First, thank you for your reasonable approach to weight loss and for pointing the finger at the dismal food environment we’ve created. I’ve been following your blog for a few years now and I thought I would give you a brief account of my recent weight loss of which a lot of credit goes to your simple approach, though I haven’t read your book (sorry). I have been dieting or exercising for weight loss for probably 25 years all to no avail until this year. I’ve gone from about 155-160 (at 5’9”) when I graduated high school in 1985 to a high of 215 lbs. at the end of 2013. As of today I’m at 178 lbs and still working at it (37 lbs total loss).
I think part of the problem was that I wanted society to change my eating environment for me or perhaps for there to be a way to eat as much of some kind of esoteric diet (Ornish, vegan, paleo, etc.) as I wanted and still lose weight. I came to the realization that two things had to happen:
- I needed to take charge of my weight loss because the food environment was unlikely to change.
- I needed something that was guaranteed to work and would be simple.
- Set a fixed calorie amount per day – in my case 1,800 and try to get about 100-150g of protein per day. Fat and carbs could vary (I didn’t track them). I had tried 1,600 before and it was way too low and 2,000 didn’t give me fast enough results to keep me motivated.
- Write down and weigh all the food I was eating – the good, the bad and the ugly. This is really not that hard – takes a few minutes a day at most now. Early on, I realized I had eaten 3000-3500 calories some days and the scary thing was how easy that is to do if you don’t pay attention. If I wasn’t sure about a food’s calorie count, like at restaurants, I would just estimate and try to be close – don’t get trapped into being perfect. The food log ended up being the most critical part of the weight loss – I can’t emphasize this enough.
- DO NOT have a weight loss goal or a date to have lost the weight – too easy to fail. Better approach is to remember than not quitting is the only way not to fail.
- Focus on systematically meeting my calorie/protein goal DAILY – the rest will take care of itself.
- Eat any kind of food – nothing is off limits. However, I quickly figured out that whole foods are just more filling than processed ones. Really, I’m not pious about this at all, but the reality is that an 8 oz chicken breast, 6 oz. of boiled golden potatoes with salt & pepper and a couple of cups of broccoli with a pat of butter is so much more filling than a large milkshake for the same calories.
- Eat cake at parties, pie at Thanksgiving, ribs on the 4th of July, etc. without guilt.
- Don’t use setbacks to quit – get back on track and keep working at it even if your weight goes the wrong direction for a few days.
- Don’t get trapped into being perfect.
- Exercise daily for fitness and not for calories – I focused on getting faster in my running and lifting more weight.
- Always look at the menu and decide what to eat BEFORE having a drink - drinking lowers my inhibitions and I go off the rails with my eating
- Write down the meal and calories before eating it – then go to town and enjoy!
- Eat whole foods because they are bulky and fill me up more than refined ones
- Alcohol takes up calories I would rather be eating
- Eat lots of vegetables – they are stupidly low calorie and fill you up
- Meatless days are very hard on a low calorie diet for me.
- Starches like potatoes, rice & pasta seem to have too many calories for how little I enjoy them – replace with veggies I like or more protein.
- Prepare my lunch the night before – I never regret this small chore
- Rolled oats are cheap, low calorie, high protein, fast to cook and I don’t seem to tire of them for breakfast – cinnamon, applesauce, walnuts, brown sugar – lots of ways to mix them up.
- Controlling your food intake by cooking at home is HUGE – very hard to manage calories while eating out regularly
- You can eat healthy and low calorie at practically any restaurant – it’s just not always easy to do
- Don’t let yourself get too hungry or you go off the rails – an apple is usually enough to take the edge off.
- Man up! - you have to be a leader and stay in your own frame – don’t let other people influence you to eat the way they eat even though it doesn’t fit your lifestyle
- Your family will start to follow your lead – my wife weighs the food now before she cooks it!