I love food. Anyone who knows me can vouch for this fact. In my 20s, I pretty much ate anything I wanted. The result was that at 5’7″, my weight crept up from 168 pounds when I entered business school at 25 yrs old to 185 when I was nearing 30. To make matters worse, my family has a history of high everything – blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar, you name it. I always told myself that when I hit 30 I’d have to clean up my act or I’d die as young as both my grandfathers (both died in their early 60s of heart attacks before I was born). And so when I hit 30, I did it. Now, 4 years later, I’m steady at 155.
Lots of people noticed the weight loss – for awhile, whenever I saw someone I’d not seen in awhile they’d say “you’ve lost a lot of weight!” It actually still happens to this day! And I of course frequently get asked how I did it. So for the record, here it goes:
A. Exercise had exactly nothing to do with it. In fact, I didn’t exercise at all when I dropped the weight.
B. It was all about how, or really, what I ate. So here were the rules I followed:
1. Eat no chemicals. This turned out to be easy to accomplish. If you read the ingredients label on food you’re about to consume and it has ingredients you don’t understand, just don’t eat it. This includes no artificial sweeteners. No high fructose corn syrup. Nothing that we’ve artificially manufactured. Rather, just eat natural stuff. Want an easy way to get yourself to do this? Imagine a clump of the chemical you’re reading on the ingredient list in the palm of your hand. Now imagine shoving it in your mouth. Pretty gross, right? Try it – grab a hand full of artificial sweetener and throw it in your mouth – you’ll regret it.
2. Cut out dairy. It turns out adult males really don’t need dairy. So being a cereal addict, this forced a switch to soy milk. No problem – it tastes great. (Don’t forget – buy organic – remember – no chemicals!). This also means no cheese. No ice cream. Etc.
3. Cut out red meat. I switched to largely vegetables, beans, lentils, tofu (lots of tofu in all different varieties), fish (but not too much), chicken (again, not too much), grains, fruits, etc. I think this had one of the biggest impacts, both in dropping weight and in how I felt.
4. Drink no calories. Water is your friend. It’s completely free – both in cost (tap water’s usually pretty good, especially, for the record, in NYC) – and in calorie count. That soda, bottled ice tea, orange juice, etc, that you’re thinking about drinking? It often has as many calories as a muffin or sandwich! Holy crap, right? This isn’t to say you can’t have your morning coffee, even with some sugar and cream (preferably soy milk). But that’s it – once a day in the morning, and not too much of either the sugar or cream!
5. Avoid sugar. Too much sugar just turns into fat. So you should avoid it. You know that sugar rush feeling where you just consumed a bunch of sugar and have a bunch of energy, only to be followed by a sugar crash where you’re feeling really groggy and tired an hour or so later? You should never feel that way. You ate too much sugar. So this means avoiding the obvious like candy and cake, and also the less obvious like bread (particularly white bread), pasta (particularly highly refined pasta), etc. You can of course have some of all of this. But moderation is super critical here, and none of these should be the dominant thing on your plate. A whole plate of pasta is almost guaranteed to be way more sugar than you need – and will produce that sugar spike followed by a sugar crash that I explained above.
6. Stop eating when you’re feeling full. Listen to your stomach. If you eat like I’m saying to eat above, you’ll likely get hungry between meals. That’s fine – have a snack if you’re hungry! Just make sure that the snack follows the rules above – not too sugary, not dairy, not meat, etc. Nuts are great as a snack. Teriyaki tofu. Edamame. Shredded wheat with soy milk. A hard boiled egg. All great options!
And so that was basically it. I didn’t, incidentally, religiously follow these rules. Rather, I’d say I held to them about 90% of the time. And I just started dropping weight like a rock – roughly 1-2 pounds per week. The only real cost was that at some point my clothes just looked ridiculous, so I had to go buy new ones.
Now for that one last little bit of motivation. I used to get migraine headaches, a lot. We’re talking at least once / month. I probably got a marginal headache once per week. After changing the way I ate per above and dropping the weight, they basically vanished. I’ve now had 1 migraine in 4 years (that only lasted a few hours). I almost never get a normal headache – maybe once every 3 months. I also used to have quite bad asthma. I still have asthma when I’m sick (which happens less) or when it’s allergy season. Other than that – asthma be gone!
Oh, and once I lost all that weight, I had more physical energy. I had to spend it somehow, so I started exercising. Not to keep the weight off, mind you. I actually find that exercising makes it harder to keep weight off because I want to eat more! But then, exercise has all sorts of benefits that make the added effort worthwhile. And I just naturally wanted to do it once I weighed less.
So that’s it. Follow these rules, which really aren’t that hard, and you’ll almost certainly lose weight. My father tried this diet after he and I made a bet. He started with just the no drinking calories rule. He started dropping weight and feeling better, and so naturally added in some of the other rules (he went to no desserts, second. He lost 40 pounds in a flash. He’s now at his high school weight!
Give it a shot – in 2 weeks, I bet you a pretty penny if you’ve been looking to shed some pounds, you’ll be surprised at the results. Just make sure to stay on the diet if you plateau – you’ll naturally hit a plateau 1-2 weeks in. But by then, you’ll be feeling so much better you won’t be able to go back to your old way of eating, anyhow.