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A Bridge To Normalcy

February 10, 2012

Losing weight is so much easier than keeping weight at bay. The rapid loss of so much of me was an open invitation for the fat flood gates to swing back open. Unless I devined a way to a new weight.

When the diminishing returns from my absolutism began to realize themselves (fewer new belt notches became available with each passing month), I began to realize that the speed of my glide path to normalcy was slowing down as spring followed winter.  I had to come up with Plan B.  As said, the biggest down side to the Stillman regimen was that the vast majority who go through it almost immediately gain back all the weight they had lost.  Since I had invested six months in this insanity, I realized that it would be even more insane to flush that effort down the toilet, and given the fact that the cable television producers were still making vaguely beckoning gestures my way (and my visage was going to be plastered all over a couple of heavily promoted web sites), I determined that rather than follow the boom/bust phenomenon I’d always fallen victim to, that maybe, just maybe, at the age of 51.5, I could grow up a little bit and actually adjust to some sort of vaguely responsible body mass maintenance strategy.

With the end of the winter of my dangerous eating, I still had over 20% of the way to go in my gut rehab, and I had to make a transition from radical restriction without undoing all the good work I’d done.  I also knew that if any aspect of my focus opened up my food consumption to any interpretations or accountings all would be lost.  There were just too many distractions and commitments in my life for me to precisely regulate what I ate on an ongoing basis. So no calorie counting, weighing, or portion limiting. If it’s on the list I eat it.

Although tightly restrictive, the new scheme was a haute cuisine banquet compared to the first six months.  So for the last three months of my 9-month odyssey I came up with four draconian, never to be violated rules – with one notable exception – that at social gatherings I could “relax” them to accept alcohol and, if seductive enough, a dessert.  Otherwise, the restrictions were pretty basic and extended some aspects of the Stillman syndrome, while relaxing its most stilted “meat only” aspect.  In no particular order, I imposed these restrictions:

1.       Zero Content Fluids Only.  Drinking no liquids that have calories. (If you’re not drinking milk or orange juice, it becomes critical to keep taking a multivitamin every day to keep scurvy and osteoporosis at bay.)

2.       White Not Right.  Eating no sugars or refined carbohydrates of any kind (pastas, breads, potatoes, white rice, etc.).

3.       Fat = Fat.  No butter, oil, chicken skins, salad dressing, etc.  (And by the way, no matter what anybody says, nuts are virtually fat.)

4.       Work it!  Exercise for a full hour a day at least six days a week.

I did not get exotic in preparing the excruciatingly limited menu of ingredients to create gourmet fare.  The goal of this regime is to de-emphasize food and thus simple straightforward meat cooked in a way that adds no fat and is prepared and consumed with grim determination is the best way to reinforce your resolve.

As with the extreme Stillman regime, it was necessary to have a reduction of menu items to inhibit straying from even this relaxed dietary lock step, so typically I fell into several eating patterns.  Lunches would mostly be a clear (non-cream based) soup, preferably one without noodles or rice.  Dinner would often involve undressed salad (you feel so virtuous!) or about 8 or 10 oz. of a steamed vegetable, about 6 or 8 oz. of meat and, to my amazement, I would often have fruit, something I previously viewed as being an inedibly bizarre byproduct of plant reproduction (which, come to think of it, it is.)

The rules for the meat preparation remained the same as in the Stillman cuisine but the quantity was cut by one-half to two-thirds, and I added the augmenting steamed vegetables, almost always at dinner, but occasionally at lunch as well.  For a middling man, learning how to cook vegetables feels like channeling the loathed Rachel Ray (could she please, please just get laryngitis.)  But if one of us, Mario Batali, can care about vegetables, I guess they do not have cooties after all.

The vegetable softening method was, predictably, pretty basic:  buy a larger than normal quantity (an entire head of cauliflower, an entire large bag of spinach, a similar quantity of broccoli or broccoli rabe), chop off whatever offending elements there are (not the spinach ends – that level of micromanagement is insane), cut into ingestably-sized chunks, thoroughly wash, dump into a large cauldron (if I’m feeling anal, I’ll use a steamer insert), let it steam until it seems not quite done, throw in a huge quantity of salt and pepper and let it sit for a little while, toss, and eat.

Although I stopped drinking 100 oz. of water a day, I probably still drank between 40 oz. and 60 oz. a day and still drank two to five 12 oz. cans of caffeine free Diet Coke a day, as well as coffee as needed.

Scattered in during this transition period, as noted, I would allow myself to have an occasional public celebratory glass of wine and perhaps monthly dessert.  In my maniacal weight vigilance during this time, I did note that the consumption of extremely refined carbohydrates (desserts) would cause more retention of subcutaneous “stuff”.

The main collateral effects of my long winter’s effort and springtime relief were not draconian, however – basically less energy and a need for more sleep.  Over this nine month de-fatting I had a few minor illnesses (I was a little bit feverish and fatigued for about 24 hours) and a classic 6 week coughing thing everybody I knew contracted – dieting or fully fed. Being a middling male, these modest ailments were no reason to go to a doctor and, of course, I went to work every day and infected everybody else at the office.

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