Healthy Outlook: How John Ordover lost 100 pounds by not exercising
photo by: Andrew Richter/Contributed Photo Illustration
John Ordover is not selling a miracle diet plan. He’s not hawking a fancy new supplement or device, and he doesn’t want you to buy into a system. But he did lose 100 pounds without exercising, and he is sharing his secret.
Ordover, 56, lived in Lawrence for a few years in the mid-80s. A handful of creative writing classes at the University of Kansas, including James Gunn’s science fiction writing workshop, were all it took to launch him into a 30-year publishing career back home in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Among other positions, he worked as an editor at Pocket Books, where he worked primarily on the “Star Trek” novel line, and he wrote a couple of episodes of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” He comes back each year to visit friends and to attend the Campbell Conference on science fiction held at KU, which is what brought him to town this weekend. This year, he said he would be able to tell his friends, “Hey, look! I finally put out a book of my own!”
His book, however, is nonfiction. “Lie There and Lose Weight — How I Lost 100 Pounds By Doing Next to Nothing” chronicles Ordover’s journey from 305 pounds to 189, over the course of about 14 months.
Ordover does not sugarcoat anything. Getting to a goal weight is hard — there’s no way around that, and he won’t try to convince you otherwise. But he does have a lot of encouragement to provide.
Listen“It’s not because something is morally wrong with you. It’s not because there’s something physically wrong with you, necessarily, or psychologically wrong with you,” Ordover said. “You’re not an unlovable and lesser person. If you’re finding it hard to lose weight, you’re finding it hard to lose weight because losing weight is really hard.”
Ordover, who familiarized himself with this column before we spoke, was quick to assure me that he has nothing against exercise, and he can appreciate its many benefits.
“However, losing weight and exercise are not sewn together at the waist,” he said. “The amount of calories you actually burn in, say, an hour’s exercise equals one corn muffin. You can lose weight equally effectively just by eating one less corn muffin.”
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He made an excellent point that I, in my fervor for exercise mainly for its effects on my mental health, often overlook: dieting and starting a workout routine are both stresses, and it’s not a good idea to put two brand new stresses on your body at once. Ordover said he’s seen that, typically, the exercise routine will fall to the wayside first, and the diet will follow shortly thereafter.
Besides that, exercising can make you hungrier, and it makes it a lot easier to mentally justify going back for seconds at dinner. Or having second-dinner. And a midnight snack.
Instead, Ordover said, it’s a better plan to focus on a diet you can stick to until you’ve lost a few pounds; then start working out, if you want to.
What diet should that be?
“Pick any random diet book off the shelf at the bookstore, after you buy mine,” he said, “and it will work for you if you stick to it.”
He notes that it’s important to start a diet on a healthy note, which means finding a doctor who won’t just say that all your problems would go away if you “just lose weight.” Ordover finally found a doctor who treated his sleep apnea, gastric reflux and high blood pressure, before he’d lost a pound.
“I was getting my health in order before I even started losing weight,” he said. “It made it hugely easier to lose the weight because I was healthy and fat, or at least treated and fat, as opposed to just, ‘Go away and lose the weight, (then) come back.'”
He later found that the sleep apnea and gastric reflux issues did go away as the weight did, but the high blood pressure stuck around. He says if a doctor isn’t helping you, either find a new one or “speak up and say, ‘What would you be telling me to do if I weren’t overweight?'”
Ordover stuck to a low-calorie, low-carb, low-fat diet, and not a single moment of it was easy. A lot of his knowledge came from trial and error, and one key point he notes is that it takes fewer calories to function as you get smaller — for instance, his 190-pound body requires much less fuel to power than his 305-pound body did. So in order to break through plateaus and continue losing weight, you have to eat less.
He pointed out that food is such a huge part our emotional lives. It’s often a means of celebration: when friends visit, you tend to feast. It’s also a comfort: when friends don’t want to see you and you feel sad, you eat.
“Basically, you have to accept that you’re going to be cutting yourself off from a major coping mechanism for anything life throws at you,” he said.
He handled this through various means, including finding ways to reward himself with things that are not food.
“I’m very easy to please,” he said. “A treat for me could be a 25-cent toy from a bubblegum machine, but just something that made me feel rewarded.”
Now in the maintenance phase, Ordover’s dieting still is not easy, but it has already saved his life.
In March, Ordover had a gallbladder attack that his doctor would not have been able to recognize as quickly, and the two operations he underwent would have been very difficult and life-threatening, if he was still carrying the extra 100 pounds. (Interestingly, the suggested “low-fat” post-surgery diet actually had a greater fat intake than his maintenance plan.)
In his career, Ordover also has helped public relations writers turn long statements into short, punchy paragraphs. The book is clearly written with that background. The chapters, many with lighthearted titles such as “Don’t Trust Anyone Under 130 (Pounds),” “Dieting is Hard; Exercise Makes it Harder,” and “Man Boobs Away!” are, at most, a couple of pages each. Ordover manages to weave humor into each page while simultaneously baring his honest struggle and emotions.
About Healthy Outlook
Healthy Outlook is a column written by Journal-World reporter and Health section editor Mackenzie Clark, in hopes of helping readers make their lives a little bit happier, healthier and more active.
Have questions about the world of health and wellness in Lawrence, or a health story idea? Contact Mackenzie: