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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Okay, weirdest diet experience ever. But it's working.

I'm not a guy who ever obsessed much about his weight, but I do come from a family of people who think about it a lot. When my father was my age he was 300 pounds, and various siblings have struggled to maintain their fitness over the years. I was always the skinny one who never had to think about it much.

About five years ago I crept very close to the 200-pound mark, which freaked me out a bit. I was always someone who weighed in the 180-185 range, but apparently the move from Lahore back to the USA caused me to gain some pounds. (I know, big surprise.) So, like a lot of people, I started to look more closely at what I ate, I cut out the snacks and crap desserts, kept a log of my intake and so forth. The upshot was that I lost 17 pounds within a few months, returning to my more-or-less standard 181-182. However, it took a lot of work, and a lot of maintenance.

It will surprise few people that I didn't maintain. I'm in my late 40s now, perilously close to 50, and I'm not as wired or active as I used to be. My metabolism is slowing down, I think, and I have a pretty sedentary life--I write, I teach sometimes, I work at a group home at nights, which involves a lot of sitting. Sure, I still get up and out and I go for walks and all that, but it's not enough to keep the weight from creeping back. Last January I was in the mid-190s again, and it was depressing.

So I started the whole cycle and again got to the mid-180s, but that was about it. After a couple months I stabilized and didn't drop any more, and I got tired of life without nuts or desserts. I more or less resigned myself to being in the mid-to-upper 180s, at best, from here on out.

By chance I came across an article on Yahoo about something called the "East Fast" diet. It's also sometimes called the 5:2 diet, and a book about the same is apparently a hot seller on Amazon, but the principles are simple enough to outline here: Five days out of the week, you eat whatever you want. Two days, you limit yourself to 600 calories for men, 500 for women. The two "fasting" days should not be consecutive. (Mine are Sunday and Wednesday.) If something comes up and you can't keep a fast day, make it up later--the next day, or the day after that.

Sounds bogus, I know. But I've been doing this for three weeks and I've lost six pounds.

Last week Uzee and I went to Provincetown. From Monday through Friday I ate, literally anything I wanted, and there's plenty to eat in P-town. Starting with elaborate breakfasts at the B&B, followed by lunches with beer and/or dessert and/or both, followed by afternoon snacks consisting of green tea and (usually) some sort of cookie or pastry. Dinner would come later, usually significantly large and heavy and also usually containing beer and/or dessert.

This went on for five days, from Monday through Friday. Friday night while driving back I helped myself to some takeout fish and chips and a chocolate shake. It was that kind of week.

Then yesterday I had a fasting day of 600 calories, and this morning, dreading to see how much I had gained, I stepped on the scale. It read 180.5. Yup--after all that bingeing, I had lost half a pound in a week.

Now, it's true that we did a lot of walking during the week, but come on. It wasn't rigorous, vigorous hiking through the woods, it was strolling along Commercial Street poking around jewelry and T-shirt shops. There was a museum or two and a few art galleries and any number of funky outlets selling "contemporary gifts," and one lovely day at the beach where we walked for an hour or so and sat staring at the waves for thirty minutes. But there were no hardcore workouts, no hiking or biking or swimming at all. It was very, very mellow. And I ate like a horse and lost half a pound.

So I'm officially a believer. This diet, whatever it's doing, is doing something. My plan is to keep at it till I weigh 175 pounds, which is what I weighed 20 years ago when I lived in Arizona and rode a bike 6 miles to work every day. If I can do that, now, without a regular exercise regimen, just through diet and a moderately healthy lifestyle (don't drive when I can walk, try to do something active a few times per week), then I'll be a believer for good.

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