I have had several people note my weight reduction of the last few years. They almost uniformly ask how I did it. But they want something quick and easy.
So here's the quick and easy....or at least as quick and easy as I can make it.
1) Don't go to the gym to lose weight. Exercise is about making what you have look and work better. You cannot exercise faster than the calories that you stuff in your mouth.
If you don't change your eating habits, then all the gym time in the world isn't going to do you any good.
2) Eat healthy. That means more fresh veggies that are not loaded with carbs. It means more lean meats like chicken and turkey. Snacks should be fresh fruits. Stay away from foods with a lot of fat (i.e. thick sauces, cheese, deep fried anything, etc.). Stay away from foods with a lot of carbohydrates (i.e. pasta, potatoes, bread, etc.)
3) Portion control, portion control, portion control.
Your biggest enemy is an open container of anything. Get in the habit of reading the label to see how much is in a single serving. Salad dressings, except for the low-fat versions, are an absolute killer. Most labels will tell you that a serving is 1 tablespoon. The worst dressings are 80 to 120 calories for one tablespoon. And most people will put two, three, or more tablespoons on their salad as they drench all that nasty tasting lettuce.
Read the labels. Use measuring cups/spoons. Learn how much a single serving looks like.
At home, don't fill your plate to heaping full. Take a smaller initial serving. You can always go back for more if needed.
4) Focus on eating high protein, low fat, and low carb foods. Again, read the labels.
5) NO FAST FOOD! A salad...not a sandwich, but a salad...from Subway is OK. Getting grilled (not fried, not extra crispy) chicken from KFC with a side of corn is OK as well. But other than that, fast food is the worst option around.
6) Restaurants and your mother are working together to kill you. Most American restaurants serve meal portions that are easily 800 to 1200 calories per meal. And your mother taught you to clean your plate.
When your meal arrives (again focus on salads, chicken, turkey, some seafood, fresh veggies, no fried foods, and no potatoes), cut everything in half. Eat half of the meat. Eat half of the veggies. Ask for a box.
7) Listen to your body. When your stomach tells you it is full, stop eating. Ask for a box if you are eating out.
8) As a general rule, an adult needs less than 2000 calories a day to maintain their weight. Unless you are a professional athlete or work at a physically demanding job, your BMI is a reasonable indicator of how healthy your weight is. Use it as a guideline, not as a specific objective.
If you are overweight, fat, obese - I had to get over my hate for the word "obese" - then you do not need 2000 calories per day. You need something closer to 1500-1800 calories per day. Shorter people may be able to get by on less.
Remember the phrases "portion control" and "read the labels" from above? Use that information to plan out your daily intake. If a McDonald's Big Mac is 540 calories...and it is....then that one sandwich has to be your entire meal. Enjoy it with a bottle of water. And absolutely nothing else. Of course, the type of calories in a Big Mac are not the right ones for weight loss (high fat, high carbs), but the approach works to limit the damage.
Remember those restaurant meals at 800-1200 calories per meal? Remember mom? Remember to ask for a box.
9) Limit alcohol consumption. Why do restaurants encourage a drink before dinner? Because alcohol makes you eat more food. Also, alcohol has a lot of calories.
10) The actual diet. This is my daily routine for food.
3/4 to 1 cup of fresh fruit (blueberries, raspberries, or sliced strawberries)
1 container of Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Greek Yogurt (various flavors)
1 coffee with sugar-free creamer
The yogurt has about 120 calories and is high in protein. With the fruit, this meal checks in about 250 calories.
Salad. A big one.
To help the flavor, I add a lot of different veggies; asparagus, cucumber, tomato, radish, red pepper, snow peas, onion, etc. I put the good stuff in first and top it off with lettuce. That minimizes the amount of lettuce.
I focus on using non-fat dressings. Not low-fat, non-fat. Also, I like a number of yogurt based dressings that are found in a refrigerated section of the store. Two tablespoons provides less than 100 calories of dressing.
For crunch, I'll add a few croutons or some of those dried peppers/onions. No cheese.
Courtesy of some dietary advice, I also include 1/3 of a can of low-sodium black beans from a can to boost the protein.
The result is a salad in the 400 calorie range.
Is harder. My preference is for some grilled/baked chicken and some baked veggies.
Sometimes I'll eat some pre-packaged veggies. You get two servings per package at roughly 120 calories per serving. You just have to read the label to make sure that they don't have a lot of cheese sauce that runs up the fat calories on you.
Baked veggies are pretty easy. Asparagus works as does cauliflower. Add pepper, perhaps a little onion, bake at 350 degrees until they are tender. Try other veggies as well.
As a substitute for spaghetti, try spaghetti squash. Cut it in half. Put the cut half down on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until it is tender. When you pull the squash out of the outer covering, it will string apart and look just like spaghetti. Add a little of your favorite sauce.
As above, focus on portion control. You don't need a heaping plate of food for dinner.
Limit them. Read the label.
I generally have one or two pieces of candy in between meals. In the evening, I'll have some fruit (apple, orange, etc.)
I have a fondness for a peanut/dark chocolate mix that the local store sells. The hard part is that a single serving is 150 calories and it is only a small handful. The bag holds 22 servings and I could devour it over the course of a few days. Keeping myself to only one serving per day is a bit of a trick.
Also, I lean heavily on jerky as a snack. Turkey jerky and beef jerky come in a variety of flavors. It generally is high in protein and low in fat. Again, be careful about portions. That open bag might be 4 or 5 servings. At 70 calories per serving, that open bag could be dinner, but it no longer is a snack.
I think you can see that my general approach is to have breakfast be less than 300 calories and lunch to be less than 500 calories. If I'm shooting for 1500 calories in total input, that leaves me 700 calories for dinner and snacks.
In reality, if I'm on top of my dietary game, I probably consume roughly 1600-1800 calories per day. I like to snack on fruit. A lot. I also have an appreciation for beef jerky.
Since we have brought reality into the picture, then let's be real. I love beer. I attend area beer fests a few times a year. I am not on my diet at those events.
Holidays come along as well. I'm not on my diet then either. Although I do try to limit things like potatoes when I'm piling up my plate. And here's a surprise, after I lost some weight and started listening to my stomach, I found that I really wasn't piling much on my plate anymore. I had retrained my mind and body to look for less food even on those occasions where everyone is overeating.
It can be hard to maintain dietary discipline. You have to give yourself a break every once in a while. So a couple slices of pizza, once a month isn't a bad thing. It's the once a week thing that really hurts.
Like anything else, eating preferences are a habit. And like most habits, the bad ones are easy to form. The good ones are harder. So set an achievable goal...eat right for 10 days straight...before giving yourself a reward such as pizza. Snack on fruit and beef jerky for two weeks before eating a small (no king size, please) candy bar. Stretch it out from there.
A couple closing thoughts. The first is that you need to keep your hands busy with something else. Read a book. do some gardening. Get away from the kitchen. That is where all those calories are hiding!
And finally, skip the diet pop/soda and go straight to water. Many of those artificial sweeteners also activate your appetite. So while you are cutting the calories that you drink, you end up consuming more in terms of food. Water doesn't do that to you.
Don't give up. When you fall off the wagon, kick yourself in the ass and get back on. Have a reasonable idea of what a healthy weight looks like and work at it until you get there. Don't ever give up.
This is your life we are talking about.