1. It’s not about the food
(See my previous blog on this) It’s not about cutting out certain food groups. People ask ‘Do you still have carbs?’ Yes. ‘Do you only eat fruit?’ No. ‘Do you still booze?’ Yes. ‘Do you have still have milk in your tea?’ Yes, full fat milk too. ‘Are you paleo?’ No.
Ok it’s a little about the food. I eat a LOT less highly processed carbs: no baked pastries, no added sugar, no soft drinks, no fruit juices (no the sugar in fruit isn’t healthier!). I don’t have a a fudge brownie with my coffee any more. I drink less alcohol.
2. It’s not about going on a diet
Well of course it is. You can’t lose weight by eating more, you have to eat less. So in that sense yes, this process is a diet.
But no, you’re not going on an old school diet. This is not a ‘diet’ where you’re left starving and looking longingly at the goodies in the fridge. Instead your freeing yourself from the tyranny of phoney cravings and not stuffing so much sh#t into your body.
You can’t think that losing weight is about stopping yourself from having something nice. Your brain won’t buy that for long. Kevin’s first law of achieving anything states that ‘Any system that requires willpower to work will eventually fail’.
Do smokers stop smoking by going on smoking diets? Or do they realise that they are killing themselves and get sick of that foul stale smoke smell?
3. It’s not about being a diet zealot
Some people love absolute rule clarity. They like bright lines. They like the old testament ‘Thou shalt not…’ way of thinking. They approach their diets the same way. That’s great, provided your motivation doesn’t tank when the rules get broken.
I once offended a cultural Vegan when they found that my salmon had been on the same plate as their vegetarian sausage. Finding out that a trace of fish oil might have been on their sausage means that they had Broken The Rules. I’m not sure what the atonement had to be. I’m not sure if there could be any - this is why they were upset.
No, with this diet if you do 60% of it, it will still work. This isn’t religion, it’s maths. If you’re bad for breakfast, be good for lunch. Judgement happens every day, first thing in the morning when you get on the scales (see below). Redemption (if required!) comes from your choices the rest of the day.
4. It is about learning to assess and quantify your hunger
This is absolutely crucial. Losing weight is easy, you don’t have to recombine fat molecules into carbon dioxide and water, your body does it all for you. The only reason that you’re worried about losing weight is that you’re worried about being hungry.
Hunger can’t just be an on or off thing for you, you have to get nuanced about it. You need to find that slim band of appetite where are you losing weight but you aren’t ravenous.
What’s your hunger right now on a 1-10 scale? With 1 being ‘no appetite at all’ and 10 being ‘Would eat a dead rat’? Never let your appetite get to more than 7. Try and stay around 4 or 5. Yes you’re allowed to snack, just not on garbage.
5. It’s mostly about stopping unconscious eating
The low hanging fruit in weight loss is stopping all the times food disappears into your mouth without you knowing. You’re standing in front of the fridge and suddenly there’s a half eaten wheel of cheese in your hand. You are cleaning up the kids’ dinner plates and then you realise you’ve had a reasonable meal just by picking away all the tasty goodies that they turned their noses up at.
This is food that you didn’t really want and didn’t enjoy and yet you’ve somehow inhaled. Stopping unconscious eating cuts down very little on your enjoyment but a lot on your calories.
6. Water dissolves fat
Water is your new best friend. Water is your rocket fuel. It cancels out hunger and it extends the feeling of fullness. Water dissolves fat. Ok, that may not be chemically correct but it might as well be. When you wake up have a big glass of water. Before you eat anything drink a glass of water. Before you drink water have a glass of water.
There are lots of guides about how much water you should drink, but they never make any sense to me or seem a bit onerous. Here’s my rule: If you can pick up a glass of water and chug it all in one go then you were thirsty. Have another.
Walnuts make a great guilt free snack. Here’s why:
They’re expensive so you don’t eat many.
They contain ghrelin which is an appetite suppressant and
They’re crap to eat – they taste bitter and flake in your mouth and so you don’t eat a lot and then you drink water. See ‘water’ above.
Another awesome go-to snack is carrots. Raw carrots aren’t great, but steamed or roasted with a little olive oil and salt – delicious! Yes I said olive oil. Fat is your friend. Sugar and carbs are the enemy.
8. Exercise counts for very little
Run with your phone and measure how many calories you burn. Now see how many calories are in an apple. Depressing isn’t it? You can’t exercise yourself to weight loss. Well, that might be a bit harsh, but it’s largely true. Whenever I’ve tried to lose weight by exercising more I’ve just turned into a fitter fatty.
You should definitely exercise, exercise makes you healthy. But to lose weight you need to eat less.
9. Measuring what you eat is much much easier than you think
‘Aha’! You say, ‘I knew there was a catch! I have to carry gram scales around and then weigh every crumb and look up every calorie. I have to take half an hour looking up all 32 ingredients in the chicken chow mein that I had last night!’
No you don’t. You’re not measuring to prove compliance to the commandments, you’re measuring to reduce uncertainty. Even if you do a bad job of it you’re better off.
You tend to have the same breakfast every day don’t you? Then something similar each day for lunch? So measure what you have for these two meals ONCE and you’re two thirds the way to measuring your whole day.
Then for dinner I just make sure the portions are small. Much smaller than I think. Just a small bowl, and very little carbs. I never measure dinner by calories. That would be insane and very impractical. Still hungry? See ‘Walnuts’ above.
10. Go to bed a little hungry
I used to eat at night like my liver was going to be made in to pate. Once or twice a week I used to go to bed stuffed. Then I realised that I HATE THAT FEELING, so now I don’t. I sleep better and I lose weight.
11. Measure your weight every day and record it on your phone
Some people say you should only weigh yourself once a week. That’s crazy. I want feedback right now. That feeling of progress is addictive and powers everything.
12. Still lack motivation?
I know. None of what I’ve written above seems that miraculous, and some of it seems to involve unpleasant denial and lack and walnuts.
That’s where I was. I could try and lose weight but why put myself through such an unpleasant process? That’s what I believed. And because I believed it it was true.
So I needed a push. A little help to get me started. Then once I started to make progress the process became addictive. Once progress became predictable then I became unstoppable.
Want to know what that insight was? I’ll tell you in the next post!