The Best Way to Lose Weight

Yes, yes. As a country we are all overweight. This is not news to anybody. And anybody who isn’t living under a rock gets bombarded every day with one new diet after another. They all try to tell you to eat this kind of food, don’t eat that kind of food. Why do they make it so complicated? I guess to sell books, programs, and sell newspapers – I really don’t know. Hopefully this will simplify things for you.

ABC News ran a recent story called 7 Diet Myths Exposed. Here are the seven myths that they discuss:

  • Chug eight glasses of water a day
  • Don’t drink juice–it’s a sugar bomb
  • Shut the kitchen down after 7 p.m. to prevent weight gain
  • Simmer steel-cut oatmeal instead of nuking the instant kind
  • If you must drink while you diet, order a white-wine spritzer
  • Put half your entrée in a to-go box before you start to eat
  • Have just one bite of dessert

I’m not going to write about why these are myths. If you want details on that, just read the article. Just know this: Even things that are 100% right about nutrition are really not important when it comes to weight loss. That’s right, throw all of that crap out.

All right, here come the comments…

But what about the anti-oxidant power of berries???
Do you know what is a GREATER anti-oxidant? NOT BEING OBESE!

But I’ve heard that eating carrots will raise your blood sugar as high as white bread – and high blood sugar causes Type II Diabetes!!!
Do you know what is the MOST EFFECTIVE thing to lower your chances of getting Type II Diabetes? NOT BEING OBESE!

What about diet soda? All of those chemicals can’t be good for you.
Do you know what is REALLY not good for you? Hey you’re learning!

Isn’t it that eating carbs will make you gain weight?
It’s not the carbs…

So how do you lose weight?

Wait for it…

Consume less calories than you burn.

It’s that simple. When you eat more calories than you burn – you gain weight. When you eat less calories than you burn – you lose weight. It has nothing to do with carbs or fat or sugar or anything else like that. Now, if you are already at an ideal weight, sure, then worry about getting more fruits and veggies and all of that healthy stuff. If you are overweight, it really doesn’t matter.

If it really is that simple, then why is it so hard to lose weight?

People have a hard time understanding three things:

  1. How many calories they need in a day.
  2. How many calories are in the food that they eat.
  3. How many calories they burn during exercise (not many).

When we help people with weight loss here at the clinic, getting people to get a handle on these three things is the key. People are shocked by this. The number of calories that you need in a day varies from person to person. There are some great free websites that can help you figure that out (I’ll get to those in a second).

Let’s look at the exchange between number 2 and 3. Let’s say you go to Starbucks to get your coffee (I won’t go into the hundreds of calories that were in your soy latte) and you see the gourmet cookies. On a whim, you grab one and eat it in the car on your way home. That one cookie had the same number of calories that you would burn during a 30-minute run! So, does that mean you need to go for a 30-minute run? Well, yeah, or you could just not eat the cookie. What’s easier for you? In my experience, getting people to start with diet (no cookie) is easier than getting them to increase their activity level (go run for 30 minutes).

So what is the best way to know how many calories I need and how much I’m eating/burning?

A study published in 2008 found that keeping a food log doubles the amount of weight that someone will lose. That’s right, DOUBLE the weight.

“But I don’t want to write everything down and then have to do all of the calculations.” What is this, 1960? We have this new-fangled thing called the internet with all kinds of free services to do all of the work for you. Have a smartphone? There are tons of free apps that integrate a food/exercise log into the phone.

The one I am most familiar with is LoseIt, but there are plenty of others. All of them can calculate the amount of calories that you need every day in order to meet your goals. With LoseIt (they are not paying me, by the way), there are thousands of foods pre-loaded. Start typing the name of the food and then select from a list. Brand name food? Point your phone’s camera at the barcode and “zap”, all of the nutritional data is entered. At a restaurant? The menu is usually already pre-loaded as well. You’ll know the calories before you even order. Once you pick a food, it can remember it for next time. Have a recipe? Enter the ingredients then the number of servings and you now know the calories.

It really doesn’t matter what you eat, just keep the calories down. You can even have the cookie from Starbucks, you just have to budget for it. Hell, you can eat a diet of nothing but Twinkies and Doritos and still lose weight, decrease your percentage of body fat, and lower cholesterol.

There really is no excuse. Don’t tell me that you are trying to lose weight but you are not using some kind of food log. That means that you are not actually trying…

What about cheat days?

I’m a big fan of cheat days. I recommend for people to take a cheat day once a week. Eat whatever you want. Don’t log a damn thing. Make a pig out of yourself. There is only one rule: It has to be the same day every week (for example every Sunday). If you were good about staying within your limits the rest of the week, one day won’t hurt you. Also, you will have a new appreciation for what “full” means and will find that your cheat days aren’t as bad as you think.

One last thing – Go easy on yourself. Plan on losing only 1/2 to 1 pound a week. Sure it’s slow, but think of it this way: If you had started that a year ago, where would you be today?