Sunday, April 28, 2013

I've Shed A Few Pounds Recently. Here's How...

It probably goes without saying that I have a voracious appetite for good food and adult beverages. Readers of this blog and followers of my Facebook and Twitter food photos have asked how it is that I don't weigh 250+ pounds. Honestly, until recently it was reasonably easy to balance my caloric intake with an appropriate amount of exercise to keep my weight in check. Unfortunately vices have a way of sneaking up on you at age 47 much more than they did at 37. So it was that after a particularly festive and decadent 2012 holiday season I found myself looking for ways to trim down a bit.

Reducing alcohol consumption seemed like a good way
to shed some pounds right? Well... maybe.
Alcohol consumption seemed like low hanging fruit ready to be pruned. I was enjoying several glasses of wine nearly every weeknight as well as wine, beer, and cocktails on weekends. My thought was to create a clear delineation between weekends and weekdays, drinking days vs. non-drinking days. Now for my purposes the weekend always starts on Thursday so I decided beer, wine and cocktails were OK on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Alcohol would be off-limits Sunday through Wednesday. (It's worth pointing out here that my wife is an active participant in all this. She is an enthusiastic partner in both the vices and the remedies.)

For me, the alcohol deprivation was (is) extremely boring and only marginally effective. Between mid-January and March 1st I was happy to see about five pounds go away. But that's where it leveled off. Five pounds lighter and a cup of hot herbal tea watching Game of Thrones on Sunday night? Meh.

Then, around the beginning of March I was flying somewhere on a business trip and came across an article in the New York Times about a diet that had apparently taken Britain by storm. The following is lifted straight from the article:
With an alluring cover line that reads, “Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer,” the premise of this latest weight-loss regimen - or “slimming” as the British call “dieting” - is intermittent fasting, or what has become known here as the 5:2 diet: five days of eating and drinking whatever you want, dispersed with two days of fasting.
A typical fasting day consists of two meals of roughly 250 to 300 calories each, depending on the person’s sex (500 calories for women, 600 for men). Think two eggs and a slice of ham for breakfast, and a plate of steamed fish and vegetables for dinner. 
It is not much sustenance, but the secret to weight loss, according to the book, is that even after just a few hours of fasting, the body begins to turn off the fat-storing mechanisms and turn on the fat-burning systems.
Does this successfully fall into the category, "Eat whatever
you want"? For me, yes it does. Crazy.
Something about those three paragraphs resonated with me. Maybe it was just weird enough to work. Maybe it was the challenge presented by two days of restricted caloric intake. Most likely it was the promise of "...five days of eating and drinking whatever you want."

In any case I emailed a link to my wife Shelly with a small note, "Check this out". She replied, "Sounds interesting." End of discussion.

The month of March slipped by and we didn't do anything about it until one evening while doing some channel surfing we noticed our local PBS station was airing a one-hour BBC piece called "Eat, Fast, and Live Longer with Michael Mosley". This is the guy behind the British diet we read about! We watched. It was informative, entertaining, downright interesting and by the end of the broadcast we were ready to jump in with both feet.

Fast forward several weeks and as we near the end of April I have lost just over 12 pounds - all of it attributed to this unorthodox approach to weekly eating. I am under 190 pounds for the first time in at least a decade (probably longer) and it feels pretty good.  Now, that's a fair amount of weight loss in one month. I have no idea if May will bring the same results (or if I'm even interested in losing that much more). Maybe half of it will come back (though I doubt it). The point is this is a work in progress and I am simply sharing the experience.

If this is intriguing to you here are some important considerations:
  • Before you follow my lead make sure you are healthy enough to even try this. Consult your physician, blah, blah, blah...
  • Watch the entire PBS/BBC video (below). There's no way I would have been as enthusiastic about this diet without watching the program from start to finish. 
  • I am physically active. I manage at least five 60-75 minute cardio workouts each week. However, that was true before the diet as well, so it's not simply the physical activity that shed the pounds. Now, my typical jogging distance has increased from six miles to eight. That's a nice side effect - less weight to transport = easier runs.
  • It helps to have a partner. Fasting days would be pretty tough if my wife wasn't participating also.
  • On fasting days (Monday and Wednesday) we have two meals: The first is a small bowl of oatmeal with almond milk - about 100 calories. That leaves 400-500 calories for a very tasty, healthy, lowish calorie dinner. Fasting day dinners consist mostly of fish, vegetables and beans. Sometimes an egg for good measure. See the photos below for what I consider pretty good meals without much sacrifice.
  • On the other five days of the week we eat as we always did, which is to say, quite well, thank you. Examples can be found in my public Facebook gallery here... (warning: may cause hunger).
  • Michael Mosley has a web page dedicated to this diet. I haven't done a deep dive into it but suspect there are some useful nuggets there as well. The FAQ's are a good start...

Eat, Fast and Live Longer - Horizon from Steve Hartman on Vimeo.

Actual examples of my "Fasting Day" meals. Each is between 400 and 500 calories.

Tilapia Loin (Steamed/Broiled), 64°C Egg over spinach 
steamed in chicken stock, Ranch Gordo 
'Cargamanto Cranberry' beans

Mahi Filet (Steamed/Broiled) with fresh asparagus
and quinoa
Mahi Filet (Steamed/Broiled) with Rancho Gordo 'Ayocote
Blanco' beans and steamed spinach
Grilled boneless chicken, green salad, Rancho Gordo
'Christmas'  lima beans
Steamed/Broiled Salmon with Grilled Brussels Sprouts,
and microgreens
Grilled shrimp, quinoa with peas, small garden salad
with homemade vinaigrette (no sugar)


  1. Kevin, I loved this! I am going to watch that video. After losing 31 pounds myself lately, I am trying to stick to 80% eating good, which is really Monday through Thursday whole foods like above and then for the other 20% enjoying fun restaurants and cocktails on Friday night, Saturday lunch or dinner and one fun breakfast! Thanks for this idea as well! Keep it up!

    1. Anon: Thanks. Glad to hear about your weight loss success. Great attitude! Not worth being "healthy" if you're not enjoying life as well.