Friday, January 24, 2014

Sooner or Later We Discover that We Can't Train Our Way Out of a Poor Diet

Ah, the joys of being a young athlete.  Your whole life is set up to pursue your sport. Everything revolves around practice, competition, and training.  As a result, a young athlete maintains an incredibly high level of activity, and in order to maintain the required energy level, the athlete can eat food rich in carbohydrates, both simple and complex, without showing many ill effects unless, of course, he or she is gluten intolerant.

As for me, one of the joys of my younger years is that I could pretty eat as much as I wanted to without thinking about what I was eating.  I simply worked off what for others would have been too many calories.

I remember saying to people that escaping food restrictions was the primary reason to explain why I continued to work out after I no longer competed.

As a strategy, it worked pretty well -- for a while.

Eventually, the aging process caught up to me.  First, it was a calf injury that made it too painful to run.  Then work and family commitments meant that I had less time to workout in the gym.

Moreover, I experienced the triple whammy of becoming more sedentary at work and at home, having my base metabolism slow down, and having a drop in my fat burning hormones.

What happened is that I started to put on more and more weight, even though I was still working out regularly.

In short, I developed metabolic syndrome.  My insulin resistance increased the amount of insulin my poor old pancreas had to pump out, and I think that for every pound of muscle I put on, I took on another two pounds of fat.

I deluded myself into thinking that I wasn't spiking my insulin levels because I was eating whole grain cereal products.

To avoid facing the reality that my addiction to carbs was endangering my life, I thought I could get around it by fasting intermittently three days a week.  After my evening meal, I would wait sixteen to eighteen hours before having another meal.

But that didn't work.  Neither did cycling more than 30 kilometers every single day for a month  -- I didn't lose even a single pound.

Finally, after finding a general practitioner who would take me on as a patient, I was told that my problem was metabolic and that I would have to severely restrict how many and what type of carbs I ate.

I was pissed off.  I tried to rationalize that it was genetic, that I had a thrifty metabolism because of my Scottish heritage.  To my friends, I would repeat my doctor's observation that if there was a famine, I would be the last to die.

Thanks doc, but I don't live in eastern Africa, and whole hell of a lot of good having this metabolic condition does me here in the land of plenty.

I more or less continued with the same lifestyle, gaining another 10 pounds between annual check ups, as a result of keeping to the same diet and training like a power lifter.

I had to say that it came as a great shock to me when I weighed in at 290 lbs during my last visit.  At that point, I could no longer deny that I had become a fat ass.

That day, I decided to look my demon straight in the eye.  If there had been such an organization, I would have gone to their evening meeting and say, "my name is Brian Gibb, and I am a carboholic."

But there is a life after carb addiction.  I can and will attest to that.

Now, I tell people that it took me only 55 years to learn how to eat a healthy diet. 

Better late than never.

Tomorrow, I'll share with you the progress that I've made.

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