Diet Tips

These are the general principles I have found to be useful for losing weight and keeping it off. It is a compromise between what I believe are best practices and what is a livable lifestyle to me. This is intended to be descriptive rather than prescriptive and I reserve the right to change my mind about any point at any time. Also note that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist and none of this is intended to be considered qualified medical advice.

Lose Weight Slowly

I'm not convinced that it is necessarily harmful to lose weight rapidly, but I don't think it sets you up for a long term sustainable lifestyle. I generally aim for a weight loss rate of no more than 2 lbs. per month and try to work in periods where I maintain my weight. This keeps me focused on developing a lifestyle that manages my weight rather than being obsessed with reaching a goal and having to figure out what to do once I get there.

Make Small Changes

Weight loss shouldn't feel like a campaign you suffer through until you reach a final goal. It should feel like you're making small adjustments to your lifestyle that you could easily live with for life. If you don't feel like you could "give up" a certain item completely, then make a compromise and reduce the quantity or frequency you consume it. Spend a little time contemplating what it is about that food you really like and see if there's a slightly healthier substitute. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It took me 3 months to give up bread and 6 months to give up diet soda and I don't think I would have been able to drop those without slowly weaning myself off of them. In fact, I never really feel like I "gave them up", I just gradually lost interest in them and stopped consuming them. I'm also careful about becoming so dogmatic about my diet that I would claim that I'll never have those foods again. On the rare times that I do eat out, I'll sometimes have a diet soda. I may even have a slice of cake or a hunk of bread on a special occasion.

Eat Real Food

I'm not going to pretend like I'm qualified to make some sort of authoritative list of which foods are good and which are bad. In general, if you base your diet on foods that don't have a list of ingredients, you're 90% there. Focus on foods that come in a form that you could obtain in nature with little more than a spear, a shovel and a knife. If you're curious about any specific foods or need a comprehensive guide, the following diet plans are a great place to start:

Perfect Health Diet
Mark's Daily Apple
Robb Wolf
The Bulletproof Executive

I don't think any of them are 100% accurate or perfect for everyone, but they are all immensely better than diets based on processed foods.

Macronutrient Ratios and Calories

Here are some key concepts I've learned:

1) Don't fear fat.
2) Don't fear protein.
3) Don't fear carbs.
4) Calories do matter.

While I do think I have much better appetite control on a low carb (LC) diet, I'm no longer convinced that it is necessarily healthier than a high carb approach based on real, whole foods. It just happens to suit my tastes and preferences better. I've also become convinced that a very low carb (VLC) approach (under 50 grams per day) does not seem to be the most healthful over the long term. I currently aim for about 100 grams per day which by most accounts is still LC but will get me shunned by some of the VLC or LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) crowds because I get those carbs from white rice and potatoes.

I don't think there's a magical macronutrient ratio that works for all of the people, all of the time. I also don't think that any overly simplified hypothesis like "fat is fattening" or "carbs are fattening" is accurate. Given that your metabolism isn't broken in a specific fashion (like low thyroid, kidney failure or diabetes), the only thing that is fattening is excess calories. Being aware of macronutrient ratios and experimenting with them to meet your physical activity and preferences is just a useful means of developing a lifestyle that eliminates those excess calories.

And finally, all of the above is really less important than this:

Aim to Fix Your Satiety

It doesn't matter how perfectly you follow any kind of prescribed diet regimen if it leaves you hungry. Keeping weight off by staying hungry is like trying to use less oxygen by holding your breath. You can do it for a limited time but you will eventually lose that struggle.

Tinker and experiment with different foods and different ratios. Accept the fact that what worked for you yesterday may not work for you tomorrow. Aim to find a balance between mindless eating and mindfulness that doesn't lead to obsessiveness. If at all possible, surround yourself with people (in real life and online) who help, support and encourage you to maintain a healthy relationship with food.

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