Jan 07, 2004

Eating: Half of the Equation

Read the title of this and commit it to memory; this is your mantra for losing weight and keeping it off. You cannot replace poor diet with excessive exercise to lose weight correctly. Conversely, you cannot ignore exercise and eat nothing but a handful of veggies throughout the day. Your goal with weight loss is to reduce fat and increase lean muscle which is, of course, easier said than done. The ONLY way to do that is through a structured exercise program and a brand new way of looking at food. This is definitely the hardest part about losing weight. It is more expensive to eat right, takes more thought and is difficult to start off. On the other hand, once you’ve got it, you’ve got it for good. Eat right for a few months and you will never go back! It gets easier (I promise) but just like with any life change, there are major sacrifices and some pain to endure. Keep reading those fitness magazines and keep your jealousy towards “the fit people” (that you hate) and you’ll make it through!

The tips below were compiled from Muscle and Fitness's 20 Best Ways to Lose Weight Fast. This is probably the most comprehensive, realistic view on eating right and losing weight I have ever read. Here are a few additions from me:

Change Your Lifestyle

This is a GOLDEN RULE. Remember, you are NOT on a diet except for the calorie reduction. You will be eating different foods FOREVER. You will never look at food or eat the same way again. If you see this as some sort of diet program, you are risking gaining back everything you fought to lose. Make sure that you are creating an eating program that is satisfying or you will NOT hold to it… believe me!

Drink More Water

This is IMPORTANT and good for your body anyways but will not be the “make it or break it” for weight loss. Drinking enough water throughout the day is easy. Go buy a big water bottle and make sure you drink three of them per day. If you think about it on a regular basis you will drink a LOT more which is never a bad thing!

Consume Fewer Calories Than You Burn

This is a GOLDEN RULE. Use the formula they give you to figure out your resting metabolic rate (RMR). The number you get is VERY vague and does not take into account protein intake, exercise program or eating patterns which all can have in impact on your metabolic rate. Use the number they give you and take away 500-1000 calories. This is the amount of calories you should eat per day to lose weight. This will be pretty low number when you start to figure it out so make sure you are not going too far below it. You should always be above 1200 calories per day, especially if you are exercising. This “Magic Calorie Number” will need to be adjusted on a regular basis. If you are doing everything right and not losing the weight you want to, switch up your exercise but consider cutting a couple hundred more calories out of your diet. Two important points to add here:

Reduce Starchy Carbs

This is IMPORTANT. Key word here is “reduce,” not “eliminate.” Start reading some type of health magazine (Men’s Health is by far the best in my opinion, find the woman’s version by the same publisher and you’re golden) to get recipe ideas for cooking at home. Replace ANY white carbs with whole grain or wheat when you can.

Eat a Full, Balanced Breakfast

This is a GOLDEN RULE. This sets your whole day off right (or wrong). Make time for this in the morning and you won’t be sorry. A balanced breakfast is not a half cup of coffee and a banana, it’s some good protein, some whole grains and some fat. An egg white omelet with some cheese and a slice of wheat toast, that’s a breakfast! It makes a big difference. Can’t sit down and make it in the morning? Learn how to make a good protein shake (300 calories or under) or keep some good protein bars in the car.

Limit Sugar Consumption

This is IMPORTANT. I have a huge sweet tooth so this is hard for me. If you eat sugar, make sure you are eating it for taste. If you have a 250 calorie protein bar for one of your meals and it has some sugar in it, don’t worry about it. You don’t need to be a sugar Nazi, just keep away from desserts, candy, regular soda and FRUIT JUICE! People don’t realize that a bottle of fruit juice can have more sugar than a Coke!

Eat 5-6 Meals a Day

This is a GOLDEN RULE!!! So much of my continued success can be attributed to this. This is how you can eat a lot and not gain any weight. This is how I can cheat now and not pay for it. Make this a HUGE priority! Eat all day long; eat SOMETHING (handful of nuts, an apple, some beef jerky) every 3 hours. You will actually feel your metabolism increase! After a big meal you will be hungry within an hour or two. This is your metabolism changing. Everyone whines about the people with a great metabolism but what few people know is that you can create one for yourself! I cannot stress this point enough.

Increase Vegetable Consumption

This is IMPORTANT. The big reason why this is important has to do with fiber and being full. Veggies do not have a lot of calories in their natural form. They are also fairly filling and a GREAT source of fiber. If you hate veggies (like me), learn to like them, learn to cook them and learn to tell restaurants not to douse them in butter or cream sauce or dressing.

Don’t Over-Rely on Fat Burners

This is IMPORTANT. I lost all of my weight without fat burners. I do, however, use caffeine when I work out (and, honestly, every other second of the day). Don’t over-do it but a cup of coffee right before you work out keeps your energy levels up and has been shown to help turn fat into muscle. Just drinking a ton of coffee every day, on the other hand, just makes you a grumpy-ass.

Consume 25-35 Grams of Fiber a Day

This is a good idea for many reasons but I found this was tough to do right off the bat. I would say a good thing to do is make sure you are eating vegetables every day and get a serving or two of multi/whole grain something and you will be OK.

Eliminate Junk Food

This is IMPORTANT. Junk food does nothing except satiate you for the time being. You will feel crappy later and junk food never looks good when you’re writing your intake down (which you are doing, right?). Just learn to say no… forever!

Eat the Proper Amount of Protein

This is a GOLDEN RULE. The tips sheet says don’t eat too much, but make sure you are eating a good portion of your calories in protein. Protein takes the most calories to digest, is the most satisfying and will help you build muscle. It’s not a miracle food by any means but is an important part of healthy eating habits.

Eat More Healthy Fats

Here’s a new one for you; eat fats to lose weight! This is easier than fiber to do but don’t over-do it. Fat is fat with regards to calories but unsaturated fats are a big part of a healthy eating program. Eat lots of fish, some nuts and cook with olive oil and you’re golden.

Eat Cheat Foods for Flavor

This is IMPORTANT. You must have your cheat days now and then or you will go crazy. If you’ve been good all week and someone offers you a slice of pizza, dig in! You can’t cheat every day and hope to succeed but you can’t be successful every day and deprive yourself completely. Either take one cheat day a week or one week every couple months. You must constantly shock your metabolism because it gets efficient (read: bored) when you feed it the same stuff. Mix it up and have a Fatburger every now and then!

Bonus tips from me

< Update 2021-11-29 >

This is something I wrote a long time ago when I was busy losing ~100 pounds. Several people asked me how I did it so I wrote this up in Word, printed multiple copies at work on the laser printer, and physically handed copies to people who asked. I'm paying closer attention to my health these days and came across this list as I was cleaning up some of my digital hoarding. Almost 2 decades later, most of these are still important. For me right now, these are key:

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Mar 17, 2008

Josh Can Help Is Alive!

I, Josh Cunningham, am starting a business, more or less by myself. You can tell that I’m serious about this because I already have a website. Take notes: website = serious stuff. That one’s free.