So, I’m…uh…starting a diet.

You know, after just having published a post trashing the “diet industry” I can understand that WTF look on your face.  Didn’t I just rant about how they’re all a bunch of liars and stuff?  Yep, I did.  And so now I’m saying I’m starting a diet?  Yep, I am.  Much of the frustration in the post about the diet industry came to a head when evaluating this program.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big guy.  And the fact is that I’ve been very lucky as a big guy.  I’m not diabetic (although I am pre-diabetic at this time – readings have been stable for 5 years), my cholesterol is pretty normal, and generally I don’t really yet have any of the life-threatening complications of obesity.  I do have knee pain however which is impacting my daily life.
The motivation behind starting this program is twofold: one is I would like to be more mobile and active.  I want to do more fun things.  Secondly I am deathly afraid of diabetes.  I’ve seen too many stories about people needing dialysis or having limbs amputated.  That stuff scares me to death.  I really want to avoid that.  And studies have shown that diet and exercise is VERY good at keeping “pre-diabetes” from becoming diabetes.

The program I am starting is the HMR Weight Management Program.    HMR is a national company but the local program (which I’ve linked to) is run by/affiliated with the health group that I go to, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation
I chose this program for a few reasons.  Firstly, I like the fact that it’s closely aligned with PAMF.  While the “HMR” company does make money off of the stuff I buy the fact is that PAMF itself doesn’t.  The profit motive here just didn’t feel that high.  I didn’t feel pressured. 
Secondly, the program I am doing is medically supervised.  I will see a nurse every week and will be seeing a doctor once a month.  Blood work is done every two weeks.  They keep a very close eye on your health during this program.  And since PAMF/Sutter has a pretty good computer system it means that they have access to all the data and results from my PAMF primary care doctor and my PAMF doc will get to see the data/lab results they collect in the HMR program.  I like that sort of integration.  It will help them “realize exigent synergies”. *snicker* 
The program is a “VLCD”, or Very Low Calorie Diet.  They have 3 basic levels of the program: weekly doctor visits, monthly doctor visits, or no doctor visits.  The amount of supervision also ties in to how many calories you get.  The good news is that I’m healthy enough to only need monthly doctor visits.  (This saves money.)  And although I only see a doctor monthly I do see an RN every week to get my vitals checked and to discuss how things are going from a medical perspective.  But I am still doing a level that requires medical supervision because I want it to be rapid and effective.  The program gives you a “minimum prescription”, and on the monthly supervision plan that is 800 calories a day.  Yeah, that’s pretty damn low.  (800 calories is the point between a Low Calorie Diet and a Very Low Calorie Diet.)  Every dietician I ever talked to said I shouldn’t go that low.  But the idea here is that it can be safe when you’re being closely monitored.  That’s why the program is medically supervised. 
Also, HMR has a slogan: “More is better”.  If you’re hungry you’re supposed to have another shake.  So the 800 calories is truly a minimum – it will probably not be actually what I take in.  I will be curious to see what my actual intake is.  I may not end up on a VLCD at all, at least not technically.
The shakes come with vitamin pills in the box, not something you have to buy separately.  (That was one of the things that made me feel nice – they don’t make you buy any “extras” – it’s all built in.)  Also I have been prescribed ursodiol to avoid the formation of gallstones.  Apparently before they started prescribing this drug to their patients they say about 1/3rd of them getting gallstones.  With this drug they saw that drop to 4%.  
I won’t say that I’m not concerned.  Dig some of the possible side effects:
    • Constipation/Diarrhea
    • Dizziness
    • Fatigue
    • Cold intolerance
    • Temporary hair thinning
    • Gastrointestinal distress if you go off plan
    • Leg cramps
    • Gallstones (see above)
Holy crap.  I’ve never had a diet list side effects like that before.  It seems a bit scary.  Part of that may be why I’m doing it – if it’s this intense then it had better work.  
They also include exercise in the program.  They want everyone to start with walking – hopefully they’ll listen to my Ortho doc and be sane about it.  I’ve worked myself out to the point of having to spend days off of my feet before.  I don’t intend to do it again.  I will be very careful about exercise until I start to see some real progress (and hopefully less knee pain).  
The good news is that I at least bought a new toy for the diet.  (Anyone who knows me knows I love a good excuse to get a toy.)  I got myself a Blendtec blender.  Yep, from the “Will It Blend” folks.  I am now prepared to mix the hell out of those shakes, yo.  (And keep quiet all you VitaMix nazis. They’re both fine blenders.)
I will also continue to use DailyBurn to track both my diet and exercise.  (Interested folks can see my public profile there.)  I will also be tracking my weight there.  I won’t be using their weigh-ins since they are done with clothes on and such.  I also plan on getting a Withings scale once I’ve lost a bit so that I can get my weigh-ins automagically uploaded to DailyBurn.  
I have high hopes for this program.  It is “decision free”.  None of the food I eat will be from a store, so I’m hoping that by taking shopping and other decisions out of the equation for a while I will be able to get a handle on things.  I know that these types of rapid diets have a tendency to also involve rapid regain, so I know I’m signing up for a “lifestyle change” here. But my hope is that the positive results will reenforce the lifestyle changes.  Wish me luck!

I wish the “diet industry” would just die.

Let’s say that you want to lose weight.  You might have health concerns, you might just want to look better – there are many reasons to want to drop some pounds.  But if you’re looking for a way to get your weight under control and you try to approach this rationally, what should you do?  You’re going to end up running into John’s First Law of Dieting.

John’s First Law of Dieting:  ALL DIETS ARE ABOUT YOU BUYING CRAP.  Often it’s a book – they all want to sell you books.  Lots and lots of books.  Weight Watchers, one of the more reasonably priced diet plans out there, tries to sell you food scales and points books. When they change their points formula you know what that means: BUY NEW CRAP.  (Disclaimer: My mom was dragging me to WW meetings when I was 12 or so.  Not happy memories.)  Jenny Craig/Nutrisystem: BUY OUR FOOD (and other crap).  They are always trying to sell you something.  Never forget this.  This is perhaps the source of my biggest grip about diet stuff.   

The fact that the “diet industry” wants to part me from my money, and often does so in ways that I feel are less than honest, automatically sets my teeth on edge when someone comes along hawking a way that’s guaranteed to shed pounds. The second thing that works against me is that I really really really hate pesudo-science, especially when used to sell something, even if it’s just an idea.  My BS sensors are *very* sensitive.

So let’s say you’re trying to figure out how you should eat.  Let’s say you want stuff that is backed by sound science, and hopefully the science is further backed up by published un-biased data that at least partially proves the science.  What do you find?  These days you’ll basically find two camps:
On the one hand, we’ve got the “thermodynamics” folks.  This are the folks that go by the (traditional) view that if calories in are more than calories out you gain weight.  It’s a pretty simple idea and it’s rather intuitive.  Of course it also says that if you’re fat then you’re just a lazy slob and why don’t you go work out fattie.  (I may be exaggerating, but not much.  News flash: a lot of people are mean to fat folks.  Including their parents.)  They don’t really care *where* a calorie comes from they just care how many you take in.  And because, as most folks know, fat has more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein these folks usually end up pushing a low-fat high-carb diet.  They will also point at data regarding the link between fat intake and heart disease.  This advice is the “standard” advice – it’s what you’ll hear from nutritionists, your doctor, etc.  
Then there are some folks who are saying it’s not how much you it it’s what you eat that causes the problem. They’ve also got a simple idea: insulin makes you fat.  Carbs make your insulin spike, which takes the blood sugar and then turns it in to fat.  As long as you keep your insulin levels low then the actual number of calories doesn’t matter – your body doesn’t metabolize it.  Then tend to push a high-protein/high fat diet.  These guys are already somewhat in a corner because they seem to think that the advice of the majority of medical folks is wrong, for whatever reason.  
What’s a respectable geek supposed to do when given people pushing two opposites? Even the New York Times has commented on how these two sides are diametrically opposed.  You’ve got the head of Weight Watchers giving away fruit baskets as gifts (isn’t fruit supposed to be healthy?) and you’ve got another guy saying that the apple in your hand is “just another serving of fructose”, and fructose is the type of sugar that your body converts to fat the easiest. Thus that apple is bad for you.  
Let’s take a specific example.  I have some friends who are way into CrossFit.  (On the one hand those guys scare me – I haven’t seen an exercise program described as a “cult” before.  On the other hand one of these friends got hit by two cars while on a motorcycle and his survival was credited, in part, to his conditioning.) The CrossFit guys tend to start advocating the Paleo Diet – it’s very popular with the CrossFit crowd.  One of my friends in particular has been discussing it with me.
In general I don’t see anything terribly new presented with the Paleo diet.  It’s basically a more restrictive form of the standard low-carb fare.  But I can’t help but agree with this guy:
“I have no opinion on the actual recommendations of the fans of paleolithic culture. Maybe we would be better off eating more meat or having random bursts of intense exercise; I have no idea. However, I object to the pseudo-scientific rhetoric used to support the recommendations. I also object to the implicit assumption that it would necessarily be good to emulate the lives of paleolithic humans even if we did know how they lived.”

That’s pretty much sums it up.  It *might* work.  But even if it does work I don’t think it works for the reasons they say.  The whole “caveman” part of it just pings the BS meter way too high.  It’s just annoying.  Give me hard data about the plan working and actual science as for why and I might start to be interested.  
However when you ask for hard data you find out an awful truth: there isn’t a lot of completely unbiased research out there about diet.  A lot of it is funded by folks with something to prove (and money to make off of what they’re proving). For example on the website for the “official” Paleo Diet book there is a published research section – and from what it looks like the author of the book is one of the investigators on all of the published research listed.  That seems kinda bogus to me.  
I don’t want imply that I specifically hate the Paleo diet or whatever – it just happens that since I’ve had someone evangelizing it to me I’ve been researching it and debating it with him.  And he’s got a lot of anecdotal reports of people that it is working for.  However anecdotal reports are just that…anecdotal. But this criticism can apply to many diets – just take a look at all the pro- and anti-Atkins data out there. One study will say it’s the best diet ever.  Another will say it’s crap.
This all ends up providing nothing but frustration.  I am VERY reluctant to trust someone when it comes to weight loss.  I’ve tried too many things and had them fail to believe folks at this point.  I’ve spent a lot of money.  It just angers me a lot because I see my health being toyed with to make someone money
.  I see my fellow fat folks being put on reality shows for the amusement of America.  (Given a chance I would love to do cardio boxing with Jillian Michaels so that I could “accidentally” punch her in the face a few times.)  I’m an angry fat man that’s tired of being lied to.
Oh, by the way, there’s a third camp.  Bariatric surgeons will tell you, to your face, that the only long term proven solution for weight loss is bariatric surgery.  The only thing that will fix you is chopping your guts up.  I’m not saying that it doesn’t work for some, but the way it’s currently being marketed is worse than anything I’ve ranted about here.  But since I’ve dismissed it as an option I’m not really focusing on it.  I told my doctor I’d rather die fat than spend the rest of my life worrying about malnutrition.   

Getting my hamsexy on.

Back in April of 2010 or so I began to develop an interest in one of the geekiest of geek hobbies – amateur radio.  I went out and got some books and did some studying and took a couple of tests and got an amateur radio license.    

My first radio was the Yaesu VX-8DR.  

It’s fairly small, rugged, waterproof, and does APRS. It looks military.  It makes me feel cool.  I R taktikul.  Yeah.
Shorly after that I was going to local club meetings and I won a Yaesu FT-1900R.  That was pretty cool to win.  It may be very basic but it *is* a 55W 2M rig – and most of the stuff around here is on 2M.  Yay me.
Of course it didn’t stop there.  It never does.  
Next I decided I needed an HF right.  And when Metaweb got bought by Google I took *some* of the money and decided to buy toys.  (The rest was used Responsibly.)  So I bought myself an ICOM IC-7000.
Perhaps the most functional and certainly the most bling mobile HF rig out there.  It has a color screen!  I pair that up with a Buddipole and I can go operate from a lot of places.
Of course it hasn’t really stopped there.  I wanted a better mobile/APRS rig for the car, and I so also got myself a Kenwood TM-D710A.

It’s basically the super-duper 2M/70cm rig.  It will do all of the APRS functions that my Yaesu does, plus it lets me use the built-in TNC for packet radio if I want to.  
Dammit, I need cheaper hobbies….