My weight loss journey

I recently lost 35 pounds, and have successfully kept it off despite the temptations of the holiday season, out-of-town vacations, and the forced inactivity of knee surgery. I wasn’t even going to write about this; it seemed like an intensely personal subject, and not necessarily germane to the whole concept of “Bad Aunty.” But so many people have asked what my secret is–how I took the weight off and how I manage to keep it off post-diet–that I feel compelled to spill the beans. I realize, too, that cooking at home, and learning new ways to feed yourself, is absolutely pertinent to what “Bad Aunty” has to offer. So, warts and all, here goes.

Best Bad Aunty logo photo slightly smallerI started my diet at 200 pounds. I’d been at this weight for a long time.  With a couple of Nutrisystem-fueled exceptions, I had been 200 pounds for most of my adult life. I wasn’t happy about it, but I told myself that A) I came by this weight honestly, that my grandmother was also 6 feet and 200 pounds, so I was genetically predisposed to this weight; and 2) I was post-menopausal and everyone knows that it is nearly impossible for middle-aged women to lose weight. I carried 200 pounds on my muscular 6-foot frame pretty well, and most people told me they never thought I was overweight. But I knew different. The photo at the left is me at my heaviest.

Push came to shove during the party to launch my first cookbook, “Bad Aunty’s Kitchen Smarts”.  I was dismayed and embarrassed when I saw the pictures of an otherwise lovely summer party, with an overweight hostess in a butt-ugly dress. Jesus! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew I had to do something, but what? (I ditched the dress, but I knew that wasn’t the problem!) I had done Nutrisystems, Jenny Craig, and Atkins, with varying degrees of success. What most of these erstwhile programs had in common was that they supplied all the food, which is great while you’re dieting, but dooms you to probable failure when you go off the diet and naturally fall back into your old ways of eating. Last summer I had become aware of lots of radio commercials for a seemingly new weight loss program called “30/10 Weight Loss for Life.”The name “30/10” refers to a promise they make that you can lose 30 pounds in 10 weeks and keep it off for life. It seemed like every radio talk show host that I listened to last summer was going through this program and losing all kinds of weight. Quickly and easily. I was intrigued, but so afraid of another ultimate diet failure that I procrastinated calling the 30/10 company for weeks before I finally found the gumption to contact them.

I finally walked in to a 30/10 office nearby and got the low-down on the program. 30/10 is a diet that seriously restricts carbohydrates and sugar.  I kind of knew about the theory of carb restriction from a half-hearted attempt at Atkins,  but 30/10 took the concept to a whole new level. While on the 30/10 diet you may not eat bread or any bread products, pasta of any kind, grains of any kind, potatoes, starchy vegetables like corn or sweet potatoes, or peas, carrots, legumes, root veggies, or avocado. No sweets. No soda, even diet soda. No jams or jellies. No cough drops or Tic-Tacs, mouthwash or mints. No added sugar of any kind, and no products that contain lots of hidden sugars. No fruit or fruit juices. No dairy or cheese, except for a tiny portion in coffee or tea. No alcohol. (Wha???) The ‘can’t have’ list went on and on. Oh. My. God, I gulped. What the hell could I eat?

Animal products contain no carbs so I could eat any kind of meat, chicken and eggs, or fish, with the exception of cured meats like bacon, ham, salami, etc. (The curing process often includes rubs and brines containing sugar.) I could eat a wide variety of veggies, and fortunately, all my favorites were included like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, asparagus, greens of all kinds, mushrooms, and nearly all salad vegetables. I could have seasonings like lemon and lime juice, cider vinegar, fresh herbs, a wide array of spices, and almost best of all, fats like butter and extra virgin olive oil. (Fats don’t have carbs, either.) The goal was to induce a process in my body called ‘ketosis’, which simply is when the body stops using carbs for fuel (because its not getting any) and starts using fat stores for fuel. A person achieves a state of ketosis by restricting carbs to less than 50 grams per day. In my case, I figured I was eating somewhere between 33 and 43 grams daily.

Why does 30/10 work? OK, now I’m no scientist, but here is the scoop as I understand it: the food we eat provides the fuel that keeps us alive. This fuel can come from many sources–foods with lots of carbohydrates, including the excellent, complex carbs found in starchy vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and the simple carbs like sugar, white breads, pasta, white rice and the myriad processed and junk foods available; and low-carb foods including meats, fish, poultry, some dairy, leafy green and cruciferous vegetables, and fats like butter and oils. (Alcohol is yet another source of fuel, but not a particularly good source. When you give your body alcohol your system will immediately stop processing either carbs or fat into fuel and will instead metabolize the alcohol. Which is why alcohol is forbidden on low-carb and other diet programs.) The body prefers carbs for fuel, in all their healthy and unhealthy forms, and will happily turn those carbs into glucose (blood sugar). It will then use what it needs of the glucose for fuel and then store the rest as fat. On your butt, and elsewhere.

Dietary fat, on the other hand, does not metabolize in the body like carbs. The fat you eat does NOT get stored as body fat, rather it is simply flushed from the body, along with your stored fat–the stuff on your butt. And apparently, in stark contrast to long-held notions, dietary fat and even saturated fat does not elevate cholesterol, increase the odds for heart disease, or make one fat.

The bottom line is this: when you restrict the number of carbs you give your body, your body will turn to the next best source of fuel–fat. And not just the fat you eat, but also the fat you have stored on your body. The fat on your ass will, very quickly, become fuel for your body as long as you restrict your carbs.

OK, I understood the concept, and was willing to give it a try. What would it cost?

Along with this temporary but very restrictive dietary plan came a serious financial hit. The 30/10 plan cost me $2850 up front. That was the cost for 10 weeks of the program. (I ponied up an additional $855 for an extra 3 weeks on the program when I hadn’t made my goal in 10 weeks.) Doing 30/10, for me, totaled $3705. I was on the program for 13 weeks. That comes to $285.00 per week.

What did I get for that? A weekly food bag of 7 breakfasts, 7 mid-morning snacks, 7 lunches, mostly consisting of soup, and 7 desserts/snacks. Each dieter is then responsible for planning and preparing dinner for themselves, and supplementing the 30/10 food with approved vegetables. I also receive a weekly monitored weigh-in that charted not just my weight, but also my BMI (body mass index), my percentage of body fat, my metabolic age (which was 72 when I started the program, while I’m only 57 years of age), and my level of visceral fat, which, as I understand it, is the fat that surrounds the internal organs. In addition to the weigh-in,  I also had access to a weekly motivational recording that worked kind of like hypnosis, and 10 minutes on a vibrating machine to shake shake shake that nasty fat away!

Why would anyone pay so much money for seemingly so little? I have a theory on that, just my opinion. You have to pay for what you want. If this program was free, or substantially less expensive, no one would take it seriously. It would be too easy to just drop the program when it got tough if you didn’t have a sizable investment in it. After having spent nearly $3000 I certainly wasn’t going to waste the money by not following the plan. And when 10 weeks was up and I still hadn’t reached my goal I decided to spend the extra $855 to ensure I made my goal. It had the effect of strengthening my resolve. You have to invest in this program; it has to hurt or you won’t take it seriously.

Bad Aunty modeling apronAt the end of 13 weeks, however,  the folks at 30/10 and I had a difference of opinion in what my goal weight should be. I initially wanted to lose 30 pounds. They wanted me to lose 40. I mentally compromised on 35, which would put me at 165 pounds. I haven’t weighed 165 pounds in probably 35 years. I’m deliriously happy at 165 pounds! But, 30/10 offers ‘lifetime maintenance’ only when you achieve all of their goals–BMI, body fat percentage, metabolic age, and visceral fat level. At the end of 13 weeks I had achieved 3 of 4 of their requirements–the one I missed was the metabolic age, which, according to them should be 42, but was firmly in the mid-50’s. At this point I felt that I had paid them enough money, lost enough weight to suit me, and learned enough to keep it off by myself. I decided I wasn’t going to spend another dime to achieve some arbitrary goal for them. (I’m much happier with the photo at left than the one at the top!)

Since I left the program in mid-December I’ve looked for reasonable substitutions for the 30/10 packaged food that was about to run out. I wanted to approximate, as close as I could, the 30/10 plan on my own. So, this is what my normal diet, on a normal day, looks like: Breakfast – 2 eggs scrambled in olive oil or clarified butter. Sometimes topped with a tablespoon of full-fat sour cream. Mid-morning snack–hard boiled egg and/or string cheese. Lunch–2 cups steamed cauliflower with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a cup of chicken or beef broth. Afternoon snack–an Atkins bar, or some jello. Maybe another string cheese. A cup of tea, no sugar or cream. (Also, no cream or sugar in my coffee.) Dinner–I look specifically for low-carb dinner recipes to make at home. Usually a chicken breast something or other, or pork tenderloin or chops, or fish. Always a reasonable portion (about 6 ounces) of lean protein. I add 2 cups of vegetables, usually roasted broccoli, asparagus or brussels sprouts, or sauteed zucchini. And a green salad. I make Hidden Valley Ranch dressing fresh, using full-fat mayonnaise, and buttermilk. We don’t generally have a formal dessert; sometimes Gary and I will share an Atkins bar, and sometimes we have a cup of Swiss Miss Lite cocoa. To accompany this food I drink 64 ounces of water each day. Or I try to.

I do not eat bread, rice, pasta, or potatoes anymore. I do eat, and love, full fat sour cream, full fat greek yogurt, cheese, and lots of blueberries. I rarely eat sweets, and actively avoid sugar. I have found that 3 or 4 days of not eating sugar will very effectively calm sugar cravings.

Am I tempted to cheat? God yes, every day. Do I cheat? Yes, of course. My ‘cheats’ usually involve extra nibbles of cheese, or an extra serving of something quick and easy in the late afternoon which is my particular ‘food-craving-danger’ time. (Christmas-time  was tough on my resolve–all those extra goodies!) Also alcohol–I love wine with dinner (or before, or after, or both). Occasionally I have a gin martini if we go out for dinner. (Come to find out distilled spirits do NOT have carbs. This was happy news for me! Wine, and especially beer, do have carbs.) I don’t normally keep spirits in the house, as they tempt me too much. When I’m not drinking alcohol my ‘go-to’ drink is a club soda ‘mocktail’ with a twist of orange or lemon peel. No calories or carbs in that.

So, at the end of nearly 3 months of maintenance, how is it going? At my last at-home weigh-in I had gained 2.2 pounds. Not an earthshaking event, but it is a gain. I have to be ever-vigilant. I find myself backsliding ever so slightly, by over-snacking, or eating too much at dinner, or opening a bottle of wine with too little thought of the potential consequences. I’ve gotten used to my new weight, and I can see myself becoming complacent. But, the last thing I want is to become yet another diet sob story, losing the weight only to gain it all back and then some. So I’m working hard to keep that 2.2 gain from becoming a 3, or 4, or 5 pound gain.

Weigh-in update–as of 3/21/16 I weighted exactly 165 pounds, losing the extra 2.2 pounds I referenced above. Whatever I’m doing, I guess I’m doing it right!

That is my 30/10 story. I’ll keep you updated periodically, and I’ll certainly let you know if I fall off the wagon. Merely reporting the successes will help no one. I promise I’ll be honest with you. In the meantime, check out my next blog post, which will include a recipe for a terrific low-carb chicken breast recipe, also found in my cookbook, “Bad Aunty’s Kitchen Smarts.” More later…






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