Over the next few weeks we will take you through the incredible transformation of Mike Tang. At the end of 2011 Mike weighed 240 lbs (5'8) and was in terrible physical condition. In just a few short months he has lost over 50 pounds and has just recently finished the Bassman Triathlon. Part 1 of this series starts with why Mike decided to change his life. Part 2 takes you through his 10 day juice fast and other steps that led him to plant based living. Part three in this series (this post) explains the process Mike went through to determine what to do after the juice fast was completed and how he started the plant based living lifestyle.
Mike is not a medical professional or nutritionist. Consult your doctor before starting a nutrition or exercise program. VTR does not promote this or any other diet/exercise plan. This story just describes one man and the steps on his journey that led to his incredible transformation since December 2011.
Back to the "biggest loser" competition at work. (Part 3)
by Mike Tang
At this point I had lost some weight but I was still way down in the rankings in the "biggest loser" competition at work. In the first month the leader in the competition had lost close to 10% of her body weight and I had lost 2%. Even with the 10 pounds that I had lost, I still only had lost 5% in six weeks, I was still way behind overall. Juicing had started me down the path of understanding of what my body needs and what my body doesn’t need. Now I had to push forward, keeping this momentum. During the week of my juice fast I had started to do research on how I was going to eat after my ten day fast. It was while researching that I watched a movie that helped me to understand why my body reacted the way it did to juicing. “Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead ” is a documentary by Joe Cross, an Australian who spent 60 days juice fasting while traveling across America and helping communities understand the health benefits from juicing. In this amazing story he not only loses over 100 pounds in 60 days, but also helps another man Phil Staples, lose over 100 pounds as well; inspiring to say the least. I then found a second movie that was going to shape how I eat to this day, “Forks Over Knives”. This movie puts forth the idea that controlling what goes into the body while eating (forks) is preferable to invasive surgery to correct disease (knives). Amazingly, it follows the story of eighteen patients with terminal prognosis in regards to heart disease. These patients follow a whole foods plant based diet and within two years begin to reverse their symptoms, hardening of arteries and heart disease. Not bad considering that they all were given less than 3 months to live at the beginning of the movie. Now I have to say, this sounds more like a movie review column than a blog about how I changed my lifestyle, but these movies really framed my research and made an impact of how I changed my life. (for more detail rent them above for a few dollars)
In case you think I am insane (those that know me know the answer to that question), I do not advocate just watching movies and accepting the plot and events as fact. That would be just crazy, right... “Fahrenheit 911” and “An Inconvenient Truth” fans? But the nutrition movies continue down the path of “Super Size Me” and “Food Inc.” and actually present working plans on how to approach a lifestyle change to increase overall health. So I researched some more, “Vegan”, “Vegetarian”, “100 Mile Diet”, “Organic Foods”, there is so much to learn on each one of these plans that it would make your head spin. I just needed to figure out what I was going to do after the juice fast. The end of the 10 days was approaching quickly and I wanted to exercise to really start losing weight.
Single ingredient, controlled calorie diet
After researching all I could about plant based living, I decided I would finish the last 6 weeks of the competition with what I explained to people as a “single ingredient” diet. I was eating foods that were not processed, whole foods. My diet consisted of lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and mushrooms. If I picked up an item at the store, it would have to have only ingredients that I knew were whole foods individually.I had already made the most important fundamental switch, my body no longer craved meat, cheese, or sugar. At this point I was still limiting my intake of whole grains, oil, and sugar. My goal was to eat around 1000 calories a day (I do not suggest this long term, or without the supervision of a doctor). I had just spent 10 days without eating more than 600 calories a day so the culinary world had become my oyster, or at least my oyster mushrooms. Because most vegetables are low in calories, I was free to eat a ton of food at this time, and again I rarely found myself hungry. I did not stress over things like “in-season” or “organic”, these are all important, but I had already made the most important fundamental switch, my body no longer craved meat, cheese, or sugar.
Lessons learned this month
So, “never in a million years”, a coworker to this day still remembers my reaction in 2011 to the notion of becoming a vegetarian. This month I had not only stopped eating meat, I had stopped eating altogether for 10 days and I had not died nor did the world end. In fact, for the first time in my life I did not feel completely controlled by food. “I don’t like” and “I would never” had become excuses for me to continue to eat the foods I liked to eat, and this month I had challenged those things to the core. Just as easy as it is to say “I am too tired to exercise” or “I will do it tomorrow” these statements had now all become distant monikers of an old lifestyle. The body is amazing. It tells you what you need to know, but most of us, including myself, choose to ignore it. You feel good when you eat junk food, but only for a moment, then you feel terrible. Your body craves the “feeling good” and your mind justifies the “feeling terrible”. Eating right, your body stabilizes and starts to crave good food, because you feel better overall. It is not easy at first, but nothing that really matters is. You read about great people all the time, but what separates them from you is really nothing more than “action” in most cases. The results may not be the same, but that should not matter. The confidence of meeting your own goals and sticking to a plan you can control is all that is important. Good things take time; great things are defined by doing those good things for a lifetime. There are no shortcuts in life; you still have to live your life until you die.
This month I had really dropped weight, not just around the waist, but also in my overall bone structure. Not over loading on protein allowed my body to naturally shrink my frame as my body was not preparing to build extreme muscle mass. My shoulders had started to shrink and my chest had gone from close to 50 inches to 44 inches. Then came the weigh in. I was excited to weigh in and see where I was at in the overall picture. Could I break through to the top 3? How much more would I have to go through to win the competition in March? I took a deep breath and stepped on the scale.... 215.5... I had lost another 18 pounds total in February!!! I had lost over 10% in two months, close to 8% in February alone. How much more did I have to lose to win? I waited for the leader to weigh in, anxious to have a definitive goal for third month. In a great strategic play, she refused to weigh in. I had tipped my hat, let here know exactly how much I had lost and the traction I had gained. I was upset I did not know where I stood, but now knew I was in second place. One month to go: full steam ahead…..
Next Week (Part 4): Plant based exercising or “If you only eat vegetables, where do you get your protein?”
Read Part 1: "My Journey from the Atkins Diet to Plant Based Living"
Read Part 2: "The Juice Fast, Into the Belly of the Beast..."