You suck at dieting: part 2 of 2

Last week I talked about my general approach to dieting. This can be summed up pretty simply.

  1. Dieting is as simple as calories out > calories in.
  2. Using a scale and calorie counter to track weight loss is like using a stopwatch and telemetry for improving your driving.
  3. There is no need to get caught up in the composition of the food when it is the amount that matters.

This week I want to talk about some specific tips and tricks to help you lose weight.

Eat healthy foods

While dieting is more about the amount of food rather than the composition, when you’re restricting calories, you need to have a balanced diet to stay healthly. Eat nutritious foods. You know what they are without me enumerating specifics. In general, healthy foods spoil when you leave them out. Things that don’t spoil aren’t even food. If bacteria and mold can’t thrive on them, you can’t either. Drink water. If that’s too boring, add some lemon or lime to it. Alcohol contains a lot of calories and prevents you from metabolizing fat, so minimize alcohol consumption.

1 pound per week

While it’s possible to lose more than 1 pound per week, I don’t think it’s good for your body to stress it out too much. 1 pound per week amounts to a 500 calorie deficit each day. That’s enough of a difference to see progress without doing yourself any harm. Note that your weight fluctuates throughout the day depending how much food and liquid you have in your body. Don’t be discouraged if your weight goes up some days. When viewed over the course of weeks, it drops steadily.

The NOBLES diet

Last week I turned my nose up at diets, but I’m going to tell you about one I invented for myself: the NOBLES diet. NOBLES  is an acronym for NO Breakfast or Lunch Except Socially.  It’s a form of intermittent fasting. The diet has absolutely nothing to do with food composition or amounts, but rather when you eat: which is only at dinner. The reason to use this diet is not necessarily to lose weight, but rather to train yourself out of feeling hungry. Having long periods of time when you’re not allowed to eat will give you an opportunity to challenge your hunger feelings. The more you deny your hunger, the better you’ll get at it.

The Except Socially part of the NOBLES diet recognizes the fact that dieting is not the most important thing in your life. Eating with other people is sometimes critically important in business relationships. Don’t tank your career for vanity. If you have to eat breakfast or lunch with someone, do it, but then you might have to restrict what you eat for dinner or the next day. The Except part isn’t an exemption from dieting!

Dieting is supposed to be hard

One of the critical stages in improving your driving is getting comfortable being uncomfortable. That means taking corners at higher speed and driving with greater yaw. When you first start driving, you’re not comfortable sliding a car around, but that’s how a car is supposed to behave on track. The dieting equivalent is being satisfied with being unsatisfied. You have to get accustomed to hunger.

Dieting sucks, especially the first few weeks. You’re going to feel hungry all the time. You have a few hundred million years of animal evolution demanding that you eat whenever possible because historically food has been scarce. But your ancestors went long periods of time without eating and it didn’t kill them. You can make it through the day on 500 calories less. Poor people the world over do it all the time.

I’m morally opposed to things that are supposed to make dieting easier. Here, take this pill and you won’t have an appetite. Eat only ______ and you won’t feel hungry. One of the most important parts of dieting is you taking control of something that’s really difficult. It’s a mental challenge. It’s difficult, and it’s supposed to be. Don’t cheat yourself out of the experience by looking for shortcuts. Just like race prep, shortcuts end up being the long way around.

No days off

A couple days off can ruin a couple weeks of good dieting. Each day, you’re only missing 500 calories. It’s not a lot. It’s much easier to eat 500 more than 500 less. A weekend of binge eating and drinking could see you easily consuming an extra 2500 calories. That’s 2 days undoing 5. One reason dieting is so hard is that it takes commitment every single day.

One of the hardest things about dieting is convincing yourself that every little bit matters every day. Does every crumb matter? Actually no. But the attitude matters. The world is full of people doing shit half-assed, and it’s not better off because of it. When you get right down to it, dieting isn’t really that complicated. It’s just consuming less food. It doesn’t take a whole lot of mental or physical skill to diet, just willpower. Commit yourself for no other reason than you don’t want to be one of those people who coast through life doing shit half-assed.

A 10 minute mile is just as long as an 5 minute mile

Exercise is an important part of weight loss, but overdoing it will undo the good. This is especially true when you start a new exercise program. There’s a desire to jump in and work out like crazy. Pulling a muscle will set you back weeks. It’s like driving too hard on cold tires. Spinning could send you home early. Start gradually. Weight loss takes months. There’s no reason to rush in the first days or weeks. Incidentally, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to run a 5 minute mile. I’ve only been a timed a few times, but when I was in college in peak shape I barely broke 5:30.

Catch up on TV, movies, audiobooks, and podcasts

Exercise time is a great time for your media consumption. I listen to audiobooks at the gym (and elsewhere). As an aspiring author, I consume a lot of books to understand how people construct them. Back when my knees weren’t totally shot I used to work out with a stationary rower while watching movies on Netflix. It’s hard for me to watch movies sitting on a couch because I always feel guilty, like I’m supposed to be doing something else. Watching while exercising is therefore a useful synergy for me. This Summer, I’ve added swimming to my exercise regimen. I’m not a very efficient swimmer, and it’s a little frustrating. Yet another mountain to climb…

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