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Diet leads to a change in perspective

July 16, 2014 - Andy Flynn
This week: 393 lbs.

Last week: 395 lbs.

Start (Dec. 17): 470 lbs.

Total lost: 77 lbs.

I’m thoroughly embarrassed and disappointed that my weight has hovered between 390 and 400 pounds for the past eight weeks. It’s time to get serious about losing weight again.

I’ve had a difficult time adjusting to a lifestyle that doesn’t include training for a half-marathon and attending the mandatory Take It Off weight-loss challenge classes every Tuesday and Thursday night at the Fitness Revolution gym. Both programs ended the first week of June. While I’ve continued to be active — working out at the gym and hiking — my stress eating has kept my weight on a plateau.

Another Take It Off round begins in September, and most of the group members who’ve kept in touch through our Facebook page have been stuck in the stillwater along with me. While many are active, the excessive eating is preventing many of us from losing weight.

“Let’s keep on track, guys and gals!” one of the members recently posted.

Most of the group is planning to join the next Take It Off round, and we want to keep the momentum going through the summer. But the motivation has been lacking.

I think it’s a great life lesson, being faced with a multi-month break in the fitness classes. That time away forces us to make a choice: Either give up, or work a balanced diet and fitness plan into our everyday lives — the operative word being “work.” After all, we won’t always have our trainers around to kick our butts, trying to keep us honest, and we won’t always have a mandatory weigh-in every Tuesday.

Now is the time to change. We have a perfect opportunity to transform our lives forever. As soon as we start holding ourselves accountable, we’ll be able to get serious about losing weight and working toward our fitness and health goals. Until then, we’re only treading water.

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That includes me. I had to sit down and kick my own butt this past week. Now I’ve made a pledge to get down to 370 pounds in four weeks. That’s about 5 pounds a week, taking me to the 100-pound weight-loss milestone since starting the Lake Placid Diet in December.

But I didn’t just make that pledge to myself; I posted it on the Take It Off Facebook page. Then I challenged the group to set their own summer goals since we all seem to be flopping around like fish out of water. By the end of the day, I had eight others pledging weight-loss or fitness goals by early September.

Diet plan

I’m confident that I can get down to 370 pounds within a month because I know how to do it. It’s just a matter of doing it.

“What diet are you on?” people continually ask me.

They want to know the secrets to my success so they can replicate it, going on Andy’s diet in the hope of losing weight.

But it’s not that simple. In fact, it’s just plain wrong. The whole idea of the Lake Placid Diet is to find local resources — physical, emotional and social — and adapt them to create a healthier lifestyle, one that’s unique to every person. The cookie-cutter approach is called a diet, and diets don’t work.

The Lake Placid Diet is not a diet at all; it’s a frame of mind, a call to action, a pledge to oneself that you will do what it takes to transform yourself into a healthy person. If you’re serious about it, there will be a transformation.

This column is an experiment. I want to show the world that it’s possible to make that transformation naturally, without drugs or surgery.

Still, people want to know what I’m eating. I understand this is part of the process, so I’ll give you a glimpse into my food intake. Be prepared, though, because it’s not a radical formula or a magic pill. In fact, it probably looks much like everyone else’s. It’s just downsized.

The secret to my successful weight loss so far — about 80 pounds since December and 100 pounds in three years — is I now eat less and exercise more.

“Do you have cheat days?” someone asked me.

Yes. We still have to enjoy life. If I want chicken wings, I can have them. I just cut down on calories in the meals before or after the chicken wings. I had a beer with dinner at a restaurant Saturday night, but I balanced it out with a steak salad. I was satisfied. I lost 2 pounds that day. To me, that’s a success.

It’s a healthy way to live, and it’s not a diet at all. I’ve lost about 80 pounds and still been able to eat and drink everything I’ve wanted: bacon, beer, cake, ice cream, nachos, chicken wings, pizza, Chinese food, etc. But I don’t have it nearly as much as I used to. Everything in moderation.

When I’m in the weight-loss zone, I try to eat a diet that is:

-low in sodium (because I retain a lot of water);

-low in fat (but not fat free);

-low in sugar (sweetening food with fruit, maple syrup or honey, not with sugar or artificial sweeteners);

-and lower in carbs (but not carb free, as carbs are needed for energy while I exercise).

I mostly drink water and milk. Periodically, I’ll drink Muscle Milk for additional protein. And I’ve found that I’m happier when I drink coffee in the morning, so I drink it four to five times a week with a serving of artificial creamer and no sweetener. When I want beer, liquor, diet soda or grape juice — which is once or twice a month — I drink it.

I try to stay away from processed food as much as possible.

As for fats, I prefer olive oil when cooking, and I will eat real butter (not margarine or artificial butter products) and cook with vegetable oil. The more natural, the better.

In the weight-loss zone, I’ve found the suggestions from my fitness trainers work well: protein at every meal, at least three servings of vegetable every day, a fruit serving at each meal, and at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. And there are many recommendations from my nutritionist at the hospital and my nutrition consultant at Green Goddess Natural Market that I’ve added to my diet, such as lemon juice in my water and increasing my variety of food, buying organic products when I can afford it.

Counting calories is a proven weight-loss technique. When I count calories, I lose weight. When I don’t, I maintain. It’s that simple. I try to eat between 1,200 and 1,600 calories a day. On cheat days, it will go higher than 2,000 calories. I try not to have more than one cheat day a week, and it’s more like a cheat meal — usually dinner — not an all-day binge. That would be harmful, and the recovery time could last a week or more.

The fact that I’ve been able to keep my weight between 390 and 400 pounds in two months has been a minor miracle, especially since I haven’t counted calories in all that time. I’ve just been practicing what I’ve learned so far, regarding food and exercise. I’m slowly retraining myself how to eat healthier food and portions.

Mental exercises

I continually struggle with emotional and stress eating, so I’ve been exercising my mental muscles, which has helped me deal with my food addiction. The exercises often include putting myself in difficult situations.

In one exercise, I walked into a grocery store hungry, debit card in hand, with the goal of buying one item for my wife. In the past, I’ve never been able to walk into a store hungry without walking out with junk food. In this instance, I walked out with that one item and nothing else. That was a success.

On Saturday, I was faced with four mental exercises on my dinner-and-a-movie date with my wife in Lake Placid. In the past, dinner and a movie typically spelled “D-I-E-T B-U-S-T-E-R.” But not this time.

The first challenge was to walk into the Bluesberry Bakery hungry without buying something. I walked in, looked at every delicious item in the two glass cases and walked out with nothing. Success!

The second challenge was dinner at the Dancing Bears Restaurant. The menu is loaded with great-tasting food, but it also includes some satisfying salads. My goal was to enjoy dinner in a way that made the evening feel special while eating something nutritious at the same time. I settled on a beer and a steak salad. My wife had nachos. I kept saying, “Those look delicious.” It helped me cope. I walked out a satisfied customer. Success.

It didn’t matter that I had just eaten dinner; the aroma of fresh popcorn wafting through the Palace Theatre still gave me a craving for buttered popcorn and candy. After all, we’re groomed as a society to put something in our mouths every time we watch a movie. With 20 minutes to go, I posted the following question on my Facebook page to help me decide how to cope with this overpowering urge to eat junk food:

“OK, Lake Placid Diet fans. Here’s your chance to help me make a decision. At the Palace Theatre now. Movie popcorn. Yes or No. Explain your decision.”

Later, I amended the question with, “Candy?”

I turned my mental exercise into an open forum and got responses from 20 people, using their comments to make my decision. Some said popcorn but no butter. Some said no popcorn at all. Most said no candy, except possibly Raisinets because they are half fruit. Some suggested items that are not for sale at the theater, such as carrots and trail mix. One person said, go ahead and treat myself: “You will be back on track tomorrow.” Another suggested bringing my own snacks, but at that point it was too late. In the end, two comments won the day.

The first was from my wife, who suggested a piece of sugar-free gum, which I chewed the entire movie. It satisfied my craving in a way I never thought possible.

And the other was from a friend in Fredonia who typed, “Keep texting, and the movie will start, and the popcorn craving will be OVER!”

She was right. The movie started 20 minutes into the Facebook conversation, and by that time, I had gum in my mouth and my craving was gone. Another success.

The last challenge was at Price Chopper, shopping for a few needed items after the movie. It was late. I was tired and hungry, yet I was still riding high from the other eating challenge successes of the day, and that gave me the will power to walk out of there with only healthy food. Success.

A change in perspective

What do these silly exercises do? They help retrain my mind.

For years, I’ve been conditioned to act certain ways in a variety of situations. When I’m stressed, I eat. When I’m hungry in a grocery store, I buy junk food. When I go out to a restaurant, I eat whatever I want no matter how many calories. When it’s time to celebrate something, celebrate it with food. Reward good behavior with food. Have a beer because everybody else is having one. Eat because there’s nothing else to do while sitting there in the chair watching television. We act this way because we’ve always acted this way.

In fact, our society grooms us to become fat, lazy couch potatoes.

But just because we’ve grown up doing something doesn’t mean it’s a healthy way to live. Get up, eat, go to work, eat, come home, eat, sit in front of a television and eat until you go to bed. If you’re hungry in the middle of the night, it’s OK to snack. Millions of Americans do this every day. That was my life for decades, and it helped me balloon to 493 pounds.

The only way I’ll reach 220 pounds is to change the way I live, and that means training myself to live differently.

I figure the more I can experience healthier situations, those will become my new normal. I don’t expect the food cravings to disappear. Instead, I want to be able to dig into my healthy lifestyle toolbox and pull out a number of tools to help me cope with those cravings. It’s those silly exercises that help me build some of those tools.

I’ve found that all the hard work is paying off. Not only am I losing weight, but I’m starting to do things I haven’t been able to in a long time.

The Lake Placid Diet is changing the way I live. The more new things I try, the more my perspective on life is changing. I see things a lot differently now.


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Blog Photos

Swimmers begin their 400-yard leg of the High Peaks Cyclery Mini Triathlon at Mirror Lake. On July 11, Andy Flynn successfully swam the course and plans to train here so he can join a Lake Placid News mini triathlon team this summer. It was the first time he’d been swimming in 11 years. (News photo — Andy Flynn)