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Investigative Solutions

Dead Man Walking
By Bill E. Branscum   ©2001

I'm dying - much as I hate to say it. I suppose one might objectively attribute the cause of death to "Suicide," or, were one inclined to be a bit more charitable, "Death Due to Misadventure." I have worked very hard at killing myself.

Lord knows I have enjoyed my life. Blessed, or perhaps afflicted, with that "Type A," "Double Y," constitution common to cops and criminals, I have lived much like the ancient Vikings did, charging through life warring like a crazy man one day - feasting and carousing the next.

In retrospect, I don't think I did anything in moderation; I certainly ate too much and drank too much! The unfortunate reality is, the Viking lifestyle works best for those who expect to make it to Valhalla before they turn thirty-five. I guess I kept that nonsense up longer than my body could stand it. Consequently, I have a date to meet Odin (and a bunch of other old, fat used-to-be Vikings) in Valhalla that I am not too eager to keep!

I was a medic in the military and that paid for my college education -- there was a real "GI Bill" back then. I attended Eastern Kentucky University where I majored in Criminal Justice and minored in Emergency Medicine. I graduated, "With Distinction" in the top of my class.

I applied for a position as a federal agent. When my chance to participate in the, "War on Drugs" came, I couldn't get to Florida fast enough. I was the Honor Graduate at FLETC, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, GA, and served as a Special Agent, US Department of the Treasury/USCS.

I investigated cases related to Money Laundering, Narcotics Trafficking, Drug Smuggling, etc., and was assigned to the Organized Crime Strike Force in Miami for a few years. It was "Miami Vice" world of Black Hawk helicopters, go-fast boats, guns, arrests, search warrants and drug seizures - I loved every blessed minute of it.

Somewhere along the line, it looks like I lost my enthusiasm for life - I honestly, truthfully, don't know what happened, or exactly when it happened. I just stopped living and started to die.

I gained weight slowly at first, until I quit working out - then I gained a lot more, a lot faster. The more weight I gained, the less I felt like doing and . . . you get the picture.

Somewhere along the way, the man that I was and I got separated. I liked that guy, I liked being that guy, and I cannot say that I am all that pleased with the "new me."

I guess anyone can slip and fall, and sometimes it can be a long way down, but lying around making excuses and feeling sorry for yourself isn't much of an answer. As a single parent raising four children, I cannot afford to lay around and die - I have much too much to do. This "new me" has got to go, so I am resolved to kick his fat butt to the curb with the rest of the trash.

I am an investigator by profession. I approached this just as I would any other case assignment and used my capabilities and resources as effectively as possible. Through Lexis, I can become an instant expert on virtually anything - I studied the latest weight loss theories/programs and reviewed various reports/clinical studies on dietary supplements and training regimens.

There have been a zillion diet gurus preaching that the secret to success is everything from pineapples to beer - yeah right! If beer was the secret to success, I wouldn't be here. I read and researched the mountain of written material about diets - Hollywood, Mayo Clinic, Cabbage Soup, Mediterranean, Neanderthal, Somers, Carbohydrate, Rotation, Zone . . . as touted by the names we know - Atkins, Ornish, Pritikin, Katahn, Sears . . . tell you what, just for example, let's just look at Dr. Barry Sears and his "Zone Diet."

Dr. Sears claims that the secret to dieting success lies in the "ratio" of carbs, proteins and fats consumed - the "Zone" is described as 40/30/30. In other words, if you consume 2000 calories a day you need 800 carb calories, 600 protein calories and 600 fat calories to, "increase mental focus, enhance physical performance, slow the aging process, decrease likelihood of coronary heart disease, and reduce excess body fat."

Dr. Sears proffers "irrefutable evidence" in support of his 40/30/30 mantra, citing an article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the fact that the Stanford University swim team (that had been getting it's butt kicked by Texas for years) went on this diet and suddenly started kicking a little butt of their own. Stanford got healthy, the University of Texas got their comeuppance and Dr. Sears made a ton of money and became a sensation.

Well, it's axiomatic that every two-bit grifter in the world drops names like dandruff and people trying to sell you on something love to quote articles from prestigious publications - and why not? Do you just happen to have a copy of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on your coffee table? If you did, and went to the trouble to see what they actually said, you'd find, "The results of this study showed that it was energy intake, not nutrient composition, that determined weight loss in response to low-energy diets..." (Golay A, Allaz AF, Morel Y de Tonnac N, Tankova S, Reaven Gl. Similar weight loss with low- or high-carbohydrate diets. AJCN 1996;63(2)174-178)

Furthermore, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the American Dietetic Association, the Women's Sports Foundation, and the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research - published a joint statement critical of Dr. Sears. It seems that Dr. Sears neglected to mention that the Texas swim coach transferred to Stanford and brought a bunch of first rate swimmers too.

Finally, the Stanford swim team's doctor wasn't impressed.. He is quoted as saying, "I am unaware of any evidence to support a correlation between those who follow the 40/30/30 diet and the athletes’ performance." He also stated, "since athletic success is multifactorial, any attempt to give credit for Stanford's athletic success to a diet is insulting to the coaches and athletes whose talent, incredible dedication, and hard work are the primary factors for their success." (Carpenter RA, et al. Questioning 40/30/30. ACSM, ADA, WSF, CIAR 1998)

So much for Dr. B.S. and his "Zone."

In things I have written, I always make it clear that I have no credentials with regard to parenting and claim none. I am, however, knowledgeable on the subject of con artists, swindlers and frauds. How many times have you heard someone say, "You cannot con an honest man." That may be the single stupidest statement I ever heard in my life. Con artists capitalize upon the dreams and/or desperation of honest people every day.

The fact is, there are millions of people in this country ranging from overweight to morbidly obese and many of them are utterly desperate. Consequently, the weight loss industry is a huge market with a lot of money involved; I have seen estimates of $33,000,000,000 a year (Yes, you read that right - $33 BILLION). Even a little piece of $33 billion dollars is serious money.

In a number of ways, those of us who are overweight are our own worst enemies - our collective willingness to believe in silver bullets and magic cure alls has created a theater to which the "beautiful people" come and swear that the secret to their success is "(whatever some huckster will pay them to say - you fill it in)." In the face of all the hi-dollar hype, it is really hard for us to figure out how to lose weight. Most of what we spend a year is a total waste.

Investigative research is what I do - so I did it. The first thing I discovered is, there is no "silver bullet." Just as there is no magic combination of foods that melts fat away - there is no magic PERIOD! The pills, potions and plastic devices are scams and the associated "guarantees" are meaningless. That was the bad news.

The good news was that everyone seems to agree that the "Atkins Diet" actually works and a lot of people out there swear by the "Body-for-Life" approach espoused by Bill Phillips.

Dr. Atkins book, "Diet Revolution," about his low carb approach to dieting is very complicated - he claims that a diet very low in carbohydrates causes a change in body chemistry called ketosis that causes the body to shed fat quickly. There is a lot of debate about how this works, and whether or not it is good for you, but there is no doubt that- a diet low in carbohydrates causes ketosis which diminishes hunger.

On the other hand, a lot of learned people with impressive credentials are very critical of the "eat all the meat, cheese, butter . . . you want" claims made by Dr. Atkins and his acolytes. Many of these detractors seem to acknowledge that the diet works but they express concerns that other health issues might thereby be created. Still, there seems to be no doubt that cutting out the carbs will make the hunger go away without pills.

I liked Bill Phillips book, "Body-for-LIFE." If you don't read anything else, look for this at the library. Money is tight here but I bought copies for family members who are overweight. I liked this book because it offers no "magic secret" - it's inspirational, common sense and totally devoid of egotistical self promotion. It reads like your athletic older brother saying, "OK, forget the nonsense - this is what you gotta do."

In his book, Bill Phillips says the secret to changing your body and your life is to "eat right and exercise." With regard to the hype that confronts us, he says, "What we have really got is a junk heap of false conclusions, endless contradictions, and half-baked exercise and nutrition theories that are creating so much uncertainty and confusion, most people don't know which way to turn."

Just as I know BS when I hear it, the truth has an unmistakable ring all its own, especially when you hear it again and again. Bill Phillips' advice mirrors the advice I got from my doctor the last time I tried to lose weight - "it's diet and exercise or be fat."

Two years ago, phentramine induced starvation and a lot of exercise knocked the weight off me pretty effectively but, like the vast majority of people who do that, I gained back more than I lost. I didn't make the changes in my lifestyle that my doctor urged me to make so a lot hard work, and some expensive (and painful) "sports injuries," turned out to be all for naught. I'm not at all sure that my shoulders and lower back are up to that again.

I like the book and I like the fact that Bill Phillips has produced an inspirational video he will send you at his expense if you will commit to making a donation to the Make a Wish Foundation (the nonprofit organization that tries to make a wish come true for children afflicted with terminal illnesses) if you find his video worthwhile. You know that most people just take the video and forget their concomitant obligation, but he does it anyway for those who don't. That's class.

I also liked the put up or shut up nature of the Body-for-LIFE "Challenge." There's nothing vague or ambiguous about it. Bill Phillips claims that if you do what he says for 12 weeks, you'll get remarkable results and he publishes an enormous list of before and after pictures to prove it. Personally, I'd do 12 weeks in San Quentin to get any part of what his followers claim to have achieved.

In researching it, I particularly liked several of the personal home pages where people who tried the Body-for-LIFE challenge and didn't do all that well posted their before and after pictures. Some of them were painfully candid about their failures to follow through and achieve earth shaking results. It struck me that nobody was saying, "I did what they said, but it didn't work."

I have been an investigator for a long time now, so I tend to be something of a skeptic. I checked out the "Winners" of the Challenge posted by BfL on their web site. - I verified that they are real people. If there's a "truth" out there, I think this approach is probably it.

In my life I have fought for a lot of things; I'm older now, but there are still things that are important enough for me to fight for. I have a very special teenager who has stood with me through tough times - I want to see that young man full grown, married with kids of his own. I also have two boys ages 5 & 6, and a 4 year old daughter; I want to play ball with those boys and, when the day comes to dance at my baby's wedding, I want Meggie to be as proud of me as I'll be of her.

The propensity to get fat is one big, ugly, "900 Pound Gorilla" - an enormous monkey on our backs that robs us of life while we're living it. I really believe that I can whip this thing and I have signed up for the Body-for-LIFE Challenge that begins September 24, 2001. (I had to wait until I could financially recover from the August "back to school" ordeal)

I am going to follow the BfL approach of small meals, regular exercise and use the Atkins low carb concept to eliminate hunger. The BfL book also preaches a restricted carb intake so I'll do it their way and decline to eat all the high fat foods that the Atkins approach allows. I am going to give this BfL Challenge a shot; I am going to do exactly what they recommend the way they recommend, document the results and publish them right here.

I have a big, bad gorilla to whip - stay tuned!



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