By Louise Carson
Raymond Cool, a Graham resident, is excited about his new life as “less” of a person than before he lost nearly 300 pounds.
If someone expects that meant fancy diet foods or surgery, think again. He’s a prime mover in the Self Reliant Community of Graham, and that’s not a likely place to find people with quick or expensive answers to complex questions.
Following is a series of questions and answers about that path from 486 pounds to a holding-steady weight of 195 pounds in about two years. Some of the answers are unexpected. Please note that with a weight loss of this magnitude, a physician’s exam is recommended.
What was your main motivation?
I wanted my life back. I knew the way I was headed, I wouldn’t be around for very many more years. Worse, I knew my time left would be a never-ending spiral of worse and worse health. I was miserable enough as I was. Even worse was the thought of my wife having to watch and take care of me as I went further down that path.
What was your favorite food you gave up?
Favorites change. I have not given up anything that I wish I hadn’t, and today I eat all my favorite foods. I just have new favorites. I tell most people they don’t have to give up favorite foods right away, that by simply adding in more healthy food to their diet they can reach a point where their body wants them to give up those old favorites.
What does your new diet consist of?
I eat a whole-foods, low-fat vegetarian diet. Whole foods meaning I eat potatoes, not potato chips or French fries. Corn, not corn chips or corn syrup. Whole, unprocessed foods, in as close to their natural form as possible.
What do other people think of using complex carbohydrates instead of protein as a main weight loss method?
From the day we discovered protein, we’ve been obsessed with it and consider it the cornerstone of nutrition and health. But we need less protein than we think. Breast milk, for example, has a lot less protein in it than most people realize. Calorie for calorie, it has less protein than a potato. Nature provides about 5 percent of the calories for a growing infant in the form of protein, and no adult human ever needs more than that. An excess of protein actually does harm, especially to our kidneys.
Complex carbohydrates have been vilified. We’re taught that they’ll make you fat. Give you diabetes. Make you sick. But when you look around the world both today and throughout history, you find example after example of large populations that thrive and are healthy on diets centered on complex carbs such as rice, corn, beans, oats, wheat, barley, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. More complex carbs, less fat and less protein is the road toward better health.
Do you feel you made great sacrifices to loose that weight?
Sacrifices? Sure. Great sacrifices? No, not at all. When I compare what I’ve given up to what I’ve gotten in return, it’s been more than worth it.
How is your health now, overall? Before?
I no longer take any prescription medicines. My blood pressure is normal for the first time in my adult life. My sleep apnea is much better and I no longer require the use of a CPAP machine. I do have lingering issues. Decades of carrying hundreds of extra pounds takes a toll on a body. I recently had surgery to repair three hernias. I have long-term back problems that may require surgery in the future.
What is your wife’s reaction to all this? Your friends’?
My wife is pleased with everything, except when I’m nagging about her cheese puffs. My family and friends have been supportive from the start, even though not all of them could get behind my dietary changes wholeheartedly.
Where did you buy much of your food for the new diet?
One of my favorite places to shop is Mountain Community Co-op in Eatonville. I order all my organic grains and beans through them. They have such a wide selection of food, you can order in addition to their regular store inventory.
Do you think of including some other types of food – fish, poultry, some meat – eventually in your diet?
I don’t think anyone eats more meat than I used to. But I don’t see me ever adding it back into my diet. I’ve learned to satisfy my appetite better, longer, and on far fewer calories by eating healthier and cheaper foods that give me more energy and make me feel better. Why would I go back?
Did you work with medical professionals? What was their opinion of your diet?
Other than suggesting dangerous and life-altering gastric bypass surgery, or diets that were impossible to follow, my doctors had nothing to offer me in my journey. One of my doctors, upon becoming aware of my weight loss and inquiring about my diet, became very concerned that I would harm myself eating a low-fat vegetarian diet. This concern followed me throughout my entire journey, though it has quieted down recently. It’s hard to argue with success. My opinion of Western medicine is most doctors wouldn’t know a healthy diet if it hit them on the head!
What was your main research tool?
What about exercise?
At my heaviest, I was simply unable to get enough meaningful exercise to make a difference. I had to lose about 50 pounds before I could move enough to have it contribute to weight loss. I started by walking. Walking is the best exercise you can do, and it’s free! Today I walk, ride my bike and do yoga. Whatever exercise a person can do will help with weight loss. But one thing I’ve learned is that diet trumps exercise and you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.
What is your favorite new food you discovered?
Chickpeas. Also known as garbanzo beans.
What are your bigger plans now that you are a shadow of your former self?
I have big plans. I want to share with the world the good news of good health and that they can lose weight and restore their health through a diet that is not only simpler and cheaper than what they’re eating now, but more delicious, more satisfying, and one that will give them more energy. I have put together a series of lessons focusing on the spiritual relationship we have with food, and will be teaching that at my church this summer.
Raymond Cool is establishing a website to help others in their weight loss and health issues. He’s already helped steer several people down the same path he followed. One has already lost about 100 pounds, Cool said. In the meantime, he is sharing his new e-mail address to answer questions. That address: ray@threehundred poundsofjoy.com
Cool is teaching a five-part series of classes, titled Spiritual Food: Exploring the Spiritual Relationship We Have With the Food We Eat, at his church, Evergreen Presbyterian Church in Graham, which started July 14.