(*or your money back)
Not a day goes by where I’m not painfully reminded of the slipping collective health of our nation, and so after thumbing through another diet book someone was reading to see what kind of advice was actually included, I thought I could do a better job in one post than in the hundreds of pages in the book. Now, I have nothing against diet plans in general, and they do work for some people. Sample recipes are useful for a lot of people, and you most likely won’t find that here because I’m a lazy cook, but when you have to memorize a list that says you can’t have carrots until week 3 of the program, I can see how people lose interest.
Also of note, these are all tips I use now, when I’m not in a crazy workout program. People often think I’m some workout fiend, but believe me, in the course of a day, right now I’m no more or less active than a lot of people (I hope). Cubicles and suburbs are terrible inventions. People give me cookies and cakes and chocolates because “I look like I could use it”, but they don’t realize that it’s because I specifically avoid constantly eating sweets that I stay healthy. Why is it okay to poke fun at me for my “weird tiny lunches”, but I can’t go to a fat person and give them a salad “because they look like they could use it”?
As usual, I am not a doctor, IANALawyer, IANANutritionist, but here are some General Rules to start:
- Eat 3 meals a day. No skipping.
- Set a cutoff time before bed when you won’t have anything to eat. For me, it’s generally about 1.5 hours before bed where I’ll stop eating (obviously different if you have late dinners). This eliminates late night snacking when you’re usually not actually hungry anyway.
- Don’t eat out of a bag/jar/etc. Portion things out on a plate and don’t go back for seconds.
- Keep a written diary of everything you eat. Everything. I don’t do this anymore, but just actually looking back at your meals and snacks for a week can be pretty sobering. If you still can’t hold yourself accountable, email it to me and I’ll provide motivation/mockery/free personal coaching.
- Low-fat products are not always better than their normal counterparts. In fact, a lot of times they are worse. See Fructose is Poison.
Now for some more specific tips, starting with Beverages:
- Water and Milk. That’s it. Cut everything else out if you want the best results. I’m lenient of some things, but others are strictly forbidden.
- Absolutely no pop/soda. Even diet and zero calorie drinks, because artificial sweeteners still F with your digestive system, and that extra sodium is leading you closer and closer to a stroke.
- No Gatorade/flavored water/etc. Same thing. It’s pure sodium and sugar to mask the taste, and you may think that 10 minute run you did left you dehydrated, but it didn’t, and in any case, grab water instead. (Did you know it’s free from the faucet?!)
- No fruit juice. Those drinks have even more sugar than pop, and it’s easy to forget about those calories.
- Wine/beer/liquor in moderation is fine. Why? Because I said so and there’s no way I’m completely cutting it out of my intake. It just seems like you’re losing at life if you can’t allow it. Also, I skip the “moderation” part a bit, so I guess what I’m really saying is know your limits and don’t forget to count all those empty calories.
- Coffee/tea are fine as well, but only with nothing added. Put down the spoon of sugar and carton of cream and learn to like the taste of it as it’s meant to be. BLACK.
- Vegetables are your friend. Eat lots and lots of them. Try to get full on them once. It’s harder than you think. They’re (obviously, I hope) full of vitamins and low in calories. But skip the ranch/hummus/blue cheese dip and dressings. You’re undoing all the good. For a visual on comparative calorie counts see:
- Go light on meats (especially red meat). I only eat red meat when I’m eating out these days, and if I am having meat at home (rare event) it’s usually chicken.
- I live in the seafood deprived Midwest, so I take advantage of good stuff when I can, which is sparingly. When I’m at home, some tuna or salmon is the most I’ll make. Apparently fish oils are good for you or something.
- Get as much fiber as you can handle. Eat things with whole wheat instead of refined white wheat. Eat fresh fruit. Yes, the fiber will make you fart more. It passes right through you and keeps the digestive system ticking. But it’s either that, or having your body turning fiber-less foods into fat and storing it. Fart or Fat. Choose one.
- In general, when I’m not on a workout training program, I cut way back on bread, pasta, rice, and other grains. I don’t need that much glucose, and it allows for even more veggies. When I do go for pasta, it’s without rich sauces and intriguing fillings. Pasta is fuel, so the only toppings allowed are olive oil and maybe a little pepper and parmesan cheese.
- Be careful with other toppings too. You probably don’t need all that soy sauce, and you know HFCS is in ketchup, right?
I’m sure a lot of this is heresy to my Dutch-American farming roots where everything seems to have an extra stick of butter and is covered in cheese. Yeah, it’s delicious, and I eat it when I’m with family, but I don’t want to develop Type 2 diabetes or have to take cholesterol medicine either.
The other part of the equation is exercise, or more accurately, physical activity. I can probably write forever on the topic and might do more later on, but just try to get on your feet as much as possible. Every minute walking instead of sitting on the couch is a good one.
One pound of body fat is 3500 calories, so if the standard daily intake is 2000 calories (probably a little low), and you reduce your diet to 1500 calories a day, it’ll take a full week to lose 1 pound. That’s normal, but just realize that it’s a slow process. Another good rule of thumb for exercise is that running/walking a mile will generally burn only 100 calories. Avoid overeating post-workout, because you can undo everything with just a cookie or two. But more seriously, take care of yourself. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.