Apparently I struck a chord with my sure-fire diet blog: I’ve gotten more traffic and personal contacts on that blog than I’ve gotten on any blog that I’ve posted without an accompanying press release.  I think this is a reflection of how much of a medical problem being overweight is, dare I employ the over-utilized term, an epidemic.  People are obviously struggling with weight loss and they flock to the latest fad or gimmick that might help.  Or at least offers hope.  I hope what’s worked for me isn’t taken as a fad or gimmick, as to me it just seems common sense.

To reiterate the single rule of my diet:

Never consume more than your daily caloric limit.

And I obviously cannot claim “inventing” or “creating” this diet because it is so amazingly common sense.  Everyone seems to automatically and inherently know that it will work, yet we follow the fads and gimmicks instead.  My own doctor and friend, about 12 years ago, told me simply, “put fewer calories into your body than you spend” and “consider the calories of every piece of food you put into your mouth”.  Yet I invested time and expense into at least 6 “named” diets that were the “book of the month” before I tried what he suggested.  I even analyzed each and every one of those diets and knew that they were–bottom line–cutting my calories to a level below my calorie burn.  Yet, because of marketing and branding, they somehow seemed easier and quicker, despite having to buy special foods, weighing, measuring, counting, knowing what to eat and what to give up, and having to constantly refer to the book or the website.

So how do we implement this “sure-fire” diet?  Though it sounds simple, where do we start?  Before I suggest how you might start, let me try and fire you up by reviewing with you some of the benefits I’ve realized through losing my 50 pounds (ONLY 25 more to go!)  Keep in mind, these benefits were realized in just 4 1/2 months as I started on new year’s day of this year.

  • Look better, more confident – I simply look better and feel better about myself.  I’ve gone from wearing XXL to L shirts and from wearing 42 waist paints to 36’s.  I’ve even had to buy new underwear!  In fact I’ve had to buy practically a whole new wardrobe, which pains this Mr. Frugal, but I remind myself that the costs are offset with lower grocery bills and lower medical risks.
  • Sleeping better – I’ve stopped snoring (so confirms my wife) and I’m sleeping through the night without interruption, a good solid 6 to 7 hours every night.  I’m talking great, fitful sleep.
  • Fewer headaches – I was suffering a headache every other week or so at least; since my initial change-of-diet headache back in January I’ve had only 2 headaches!
  • Fewer and milder colds – While I’ve only been dieting 4 1/2 months and it’s not really a long enough time to know for sure, I usually suffer through a cold or 2 each winter.  This winter I had only 1 very mild sniffle and was over it in a matter of a couple of days.
  • Better constitution – I simply feel better, with more energy and a lower at-rest pulse rate.
  • Better perspective on health – While I never sat down and said I was going to start paying attention to the balance of my carbs-fat-protein, or my intake of sodium or potassium or vitamins over the course of my days and weeks, I have found myself paying attention, not only to my diet but also to my risks of things like diabetes and heart disease.

Given all the benefits above–and perhaps as I approach my ultimate goal 25 pounds from now I’ll discover more benefits–this diet has basically been a life-changing event for me.  I hope it is for you as well.

To get started, you first need to establish your caloric goal.  There are any number of tools out on the web to help you with this calculation, just google for “calculate calories for weight loss”.  Here are a couple:

There’s also a calorie calculator as part of the profile setup when you join MyFitnessPal.com which you’re going to hear me talk a lot about in the future.

So armed with your daily caloric limit,  you have all the information you need to get started.  But let’s talk just a bit about the 2 principles that will drive the management of your medical condition, awareness and diligence.

Awareness – as I said in my first blog on this diet, I now think of my weight condition as a medical condition, not unlike diabetes.  Awareness of my physical state is key to managing my condition, and this takes the form of two things I have to keep track of: what I eat, and what I weigh.  The rule simply can’t be followed if I’m guessing at my calories, so I have to know with nearly absolute certainty.  It is true that there is a margin of error here: portions aren’t exact and calorie databases aren’t 100% accurate.  With this in mind, I build in a margin of error.  While my initial daily calorie limit was 1500, I tried to keep it to 1400.  If I went over, I didn’t beat myself up as long as I kept it below 1500.  Weighing is similarly inexact, so much so that I have special rules for weighing (upcoming blog), but it is an integral part of maintaining my awareness, in the same way that measuring blood sugar is integral to managing diabetes.

Diligence – managing a medical condition is not something you can do part-time or for a little while.  Managing your weight is a full-time job.  You can’t be “cured” of being overweight, so you must decide that you’ll be doing this for the rest of your life.  After decades of yo-yo dieting I can attest to this.  Many people say you must approach weight loss as a change of lifestyle, but I don’t think that elevates appropriate awareness to the importance of managing a medical condition: lifestyles change over time, after all.  Hence a constant and permanent diligence over managing your weight is necessary.  Ignore the people who chuckle when you log your consumption of 2 Tic-Tacs, and don’t feel bad about only having a diet drink when you go out to eat with friends and there’s nothing on the menu that fits into your daily calorie budget; it’s YOUR body after all, and it’s YOUR health, and you have a medical condition to manage!

I will now make a rare product recommendation.  To help me with Awareness and Diligence I use an app called MyFitnessPal.com.  It’s a free(!) mashup of social networking and calorie counting, both on the consumption side and the expenditure side.  Start with their website to setup your profile, calculate your daily calories, set your goals, and invite your friends who are also managing their weight condition (look me up and invite me, my profile name is chuckros).  Then download their iPad, iPhone, and Android apps so you have everywhere/anywhere access to your daily calorie log.  Lookup and log EVERY food you eat, build and save your meals, and try out the ultra-handy barcode reader button (just to the right of the search).  Measure your portions, don’t guess.  If you’re going out to eat, plan ahead by looking up food at the restaurant so you know what you can eat; if you can’t do it beforehand, don’t be embarrassed looking up calories at the table: I’ve found many servers are knowledgeable about the calories on their menus.  If you can’t find your restaurant in the calorie search, try to think of a major chain serving similar cuisine.  You don’t have to be exact because you’ve built in your own margin of error.

And I’m not necessarily hung up on MyFitnessPal, I’ve heard of several fine ones.  For me, the features of MFP coupled with its convenience in being almost always at my fingertips (browser, iPhone, iPad) make it the best choice for me.

One final warning before you start: your body is going to fight you every now and then, and particularly when you start off.  Plan on suffering a headache the first day or two you start.  Have Tylenol or Advil at the ready, and once you knock it out you’ll start feeling better pronto and you’ll be well on your way to managing your weight condition.

Advertisements