Hitting a Plateau, But It's All Good

While I've been progressing nicely with my weight loss, the last six weeks has seen me in Barcelona, Las Vegas, and Bangkok, all for Check Point's CPX360 events. Two of the trips involved significant travel. The result? You might call it a plateau:


On one hand, I should consider myself fortunate that any weight I gained, particularly in Barcelona and Vegas, was lost fairly quickly--enough that it didn't affect the floating average all that much, which this graph represents. On the other, I'm mildly frustrated to be stuck around the same weight for the last month or so.

Everyone trying to lose weight eventually stalls. It happened to me before when I did Atkins 15 years ago. The difference this time around is I'm aware of it and am using other yardsticks to measure progress. My waist, for instance, is an inch smaller than it was a couple of weeks ago, which has resulted in my clothes fitting a little better. My face? Also seems to be a bit thinner, just from pictures:


The photo on the left was from late January in Barcelona, the one on the right a couple weeks ago in Gig Harbor.

It seems like I may have broken through the plateau based on the fact my average weight has recently dipped below 235 pounds, or about 107 kilograms. Whether that trend continues or not, I will find out in the coming days.

The real trend I'm concerned about? My A1C number. I won't know for another month or two until I get blood work done again. Still, my blood glucose has been fairly stable with the 30-day average being 105 mg/dL (or 5.8 mmol/L). That suggests I should have a lower A1C than 5.9%, but we'll see.

The good news is that I'm home for the next couple of weeks and the travel I've got planned after that will keep me fairly close to home. This should make it easier to stay on plan and continue to make progress (or at least not lose ground).

I Hardly Recognize You! You Look Fantastic!

I've been hearing variations of this over the last few weeks as I've been doing Check Point's CPX360 events in Barcelona and Las Vegas. For many who had met me previously, it's the first time they've seen me since I've started eating once a day, intermittent fasting, or whatever you want to call it.

And yes, the difference a year makes (or in some cases, only a few months) is quite striking, as these two pictures from roughly a year apart show:

Jan 2017

The above was me at Check Point's Sales Kick off in Las Vegas in January of 2017. Compare that to me at CPX360 in Las Vegas in February 2018:

Feb 2018

For those not keeping track, I'm about 90 pounds or 40 kilograms off my high water mark. My Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure are also significantly improved as well.

I posted these before and after pictures on LinkedIn. The response was overwhelming: more than 600 likes and over 70 comments as of this writing!

There is a lot of conflicting advice about how one can achieve these goals. Not only that, you have multiple industries that benefit to the tune of billions of dollars a year from maintaining the status quo. Trying to find your way through all that to something that works for you is…not easy to say the least.

For me, it has boiled down to the following five rules:

  1. Dietary fat is your friend.
  2. Sugar (real or fake) is your enemy.
  3. The less frequently you eat, the better.
  4. When crossing timezones, don't eat until you reach your destination.
  5. Get enough sleep.

What are these rules trying to achieve? It boils down to reducing the amount of insulin my body produces, both in terms of amount and frequency. This is because, as a Type 2 Diabetic, I have become insulin resistant, meaning my body must produce more and more insulin to achieve the same results.

While insulin is needed to metabolize the food you eat, too much of it in your body is clearly a bad thing. Since practically everything you eat invokes an insulin response, the only way you can reduce the frequency of insulin spikes is reduce how often you eat. To reduce the size of the insulin spike when you do eat, the best approach seems to be eat more dietary fat and little to no carbohydrates.

Not eating while traveling long distances is as much about reducing exposure to potentially bad dietary choices as much as it is about resetting my circadian rhythm. I can't claim it's a total cure for jet lag, but it definitely makes jumping a large number of timezones easier. The fact it also supports my larger health goals is a definite bonus.

What about sleep? Lack of sleep contributes to insulin resistance which is a bad thing. The good news is that I have more time to sleep since I spend less time eating and can thus work through breakfast and/or lunch.

Notice I have not put any strict guidelines in these rules. That's because the exact mix that works for me today may not work for me tomorrow and I may need to adjust. Also, the particular mix that works for me may not work for you.

For those who think I am starving myself by only eating once a day (or less), the reality is: I'm not. I've just finally gotten my body to a point where it is able to metabolize the food I previously ate and stored as fat, of which I still have plenty, even after losing as much weight as I have. My energy is better than it's ever been, especially on days where I am active. I sleep better. I'm making better food choices when I do eat (including eating less).

Unlike eating according to a particular diet, which can be difficult to do at times depending on where you are in the world, eating less frequently or even fasting is something you can do anywhere, anytime. Atkins was very effective at lowering my weight back in the early 2000s, but I found it very difficult to maintain, particularly as I started traveling more. When I stopped that way of eating, I gained more and more weight. I eventually started having health issues that ultimately led to a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes.

Now, when I do find myself in a place I've never been before, I don't feel guilty about trying the local food. Or, in the case of a celebration, I can indulge myself occasionally. Because, let's face it, life is going to happen.

After it does, I can get back to eating once a day. Maybe even fast for a couple of days to reset things.

The bottom line: I think I've found a lifestyle that works. I spend a bit more on coffee now (black or espresso), but I spend a lot less on food. I will eventually have to buy a new wardrobe, though clothes I haven't worn in years now fit again. I feel like a different person.

A few resources I've used in my health journey:

I'm by no means where I want to be, but I'm definitely in better shape than I've been in more than a decade!

The Annual Physical

Yesterday, I went to visit my doctor for my annual physical. The doctor made a few observations:

  • I'm at my lowest weight according to their records, which go back to 2009. He actually asked if I had weight loss surgery when I told him on my last visit what I was doing. Apparently my chosen lifestyle didn't make his notes, nor did he consider that I'd probably consult with him before doing that.
  • My diabetes is improving as my A1C went from 6.5 to 5.9. He even said I might beat it. It's certainly my goal to to beat it, but I also know it's not going to happen overnight either.
  • I am no longer "morbidly obese" according to the guidelines, I am just "obese." Guess that's an improvement.
  • I should probably set my weight target at 175 pounds (or a little under 80 kilos). Right now, I am aiming for 195 pounds (or about 88.5 kilos) and I'm still a ways off of that.

Meanwhile my weight loss progress had a bit of a setback after my recent trip to Barcelona, both due to the excellent food and wine, and the fact I brought back a cold. However, I am not worried about this regression as the path forward is clear, but more importantly, sustainable.

Victories Not Quite To Scale

From my last update about 6 weeks ago, I have made more progress at lowering my weight and improving my Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Weight: 245 pounds/111 kilos, about 80 pounds/36 kilos under my high water mark
  • Blood glucose (30-day average): 106 mg/dL or about 6.0 mmol/L
  • A1C (from blood test in late December): 5.9%

I can blame the higher blood glucose on the holidays, but then again, the A1C number is a bit higher than I was predicting based on averages around that time. Either way, the A1C is a trailing indicator that is still trending in the right direction.

I still need to buy some new clothing, but I'm putting it off as long as possible since I expect to shrink a little more. Meanwhile, a particular hoodie that I acquired two years ago and haven't been able to wear until fairly recently is still not quite big enough for my wife's tastes. The fact I can wear it at all is another one of those non-scale victories I've been having as of late.

My next doctor's appointment is in 3 weeks. Curious what he will think of all this. Even though he's not totally onboard with my regimen, the transformation that has occurred in the last 8 months is pretty dramatic. Compare my passport photos from March 2009, June 2008, and June 2017:


To a few days ago:


Non-Scale Victories, the Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt Edition

Continuing the non-scale victory discussion, I've heard one suggestion for tracking your progress that does not involve a scale: try on an article of clothing on periodically to see how well it fits. Specifically, an article of clothing that is too small.

Given that my team is ordering t-shirts for our upcoming Check Point Experience event, it seems like a good opportunity to acquire some. These shirts were ordered from an outfit in Israel that often makes their shirts small by American standards. That makes these shirts excellent candidates to track non-scale victories.


The good news is that the largest shirt they ordered fits, but is a little small for my tastes. About what I expected given the equivalent size of a typical American shirt fits just about right.

Non-Scale Victories


While I've had plenty of victories on the scale, such as managing to lose four pounds on my most recent trip to the New York and Philly area, as the above picture will attest to, I've had my share of victories that don't show up on the scale, but are the result of attempting to lose weight.

One such non-scale victory is the comments I've been getting from people. My current job has me in public a lot more than I used to be and people that saw me even six months ago are noticing that I've dropped a significant amount of weight--about 75 pounds (or 32 kilos) worth!

Another is something that people don't realize is an issue for people of size when traveling on an airplane--seat belt length. On just about every flight I've taken in the last 15 years, I've had to ask a flight attendant for a seat belt extension. As there is quite a bit of variance when it comes to equipment on airplanes, I still have to ask for one occasionally, but it's not an every flight occurrence anymore.

Yesterday, I tried on the one pair of pants I still have with a 44 inch waist--and they fit well. Granted, these have stretchy sides, since I got them from a big and tall store, but they aren't a tight fit, which means: they'll work. I tried on a few shirts from my "skinny drawer" and discovered they fit well enough to wash them and hang them up on my closet. Meanwhile, there's two shirts I left in my "skinny" drawer that, after I lose some more weight, will be a better fit.

Meanwhile, all but one pair of pants I own are now too big for me. Some of the pairs of pants I can still wear with a belt, but I suspect even they will be too big before too long. The ones that were much too loose were put in place of the shirts I pulled out, making it more of a "fat drawer" than a skinny drawer now.

My blood sugar, meanwhile, had a minor setback with my time in New York, both because of some good beer and some good sushi! That said, it's a blip in the short-term average, with my longer term average still excellent. Hopefully I get a much better idea with a proper blood test, which I need to do in the near future so I can schedule an annual physical with my doctor.

A non-scale victory to come will be when I can purchase clothes for myself in a non "big and tall" store. That would imply getting down to maybe a 38 inch waist. Even when I managed to lose weight with Atkins more than 15 years ago, I never quite managed to achieve that goal. This time, I'm more determined to get there!

Intermittent Fasting, 6 Months Later

It’s been roughly 6 months since I began Intermittent Fasting, which I began after reading The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung. Within the last month or so, a research journal called Obesity published an article entitled Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting that discusses the health benefits of adopting intermittent fasting, complete with citations to other medical journals.

With that as a background, it seems like as good a time as any to document my progress. First, my stats from May 2017:

  • Weight: 311 pounds or 141 kilos, which is about 15 pounds below my high water mark from 2016
  • Blood Glucose (30-day average): 137 mg/dL or 8 mmol/L
  • A1C (based on a blood test): 7.1

The desire to try intermittent fasting got further spurred on by the basic message I got from my doctor in May of 2017, which was that I wasn’t making any progress in terms of controlling my diabetes. The doctor was, of course, correct. When I was diagnosed back in October 2014, my A1C was a 7.9. In May of 2015, I had gotten my A1C down to a 6.1. Clearly things were trending in the wrong direction.

With this as a backdrop, I made a number of changes to my eating habits gradually over the last six months:

  • Went from 3 meals a day plus snacks to 2 meals a day to 1 meal a day to 1 meal every other day. The step to every other day just happened in the last 2-3 weeks or so.
  • When I do eat, I try to pick things that are ketogenic friendly (i.e. high in fat, moderate in protein, low in carbs).
  • When I travel by airplane, I do not eat in the airport or on the airplane, eating dinner at my destination. This helps reset my circadian rhythm and provides an excellent opportunity to fast.
  • I went from drinking coffee with heavy cream to black coffee and espresso shots. When I get my free drink at Starbucks, I will get a Latte with Heavy Cream. I will sometimes also have vanilla herbal tea with heavy cream after dinner sometimes also.
  • Once or twice a day, I will have a cup of broth for the electrolytes

Note the above guidelines are not adhered to strictly. They are varied based on life circumstances and social obligations. Which, honestly, is a key to long-term success with any major change you make in your life.

My stats as of right now?

  • Weight: 256 pounds or 116 kilos, about 70 pounds or 32 kilos under my high water mark
  • Blood glucose (30-day average): 99 mg/dL or about 5.6 mmol/L
  • A1C (estimated based on 90-day average, will do a blood test in a few weeks): 5.4

All of those stats are definitely trending the right direction.

For Those Asking What I’m Doing To Lose Weight

It’s pretty simple:

  • One meal a day (personally I strive for a low carb, high fat meal, but this isn’t strictly required)
  • During fasting periods, I drink water, black coffee/espresso, tea, and/or broth
  • I mostly avoid artificial sweeteners
  • For long flights, I fast the entire time in transit and eat dinner at the normal time for destination (or skip entirely)
  • I also pick a day during the week (usually Sunday) where I consume less than 500 calories for my “meal” (or skip it entirely)
  • Get enough sleep (for me, about 7-8 hours)

I did not just jump into above “cold turkey” but gradually worked my way up to these guidelines. I expect they will further evolve over time.

For those who think fasting is hard, there is some initial difficulty as your body adapts. Some refer to this process as “keto flu.” It does get much easier.

I do make allowances for “life events” and will occasionally vary from these guidelines. For example, when I was in Ireland, you can bet I drank Guinness outside of a normal meal period. I plan for these events and adjust accordingly.

The benefits I’ve derived from the above include, but are not limited to:

  • Weight loss (averaging 1-2 pounds a week, but it varies from week to week)
  • Lower blood glucose readings (a good thing as a Type 2 diabetic)
  • Food cravings are mostly gone
  • Little to no jet lag (even when I jump 9-10 time zones)
  • More time during the day (because meals take time to have)
  • Lower grocery bills
  • Better sleep

The above appears to be working for me and may or may not work for anyone else. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions by typing the following terms into your search engine of choice:

  • Intermittent fasting
  • Ketogenic diet
  • Dr. Jason Fung
  • The Obesity Code

Happy to answer questions through all the usual channels.

Pulling from the Skinny Drawer!

A couple years ago, I had done a post about my skinny drawer, i.e. a drawer full of clothes that I don’t wear because I had outgrown them or was never properly sized to wear to begin with.

With my current weight being better than it has been in 10 years, and with my currently clothing getting a little too baggy, I decided to have a look in there to see if I could bring some clothing out of retirement.

To my joy, I found a pair of jeans and a pair of khakis that are now “just right.” I was also able to pull out a couple of t-shirts that are not too tight to wear. I also checked a couple shirts in my closet I haven’t worn in a while and they are now appropriately sized!

A few articles of clothing in the drawers will be wearable after I lose another 10 pounds or so. A few other articles, I will have to get a bit closer to my best weight as an adult.

Either way, it’s a definite sign of weight loss progress.

Intermittent Fasting Is Insane...ly Great (For Me, At Least)

This article entitled Intermittent Fasting Is Insane is an excellent example of modern journalism. It's sad that semi-respectable mastheads like the LA Times run articles that are little more than a copyedited version of a Facebook screed. However, given many of the other articles I've read recently, particularly on matters of current events, it's sadly the norm.

Many hours or days between meals has been the norm since humans first walked the earth. We wouldn't be here as a species if we weren't built for this reality. It's only in the last several decades that many of us had access to three meals a day plus snacks, not to mention a constant barrage of advertising that tells us the kinds of foods we should be eating.

So to call intermittent fasting "insane" shows tremendous ignorance of:

  • What intermittent fasting actually is
  • Human history

The first reason the author gives:

It sounds extremely uncomfortable.

Normal eating and normal hunger cues tell us to eat every three to four hours. This is what most people do. For example, they might eat a breakfast around 8 a.m., lunch around noon, some snacks before dinner, and a nice evening meal. When I put it like that it sounds obvious. That's because it's balanced. It's intuitive. It works.

Anytime you try to make a change to your habits, it's bound to be uncomfortable. For example, exercise is definitely uncomfortable if you're out of shape. And yet, you don't see too many articles suggesting you shouldn't exercise. And yes, the first few days of doing this were a little rough, no question. That said, it did not take long to adapt to eating one meal a day.

Also, what this clearly very thin woman doesn't realize is that for some of us, those natural cues that tell us when to eat are completely out of whack. Prior to changing to intermittent fasting, I could and would eat ridiculous amounts of food multiple times a day, plus snacks. Now? I still probably eat a little more than the average person eats at a meal, but I do it only once a day. I've also made other dietary changes that have surely reduced the amount of calories I consume in a day.

She continues:

During periods of fasting, black coffee, calorie-free sweeteners, diet soda, and sugar-free gum are permitted. I'm going to take this opportunity to point out that these calorie-free "hunger remedies" are flagged as warning signs of anorexia by the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

First of all, she links to an article on Livestrong, which does not provide a link to this research. Based on what they're talking about, I'm guessing it's Artificial Sweetener Use among Individuals with Eating Disorders. I can't read the full article without paying for it, but I have no doubt this is definitely true. I know from my own experience that artificial sweeteners, particularly in gum, are bad news and should be avoided, whether or not you have an eating disorder.

Second, she's clearly labeling intermittent fasting as an eating disorder by associating artificial sweetener use and anorexia, which I'm sure exists. Anorexia is defined as:

  • Abnormally low body weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • A distorted perception of body weight

Considering my doctor has given me an official diagnosis of morbidly obese and telling me to lose weight, anorexia is the farthest thing from my mind.

Black coffee has no sweeteners in it. Neither do espresso shots. And yes, one should be careful about overconsumption.

There are a few different iterations of the plan

One is to alternate days of eating. Eat whatever you want one day, fast for the entirety of the next. I've practiced Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday where we communally fast for one whole day, and I can tell you from experience that that s--- is not fun. For the holiday, it's not meant to be. You're lethargic and sorrowful, and you spend the day in religious services atoning for sin. But to do that to your body every other day in the name of weight loss? No, thank you.

She's basing her entire opinion of fasting on a single day where she fasted for Yom Kippur. Yes, if you've never fasted, it's tough. However, if she tried it herself more than once or, I don't know, asked someone who fasts regularly, she'd find out it gets a lot easier with practice. Or maybe it wouldn't for her, who knows. But there's no evidence to suggest she tried it for more than one day.

Also, the people who do alternate day fasting don't necessary eat whatever you want the next day, they may only eat a single meal, or maybe two.

Such an extreme dietary regimen is unsettling. Prioritizing a diet over the usual practices of everyday life is a cause for alarm and concern for the mental health of the dieter.

Actually, this diet is surprisingly easy to fit in with the rest of your life. The meal I specifically choose to eat every day is dinner, because it's one of the only meals I eat with my family. The fact I don't eat the rest of the time? They don't notice. When I travel? Same thing: I will eat certain meals (usually dinner) with other people. I might also have lunch with them. For long times in transit, I fast.

Imagine sitting through a workday without having eaten in 30 hours. Imagine skipping dinner with friends because you'd eaten your day's worth of calories at 2 p.m. These are some very plausible realities of intermittent fasting - and I haven't even dared to think about the digestive nightmare it could cause.

I don't have to imagine as I just did a 48 hour fast! It's not difficult at all. If she'd bother to talk to someone who's actually done intermittent fasting for any length of time, she'd know this. Also, if I know I am going to dinner with my friends, I plan around it and move my eating window accordingly (either fasting more or have an extra meal).

And digestive issues? What digestive issues? If anything, my digestion has been much better since I started eating less food. I definitely spend less time on the toilet as well!

"Skipping meals ramps up your stress hormone cortisol, which I consider a dark lord of metabolism," Sara Gottfried, M.D., told the Huffington Post. Essentially, it messes with your system. Who knows what happens to your metabolism when you practice this diet in the long-term?

Everything linked in the linked article was "could" or "may". And yes, if you're stressed, and you're already predisposed to eat, you'll want to eat more. What I've found is by practicing intermittent fasting, I am stressed far less, particularly when traveling. It's one less thing I have to stress about.

As for how this diet works long-term? The whole of human history tells us that, in moderation, fasting will not harm us. Muslims fast during daylight hours during the month of Ramadan, which acts as a variant of One Meal a Day. This has been part of the Muslim tradition since the 7th Century, and they still do it today. Do you hear of health problems as a result of this fasting from the Muslim population? I certainly don't.

And of course, then she quotes a study that supposedly shows that intermittent fasting is no better than a conventional diet. The study is described as follows:

Participants were randomized to 1 of 3 groups for 1 year: alternate-day fasting (25% of energy needs on fast days; 125% of energy needs on alternating “feast days”), calorie restriction (75% of energy needs every day), or a no-intervention control. The trial involved a 6-month weight-loss phase followed by a 6-month weight-maintenance phase.

Which is not how I've read most people intermittently fast. Also, the study has an interesting caveat that I was able to find thanks to a Reddit thread:

It’s worth noting that adherence was a problem in this study, especially with the alternate-day fasting group. This made it harder for the authors to draw good statistical conclusions and likely affected the outcome.

Which tells me, the "official" science is far from settled. That said, I've done my own "N of 1 Trial" of intermittent fasting, and the results speak for themselves:

  • Best weight in 10 years, and dropping
  • Lower average blood glucose readings and lower A1c

I'm not going to claim intermittent fasting is for everyone, but I'm pretty sure she had made up her mind long before she wrote the article, only doing minimal research to back up her claims that took me minimal research and my own personal experience to debunk.

See also this comment thread on Reddit