How I lost 50 lbs. and fixed my chronic back problems, without exercising or spending money on expensive nutrition programs, while eating as much as I wanted, of whatever I wanted and whenever I wanted it.
Two or three years ago I had developed a chronic back problem. Fortunately my back only hurt when I was on my feet for extended periods of time either walking or simply standing. Massage, medication or stretching did nothing. Relief was only possible by sitting or lying down. 15 minutes of walking turned into pain and trips to the grocery store became speed shopping. Big box stores were out of the question.
In an effort to resolve my nagging and dispiriting back problems I had sought out the standard medical protocols from various doctors. These included taking strong medication, following a physical therapy regimen, having an to an MRI to identify possible sources of the problem, followed by several rounds of spinal injections. In addition I submitted to several weeks of spinal decompression treatments from my chiropractor. For over a year I had tried everything suggested but nothing worked. I was facing the prospect of living with the problem permanently. But then I decided to try my last option--losing weight to take pressure off my lower back.
The rules were simple; I didn't want to follow a diet that obligated my wife or anyone else to alter what they ate, didn't want to pay money to have a freeze dried meal dropped off at my house every week, I wanted the freedom to eat anything I wanted, and I didn't want to exercise. This was my problem alone so no one else had to change what they did on my account. I also knew that back pain and exercise don't go together.
I was certainly aware that over the years I had put on weight while enjoying evenings out in restaurants or hearty home cooked meals. The prospect of losing those pounds was daunting. Who wants to submit to food deprivation? If vanity were all that was at stake I doubt I would have had the willpower. But my quality of life was severely affected by my back and that became the motivating factor.
So here's the only thing I did. I started counting calories every day. Sure, I could still eat anything in any amount whenever I wanted, but I made the choice to stop at 1400 calories or less. Willpower comes from comparing two desirable objectives and choosing the greater one at your weakest moment.
In order to keep track of the calories I downloaded the free app Lose It for my smart phone--there are other apps that do this too. (No I'm not connected with them in any way.) The app contained most of the foods I normally eat plus lots more. Lose It asks you to enter your weight and height as well as your goal weight and amount of weight you feel comfortable losing every week. It then figures out how many calories you need to meet the goal. For me I was allowed about 1400 calories a day--higher in the beginning.
As I followed the calories I began to develop strategies to ensure that the food I ate kept hunger at bay while allowing me a reasonable evening meal of about 700 calories. For me protein was better than carbohydrates for that. A typical day would consist of eggs for breakfast (100-200 calories), turkey, chicken, tuna or nuts for lunch (300-400 calories), an apple, cheese or nuts for mid-afternoon snack (100-200 calories), and for dinner lots of vegetables and grilled chicken or fish (600-700 calories). When willpower became weak put distance between me and the food with walking or other activities. Also, foods with lots of flavor but small in calories are helpful. I like pickles and Dijon mustard for this rather than carrots or celery sticks. I drink very little alcohol since they are pretty much wasted calories. The same with sweets. Going to restaurants simply increases temptation so I eat out very little. In the first month I stayed away from the scale because I didn't want to face discouragement. As time went I became encouraged by the feedback.
After losing 20 lbs I noticed that I could resume walking longer distances with but standing still for a time continued to be a problem. When I had lost 30 lbs. I had to buy smaller clothes and I could walk or stand for longer periods. At 40 lost pounds I instinctively know what calories in most foods I am likely to eat and I had no lingering back issues. Now that I've reached 50 lbs my clothes are looser still and I may need to do more shopping. Aside from the clothes my grocery bill is dramatically lower.
Owing to the lack of exercise I no doubt have lost muscle mass and at times this has left me feeling a bit weak. It is my understanding that weight bearing exercise is recommended to compensate for that. I'm unlikely to do so, but then a year ago I was unlikely to diet so who knows. When I walk I do it for enjoyment rather than as exercise.
There may be better ways to do this. I only offer this to explain what worked for me. I suspect that my genetics and body type made this possible and it may not work for others. This way of eating must become just the way I choose to eat rather than a program that ends when I reached my goal. By necessity it will need to be how I eat going forward, although I am likely to increase my caloric intake to around 1800-2000 per day in order to maintain the weight.