Sunday, September 11, 2011

The One-Minute Weight-Loss Course

I must admit that none of these tactics work well enough for me, but they're the best I know for losing weight:
  • Love yourself enough to believe you deserve to be thinner.
  • Weigh yourself every day, especially when you've been bad.
  • Three times a day, say aloud why you want to lose weight: your health, looks, career, your kids, whatever. Say it with expression. That will brand it into your brain.
  • Most important: Be conscious of every bite, deciding whether the momentary pleasure of that bite outweighs the liabilities.
  • Eat something small whenever you're slightly hungry. Stop when you're not hungry, not when you're full.
  • All good diets reduce to eating lots of veggies, some fruit, a little protein, a little whole-grain carbs, and very little fat.
  • Eat the same things most days: the low-calorie but filling foods you most like and are easy to prepare.
  • When you screw up, forgive yourself and get back to your diet.
  • Find rewards other than food.
Update: A commenter asked why I didn't mention exercise. That's because current research shows that exercise, while healthy for other reasons, rarely helps you lose weight. Why? Because appetite increases in proportion to the amount of exercise you do. When ravenous, it's hard to eat little. Worse, having exercised, you feel entitled to eat more. HERE is a review of the research literature on the topic. And HERE is another article on the subject, which both discusses the literature and links to a Time article that also concludes that exercise is unlikely to help you lose weight.

It's all about the calories--but that wouldn't sell gym memberships.


Lioness said...

Interesting that the topic is weight loss but you only speak about calorie intake, not calorie expenditure. You exercise every day. The key for me is making exercise a priority which might mean falling behind at work so much you get fired or getting guilted by your S.O. for not spending more time with them. I've always had to pay dearly every time I've made the commitment to exercise regularly. I either end up shitting all over my job or shitting all over people I care about it. And I'm talking about a one-hour group exercise class 5-6 times a week -- nothing fanatical. For me, exercise must become a religion. It must have that level of commitment just to fucking show up. The payoff? Feeling better (especially yoga), looking better, being in better shape (easier running, sitting, bending), more strength and balance AND supressed appetite. The discipline of exercise has to be the foundation -- then you can add on the discipline of eating carefully. I also "decide" that I'm going to stop eating -- then I don't feel deprived. Eating -- that's for other people. What I end up doing is eating 4-5 small healthy snacks a day -- never a meal. It adds up to 1200-1400 calories. The hardest part -- that takes incredible concentration/ mindfulness is to rotate around all the nutrients to make sure you get enough of everything in so few calories. Exercise also takes that discipline, that single-mind focus. That's why it's so difficult to maintain. I also put up pictures of what I want to look like and I weigh every day and record it on the calendar. I also found with a thing as difficult as weight loss, I'm more motivated by negative emotions than positive ones.

Marty Nemko said...

I didn't mention exercise. That's because the most recent research shows that exercise, while healthy for other reasons, rarely helps you lose weight. Why? Because appetite increases in proportion to the amount of exercise you do. When ravenous, it's hard to eat little. Worse, having exercised, you feel entitled to eat more. HERE is a Time magazine article on the topic:,9171,1914974,00.html.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to exercise, I've found that the approach that worked best for me is to include "little" movements into everyday activities. For example, I park at the farthest end of the mall and office parking lots (at least when the weather is nice), I take the stairs instead of the elevator, etc. After counting the number of steps taken by doing these things vs. not, I found that I was expending enough calories to tip the balance in my favor...any thoughts?

Marty Nemko said...

Most recent Anonymous,

As I wrote, exercise is, for most people, unlikely to cause weight loss. But your approach clearly is healthy, doesn't take much time, and painless. Sounds good to me.

Anonymous said...

Marty, please don't dismiss the importance of exercise. Exercise is important to keep the body healthy (eg limbs nimble, reduces onset of diabetes) and the brain sharp. The article you cited appears to be anecdotal and is based on a person's experience who exercises without dieting. You have to do both. To lose weight the "calories in" have to be less than "calories burned". Exercise speeds up the weight loss process and has psychological benefits. That's at least been my experience.

I would also suggest charting your weight on a spreadsheet such as EXCEL and making the lower y-axis limit your target weight. It allows you to visualize the consequences of "good" and "bad" eating and to encourage you to see that you're actually slowly trending downward.

Marty Nemko said...

Anonymous, my blog post said that exercise is healthy, just not likely, for most people, to abet weight loss. I will add another article on that to provide additional support.

ST said...

I can speak with some authority on this weight loss/exercise/eating right dilemma.

I’ve been a runner for a (whopping) 38 years, have run 20 (26.2 mile) marathons, and countless 21 (.5 marathon), 10 and 5 kilometer races, way too many to keep track of. I’ve also been involved in my corporate fitness centers in my jobs for decades and been surrounded by fitness people and dietitians, not to mention all the runners in my training groups. So, I can give my experience after all these years.

Moderation, moderation, moderation. Balance, balance, and then balance.

There are also some keys on this weight loss chase:

Injury Risk
Calories In

When someone says they have the answer and have lost a bunch of weight from say running 10 miles a day. I say, what’s your age, because you’re probably young. When I was young, I could drop 10 pounds in a few weeks by just increasing my mileage. Not so today at over 50 years of age … I would get injured!

So, the key is to exercise more within your abilities and likes (age, injury tolerance, talents, enjoyments), eat a nutritionally balanced diet (avoiding fast food and processed food as much as possible), and don’t keep going on “diets” (I see more people going on a “diet” to lose weight for a wedding, for example, only to gain it back a few months later, and then start talking about the next diet). There's also some evidence that yo-yo dieting is the worst.

At the extremes, no food is “bad” (you think a starving person would refuse a McDonalds hamburger?). But moderation is key. You have to balance the calories in, balance the food groups (including enough fiber!). As you age, the portion sizes must go down for most people.

Exercise enough to avoid injury. This also changes with age. Incorporate aerobic (running, various machines, walking at a good clip), anaerobic (weights, “sprints”…sparingly to avoid injury), resistance (weights, bands, etc.), and stretching (incl yoga, etc.).

I've just started weight training again after a hiatus of a few years. The pounds didn't drop off, but I did lose some weight, because muscle burns calories even though muscle weighs more than fat on the body. Weight training is also important as we age to remain strong.

I also sort of agree with the type of person who is active all day, versus a person who exercises for an hour and then sits the rest of the day (I have to admit to having the propensity to be that second person :) ). The people who I know that "fidget" also tend to be a little nervous all the time and are picky eaters, thus reducing calories in. This might also explain the article on city living and being thin, and it really disapoints me how bad our towns are about not including sidewalks and walkways to get around. It's even dangerous sometimes trying to get around on foot, because you're forced to go with the vehicle traffic and risk getting hit (especially in the winter when pathways get narrowed or eliminated from snow, etc.).

So, why are we so fat? Because most of us don’t follow this advice, for whatever reason. Because we’re uneducated, can’t afford nutritious and balanced food (i.e. poor), don’t care, are lazy, can’t help it for health/physical/age reasons.


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