I've been trying to figure out how to write this without sound like a troll or condescending. I've struggled with weight most of my life save for a few brief period including my high school years. Even then I wasn't in "perfect" shape always having a bit of extra weight on me. Once I got to college with the freedom to eat as much as I wanted, no Mom around to cook mostly healthy meals and of course all that beer, I started to put on some pounds. After a few years I was up to about 220 where I stayed until my late 20's when a long stint on unemployment hit and I packed on another 30. For the rest of my adult life I've fluctuated from 250 to over 300 pounds. I'm only 5'9" tall and even though I've got a stocky build that holds weight well, I shouldn't weigh more than 200 and probably not more than 180 if I was in really good shape.
Starting in summer 2007 life got bad. My hearing had crashed. I was out of a job and the economy was in the tank. Over the next few years I packed on a lot of weight and I think I peaked out around 330. I'm basing that on something Mike Tyson once said (and I paraphrase not remembering the exact quote), "When you are 330 pounds it's hard to wipe your own ass." Suffice it to say, I know that weight isn't healthy and it would have killed me very young. My father's final lesson to me was to not be a slave to the food demons. He keeled over dead of a massive heart attack at 67. He didn't drink or smoke but he was morbidly obese and never got any exercise. His father had had a massive heart attack at 67 also but had held on for another 4 years before dying. Genetically speaking, if I don't change my habits, I've got 20 years at most to live. That's 5 presidential elections. That's the blink of an eye.
So around December 2009 I made the decision once again to try to get my eating habits under control. Currently I weigh around 250 pounds. I don't know exactly how much because I don't own a scale and I refuse to buy one. I monitor my weight by how my clothes fit and by looking at myself in the mirror and checking for new dimples to appear. I also don't "diet". I refuse to sit around weighing, counting, obsessing. It's a recipe for poor health and roller coaster weight gain and loss which not only stresses the system but can lead to feelings of discontent and frustration.
For most people healthy weight loss comes down to two simple things:
1. Eat less calories than you expend.
2. Don't try to lose more than a pound a week on average over a period of time and half that is plenty.
Follow me below the cheese curl for how I'm accomplishing those goals and see if some of the ideas work for you...
I can hear some of you right now screaming at your monitor: What about fat/fiber/sugar/starch/etc. How can you lose weight if you don't monitor those things. Well I do try to keep my fat intake to a reasonable level, but I don't deny myself food. I eat steak once a week on average. I have pizza, pork and even ice cream though I limit myself on the last one to once a month on average. However, I strongly believe that while there are different health issues associated with some of these foods when it comes to strictly talking weight loss, you cannot deprive yourself of the foods you crave/love. Strict diets don't work. I regularly allow myself a lost weekend to indulge those cravings. Though like I said I try to limit myself to once a month.
I do eat a lot of leaner meats especially for lunch and I try to eat chicken 3 times a week for dinner. I follow the meatless Monday program though I do eat cheese and eggs, so I'm not fanatical about it. Again, these are things that work for me. The idea is to find what works for you. I have a rough idea of how many calories I consume a day but I don't write them down or weigh or measure anything. Currently I'm trying to stay in the 2300-2500 calorie a day range which should get me to 230 eventually then I'll cut the next level. When I started I was letting myself eat up to 3000 calories a day. Now if you've never struggled with weight you may look at that number and gape in horror unless you are a workout machine who has an incredible metabolism. For me that's actually not horrible. My body can regularly eat 4000+ calories a day when I'm letting my demon control me, and that's how I got to 330 pounds in the first place.
Some of the things I do to control my calories is to acknowledge the food I crave and remove it from the house. Simple things like cutting cheese out of lunch meals, not keeping chips or ice cream in the house, making sure there's always fruit on hand for when I need a snack or something sweet. In addition due to my ability and desire to eat a LOT of food I don't have a typical eating pattern. I only eat two meals a day. Most days at lunch I eat about a third of my daily calories and then I allow myself a big dinner. This is part of how I control my demon. I crave big meals and I don't have a cutoff switch like most people do. For example, when I go out to eat at a buffet with friends, I have to watch how much they eat to decide when to stop. I'm still one of the biggest eaters when that happens and I don't go to buffets often for that exact reason. In addition my family has always centered our celebrations around food. So, allowing myself a big dinner every night I don't have as many cravings. I can get by with an apple for dessert.
I have removed from the house all of the things that I love to snack on, crackers, chips, peanut butter, nuts and ice cream. Not having them around makes it easier to not snack. However, like I said, one weekend a month I let myself eat whatever I want. The trick to that is to eat it all and get it out of the house. I know I cannot control myself around those items so when I buy chips I eat them in a few days and be done with it. Ice cream the same thing. Once it's gone I can go back to eating in a manner that works well for me and will allow me to continue to lose weight.
Now obviously my system won't work for everyone, but the point is to find out what does work for you. When do you crave food? What food products are your triggers? What food products do you obsess over? What food products will you eat whenever you have them? Which food products call you from the pantry or the freezer begging you to come get them and eat some of them immediately? Get those foods out of your house. Eat your meals in a manner that works for you. Don't listen to the "experts" telling you not to eat after 9:00 PM or to eat 5 small meals a day. Your body will tell you what to eat and when to eat it, but again, you cannot let the demon take over.
There's a school of thought in dieting called "eating naturally" which states that if you are craving ice cream and you know you are going to give in, eat the ice cream for the main course. I'm not saying that's a good idea every night, but once in a while it's a lot better to eat a pint of ice cream for dinner than to eat a whole dinner and then add the pint of ice cream. I remember seeing some segment on a news program about a guy who went on a Hostess snack cake diet to see what it would do to his body. For a month he consumed all his calories by eating Hostess snack cakes. At the end of the month he had lost weight and his bio-markers had improved. That was because he didn't over eat, he just swapped out his balanced diet for one with the same calories made out of cake (since he lost weight I guess he actually consumed a few less calories and that's probably because he was eating based on the calories listed on the packs and thus being stricter about his calorie consumption). So once again, it's all about the calories, at least from a weight loss perspective.
I'm not pretending my system works for everyone, but these basic rules should allow anyone to lose weight and keep it off:
1. Throw your scale away, don't rely on some number to tell you how you are doing. Don't obsess over every pound, have a long term goal and see it through and by long term, I mean think in terms of years not months. I also recommend getting used to looking at yourself in the mirror. Many overweight people hate looking at themselves naked. Get over it. You will see the weight melt off over time.
2. Get your trigger foods out of the house and when you do indulge in them, eat them all and be done with it.
3. Find a eating pattern that works for you and stick with it. I recommend not snacking. That's how the beast generally wins. If you have to snack try to snack on fruit.
4. Don't be strict about it. Indulge yourself occasionally but when you're done, go back to your system.
5. Reduce your calorie intake slowly over time. It's not hard to cut out 200 calories from your daily diet. If you do this several times over the course of several years you will slowly dependably lose weight and a lot of the stress from trying to dramatically cut back your calorie intake will be removed.
I'm not an expert. I'm not in great shape and probably never will be. I do know what works for me and I'm hoping my common sense ideas can help work for some of you, but in the end the only person who can decide what is the right eating system for you is you.
4:29 PM PT: WOW! Had to go to work earlier, so I kind of tossed this up and walked out the door. Didn't expect this much positive response. Thanks for keeping it civil and for all the great comments. It's nice to see a discussion where so many people are talking about things that work for them. That's been my number one point here, do what works for you, but figure out what that is and stick with it.