What diet works best? The one you stay on, of course.
Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and many more popular programs abound. You see their ads with trim people hawking them. Maybe you buy their products or go to a center. Then there’s the many diets. Low fat diets, low carb diets, high protein diets and more. Some are more exotic, like the Paleo Diet—apparently trying to take 21st century humans back to a prehistoric meal plan (no offense to those who follow it). The various diets have their adherents as well as their critics. Physicians and nutritionists may fall into one camp or another.
This article is not intended to be a critique or review of the various plans or programs. Disclaimer: I am neither a nutritionist nor a physician. I’m just a guy who has been conscious of his own weight and health as the years pass. In other words, my wife wants me around in our senior years—I do too. Instead, this piece recounts the successful approach that my wife and I agreed on last year. It worked exceptionally well for us in 2017.
It doesn’t entail extreme calorie reduction or major life-style changes—just some sensible adjustments that result in safe weight loss of no more than one to two pounds per week. It may or may not be right for you. It costs nothing—not even a book or an online subscription. So, if you try it and don’t see the results you seek, you’re not out any money. If you’re not getting there with a self-directed technique like the one we used, move on to other options—like some of those group or trainer-led programs.
Here’s what we did. Your circumstances, your lifestyle will likely differ. But it worked well for us. Take it as an example of how simple this really can be.
We never got into weighing our food or calculating calories. We relied on gradually reducing the portion sizes of our meals. Most importantly, we ate the biggest meal of the day at lunchtime—not at dinner. Dinner became smaller than breakfast. Half a sandwich, half an apple and maybe four or five potato chips. We also cut out most of the fattening snacks. We reserved cookies, donuts and ice cream for special occasions. Those occasions never were in the evening.
Why the change to lunch as the main meal?
A study compared two groups of people. Both groups ate the same foods, with the same calories. One group had a modest lunch and a larger dinner. The other group followed the change that we did. Surprise, the group eating less of their food lost more weight than the folks keeping dinner as the main meal did. Again, same food/same calories. It’s the circadian rhythm affecting metabolism—calorie burn goes down in the evening. If you’re still working, making lunch your main meal may be challenging, but consider how you might make it work and try it for a time to see if it’s worth the hassle.
I began exercising more consistently. I built up to exercising 5-6 days a week on an underwater treadmill, for 30-45 minutes a day. There were weeks the schedule didn’t happen—appointments, illnesses, etc., but I quickly returned to it.
I reached my weight loss goal in six and one-half months! I had expected it to take the entire year. So, I upped the goal to 20%. I wound up besting that as well. The “set point” theory says you can lose 10% of your weight before your body slows your metabolism to keep you from losing more. Not sure if I ever reached it, but did have some slowdowns. Some say a set point stop lasts six weeks, some say six months. Whatever I had lasted perhaps three weeks. I just persisted.
Will this work for you? Remember the math. Calories consumed minus calories burned equals gain or loss. If you have nutritional issues, incorporate those into any meal modification. Don’t try to lose more than about 1.5 pounds per week. Some weeks I lost nearly two pounds, but NEVER more. Consult your physician if you are uncertain how to proceed or have medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or metabolic disorders before starting an exercise program or making significant changes to your diet. I informed mine and he approved.
Don’t take my word for the results, here’s the famous before and after pictures. No, no photo-shopping. The one on the left is from June 2016. The one on the right, January 8th, 2018. I had to switch the shorts for the after picture—they wouldn’t stay up now! I didn’t begin losing weight until the end of December 2016, so that summer photo from 2016 was how I looked in December. Okay, could have had a happier look on the right, but I do feel good!
I don’t plan on maintaining the weight loss in 2018–I plan on losing more! So I’ll have to do a little editorial update in 2019 and 2020 to confirm that I can keep it off.
Note: If you happen to read Chris The Story Reading Ape’s blog, you’ll find a guest post from last fall that closely resembles this article. I couldn’t leave it that; I had to update it and share it with the readers of Eagle Peak Press.