Someone on the Fat Loss 101 page left a comment that they would like to see my food journals, menus, etc. If keeping a food journal or pre-planned menus work for you, then go for it. But, for me, I never did that. I guess I approached weight loss a little less organized than some but, in my opinion, more realistic for the long-term. Here are the key things I’ve done to lose the ~65 pounds and maintain that loss successfully (so far, without any major effort):
I Always kept a mental note of the grams of carbohydrate eaten per day
- To lose weight, I found I had to stay well under 50g per day, but it was very strange as I’d often ‘cheat’ and still keep losing. But it was very rare that I went over 50g per day, and usually my goal was around 20g per day.
- To maintain weight loss, I basically eat the same way! I sincerely believe that any ‘diet’ in which you reach a goal and then start eating differently, by design, is going to lead to failure. This is the single biggest flaw, in my opinion, with Atkins and especially South Beach and the like, where they have great programs during ‘induction’ and then they just keep adding carbs back too quickly. If I had to give anyone a rigid diet program it would simply be this: go on Atkins’ induction phase and don’t stop it until you’ve lost the weight you want to lose. And then, continue eating that way! This is doable because, over time, you lose the constant cravings for junk food, ‘healthy whole grains’, etc. Can you ‘cheat’? Sure! I do fairly often, especially when I work up an appetite by exercising/becoming more physically active.
- I never did and still don’t count calories. I’d often eat 3000+ per day worth of healthy foods – meats, vegetables, etc. And still lose weight. So much for that calories-in/calories-out theory.
Act like an addict and ‘take it one day at a time’
- Especially in the beginning, but I used this mental device throughout my loss. I just got through that current day and told myself I’d worry about tomorrow when it comes. Sounds like I was sitting there on the couch longing in agony over the sticky buns I was trying to avoid, but the reality is that it was never hunger because I ate lots of dietary fat, which is key. I was never hungry. That’s the beauty of a low-carb diet. If you’re ever hungry on a low-carb diet, then you’re doing it wrong.
I didn’t exercise until my energy level was so high that I had no choice
- This was by design. I figured I’d ‘hit a plateau’ in my weight loss and would keep exercise as some sort of ‘ace in my pocket’ that I would pull out to jumpstart the weight loss again. Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way – working out just made me hungrier. That said, it’s important to exercise for other reasons. Weight loss isn’t one of them though…
I ate when I was hungry. If I was not hungry for lunch, I would skip it.
But, truth is, I was usually hungry so I ate it. So don’t take this advice as a ‘force yourself to skip a meal’ or that bullshit ‘intermittent fasting’ thing that is hip with the Paleo crowd these days. If you’re hungry, eat until you’re full. Eating lots of dietary fat is your goal.
Okay, I’ll bore you no further – here’s what I ate on a typical day:
Breakfast – I’ve eaten the same breakfast every morning, pretty much every morning, for the past ~14 months:
- Always eggs (at least 2, sometimes 3 large/extra-large) fried with a very healthy dose of butter, or directly in bacon grease
- Bacon or sausage or both – about 5 or 6 slices of bacon, or 3 of the round sausage patties
- Originally I was eating Turkey Bacon, which was a complete waste of time and a missed opportunity for nutritious and healthy dietary fat from the saturated fat I was passing up by not eating real bacon. Once I learned that saturated fat was, in fact, healthy, and proved it via my lipid tests, I dispensed with the lame turkey bacon and ate only the real stuff.
- For the first 5 or 6 months I practically lived on, of all things, Wendy’s drive-thru! I would eat:
- A large Chili AND either a cheeseburger (would ditch the bun) or usually a side salad with the chili
- Eventually, I learned that the Chili isn’t as low in carbs as I first thought, and knowing that eating fast food beef is a bad idea even without the bun, I eventually switched to the BLT Cobb salad that they sell, which is awesome. So yes, it’s true – you can lose weight eating fast food : )
- For the latter half of last year and since, I typically eat a Big Ass Salad for lunch, or I’ll buy one of those over-priced plastic lunch in a box things that Starbucks sells – usually the ‘Protein’ box, even though I don’t recommend it to eat very often because it is full of carbs (a ‘healthy whole grain’ bun is in it, which I typically threw away). I telecommute for work, even though I have a perfectly good cubicle at the office not 10 minutes from my house, I enjoy the freedom and flexibility that working from home allows. Problem is, I rarely stay home to work – I usually go to Starbucks or some other cafe where I can leech a wifi signal and sit in a comfy chair. One of those places is the Bear Rock Cafe, which has the greatest salads anywhere and for a great price (especially Monday’s and Tuesday’s). They serve the equivalent of Sisson’s ‘Big Ass Salad’. That and an unsweetened iced tea was heaven!
- I ate lots of steak, lots of chicken, pork, etc. Lots of mashed cauliflower (loaded with butter, heavy cream, etc.). Lots of vegetables. I would eat 1000x healthier if the rest of my family weren’t still addicted to junk food and carbohydrates. But my wife is good about making most dinners fairly healthy. No, I did not eat shit like rice, potatoes (even sweet potatoes), etc.
- Yes, I often eat desserts. Either dark chocolate or, more commonly, some type of low-glycemic fruit (berries) cut up in a bowl with heavy cream poured over it.
- Nowadays, I eat a fair amount of ice cream at the local ice cream shop. Like once a week or sometimes twice, I’ll take my kids to get an ice cream cone (usually small/kid-sized for me too) after their baseball/softball practices. But I can eat more now because I’m not trying to lose weight.
- One thing I’m convinced helped me is that I started drinking coffee. I never really drank coffee before, and never liked the taste of it unless it was loaded with milk and sugar, but ever since I started telecommuting I found that buying the ‘house coffee’ at the local cafe was much cheaper/sustainable for my wallet than buying bottled water, smoothies, etc. all day. And more importantly, coffee is not fattening. So I have been drinking coffee for the past ~18 months and am pretty much addicted to it. I drink one cup per day, sometimes two. No more than that. Typically always a Starbucks Americano with heavy cream in it. Yes, full fat heavy cream. Tastes pretty good. Much better than their regular coffees, which are downright nasty. And yes, from time to time (with much less frequency nowadays), I would drink one of their sugar-bombs like a Vanilla Latte or Mocha Cappuccino, etc. As a treat, typically once per week.
So that’s it. Had I the ability to go back in time, I wouldn’t change much other than to eat more dietary fat – it is crucial to success. I still to this day am a believer in the insulin hypothesis that Gary Taubes and Dr. Attia and other discuss. Although I’ve read many diet books, mostly out of curiosity, after losing most of my excess weight, I can honestly say that the only one I would recommend to anyone has always remained the same, and it’s not even a diet book: it’ is Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It, by Gary Taubes. Reading this book, which is basically just a ‘meta-review’ of the real research on fat, calories, etc. that has occurred over the past couple hundred years, was all the info I needed to know that I would be successful if I just ate as few carbs as possible. And it worked. I can’t recommend that book enough.
It’s been about 6 months since I met my goal, which was to be under 200lbs (sounds high but I have big calves and thighs, so 200lbs is actually pretty close to my ideal weight). I’ve relaxed and ‘cheated’ in my eating fairly often since then, but never ridiculously. I still eat bacon and eggs every morning, I still eat tons of saturated fat, etc. And I’ve upped the number of ‘cheats’ and carbs on a daily basis to some degree over these past 6 months since declaring ‘success’. The result? I’m down another 5 pounds. Probably because I have consistently kept to under 50g of carbs per day, with the exception of those days when the kids and I head over to the ice cream place : )