Losing Weight: Once More Into the Breach

Probably the greatest struggle in my adult life has been weight.

In a world where so many are hungry, I’m doubly embarrassed that this is my issue.

But, whether I like it or not, it is what I get to deal with…

I like the idea of blaming other people for my predicament, familial upbringing, elderly ladies at church foisting food on me, etc, etc. But, I know while there are a host of others involved in creating me, bottom line, there’s only one hand putting that fork up to my mouth.

I’m a compulsive personality, I tend to do what I do to excess. Some things such as alcohol can be dealt with by simply not using it. Food is rather more complex.

And, frankly, I love, love, love food.

I’m officially a yo yo, another embarrassing thing, as I was able at one point to lose something a tad over forty pounds – and have gained much of it back.

I’ve read at the literature of weight loss. And I have come to have a few opinions. One is that diets, per se, are not the way to go. Lifestyle changes seem to be the only chance we have of really maintaining a healthy weight. (I so want a pill. Sigh…)

It’s now been one week since I started attempting to lose weight using what I’d call a “consciousness guide.” By which I mean simply logging in what it is I’m eating. Just noticing. Just paying attention.

For me the tool to do this has been a free app, My Fitness Pal, which based upon my age, gender and weight also calculates what would be the maximum caloric intake per day to lose one pound per week. I want to lose thirty pounds. And, maybe ten more after that. To do this my job is to faithfully and as accurately as I can to record what it is that I’m eating.

(Okay, and exercise a bit. I put on a pedometer and have found I’m only slightly more active than a rock…)

(And, telling others. I’m a herd animal and hope confessing what’s up to a larger community will help…)

Well, one week in, I’ve actually been able to stay under the caloric maximum every day.

And, I’ve lost three pounds. (Jan says this is one reason women are not always fond of men…)

I can see how there will be days, especially if barbecue is featured, where that under the recommended calories may not be the case. But that’s okay. I’m really trying for the long haul.

It has also inspired me, again, so far, and only a week into it, to move toward Michael Pollan’s wise advice:

Eat Food
Not too much
Mostly plants

Me, I’m not at all inclined to any pure anything. So, while I can afford, at least at this moment in my life, to largely do the localvore thing, and do enjoy the often superior product raised seasonally in my area, I have no brief against the globalized food economy, so long as people are paid fairly and an eye is kept on ecological disruptions of various sorts.


I am an omnivore. For this I make no apologies. It’s a human thing.

But for various reasons, some ethical, I do want to eat fewer dead animals, and of those, mostly non-mammals.

Recording what I actually eat has been helpful, again, so far, again one week into it, in helping me to notice.


Being grateful.

And acting from that place…

Again, my goal is a sustainable lifestyle.

Doesn’t seem like asking for too much…

And maybe, just maybe, for me at this time and place, maybe I’ve found it.

Of course time will tell…

  • http://www.jasonasmith.net Jason Smith

    Great post! If you are interested and if it helps, Kelly Brownell at Yale has written extensively on yo-you dieting and the difficulty it can post. His book Food Fight is good as is Marion Nestle’s Food Politics and Michele Simon’s Appetite for Profit to get a sense of how exactly globalized food production is neither just, safe or fair and is quite ecologically damaging esp. in regards to GMO and pesticides.

    Marion has also written a great book: What to Eat. If you are like me, you want to know why your body is doing certain things. I found the book very helpful. You are right though that it is not a pure diet thing but more of a lifestyle change, which is hard. I’m starting a routine of more exercise myself and changing my diet. Small steps work for me. I hope it goes well! I think it is a lot like zazen in some ways. If you fall off the mat, just get back on and keep going!

  • http://www.robynlove.com Robyn

    Sounds like you are doing all the right things. I found Jan Chozen Bays book, Mindful Eating, to be really helpful (although my food issues tend towards the other end of the spectrum). One thing I might suggest, if I may be so bold, is to let go of your goals in terms of pounds lost. Those kinds of goals seem like easy places to get caught up and then disappointed. I think it might be more useful to focus more on just what you are eating right now.

    I agree with Jason that it is like zazen (it IS zazen!). It is pretty simple in theory – there isn’t so much to actually do – but it requires constant awareness. Anyway, check out her book – I highly recommend it.

  • http://www.ironlot.us Andy Lambert

    You might check out Thich Naht Hahn’s Savor for some more mindful eating guidance/support. Jan Chozen Bays also wrote book Mindful Eating, which came with a nice guided meditation CD. I know you probably don’t need more books to add to your reading list but these might help. I’m a three-year plant-based eater, myself. There’s nothing wrong with being an omnivore, other than most chronic diseases are caused by animal products. If you’re inclined to be curious enough to see if I’m full of it try The china Study by T. Colin Campbell, The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall or watch Forks Over Knives. James, I can tell you that I LOVE food and most vegans, do as well. I’m sorry you’ve had bad experiences with plant-based nutrition but fat and animal protein is hastening your demise. You can write me off as an alarmist, as my parents do, or you can read the books and make up your own mind. Science doesn’t lie, even when almost everyone who’s ever written a word about nutrtion does.

  • http://www.boundlesswayzen.org jamesford

    Dear Andy,

    I think there is a small secret I should share with you.

    Whatever you do, you’re going to die.


    No matter what you do.

    Just thought you’d like to know…

  • http://www.boundlesswayzen.org jamesford

    ps: I’ve not had bad experiences with vegans and other varieties of vegetarian. Just a couple of meals that count as among the worst in my experience. I dearly love the people who fed them to me. I just avoid eating with them, nothing worse…

  • http://www.boundlesswayzen.org jamesford

    And to all of you, thank you for caring enough to share your thoughts and beliefs about proper nutrition with me. I am grateful…

  • Charlie Talbert

    James, you write, “I am an omnivore. For this I make no apologies. It’s a human thing.”

    I think we need to be careful about justifying our ethical decisions today with our evolutionary past. If we use the behavior of our Paleolithic ancestors as the measure for ours today, then we could justify rape. At some point in our moral progress, civilized societies decided it’s wrong to gratify one’s sensual urges by harming someone else. Sex is necessary for our survival, yes, but we found a better way. Food is necessary for our survival too, but today we know our diet does not depend on intentionally harming and killing innocents.

  • Cushing

    Leaving aside all the endlessly complex and polarizing ethical debates, being a vegetarian (or, in my case, a pescetarian) offers a simple, solid dietary advantage capable of being followed even by someone like me with a compulsive personality and not adept at comprehending complicated concepts: It cuts out an entire group of food choices that are entirely unnecessary and fraught with health and weight negatives. Simplify, simplify.

  • Cushing

    And as for that dying thing, while we have limited control over our fates, we do have a lot of little daily choices that reduce or increase our odds of living longer and more healthy lives – e.g., because the Buddha is widely believed to have died of pork poisoning does not enhance his stature as a wise or compassionate being, and it is certainly not an aspect of his behavior that I would choose to emulate.
    Rather, I find great wisdom in the observation of that wise and courageous teller of truths, Ashley Montague; that where possible we should arrange our life styles so that we die as late as possible as young as possible

  • Willy

    I’m on the same path. Sedentary lifestyle and I love food. Worse, I love to cook so I always can put plenty of good food together. I’ve switched to mostly vegetarian with the occasional meal with some meat. If you find a way that works please let me know.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/monkeymind James

    Just being aware of what is going into my mouth has helped, Willy. I recommend joining one of the free tracking services like My Fitness Pal which calculates your caloric intake based upon your reporting (I have to be a bit creative in finding approximations to various, so my morning mush is calculated from something called ‘Country Choice Organic – Hot Cereal Multi Grain” when it isn’t exactly that brand.) But, while there’s creativity in this I try to be as accurate as possible. And then the program calculates what your maximums are to achieve what you want. Me, it’s one pound a week in weight loss. Eight days into it and I find I am voluntarily modifying my diet, same as yours increasingly toward the vegetarian side of things. Eight days in I can report it is very helpful…

  • http://theistsandatheists.wordpress.com Roger “Chris” Schriner

    Hi James,

    I see everyone’s sending you diet tips. I’ll throw mine into the stew too, partly because the approach I’ve used touches upon our mutual interests in psychology and consciousness. I’ve sent you my sermon, “A Taste for Hunger” via the FUCP Admin.

    After you read the funny intro about God, Satan, and humans, you can cut to the chase by searching for this string:

    Use whatever keeps you trapped as a tool to set you free.

    Chris Schriner, Minister Emeritus, Fremont CA

  • http://Cpgardens.blogspot.com Steven

    Check out the work of Mark Sisson, Gary Taubes, Robb Wolf, the Whole 30 or Loren Cordain.