Left: May of 2018 Right: August of 2019

Coming To AH

“As recently as 2010, I was in very good physical shape, around 165-172 pounds. But over the next seven years, because of major (positive) life changes and less positive, stressful life experiences, I quit exercising and put on the most weight ever in my life. When I had enough, I asked a close physician friend what he recommended. He suggested Always Hungry.

In 2017 I bought a copy, opened the book, found it overwhelming, and put it down for a year. By spring 2018, I was almost 268 pounds (at 5’8″ height and 48 years old). All my health markers were in concerning ranges. I took ibuprofen and stomach medicine every morning. I experienced a great deal of congestion after meals. I was constantly tired and often anxious and depressed. I reach a point where I was really was ready to make a change.”

Beginning His AH Journey

“I read the book front to back and decided to take a full month to “slide” into it. I began to phase out foods with added sugar, breads, and other processed foods. I lost fourteen pounds in that month, just from those few changes. Then I started AH in full at the end of June 2018.

I am a very picky eater, so I took select recipes and foods from the book to build my own Phase One. I used a fitness app to make sure I got my macros right. I also used it to check on my caloric intake. That’s not a part of AH, but I like every data point I can get so that was important for me. I also consulted with a fitness trainer.

A few months into AH I began lifting light weights three days a week. Months later I progressed to four to five days. I was bad for a long time about incorporating the passeggiata. Now I walk my neighborhood first thing in the morning, and it’s my favorite part of my day.”

Making Phase 1 Work For Him

“I stay very close to P1 ratios because that’s what works best for me. I sometimes have a sweet potato or incorporate bananas or other tropical fruits into my meals, but most of my food is P1 compliant.

Although honey and maple syrup did not bother me initially, now I become hungry quickly if I have included either in my meals. I try to minimize their use. If I do use a recipe that incorporates honey, I try to make sure I have enough leafy green vegetables and enough fat. I also anticipate that I may need to eat my next meal sooner or have a snack.”

Michael’s Weight Loss and Non-Scale Victories (NSVs)

Left: June of 2018 Right: May of 2019

“I’ve lost nearly 90 pounds today. My health markers all returned to where they should be within a few months. I also quit taking those morning pills within a few months. My post-meal congestion is greatly diminished. I have an amazing amount of energy. My mental clarity and ability to manage stress, anxiety, and depression has greatly improved. I have a little belly fat I’d like to get rid of, but I am now shifting from losing weight and fat to building lean muscle. In AH terms that doesn’t look like a big change.

I may eat a little more than I used to or try an extra serving of fruit for workouts—I consider this my Phase Three experiment. But otherwise no major changes. I will not go back to eating the terrible food I had before I started AH. I foresee myself eating the way I eat today for the rest of my life.”

Michael’s Advice For Others

“Chef Dawn’s number one rule: ‘be kind to yourself and others,’ is a very important maxim. Nobody is perfect. I certainly have not been strictly compliant to AH principles 24/7, 365. That’s not to advocate going off-plan but rather an acknowledging that sometimes—out of want or need—we engage in sub-optimal eating choices. And we tend to beat ourselves up over that. But that’s not a productive emotional space to occupy. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Learn from it—why did it happen? How can you avoid going off-plan again? What back up systems do you have in place?—and just get back on plan.

Also, have at least one support person or system. Whether you have that in your personal life or not, join the AH Facebook group. The group is a wonderful community of helpful and supportive people. I found the group instrumental when I started out. I don’t think I would have been as successful without the people there.”

Making AH Work For YOU

“The first few weeks can feel overwhelming because those weeks demand a lot of new behaviors, habits, and changes. Change, even positive change, is never easy. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but realize the longer you do it, the better you get at it and the easier it becomes. It’s similar to learning to ride a bicycle or drive a car.

Find out the shortcuts you need. I teach two nights a week. I do not feel like making dinner those nights. So I have easy-to-prepare meals for those nights or I stop off at one of my favorite restaurants where I can customize my meal. Finding prep time will help tremendously.

Many people get fixated on weight loss. I know I often have. But it’s crucial to remember two things: 1) weight loss is an imprecise measurement that varies for many reason and doesn’t necessarily equate health and certainly not your worth. There are better markers of health. 2) weight loss isn’t an even downward slope. It has looks more like the outline of a mountain range. You lose, you gain. Don’t let momentary stagnations and fluctuations cause you to deviate from your course.”

Staying On Course

“Develop alternate methods for marking your progress. Although difficult at the beginning, take pictures in just your underwear. Take pictures once a month. Nobody wants to do this, but you will see changes that the scale doesn’t reflect. I didn’t and I wish I had more of these pictures to compare myself to now.

Take measurements of your chest, stomach, hips, and any other body parts you want to see changes. Get blood work done at the start and then regularly, per your health care provider’s guidance. Assemble an array of information points that are better—and tell a fuller story—than your weight does.”

Benefits of the AH Lifestyle

“AH eating is so delicious and fulfilling that I used to think that it required little willpower. And certainly, it is much easier than other weight loss strategies I’ve used in the past. But I now realize that if we don’t deal with our emotional and psychological reasons for why we continue to eat in ways that are detrimental to our well-being, even something as wonderful as AH will be limited in its effectiveness. That’s why that Big Why is so important and shouldn’t be skipped over. You have to be ready to make this change. And I think our Big Why has to involve something for ourselves, not others.”

Expecting Challenges Along the Way

“I have a lot of privileges that made AH relatively easy for me. I have a loving, supportive partner. I have no dependents relying on me. I have a job that gives me a great deal of flexibility. I can afford healthier food choices. I have tremendous respect for people who manage AH without these advantages.

My first challenge was the initial start-up cost. I found it fairly pricey to overhaul my pantry and refrigerator. However, I’ve since learned how to make AH fit into my budget. In retrospect, I see how I could have trimmed my start-up costs.

The initial few weeks also felt mentally, emotionally, and physically overwhelming for me. Getting back into the kitchen and cooking again took a lot of energy and time. Over the course of AH though, I learned how to manage my time better.

I sometimes was discouraged when my weight loss stalled out. I don’t think we should focus on weight, but our socialization to do so is strong. Having people who kept me motivated during those times helped.

I also panicked the first time I traveled out of state on AH. My partner helped me figure out a plan for what worked. And now I have that down. (See this post on tips for traveling).  

I feel time is always a challenge. Like most people, the competing demands of life threaten to crowd out the time to prepare and cook nourishing food and to exercise. Ultimately, I make choices about prioritizing these things because I know they will carry me further in life than most of the competing options pulling at me.

A lot of the challenges that AH brings involve incorporating these new changes into your life in a society that doesn’t make it very easy or accessible.”

Michael’s Favorite Part of AH!

“I love that AH is really a set of principles, and once you understand and internalize them, you then have a great deal of creativity in how you meet those principles. You can carry them into any situation and figure out what to do that’s most compliant. You don’t have to memorize foods or buy pre-made meals or do complicated calculations. You just need to know a certain set of guidelines. They’re very flexible for a range of tastes and lives.

I also love the integrity that Dr. David Ludwig and Chef Dawn Ludwig have in how they share their wealth of information and live out these ideals. I believe the fact the AH community is so supportive and wonderful is a direct reflection of them.”