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 3 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. Part 4 (this post) completes this series with the final results of the biggest loser competition and final lessons learned.
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.
Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner? (Part 4)
If you eat only vegetables, where do you get your protein? Any vegetarian or vegan will tell you this is the biggest question people have about eating a plant based diet. Will you lose muscle mass? What can you eat that will fuel your body? These questions are all legitimate to ask, and as it turned out I had pre-existing biases about protein and I had been living with these biases my entire life.
I don’t want to say that not eating meat is the right choice for everyone, but I will say we live in a country that celebrates our animal based food production. We as a culture have decided that animal based protein is healthy, and as such we should eat as much as possible. There is a cult like obsession to the consumption of animal protein with deep seeded rituals around all of our favorite activities and gatherings. Sporting event or summer holiday?...Boil up some hotdogs, fire up the grill, and cook some sausages. This 4th of July, how many of us grilled up burgers, steaks, and BBQ chicken, overeating heavy meat based products. The simple truth is this: protein exists in all foods, not just animal products. As long as you are not calorie deficient, eating a balanced plant based diet of nuts, beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will provide you with all of the protein you need. So why do we have this misconception that the only source of protein is from animals? Meat is a complete protein, which makes it a very efficient source of protein. Since it is efficient, it has been labeled as an excellent source of protein. This is why I don’t think that eating meat is necessarily bad, but the amount of meat we should consume is drastically less than we eat.
Back to the competition
I was starting month three, and it was really time to buckle down. I had no real understanding of how much I had to lose this month in order to win the competition. Was it even possible for me to catch my co-worker? I had it calculated a million ways, and I was worried about all of them. The strategy to not weigh-in was a great one; it was in my head. Then something clicked for me. I had to let it go, this competition was not about winning, but about getting healthy. The only thing I could control for certain was my eating and exercise. I would have to give it my all and let the chips fall as they may. It was around this time I decided I wanted to start to add exercise into the mix to really melt the pounds off.
One of the lessons I learned in month one was that by working out I gained muscle mass. Muscle is heavy, I didn’t want to gain too much muscle, so I decided to swim and use the elliptical. Both of these exercises would allow me to get my heart rate up, and if I spent the time with low resistance, I knew I would not build muscle mass and my weight would drop. The elliptical became my new best friend. I would eat up hours at a time on the elliptical. Like my new found love of hunger, I started to really enjoy the hours of boredom as my legs and arms moved in circles. I again gave myself no excuses and it seemed to pay off. During this time it was not uncommon to complete an hour and 30 minute elliptical session with no headphones. Hours spent with just my thoughts and me. Thoughts that “if this was easy anyone could do it”; thoughts that “this might just be crazy enough to work”.
Lessons learned this month
It was during a swim session that I was feeling very strong. I had been swimming laps for about an hour with my thoughts, trying to keep my mind entertained, when I thought about what I was really doing. I had limited my calories and I was swimming. Generations ago, when food was not as plentiful, our ancestors had to do the same thing. Not swimming laps at the YMCA, swimming in the sea in search for food. It occurred to me that the body must condition itself to be quicker and more efficient when not given food in the short term. How else would we have survived? When we have a surplus of food we store it and get overweight. Our bodies naturally get slower and hunting becomes more difficult. I kept swimming with purpose, my body was tuning for the hunt.
This month the weight loss had become predictable. I would stand on the scale daily and know exactly how much I was going to weigh. I knew what would cause my weight to fluctuate and how much I would lose when I went to the bathroom (I weighed myself before and after every morning). Then came the final day of the weigh-in. I had scheduled to be in late to work that day. The weigh-in was scheduled for noon, and I had booked time at the gym in the morning. I woke up and only drank 8oz of smart water. I didn’t want to gain water weight, and I was on the way to the gym to sweat out the last of my weight anyway. I got to the gym and hit the stationary bike. I threw on a sweatshirt and began pedaling. Two hours later, drenched to the core from sweating, I showered and headed to the office. Was it enough? Did the work of the last three months pay off?
I rushed to the weigh-in and stepped on the scale.....194lbs...I had lost another 21.5 pounds in the month of March, bringing my total weight loss to 19%. So had I won? Well, look at me, I lost over 45 pounds in three months and had more energy than I have had in a long time. By anyone’s definition I was a winner. Then came the news, with a very hard fought and disciplined plan, my co-worker had lost 16%. I had won! Winner, winner chicken dinner! But, not so fast. Being vegan had given me energy to workout almost indefinitely, and working out had begun to show results of muscle definition. Why stop? I liked the way I ate and how I felt, and I didn’t want to gain the weight back so you know what? What started as an aggressive way to lose weight had resulted in a healthy lifestyle. I still have a lot to learn and many years of exercise, but it is now under my control.
I would like to thank all those at Percussion (www.percussion.com) that were a part of the biggest loser competition and those that cheered us on! Also Audra, for putting up one of the most competitive fights I have been involved with in my life, thank you for driving me to deliver the very best I could. Deidre, thank you for believing we at Percussion should “be healthy” from this competition and the fruit in the bullpen. To the yoga room, thank you for providing the things we need to stay healthy as part of our culture. And finally, a big thank you to my wife and kids. The time invested in changing my lifestyle now will pay off in the future; I look forward to attending all of weddings of my great grandchildren!
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..."
Read Part 3: "The Single Ingredient, Controlled Calorie Diet"