My Successful Diet

November 20, 2008

At work they provide bulk snack dispensers, and eating is a tempting way to postpone thinking. You can see where this is going. Two months ago I got on a diet and have since lost nearly 20 pounds. Here’s how it works.

  1. Eliminate snacks: m&ms, nuts, chips, cookies, and other junk food.

  2. Eliminate liquid sugar: non-diet sodas, sweetened coffee, juice, and alcohol. Find diet drinks you like and have as many as you want. I dislike Diet Coke, but Coke Zero, Cherry Coke Zero, and Diet Pepsi taste fine to me. Get the caffeine-free kind for late-night drinks. These basically took the place of the snacks I had been eating.

  3. Reduce high-calorie foods, like desserts and fries. Eat a salad instead, with all the dressing you want. Even with dressing a salad is better than fries.

  4. Eat one hard-boiled egg for breakfast, split in two, with mayo, salt, and pepper. Even with significant mayo it should be under 100 calories, and the protein/fat (and lack of carbs) will keep you from getting hungry until lunch.

  5. Eat one box of Safeway’s Eating Right frozen dinners for lunch and/or dinner. They taste great, they’re high in protein, low in calories, they’re easy to make even by frozen-dinner standards, and they cost $2.

  6. Become aware of the caloric content of everyday foods. Some are surprisingly high: 100 for a slice of bread, 50 for a small cookie, 180 for a can of Coke. These add up very quickly, and often they’re easy to avoid.

On a good day you’ll end up consuming fewer than 1000 calories. My burn rate is around 2500, meaning that I lost a pound every two or three days. I didn’t fret too much if I ate a normal lunch or dinner, as long as the portions were reasonable and I avoided fries.

The general idea is to massively reduce empty and useless calories, eat foods that keep you satiated (i.e., not carbs), while avoiding being too hungry or eating food that tastes bland. Don’t try to do too much. For example, I didn’t worry about sodium; I found I had to salt some of the frozen dinners. Also I didn’t worry about the aspartame or caffeine in the diet drinks, or the cholesterol in the eggs. I focused on high-protein, medium-fat, and low-carb foods and made them taste good.

I find that I’m strongly motivated by numbers, which for a diet meant getting an accurate scale. We got a Homedics for $60. It does fancy things like calculate your burn rate and body fat, but its values there didn’t seem right to me. Weigh yourself at a consistent time of the day. First thing in the morning worked for me. Clothes can add a surprising amount of weight, as can urine and recently-consumed water (about a pound each). Try to find a consistent combination.