Sunday, February 04, 2007
Magic Feather Year One: The Bony Ass Index
Today marks the one year anniversary of my most recent attempt to do something about my weight. On February 4th, 2006 I stepped on the scale and I weighed 304 lbs. That was down about 30 lbs from my all time heaviest (about 335) but still quite an unhealthy weight. At about 6'4" 304 lbs. gives me a Body Mass Index of about 37 which is well into the "Obese" range which starts at a BMI of 30.
I have a large frame and I tend to carry weight well and even at my fattest I didn't tend to strike people so much as a fat man as a big one. But vanity is one thing and health is quite another. Carrying that much weight is not healthy, no matter how stylishly one may carry it, and as I approached middle age I was looking at some real and growing health risks. A little bit more than a year ago, my doctor told me it was time to lose some weight.
While clicking around in a website where I order vitamins online I came across an article that suggested that a particluar fiber supplement might help with weight control. (I'm not sure which article it was, it might have been an earlier revision of this article on obesity from DrMurray.com.) Doing a bit more research I also found this article from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition on using viscous fiber to control Type 2 Diabetes. The JACN article was a twofer: in addition to a study on viscould dietary fiber it also reported some success in using ginseng to control blood sugar. Since Diabetes is one of the things my doctor had told me I could look forward to if I didn't control my weight I decided to add some ginseng to my experiment.
Starting on February 4th of last year I have taken a handfull of pills before each meal with at least ten ounces of water. I have used the supplements to support a fairly traditional weight-reduction diet relying on caloric reduction and moderately low-fat food. Most (perhaps all) of the weight loss is can be attributed to the diet, not the pills, but the pills do keep me from getting hungry between meals and they may help somewhat with fat loss. My handful of pills consists of the following: For breakfast, two capsules (1000mg) of PGX fiber (SlimFast or Welbetx) and one tablet (200mg) of Calcium Citrate; for lunch and dinner, three capsules (1500mg) of PGX, two capsules (1300mg) of Korean (Panax) Ginseng and one tablet (200mg) of Calcium Citrate. I also go to the gym three times a week and try to work fairly hard for an hour and a half each time I go.
Five months into the diet and exercise program, when it seemed clear that it was working unusually well (compared to my dozens of previous failed attempts to reduce my tonnage) I wrote a piece about the diet in The Teleoscope. The Magic Feather Diet reads a bit like a telemarketing spiel -- I was quite excited to finally find something that worked -- but it contains good information, I think, for people looking to lose weight.
Here are the results. I weigh twice a month, usually on the 1st and 15th of the month. Here are the results as a graph of my weight over the last year. I lost weight at a moderate but fairly constant rate of between one and a half to two pounds a week and finally leveled off at just under 235 lbs.
Interestingly, when I reached the vicinity of my target weight I didn't do anything different to level off. I still take the pills and still eat more or less the same food in the same amounts as when I was losing but my weight seems to have stabilized once most of my body fat was gone. If you look at the graph it's a fairly sharp corner. On the other hand it did coincide with the holiday food season...
So, one year in I am declaring victory. I plan to go on taking the pills and eating the same food until I find some reason to stop. I eat what I like, only smaller portions than before, and the pills are neither unhealthy nor expensive. Why mess with success?
If you go back to the Body Mass Index Calculator and put in my current weight, 233 at 6'4", it will tell you that while I am no longer "obese" I am still "overweight". The accompanying text will also tell you that the BMI is only an approximation and that for a more accurate assessment you should evaluate your weight based on your percent body fat. I am a good example of why. The BMI calculation says I should weigh no more than 204 lbs to be in the "normal" weight range but at 233 lbs I am thin enough and I have developed my own personal index -- the Bony Ass index -- which indicates that I am perfect right where I am now.