A Farewell to Fatty

The most insidious part of gaining weight is how your brain will trick you into thinking it isn’t as bad as it is.

Even though the scale is shouting, “Get off! You’re breaking my spine!”

Even though your clothes try to run and hide when you reach for them.

Even though you can’t bend over without getting dizzy (that was the worst!).

Your brain and eyes conspire when you glance in the mirror. It’s not that bad. Just suck it in a little. Atta boy. Now have a doughnut.

And when you see pictures of yourself over the years as the weight slowly piles on, you’re able to explain it away as bad lighting or just a poorly timed shot.

Because you’re really not that fat.

Right?

Except you are.

And it won’t hit home just how fat you were until you lose the weight and go back to look at those photos with a fresh and slender eye.

That’s how it happened with me.

This is how I looked over the winter. I was at my all-time heaviest – somewhere around 215 pounds. The scale becomes an enemy over 200, so we didn’t see each other often.

Feed me here! Do it now, or I will eat you!

And another:

Hey, is that a bowl of ice cream you’re holding? Can I have it? BRING IT TO ME! Om Nom Nom Nom

And this beauty from last spring:

What do you mean you won’t shovel frosting into my mouth? Do it now! Chocolate! And use the snow shovel!

The story of my weight loss begins with waking up in the middle of the night with my heart hammering out of my chest.

It happened a lot, actually – pretty much every night for months. It was always preceded by some sort of stressful dream – either physical stress, like me running or exerting myself in some way or mental stress, like something bad happening.

And when I say I would wake up with a hammering heart, I don’t mean that it felt like I had just had a workout. I mean it felt like I was dying. I had trouble catching my breath, and my body would begin to quiver and shake. I would usually wake up Handan, because each time felt like it might be the last. She would have to get up, come over to my side of the bed, slowly raise me up and then help me walk around the room until my heart rate settled, and I was no longer shaking uncontrollably.

Not only were these night hell on me, but they were taking their toll on Handan as well.

Something needed to change.

I’d known for years that the combination of fat, sugar and alcohol had the tendency to disturb my sleep. I was beginning to wonder if salt was also a factor.

I was diagnosed with high blood pressure back in early 2010, and I’ve been on medication ever since. In all those years though, I never made an effort to moderate my salt intake. I wondered if watching my salt might help with my sleep.

In an effort to sleep better and preserve my poor wife’s sanity, I decided sometime in very early 2018 (I can’t remember when – probably February though) to reduce my salt intake.

But why stop there? If I was going to make that drastic change (as a salt lover, it was a colossal change), I decided to mitigate a few other risk factors.

I decided to stop drinking coffee. Instead I would drink tea.

I decided to stop using artificial sweeteners. Instead, I would use honey.

I decided to cut back on carbohydrates. Carb-heavy foods never made me feel great, anyway. Might as well try to eat less of them. I was pretty sure carbs (and sugar) were responsible for my daily heartburn attacks too. Like clockwork, I’d be crippled by searing pain in my throat each day around 3pm.

And then there was sugar. I knew it was bad. I knew that it made me feel even worse than regular carbs.

So I made the decision to cut refined sugar out of my life completely.

Now here’s the thing. At this point, weight loss was not my goal. I just wanted to sleep again. I wanted Handan to sleep again, too. So the decision to cut sugar was not made from a “diet-to-lose-weight” standpoint. It was made from an “I’m-doing-this-for-my-health-(and-Handan’s-too)” standpoint.

But cutting out sugar is a monumental decision, and it’s not one that can be taken lightly.

I made a forever decision.

Not an “until-I-lose-some-weight” decision.

Not a “holidays-are-exempt” decision.

I made a forever decision.

No more refined sugar. That meant no cakes and no cookies, no ice cream and no candy. None of it.

Ever.

It’s a scary thing to think about – how entangled our lives have become with refined sugar.

So on my first morning, I put away the coffee mug, and I brewed a pot of jasmine tea which I sweetened with honey. When I got hungry, I had a small bowl of plain Greek yogurt (if I could find Turkish yogurt in this country, I’d buy it!).

For lunch, I nibbled on Swiss cheese from the deli counter and a couple of slices of roast turkey cold cuts. I figured that was about as low sodium as I could go for lunch. I had an apple in the afternoon, and then some sort of meat and vegetable for dinner. And I drank lots of sweet tea.

Normally, I like to salt meat pretty heavily – like they would in a good restaurant.

But I was watching my sodium, so I only put the tiniest bit.

And I hated it. I hated my steak. I hated everything.

And since my food no longer brought me joy, I started to eat less of it.

Well, this can only go on for so long before something has to give. Going hungry is not a viable long-term diet.

But it was working.

I was losing weight, and I started to sleep a little better.

I shed 20 pounds in about a month with very little effort and only doing yard work for exercise.

I hit a wall around 195 pounds. I stayed there for a while, and I couldn’t get lower. But I was already fitting into some old clothes that I had given up on, and I was feeling good, so I decided to take the next step.

I decided to cut sugar all together – meaning the honey had to go, too. Around this time, I started reading a little more about the ketogenic diet. I’d been aware of it and paleo and Atkins and all the other fads that have come and gone. But keto (and paleo) made a lot of sense. In a nutshell, the ketogenic diet requires you to restrict carbs to less than 20 grams per day. The majority of calories on a ketogenic diet come from fat. When the body is starved of carbohydrates, it turns to fat as an energy source through a process known as ketosis, and the pounds start flying off.

So there I was, already doing some sort of keto/paleo hybrid. But by cutting all sugar and maintaining my carb abstinence, I was heading firmly over in the keto camp. I even started checking out keto websites.

And that’s where they lost me.

Counting carbs?

Counting calories?

Counting grams of fat?

Hitting daily “macros?”

Ugh, no thanks. Food should be eaten, not analyzed, weighed and counted.

I decided just to do it my own way – to employ a common sense approach to the keto diet that didn’t require any effort of thought. As I said – food is to be enjoyed!

One good thing that I did learn is that there are some excellent sugar substitutes out there that are much healthier than Sweet & Low or Equal.

I started to drink coffee again, and I now take it with a big dose of light cream and a combination of two sweeteners: erythritol and stevia extract. The benefit of these sweeteners is that they do not impact blood sugar levels like some of the other artificial sweeteners do.

I also brought more salt into my diet. It’s a requirement on the keto diet to eat more salt, since the body flushes a lot of it out during the process of ketosis.  I try not to overdo it, but I am definitely salting until the food brings joy.

Once I cut out the rest of the natural sugars in my diet, I dropped from 195 to 185. From there, it was a slow drift down to about 182.

And that’s where I stand today: drifting between 182 and 184.

I never go hungry.

I eat all the meat I want.

I won’t ever turn down cheese.

I drink real cream in my coffee.

I eat any and all vegetables (keto forbids most of the good ones).

I eat full-fat plain yogurt.

I eat fruit in moderation (all fruit is forbidden in keto).

And maybe once a month, after a few martinis, I may break down and eat a few handfuls of corn chips or potato chips.

I don’t eat pasta at all.

Pizza is a thing of the past.

Bread? Maybe twice a month, I’ll grill up a piece of ciabatta and eat it with a steak.

I’ll eat some rice in very small quantities from time to time.

But I have never eaten – and I will never eat – processed or refined sugar.

I should also mention that I have always cooked from scratch. Even when I was a chubby chicken, I rarely ate, or cooked with, or fed my family any processed food. That was a big help when cutting carbs and sugar.

And that’s it! It’s so incredibly simple, but impossibly hard if you’re not committed. If you can make the decision (and as I said, it is not easy and cannot be made lightly – you can’t lie to yourself) to cut refined sugar from your life forever, you will never have to be overweight again. It’s hard at first – your body will demand its drug! But if you make it a week or two, your cravings will fade into the past.

Though I’ve made the decision to only taste “sweet” with my morning coffee, there are a million keto-friendly dessert recipes out there that go heavy on the fats and use keto-friendly artificial sweeteners.

I’ll be making some eventually, just for kicks, but I think the best way to beat a sugar addiction is to steer clear of anything that tastes sweet. Make no mistake – sugar is the most addictive, destructive and insidious drug on the planet. It is as addictive as cigarettes. In fact, I would argue it is far more addictive. I’ve smoked plenty in my day, and when I quit, it was easier than quitting sugar. Sugar holds on tighter. And it is so much easier to come by, especially for kids! You don’t have to be 18 to buy an ice cream sundae, and you won’t have baby-toting moms glaring at you like you’re the antichrist if you’re nibbling on a candy bar in their vicinity. There’s a reason diabetes is becoming an epidemic in America. You can thank the powerful sugar lobby for that one. Oh, but that’s a different rant for another day.

Anyway, I’ve got sweet fix reduced to my morning coffee, and I’m pleased with that.

So here I am, down over 30 pounds from my heaviest. The jeans I’m wearing in the picture below I bought with Handan from a department store here in Connecticut just before leaving for Vietnam. They were too small when we bought them, but I figured I’d lose weight overseas.

I never lost the weight, and those jeans have been sitting unworn in my various closets ever since.

When I wear them now, they are a little bit loose.

I’m happy with where I am, but I’d like to take it further. Since I’m not willing to go hungry, I’ll probably start incorporating some walking into my routine. If I could get down to 170, I think that would be ideal.

But for now, bring on the martinis, the fat-marbled steak and the blue cheese!




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47 Comments

  1. Good job! Have you heard of Code Red Lifestyle? I’ve adopted it as a way of life and dropped 20 lbs in a month and feel great. I can even have a bit of dark chocolate. Bad carbs have gone bye bye. Code Red emphasises 8 hours of sleep and lots of water. It works great. Cheers to feeling great and finding what works for you!

  2. wow does handan keep you on a lease now that you are a hunk of burning love ha ha you look mahhhvelous good job greg xx

    1. p.s. now if we could just get you to do something with the owl horns in you dang hair mmmuuuuuhhhhaaaaaa xx

  3. Good job outta you! You look great, and I’m happy to hear that not going full-on keto worked for you to still lose weight. I’m kind of in the same boat – I’ve been researching a ton about keto, but agree about counting macros and whatnot. Ain’t nobody got time for that! So, I’m doing a modified version as well, though I just started, so I’m excited to see how this works out for me. Congrats on the new and improved (and less tired) you…..and wish me luck!

  4. This post was awesome. So simply described. Thanks for sharing. Iโ€™m new to your website and love it! Weekly dose of humor and creativity!

  5. Well done, Greg! It’s great when you find something that works for you. I totally agree that food should be enjoyed!

  6. Great post. Real and right to the core of food addiction. Love your jeans. All the funny stuff you write and do crac me up. Way to go. By the way? Weโ€™re you able to get off the blood pressure meds?

  7. Awesome job (yes it is a job!) You look great but more importantly, you feel better. I have done this on and off (and on and off and on and off…) for many years. It really is an addiction not to be underestimated. One slip up and I am truly on a slippery slope every time. You’ve inspired me!

  8. I’m happy that you;’re feeling good and healthy, I am especially happy for Handan! I’ll bet you scared the crap out of her with those nighttime episodes. I’m pretty sure she kinda likes you and wants to keep you around for many years to come. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Looking goooooddd!! ? Handan is a lucky woman… Smart, funny, creative, good looking, and HEALTHY! I’ll bet she is so relieved, and you BOTH sleep better. I hope your BP is better too. I really enjoy your writing, and I’m glad you’ll be around a while! ?

  10. Dang! I thought that there was a pet name “Fatty” and its poor little life was ended/ending. Even got ready to reach for a tissue. Thanks for saving me from a red, blotchy face.

  11. This sounds the same as the others! Love reading about your wife and projects!
    Perhaps the best thing I read was getting over sugar! Having put on a few pounds, not fitting into my clothes! You have been an inspiration!!!
    Thank you.

  12. Isn’t it funny how it often takes a kick in the pants, (or the heart in this case)for us to realise we do not live forever!
    I weighed in at a svelte 63 kilos most of my life, then WHAM! One day, 140kgs.What the heck happened?, I said to myself. I realised then I was lazy due to a bung knee, I was hungry all the time, one pizza was never enough! Then it dawned on me, all that sugary, fatty crap was turning my usually sharp as a tack brain into a mooshy pile of sludge and the old Nom noms were running rampant.
    So I got offa me bum and hoisted lard up and down my hill where I live. Only a 3 minute walk to the front gate but man it was hard! Gave up the tubby tum foods slowly, and ta da! Lost a ton of weight! I LERV me food too. I refuse not to have some chocky per day. I unfortunately now, have a gut problem due to catching a horrible virus in hospital, and can’t eat crap now anyway. Blessing in disguise really. Now I am 66 kilos and loving it for the past 7 years.
    So what you did is common sense! Our bodies should not be stuffed full of food all the time, nature do not like this. Uh uh, no how! Enjoy the foods in season, have that martini, and enjoy life!
    Congratulations on such a great effort and for keeping Handan out of the psychiatric hospital.
    Go Greg!
    PS the big kicker for me? I never ate salt! Now I have super low blood pressure and HAVE to eat tons of it! Go figure…..

    1. Thank you so much, Aletheia! Good for you, losing that weight and keeping it off! And I love that you get to gorge on salt now…oh that’s the life! ๐Ÿ˜€

  13. Greg, I was getting ready for a cry. The title made me think that you had lost a pet. You look absolutely gorgeous (but I thought that when you were a larger version of you) – please don’t take that wrongly. Just think of all the extra renos that you can do now that you are healthier!
    Best wishes,
    Suzanne (Australia)

    1. LOLOL – that’s two people who thought a pet died! Don’t worry, I don’t take it wrong. Thank you for the compliment, Suzanne! ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Love this post as much as every other. Congrats..have lost 55 lbs in the past year, working out and much happier and of course healthier. Diet modification and moderate exercise are the keys to the kingdom of a healthier life. At 70 feeling 20 years younger and looking for new worlds to conquer. Be well, both of you…such charming people need to hang around to inspire the rest of us?

  15. You look fantastic. After reading your post, I know it was a difficult journey for you. I’m sure your body, and Handan, thank you. I’ve been using Stevia in my coffee for years. I love to bake so sugar is always in my pantry. Since I live alone, I bake to feed my passion, and then give most of it away. Better on their hips than mine! I just bought a bag of Truvia; it contains Erythritol, sugar, and Stevia Leaf Extract. It’s supposed to bake like sugar. If you ever want to bake something for your family, look at the recipe for Flourless Chocolate Cake on the King Arthur Flour site. I made this for my daughter who has Celiac disease. It was soooo good. I’m going to make it again using Truvia. so we’ll see if it’s any good. Thank you for all your wonderful posts. Keep them coming.

    1. Thank you, Gail! Let me know how the flourless cake tastes with Truvia. I’ve been wondering if I should spend the time and effort on keto baking. I guess if the results are good, I’ll give it a go…

  16. Great job! Itโ€™s a great feeling isnโ€™t it?! Please do be careful of a Keto diet though. Cardiologist warn against the keto fad diet. I even asked my cardiologist about it. Because we all know if itโ€™s on the internet itโ€™s true, right?
    He told me the same and warned against it. Told me pretty much just to reduce BAD carbs and use the leg rule. The fewer the legs an animal has the healthier the meat. So basically, eat more poultry and fish than red meat and if it comes out of a box avoid it. Go with fresh vegetables, use real butter, significantly reduce use of sugars, and portion control. When I asked him about alcohol he said hard liquor and wine occasionally and within reason is fine but no beer. Good for me, but hubby loves beer. All told, we have lost a combined total of 60 pounds and are both at our goal weights after six months.
    https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/no-one-should-be-doing-keto-diet-leading-cardiologist

  17. You look fantastic, Greg, and I appreciate your candor and the amount of work it took to get there. I was wondering though, do you count honey, stevia and erythritol as refined sweeteners? I know I have a problem with sugar, and can’t give it up cold turkey. I’ve had success switching from Splenda to Aldi’s stevia/erythritol blend in my coffee, and also in some baked goods. I don’t use xylitol because of my furry children. But the Keto thing, while my doctor approved it, was too regimented for me. I need to have vegetables other than cauliflower and broccoli, neither of which I like (and I’m allergic to cabbage , so there you go). No fruit at all? Not gonna work. Bread and pasta are not a problem for me, and if I want a pizza I plunk down the bucks and get one with a crust from chicken.

    Anyhoo, I think I will give your type of approach a try. Moderation, with the exception of sugar. Really going to try and limit and eventually eliminate processed sugar, which in my opinion doesn’t include the ones I mentioned above. Your thoughts?

    1. Thank you, Donna! Okay, regarding the sweeteners. I gave up honey, because even though it is not refined, it is still a “sugar,” and it is loaded with carbs. But more on that later. As for the other artificial ones – I used to use Sweet and Low, but my research taught me that it can spike blood sugar even worse than refined sugar! Equal does not affect blood sugar, but it has so much bad press and *possible* negative health ramifications that I now only use it when I get a Starbucks coffee (with cream, of course!). I use primarily erythritol and stevia to sweeten my iced coffee and cream at home. I can’t stand stevia on its own, but a few drops added to erythritol is perfect, as erythritol on its own is not sweet enough for me. I eat all vegetables. I’m not going to give them up, nor will I give up fruit in moderation. I think full-on keto is nuts. It’s no way to live. Moderation in everything is key – even carbs. But refined sugar is a drug, and it has no place whatsoever.

      Now, back to the honey. Last night I made a zucchini bread for Handan and Barish (and yes, for me – I was craving it!) using wheat flour, coconut flour, almond flour, plain full-fat yogurt, eggs, whole milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and sweetened just slightly with honey and some erythritol. It is moist and awesome and just a little sweet (the way Handan and Barish like it). Yes, it has carbs and yes it has honey. But it has no refined sugar, and the total carb count is far lower because of the coconut and almond flours and the erythritol. Just an example of moderation and not giving up everything forever (except refined sugar!)

      Good luck to you, Donna! If you can just cut out the refined sugars, you’re 90% there!

  18. Greg this really hit home with me. I was diagnosed with diabetes a few months ago. Out of the blue I was in the high zone and had to be put on insulin. Truth be told I should have known better since I was scarfing down any and every baked good known to man. But it was a wake-up call for me. And since then I too look at sugar as the devil. And just like you Greg I have lost weight without even trying. My numbers are down and I will be off the insulin soon. In the end all it takes is a bit of a wake-up call and some common sense to become healthy. Glad to see you looking healthy and good! I wish you continued success on your health journey.

    1. Oh wow, Mary, I’m happy to hear you’ve taken steps to beat it! I was also worried about getting it, even though there is no history of it in my family. Seems so prevalent in our society now. The American diet is a ticking time bomb. Good luck to you – I hope you’re able to get off the insulin ASAP!

  19. Hey! The limewashing on the house looks fantastic! I wouldn’t do it to an old house, but even without any closeups I can see it looks great! How about a ๐Ÿ“บ show? You could be the next Fixer Upper (Chip and Joanna Gaines). You really are that good. Sorry, I am replying to the previous post, my bad….