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Workshopping the weight-loss problem

April 30, 2015 - Andy Flynn
This week: 404 lbs.

Last week: 406 lbs.

Start (12/17/13): 470 lbs.

Total lost: 66 lbs.

I’m losing weight again. After months of losing, gaining and mostly maintaining, the pounds are finally starting to shed. And it’s the result of a months-long process.

I look at the Lake Placid Diet from different angles.

On one level, it’s an experiment on myself. I’m taking the time to try new things, as far as diet and exercise, keeping what works and throwing away what doesn’t.

Overall, it’s a lifestyle change. I’m getting rid of old habits and adopting new ones, a little at a time. After a while, those little habits add up and create a new life.

I’m certainly a different person than I was 16 months ago when I began the Lake Placid Diet.

This is also a support group and weight-loss community. Since December 2013, more and more people have found the stories I’ve written and contacted me, even connecting with each other through Facebook, email and in person. Some have decided to join the Fit Revolution weight-loss group with me, and others have walked with me in races such as the Biggest Loser 5k in Plattsburgh, Lake Placid Half-Marathon and Lake Placid Classic 10k.

Above all, what I’ve found is that the Lake Placid Diet has forced me to become a problem solver.


Solving problems

In order to lose weight, I’ve learned to identify my physical, mental and emotional challenges and barriers.

Then I put a lot of thought into the question, “Why?” Why do I eat so much after work? Why don’t I want to work out this evening? Why do I binge? Why am I depressed at certain times of the year?

Once I target a question, I take myself through the process of “Why?” Sometimes I have answers, sometimes I don’t. I’ll go months trying to figure some things out. Other times, it only takes a few hours. I explore psychology and motivation. I get deep into thought, sometimes stopping by the side of the road to think in my car. I did that once when I lived in Lake Clear, and a friend stopped in her car to ask if I needed any help.

“No,” I said. “Just thinking.”

Once I begin exploring the question, I try to solve the problem. What actions can I take to stop me from doing bad things to myself — like binging? What alternatives do I have to replace the bad behavior — like watching television all the time? What healthy habits can I adopt? What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong?

Then I put an action plan in place, nothing fancy or elaborate, just a simple plan to change my behavior. Sometimes it’s written down, sometimes it’s not.

I’ve published some of these problem-solving ideas already in the Lake Placid Diet: “25 keys to half-marathon success,” “finding new ways to blow off steam,” “healthy snacks help make better choices,” and “writing therapy and working core mental muscles.”

Problem solving can be as simple as building your own socks machine because you’re too large to put on your socks alone: “I call it my little socks machine,” published on March 14, 2014. Or it can be as complicated as “battling the demons of food addiction,” published on Aug. 29, 2014.


Weight loss and gain

I’ve tackled many problems over the past 16 months, and now I’m dealing with the big one — the reason I’m taking this journey in the first place — weight loss.

Since the new year, I’ve been wringing my hands, wondering why I haven’t lost any significant weight since June 2014. I went from 470 pounds on Dec. 17, 2013 to 390 pounds at the time of the Lake Placid Half-Marathon on June 8, 2014. That’s 80 pounds in less than six months. In the summer, I’d gone down to 382 but ended the year at 390 on Dec. 23.

Then came Christmas and New Year’s Day, and I put on 23 pounds of holiday weight. I can gain weight — a lot of it — very easily.

I went on vacation in mid-April and ballooned from 402 pounds to 414 in a week. Even though I remained fairly active with spring cleaning chores, I didn’t walk or exercise in the gym. And I ate whatever I wanted, even though it was significantly less than the holidays.

I know why I gained the holiday weight, but I was dumbstruck as to why I hadn’t lost much weight since June.

I’ve been asking myself “Why?” for several months, and I think I’ve finally figured it out.


Stop, look and don’t listen

I think there are two main reasons I haven’t continued to lose weight.

First of all, I began listening to other people and reading things about weight-loss. Big mistake. Yes, you should educate yourself about nutrition, exercise, weight loss, physiology, etc. But take most advice with a grain of salt. What works for others will most likely not work for you. Everybody is different. Moreover, there is a lot of conflicting information out there — eating eggs is good, no it’s bad. I don’t know what to believe and what not to believe. It makes my head spin!

If you have lost weight, go back to basics and repeat what worked for you the first time. At the end of 2014, I started re-reading the Lake Placid Diet columns from the first six months so I could educate and inspire myself.

So I did that for the past four months, and I shed most of my holiday weight. Good, right? Yeah, sort of. It’s a start. I’ve been yo-yoing between 399 and 407 for three months, so I asked myself that question again.

Why am I not losing weight?


Weight-loss vs. maintenance

While I was on vacation a couple weeks ago — gaining those 12 pounds — the answer finally came to me. I thought about what I had written at the end of 2014 when I was reflecting on the first year of the Lake Placid Diet. For many months after losing 80 pounds, I’d been discouraged about not losing more weight, but I hadn’t gained it all back either and realized that in itself was an accomplishment.

“I’ve learned over the past two weeks that maintaining the weight I lost in the first six months is an achievement, and I should be proud of the hard work I put in during the final six months of 2014,” I wrote.

That’s it! Maintenance.

What gets many people in trouble after losing a lot of weight is they figure the work is done, so they begin gaining the weight back. But the work isn’t done; it’s just starting. Some even gain more than they originally lost.

They succeeded with the weight-loss diet but failed with the maintenance diet.

I hadn’t done that. Since June 2014, I’m convinced that I’ve been on a maintenance diet without even knowing it. I thought I was on a weight-loss diet. How would I even recognize a maintenance diet? I’ve never been on one before. I’ve either gained weight or lost it throughout my life.

I thought maintenance diets were for the people who’ve already reached their big goal. Mine is 220 pounds. But that’s not true. You can go on a maintenance diet anytime. In fact, that should be the “lifestyle diet” I’m working toward when I get down to 220.

In order to fix my problem — to lose weight instead of maintaining it — I need to go back on a weight-loss diet. Now that I know what the maintenance diet looks like for me, I can begin to implement a weight-loss diet for a specific period of time until I reach a mini-goal.

I expect to go back into maintenance mode for a short while after reaching each mini-goal so my body (and mind) can adjust, then go back on the weight-loss diet until I reach the next mini-goal. Over time, I’ll finally get to the 220 pounds and either stay on a maintenance diet or try to lose more weight.


Weight-loss diet

So what is a weight-loss diet? I guess it’s an amped-up maintenance diet: more restricting as far as food choices and calorie intake. I’ve been exercising the same amount on the maintenance diet, so it’s really about food, not exercise.

When I recently read about Penn Jellette — of the Penn & Teller magic show — losing 105 pounds (330 to 225) in four months, I was intrigued. I wanted to know how he did it. According to People magazine, his diet was restricted to 1,000 calories a day and no exercise. That’s too extreme for me, and I haven’t read anywhere that eating less than 1,200 calories a day is healthy. Now he exercises and is on a maintenance diet called Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian diet, which bases food choices on maximizing the micronutrients per calorie.

“I eat unbelievable amounts of food but just very, very, very healthy food,” he told People.

So on Sunday, April 19, I decided to make one last push to lose weight in the eight weeks remaining before I walk the Lake Placid Half-Marathon on Sunday, June 14. My goal is to get below 390 pounds, my weight during the 2014 race. I have a specific goal weight in mind, but I prefer not to share it publicly, and I have a restricted calorie count, but I won’t be announcing that in the media either. I don’t need unsolicited advice, as there are plenty of critics and know-it-alls who’ll feel obligated to tell me exactly what I should and shouldn’t be doing to lose weight.

Insert fingers in ears. Close eyes. Shout, “Lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah,” until they go away.

I’m doing my own thing, and I’ll share my thoughts after the half-marathon, when I’m hopefully thinner than I am today.

On Sunday, April 19, I weighed 414 pounds. By weigh-in day on Tuesday, April 21, I was already down to 406. By Saturday, April 25, I was at 400, but I settled at 404 on Tuesday, April 28 due to some stress eating. Yet that’s 10 pounds in nine days. Not a bad start for the weight-loss diet.


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Blog Photos

Andy Flynn keeps his finisher medals from the races he’s walked on a tie rack, which he looks at every day to stay motivated to lose weight and get healthy on the Lake Placid Diet. (News photo — Andy Flynn)