As promised yesterday in Diet Tips or How To Lose Weight with a Spreadsheet and a Web Site I said that I'd start explaining how I lost 50 pounds last year. This is the high-level view of how the plan works.
I was inspired to do this after reading The Hacker's Diet, which is packed full of useful information. But it's also fairly complex and requires a lot of reading. So I simplified it a bit, taking away only the most important points.
I did this partly because I wasn't sure it was going to work, so why invest a lot of effort up front? But I also realized that there was something about the core ideas that seemed irresistible. Everything else was icing on the cake.
Yesterday I mentioned that you'd need three new habits, one of which would be difficult. Here they are...
Eat Fewer Calories and Monitor Your Intake
I hate to make this sound simple but it is. There are 3,500 calories in every pound of fat. So if you eat an "extra" 250 calories every day (meaning 250 more than you use), you'll gain 2 pounds every month. That's 20 pounds a year. If you eat an extra 125 calories every day (a large banana or apple), that's 10 pounds per year. If you eat an extra 50 calories per day (half a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter), that's still 5 pounds you'll gain in a year.
Like I said yesterday, small changes have a big impact over time.
You can, as many people do, exercise to combat the effect of extra calories. But, honestly, that's a lot of work and takes a lot of time. For example, you'd need to spend an hour walking to burn off those 250 calories. Every day.
I'm not arguing against walking (I do it myself in the morning), but consider how much easier it is to simply not eat the ice cream bar in the first place. Spend a minute or two looking at the list of calories in various foods from the Hacker's Diet. Just give yourself an idea of how easy it is gobble down a bit too many.
Habit #1 is to record what you eat every day. For each meal, jot down the foods and their calorie counts. Then total them at the end of the day. Bonus points for keeping a running total throughout the day. We'll use this both for historical purposes and to help develop your sense of how much to eat every day.
In addition to reading your food packaging (pay special attention to the serving sizes), you can use any number of web sites to figure how roughly how many calories are in various foods. I've found that Calorie King is the best. You simply type the name of the food into their search box and click on the result that best matches. Then pick the quantity and they'll tell you how many calories you ate.
Record everything you eat. Even the little snacks and scraps. It all counts.
After you're comfortable doing this, it'll take you less than five minutes per day. The sooner you start, the sooner you'll know what your daily intake is.
More on that tomorrow.
Weigh Yourself Daily but Don't Obsess Over It
The other thing you need to do is weigh yourself every day. It's best to do this using the same scale and at the same time of day. I do it first thing in the morning, after I roll out of bed and hit the restroom.
You need to record this in the spreadsheet too. This is habit #2 and takes about 1 minute per day. We'll look at how to set this up tomorrow, but there is one important thing you need to know early on:
You must not judge your weight from day to day. Don't worry if it's a bit higher than yesterday, and don't get too excited of it's gone down by two pounds. The reality is that your weight will fluctuate by as much as 2-3 pounds from day to day for various reasons. We'll factor that out mathematically and focus on the long-term trend: loss, gain, or neutral.
Again, we'll look at the spreadsheet tomorrow. I'll provide a copy of mine from early on in my weight loss cycle.
Learn the Difference Between "Not Hungry" and "Full"
After thinking about why I always ate a bit too much, I finally realized it was a problem with my physiological empty/full gauge. If I eat until I feel "full" I've probably eaten too much. And, worse yet, I end up feeling sluggish for an hour or so after eating. You know, the "food coma."
Habit #3 is about resetting your notion of when to eat (or stop eating). The easiest way to say it is "eat when you're hungry, stop when you're not." Notice that this says nothing about feeling full.
This is the single most difficult thing to do. If you're like me, it means breaking 30 years worth of training your body. But after the first few weeks, you'll start to find that the "not hungry and not full" feeling starts to seem normal. If you keep a running tally of your food intake during the day (habit #1), that'll make it a lot easier to know when you should stop.
Once it starts to take hold, you'll be amazed at how powerful this is. You'll be able to look at the ice cream bar and say to yourself "that looks good, but I'm not hungry and... heck, it'd take over an hour of exercise to burn it off. It's just not worth it."
Note that there's nothing in here about eating healthy. It's not necessary at all. You can get 1/4 of your daily calories from "junk food" if you'd like, but it will probably make this harder for a variety of reasons.
The first thing to focus on is how much you eat, not what you eat. Trying to change too many things at once is a recipe for failure. Once you have a handle on that, you can worry about tweaking what you eat. It can wait.
Another thing you'll find (as I did) is that the mere act of tracking what you eat and how much you weigh each day will make you much more aware of your eating habits. That alone will put you on the right track. You'll be far more conscious of those extra snacks you grab when you're not really hungry.
Once you've done it long enough, much of this becomes intuitive--especially the act of figuring out how many calories are in a meal. You'll find that you can glance at a plate of food and guesstimate to within 10% or so much of the time. That's a skill that'll serve you well when you go out to eat.
For more recent diet and health tips, see our new blog: How To Eat And Live
Posted by jzawodn at June 05, 2006 07:46 AM