On the Occasion of My 45th Birthday

I turned 45 today, and my mother turned 66 (I was born on her 21st birthday, just so any of you who might be so inclined don’t have to do any subtraction). My mother and I are both overweight, just as my grandmother was before us. This year, I intend to break that cycle for good.

Although I’ve posted a few things on this site already, I mean this to be the real foundational post for my site. I was prompted to start this site when I realized how out of shape I had gotten, and I want to chronicle my progress as I get back in shape. I’m giving myself a year to do this, and I am not sticking to any specific hard-and-fast goals; instead, I’m simply saying that I want to look good shirtless by next Labor Day (2012), when I hope to go to Southern Decadence in New Orleans and celebrate.

Although my goal is loose, I do have some specific ideas about how I’m going to achieve them. First of all, I intend to permanently adapt to a “Primal” method of eating and working out. I may not get those Vibram Five Finger Shoes (which could be called Five Toe Shoes), because, even though I find them interesting and I really think they might work, I know a lot of people who find them weird or gross. I also may not get into kettlebell exercises, even though I know that’s the hot new thing in fitness (a few years ago it was balancing on giant balls). I definitely plan to walk more. Now that we have gotten through the worst of the summer weather in Austin, I plan to start doing a nightly walk around Lady Bird Lake, which offers different trails from 2 to 10 miles, depending on the loop you do and which bridges you cross. I like walking because it’s low-impact, and I still have some lingering lower back pain from a ruptured disc that was mostly repaired with spinal surgery ten years ago (although if I stress my lower back by bending or twisting in a certain way (especially while picking up something heavy), I tend to get some throbbing/shooting sciatic pain that lasts for a few days, so I tend to be pretty easygoing when it comes to exercises. It’s not that I can’t lift weights, it’s just that I’m very careful how I go about it, and I don’t do any sort of jumping or violent movements that involve bending or twisting. When I lift weights (and I intend to begin doing so again—it’s been over a year since I last went to the gym), I tend to do heavy weights with low repetitions in a slow, controlled movement, but I may change that up depending on the recommendations in the Primal Blueprint book (I’ve finished reading the first part, which covers diet and recipes, but I’ve only skimmed the exercise part). And that’s it for exercises: walking and weight-lifting, and maybe some others that I’ll decide to add after I finish the book.

For diet, I find eating a Primal diet to be quite easy. I actually started to try this in the spring, and I managed to lose about ten pounds (I think it was around ten pounds—I don’t own a scale and I don’t intend to buy one, so if I ever mention my weight, it’s something I’ve learned on the scale at the gym). Based on my current body composition and the fit of my clothes (I’m not quite at the fattest I’ve ever been, but close), I would say I probably weigh at least 235 pounds, but perhaps as much as 245…or even 250. When I tried this in the spring of 2011, it was diet only, with a bit of extra walking thrown in, but no weights or other exercises, and I did manage to lose some weight…but then came the hottest summer on record, and I gave up the nightly walks and then doubled down on the mistakes by choosing to begin eating sugar again (in the form of ice cream and peanut butter M&Ms, mostly)! This was an unnecessary and silly mistake, because the primal diet was not difficult for me. It basically involves cutting out grains and sugar. That’s really pretty much what it boils down to: no bread, no pasta, and no sugar. I kind of think of it as cutting out the “white” foods: sugar is white in its crystalline form, flour is white, and pasta is made of flour. I also think white potatoes are too heavy in starch for the amount of nutrients they contain, so I would usually prefer to eat a sweet potato (which is nutrient-dense) over a white potato. There are a few foods such as cauliflower that are exceptions to the rule (cauliflower is great, and it can be made into many different things, and it takes on the flavor of a sauce very well, so I find it very versatile). I’ll be posting some recipes as I go along, and as I experiment and adapt my favorite recipes to the Primal method (and I promise you that anything I post is something I’ve actually made and eaten).

There are some parts of the Primal method that I will not be following (the method actually allows you to cheat and adapt things to your own lifestyle, though, so this is not really cheating…more like not following every single guideline). The specific things that I will not be cutting out of my diet are:

1. Coffee
2. Alcohol
3. Diet Dr. Pepper
4. Dessert

This does not mean that I will be having dessert every evening. I WILL be having a cup of coffee every day (with Splenda, even though I know some people think it’s a nasty chemical and that it shouldn’t be part of a Primal/Paleo diet…so maybe Splenda should be the #5 thing that I won’t be cutting out). I will also have alcohol pretty much whenever I decide I’d like to have a drink. I realize it contains calories, and that I usually drink it with diet soda (Jim Beam and Dr. Pepper is my “usual” drink), but I simply don’t care. I will limit my intake to reasonable levels, but I am not going to put any specific limits on the first three things. For item number 4, dessert, I plan to allow myself to have dessert one night per week, on Sundays. This might be ice cream or a slice of cake (Whole Foods here in Austin makes truly excellent carrot cake), or it might be something else. This doesn’t mean that I’m doing a whole “cheat day” where I can go to town eating anything and everything I want on Sundays, it simply means that I plan to have one dessert after dinner on Sunday evenings (and that one dessert might be cake AND ice cream, so I’m letting you know in advance that I plan to allow myself some leeway when determining what my dessert for the week will be)!

A few other caveats about my plan: I don’t like to cheat on the rules, so I consider all of the rules to be fairly flexible. The Primal Blueprint book says that they know people who live and work in the modern world can’t follow the diet 100% at all times, so you are just supposed to strive to keep up a high percentage (80 or 90 percent) of following the guidelines. If I have a reason to go out to eat such as an anniversary or birthday or the last day of the school year (my partner Michael is a school teacher), or even if my friends just ask me to go out to Happy Hour, I plan to allow myself some leeway. Corn chips and margaritas are pretty much the antithesis of the Primal diet, but they are a big part of the culture of Austin, so if I do go out to Happy Hour with friends (which is something I love to do, because I love a good margarita* and I also love a good bargain), I’m going to relax and enjoy myself, and then get back on track the next day (*As a note of clarification, I should say that I used to be a bartender, and that I love a well-made cocktail, not just a margarita). I am also going to do this without guilt. I think enjoying life and hanging out with friends and family is what it’s all about, so I’m not going to deny myself the opportunity to have some fun in service to some arbitrary bit of diet advice. I may choose to eat less of the chips and salsa, and I may order the agave nectar margarita (I don’t know what I think of this whole agave syrup thing yet, but I’m skeptical), or I may not, and whatever I choose in each situation will be fine. Having said that, if I get six months into this thing and find that I’m not looking like I’m on track to meet my goals, I reserve the right to change my mind about anything I’ve said so far, including cutting out Sunday night desserts (but never my morning cup of coffee)! If that comes to pass, I will update you accordingly, since I intent to be entirely forthcoming about my progress each step of the way.

I hope you’ll bookmark my site and check back in with me. Or feel free to use the links in the sidebar to buy the Primal Method book or the Primal Method cookbook and join me on this journey from fat to fitness!

2 comments to On the Occasion of My 45th Birthday

  • Joe

    I wish you the best of luck, however I’m not crazy about your approach. To much room for cheating, and the excuses are not logical. Chips and salsa are a part of Austin culture doesn’t cut it just as Chicago style hot dogs are a part of ours here in Illinois. (I won’t eat em) I found that with the primal/paleo lifestyle, it’s pretty much all or nothing. When I went primal a year and a half ago, I gave up alcohol, sugar, and ALL grains, and once over the sugar/carb addiction, I now find sweet desserts grotesque to look at. Regarding the Vibrams: Who gives a flying fig if they look nerdy, if you want to wear them, wear them, and to hell with anyone who thinks they look strange. I love the things, and they look great when I’m wearing them with my size 29 waisted 501 button fly jeans and a black leather vest.

    Now happy birthday to you, and if you’re going to go primal, do it right and don’t cheat!!!!

    Double cheek kiss from a primal sister from Boystown in Chicago

  • Angus

    Thanks for the comment, Joe. As I said, I reserve the right to change my mind about any of this, but I’m going to continue with my plan for now. I know that I personally lost weight before following a modified primal diet with only a very slight increase in exercise. It’s been one day, and I haven’t cheated yet.

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