|Taken on December 17, 2007.
As you can clearly see,
I was filling those pants.
|Taken on June 26, 2010,
after losing 55 lbs and going
from a 42" to a 36" waist.
As a quick introduction, my name is John Eggers. I am a senior lecturer in the Department of Mathematics of the University of California at San Diego. What follows is, of course, my own personal story and bears no resemblance to any official position of the University, nor has it even been reviewed by the University. But you already knew that.
As you can see from the above photographs, I've undergone a remarkable transformation. (Yes, that's the same pair of pants.) Not only have I dropped 55 pounds, but my health has turned around and the weight is staying off effortlessly. What's really interesting is that I never had to starve myself. (OK, I've recently been fasting fairly regularly, but that's not the same as starving myself.) My experience has fundamentally changed how I think about food and nutrition.
I had always been trim and healthy, until I reached my forties. Through graduate school (1989-1995), I was a lean 190 pounds, give or take 5 pounds, but somewhere along the line, my weight started creeping upward. Finally, in 2003, I weighed in at over 240 pounds and, to make matters worse, I was diagnosed as glucose intolerant with a fasting serum glucose of 121 mg/dL and was sent home from the doctor's office with an invitation to get in touch with Project Dulce. Like any middle-aged man in denial, I ignored the advice, but inwardly I was scared. My father had his first heart attack at age 60 and suffered congestive heart failure for the remaining 13 years of his life. One of my dad's sisters had type 2 diabetes so severe that she had to take insulin, and passed away before my dad, despite being younger. And here I was at 43, so obese that I couldn't bend over to tie my shoes and breathe at the same time, and finding myself getting more tired and irritable with each passing day while wondering when I would have my first heart attack. I felt like I was staring down the barrel of a gun and didn't know whether I would live to see my daughter graduate from college, or even high school, for that matter.
Then, in January of 2008, my sister told me that she was at a weight she hadn't seen since high school and that she had more energy than she'd had in years, and that she was sending me a book. The book she sent me was Dana Carpender's How I Gave Up My Low-Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds. In typical elder brother fashion, I looked at it and thought to myself, "Oh great. Another fad diet book," and I set it at the side of my bed for four months. Finally, late one evening in May 2008, I picked it up and started reading it. It started out with the story of William Banting, author of Letter on Corpulence. The basic message was that it was sugar and starch in the diet (refined carbohydrates) that were the problem, and if one cut those out of one's diet, one could lose excess weight. The idea made an impression on me. "I could at least try that," I thought. So, as an experiment, I cut out anything sweet or starchy in my diet, and ate freely of high-fat (but low-carbohydrate) foods such as, bacon and eggs, steak, and cheeseburgers without the bun.
The effect of restricting carbohydrates in my diet was immediate and dramatic. I lost 15 pounds in the first two weeks and about 2 pounds per week for another six weeks, until I'd lost 30 pounds in just two months, while eating as much as I wanted of foods high in fat, including saturated animal fat; in other words, exactly the foods I'd been told not to eat. Yet, I felt better than I'd felt in years. Not only that, my serum triglycerides fell from 132 mg/dL to 62 mg/dL, my HDL cholesterol went up from 40 mg/dL to 60 mg/dL and my fasting serum glucose was a rock solid 95 mg/dL with an HbA1C of 4.8 and my blood pressure read normal at 120/70 in a doctor's office for the first time I could even remember. Moreover, my gums stopped bleeding whenever I flossed and my developing hemorrhoids dried up and disappeared. I was simply astounded. Clearly, there was a fundamental flaw in the dietary advice I'd been given for the first forty years of my life.
While I was experiencing this, my sister pointed me to a 2002 article in the New York Times by Gary Taubes entitled What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?. I quickly found out that Gary Taubes had recently (November 2007) published a monumental book on dietary science ("dietary non-science" is probably a better description), called Good Calories, Bad Calories. "Monumental" is an appropriate adjective: the book is well over 600 pages long with just the notes and bibliography sections totaling 112 pages. Everything is documented with references to original research going back 150 years, and the conclusion is astounding: What we've been told about nutrition by respected organizations such as The American Heart Association, The American Diabetes Association and others has been largely, if not mostly, wrong. Anyone who doubts this subversive statement should read the work of Gary Taubes, either Good Calories, Bad Calories or his more recent book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It. My faith in the dietary establishment, and the medical establishment in general, has been permanently weakened. I no longer accept medical advice, especially nutritional advice, without first checking it out and I've gotten better care as a result.
If you've read this far, you probably noticed that I said I lost 30 pounds in two months, but in the caption of the "after" picture, I claim to have lost 55 pounds. How did I lose the next 25 pounds? I started practicing intermittent fasting in January 2010. I often fast between 48 and 72 hours, and it actually feels good now that I'm no longer on the blood sugar roller coaster ride. My total cholesterol dropped over 30 mg/dL (from 193 mg/dL to 161 mg/dL) after I started fasting regularly. Moreover, my C-reactive protein is exceptionally low at 0.2 mg/dL which, according to my cardiologist, puts me at the low end of the lowest risk group for heart disease.
Would I give up soft drinks, ice cream, candy bars, bread, and pasta in order to enjoy abundant health? You know the answer: I already have, and I'm never going back. If it tastes sweet or starchy, I don't need it. The good news is that it hasn't felt like I had to give up anything. After all, I can eat as much as I want of real unprocessed food, without bothering to keep track of calories. Foods like eggs, bacon, butter, steak, chicken (with the skin!), and even organ meats (like lamb hearts stuffed with pork sausage) are on the menu. Green leafy vegetables, salads (with real blue cheese!), fruit in moderation, and even cauliflower fauxtatoes are also on the menu. Finally, when I realized that dark chocolate with at least 85% cocoa (Lindt, for example) was on the menu, I became convinced I wasn't missing anything. Even a chocoholic could do this! I'm never going back: There's no reason to and every reason not to.