I’m currently on a weight loss regimen. I’m not paying a single dime for it either, since the best and most effective weight loss regimen is free and, in fact, can save you money. Forget that Jenny Craig or NutriSystem stuff. It’s so brutally simple: You just need to burn off more calories than you consume. How do you do that? Eat less, exercise more or do both. I stick with the old school weight loss program: calorie restriction. Calories are the alpha and omega of weight loss and weight gain.
However, there’s been a lot of mythology fluttering around about weight loss these days, including stuff we’ve been hearing from Dr. Oz on TV every weekday afternoon at 16:00. I still watch, but I’m skeptical about a lot of the claims I hear there. Let me see how many common pieces of advice I can list that I’ve been ignoring:
- I don’t eat breakfast. A lot of overweight people have self-reported that they “skip breakfast,” but what they really mean is that they don’t sit down at home for breakfast but instead stop at Dunkin Donuts or some place like that on the way to work and wolf down a dozen in the car while on the road. That’s not skipping breakfast. That’s eating garbage for breakfast in the car. Skipping breakfast means consuming nothing but water from midnight to noon. I’m not really hungry in the morning anyway. Besides, the only time your metabolism stops completely is when you’re dead, in which case it’ll never be “kick-started” again.
- I eat a few ample meals a day instead of thousands of bird-sized nibbles. I found myself keeping weight on or gaining it when I took the advice to eat more meals a day. Why? Because miniature portions aren’t satisfying, so I ended up eating six normal-size portions, which put in more calories. Whether you consume ten meals daily of six rice bran crackers each or just one meal for the whole day consisting of a pepperoni pizza, your body uses the same amount of energy to digest it.
- I eat in the evening. Only your brain keeps track of the clock. Your stomach doesn’t.
- I don’t go around avoiding high fructose corn syrup like the plague. Calories are calories. High fructose corn syrup is only widely available in North America. Equivalent soft drinks sold in Japan are sweetened with grape juice instead, but the Japanese are also getting fatter.
- I ignore the macronutrient ratios of what I eat. Calories are equally fattening be they from fats, carbs or proteins.
So that makes five in total. And how has this been working out for me? I’m still losing weight, doing so at the rate of one kilogram per week by maintaining a daily deficit of 1.1 megacalories. (Note: a food “calorie” is actually a kilocalorie, or a thousand actual calories. Thus a megacalorie, a million actual calories, is a thousand food “calories.”) As of the time of this writing, I’m at 78 kilograms, at the high end of the healthy weight range (60 to 80 kg) for my height (1.79 m). My goal is 70, but I might let myself coast down to 65 or so.
There’s no secret to it. You just keep track of the calories in and out. Here’s how I do it:
- Take a strip of notebook paper and number the lines at 100 kilocalorie increments with 0 at the topmost line.
- Find out the basal metabolic rate for your target weight (70 kg for me) and mark it with a star on the strip. Next, decide how much weight you want to lose per week in grams and multiply by 1.1. This is how many kilocalories you’ll need to maintain as a minimum daily deficit. For one kilogram a week, it’s 1.1 megacalories (1100 kilocalories). Mark a triangle on the strip at your minimum daily deficit.
- Obtain two refrigerator magnets. Use one to fix the strip at the top to the refrigerator. Use the other as a sliding marker.
- Every morning, set the marker at the star.
- Keep track of the calories you eat. Whenever you eat, move the marker up according to the calorie content of what you just ate.
- Keep track of your calories in your exercise as well. Whenever you exercise, move the marker down according to the number of calories you’ve just burned off.
- Make sure the marker stays below the triangle at the end of the day. If it’s anywhere above that, set the marker above the star by the same amount the next morning. If its below that, you may set it below the star by the same amount.
That’s all there is to it.