Wednesday, August 31, 2011

N=1 equals Me

My first post will be an introduction and then hopefully I'll move onto much more interesting topics. I've been blogging on another members-only site for some time about my efforts to lose weight, improve my health and generally look better naked. :) I really started to become serious about the effort in mid-January of 2011 when I started to track my calorie intake and exercise. Since then I have read seemingly endless blogs, papers, articles and books on diet and nutrition and found that my understanding of those topics has been radically altered. For most of my life I have believed and followed the conventional wisdom relating to nutrition believing that I was well informed. Boy, was I wrong.

I've struggled with weight my entire life although I did lose it all on several occasions. The most recent was about 12 years ago when I reached my goal weight by following a low fat, high carbohydrate diet. I mostly maintained the weight for 2 years but then it gradually came back and I ended up around 270 lb. Last year in 2010 I followed the Paleo diet after being introduced to it by a friend who told me about Loren Cordain's book with the imaginative title, "The Paleo Diet". I found this idea really compelling so I followed the diet for some time and lost 28 lb. Not a bad effort, but I wasn't incredibly serious about it. The premise of the Paleo Diet is to eat essentially what we would have consumed prior to agriculture. Dr Cordain prescribes lean meat and plenty of vegetables, lots of omega 3 fatty acids and very little carbohydrates.

In January 2011 after 6 months or so of Paleo I decided I would aggressively track my food intake and start performing n=1 experiments on myself with different approaches to nutrition to see what worked in my case. So for the first four weeks I ate a low fat, high carb (lots of whole grains) prescribed by most of the medical profession. I lost 3 lb over 4 weeks. Not bad. Meanwhile I was reading Gary Taubes "Why We Get Fat and What to do about it" and became interested in low carb diets. So I decided to try eating low carb again for a month and compare it to the previous month. I also was introduce to The Primal Blueprint by some people on the food tracking site I use so I decided to do the Primal Blueprint form of low carb which is essentially Paleo with more Saturated Fat. That month I lost 4 pounds. Not a dramatic loss, about the same really, based on that I decided I could probably lose on any diet provided I calorie restrict. Despite that I continued with the Primal diet because my research indicated this was a healthier way to eat.

I've been eating Primal since then and although the weight is coming off very slowly I enjoy this way of eating and continue to believe it's the best option for overall health. I've lost a total of 53 lb although I put some weight back on last Christmas, so weight loss since January 2011 is roughly 35 lb. I'm not setting any speed records.

I also started to exercise more which has always been a problem for me. In the past I seemed to be able to diet OR exercise but not both simultaneously. This year I've managed to consistently exercise and diet. I've been lifting weights 3 times a week for many months now and prior to that did weights and cardio or jogging. This has resulted in not only weight loss but a 10% drop in body fat percentage.

A couple of months ago I decided it was time to shake thing up a bit and look for another hack to speed the process up. So for three weeks I tried the Leangains protocol which is predominately used by body builders but it's a form of Intermittent Fasting (IF) which has grown in popularity and is supported by some studies showing positive metabolic changes and weight loss. Sadly, three weeks on leangains resulted in zero change in weight or body fat %. After some more research I found that many recommend IF for those already at a low body fat % which doesn't help me at all. I did receive some feedback that I should investigate Leptin and read the blog of a Neurosurgeon, Dr Jack Kruse. I read his blog and although initially I found it almost impenetrable, I was able to extract some useful information and satisfy myself that it at least made sense. After a little delay I finally became serious about following Dr Kruse's advice about 3.5 weeks ago. Since then I've been losing an average of 3 lb a week.

I will go into more detail regarding my adventures in different approaches to losing weight in other posts but that's the summary of my journey thus far. My goals have evolved over time, initially I just wanted to lose weight and reach a number on the scale but now I am interested in optimizing myself. In achieving my maximum genetic potential, whatever that may be. I not only want to be a healthy weight but also to have a healthy body fat composition, good blood lipids and be fit and strong. So I'm focusing less on the number as a goal and more on how I feel. I am aiming to reach a normal body fat % and I track my weight but I don't obsess quite as much about the final number.

So this blog is all about my journey to n=1 optimization. Perhaps one or two people will find it useful.


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