Diets and Dieting
Dieting Adventures and Misadventures
By Richard “Zippy” Grigonis — October 30, 2010
When I was young, everyone thought I was too thin. My parents would heap food on my plate, but then they also did that with everybody who came to visit us for dinner. Maybe they thought people were shy about helping themselves to large portions, or perhaps there was a darker psychological mechanism at work, the thinly-veiled desire of fat people to see everyone in the world at least as rotund as they are. Whatever.
our own Zippy grigonis didn't have so much ”zip” when he weighed 232 lbs., as seen here in 2008 feeding a young camel at tennessee's knoxville zoo. unlike zippy, this camel is a dainty eater.
(Photo © richard grigonis.)
In any case, there was no way that I could have ever been too heavy in those days. That’s because, back in the 1970s, as a sophomore in college, I was stricken with Crohn ’s disease (an inflammatory bowel disease). I weighed about 128 pounds during the four years that I had it. Finally, in 1979, after two weeks on a nearly liquid diet in the hospital, I underwent a four-hour operation and had a foot of my intestine removed. A week after surgery I got on a scale in the hospital and found I now weighed 98 pounds—the original 98 pound weakling.
However, amazingly, the disease never returned and I began to gain between six and eight pounds a year. In the mid 1980s, when I reached 165 pounds in weight, my gastroenterologist at the time said to me, “You know Richard, I don’t want to be hurtfully blunt, but you don’t have to force yourself to eat anymore!”
My gastroenterologist was a character. He had diabetes and was on dialysis because of it, but he had a particular weakness for candy bars. Indeed, he used to pause during the day to eat at least one. As a diabetic, how did he manage that, you ask? Well, he would figure out how much sugar was in the candy and then inject himself with a “carefully measured dose” of insulin. It was an interesting concept, but supremely reckless. Not surprisingly, he died of heart failure in the late 1980s.
In any case, my weight gain continued unabated, accelerated by the fact that, around the age of 35 or so, one’s metabolism slows down but the all-controlling appetite remains at its previous youthful “grow up to be big and strong” levels.
So it came to be in the first decade of the 21st century that I found myself, at 5-feet, 6.5 inches in height (1.689 meter), weighing 232 pounds (about 105 kilograms). It’s almost shocking for Yours Truly to now gaze upon photos of my visits to places such as Gatorland, the Florida tourist attraction. One popular “photo op” is to sit on an American Alligator in a faux gator wresting pose. With me sitting on the gator, however, that poor creature wasn’t about to go anywhere. Fortunately, his mouth was taped shut so there was no possibility that I would become part of his weight problem.
Interestingly, my weight gain accelerated further because of the Internet. Instead of commuting to New York City and back every day, I could sit in my home office and work there using my PC and a broadband connection. Thus, the time allotted for both traveling and exercise shrank to a minimum. I was starting to feel uncomfortable: Both of my knees had received injuries over the years, and they hurt a bit whenever I walked any appreciable distance, which increasingly wasn’t very often. I had to do something.
Having a high triglyceride level, I couldn’t really indulge in a full-blown Atkins-style diet—of lots of meat and few carbohydrates, or prepare a lot of fresh food either, since I didn’t have the time. Moreover, since I don’t drive, I don’t make frequent trips to major grocery stores. I was lazy, buying most of my canned, packaged and frozen foods at nearby convenience stores and even a drug store. I tried doing some exercise and some conscious attempts at restricting my caloric intake, but after nearly a year I hadn't even lost 10 pounds. To be precise, I was 225 pounds—not a whole lot of progress, to be sure.
And then a friend of mine, who has successfully lost 80 pounds, and can gain and lose weight pretty much at will, offered to help me. He said, “I’ve studied your particular situation, and I have a plan. But once you have accepted my offer, you must continue to do as I say until you reach your target weight. How about it?”
I agreed. And then I regretted it, at least at first. But it worked.
The first thing I had to do, interestingly enough, was to change my sleep pattern. As it turns out, you can actually lose some weight by getting a full night’s sleep.
The next thing was that I began to exercise at certain times each day (and times not of my choosing either) for specific intervals. I was allowed to choose what time of exercise to which I would subject myself. I chose walking, and was compelled to purchase a fine pair of walking/running shoes. At one point I was prodded into walking 14 miles a day. Later it settled down to about 4 miles a day.
Exercise in itself is good, but in terms of significant weight loss, it can’t beat controlling your actual intake of what really makes you overweight—food!
Because I was deemed calorie and nutritionally “challenged” (that is, an idiot when it came to calculating and regulating my food intake), I was compelled to subscribe to one of the Nutrisystem plans. I selected the Silver Plan, which is specially formulated for people of my age. Nutrisystem is great for somebody who doesn’t get to the store that often (though you do have to visit a store occasionally for some “fill-ins”) and doesn’t want to put a lot of “brain work” into their diet.
The Nutrisystem diet is based on color-coded packages. You pick a blue one for breakfast, a green one for lunch, and magenta one for a snack or dessert, and a red one for dinner. (As I said previously there are also some minor grocery fill-ins you should buy.) It’s great for people who don’t drive a car, since you get a big box delivered to you containing a month’s supply of packets.
My “diet coach” forbade anybody I knew from taking me anywhere I might be tempted to eat, such as restaurants or what-not. The nearest convenience store was over two miles away, so I actually had to burn quite a few calories just to buy the occasional grocer fill-in for the diet, such as whole wheat bread or low-fat milk.
The one thing that I gave up that I thought would drive me up the wall, but didn’t, ironically, was Pepsi-Cola. I had been practically addicted to it for a little over 30 years, ingesting about 100 ounces a day—a six pack of 16-ounce bottles in the good old days, when such convenient, hand-sized glass bottles were common.
I became a Pepsi drinker while in college (all of my friends and roommates drank it). Prior to college I was a Coke drinker. Which gives me the opportunity to regale the reader with one of my anecdotal digressions.
When I was a kid in the 1960s visiting New York City, I needed a bottle of Coke badly. I was standing at a Coke machine, intrigued by its simple mechanical functionality and “streamlined” appearance. Next to the device was a cigarette machine (as was often the case in those days). I was fumbling with my change, saying, "Man, I need a Coke." A fellow next to me at the other machine was saying, almost in sync, “God, I need a cigarette.” I turned and saw... Oscar Levant, visiting NYC from LA. As I recall, I think he was visiting ASCAP and/or doing some TV interview in New York. I knew who he was, because NBC (I think) had just broadcast the 1945 movie Rhapsody in Blue, with Robert Alda Sr. (Alan Alda’s father) playing the role of Gershwin and Oscar Levant playing the role of... Oscar Levant. We had a short conversation about symphonic jazz and why I should keep practicing the piano—he even used the old joke on me, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!” (After seven years of lessons, I gave it up). He was more affected by my not asking him for an autograph than in my nine-year-old's knowledge of Gershwin. Still, I like to think that my sense of humor is amalgam of him, Orson Bean, Jonathan Winters, Dick Shawn and Evelyn Waugh, with a dash of Don Rickles (some might say too big a dash).
In any case, after four months of my Nutrisystem-and-exercise regimen, I’m now 162 pounds (73.4 kilograms)—a loss of 70 pounds—and am on my way to achieve my goal of weighing 150 pounds (68 kilograms).
Zippy now jumping for joy at his new weight of 162 pounds, thanks to a combination of exercise and the nutrisystem dieting program.
(Photo © richard grigonis.)
Normally I lose about 2.5 to 3.5 pounds a week. When I once lost a whole pound in a day, I grew concerned. Could I somehow be losing weight too quickly? Was I ill? My diet coach reassured me that I should have been more concerned over the weight I had gained rather than the weight I was losing. He was right.
Yes, I’m not ashamed to admit it—I have become a walking, talking, Nutrisystem commercial! (I can personally say it works.)
Keep in mind, however, that the biggest problem with this or any diet is the discipline necessary to control one’s appetite. You’ll find yourself drinking water—gallons of water—in an effort to stifle your appetite. You’ll try to reason that “one little munchie won’t matter” when in fact every single crumb matters. It’s simple arithmetic: food calorie addition and body metabolism/exercise subtraction.
Ingest fewer calories than you burn, and you will lose weight. Period. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the ability to endure that straightforward, fundamental undertaking. They lack the willpower. That’s why “diet failure” is so common. People would rather spend money on strange pills, devices and other “gimmicks” rather than attack the problem logically and realistically.
What’s interesting is that some people actually do manage to lose five, ten or more pounds, but once they achieve a new slimmer figure and garner some compliments from their friends, they “relax,” let their guard down, and gain the weight back even more rapidly than they did the first time! Such people cannot make the transition from the rigorous world of dieting to the semi-rigorous world of eating and exercising sensibly, an enviable situation where one is able to literally fine-tune one’s weight to whatever figure he or she desires.
It is possible. I know. And deep down inside, I think you also know that it can be done. Give it a whirl.