My Eating Disorder

This is a subject I’ve only touched on before, but never fully talked about. I feel that it’s time.

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Me eating a snack in 2013.

It’s hard for people to hear, but many of us who struggle with weight are suffering from eating disorders. Most people think that the only eating disorders are anorexia or bulimia and fail to recognize the other eating disorders that exist that cause people to gain weight. Binge Eating Disorder is most likely what I had. Here is an official definition:

Some people who overeat have a clinical disorder called binge eating disorder (BED). People with BED compulsively eat large amounts of food in a short amount of time and feel guilt or shame afterward. And they do so often: at least once a week over a period of at least 3 months. Not everyone who overeats is a binger.

I was never diagnosed with it, but as I read about it, it describes the way I often ate. I’ve said before on my blog that I enjoyed eating large quantities of food. The eating of these large amounts of food in a short period of time actually brought me a sense of joy, and when I look back at it, I did feel a sense of guilt about it. I just ate, ate, and ate. The more I ate, the happier I felt. Then, I would look at myself in the mirror and see the result: a morbidly obese former active duty Marine who looked nothing like himself anymore

I am fortunate that I didn’t get heavier than I was, or that I didn’t die from this eating disorder. I am fortunate that I was able to adopt a diet that allows me to stay sated by eating healthy, natural, and delicious foods. I am fortunate that I have a wife who supports me in this, and friends who are accommodating and understanding of my dietary needs.

I don’t use BED as a crutch. If anything, I use it as a target to ensure I never go back to that life again. I do find myself wanting to eat a lot of any food I really enjoy which is why portion control is so important for me. I don’t consider myself a victim. I’m just a guy who used to eat too much, has the propensity towards overeating and who has to keep the volume of food eaten under control at all times. Fortunately, I feel like I’m winning the battle.

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Me this morning in 2017, literally as I typed this blog entry.

Not everyone who is obese like I was has BED. Not everyone is a binge eater. But if you are, or if you were, know that you’re not alone, and that you can conquer it. It takes work and daily vigilance, but it can be overcome.

In NYC

I’m in New York City with my wife visiting my daughter for her birthday and for Christmas, and that means eating foods that are non-Paleo to experience the culture and culinary delights that only NYC can afford: deep dish pizza, New York cheesecake, and Pink’s and Grays Papaya hot dogs! I’m sure there will be others, as well, but those are what we’re starting with.

When my wife and I travel, we do our best to stay Paleo, but we allow ourselves to enjoy the local cuisine and specialties, even if they’re not Paleo. We strive to mitigate the damage as much as we can by eating bacon and eggs for breakfast or eating smaller portions of the non-Paleo foods, and it does help to minimize the weight gain. There’s also the fact that my stomach has shrunk a lot since I was at my heaviest, so I can become satisfied with much smaller portions than I was able to be before I lost all the weight.

Will I gain some weight during this trip? Certainly. Will I have to do some strict Paleo eating when I get back home to lose it? For sure. Will I enjoy everything while I can in NYC and deal with the consequences when I get back? Absolutely. And I won’t regret a thing.

My Eating Habits

I am known as the PaleoMarine, and yes, I have adopted and adhere to the Paleo Diet. I have done three Whole30’s, and I will be doing another one in January 2018. With that said, these diets work well for me, and have been sustainable and easy for me. Now, it’s just the way I eat.

Some people have difficulty sticking to any diet that has a name. Others don’t agree with the historical implications of certain diets or they don’t agree with ancestral eating. That’s okay. I suggest find something that makes sense to you, helps you attain your goals of being healthy, and stick with it. Regardless of the diet you decide upon, starting it with a Whole30 will teach you how your body reacts to different foods as you reintroduce them into your diet, and will teach you a lot about portion control, help you kick the sugar dragon, and allow you to start off with the best chance you can possibly have with a dietary clean slate.

My eating habits work for me. I have been documenting my journey with weight loss and health since I started over two years ago, and I have gained a very good knowledge about what works well for me. My wife, fortunately, responds the same way to the same foods, so the two of us can share a diet that works for both of us which makes our lives simpler. I recommend finding what works for you, and stick with it. It may be what I’m doing, or it may not. I don’t pretend to have all the answers for you. However, if what I do works for you, then cool!

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Holiday Party Success/Win!

I went to a holiday party this past weekend, and fortunately, our hosts had a few Paleo options available for us: Paleo crackers, and baked ham that had no sugar in it. The rest? Mostly other meats and cheeses, but I wasn’t sure of how the other meats were prepared, so I avoided them. Puffed pastry and cup cakes? I skipped those, too! I also limited my consumption to just one plate, and while I wasn’t quite as satisfied as I would have been with a standard dinner, I did feel filled up after a bit, and was able to avoid grazing at the hor d’oeuvres table. I also was able to avoid drinking alcohol, and people seemed to be understanding of that, as well.

While at the party, I observed the people and watched their eating habits. I noticed that the heavier folks tended to linger a lot longer at the table than those who were fit or thin. This is not being mean or shaming, nor is it intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable; it’s just an observation I made. I spoke to a few of the people who were avoiding the table, and I asked them what their favorite meat or cheese was as a way of asking why they weren’t imbibing like many others. The overwhelming response: they had eaten dinner because they knew they would linger at the table and end up over-eating.

Wow.

I never had that kind of discipline before, and I never thought to just have a dinner prior to coming to a party with an hors d’oeuvres table. It made too much sense, and will definitely be a strategy I employ moving forward as I continue to attend holiday events and parties this holiday season.

The big win for me at this party, however, was in limiting not only my intake, but in making choices that were healthy and fit into my Paleo lifestyle. It felt good to not feel bloated and heavy the next morning!

Looking in the mirror two years and three months later

As I was getting ready for my 5k run last Saturday, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror wearing my skin-tight running gear designed to keep me warm in the 30-degree weather. It made me pause, and I am not ashamed to admit that I almost wanted to cry.

I was a different man. I was a healthy, trim, and fit man. I was the man I always wanted to be but never thought I could be.

The moment passed quickly as we needed to get to the run on-time, but my mind lingered on it for a few days. Heck, I’m still thinking about it. I can’t believe what I’ve accomplished.

It wasn’t easy, but then again, it wasn’t all that hard. The weight loss part was the easiest. No, I’m serious: it felt like I was cheating at life. Sure, I had to give up grains like bread, pasta, oatmeal, pizza, pastries, and many other things I loved like rice, beans, and more. No more sweet drinks, even with artificial sweeteners. I had to give up foods I grew up with and had emotional attachments to. But I did so knowing that there was hope for me, and that the future would hold better health and possibly better fitness. The foods I was allowed to eat were delicious, filling, and somehow were on lists of foods to avoid (bacon, butter, eggs, red meat). I felt like I had used a cheat code to life to be able to eat such “Sinful” foods and to be losing weight as quickly as I was. When my blood work confirmed I was healthier and no longer Diabetic, I knew I was on the right path. I never expected it to be as effective and easy long-term.

Today, I don’t miss the non-Paleo foods. Walking through a bakery doesn’t tempt me. Being in a checkout aisle with candy surrounding me doesn’t make me feel sad anymore. Honestly. It’s the best, most liberated I’ve ever felt in regards to food cravings. Do I miss a good chocolate cake, brownies, or mousse? Sure! But there are Paleo alternatives I can have from time to time that sate those desires, so it’s not as bleak as some would think.

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I still can’t believe sometimes that I’m back to being a fit, healthy person. Seeing myself in the mirror was a special moment that will live with me forever. I have succeeded where I never thought I could. I have been maintaining this healthy lifestyle for over two years, and it’s only getting easier and better all the time.

Can I really do this without exercise?

Short answer: yes.

Now for the long answer: I lost 110 lbs in my first year of Paleo (starting it all with a Whole30) without doing any form of exercise at all. And when I say no exercise, I mean I didn’t even go for walks. I only walked where I needed to; not a step further.

But that didn’t last.

On my one year anniversary of starting our Whole30, I found myself 110 lbs lighter, and an idea popped into my head: what if I got healthy enough to be able to get back into the military? Either the Reserve or the National Guard, and then I could finish my 20 years and get some sort of retirement benefits. Besides, I loved serving in the Marines, and I missed the camaraderie and the culture. But, to be able to get back in, I’d have to meet not only height and weight requirements and pass a stringent physical (even more stringent being over 40), but I’d need to be able to pass a physical fitness test which consisted of push ups, sit ups, and a run. So, I began with walking and push ups.

I the beginning, I was only able to do 7 push ups. I was dejected. That was pitiful. But I decided that I would persevere and keep going, making gains naturally and slowly. I never pushed my arms to the point of pain or failure. I would do the push ups only as long as they were easy, and when I felt like I had to start struggling, I would stop. I would then rest my arms for a day, and do them again. I kept at it until 4 months later, I was doing 120 push ups in two minutes.

My walking went the same way. I walked 30 minutes each day until I felt like walking wasn’t doing anything, so I started doing a slow shuffle jog. I would shuffle/jog one day, and then take the next day off. I worked on increasing the distances I could jog each day until one day, I felt that my jogging was too easy, so I extended my pace into a run. I felt like Forrest Gump kicking the leg braces off to run. It felt great! My legs were free, and it actually felt good to extend my legs and to run. On that first run, I was able to go the entire 30 minutes without stopping. That was my first official run. My pace was 11+ minutes per mile, but it was a run.

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Me after one of my runs around the lake near my home.

Fast-forward a year. I just completed my second 5k, I’ve been accepted into and have been serving in the National Guard, and I passed my first APFT in the top 10% of my unit. My average run pace is ~8:30/mile, and I’m working on getting that to sub-8’s hopefully next year.

Did I need to exercise to keep the weight off? No. I kept eating healthy, and that is what kept the weight off. The running and push ups only help keep me fit which is important for my National Guard service, but also allows me to take part in activities I couldn’t dream of just two years ago.

Do you need exercise to lose weight? No. Will adding exercise to your routine benefit you in other ways? Absolutely! I highly recommend doing something. Anything.

Fried Catfish

 

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Someone may have already come across this recipe I made, but it’s too good to not share.

My wife and I love fried catfish, but finding a breading that is Paleo and that actually sticks to the fish has been difficult. My wife had all but given up before I took it upon myself to conquer fried catfish. I must have gotten lucky, because I got it right on the first try (and I’ve since been able to replicate it with 100% success!).

  • I use fresh, wild-caught catfish. I got 2 lbs of it for this recipe.
  • Equal parts of almond flour and cassava flour (about 3 tbs each)
  • Salt and pepper in the flour… not a lot, but just to add a little “something.” You can also sprinkle in some cayenne or paprika for color/flavor
  • For the oil, I use refined coconut oil. Ensure there’s enough in your pan to cover the fish 1/2 way up.

I heat the coconut oil on high and let the oil get nice and hot. Then, after cutting the catfish filets into four pieces, I use the natural moisture from the fish and pat it into the flour mixture, ensuring that all sides are well-covered. I then carefully place the pieces into the oil and cook them on each side for about3 3-7 minutes, depending on thickness. Turn them carefully with tongs to ensure you don’t pull the “breading” off. The most important part here is to not cook them based on time, but on internal temperature: minimum 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the fish is at temperature, place onto a plate that has a paper towel on it to help get some of the oil out of it. Serve!

My wife, her mother, and my son all say it’s the best catfish they’ve had! It’s really that good! I hope you enjoy it, too. Let me know how it goes if you try this recipe.