Learning to Eat Well and Stay Healthy

Back in mid-2006, I documented my fairly dramatic weight loss in a series of blog postings. I went from a high of 224 pounds to a low of 164, which made for a total loss of 60 pounds (I’m about 6 feet tall). It’s interesting to go back and re-read what I wrote back then:

Fast forward to January of 2011, and I had gained back about half the weight. I was hovering just below 200 pounds and had needed to purchase larger jeans a few times during the five years in between. Considering the success rate of most diets, that’s not bad but it’s also hardly ideal. Other issues had crept up along the way too.

What went wrong?

There were two main problems with this approach. First, it was built on a false assumption: calorie counting. The number of calories wasn’t my problem. The source of calories was my problem. As I gradually went back to eating “the old way”, I started eating more and more of the Wrong Things and the fat slowly started to reappear.

The second problem was that I didn’t particularly enjoy that way of eating. I always felt a little too restricted (even after gradually raising my daily intake) and felt like I was missing out on some really good food. In other words, it wasn’t sustainable. I was able to succeed by a combination of early success and sheer force of will. But over the long term, that never works and is why virtually all diets fail.

So, what does work?

That’s a big part of what this blog is about. In the coming days and weeks I plan to write more about this topic and many of the discoveries I made along the way. In 2011 alone, I probably read over 20 books on health, diet, nutrition, etc. And I’ve been read a lot of new blogs on the same topics. As a result, I’ve changed my habits in a way that’s far more healthy and sustainable.

The results speak for themselves. I’ve been able to drop most of the weight I gained back without counting calories or any of that nonsense. I eat healthier and better tasting food, and I have no desire to go back to “the old way” of eating and living.

Here’s a look at my weight for the first quarter of 2011.

Jeremy's Weight in Early 2011

The blue line is my weight on any given day (always weighed first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything). The red line is a 5-day moving average, which helps to smooth out the normal 1-2 pound daily variation we all have in our bodies. The full spreadsheet is on-line too if you’d like to see the daily values, average daily loss, or any of that stuff.

I have since stabilized in the 168-172 range. I still weigh myself every morning and haven’t seen a value outside that range in the last 9 months.

So what do I eat now? That’ll be the topic of many future posts, but the short version is that I don’t eat much of any refined foods anymore, few if any carbs (bread, pasta, cake, bagels, etc), and lots of good quality meat, seafood, and vegetables. That includes things I wouldn’t have dreamed of in the past, like raw whole milk (thank you, Organic Pastures) otherwise known as real milk.

Needless to say, 2011 was a period of learning a lot about food and nutrition (both what’s good and what’s bad), along with some experimentation. You can expect to read more about all of that this year right here.

My success last year led Kathleen to make similar changes and eventually resulted in the idea for this blog that’s all about our lifestyle: HowToEatAndLive.

This entry was posted in diet, jeremy by Jeremy Zawodny. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jeremy Zawodny

Jeremy is a software engineer for craigslist and enjoys flying and cooking in his spare time. He lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills (Groveland, California) with his wonderful wife Kathleen and five cats. He also reads far too much about nutrition, food, health, and biology.

27 thoughts on “Learning to Eat Well and Stay Healthy

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  3. Counting calories isn’t non-sense but neither is what things you’re eating. If you’re in a caloric deficit and you don’t eat enough protein, you’re body is going to go after it’s reserves (muscle mass).

    The “real” way to eat what you want while maintaining weight is to get comfortable with going to the gym – lifting weights and cardio. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get jacked like Schwarzenegger (only if you’re lifting “hard”, strict schedule, massive protein intake, etc) but it does mean you can enjoy some carbs every now and then.

    • Clearly moderation is called for. But eating 500 calories of sugar-laden foods will definitely have different effects on your body than eating 500 calories of oven roasted chicken or fish.

  4. The one thing that needs training is the mind.
    If you want to lower your weight, set it as a goal, and keep to your goals.
    Do some punishment if you dont get your goal (lets say 1 day no food at all).
    1 day no food.. isnt that bad and perfectly doable.

    Its only the mind that makes you feel hungry, and as with any emotion you can set that aside, there are many people on this world who wont have food daily its not deadly, its only your food-addiction if you cannt do that.

    So train yourself a strong will again
    reading your blog thats what you seam to fail, your weak.
    And if you cannt stand it that i am saying it just proof me wrong.

    • Long-term it’s hard to maintain discipline if you’re fighting your body’s cravings for sweets and other things. There’s a real bio-chemical basis for that, it’s not “just” about will power.

  5. This sounds fairly similar to me. I went from 237 down to 185 from December 2009 to April 2010 eating a diet of grilled chicken, raw vegetables (broccoli mostly), and beans. I fell out of the habit of eating healthy somewhere in the middle of this year as the lure of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell slowly pulled me back! As of the week before Christmas, I was back to 210. Like you, I guess that’s just about halfway back.

    Anyway, I’m back doing the right things again, and got to 199.4 this morning. But I wanted to say that the item that has helped me the most is an app on my iPhone. Yep, it’s a calorie counter, but I’m not really using it for that. I use it instead as a diary so that I can see what I’ve eaten in a day and what I’ve exercises I’ve done. If I have a bad blood sugar day (I have reactive hypoglycemia), it becomes pretty clear that I brought it upon myself with too many sweets!

    Good luck finding a good path through all the great foods out there!

  6. Hi Jeremy,

    I have lost generous amounts of weight twice in my life. The first time I followed the South Beach diet pretty heavily and managed to loose about 80 pounds in the course of a year. Over the course of 5 years I managed to gain about 50 pounds of that back.

    Last July I started counting calories and lost 25 pounds in 3 months. I am looking for an alternative to strictly counting calories and eagerly await your updates!

    Take care,
    Matt

  7. I’ve found “Eat to Live – by Joel Fuhrman” to be a very inspirational read. One of the most startling facts revealed to me was that the countries with the highest amount of dairy seem to have the highest incidence of hip fractures (e.g. Denmark, USA, etc). I pretty much fell on the floor when I read that. Wow.

    • That’s industrialized and pasteurized dairy. Did you know that the pasteurization process effectively ruins milk so that your body really can’t absorb the calcium effectively?

      Sad but true.

  8. Hi Jeremy,

    Hey! It’s been a while. Congrats on shedding the extra pounds, I understand how great it can feel to reestablish healthy habits.

    I wanted to point out that while maintaining a healthy weight is usually necessary for good health, it is not always sufficient. There are other factors, especially ones that are less visible, that can take years or decades to manifest themselves (usually resulting in heart disease, cancer, etc). Regular exercise is of course very important for a variety of reasons too.

    I wanted to share a couple resources I’ve found really interesting and informative in the past year:

    http://www.forksoverknives.com/ (On Netflix: http://www.netflix.com/Movie/Forks-Over-Knives/70185045 )

    http://www.amazon.com/Healthy-100-Scientifically-Healthiest-Longest-Lived/dp/0345490118/

    Take care,
    -Eric

    • There is a “reduced need” effect but the eating I was doing wasn’t driven by caloric need–it was driven by the addictiveness of the food I was eating. Getting off the processed and high-carb foods made that vanish.

  9. You and Kathleen have done a great job on the first four posts. I didn’t realize you guys had moved, but it sounds wonderful. This mirrors some of our own experiences and intent. We just got back from 12 days at 6000′ and definitely feel better when in the mountains. If we had better Internet options, we’d be tempted to move as well.

    • Thanks, Scott.

      It definitely feels good to be out of the of Bay Are sprawl (but close enough to be able to get back easily when needed). We’re at about 2,800 feet here, which is a really nice middle ground. Not much snow/fog and also somewhat moderated highs in the summer time.

  10. Pingback: Learning to Eat Well and Stay Healthy | How To Eat And Live | health eating

  11. I’ve been studying body fat management for the past 12 years and I’ve incorporated a few simple habits into my day that really have made a huge difference. The first is exclusively drinking water. I don’t drink anything with calories in it. The second is going to bed hungry. I eat big meals in the beginning of my day and lunch. Then I always make sure I eat my last meal 6 hours before I go to bed. I’m not as lean as I’d like to be, but I’m happy where I’m at for the limited effort it takes.

    There’s also a ton of useful tips in The 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferris. That’s an amazing read that I suggest for everyone interested in a more useful body. After all, having a fit body is about more than just looking good, it’s also about the kind of activities it enables you to perform.

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  13. Aren’t you missing out on one of life’s most beautiful offerings: bread? Fruits? I feel like any kind of diet is a compromise, even a paleo diet. And the reality is that a lot of different diets work for various people. Pretty much any evidence of a diet being “good” is anecdotal. In my opinion, living healthy is a combination of eating “right” (like you, I try my best to limit processed foods, although I do eat breads :), and also some amount of exercise.

    • You’re right, any diet is a compromise given the available food options we have nowadays. History will have the last word, of course, but it does seem that the more you can avoid “processed” and man-made stuff, the better off you’ll be.

      I’ve seen first hand what the bread and carbs can do to me. Others will have different tolerances. I don’t remember you particularly having a weight problem, so you’ve probably found a good mix that works for you.

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