• Picking the diet that works for you

    A while ago, I wrote a piece at CNN where I said that I had come to the belief that weight loss was a very personal journey. I said that while something might (or had) worked for me, that didn’t mean it would work for you. I said that I had come to believe that finding a path to weight loss was something that was likely not one-size-fits-all.

    I thought it was finally a piece that wouldn’t deliver to me a lot of hate mail. Boy, was I wrong. Even the comments were vicious.

    People get very testy about obesity and dieting. They have very strong notions. I still think, though, that there are many, many ways to lose weight, and it’s important to find the one that works best for you.

    Greg Maurer* and I have been discussing this topic for some time. He has a rather holistic view towards weight control:

    I, on the other hand, [have] as my sole goal the attainment of a relationship with food that I could sustain for the rest of my life.  I do this not by fasting, but through moderation.  Each day I try and hit my goal of 1850 calories (I used to write the calories down; now I just keep a mental tab).  Some days are high and some days are low.  Over a week’s time, I nearly always average out.

    I do it differently. I try to keep things lower than that on most days, and then splurge on others. So over a week, I also average out, but with more variability than my friend. He cites a recent NPR piece that on a diet that goes even further:

    Dr. Mosley championed a diet that he calls the 5:2 diet:  you eat normally five days a week, but you do an alternative fast the other two days.  On the fast days, Dr. Mosley ate, roughly, a 300 calorie breakfast, no lunch, and a 300 calorie dinner.  Dr. Mosley states that he lost 20 lbs in 9 weeks, and has kept it off since by maintaining a single fast day a week (for him, it is 500 calories on Mondays).

    The point isn’t that you should do what Dr. Mosley did, or what I do, or what Greg does. You should find a way to balance your life, and your caloric intake, in a way that works for you. And you shouldn’t let anyone else tell you you’re doing it wrong.


    *Greg is a very good friend, but that shouldn’t stop you from reading his blog.

    • Getting a smartphone did it for me. From calorie counting to GPS tracking on the distance travelled while running, I discovered that the data my phone and its apps provide keep me motivated.
      Mix in a little zombie apocalypse and the whole thing is fun, too!

    • I did a version of this starting last summer and have lost and kept off 12 pounds (could lose 10 more, maybe). Even though I get up at 5, I don’t eat until 9 in my office. I have a small lunch, and a modest supper. I splurge more on weekends, and completely stopped drinking alcohol. I disallow bought lunches, and weekday lunch is constrained to whatever food I keep in my office or bring from home. If I forget or am stocked-out, I don’t eat.

      The main thing I learned is that you can feel hungry, but don’t need to eat. Once you learn to move the sensation of hunger from a pang to a dull ache, to a mild sensation, you can live with it consistently. On most days I ate well under 1800 calories, and I’m 6′ and 185. I feel mildly hungry for long stretches of the days, and I’m fine.

      A high level of psychological awareness, and a change in attitude to food, are the key things. I am rarely giving in to cravings now, because I rarely have cravings. But I admit some of this is constitutional too–I’ve always had an ascetic temperament.