You suck at dieting? part 1 of 2

Dropping pounds is a lot like dropping seconds: conceptually simple, but difficult in practice. I consider myself an accomplished dieter. My weight cycles between 165-173 pounds (75-78.5 kilos). When it gets to 173, I purposefully lose weight until I’m 165. Then I forget about dieting until I hit 173 again. The cycle takes about 6 months. Why don’t I just maintain 169 or something? Because it bores me. I actually enjoy losing weight. It’s almost as fun as gaining weight. But losing weight is hard. Your body doesn’t want you to do it. Well, I like challenges.

As a college student, my weight was a steady 165. I was highly active in a variety of athletics and never considered what I ate. As a graduate student in my mid-20s, I maintained a slightly higher weight: 175. I was still very active (tennis mostly) and ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I recall consuming a lot of pizza and soda. When my wife became pregnant, I gained a lot of sympathy weight. At my peak weight, I was about 190 pounds (86 kilos). Throughout my 30s and early 40s I maintained a weight of about 180-185 pounds (82-84 kilos). And then one day in my mid-40s I decided it was time to lose weight. I got down to 176 pretty easily, but that was a plateau I couldn’t break through until I changed my strategy. Eventually, I got down to 161. At that point a friend asked if I had health problems. I figured it was time to gain weight, and from then on my weight has been between 173 and 165.

This post and the next are about my approach to dieting. Shedding 10 pounds will make your car faster and use less consumables. So this is totally legit race talk even if it sounds like health talk.

The job of the racing driver is to find every tenth of a second to lap as quickly as possible. But the driver also has to do it safely. So it is with the dieter. The dieter must drop pounds as quickly as possible while staying within a safety margin. You should not attempt to drive on a race track unless you are physically fit enough to do so. And you should not attempt to diet unless you are in good health. I can’t stress this enough. You have absolutely no business losing weight if you’re ill. There’s an old saying “feed a fever, starve a cold”. FUCK THAT. Feed a fever and feed a cold. And feed every other malady while you’re at it. The best time to lose weight is when you’re 100% healthy. And then, at a pace that isn’t dangerous.

There are tons of diets that people have invented over the years. Popular diets today include Atkins, cleansing, ketogenic, paleo, raw foods, Slim Fast, South Beach, vegan, vegetarian, Weight Watchers, etc. I don’t do any of that complicated bullshit. I eat exactly the same kinds of foods whether I’m losing or gaining weight. It’s not about the type of food, but rather the amount. When you break it down, dieting is really simple. There is only 1 thing to consider.

  1. Calories out > calories in

The problem with some of the fad diets is that they are often a highly polarized balance of nutrients that help you lose weight by making you less healthy. You can lose weight with a high protein diet or a low protein diet, or a high carb diet or low car diet. None of these is a great idea if you ask me. Another class of diets is those where the inconvenience helps you lose weight. For example, on a rainbow diet, you’re only allowed to eat food that matches the color of the day (such as red on Mondays, orange on Tuesdays). You’re better off learning how to control your hunger rather than having some obscure rules control it for you.

How do you know if your lap times are improving? You time yourself. But that’s an overly simplistic answer. It’s more important to understand why your lap times get faster. What specific things does one do to drive closer to the limit? For that, you need to dissect your driving and understand the process of driving rather than just the result. Telemetry is essential. I use a RumbleStrip and Aim SoloDL. I also just got an APEX Pro, which I’ll review soon. Without the right tools it’s really hard to get faster.

Dieting without the right tools is similarly difficult. Fortunately, dieting tools don’t cost very much. All you need is a scale and a smartphone. The scale is like a stopwatch. It tells you if the results of your efforts are bearing fruit. Trying to lose weight without a scale is like trying to drive faster without a stopwatch. Simple bathroom scales are as little as $10. I have a $72 My Weigh SCMXL700T. This is totally unnecessary for weight loss, but since it has a 700 lb limit, I also use it to get corner weights on my racecars. If you do this, you’ll just need to make a set of 4 shims the same height as the scale (you’d think you only need 3 but it’s easier to swap things around with 4).

The dieting equivalent of an Aim SoloDL is a calorie counter. I use Lose It!, but there are many, many equivalent apps to choose from. Here’s a screenshot showing my weight chart over the last 5 years (everyone asks about the spike in the middle, which was a data entry error).

Don’t want to count calories? Well, that’s like wanting to drive faster but refusing to use telemetry. Good luck with that. Get over whatever the fuck your problem is and start counting calories. Understand the process not just the result. The reason you’re overweight may be simply because of your stubborn refusal to count calories. Remember, the only rule of dieting is calories out > calories in. Fad diets like to make dieting about food composition. Only drink liquids. Only eat raw foods. Avoid high fructose corn syrup. It’s not about the food composition, it’s about the calories. Eat normal healthy food, but less of it.

Sweeteners

To illustrate the misunderstandings of food composition, let me rant a bit about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This sweetener is used in canned sodas and other drinks. Lots of people look at the modern problems with obesity and diabetes and point to HFCS as the culprit. What exactly is HFCS? Table sugar is a mixture of 50% glucose and 50% fructose tied together in a single molecule called sucrose. HFCS is a blend of fructose and glucose, having more fructose than glucose, typically something like 55%/45%. The health-conscious world has 2 reasons to hate HFCS.

  1. Your body can detect changes in glucose but not fructose. HFCS therefore has more undetectable sugar, which leads to diabetes.
  2. HFCS is inherently bad for you because it is a processed food and unnatural. Better alternatives include honey and agave syrup.

The 10% difference in the balance of glucose and fructose is not going to give you diabetes. You could consume the exact same amount of fructose by simply not finishing the last bit of your drink. It’s the amount of sugar that’s the problem, not the balance of glucose and fructose. If it was the balance that’s the problem, you should also stay away from honey. It has the same ratios of glucose and fructose as HFCS. And what of agave syrup? That shit is 90% fructose. If you’re worried about fructose intake, it’s about the worst possible sweetener you could consume.

What about artificial sweeteners? Why the fuck would anyone want to fool their bodies into thinking they are consuming calories when they are not? That kind of shit never works out in the end. Stop making your diet about composition and start making it about amount. Want some sweetener in your coffee? Use actual sugar, be it sucrose, agave, or honey. And then record it in your calorie counter app.

10 thoughts on “You suck at dieting? part 1 of 2

  1. Look up intermittent fasting Dr Jason Fung. Worked for me. You low fat guys might have an issue but for us bigger guys fasting is serious good stuff for lots of reasons.

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  2. Hi Ian, I like this post. How about writing sth about how to physically prepare for an endurance race for amateurs?

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    1. Race cars are hot, loud, and (usually) physically demanding.
      The best way I’ve found to prepare is cardio work and getting used to high exertion in high temperatures. Learn to recognize when you’ve had enough and get out of the car before something bad happens.

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      1. Cool shirts definitely make me feel better. I’ve also had drinking water in the car that I found was refreshing, at least mentally. I don’t specifically train for driving, but I do a lot of cardio at the gym. I guess I’m hoping that’s enough, but maybe it’s time I did a pre-race exercise regime…

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    2. I’m not that sure myself about proper physical preparation for endurance racing. I work out and eat well but still get cramps in my legs sometimes.

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      1. For me I tend to overheat, even with a coolshirt. I can turn 10lbs of ice into warm water in about an hour if it’s hot out.
        Once I get too hot I start to get nauseous. I either need to back off or get out of the car.

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      2. The only time I’ve felt I had to get out of the car was when I didn’t have a cool shirt on. Because of a weird allergy, I have to put cooling on a switch and turn it off some of the time.

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  3. Ian,
    Go get a PWM DC motor controller for you cool shirt box. Variable speed is great when it’s not sweltering out.

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