Science 101: How Not to Trick Yourself
The Meatless Machine II: A 28-Day Experiment