Until my twenties, I was a lean person. I believe that I stayed slim due to my youthful metabolism, overwork as well as worrying a lot. At the time, I thought that anyone with a weight problem either ate too much, or didn’t exercise enough. Then, part way through my University years, something did change and  I started to get gain weight. A little bit at first, then, more and more. Due to the stress and long hours of university life and part-time work, I was eating for comfort, and  “to have more energy,” Or so I told myself. In fact the comfort foods  had the opposite effect. You feel soporific. At school, it was practically a badge of honor to say that you pulled an all-nighter, to get a paper done, or to be prepared for a performance. 

I put on weight gradually. I would be told that it’s “all that home-cooking.” I was dismayed in my forties, to discover that very few of my clothes fit me anymore. A closet full of suits and nothing to wear! I gave them all away, resigned to the fact that I would never wear them ever again. I think that most people are reluctant to tell a friend: “You need to lose a ton of weight.” It would be considered rude. However I remember my piano teacher telling me not to eat so much and that I needed to start going to the gym. Alas, fat-shaming. Shaming doesn’t work, but it can make you feel terrible. I signed up for the gym, hired a trainer, and began working out. I did have a modest weight loss, however it did not last. With the pressure of work, I stopped going to the gym, however I kept paying, always hoping that I would start up again, after this next crunch time. Hmmm. I spent an awful lot on those training sessions.

My sleep was generally of poor quality. And never enough. I didn’t really look forward to my sleep, because I had developed some difficulty breathing. I didn’t smoke. I probably had sleep apnea, but I never got a diagnosis. I spent occasional nights in a rocking chair, nursing a cup of sage tea, because my sinuses were blocked, and I could only breathe through my mouth. When I closed my mouth, I would stop breathing. Snoring is hard on a marriage, and so my wife suffered, as well. It looked like I was headed down a one-way street and I didn’t like the direction it was taking me! Something had to happen.

My twin sister Cheryl was very concerned. Our father had heart trouble, and he died in his forties. She didn’t want her twin brother to die before his time, as well. She showed up one day near the end of the summer in 2012  with an envelope filled with cash and announced that she was paying me for my time, to do “some reading.” Just set everything aside and read this life-saving advice! I am your sister!” In retrospect, I owe her my life.

When else would I get around to reading what I so desperately needed to read? If only I had the time. Well, now I did have the time and I got down to business.

I read Wheat Belly, the New Atkins for a New You, the Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, as well as other books. I very much enjoyed watching Eric Westman’s No Sugar No Starch Diet on YouTube. After watching his encouraging presentation several times, I thought to myself: “I can do this! What am I waiting for?”

The material was engaging, compelling, and provocative. What I was reading was contrary to what one would find in the mainstream. I guess it takes a break-with, to have a breakthrough. I was doing what I felt I had to, I was a man on a mission.

What did I eat? All kinds of above-ground vegetables, an adequate amount of beef, fish, chicken or other protein, and fat. What didn’t I eat? During the first six months, no starch, or sugar, beer, or soda. I was very sparing with fruit, also, in that initial period, and of course, nothing with a bar-code. Later, I could eat more liberally, but always following a feast day with a fast.

My weight began to drop, right away. I couldn’t believe it! I was expecting to lose five pounds or so, and gain it back as soon as I ate something. I was used to failing at this. It was beyond my wildest hope. It was actually easier than I thought because I wasn’t restricting my calories, and not going hungry. I was eating when I was hungry, and just as important, not eating when I wasn’t hungry. And not stuffing myself. I was just avoiding the foods that made my insulin go up. using using my own body fat as fuel. Getting enough fat is actually very important, as I came to understand. Restricting refined carbs, and carbs in general is priority one, even though they might be delicious. 

 After a month or so, my sister came to see me and gave me a big hug. A really big hug. I thought to myself: “What is she up to?” I realized that she was measuring me! Strangely, I avoided seeing my family doctor. I was afraid that he would tell me that I was on the wrong path. 

From the period of time from September 2012 to March 2013, about 7 months, I lost a total of about 75 pounds, and I really felt much better. I didn’t have my usual December cold and cough. Eventually another 5 pounds or so. I felt not just lighter, but rejuvenated, as well, and at times, euphoric. Temporary side-effects included a bit of dizziness when standing up in a hurry, until I reduced my blood pressure medicine (on my doctor’s advice) by half and then again until I stopped taking them altogether. Nowadays I actually have to add salt to my diet, usually in the form of pickles or olives. That’s quite a change. I thought blood pressure meds were for life. Eventually I did bump into my doctor, on the street, and he said that I looked great. “Come on in, we’ll do a check-up.” So I did make an appointment, and he said: “Whatever you are doing, keep doing it.” Strangely, he didn’t seem very interested in knowing the details of how I had lost weight and lowered my blood pressure. I had worried that he might not have approved of my lifestyle change. We worry about the strangest things!

My sleep improved. I now looked forward to getting more and better sleep. No more cheating myself of sleep. That is the law! I stopped snoring after only a few nights, well before I had actually lost any weight. I had forgotten how great it felt to get a good night’s rest. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer mentions “This, thy priceless gift of sleep.” Now I finally get it!

I can’t wait to get up in the morning, and as a matter of fact, I will wake up about ten minutes before the alarm goes off. I also became more interested in exercise since I felt so much energy. I feel rejuvenated. I feel that I always have something to get up for in the morning.

On my way to better health. It wasn’t hard to stick to this low-carb, ketogenic diet. All the food that I was eating made me feel satisfied. I knew as well that once I started, I would need to stick with the plan. People who go off low-carb back and return to the diet that made them fat in the first place will of course regain their weight. I believe that most people need to be re-educated about nutrition. Fat is okay in the diet, and we all need to keep an eye on our carbohydrate intake. I came to believe that the Canada Food Guide is not really the one for me to follow, and this is probably true for many others. There is a lot of conflicting advice out there and it can be very confusing. Do what. you feel that you have to do.

Losing a lot of weight was a big thing for me, and I started to care more about my appearance. I used to be ashamed how I looked, and now, I might notice my reflection in a mirror, and think: “that’s better!” 

I think now, that getting more rest is key to coping with stress, and feeling better in general.

How many times does one lose weight and then put it all back on? It’s been five years now, and I am never going back. Looking back on the whole adventure, I have had my share of luck as well as determination.

I am a music teacher by profession; you need energy to perform  and to teach.  I also have a business to run. It takes a lot of effort and care to detail. Now I have that energy. I can’t afford to be run down or get sick. It’s also very important to present a positive image of health, vitality and confidence to one’s students and prospective clients. Looking tired and stressed-out is not what I want to project. If there is a CEO lifestyle handbook out there, I am sure that there is a chapter advising you not to neglect self-care. I honestly think that it helps me to listen better and be in a much better mood. If I am looking and feeling good, I have a chance to do that. You need your rest. 

Claim it, it’s yours.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to practise a Mahler symphony part.