I’ve failed more times than you can possibly count. I’m here to tell you all of the problems with “dieting” – and a proposed solution to this problem. In the featured image, this “diet” essentially wants you to give up eating food for months on end in lieu of juicing. Some of the juices are really, really tasty, but this level of extreme can be very, very dangerous to your health and screw up a lot. Good juices though! But another thing that is not sustainable for the rest of your life.
“If I could just lose it all quickly, I will maintain”. No…you will put it back on and then some.
One of my certifications for work is something called a PMP – Project Management Professional. It’s a fancy way of saying I understand the architecture and nomenclature of the PMI systems to manage projects. One of the first things you learn is that a project has a beginning and an end. It has a charter. It has a project management plan. It has a sponsor. It has metrics. It has governance and change control. It has review. It has acceptability tests. Then…closeout.
What you learn from this system mostly, is the beginning and end.
With dieting, most people setup this plan….perhaps in great detail….but there’s no end ever in sight. Perhaps the end is defined as a “goal weight”. Well, when that goal weight seems impossible to reach, or years out, I believe mailman syndrome creeps in.
Most of my “diets” have the following phases:
- Initiation. “So you lost weight on this diet? Maybe I should try it”
- Buy-in. We do the research and look up the “rules” of the diet. For example, no eating meat on the 3rd Thursday of the month.
- Acceptance. We will start the plan on Monday, and get in our last binge eat or scheduled binge alcoholic adventure of the weekend.
- Jumping off the bridge. I’m on a diet!!!
- Church is in session! You are religiously following your diet and preaching it to others. Amen brother!
- You sinner! Life happens, and you have a cupcake at a work birthday event and spend a day self flagellating yourself. You failed. Again. How dare you, you loser.
- Weight avalanche! You lost that first 10-15 pounds and are so stoked to take off everything! Little did you know, it was mostly water weight or glycogen stores. And now….your body adjusts to whatever gimmick you are doing.
- The great desert plateau. You’ve spent a month at the Gobi desert…deprived of calories, starving all the time, tired, drained….and you step on the scale and not one pound is lost.
- Succumbing to your urges. Imagine you are in that desert, not having a sip to drink in 3 days of 120 degree heat. The first bite of pizza in 3 months tastes as good as that sip of ice cold water to your parched, dry lips would feel like. You ravenously destroy all of the pizza in your sight.
- The diet is buried in the backyard with all of the other diets. You come to a conclusion that while you did lose 24 pounds on it, 5 months of your life went by and you should have lost twice that much….and you just cannot live the rest of your life without pizza, so you are doomed and this particular diet is doomed. You are tired, cranky, beat up, fed up.
- I’ve been missing you!! Suddenly, you want to “make up for lost time” and you’re getting a pizza or two delivered each week…and find the convenience just as novel as the idea of an ice cold water fountain in the middle of the Gobi desert.
- I’m baaaaacccckkkk. Within weeks, the weight you struggled to take off for 5 months returns in no time, accompanied by her uninvited friends from out of state with their luggage.
- Sustainment. You then find a period of weeks/months/years where you are able to sustain a weight, which is several pounds heavier than when you started the last diet.
- Agitation. Your weight creeps up/a significant other breaks up with you/clothing don’t fit no more/someone pulls you aside to have a “talk” about your weight/you get made fun of too much/someone says something hurtful/insert other emotional excuse here. Often, the shitty foods we eat also have a lot to do with our gut flora…and believe it or not, this gut flora really can fuck with our emotions and behaviors. So – eating shitty food all the time is sort of a pattern you cannot break out of if you are an emotional eater. The trick is to significantly reduce the shit food to starve out those terrible gut flora and introduce probiotics, health foods, and promoting of better bacteria.
- Downward spiral. As you seek out the next golden chalice of the miracle of weight loss, you drink/eat your sorrows away into the next initiation phase. “I’ll start next Monday after the super bowl party where I’m going to eat and drink like a whale”.
Folks – those 15 phases pretty much describe most people who are overweight. Then, we live in the following stereotypical universe:
- We never exercise and are lazy
- We must love all pies and cakes ever
- Because we have weight, we must want to date fat people because they have binge eating in common.
- We are stupid because we don’t know the first thing about self discipline
- We must binge eat all the time
Now, I’m not going to go into the deep problems with all of the above statements, but I will tell you how I’ve solved the endless cycle of the above 15 phase issues.
- Get your shit together. I have led a very, very stressful life. For nearly 5 straight years, my commute to work was one hour and 45 minutes each way. This would also be on top of working up to 60 hours a week at times, AND doing graduate school, AND planning a wedding. There’s 85 other things to add to this, but the main stressors in my life were
- commuting long distances
- working too much
- accumulation of debt due to not being able to wait for whatever reason
- school/higher education
With all of the above, I realized I needed to deal with a lot of my stress first. My life has changed since I graduated my second graduate degree in August. My commuting is a lot less. Debt has mostly taken care of itself over time. While there are still stressors out there, I’ve found ways to deal with most of them.
- Say goodbye to bad habits. One of my vices for years which compounded/assisted my weight issue was smoking. I was pretty straight edge in high school, and it’s something I picked up in college during the 90s. While most of my friends quit by 30, it took me until about 40 to get rid of it for good. The smoking has really created problems with my exercise over the years. Between the weight and the smoking, I was really kinda thinking I wasn’t going to live past 45. Drinking is just a ton of ridiculous calories, I know this because I put on 110 pounds in college from drinking obscene amounts of beer and booze. I’m now 41, and I sort of hit the wall at 30 with drinking. It wasn’t really even the booze for me, but it was socializing. It’s how I socialized. Outside of my yearly trip with the guys, I’ve had about 4 drinks in 2016. If you are 25 and are going to the bar every weekend, well my plan really isn’t going to work for you…at all. With my particular journey, it was the idea of hitting 40 and I may not live until 45 unless I change everything. If you’re 26 and reading this, I can’t preach anything to you. Someday, you may find this on your own.
- Say goodbye to drinks other than water. My wife was always getting on me. I drank soooo much diet soda. I chucked it all about a year ago and drink water all the time. Now, maybe once a month when going out to lunch with the guys at work, maybe I order a diet pepsi…but it took awhile to break this.
The three above items were items that needed to be addressed BEFORE your new life begins. Once addressed, here’s what I did to break the 15 phases above, once and for all:
- Get moving. Exercise for me has always been easy – which is why I never “saw” myself as fat in my dreams and self image. While my time is slower than yours, I could at any point in my adult life run 2 miles straight, even with the smoking. Even with an extra 100 pounds. The most I have ever run at one time was about 7 miles, done in 1999 at one of my highest weights – I ran this in an hour and 45 minutes straight. My exercise resume is rather long, but suffice it to say, getting off the couch isn’t as hard for me as it is for you, perhaps. I was running, walking, biking, etc. Start slowly by going on walks and build up some distance, then try an app like couch to 5k to get some interval training with your cardio. TRACK YOUR EXERCISE with something like myfitnesspal, fitbit, etc. These apps also have little games where you can also compete against your friends.
- Get cooking. It starts first with really learning how to cook. It took me probably 2 years of watching cooking shows and videos to get some good life skills, but perhaps many of you are already there. Once you learn how to cook a LOT of different things, you can then say goodbye to eating out. I’d have to say eating out is one of the things that is nearly impossible for a person under the dieting conditions to manage. You are supposed to get a salad, but you are seduced by the smell of crinkle cut French fries.
- Get reading. Starting trying to understand nutrition for yourself. I bought a dummies book on nutrition simply because I had zero clue how food is actually digested into the body. I learned a lot about macro and micro nutrients over the last 2 years, and what role they play in your proper nutrition and health. Suddenly your “no fat” diets in the 1990s look as silly as the no carbs of the atkins and zone…or the no meat with veganism. Food is extremely important, and having ALL of our foods is important.
- Get tracking. Start tracking all of your food with MyFitnessPal. Start to understand portion sizes. Start to understand caloric deficits, BMR, etc. Don’t eat too little calories, this is the problem with maybe 6 of my diets above.
- Get your macros. I spoke with a nutritionist a few years back, and she said to never have more than 80g of carbs in a meal. At the time, most of my meals were pastas/breads. Because of this, it was hard to achieve. I switched my pasta to once or twice a week and instead focused on 4-8 oz meat, one starch, and lots of veggies in my main meals. MyFitnessPal starts you with 50% carbs, 30% fats, 20% proteins. Perhaps your nutritionist recommends different breakdown. Get this. You can still eat pizza. Everything just needs to fit into your calories and macros for the day. So if you have two slices of pizza for lunch, you need to adjust your breakfast and dinner to fit in with it. Allow yourself 2-3 “cheat meals” per week, where you can eat pizza, wings, French fries, etc. Some weeks do one “cheat meal”. Do NOT do a cheat DAY. This, over time, teaches you how most “normal” people were brought up with moderation where many of us may never have known it. After a few weeks, this norm is pretty easy to live.
- Get your training on with resistance training. I enlisted the help of a trainer this time around. Yes, I lifted a LOT of weights in my life. I was finding after 2 months my routine was the same routine of the last 25 years…it was boring, and while I had some strength added, it was getting monotonous. The trainer I enlisted, I had asked for more of a circuit type of routine because she felt you didn’t have to exercise main muscles more than once a week. She’s into the “muscle confusion” methods. Now, I have read articles debunking this, but just about with ANYTHING out there with health an nutrition, there are articles for and against everything. What’s interesting, is I’m really digging this. Every time I go in, there are different exercises, and most of them are exercises I’ve never done before. After 30 minutes with her, I leave beat up. Without her, I could be in the gym lifting an hour and leave nowhere near as beat. So – sometimes when you sign up for a gym membership, they give you some free training. Take it. I then signed up for more after that, and probably will as long as I can. Why? A few thousand over a year or two with a personal trainer is cheaper than open heart surgery, diabetes, and lung cancer.
- Get your metrics on. I told myself I was going to “science the shit out of this”. Track everything. Realize weight loss is not a linear event, but a roller coaster of dips and valleys. With your trainer, you should be able to stand on some fancy scales these days and get baselines for everything. Understand that a plateau is not necessary stoppage in weight loss, but loss in inches. Track your measurements with tape as well. That month I “hit a plateau” was not indeed a plateau because I was losing a lot of inches all around me. I was packing on some muscle….I also increased my water intake from 3 quarts to 5 quarts a day – meaning I was carrying around 4 more pounds of water every day. Water is soooo essential to helping your body lose the weight. But I had soy sauce last night for dinner. I had 6 quarts of water yesterday. I hit my 2400 calorie limit yesterday. I woke up 1.2 pounds heavier than yesterday, despite also hitting the pool for 35 mins of laps. If you take the scale literally every day – jump back up to the 15 phases above. You have to realize the trend will go down, not your daily weight loss. This used to kill me. I know now that a day or two from now I will be pissing my brains out and wake up 1.6 pounds less.
- Get your prep on. Meal prepping for me might have been the difference maker. While I like cooking, I don’t like cooking 5 times a day. Perhaps instead of making up a chicken breast, a cup of rice, and broccoli for dinner, you make up 5 breasts, a bunch of broccoli, and 6 cups of rice. Get prep containers. Put the recipe into your myfitnesspal. Measure out with a scale, so all meals are pretty close. Freeze extras. With Thanksgiving, instead of going back for seconds with the turkey, I chopped it up and made 10 dinners. This made it soooo easy to pop a healthy meal in the microwave on those late nights rather than having to cook for an hour then.
- Get your balance on. You need protein, water, and fats to satiate you. You need these nutrients for proper nutrition as well. I also eat about 5 times a day in smaller quantities and drink 5 quarts of water. It’s now January 1st, 2017. I started around Sept 1, 2016. The last time I was “hungry” was August. In those 4 months…I’ve also had some pizza, cheese steaks, French fries, etc. There’s no such thing as a “bad food”…just limiting your portions and preparing your day. There are fats that are better for you than others, yes. Perhaps you find foods that you workout to better than others, and perhaps leave a slice of pizza for a day where you aren’t working out.
- Get your life on. This is no gimmick. There is no beginning and end to this. It’s how to live your life. If you go over your calories by 200 one day, do a little better the next day. Be active. Seek out new challenges…new foods…new tips. Get outdoors.
- Get your youtube on. There are sooooo many youtube “personalities” now. Subscribe to a few. When going to bed, plan out your food for the next day, then watch a few videos for tips, tricks, suggestions, meal prepping ideas, etc. I can tell you, I just don’t feel so alone when watching these things.
- Get your realism on. I told my trainer than this is a “two or three year project” for me. What I mean by this, with the project management philosophy – is my end goal is attainable in that time. It is not mailman syndrome where “fats are bad” or “carbs are the devil”. It is to lose gently, over time, while improving my overall health and well-being. I want to build muscle on my frame as I gently lose the fat. I am aware I could cardio the shit out of myself and lose 100 pounds in 5 months, but then I might have skin flapping in the wind for the rest of eternity. My realistic goals are to do this over 2-3 years by:
- Spending the first year cutting off a great deal of fat while building a strong frame with some bulk muscle in the gym. I’d like to reduce the “heart attack risk” by many multiples and lighten my frame to increase my ability to perform endurance training.
- Spending the second year getting more trim and carving out my eventual physique. Enter competitions monthly in a variety of events. Slow down weight loss as needed to try and prevent “loose skin” where possible.
- Spending the third year chiseling, adjusting, and putting together a final product to improve and maintain upon for the next 45 years. Have fitness in some way, shape, or manner part of my daily life. Be competitive in events above. Write my book or write for a fitness blog/magazine. Retire a millionaire 🙂
Does this look like a diet?
This is 10oz filet, 1 cup brown rice, 2 cups of broccoli. I have the filet listed from Wegman’s at 40 calories an ounce, so your mileage may vary based on how lean your cuts are. This is 656 calories (about a slice and a half of pizza in calories) but has 52.8g carbs, 13.4g fat, 82.4g protein. Later, I’m about to have a cup of 2% greek plain yogurt with 1 TBSP honey, 1 TBSP chia seeds, and about 2 oz of almonds.
Now – you spend all of this money for filet, you probably want to cook medium rare, medium, or rare. I cook this on the low side of medium. People like my mom see pink and think it is undercooked. If this were hamburger, yes – but all meats have different temperatures they are “done” at. Filet mignon is “done” at 135 or so for rare, 140 or so for medium rare, 145 for medium, and so on and so forth. Chicken is either “done” or not done at 165 for the breasts. And on and on. Filet is more tender the rarer it is, and tougher the more cooked it is – so you want to spend $10 on a slab of beef, you need to cook it to medium or medium rare.
How do I cook it like this? I wish I knew this 10 years ago.
- Get out the meat about 35 mins before cooking.
- Immediately salt and pepper. Leave it sit for at least 30 mins. This helps for the next few steps.
- While your meat is lowering in temperature and letting the salt do its thing, turn on the oven to pre-heat at 350, and get a stainless steel pan up to medium high heat.
- When the 30-35 mins is up, drizzle just a little olive oil on it and move around the plate to coat. Check stainless by drizzling a drip of water on it to see if it sizzles. Lay steak down and sear for 90 seconds. Flip and sear for 90, then flip to sides and sear for 20-30 seconds each. You are not “searing in the juices”, you are creating the maillard effect, similar to how bread gets crust. This is partly where the salting 30 mins before helps too.
- Place stainless in the oven with a meat thermometer inserted about halfway in at a 45 degree angle. You want to get the coolest part of the meat here in the center. For years I screwed up countless steaks by not having a digital meat thermometer. Set the alert to 135 degrees.
- Let it get to 135 degrees.
- When it reaches 135, take it out of the oven. Transfer the steak(s) to a plate and cover with aluminum foil, making sure not to take out the meat thermometer. The steak will continue to cook until it hits about 145 degrees, then the temperature will start to come back down. When cooking this in the oven, I see about a 10 degree rise in temperature the minutes after I take it out. So if you want it at 145, take it out at 135. If you take it out at 145, it will reach 155 and be mostly “well done”. Let it rest a total of 5-10 minutes. Take out thermometer when going to eat. Taking it out too early will release juices under pressure and give you a dry steak.