Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Losing weight.

I've been overweight for the majority of my life. No, scratch that... I've been fat for the majority of my life.

I think I'm almost unique in admitting this, but I'm fat because I don't exercise enough and eat like an idiot. My relationship with food has always been simple: It tastes nice, I like it, so I'm going to eat it. I very rarely give any thought to what's actually in the things I eat or how unhealthy they are...because who wants to eat a salad when you can have a double bacon cheeseburger?

However, I do have limits. Every so often I'll catch myself in a mirror and realise that I've gone past 'chubby' and straight into 'heart attack before 40' territory. That's when I decide to lose weight to get down to a healthy level...and I've never had a problem doing this.

For example, Christmas was one of those times, and since December 26th, I've lost a steady 3-4 lbs a week.

Here's the big secret: Losing weight is not complicated. It's the simplest thing on the planet. If I wrote my own diet book, it would be a single sentence: Eat less calories than you burn.

That's it. It's simple physics.

A calorie is a measurement of energy. Food is fuel that contains energy. Any energy you don't expend is stored by your body as fat. If you burn more energy than you eat, your body is going to use that stored fat as fuel.

So, if you burn 2000 calories a day and eat 2500, you're going to gain weight. If you burn 2000 calories a day and eat 1500, you're going to lose weight. It's that simple. You can keep your 'good carbs' and 'bad carbs' and 'metabolism boosting foods'...that's all bullshit. Follow that rule and it's physically impossible not to lose weight.

But if it's so simple, why are there all these people on TV claiming that if you eat a slice of grapefruit before every meal, the 'special enzymes' will burn the fat...or that you can eat as much as you like as long as you avoid dairy or wheat or whatever?

I'll tell you why. Because losing weight is difficult. It means getting off the couch and going for a run, or giving up foods you like and, god forbid, actually being hungry once in a while.

As a species, we don't like difficult...and we prefer a comforting lie over an uncomfortable truth.

It doesn't matter how ridiculous or nonsensical a diet is, if it's easy, people will jump on it like a pack of dogs on a three-legged cat. It's like the 'save the children' facebook petitions. It's a way to feel like you're doing something while not doing anything.

We want to lose weight, and we get the feeling of accomplishment from buying the exercise video and diet book, rather than actually exercising or dieting.  

You see, the problem with the diet industry is that it's just that, an industry. It's a business, and the purpose of a business is to make money. It's not about making you thinner and more healthy, it's about keeping you spending.

If there was a quick, simple and easy way to lose weight, there wouldn't be a diet industry. There wouldn't be a need for it. If you really could lose weight by eating a slice of grapefruit before every meal, everyone would do that and wouldn't need all the different books and exercise plans and overly complicated, pseudo-scientific bullshit.

Now, I'm not saying it's some big conspiracy to keep you fat, the diet industry just follows the same rules that any business follows to get and keep customers.

For example, it takes approximately 10,000 hours practice to master any musical instrument, but how many times have you seen books and videos advertised claiming that you can learn the piano or guitar in just 10 easy lessons? The first step in selling anything is to over-promise.

Does any of that sound familiar? How many infomercials have you seen where some super-fit 'health guru' has claimed you can get washboard abs in just 15 minutes a day, or drop a dress size while still eating whatever you want?

Why do they do this? Because 'Washboard abs in 15 minutes a day' sells a lot better than 'washboard abs in about 6 months if you're already in decent shape and spend 3 hours a day at the gym'

It begs the question, if you can get an athelete's physique is just 15 minutes a day with one piece of exercise equipment, why do all the real athletes spend 8 hours a day training?

Over-promising gets you in the door. Then you're given a little bit of success.

If you start any diet when you're significantly overweight, you're going to lose weight in the beginning... If you're 350lbs, you can burn 200 calories by walking a half mile for the simple reason you're carrying so much weight around (the same way a 150lb athlete will burn more calories by carrying a 200lb rucksack)'re also putting in the effort to eat healthier...but once the novelty wears off and you fall back into your old habits, andyou can follow that fad diet all you like, you're not going to lose an ounce

Then to keep you, they make simple things seem complicated.

The diet obviously isn't going to work, so now they start talking about genetics and metabolism and body-chemistry. It's not that you're not losing weight because you're still eating too much and not exercising's for lots of extremely complicated scientific reasons... in fact, it's just about impossible for you to ever lose weight... unless, of course, you go on our advanced diet which is personalised for you and takes your specific body chemistry into account.

Finally, they pull the switch and put you right back to square one.

So the super-mega cheeseburger diet didn't work for you. Obviously it's not your fault, it's your genetics or your metabolism or whatever. It's a good job Doctor Asshat of the totally non-fictional Asshat Institute has discovered and totally new way to lose weight! Never mind a slice of grapefruit, it turns out that if you activate the amino-acids in cheesecake with the fat burning, metabolism boosting enzymes in our specially over-priced yoghurt, you can literally eat whatever you want... but first we need to analyse your genes, so buy this book and video that explains it all, and you too can be slim in weeks!

Long story short, it's all horseshit. You can lose weight in one of two ways: Eat less, exercise more...or better yet, a combination of the two.

Saying you can't lose weight by burning more calories than you eat is like saying your car can't run out of gas no matter how little fuel you put in and how far you drive. However, every day I run into a dieting 'expert' that tells me I'm doing it all wrong.

Let me explain something. If you've been dieting for 20 years and are still overweight, that makes you a failure... not an expert.I don't care how many books you've read, how many videos you've watched, I don't take financial advice from someone £50,000 in the hole, so I'm not taking dieting advice from someone who's morbidly obese.

Here's my diet 'plan': I don't eat breakfast. I never have. I'm not hungry when I wake up and eating before noon makes me feel physically sick. So I'm not going to eat anything. Then, for lunch, I have whatever I want as long as it's less than 300 calories. This is perfect for me. It's the right amount of food to stop me being hungry until dinner. Then, for dinner, I allow myself up to 900 calories. That's a nice big meal... and then after dinner, I don't snack or eat anything.

That's 1200 calories a day, the minimum recommended by actual doctors (That's people with PhD's, not a certificate from a dodgy website and a daytime talk-show) so you can lose weight and get adequate nutrition.

But then...on a regular basis, someone will notice I'm losing weight and ask what my 'secret' is. Then comes the bullshit:

I should never skip breakfast because that 'kick-starts' your metabolism. The large pretzel I had for lunch that day is all bad carbs and gluten. My dinner is too big and should be spread over the day...and stopping eating at 6pm is all wrong because you should eat every 2 hours.

Excuse me? I've lost more weight in the last month than you've lost in 10 years... and you're going to sit there with a straight face and tell me I'm doing it wrong? Doesn't the fact you've got 30 different diet books on your shelf tell you that they just might not, you know, work?

Once again, losing weight is hard, but it's not complicated. Eat less calories than you burn.


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