Thursday, September 24, 2015

Low willpower, successful diet

I'm a big fan of Penn Jillette (and Teller) partly for his act, but more for his overall attitude, politics and what he's done with his fame.  I listen to his podcast, Penn's Sunday School.  Recently he lost over 100 pounds in a few months on a vegan diet, advised by Ray Cronise.  Penn is writing a book, but he explained that the diet is based on Joel Fuhrman's Eat to Live plan, with undisclosed modifications to be more effective.  (Ray's website is awful--poorly organized and extremely slow to load, so I haven't found a whole lot more about the additions other than it has something to do with cold temperatures helping to burn calories)

A while back Penn had Ray on the podcast.  I was listening in the car while eating Chocolate Riesen candy...A couple days later I ordered Eat to Live.

The Nutritarian diet recommended by Dr. Fuhrman is relatively simple, although it will require major changes to the diets of most people who need it.

The strict form of the Fuhrman diet is (from memory):
Try to eat at least a pound of raw green vegetables per day, unlimited maximum.
Try to eat at least a pound of cooked green vegetables per day, unlimited maximum
(These are the most important)
Try to eat a half cup of beans or legumes per day, unlimited max
Unlimited fruits and colorful vegetables
Limited starchy vegetables--corn, potatoes, squash.
A few ounces of nuts and seeds, raw are preferred.
No meat or dairy
No processed grain
No processed sugar
No processed oils or fats

A less strict version allows under a pound per week of animal products.  There is no counting calories or restricting amounts of the main foods.  Fat is OK from most unprocessed plant sources.   It appears that vegans should take a B12 supplement, but other vitamins as needed.

It was a week after the book arrived and I started the diet that I got a scale--I was surprised at being "only" 257 pounds.  "Loose 20 pounds or more in 6 weeks" on the cover appears to be a bit conservative--I lost that much in the first 4 weeks I had a scale (a week or so after starting the diet).  Last 4 weeks I've been tracking my weight on the fitness app on my phone, average weekly weight has dropped 3 pounds each week.

It has taken a bit to figure out meals.  I love salads, so that part hasn't been a problem--I have a mixing bowl full of kale and spinach, raw mushrooms, red or green onion, half an avocado, maybe bell peppers, carrots, celery, lettuce,  radish, edamame.  I'm not completely on the diet for dressings, I use one of several commercial lite dressings which have more fat and/or sugar than Dr Fuhrman recommends--but I try to go easy on them.  I also like beans.  Even before the diet I was in the habit of making 2+ gallon batches of chili to freeze for lunches, I just left the meat out of the last batch.  I'm now adding mushrooms instead of meat to a lot of dishes.   Sometimes I'll just have a family sized package of microwave veggies or a vegan soup and a smaller salad.

Other areas where I haven't followed the official version--I haven't worried much about salt other than going to the low end of tasting OK,  I didn't throw away all my low-meat foods in the freezer (but I'm replacing them with no-meat) and I haven't cut out caffeine yet.  (I've been reducing caffeine for the last few years anyhow by necessity, since drinking it past about 2pm affects my sleep)

The most amazing part of this diet to me is the low amount of willpower needed.  I miss some of the things I've had to give up, but since I can eat as much as I like of other things there's very little struggle.  It seems easier for me to entirely give up the candy bowl at work than to have a reasonable amount.  It is odd to me that a fruit smoothie is considered better than a bowl of oatmeal (Oatmeal is allowed but limited).  If you're going to do smoothies, get a really good blender.   I bought a 3 horsepower Oster Versa blender because reviews said it was nearly as good as a Vitamix at less than half the cost.   I'm going to want a better food processor, I've got a mid size.  I've lost several inches around the waist--I can now take my pants off without unbuttoning them.   I've got a way to go, I'm still officially obese--but I'm moving in the right direction for the first time in decades.

Another thing is that this isn't meant to be a temporary diet--If I go back to my old habits, I'll go back to my old weight.  Rather, once I'm down to a decent weight I'll be a bit less strict, but I expect to stay on something close to this forever.  If it continues to work as well as it has, it will be worth it.