Keeping off weight as a way to be trial battle ready, through not feeling deprived nor obsessed

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Sep 24, 2016 Keeping off weight as a way to be trial battle ready, through not feeling deprived nor obsessed

A good balance of diet, rest and exercise is essential for any trial lawyer or other fighter. Today, I address eating. For rest, not getting enough sleep each night can pay back through exhaustion, colds and other sickness sometimes as bad as mononucleosis (which Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs contracted after four sleepless days creating the Breakout game). Regular moderate exercise — with at least the equivalent exertion as twenty daily minutes of walking at least five times weekly, for instance during lunchtime — seems to be more beneficial than occasional fits and spurts of more vigorous exercise on a body that is not accustomed to regular vigorous exercise.

Each person has his or her own body type, lifestyle, personality and willpower to enable achieving optimal weight and body mass, which also takes into consideration that muscle from weightlifting weighs more than otherwise. I share here what I do for achieving optimal weight and my three decades of trial and error for doing so, for whatever it is worth.

Before starting law school, I was usually in good physical shape, and sometimes only a few pounds overweight. In law school and law practice, I worked on the battle of the stomach bulge, often getting to the right weight, then gaining, then getting to the right weight, then gaining again, and back and forth. I think this change was partly related to finding time to prepare my own meals while adjusting to the study lifestyle of law school in only one building (which meant less walking from building to building on campus), later adding part-time work on top of classes, and working significant hours as a lawyer, added to adjusting to a vegetarian lifestyle in the middle of law school. The Atkins diet speaks volumes about the importance of finding a way of eating that satisfies the eater without overeating; a vegetarian lifestyle means that meat is not among the avenues of reaching that satisfaction.

The stories are legion of people who lose substantial excess weight, and later gain back most, all, or even more of the weight than was previously lost. It is akin to pulling a huge rubber band back, ultimately losing energy or the will to keep the rubber band pulled back, and letting go with the attendant undesirable results. Consequently, if one finds a weight loss approach that satisfies the eater, without feeling constantly deprived with the chosen changed eating and exercising lifestyle, nor upset when occasionally deviating from that path, the person is more likely to continue on the path towards optimum weight, and to stay with the optimum weight once it is reached.

For me, it has helped to have a gross and disturbing picture in my mind about being overweight, beyond the unattractive look of seeing an overgrown belly. This year, I read what was already common sense, but the story brought the matter front and center: Fat may hurt the brain. I am not thrilled that this fat-brain article addresses experiments on mice, but the story woke me up nonetheless, with self-summoned images of fat deposits oozing throughout the lobes of my brain. Of course, the explicit image of abdominal fat should have been enough to steer me away from overeating.

Warnings of health problems years to come from poor eating, overeating, and unhealthy lifestyles are not enough to sway most people into permanent healthy lifestyle changes. Penn Jillette was presented with dire warnings of his then-present poor extremely overweight health. He radically and successfully responded starting with a potato-only diet — which likely involved substantial feelings of food deprivation — followed by a sensible non-mono-food diet, with one cheat day every nineteen days where he eats anything he wants, but feels little interest in going overboard on those cheat days. I learned about Jillette’s approach subsequent to my own switch to eating raw vegan during the week and to include sensible portions of vegan cooked food on weekends at restaurants with friends and family, as detailed below.

My t’ai chi teachers were taught by students of the very advanced and powerful Cheng Man Ch’ing, a t’ai chi superstar who apparently had a stomach paunch for many years before he passed. One of my teachers said that it is better to do regular t’ai chi than to have a perfect physique to behold. At the same time, senior Cheng Man Ch’ing student Benjamin Pang Jeng “Ben” Lo  (on the left) is svelte at around 89-years-old, and my teacher Julian Chu (in the foreground), who studied with Ben, has no paunch, and makes the time both to be great at t’ai chi and to run marathons.

My trial and error for obtaining optimum weight takes into account that I have been a strict vegetarian since 1988, followed by vegan eating since 2001, mainly because I want to do my own share in reducing harm to animals. Removing meat from one’s eating does risk overconsumption of starches (including in meat analogues, for those who eat them) and an attendant weight gain. Vegetarian restaurants often are filled with such unhealthy choices as fried foods, excess carbohydrates, oil-saturated dishes, and empty-calorie sweets. Meat eaters can reduce their weight through the Atkins approach, but that approach still involves contending with cholesterol and fat intake.

For me at least, a good balance of fresh vegetables and fruit  — rather than mere caloric intake — leads my brain to stop signaling me that I am hungry, or for me simply to feel satisfied. Eating whole mostly raw and organic fresh vegetables and fruits is ideal for me, rather than eating canned or frozen or otherwise processed products.

Whether or not raw foods are beneficial for their enzymes, my focusing on raw means that I am not grabbing empty calories of the non-raw variety merely to satisfy my hunger.

I tried eating nearly one hundred percent raw from 2001 to 2005, but found myself not satisfied enough with eating no cooked food at all. I then turned away mostly from raw eating for most of the following nearly eleven years, focusing on reducing starch intake and increased exercise when I needed to reduce my weight. That felt too depriving very often.

I was spurred onto the raw lifestyle in 2001 by Victoria Boutenko and her family who then were professing the benefits of raw eating. Although I was not convinced of all their near-miracle claims about raw eating for healing even diabetes and arthritis, it seemed harmless to accept Victoria’s challenge at a delicious local raw dinner and information session, to eat raw for three weeks and to see the results, which for me was a desired weight loss of ten pounds. The ten pound weight loss came from eating very little fat among the raw food, and continuing with exercising at least every other day. Consequently, I kept eating that way for the next three and one-half years. Curiously, after changing recently to mostly raw eating with some cooked food eating, I learned that raw foods guru Victoria Boutenko herself subsequently recognized the better balance for her of occasionally adding some steamed vegetables to her meals, after previously extolling eating exclusively raw.

The optimum approach for me at present is a focus on raw foods, while occasionally deviating to eating healthy cooked food, usually only when I am at a restaurant with family or friends. This way, I do not feel bound to raw eating alone, while still being disciplined against eating empty calories through mainly eating raw.

Raw eating is not for everyone. Eating only fruits and vegetables (if excluding avocados) can feel very depriving; I add avocados. On the flip side, eating more than small occasional amounts of raw nuts and seeds and their parallel butters (for instance almond butter and tahini) can introduce too much fat into the body. What works well and satisfying for me is to make quick meals (that also are eaten and digested quickly) that focus on tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados (to be eaten in moderation), and such greens as spinach, broccoli and cabbage. I eat a good amount of carrots, as well.

High quality golden flax seeds ground in a coffee grinder (one never used for coffee) can be very satisfying, are an omega-3 source,  and are imperfectly akin to adding bulk with wheat germ. Ground flax seeds can be added to salads and salad dressings, and can also be added to fresh squeezed citrus juice. Button and portobello mushrooms can add further satisfying texture and flavor to raw meals. My typical salad dressings include Bragg’s liquid aminos (sold in all health food stores, with a flavor similar to soy sauce, made only from soybeans and water), sometimes adding garlic, raw apple cider vinegar, and chili powder (preferring Korean gochugaru or chipotle powder), and sometimes replacing squeezed lemon and lime for the Bragg’s aminos.

Many raw foodists extol the virtues of soaking nuts and seeds before eating them, to stimulate the sprouting effect. I mainly leave sprouting to store-bought organic sprouts made from soybeans, mung beans and alfalfa. Sprouted chick peas can also taste good, in small amounts, so as not to grate on the stomach. My focus is on keeping it all simple and quick. My office has a kitchen, where I can prepare a delicious raw salad or crudite plate in a matter of minutes, followed by fruit for dessert.

When on the road during lunchtime to or from a courthouse, an easy light lunch can be as simple as opening a ripe avocado with a knife, fork or my fingers, and eating it with a package of pre-peeled carrots and other pre-washed or quickly washed vegetables, followed by an apple or other fruit.

For sweets, I particularly like melons and baby coconuts and their water, as well as apples, oranges, mangoes, papayas and pineapples. Bananas have a particularly high sugar content, which can easily convert to unwanted fat if overconsumed. As with nuts and seeds, dried fruits are best consumed in moderation, due to their high sugar content. The thought of prunes grates against me, but I do enjoy occasional medjool and deglet dates, figs (dried and fresh) and raisins, always without sulfur dioxide.

Some raw foodists buy a plethora of equipment, including blenders to make smoothies and raw soups and dehydrators to make flax seed crackers and other sweets and savories. Certainly, juicing and smoothie making can be healthful and satisfying, but I keep it simple and avoid dehydrators. If I want to deviate from a light raw meal, I can, for instance, dip crudites into a great mixture of raw tahini, garlic juice or minced garlic, cider vinegar, turmeric powder and chili powder, and include for dessert some dates stuffed with raw almonds.

For cooked food, my family goes to a Korean restaurant at least once every week or two. There, I usually eat vegan banchan/side dishes, which never are fried, plus bibimbap/seasoned vegetables over rice with gochujang/housemade chili paste (checking that it is vegan). For rice at Korean restaurants, when available I usually ask for japgokbap rather than white rice. Japgokbap can include brown rice added to white rice, barley, and beans.

Once again, the key to maintaining balanced eating is finding what is satisfying, balanced, and easily prepared and consumed — rather than feeling like being in a torture chamber — and not to kill oneself for occasional minor deviations from optimal eating.

  • mark muhly
    Posted at 22:10h, 19 March Reply

    nice reflections on tai chi. I studied with maggie newman for over a decade, and the impact she made on my life is immeasurable. Investing in loss has been a guiding paradox throughout my life.

    • Jon Katz
      Posted at 07:55h, 29 March Reply

      Thanks, Mark, or commenting I see that Maggie now is 95.

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