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Diet By The Letters


Diet by the Letters

No Exercise and No Skipping Your Favorite Foods Copyright 2016 by Bill Russo

The eat what you like, Diet by the Letters Guide to Weight Control

About the author:

Bill Russo is a retired broadcaster and newspaper editor whose blog article about a swamp creature he met during a stint as an ironworker was read by two movie producers who featured his story in the Bridgewater Triangle documentary. The film was screened nationally and won five awards. The television rights were sold to the Discovery channels which feature a condensed version of the movie shown frequently under the title, “America’s Bridgewater Triangle.”

The Discovery channel group also featured Russo in “Puckwudgie”, a season two episode of the popular series, “Monsters and Mysteries in America.

His book, “The Creature From the Bridgewater Triangle” was in the top ten in its genre for two years and is still a steady seller.

His take on iconic musicians, “Crossing the Musical Color Line” tells stories of singers and players he met and interviewed, including the first man to bridge the musical color barrier in a 1940s Big Band; a country singer who sold his 45 rpm record out of the trunk of his car in Maine and drove all the way to Nashville when his hit ‘truck driving’ tune went to Number Five on the hit parade; and many more like “The Human Juke-Box”, and the 75 year old songwriter who had a number two hit in the 1960s and is still working to get his first number one.

Chapter One:

The First Weight Control Letters

When I was a teenager and desired to increase my weight and get bigger, I found it to be nearly impossible. Exercise and strongman routines failed to yield results no matter how hard I tried.

After much frustration I stumbled upon a dictum (a pure truth) that finally did produce measurable progress. The plan can be summed up in four letters – E.M.G.W – representing the maxim, EAT MORE, GAIN WEIGHT.

Simple isn’t it? If a young person, or any individual, wants or needs to increase their poundage all he or she has to do is take in more calories than the body burns. After time the results will certainly be shown on the bathroom scale. It’s an absolute undisputable fact.

The application of the plan is simple. Every time you eat a meal or a snack, always have an extra portion. Seconds and even thirds are highly desirable. Desserts are a must! Doctors and health professionals might argue that this system may not be the healthiest way to gain extra pounds – but they cannot dispute the results.

Over time if you over eat, you will gain weight. For young people wishing to fill out their frames and for older folks who perhaps have lost weight after an illness, this system will not fail. If you eat more, you will gain weight.

Over the decades the system worked too well for me. From a beginning weight of little more than a hundred pounds entering high school, by the time I was 72, I topped out at 201 pounds on a frame barely seven inches over five feet!

Some sixty years of happily Eating More and Gaining Weight had pushed me into obesity – though I felt I was merely a little paunchy. A few things changed my mind.

It wasn’t the fact that I could barely squeeze into my jeans – I simply tolerated the increasingly larger overhang! My belts did trouble me some. Rather than admitting I was becoming a balloon and going out and buying new belts, I just kept punching extra holes in my old ones!

The one thing that finally did shove me off the cliff and into reality was the free blood pressure monitor in Rite Aid. Most of the time, I had a friendly relationship with the device. During trips to the pharmacy I always checked to see if somebody else’s readings were still being displayed on the machine. Often they were. I would look at the numbers: 149 over 92 for example, and if I thought I could beat the numbers I would sit in the apparatus, strap on the arm cuff and eagerly await the results. It takes a minute or so for the instrument to take the readings. The ‘thinking’ process is followed by an on screen display of your top and bottom blood pressure numbers. At that time, mine usually came out at around 144 over 80.

Just like the barroom brawler who stays unbeaten, by only picking fights with people he knows he can defeat, I always won the B.P. challenge. It was an amusing little game for me – until “Higi” entered the ring.

Higi is a relatively new piece of equipment that’s found in various stores in the U.S. including Rite Aid, Publix, Stop & Shop, Whole Foods and many more. It is designed to reveal several more things about you than simply your blood pressure.

At first when I saw that my Rite Aid store had taken out my faithful gaming gadget and replaced it with a Higi contraption, I was not angry. But after the first time I used it two things happened.

One: I wanted to blow the foolish contrivance up, smash it to pieces and bring back my old friendly BP tester.

Two: I had an epiphany: the sudden and shocking realization that the information revealed by the machine was correct! I was obese! !! !!! !!!! !!!!!

The Higi machine told me so. Right there on the screen in illuminated letters. It didn’t mince words by calling me plump, stout or even corpulent – it came right out and said “YOU ARE OBESE!”

In a revelatory flash my mental image of my body went from that of a slightly rounded jovial old fellow to a fat elderly slob! Though neither picture was entirely accurate, it was certainly the way I felt.

Bill Russo in 2013 as seen in Season Two Episode Two of Monsters and Mysteries in America. The author’s weight during the filming of the show was about 180 – heading the towards the 201 pound mark which was reached by Februray 2016.

1950s photo of Bill at about 130 pounds before starting the E.M.G.W. system.

Chapter Two: Changing It Up

Suddenly, (actually it was gradually – but the realization was instantaneous) at the age of almost 73, I found myself in the exact reverse position of my youth. Then I wanted to gain weight and had trouble doing it.

Now I wanted to lose weight and could not get the job done. I tried exercise. I walked a few miles every day, pushing myself harder and harder until an errant bone forced its way through the side of my foot! A sharp, bony growth, the size of a walnut had sprouted on my left foot, just below and a little to the left of my ankle.

It hurt like the devil but I didn’t mind the pain half as much as the hole it made in the side of my new Converse sneakers!

A visit to my primary care doctor, followed by a number of trips to the foot specialist came up with the following diagnosis. I was walking too much and the injury was caused by the walking. When I asked what they were going to do to fix my foot, they told me: “Stop Walking!”

I was informed that there really was no cure for my situation other than to curtail my exercising. Actually I wasn’t too upset by this news, because all the marching around that I did chopped off only two or three pounds after weeks and weeks of daily hard striding.

Clearly I had to find another answer. I did some reading of diet plans, books, and potions. Many of the plans involved foods that I did not like and I ruled them out instantly. Ditto those plans that required the endless and tedious process of counting calories.

I checked into the various schemes that send you prepackaged foods and give you a daily menu of which of them to eat. Quickly I shoved all those aside too, in part based on the experience of one of my friends.

Badly in need of losing weight, due in large measure to diabetes related problems, my buddy ponied up some $300 and sent it off to a company that freighted him a month’s worth of pre-packed food.

“That’s way too much money to spend for a diet,” I scoffed.

“But Bill,” he responded, “That three hundred covers a whole month and you get all your meals and snacks included. It’s actually a great value.”

When I saw him a week later and asked him how much weight he lost, he did not answer for a while. Finally he sheepishly mumbled…

“I gained four pounds.”

“How is that possible? What was wrong with the diet food?”

“Nothing”, he answered, “The food was very good. I loved it.”

“Then what is the problem?” I persisted. “How can it be that you gained weight by eating diet food?”

“The food was so good I ate the whole month’s worth in five days,” he gloomily admitted.

Despite my friend’s experience, I’m certain that this type of diet has helped some people. Based on the high cost alone, It just was not for me.

Exercise also works for many people. My son in law has lost and kept off a tremendous amount of excess weight by sticking to a rigorous running and gym schedule. He posts his running routes and results on Facebook with an excellent motivational app called Runtastic.

Unhappily for me, none of the above referenced dieting systems is suitable. I know they are perfect for some, but for people like me they just are not the answer.

Here are some of the other diets I explored.

p<>{color:#000;}. Vegetarian. Out of the question for yours truly who is not ashamed to admit a love for KFC original recipe and the occasional Big Mac.

p<>{color:#000;}. Fruit Plan. An apple a day may keep the doctor away. But the idea of a steady diet of bananas and apples makes me think that just as exercise sprouted an errant bone in my foot, apples and bananas would either transform me into a horse or an ape.

p<>{color:#000;}. Fasting. Fasting for thirty days or even thirty hours is something that I would rather do than jump into the Mt. St. Helen’s Volcano in Washington State – but it is close!

Photo: Mt. St. Helen’s. Wikipedia

p<>{color:#000;}. Low Carb Diet. While it is true that (hu)man does not live by bread alone – I can’t imagine life without it. My brother always used to joke that man does not live by ‘prov-alone’. While I do not think that people could actually live on either ‘Provolone’ or bread alone; I’m pretty sure that I could live by bread and provolone together – as long as the delicious cheese and bread was served some sauce and a few meatballs!

h3<>. Pills. There are too many unanswered questions about most quick weight loss pills. It’s likely best to steer away from the majority of them. I will have more to say on this in a later chapter because I do have some experience with one type of diet pill.

Chapter Three: What is the Answer?

For me to solution to the problem came after I noted that my situation was the exact opposite of my youth.

Back then I realized that E.M.G.W. would add weight. The idea struck me that the reverse would also be true. Thus was born the adage of E.L.L.W.


The idea was both perfect and appealing. I would not have to exercise, count calories, or change my lifestyle to shed the excess pounds. All I would have to do was eat less.

At first glance this might appear to be a variant of the portion control system and to a certain extent it is. But the plan I developed takes it a few steps further without adding any complications or hard to follow procedures,

Before getting into the specifics of the system, here are the results. My weight is recorded at regular intervals by my primary c are physician and Cape Cod Healthcare, which operates two hospitals, four urgent care centers, and 450 offices across all of Cape Cod as well as a handful of smaller nearby islands.

The Patient is a 72 year old male. Height: five feet seven and one half inches. Weight 201 pounds. (My last official weight recorded at the physician’s office, in Harwich, a few months before the start of the diet was 195)

Patient’s actual weight at start of diet, 201 pounds. Patient is considered to be obese and overweight by about 40 pounds.

Now the results after eight weeks.

Patient is 175 pounds, a loss of 26 pounds. Patient is now considered overweight – not obese. Patient is 15 pounds in excess of ‘normal’ weight range.

The above figures show my actual weight before and then after eight weeks of E.L.L.W. Though I still have those fifteen pounds to lose, I can take my time and get to the desired weight of 160. In the meantime I cannot be called “Fat”, only “Overweight” and for now I’ll take that!

On March 19, I officially began my journey from obesity toward normalcy by a making a daily progress chart. Though some people say not to check your weight every day, I felt that I needed the daily motivation afforded by a system of close and frequent monitoring.

My chart had four columns. The first was the date, the second for my weight the day before, the third for the current day’s weight and the final column was for the total weight loss. So my chart looked something like that which follows.

To illustrate the progressive weight loss I selected random days from the chart. Many times I did not have a weight loss for the day. On April Fool’s Day, I actually gained over a pound. But steadily as the weeks went by the number of pounds lost began to mount up.


3/19 201 201 +-0

3/20 201 200.5 -0.5

3/25 194.4 194.3 -6.7

3/31 191 190.4 -10.6

4/1 190.4 192.6 -8.4

4/15 186.4 188.2 -12.8

(4 weeks into the diet: Net loss 12.8 lbs)

4/22 185.8 185.8 -15.2

4/27 182.6 182.0 -19

5/2 180.8 180.2 -20.8

5/9 179.2 178.0 -23

5/19 176.4 175.2 -25.8

(8 weeks into the diet: Net Loss 25.8 lbs)

Chapter Four: Weapons to Use in the Weight Battle

[]Yes, the lowly plate can be one of the biggest weapons in your arsenal.

Smaller Plates = Smaller portion = Weight Loss!

I did not skip any meals in my diet and I suggest that you do not do so either. I did not abandon my favorite foods and I recommend that you also do not stop eating what you like. Just eat less of it!

For breakfast every other day I like eggs. I really like eggs, bacon, home-fries and toast. I decided that I would skip the bacon and the potatoes most of the time and just go with the eggs, toast and coffee.

Fetching a smaller plate from the pantry, I put one egg on it and just one piece of toast instead of my usual two. I did not scrimp or reduce the butter for my toast. I drink my coffee with Coffee Mate and no sugar.

I confess that for some time, this adequate but skimpy breakfast did leave me feeling hungry. I dealt with it by counting the hours until lunch time – but not by snacking or eating between meals.

The biggest problem for me was my penchant for munchies between breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as while watching television. As a semi retired person, I am around the house a lot and thus am always in close proximity to food. If you’re working full time it may be easier to limit your between meal eating.

I found that the only way I could absolutely stop snacking between meal times was to bring in my second weight battle weapon – the humble but very important clock.

This is Old Joe from Birmingham, in the U.K. – the tallest free standing clock tower in the world.

Wikipedia photo

You don’t need Old Joe, but I highly advise using your own clock to put yourself on a mealtime schedule. For me it was breakfast between seven and nine a.m. and lunch between one and two p.m. Dinner was sometimes as early as six or seven but often as not it was after 8 p.m. The later dinner hour makes it easier for me to abstain from snacks, TV food, etc.

I made one and only one exception to the snack rule. I often allow myself two coffee scoops worth of popcorn and a small amount of butter.

Never use the microwave popcorn that is sold at the markets. It contains many ingredients that are not very healthy. I buy bags of un-popped corn – a few pounds for about two dollars. It yields dozens of bags of popped corn – making it much less than the pre-packed varieties.

Unpopped!: photo by Bill Ebbesen – Wikipedia

Now comes the fun part. You can pop it in the microwave using a brown paper lunch sack! Take your coffee measure and put two scoops worth into your paper bag.

Do not add anything. (It does not need oil. It will pop just fine without it and will contain no extra fat or additives.)

Place it in the microwave for about 90 seconds – depending on the strength of your machine.

At the end of that time you will have perfect, delicious and natural popcorn. You can add a bit of salt and melted butter, but go easy.

You probably will burn the popcorn the first few times you try it, but practice will tell you the proper amount of microwave time required.

Popped corn: Photo by Heather Lion – Wikipedia

How important is it to have ‘real’ popcorn instead of the microwave stuff?

As long as you don’t add anything to it, popcorn is a low calorie food that is very high in volume. It can fill your tummy without hurting your weight loss program.

When oils, butter and chemicals are added, as in the supermarket microwave popcorn, the calorie count shoots up like a space rocket. Consuming a bag of store bought microwave popcorn is like eating another meal Some brands have more than 400 calories.

One pound of bodyweight is about 3600 calories. So if you were to eat a bag a day of prepared microwave popcorn in addition to your regular diet, you would gain one full pound in only nine days/bags!

By popping your own corn as I have described, you can cut the calorie count in half and have the added benefit of not consuming the added chemicals.

The only snack or between meal eating that I allow myself is the popcorn. Some days instead of having dinner, I substitute the popcorn. Often I drink water with it but once in a while I have a small glass of soda. Be wary of soda. I read somewhere that a 12 ounce can of Coca Cola has more than nine teaspoons of sugar in it!

Coming up next is the biggest weapon you will ever have in your arsenal of tools to help you fight the weight battle.

It’s cheap. It will help fill you up. It is readily available. It even assists your body in burning more calories without an increase in your exercise or daily activities. It also may reduce your appetite if you take some before mealtime.

What is this wonderful substance?

Water: Shown at once in its three states – liquid, solid and gas (clouds). Photo by Kim Hansen

Yes it’s good old water.

It covers almost ¾ of the world’s surface. By weight it comprises between 60 to 70 per cent of the human body.

Water has no calories and it can help to fill you up when you are hungry and help reduce the amount of food that you eat.

For me, water and popcorn were the two best weight loss weapons I had.

Drinking a glass of water actually amplifies the number of calories that you burn. The caloric blaze increase from taking 16 ounces of water is said to last for one hour. It is also reported that if you drink ice water, the burn will be even more imposing for the reason that your body is required to devour more calories to warm it up.

It goes without saying that if you replace soda or other beverages at meals and other times with water, you will save hundreds, perhaps even thousands of calories over the course of a week.

How much water should you drink in a day? One study I read said that for serious weight loss, you should drink 64 ounces (about eight glasses). I found that I was more comfortable with 48 ounces.

Each day I filled three 16 ounce plastic bottles with water and put them in the fridge to chill. Sometimes I would have a dozen or more bottles cooling at once and would forget how many I had consumed on a particular day. To solve that problem I began numbering the bottles – one, two, and three, with a marker.

If it got to be late in the day and I was only halfway through the second bottle, the numbering system helped me to remember to finish off all three by bedtime.

The 48 ounces was enough for me. It acted as an appetite killer and helped me through the hardest moments between meals. Sometimes when I drank more than my three bottles, it seemed like I was spending half the day going to the bathroom.

It probably was not a bad thing, and was more than likely helping to cleanse my insides, but I just didn’t like being forced to run to the bathroom every few minutes – especially if I were out at a mall, in a movie house, or relaxing on the beach.

The right amount of water for you will be determined just as it was for me – by trial and error.

You can vary the quantity, but here’s my plan for water drinking.

Rise between six and nine in the morning and drink at least a half glass of water right away. (being of the age where I can do whatever I want, I get up based on the weather. If it’s sunny and warm I rise at six. Just okay weather sees me throwing off the blankets at around seven or eight. If it’s just plain lousy and rainy, I don’t get up until nine. )

Drink a little more water at breakfast even if you are having coffee. I know. I know. The coffee is made with water so why do you need to drink more? I don’t know why – just do it.

Drink more water a half hour before lunch and at lunch try to have water with your meal instead of another beverage. If you must drink milk or soda, make sure you at least drink some water. By this time you should be finished with your first bottle of the three for the day.

Repeat the routine as the dinner hour nears. Thirty minutes prior, drink about half of your second bottle and finish the rest during the meal.

This leaves you with one whole bottle you can use any way you wish; for a snack while watching television, or in place of a nightcap.

I suspect you might think the above statement absurd, as would I before I got used to drinking a lot of water. It is surprisingly tasty for a beverage with no taste and it packs much more of a restorative punch than you can imagine.

If you try it you might find it habit forming. If you make it a habit, you are virtually guaranteed to realize good weight loss gains. One report that I read said that 16 ounces of water can result in a weight loss of .2 pounds. That does not sound like a lot, but over the course of a week and then a month, the losses will add up.

There is another way to get water, besides drinking it. We will be discussing that in the next chapter.

Chapter Five: More Battle Weapons

It is soft. It breaks easily and even if you got whacked in the head with a head of lettuce it probably would not hurt too much, but this unassuming vegetable is one of the strongest weight loss battle foods on the planet.

A selection of lettuce, including Iceberg, the most favored variety of people in the United States.

Lettuce gets its weight-fighting properties from its composition – which is about 96 per cent water.

The Iceberg lettuce so loved in North America is actually one of the least flavorful and nutritious of the entire lettuce family. Its saving grace however is H,O – water. Its elevated water content is higher than other types of lettuce, making it ideal for weight loss.

Many nutritionists advise using as much lettuce as possible, some even suggest that barbecue lovers, ditch their hamburger rolls and wrap their hot dogs, sausages, and burgers in lettuce. I haven’t tried it yet, but I am considering it.

If you do decide to do some calorie counting here’s a small number for you to consider – 100. That is how many calories are in a large head of Iceberg Lettuce.

As for the salad dressing that often accompanies our friend the lettuce, one tablespoon of delicious Wishbone Chunky blue cheese has almost twice as many calories as the whole head of lettuce!

Needless to say, if you’re serious about losing weight, cut back on the dressing. As I mentioned, I don’t like to count calories, but it is foolish to disregard them entirely.

Here’s another high water food that can be a valuable battle weapon in the fight to shed excess pounds.

Celery: Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Celery has been called a negative calorie food. Each stalk contains merely six calories. Some people claim that due to the hard to digest cellulose content, the human body spends more than six calories trying to digest it.

Sadly, like most urban legends and old wives tales, it isn’t true. In actual fact, instead of burning more than six calories, the digestive system uses only half a calorie to process a full stalk.

But it is true that celery is loaded with fiber and water and can help to quell hunger without adding many calories. A further benefit to celery is that it is said to be a natural remedy for acid reflux and heartburn.

Here are more high water foods that will be valuable in weight reduction programs – cucumbers, radish, broccoli, eggplant, peppers, cabbage, spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, and cauliflower. All of these foods are at least 90 per cent water. Carrots are not far behind, with their 87 per cent content.

By themselves or in combination, these weapons will be powerful fighters in the weight battle. The danger comes, as always from the add-ons: the butter added to the carrots, spinach and such; and the salad dressing mixed in with the lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

The whole secret of the diet I am describing can be summed up in a single sentence; back off on the add-ons and eliminate eating between meals.

If you do nothing more than eliminate or drastically reduce your salad dressing; the sugar, butter and salt that you add; and stop eating between meals, in eight weeks you will match or exceed the 28.8 pounds that I lost.

Summing up the high water content foods

Water is the best of the high water foods – If I may be permitted to call it a food. Water has zero calories. Cold water actually is a negative calorie food, for the body will burn energy in warming it up.

Eating high water vegetables will absolutely cause weight loss – unless you use too many add-ons. Try to be aware every time you use salt, butter, salad dressing, sugar, etc. If you remain aware, you will use less and less of these items as time goes on.

Chapter Six: Eyes on the Prize

Back in chapter three I wrote about how important it was for me to keep a daily accounting of my weight loss.

The reasons for it are many. If you set a goal and affirm it by creation of a chart or something similar, you will have fully committed to the project. This small step goes a long way toward reaching the goal.

In my chart I had two targets I wanted to hit. The initial goal was to lose at least twenty pounds in the first eight weeks, getting me down to around 180. The second objective was to reach 160 at the end of four months.

At this writing I have more than attained the first goal and am certain that I will have little difficulty in getting to the second goal.

Writing this book before putting a bulls-eye through the second target is simply another affirmation and commitment to keep on track, no matter how much I might want to eat a triple scoop banana split and a hot fudge sundae in the same sitting!

Every morning just before I take my first eight or ten ounces of water, I head for the bathroom to ‘scale in’.

Hoping for the best, I try to sneak up on the scale in the belief that if I step lightly rather than just clod-hopping onto it, I’ll get a better reading. Sometimes I put my hands on the bathroom sink and push upwards as I’m getting on the scale – slowly I ease down on it.

I guess I would get the same readings if I just hopped on it with no fanfare, but the tip toeing and the sneaking up on it have become a ritual and I don’t want to jinx myself by changing anything.

My scale shows weight in tenths of a pound so I am easily able to track even tiny gains or losses every day. This aids in boosting my motivation and dedication to the program. As you will notice by checking my chart the tenths really do matter.

There have been many days where I only lost two tenths of a pound, but I was still thrilled because a loss is a loss and if you lose two tenths of a pound for ten days it adds up to two pounds. Do it for 30 days and it’s a loss of six pounds.

There were several days where I gained a bit of weight. I was not discouraged on those days because it just strengthened my resolve to do better the next day.

The whole point here is that you need to find a way to keep focused on your weight loss goal. For me the chart and the daily weigh-ins were the perfect answer.

In chapter two I explained the incident that caused me to decide that I needed to lose weight and to decide to find a program to help me.

Reversing a system I had used as a young boy to gain weight, I developed the E.L.L.W. plan – Eat Less, Lose Weight.

The plan was implemented in a variety of ways. Small plates helped me to put less food on my plate and consequently less in my stomach.

Putting myself on a timed meal schedule was helpful. Cutting out virtually all snacks and eating between meals was very beneficial and nowhere near as hard as I had expected it to be.

From reading, studying and talking with people I learned that if I followed the E.L.L.W. plan, I would not have to buy an expensive membership to a gym, I wouldn’t have to risk damaging my feet again with a rigorous walking program, and I wouldn’t have to give up the foods that I love.

Moderation and small plates quickly become a habit and you find yourself more aware of your food and eating habits than you can imagine.

I think too, that I am now enjoying my food more. I take smaller bites. I chew the food more – a fact which my digestive system greatly appreciates.

I should mention here too, that I suffered for many years from acid reflux that got so bad that the caustic fluids caused my vocal chords to become afflicted with cancer. For four years back in the 1990s, I underwent four major surgeries on my vocal chords. All were unsuccessful. Finally radiation treatment was begun in 2004 and it was successful. The cancer never spread and my voice, which I had lost for many months, came back. I am thankful that today I have a strong voice and do not have to use an artificial speech maker.

Though I still take medicine for the Acid Reflux disease, my symptoms have been far less severe since I have begun Eating Less and Losing Weight.

We’ve discussed weapons in the form of foods that can help in weight loss. Many of them are foods that you already eat. Increasing their proportion in your meals can yield positive results.

There is another thing I did to assist me. I am not sure how much it helped me but I am pretty sure it did give me a boost.

In the next chapter, I will tell you what I did. I am neutral on it. I neither recommend nor condemn it. I will merely tell you what I did and you can decide for yourself if you wish to use it.

Chapter Seven: The Pill

At 201 pounds I lacked confidence. I told myself that at my age it would be nearly impossible to lose weight. Frustrating myself I came up with dozens of reasons why I would not be able to shed excess pounds.

I felt that I needed a kick-start. If I could just have a little help, I might make it. Frantically I began to study the various diet pills on the market.

Like most people I had read about the sometimes fatal dangers of diet pills. Being fat seemed like a better idea than dead, so I ruled out most every weight loss product that I saw.

The majority of commercial preparations that promise to help you reduce your weight are little more than stimulants that have been demonstrated to raise the possibility of strokes and heart attacks.

These dangerous compounds are often removed from legal sale, but tend to get rebranded and find their way back into the mainstream of commerce.

After doing a fair amount of research in the library and online I did purchase a bottle of plant based pills that are said to increase metabolism and aid in weight loss.

I researched the product and found that there is no reliable evidence to support the claims of the proponents of the pill that I bought – other than perhaps that it does have a positive placebo effect.

Since the pill was plant based and I was unable to uncover any reports of side effects, I decided to try it.

For the first two weeks of my diet I took three pairs of pills – in the morning, at noon, and at dinner time, for a total of six pills per day. The cost of the product was less than $15.00 for 180 veggie capsules, so it was reasonably priced.

I did lose a good amount of weight during the period but I truly feel that the positive result was not due to the pills, but because I stopped all snacking and between meal eating. Further, I reduced my plate and portion sizes for all meals. Many days, I had only breakfast and lunch. For supper I ate fresh popped real popcorn without any additives.

As the diet progressed I stopped taking the pills on a scheduled basis and only took an occasional one. By the fifth week I stopped them entirely. I am fairly certain that the pills did not provide a direct assist to my program – but did help me in that they assisted me by keeping my plan in focus.

They also helped me increase my water consumption in two ways. The capsules are quite large so that I required at least eight to twelve ounces of water to swallow them. Secondly, in the beginning, I was taking them three times a day and that ensured that I was getting an extra daily dose of at least 36 ounces of additional water. The pills that I purchased were made from the fruit of Garcinia Cambogia trees found in Asia. The active ingredient in the Garcinia is Hydroxycitric Acid.

Advocates claim that HCA, as it is abbreviated, boosts metabolism, suppresses appetite, and controls cravings.

Somewhat resembling a green pumpkin, the fruit of the Garcinia Tree contains large quantities of HCA – Hydroxycitric Acid. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

There seems to be no science supporting these claims but garcinia sales exploded after a positive recommendation by Dr. Oz on his television show.

I don’t believe that the garcinia hurt me. I also don’t feel that it truly assisted me. It’s possible that I did get somewhat of a boost when I used it; but my weight loss continued at the same rate after I stopped the pills. This would seem to support a conclusion that the HCA did not help me after all.

The internet is blazing with stories of well known people like Jennifer Lopez, Star Jones, and Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly) having great success using Garcinia.

I suspect that if they did have major weight reduction, there were other factors in play (diet and exercise etc). Used by itself – without changes in eating habits – I am not convinced, that it could produce significant results.

Should you try it? My best advice is no. In the final analysis, your weight loss will come from following the letters E.L.L.W. (Eat Less Lose Weight) rather than from the letters HCA (Hydroxycitric Acid).

Chapter Eight: What to Do

Make a plan. Set a goal. Get started. It’s as easy as writing down on paper your current weight, the date, and your goal weight. Keep a daily record.

Jump on the scale every day. Weigh in five or ten times a day. Doing so will reinforce your goal. It will help you keep in focus and assist you in reducing the amount of food you consume. It will install a little ‘angel’ on your shoulder who will scold you if you begin to overload your plate.

Have a long term goal but don’t think about it. Concentrate on losing a little bit every week – even if it is just a half of a pound. The longer you stick to the daily routine of ‘weighing in’ and charting your progress, the easier it gets.

Post copies of your chart around the house so that family members can see how hard you are trying. They too may decide to eat healthier. It’s a lot easier for you to lose weight if your partner is also eating smaller portions and not consuming a large pizza, a bag of chips, and a 24 ounce Pepsi, while you are staring at a plate of brown rice and lettuce.

Get a battle buddy. Find a friend who also wants to be rid of a little extra avoirdupois. Have a contest. Meet for a light lunch every week and agree that the biggest loser will not pick up the check. The person who lost less weight will be on the hook for the tab.

The good news for whoever has to pay is that you both are probably not going to each much and the tab won’t be a billfold buster.

By the way, always have free water when eating in a restaurant. Skip the sodas, cocktails, and juices and stick with water. It’s free of charge and free of calories. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the reduction in price when you opt for water.

At least in the beginning, eat the same foods you always do – just eat less of them. Use the smaller plates and put less on them. Substitute water for all beverages. You can allow yourself an occasional glass of another beverage as a reward once in a while. If you simply cannot immediately transpose your soda/beer/highball for water, then at least cut the size of the serving glass in half. If you can do at least that, you will still be Eating Less and Losing Weight.

If you truly feel like you are starving, you could allow yourself one ‘full’ meal a day until you get used to E.L.L.W. You will find that after a while, it takes much less to fill you up than before.

Even if you eat one full meal a day you will still lose a good amount of weight over time, as long as you cut back on the other two and eliminate snacks and grazing between mealtimes.


One of the most difficult tasks for me was cutting down on bread. I love bread. Coming from a family which had a first generation Italian/American dad and a cooking genius Nonna (grandmother) from the old country – bread with everything was standard issue.

We ate bread with pasta. We used it like a sponge to sop up every last bit of delicious spaghetti sauce. We pretty much had bread with everything.

Before I started with E.L.L.W. a loaf of bread – with just me eating it – did not last even two days.

First thing in the morning I had two slices of buttered toast. It didn’t matter if I was having eggs, cereal, pancakes, waffles, or grits – I had to have two pieces of toast on the side, buttered and sometimes with jelly.

Often as not lunch would find me making sandwiches and using four more slices of bread; because of course I had to have two sandwiches. If I were having soup instead of sandwiches for lunch, I would still have at least two slices of bread with the soup.

For dinner, I would have half a dozen thick slabs of buttered Italian bread warming in the oven, to accompany my spaghetti and meatballs.

If I was having Boston baked beans, I’d lay out four slices of buttered bread. The first two I’d use to make a delicious bean sandwich. Sopping up all the bean gravy was the job of the other two.

When I made a firm commitment to shed some blubber, I knew the bread was going to be a problem.

My first attempt at solving this conundrum was to immediately stop having two slices of bread. I began having just one slice with breakfast and I cut back to one sandwich for lunch. For dinners I managed to get by using just a single slice of Italian bread to swab my spaghetti sauce.

This was good, but I was still using a lot of starchy bread and putting large quantities of butter and jelly on top.

Substitution to the rescue. Perplexed one day when I had run out of bread, I noticed a box of Triscuits in the pantry.

I don’t know how they got in there. I don’t remember purchasing them. I wouldn’t buy those things or eat them – I scoffed that only 92 pound runway models ate them. I think that the mysterious box was probably left over from the house’s previous occupant!

I was desperate and those little two inch squares of wheat were the closest thing to bread that I had.

I tried one. It tasted kind of like Nabisco Shredded Wheat which was one of my favorite foods as a child.

I had a second one. Pretty good. Turns out I like Triscuits and have found them an excellent alternative to bread. They do have a fair amount of calories, but you don’t have to put butter or jelly on them.

I learned later that Triscuits were actually inspired by shredded wheat and were made by the same company, Nabisco. They are said to be very valuable as a food because of their high fiber content.

I still don’t like ‘em with spaghetti and meatballs!

Chapter Nine: Sample Meals

Despite the title of this chapter, I am not actually going to list any suggested meals. Simply put, I’ll tell you what I did. It worked for me and it will work for you – just substitute whatever you like to eat for what I use.


Not a lot of variety here. I generally have an egg on one day and cereal the next. On my egg day, I have one egg. About half the time it’s fried, and the rest of the time it’s scrambled. I have one slice of buttered toast and a cup of coffee with Coffee Mate and no sugar.

Before E.L.L.W. I used to eat two to three eggs, sausage or bacon, buttered toast and home fries. To make matters worse, I customarily added a slice of cheese to my scrambled egg.

On alternate mornings I have cereal, usually Cheerios or Corn Flakes – with no sugar added. About half the time I have a single slice of toasted, buttered bread.

Occasionally I have hot oatmeal, grits, or Cream of Wheat (Northern Grits) along with a cup of coffee and my one piece of toast.


A typical lunch for me before E.L.L.W. was two sandwiches, chips, milk, and cookies or some other sweet for dessert. On days when I had soup, I would have a full can of soup and one or two sandwiches.

I still have a sandwich for lunch frequently but now it’s one sandwich, water, and a handful of dried cranberries. It took less than a month for me to become fully accustomed to this Spartan meal and it actually does fill me up.

On soup days I have half a can of soup and either one full sandwich or a half sandwich.


For supper some days, as I said before, I have a bowl of real popcorn that I pop myself in a little brown lunch bag.

On days where I want to have a more substantial dinner, I will have small portions of meatballs, spaghetti and bread. I drink water for my beverage.

Before E.L.L.W. my typical dinner would have been about a half box of pasta, six to nine meatballs, and half a dozen thick slabs of oven warmed Italian bread. This would be washed down with eight or more ounces of whole milk. In gradual steps I cut back from whole milk to two per cent and finally to one per cent milk. I do not plan to switch to skim – that’s just going to far!

A few times a week I eat a cup of brown rice laced with dried Cape Cod cranberries. This repast is surprisingly filling. I also have a side salad – with as little dressing as possible.

I rarely have red meat – except for every couple of weeks when I get a craving for a hamburger and a hot dog. I will have one hotdog along with a few chips. When I have the hamburger, I try to have a small one, with a handful of chips, a glass of water and nothing else.

Of course, I eat more of a variety of foods than I’ve discussed so far, but you get the idea. It really doesn’t matter what you eat, as long as you get in the habit of eating less.

Prior to going on my program I rarely had salads. They have since become a habit. I don’t know how I ever got along without a daily measure of lettuce, tomatoes and celery.

In the early part of my weight loss efforts, I used at least a tablespoon of calorie rich dressing, but I was soon able to get used to adding little more than a dab the size of a 25 cent piece.

Switching to the ‘lite’ varieties of salad dressings was a big help. I didn’t notice any loss of flavor in comparison to the regular kinds.

Chapter Ten: Conslusion

During the time that it took me to compile my notes into this book, my weight loss has continued and I am now below 170 – less than ten pounds from goal.

When I reach my target I am going to try to adjust my eating to the point where I don’t drop any more weight, but stay right at 160. It will be a fun time. The first day that I weigh in at my target, I’m probably going to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken to celebrate with some ‘original’ with biscuits and gravy.

But I am not going back to my old habits. This new eating routine is now part of my make-up and it will stay with me. I will be able to ‘whoop it up’ on occasion with fried chicken and maybe even some lobster and clams – but I’m going to stay on the beam, by continuing my daily routine of weighing in and writing down the results.

If I see myself creeping back up towards 170, I will put the brakes on and get right back into E.L.L.W. Dieting by the letters.

Best of luck to you. If this book helps you, please share your story with me. My email is [email protected]

The End

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Check out my Amazon Author page for my other books including:

The Creature From the Bridgewater Triangle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OEZK8IQ

Jimmy Catfish http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00XH8XY9Q

The Ghosts of Cape Cod http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01BL1TP7U

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Diet By The Letters

Diet By The Letters is the fun and easy way to weight control - and it really really works. The author, Bill Russo explains how his weight kept going up after his TV and Film appearances in 2013 (America's Bermuda Triangle, Monsters and Mysteries in America, and The Bridgewater Triangle). After bloating to 201 on a 5'7" frame, he had an epiphany. He shares his story about dropping 25 pounds in the first eight weeks of using his system - without gym time, walking, running, or any exercise at all. He did not have to give up his favorite foods like Pizza and Spaghetti. Diet by the Letters is for everyone and it will work for anyone - without having a tedious regimen - without counting calories - without a complicated system. It's as easy as ABC - Diet by the Letters.

  • Author: Bill Russo
  • Published: 2016-06-15 04:50:14
  • Words: 8384
Diet By The Letters Diet By The Letters