Food is man’s first love. From the moment we’re born, we find ourselves instinctively searching for sustenance. It starts as a purely basic need and over the course of a man’s life, it turns into something much more. It’s a source of comfort and pleasure and as it is with many pleasures (sex or caffeine, anyone?), our human nature takes over and we tend to return to that which pleasures us, over and over again. Sweetness is a preferred taste as well as an acquired one.
Food becomes our nemesis.. the implacable agent of our increasing waistlines. We detest the damage to our physiques but we continue to invite the problem in with every sugary-laden, calorie-dense meal.
One could easily make the case that we’re not entirely to blame. There’s a glut of reasons that contribute to our expanding waistlines.
We live in a society that teaches poor eating habits before we are even able to walk. Parents often reward children with sugary treats for good behavior and calorie-loaded sodas and juices (offering little in the way of nutrition) are a standard for most kids today.
The food industry isn’t doing us any favors, either. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was introduced to the general public in the 1970s and today, it’s found in nearly every restaurant you visit as well as a surplus of grocery store foods. As an extremely inexpensive alternative to sugar, HFCS has become a staple of our everyday food intake. Foods high in HFCS and sugar leave you hungry and wanting more food.
And then there’s the cruel trick of metabolism. Many of us spend the first 20 years of life eating anything and everything we want, believing ourselves forever immune to the cause/effect relationship of food and obesity. But alas.. every “body” eventually slows the rate at which it burns calories and trying to reverse two decades worth of eating habits (and the only habits ever known to us) overnight, is a super-sized order.
Enter the Diet
Approaching a proper diet isn’t something we learn in school. Health class broaches the subject of nutrition but seems far more concerned with teaching us about communicable diseases, sexually transmitted viruses and the value of not having babies until we’re married. All important life lessons, but of no value in trying to shrink an ever-increasing waistline.
As we enter the adulthood phase of life (some sooner – some later), we eventually realize that our weight is spiraling out of control. We realize the need to “diet”.
But what exactly does it mean to diet? For the first time in life, we’re responsible for losing weight and more specifically, burning fat.
The problem with dieting is that different approaches work for different people and turning to the internet for more information (as is common with any unknown subject in this technology enabled world) often only serves to confuse us all the more.
Dieting websites number in the millions and there are as many self-acclaimed dieting experts as there are different opinions on what works. Think you found the perfect solution? Hit the next website and it contradicts everything you just read and thought you understood. Talk to the body builder at work and he’ll smugly laugh at what you think you understand – all the while explaining his “perfect” approach that has enabled his genetically gifted physique to achieve even greater results.
The book store is no kinder. The shelves are lined with book after book that offer conflicting information. Eat more carbs. Eat no carbs. Atkins is the best. Try Weight Watchers. Eat more fat to lose weight. Starve yourself. Do more abs crunches. Eat 6X a day. Eat once a day. Swim the English Channel. Wrestle Tiger Sharks first thing in the morning on an empty stomach (this one does have a very manly appeal to it!).
You name it, there’s probably a book out there that advocates the method to lose weight.
The average guy cares little about being a Rhodes scholar when it comes to nutrition. We’re just guys who got a little older, gained belly fat and need a simple and sensible plan to remove it. Does such a thing even exist?
The Greatest Diet in the World
If you’re looking for us to nominate the perfect diet to achieve this goal, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. What we are going to offer is the greatest diet advice in the world.
The truth of the matter is that almost any diet will work to reduce weight. Losing weight is about manipulating hormones and “nearly” every mainstream diet will achieve this. However.. this doesn’t mean that a particular diet is best.
One of the the biggest reasons for dieting misinformation is that once an individual gets results, that person will often proclaim his method as the Holy Grail of diets. He becomes blind to alternatives because a particular approach worked so well for him.
Cousin Earl ate 500 calories a day for a month and he lost 25 pound so that must be the answer, right?
While this example is extreme and with obvious folly, it is not far removed from some very popular diets. The HCG Diet (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) hit the market in 2010 and it advocated eating 500-800 calories a day, while supplementing with synthetic HCG (a hormone that gets elevated during pregnancy). This diet became hugely popular because it worked.
Of course it worked! When you starve yourself, you’ll lose weight. But again, this isn’t the best way to lose weight. Low calorie diets create a rebound effect of wanting to eat more than before you went on the diet. Strong proponents of the diet soon realized that they were gaining all their weight back after the “diet” was over and they were supposed to return to normal eating again.
A starvation diet also brings with it a myriad of negative side-effects such as gallstones, loss of lean muscle tissue, irregular heartbeat, increased cortisol and slower metabolism.. just to name a few.
How to Commit to Dieting
So just what is the secret to dieting? What is the optimal method of shedding pounds, maintaining sanity and not rebounding? What approach will allow you to commit to dieting on an everyday basis and guarantee success without fail?
It’s simple really.. and while several dieting books do touch on this idea, very few resources present this approach as the most straight-forward and effective method that it is.
You lose weight by eating as much as you can.
What? Heresy, you say! To better understand, we might reword the above to say, “You lose weight by eating as much as you can to lose weight”.
When individuals start down the road of dieting, they tend to make two mistakes:
- Cutting calories too low
This typical approach is rooted in our human nature. Once we make a decision to lose weight, we actively pursue it. We demand results and we make the decision to be aggressive in our approach. It’s the successful formula for nearly everything we do in life but it’s not the successful approach to dieting.
Drastic calorie restriction is often the result of impatience (wanting to be ten pounds lighter next week). People also start diets with severe restrictions because it’s what the mainstream has preached for years. If cutting calories gets results then more is better, right? Absolutely wrong.
Understanding Calories In Vs Calories Out
At the end of the day, the sum total of your hormonal responses in achieving homeostasis (maintaining a stable equilibrium and metabolism) is responsible for your body weight. An easy way to say this is that the sum total of your calories consumed must be less than the sum total of your calories expended. A calorie is simply a unit of energy and if you burn more energy than you take in, you lose weight.
However, if it was as easy as counting calories and subtracting, the diet books would be few in number. We have to address the issue of hormones because they determine how your body uses it’s supplied energy (calories) and these hormones turn a simple method of subtraction into a complex mathematical algorithm.
Hormonal responses are designed to keep you alive. They could care less about your goal of losing weight. If you decide to permanently consume 800 calories a day to drop weight, your hormones will be in complete disarray. Maintaining their focus on keeping you alive, hormones will drop your metabolic rate so that they may use a lesser energy supply more efficiently. This results in lethargy and a thyroid that is working overtime to keep up. You open yourself up to new illnesses and the risk of hypothyroidism. You will create an environment that is conducive to fat storage as your body attempts to hold on to every available calorie.
A Better Approach to Dieting
We still need to consider calories in vs calories out. When you are ready to start your diet, you need to know how many calories a day you can eat and still maintain weight. Here’s where most diet books fail and here’s where impatience gets the best of us.
Take the first two weeks of your diet and eat as much as you can everyday, while keeping the scale from moving upward. Always start with a higher caloric intake as opposed to a low one.
It’s time to calculate the number of calories you need. The following calculator will determine your BMR. This is the number of calories you need in a day without doing any activity (if you just laid in bed all day and didn’t move).
Now we factor in a multiplier to account for your daily activity. Use the following chart to determine yours. If you hold a desk job and workout once a day for 45-60 minutes, you would add in an Activity Level Factor of 1.6. Apply this number in the calculator below, along with your BMR from the above calculator.
Finally, we’ll determine your overall caloric needs, with your daily activity calculated into the equation. Subtract 300 and you have your daily deficit.
Counting calories is a necessary evil and if you haven’t done it before, you’ll find it far easier than expected. Most people tend to eat about 10 main foods that they return to on a regular basis. If you’ve never counted calories before, you’ll likely be surprised at how easy it is to go over your daily limit. Every food has a nutrition label on it so use it.
If you gain a pound in the first couple days, cut back a couple hundred calories and give it a couple more days. If you don’t gain any weight, experiment with increasing calories by a couple hundred. Establishing your maintenance is of huge importance. Don’t skip it. After a couple months of calorie counting, you’ll find that it’s unnecessary, as you will become very adept at knowing how many calories you’re consuming every day.
At the end of two weeks, you should know exactly what your body requires. At this point, reduce your calories by 300 a day and no more. At the end of the next week, you’ll be surprised at having lost one to two pounds. Maintain your calorie deficit and keep moving forward. It’s easy when you don’t feel like you’re starving!
While one to two pounds doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s a practical goal that you should always shoot for. In the quest for weight loss, your focus should be on losing fat. Losing anymore than this can mean a reduction in lean muscle tissue. Lean muscle tissue increases metabolism so we want to keep it at all costs. The exception to losing one to two pounds a day will factor in for extremely obese people. They tend to lose a lot more in the beginning of weight loss programs, as they simply have a lot more fuel for the body to use.
By understanding what your daily maintenance is and reducing by only 300 calories, your body will have no negative hormonal responses. The importance of this can’t be overstated. Hormones mean everything when trying to drop weight.
Along with the physical benefits of a 300 calorie deficit, you’ll find the psychological benefits to be better than any mainstream diet. There’s no irritability or constant hunger pains.
When Fat Loss Stalls
For some, a weight loss plateau will not happen. Consider yourself lucky or blessed if you can achieve your weight loss goals without ever getting “stuck”. Others will experience periods of non-progress after a few months into dieting. What to do?
Evaluate your diet. While calorie intake is the ultimate factor in losing weight, there comes a time when you have to clean the diet up to achieve more results. Sugar is the biggest culprit of all. We won’t denounce all the evils of sugar because you’ve likely heard it all but restricting sugar is a sure means of breaking through a plateau.
Eat healthy fats. Going low-fat is another fallacy that is prevalent in the dieting world. Healthy fats contribute to overall fat loss. Eat plenty of fish and cook with coconut oil.
Consider a paleo approach to dieting. Paleo is a proven winner and though it’s not for everyone, it gives remarkable results for everyone who tries it.
If your diet is in check, the next step is to add or increase exercise. Hormones have a positive response to regular exercise and this is a far better approach than trying to cut calories further.
Consider 30-50 minutes of cardio four or five times a week. If visions of running in place on a treadmill don’t conjure up pleasant images, consider an unlimited amount of alternatives. Outdoor jogs can be relaxing. Buy a mini-trampoline to make cardio fun. Do jumping jacks in your living room. Find something you like. Mix it up and reap the benefits.
Most of all, be patient. It took years to add those pounds and expect that it will take some time to drop them. You’ll find that eating all you can to lose weight is ideal and you never really feel like you’re on a diet. And that is how you commit to dieting.