Tag Archives: Ann Arbor weight loss blog

Mostly Food Communities

I have recently ventured back into my old food stomping grounds of Macrobiotic and Vegan toward being healthier. (See recent post)

Looking back, I started thinking about why I got off the Macro program.

In a previous post, I mention that the Macrobiotic diet was too strict. This was not just strict rules of the food do’s and don’t list.

It was also the strict people on the program.

I recall when I left the Kushi Institute to moved to Ann Arbor. I was teaching Macrobiotic cooking classes at Whole Foods and I had a fan.

This woman came to everyone of my classes, asked tons of questions and approached me during breaks and while I was packing up to talk shop.

Then during my dessert class, I used fruit juice to make a vegan cantan (jello) that was sweetened with agave nectar. Macrobiotics are strict about their sweeteners and agave was not on the list.

She called me on it and that was that. During the class break she left and never returned to another one of my classes.

I had broken the strict rules of Macro and I guess in her eyes I was no longer a part of the tribe.

And this is not an isolated experience. I felt judged and like an outcast for not being a perfect macro eater on many occasions from the community.

I suppose this is common. Vegans may do the same thing if they outed me eating a cheese burger.

The thing is we need community.

When you start a new healthy lifestyle, it is easy to feel like an orphan.

Everyone else is eating pizza and steak and we are the weirdos in the corner eating brown rice and spouts.

Of course, we figure that we will eventually find other people from a smaller tribe of folks who eat and think our new way, but imagine that this new tribe is a tough room with strict rules.

We already broke ties with the majority of folks with our new healthy lifestyle. But say if we also feel left out of the small tribe?

That is how me and Emily felt. Although we embraced the Macro diet (for a time), we had a hard time with the strict people.

I also felt this way when I was on Weight Watchers. The community is more flexible, but week after week, from the lectures, I got the message that the folks who strictly followed the program were where it was at. The rewards were from following the program and the shame/failure was from not.

For me Food is more than nutrition. It is about community and being social.

Food is about life.

This brings me to my “Mostly” Food Community idea.

While I probably could not pass for a Strict Macro or Vegan today , there are many things I have in common with these community, but if they are all-or-nothing then I am shut out (or faking in order to fit in).

So I propose the idea of Mostly Food Communities. These are folks like myself who for the most part follow many of the practices of a food community, but are a little more flexible.

They can bring a vegan/macro dish to a vegan/macro potluck and share food and community, but they are not all-or-nothing folks.

A good example of this is my community garden pot lucks. We have meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans, not to mention all sort of folks with various food allergies and personal food rules.

For the most part the offerings are vegetarian with many vegan items. If you want great veggie dishes good to a community garden potluck.

I tend to bring a vegan dish, but their will always be the guy who brings pork ribs or chicken wings. The difference with my community garden potlucks is that no one walks out in a huff because someone broke their food community rule. They simple don’t eat the wings and opt to hit up the vegan tabouli salad and grilled tofu.

The potluck is a mixed food community with tendency to vegetarian.

As for going to a Strict Food Community event, I would comply with the food rules. I mean, I don’t want to be the guy who brought the pork ribs at a kosher potluck.

With that said, I am going to my first social vegan restaurant dinner on Tuesday with a large vegan community.

I plan to eat an all vegan meal for the event, but if asked I will say that I am mostly macrobiotic/vegan.



Macrobiotic Redux

Ann Arbor Food

Tilapia with ginger orange and soy, steamed rice and miso/chili cabbage with red pepper

A few years back, I used to eat a Macrobiotic diet. The diet consisted of a lot of brown rice, veggies, beans and occasional fish.

At the time I was on the diet, I was very over weight and unhealthy and I turned to the program for health and weight loss. And it worked. In about a year, I had lost 90 pounds.

I was healthier and felt great.

Now, I find myself in pretty much where I was back then. I am 80-90 pounds over weight again. My bad habits kicked in over the years, but the Macrobiotic program in retrospect seemed too strict, which caused me to rebel against it.

But looking back now, I might have thrown out the baby with the bath water as the saying goes,

Instead of adding some items to a strict macro diet, I gave it all up. There were a lot of things that actually work, some that didn’t, but as a based diet it worked.

Macrobiotic introduced me to brown rice, sea vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, the use of miso, and dark leafy green veggies like kale and collards. It also got me into radishes, turnips and winter squash.

And macro introduced me to beans and fermented food like quick pickles.

I also learned about macro desserts, which using rice syrup, barley malt and maple for sweeteners instead of crystal sugar. They also use fresh and dried fruits and whole wheat flour or rice for sweet puddings.

With that said, the  version of the Macrobiotic diet I followed did not allow:

Meat, dairy, Eggs
Spices (including black pepper)
Garlic, Ginger
Very limited use of oil in cooking (non preferred)
Most herbs (except parsley)
Raw Food (no salad, or raw fruit)
Limited baked good, limited use of baking for cooking
No nightshade veggies (eggplant, tomato, potato, and peppers)
No spinach or chard
No chocolate
No tropical food (coconut, fruits)
No Coffee
No fried food (limited)

Fish was allow, but limited (non preferred)
Nut butters were allow (to be avoided or limited)

For those not familiar with macro who are looking at the No list, you might ask, “What the heck can you eat.”

My new approach to Macro is a hybrid. I plan to use the items on the No List, while keeping to the foundation of the Macrobiotic Diet of brown rice, veggie and bean based meals.

The meal above represents my new take.

It has the macro brown rice staple and includes a veggie dish with steamed fish. But I include a little oil in the rice, ginger with the fish, and red peppers and chili sauce with the vegetable. And for good measure, I have a (raw) orange with the meal.

The meal was tasty and uber healthy.

I can’t help but think if I allow myself a little more leeway with macro and ate meals like this one, I would not have gained back the weight.

Weight Loss By the Numbers: Constant Vigilance

OK. Some may have been following my weekly weigh-in. I have since stopped going to weight watchers, but I am now following a healthy eating program with some of the elements from the program.

I read this article, which may shed some light on the issue of Obesity in America.

A Conversation With Carson Chow
A Mathematical Challenge to Obesity, New York Times

Huge variations in your daily food intake will not cause variations in weight, as long as your average food intake over a year is about the same. This is because a person’s body will respond slowly to the food intake.

So if this true, the real idea is not freaking out about daily food intake, but averaging it out over time. This means changing habits more then a daily counter, which I had a problem with on Weight Watchers.

Hidden foods like trips to the vending machine or high calorie coffee drinks add up with the accounting being tallied at the end of the year.

The real problem is that once we lose the weight, we want to go back to eating about how we normally ate, but it takes time to adjust to the new way of eating. This is why most, like myself gain even after losing.

Did you ever solve the question posed to you when you were first hired — what caused the obesity epidemic?

We think so. And it’s something very simple, very obvious, something that few want to hear: The epidemic was caused by the overproduction of food in the United States.

If you are on a weight loss program is seems obvious that there is a lot of food out there that should be avoided or eaten moderation at best. These are the high point packaged/fast foods on Weight Watcher for example. Veggies and Fruit by contracts score NO POINTS on the new Weight Watchers program if that give you an idea.

Beginning in the 1970s, there was a change in national agricultural policy. Instead of the government paying farmers not to engage in full production, as was the practice, they were encouraged to grow as much food as they could. At the same time, technological changes and the “green revolution” made our farms much more productive. The price of food plummeted, while the number of calories available to the average American grew by about 1,000 a day.

Well, what do people do when there is extra food around? They eat it! This, of course, is a tremendously controversial idea. However, the model shows that increase in food more than explains the increase in weight.

Those extra 1000 calories are out there. There is a vending machine in every building on my college campus and during holidays the break rooms and even classrooms usually have free candy for the taking. And every college club does bake sale fund raisers and visiting groups who table in the student center offers free candy.

So it is just me? I am not offered a drink, a cigarette or drugs, but free or cheap baked goods and candy are every where. I can try to avoid eating it, but I cannot avoid it. With that said, billions are spent trying to tempt me to lower my and the rest of our resolve.

You said earlier that nobody wants to hear your message. Why?

I think the food industry doesn’t want to know it. And ordinary people don’t particularly want to hear this, either. It’s so easy for someone to go out and eat 6,000 calories a day. There’s no magic bullet on this. You simply have to cut calories and be vigilant for the rest of your life.

The message is The “Lose 30 pounds in 30 years program.” (smiles) It reminds me of the Harry Potter character Mad Eye Moody’s tag line “Constant Vigilance!

Weigh-in Update: This week(????)

OK. I have not posted for a week.

So what is going on with my weight loss?

Last weeks weigh-in resulted in Plus 2.4 pounds and I did not weigh-in this week because of tornado warnings at the time of my meeting. (true story)

I have been doing a lot of soul searching about my weight loss and Weight Watchers and I am not sure WW it is a good fit.

And that is not just because I have not had big results.

I get little from the meetings themselves and I don’t feel the program provides any added motivation, or accountability.

I feel good on weight loss weeks.

But on weight gain weeks, I get the added bonus of “motivational public shaming” which does very little for me.

It is indirect, but do get looks from the person who weighs me in and they do announce the people who lose weight at meetings, so it is a last chair left when the music stop situation if you gained weight.

“Guess who I did not call this week.”

I can weigh myself once a week at the gym in private thank you very much.

As for the system, I found it to be cumbersome with looking up and writing down everything I eat with a lot of mostly guessing the “Points” for someone like myself who does not eat at chains or packaged foods.

I guess it works for accountant types like a guy who I take a class with you teaches physics at U of M, but it really does not fit my personality.

The whole point is to eat healthy and to exercise and to avoid the junk food, but even the junk food with WW is on the program if you can justify it with the point system.

You can use up all your points for the day on peanut M & M’s and Ben and Jerry’s if you want. How healthy is that?

So WW does little for me to break from junk food, which I feel is a major block towards my weight loss.

And WW does not come out and say it directly, but the program is really, really about what they call the power foods. These are whole grains, lean meats and fish, fruits and veggies, low fat dairy, beans, nuts and seeds and small amounts of healthy fats.

If you eat mostly these foods you do not have to write anything down. They pretty much say as much in the meetings.

But, WW knows most will not eat the “power foods,” so they have everyone factor points and track everything and weigh-in each week.

The “power foods,” for me are basically a throw back to my vegetarian/macrobiotic days with the occasional meat dish thrown in.

That is fine by me.

I used to eat healthy. I know how to cook and I actually like fruits and vegetables.

So where does this leave me with WW?

Their system of trackers and points and meetings and including junk food and weigh-ins provides little help in my opinion.

And my weigh-in results show that.

That is my take on it.

This is not to say I will not eat healthy and work towards my weight loss.

I just don’t feel WW system offers any real help to me in the process.

Weigh-in (Plus .4)

Weigh-in (Plus .4)

I feel I need to do more and that I am staying about the same.

This week is about getting to the gym and moving my body.

Weight loss Weigh-in (Lost 3.8)

I am back under 230 again.

This puts me in the one pound a week range. But the ongoing drama of my up and down weight loss continues. Last week I was up four pounds. The week before, I lost 5.4.

So, we will see what happens. The plan is to go to the gym this week and to bring some weights to my cubical to do a few reps while I am at work.

I have one of those rubber band things for lifting.

I am also starting to switch from cereal to oatmeal and less bread and more brown rice. I have a rice steam, so we are going to make a big batch or rice and steam it up through the week.



Weigh in: (up 4.2)

I am up 4.2 pounds???

The deal with weigh-ins is that you want to weigh less or at least stay the same. My weigh-ins have been a roller coaster.

Last week I had a 5.4 pound loss. A few weeks before that I had also had a 5 pound weekly loss only to have gains the next few weeks.

I felt good to have the loss last week, but I felt that it will be followed by a gain while doing the same thing I did the week before.

My weight loss could really only be water weight, which can change from week to week, but does not result is real weight loss.

These big weekly loses followed by big weekly gains makes me question the process or at least the scale. Each week they seem to bring in a new scale.

And being six weeks in I wonder if I will stick with WW or find another system.

I mean I can get a scale and weigh myself once a week. And I feel that WW is simply food journaling and calorie counting in disquising with Points. You still have to look everything or use a special calulator.

Maybe if I had a weight watcher buddy, I would feel better and more accountable.

I have been better at avoiding snacks, eating more fruit and staying away from soda.

But, I am one high weekly weigh-in from being where I started.