A Diet That Really Works!

by Gary Campbell

To most people, a diet means a temporary change in eating habits. It means following some unusual regimen that will help them achieve some endóloss of weight for example.

But temporary diets don't work!

For a diet to work it has to become a lifelong habit. I'm lazy, so a lazy person has to be able to commit to the kinds of lifelong changes I'm about to suggest. This diet has been working for me for over six months. If you aren't even more lazy than I am, it will work for you, too!

My diet (the change in my daily habits) consists of two critical things: A very brief workout each morning while my coffee brews, and eating 5 small meals a day instead of two or three (one of which always tended to be quite large). Of course, I can't do this every day, but I have been able to sustain it at least five or six days a week. Given that I gained my extra 20-30 pounds at the rate of only a couple of pounds a year for 20-30 years, the fact that I've only lost 10 pounds in the past six months seems acceptable. What's really good is that I got through the period from Thanksgiving to New Years without gaining any weight. That has never happened to me before.

To be effective, all diets for weight loss have to cut calorie consumption to be lower than calorie expenditure. If you eat the right things every three hours you don't get hungry. If you allow yourself to get hungry, you run the risk of eating too much at your next encounter with food. The trick to losing weight is to get through the day eating fewer calories than you are expending (not a lot fewer) without getting hungry.

Here's a sample of what I've chosen to eat. I call my "meals" breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and supper. For breakfast I have 1/3 cup quick rolled oats (or 1/4 cup steel cut oats). I prefer the rolled because they are much quicker and easier to prepare. Although the steel cut have a better texture and some people swear by them, I'm simply too impatient and don't want to spend the time preparing them. I buy the rolled oats in bulk for less than $1 a pound, measure 1/3 cup into a bowl with 2/3 cup of water. Into that I mix some salt, artificial sweetener, raisins, chopped walnuts, and cinnamon. I cook the mixture for 90 seconds in a microwave (in the bowl I eat it from). If I make two bowls at once, it needs to cook twice as long. I often have a glass of Spicy V-8 juice for breakfast as well.

For brunch, lunch, and dinner I have a bowl of soup, or a salad with chicken, or chicken, rice, and some broccoli or carrots. The menu varies, but the amounts are kept small, and the calorie target is 300-400.

For supper (sometimes called desert), I have a variety of things. One favorite is a fruit sundae (berries, chunks of apples, bananas, or oranges, yogurt, and a couple of spoonfuls of granola.

More Advice: Drink 8oz of water before and 8oz during each meal. Divide your calories evenly among the five "meals" with more calories for the early meals of the day, and fewer for the last meal. I take a vitamin supplement in the morning.

I exercise while my coffee brews first thing in the morning. I'm now doing 30 sit-ups, 30 deep knee bends, 60 jumping jacks, 30 toe touches (with arms back over the head), and finally 30 rotations (hands on hips, rotate your head, body, and elbows to the extreme left, then to the extreme right).

As for "meal" menus, shoot for 30-50% complex carbs, 30-40% proteins, 20-30% fats. If you drink any alcohol or other liquids, you have to count those calories as part of one of your meals.

You can shop and cook just once or twice a week. I bake a chicken, remove all the easy meat, and make soup out of the rest. With an onion, some garlic, salt, and chipotle pepper, along with vegetables and brown rice, it's delicious. Eat the meat with brown rice and fresh vegetables. Minimize or eliminate bread, pastries, and anything with refined sugar in it. Always take out and prepare just what you intend to eat at each meal. Don't make it easy to help yourself to seconds. Minimize fat and dairy (cheese and butter).

If you eat at 8, 11, 2, 5, and 8, you'll notice that you have free time between 12 and 1pm, and between 5 and 8pm. You could have lunch or dinner at those times, or you could just join someone and drink a bottle of water or eat a salad with nothing in it but greens and tomatoes. I have had very minimal urges for snacks between meals. If you get in the habit of eating five properly sized and constituted "meals" at the given times, you should find yourself not wanting to eat anything else.

Final words of advice: If you "cheat" (and I do once or twice a week), skip 2-4 of your small meals when you eat a big meal. For example, if I go out to a Sunday brunch, the only other meal I'll eat that day is supper. If you eat a big meal at noon or in the evening, skip the two small meals that surround it. Also, try to fit in the 6-10 minutes that it takes to exercise. Find a time (like when my coffee brews) that occurs regularly every day. It's best to exercise every day, but once or twice a year you might skip them for a week or two, and once or twice a month you might skip them for a day or two.

[Time has passed] OK, so I've been "cheating" too much. I've gained back a few pounds. The regular observance of the above diet and exercise kept me in good shape while I followied it, but what can I say? I love to eat. So, I'm attempting an experiment to deal with it. After a few weeks of this, I'll try to do what it takes to stick to the regular diet. You may remember that I started all this by saying "temporary diets don't work." I guess I was ...

Just Kidding! ó A Crash Diet

There are two ways to gain weight: Eating and drinking.

There are five ways to lose weight: Urinating, defecating, sweating, vomiting, and breathing out more moisture than you breathe in. It's really quite simple. Pass more weight into your body than you pass out, and you gain weight. Do the opposite and you lose weight.

How do calories figure in? Calories are units of energy that the body uses to power and rebuild itself. They are contained in molecules of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and alcohol. Approximately 4 calories per gram of protein and carbohydrate, 7 per gram of alcohol, and 9 per gram of fat. Food also contains water, roughage, vitamins, and other essential and non-essential weight bearing molecules. For the most part, the body regulates quite well the input and output of all of these except the molecules that it uses for energy.

You burn 10-15 calories per day for every pound you weigh. If you weigh 160 pounds and lead a very sedentary life, you burn only 1600 calories per day. An average (160 pound) person burns 2400. The internet says you have to burn 3500 calories more than you consume to lose a pound. According to my calculations (454 grams / pound x 9 calories / gram of fat = calories / pound) you have to burn 4086 calories to burn off a pound of pure fat, but it's hard to target pure fat in a diet.

In any case, each of us is more or less efficient in our processing of food, weighs more or less than 160 pounds, and has a more or less active life style. So, the only thing we can say is that you have to burn more calories than you take in to make any headway in losing weight.

Here's what I'm testing [10/07/08]. My belief is that the body can adjust to various changes in diet. I think it takes 3-4 days for it to do so. In the past, I would fast for a day every few days, and I succeeded in losing weight, but it was fairly painful to go a day without the delight of preparing and eating something.

Being sure to take a multi-vitamin tablet every morning, and to do my exercise program in both the morning and the evening, I'm eating only three times a day. Breakfast at 0700 consists of oatmeal four days in a row, then two hardboiled eggs deviled with a bit of vinegar and/or dressing three days in a row. Lunch at 1400 consists of brown rice seasoned with salsa or diet spaghetti sauce (4 days), or a can of tuna seasoned with salsa or dill relish (3 days). Dinner at 1900 (along with a second set of exercises) is the same as breakfast. The idea is to eat nearly all carbs for 4 days, and nearly all protein with some fat and a minimum of carbohydrates for 3 days. No alcohol. Lots of water. Several cups of coffee in the morning (which seems to help me go longer between breakfast and lunch).

I really don't think the timing of meals has a lot to do with it, it's more what you can live with. The portion size must reflect about 200-300 calories per meal. Weigh yourself each morning after using the toilet and before you get dressed. Be sure you have a scale that you can lean a bit one way or the other and get the same weight after stepping off and then weighing yourself again.

After nearly a month [11/04/08] I've lost about 10 pounds. I broke the diet for about 6 days, and ate freely (though not uncomfortably so) before resuming the diet. I think the key is to construct two different meals for each of the two diet periods (high carbs and low carbs). Each meal should be 250-300 calories, and there should be 3-4 of them per day. Each meal may be quite simple, 2-3 ingredients. The "cheapest" food available might actually be the best. This keeps you away from prepared and/or processed food. The most expensive of my ingredients have been Spicy V-8, salsa, and dill relish. The light, water packed tuna was next. Bulk oatmeal and brown rice are very cheap. Other calorie equivalent foods can also be found.

The thing that really makes this viable as a crash diet is that the body doesn't shut down on it, and the appetite doesn't get out of control. If you eat when you actually become hungry, and limit your portions to one of your designated meals, you can easily stay below a 1200 calorie maximum. At least I did, without any effort at all. The fact is, you get tired of the same food, and if you know that's all there is, you don't build up much of an appetite. The only hard part is finding a one- or two-week stretch where you aren't distracted away from the diet. If you can do that, you are going to lose a couple of pounds a week. If you can just hold even during your diet breaks (you can do the math), you can keep this up until you are at the weight you want. Then, try to resume the lifetime diet explained above.

A final note: The exercise program is not critical to losing weight. Its purpose is to keep you fit and healthy. Walking a couple of miles 3-4 times a week is a perfectly good alternative.