Ok. I’m a bit cagey when it comes to the specifics, but let’s talk brass tax for a moment: I lost 50 lbs in 8 months. And 8 months later, I’ve kept it off despite being a 26-year-old who guzzles soda, loves his pizza and Mickey D’s with great gusto, and has a weakness for apple fritters, Cinnabon, and all baked goods.
Here are 2 core weight loss strategies, and 5 surprising ones, that worked for me:
1. Write down everything you eat
a. I had never heard of this until I started the program, and was skeptical of it. I hated writing things down. I hated interrupting my day. I would report my weekly food logs to a dietician, and I’d half-ass the whole week’s logs the night before meeting with her, trying to reconstruct my week in food. But I soon came around. I also began to know calories off the top of my head. I started taking notes on my phone and logging it properly later. And now I find this is the core of my routine. Food logs are the core of how I lost weight. Weight loss is a highly emotional issue. We eat healthy when we feel like it. We eat poorly after a bad day. We eat cake because it’s someone’s birthday at work, and somehow it’s always SOMEONE’s birthday. We binge when we are frustrated or sad. We try to make good choices most of the time, and then we get frustrated when we don’t see results.
b. Writing down everything you eat – and most importantly how many calories are in it – takes the emotionalism out of eating, and injects some much-needed rationality and quantification into this otherwise emotional and scattershot process. You give yourself a budget – mine is 1500 calories per day – and you stick to that for a week. And if you stick to it, you WILL lose weight. And if you didn’t, you can identify a few non-quantitative factors.
i. Did you work out 5 times that week?
ii. Did you get enough sleep?
iii. Did you manage stress effectively?
iv. Is your budget is too high – perhaps we lower it to 1400 and see if that has the desired impact.
2. Eat breakfast
a. Ok so maybe this one doesn’t surprise you – but it’s very important. The reason I used to avoid breakfast was that I figured if I wasn’t hungry, why eat? I would be able to afford that bigger dinner later if I skipped breakfast. But your metabolism doesn’t start working till you put something in it. A small, light, fiber-rich and protein-rich breakfast can get your metabolism going so that you spend the day burning calories.
b. Another reason not to eat breakfast was that if I ate breakfast at 7:45, I was invariably hungry again by 10:30. If I skipped breakfast, I was fine till noon. This is often because our breakfast is high in carbs and low in fat & protein. Carbs get processed first, they spike your blood sugar, you get a sugar-high, and then in an hour you’re blood sugar crashes, and you crash, and then your stomach tells you to go find more food – and what do you do? You go eat a donut or a caramel frappucino. Instead, eat a breakfast that’s small but high in fiber and protein – like a protein shake with a banana (a low glycemic fruit), a tablespoon of peanut butter (high in protein & healthy unsaturated fat), and chocolate whey protein. Add a tablespoon of a fiber powder or perhaps a tablespoon of flaxseed oil. Or perhaps an egg-white omelet with wheat toast.
5 Surprising Tips that Worked
1. Carbs and Fat are still important
First Atkins. Then South Beach. I steal hear people say they avoid foods high in fat – and while there is a correlation between low-fat foods, and foods that will help you lose weight, your body converts all forms of excess calories to fat, regardless of if that food started as a protein or carb. And after year’s of low fat and fat-free products, now we’re seeing low-carb and sugar-free products. I like a lot of these products – in fact I love them – but not because they are low-carb, but because the lack of carbs & sugar help make these foods low in calories. Calories – the unit that matters most.
2. Watch a movie while you work out
I hate cardio. I hate running. I hate the elliptical only slightly less. And I used to kill myself at the gym, keeping my heart-rate at 160 or 170, but couldn’t seem to lose weight. What I learned was that less-intense cardio, but more of it, is the way to fat loss. I’m told that you’re body doesn’t even start burning fat till 25 minutes into your workout, so if you quit after 30 minutes, you’re not really getting anything accomplished. I started with 45 minutes, and eventually worked up to 60. Furthermore, I hated the elliptical, and I found that music wasn’t enough to numb my mind. I started taking an old laptop, setting it on the elliptical, and watching action movies, or even the west wing. Anything to keep my mind engaged.
3. Drink more water
First thing when you wake up – drink a glass or two of water. I do it with my vitamins. When you’re hungry – drink a glass of water first. Oftentimes we mistake being dehydrated for being hungry, and end-up And when you come back from the gym, you’re probably just drank water and the gym, but make sure to drink a couple more glasses for good measure.
4. I don’t believe in juice
I love the people who won’t take a calcium supplement, and prefer to get it from their Orange Juice. How do you think they got the calcium into the OJ? Look at the nutrition facts on juice versus a can of coke. Same amount of calories. Same amount of sugar. At some point in the process, I realized that if I’m only allowing myself 1500 calories in a day, do I really want to spend 150 calories on a tall glass of juice? I’ll probably eat almost the same amount of food at dinner if I have a glass of juice as if I have a glass of diet coke or water. That’s because liquids don’t fill us up in the same way. So I decided, since juice doesn’t fill me up, I can get the vitamins & minerals elsewhere without the calories, and because I just don’t absolutely have to have juice in my life – I don’t crave it -I’m going to cut it out. I’ve had OJ once in the past year – and it tasted good – but I’m ok without it. It doesn’t exist in my universe.
5. Phone a friend
Sometimes when I’m feeling an urge to order a pizza come on – especially at night when I’m alone in the apartment and no one is there to judge me – I call a friend instead. I complain to them about wanting pizza and they scold me appropriately, and then I move on and talk to them for 30 minutes. By the time I hang up, the craving is usually gone. This is part of a psychological idea of delay – if you can avoid giving into a craving by delaying it – using any strategy at your disposal – you’ll often find the craving disappears soon after.