Welcome to Almost Fit.
So what’s this all about, anyway? Don’t you mean ExtremeFit or something?
In terms of fitness, Almost Fit describes how I have felt about myself for most of my life. Not quite fit. Just about there. Working on it. Starting over. Gonna’ keep the weight off. This time for sure. Oh well, I guess I’ll give it another try. I can do it, for the millionth time, again…I hate this, but I’m so close this time…
You get the idea. Always seeking and failing to find that magic cure that lets me be the person I envision in my head: Calm, confident, and thin. And as it turns out, I’m not the only one.
However, for the first time in my life I think I may be onto something that has the potential to solve my weight problem for good.
A little story about a town in France – you mighta’ heard of it
I visited Paris, France, briefly several years ago on a whirlwind trip with my wife and our 7-month old son, and I discovered that my brief taste of Parisian culture (romanticized I will admit) resonated with me more than any other culture I have ever experienced. I loved the city. I loved the attitude toward life. I loved the art and architecture. The language. The books. The people. The sense of history. The multiculturalism. The idea of supporting local small businesses that have, in some cases, been there for centuries.
I could go on.
But in particular, I was intrigued by their methods and practices of eating incredibly decadent foods without gaining a pound.
How was this possible?
In putting the bigger picture together, one thing that I later recalled was this: If we were in a crowd or walking on the street, I could instantly spot any other American tourist, like myself. How?
2 things: 1) When they spoke, they were often speaking embarrassingly loudly and slowly (and I might add, somewhat rudely at times), and more importantly, 2) The Americans I saw. . .were. . .well. . .quite large. Not just overweight or a little heavy; this was morbidly obese – and sad to say, like me in that department. It may sound like an unfairly negative stereotype (after all, my wife, an American, does not fit that profile at all), and it is, but after you start paying attention to this idea and seeing it again, and again, and again, often in the wide screen version, with things like I’M HOT plastered and bedazzled on the sitting end of a pair of size 18 womens’ sweatpants, you start to realize how conspicuous our culture of excess can be to the rest of the world.
To me that meant either one of two things: Either only overweight American tourists enjoy Paris (count me in), or our American relationship with foods similar to the ones eaten in Paris has some component that has gone horribly wrong.
That realization made a lot of sense at the time, but really didn’t sink in as much until later. Rather, we were too busy spending every second of our time and energy experiencing this city and its secretive, dare I say seductive cultural ways.
When it came to food while we were in Paris, we had one simple rule: If it smells good, Eat it. This was advice from a well-respected friend of mine who knows Paris better than most non-residents. Before leaving, in addition to giving me his recommendation on accommodations, he gave me those simple, critical culinary instructions. And eat the food we did.
If we walked by a café or pâtisserie from which wafted an aroma of sweet or savory delight, we entered the shop and tasted everything in it until we found the match. I discarded any and all restrictions on low fat or low carb in favor of indulging in dietarily-sinful Parisian delights whenever and wherever the notion danced, drank, drifted, and smoked it’s way into my conscious mind. (Oddly enough, I don’t smoke (and didn’t), but somehow in Paris I didn’t mind the second-hand company so much. Like I said, I can admit it was a totally romanticized view. But I’ll save that for another time.)
I was absolutely sure that upon returning to the U.S. I would have to ask for the seat belt extension for the transcontinental flight. Thankfully, I didn’t.
However, when we got home and I stepped on the scale in a stupor of jet lag and drunk on the newly discovered fascination with this city, I was shocked to see the result: I had not gained a single pound. Not one ounce, in fact. And believe me, I ate whatever appealed to me with a complete disregard for the low-fat, low-carb message that was always sloughing guiltily through my well-worn neural dieting boulevards.
In the face of such positive, non-weight-gaining results, the question rang in my mind: How do they do it? And more importantly, how did I accidentally do it? Do you simply not gain weight in Paris by osmosis, being around the fit residents? Or is the Eiffel Tower the center of some obscure Masonic ritual created by a handful of its more portly and stout members that blocks the effects of dairy fat on the waistline? Or maybe I was just utterly dehydrated from bottles of wine consumed combined with my beloved Café Crème, of which I partook at ever turn?
I started looking around for answers, as I not only wanted to return to Paris as soon as possible, but I wanted to find ways to make this dark weight loss magic continue.
Enter Dr. Will Clower, author of The Fat Fallacy and The French Don’t Diet Plan. He wrote about his extensive first-hand experience in France, and what he learned as a physician about the unsuccessful attempts of people in this country to permanently change their relationships with food for the better. Apparently our relationship with food here in this country is vastly different than the traditional view in France. Something that I must say is obvious once you start paying attention.
After reading The Fat Fallacy several times (I am in the midst of the second book now), I decided to give it a try to see if I could reproduce the results of our trip to Paris. I did for a while, but life rather caught up with me in some unexpected ways, and I lost the habits before I had them ingrained. But when I was on track, it was the easiest method of losing weight I had ever tried, particularly because it was easy on my emotions.
Now, a few years later, and a few pounds heavier (for lack of good habits and a predeliction for emotional eating), I’ve decided to try it again. But this time on my own terms, meaning that I think that weight loss and lifestyle change has to start from your own unique perspective, adding in techniques that you find will work for you in the long run. Not the other way around, which is what almost every pre-packaged failed diet system depends on.
In a nutshell, I think folks like Dr. Clower are on to something, and if I can find techniques that fit my situation based on the principles the French/Mediterranean diets, I think this may be the solution for me. I can’t speak for you, but as for me, this is the most logical (albeit at times counterintuitive) approach that I have come across, or experienced first-hand, and one that I think may finally work for good. And for folks with conditions, history, and circumstances similar to my own, I again say, I do not believe that I am alone.
That’s all nice but…What is AlmostFit really about?
AlmostFit is a space to discuss my efforts to figure out how to lose weight and improve my health using a slow, holistic approach. Holistic meaning, simply, Whole. I’ve tried dozens of less-than-whole approaches, like extreme dieting, outrageous exercise (given my physical state at the time), and the, “I give up – I am who I am” tack. And like many folks these days, I’ve reached the conclusion that those approaches simply do not work for me. When I’m in those headspaces I’m neither healthy nor truly happy, and even if they work for a while, the results don’t last very long.
It’s important to draw a distinction between what I am and am not.
I am Not:
- A nutritionist
- A professional diet counselor
- A trainer or athletic coach
- President of the United States, or any other state (unified or not).
- An average guy who’s weight is driving him crazy, and has done so for most of his life
- A card-carrying member of the TV, Coca Cola (second only to Dr. Pepper), and fast food generation
- A food lover, bordering on the “foodie” stigma, thanks to my wife’s cooking and mutual love of food
- In my mid-thirties with two children, and at my heaviest weight ever
- In my mid-thirties, at my heaviest weight ever, and tired of it. The whole thing. From carrying several extra useless sandbags-worth of weight every day (I don’t think the near-term global forecast is pointing toward temperatures dropping dramatically, where I’d need this extra layer of fat for warmth) to trying things that work, but don’t last. I am tired of being out of breath when I take a flight of stairs. I am tired of being hot when I should be comfortable. I am tired of being uncomfortable with how I look in horizontal stripes or clothes with any color other than brown or black. I’m tired of being in mild degrees of pain when I crawl around pretending to be an elephant with my kids (oh don’t think for a second I don’t see the irony there). In other words, I am ready for a change.
Please keep in mind that the ideas on this site are based solely on my experience, and may not be right for you. Before you try any of this, talk to your doctor, do your own research, do whatever it is you need to do to determine your own path, and take your time to decide. One of the fundamental principles of this project is that nothing should be done in a big hurry, as if these changes are an overnight cure.
Be reasonable. If you’re just off of a breathing machine, a six-mile run at 4AM tomorrow is probably not for you. In other words, your mileage with these ideas may vary greatly, so take them for what they’re worth. I didn’t receive any gold tablets in the desert, or a flash of brilliant light that said, “Go Forth,” or discover some root in the rapidly disappearing rain forest that cures anything; I’ve just tried a lot of different approaches, and I think I finally may be on to something that works.
Here’s a list the ideas and principles that Almost Fit will discuss:
- Dieting does not work. It is a multi-billion dollar industry that is killing us, not saving us.
- Low Fat as a dietary approach does not work (when it is achieved through artificial means, among other things), and ultimately at this point I believe is not even a healthy choice.
- Exercise should not be a punishment for bad behavior.
- I am of the work smart, not hard, philosophy. Well, sort of. I definitely believe in hard work, but I believe that working to lose and maintain weight should NOT be terribly hard work. I want to work smart to solve that problem. If you’re working too hard at it (meaning hard enough that you can’t wait until you get it over with so you can Stop), you’re not doing it right.
- Weight loss and health maintenance is a lifelong process, which means outrageous adjustments are not the key. I have gained and lost hundreds of pounds doing this and I am here to tell ya – being in a hurry doesn’t work in the long run.
- We live in a culture of excess in this country. That doesn’t mean we have to buy into it, although its certainly easier said than done.
- Speed is killing us, especially in how we eat. One of my favorite quotes lately is from Ghandi. Among many brilliant things, Ghandi said, “there is more to life than increasing its speed.” The thrill-seeking speed with which we eat, work, and play, is bordering on psychotic, and counter-intuitively is making us fat.
- Moderation, in all things.
I wish I could say that I am the former quarterback who was the star of the team while I was in the greatest shape of my life – but I can’t. That wasn’t me, and it isn’t me. I have run a 13.2 mile race, I’ve traveled a fair bit so far, and I have reasonably good eating habits thanks to my wife. However, I have been fighting this battle with my physical condition, my habits and attitudes, and my emotions surrounding food since the dawn of time, with no clear idea of what would be the next failed attempt to fit into the mental vision of myself that I hold close to the vest.
But this time, I think it just might work. I’m going to give it my best shot, and hopefully this time, it sticks. In fact, in the immortal words of Mr. Burns from my TV generation:
Mr. Burns: Do my worst, eh? Smithers, release the robotic Richard Simmons.
Smithers: Right away, Mr. Burns sir.