Last year, I undertook a personal experiment. In my mid forties, I was well over 200 pounds and at 5 foot 6 inches tall that is considered well over weight. I was living with high blood pressure, sucking down three different type of pills every day and in hindsight, I really did not have a very promising future where my health was concerned. I was not working out at all and did not even think I was ready to until I took some of the weight off. My approach was going to be to maximize the weight loss potential in boosting my metabolism. As I worked through my experiment, I posted my weight loss results of my Facebook page by the week and not too unexpectedly, I got alot of friend support. I have never been obese or anything like that but I was starting to look like a pear…at least I thought so. During those postings I got a lot of private messages and emails…I though it funny because everyone just wanted to know how to do it… I dont know the first damned thing about losing weight from an academic or a medical perspective…nothing. But I know the basics and I tried to stick with those principles. Believe it or not, it worked very well for me AND has given me a new lease on life so the least I can do is share my experience. I had to first figure out what causes me to gain weight and what causes me to lose it. Weight gain is usually the result of eating more calories than you burn. To maintain your weight you need to burn what you eat. To lose weight, you need to burn more than you eat. You burn calories with everything you do…even when you are asleep. It is critical to get sleep and to get it into a normal routine. 8 straight hours of sleep can result in 250-400+ burned calories. You wont yield near the same with spotty sleep habits. Most folks who are slightly to moderately overweight eat as much as 3500 calories or more a day. Think about it… 2 eggs, bacon a bisquit and grits w/ OJ…800 calories. A trip to BK for lunch…a whopper with fries and a 12 oz Coke is almost 1200 calories. Some beef tips or short ribs with rice, brown gravy, english peas and rolls for dinner…1800 calories. Do the math. I dont care who you are, its going to be hard to burn more than 3500 calories in a day doing every day activity. Go to the Harvard Medical School link and see how many calories you burn a day. You can sit in your computer cubical for 8 hours and even with trips to the restroom, to your car, or the water fountain, you still will probably only burn about 1000 calories. If you can up the metabolism a little you can burn significantly more with the same amount of activity. Fundamentally, it becomes a matter of two points:
1. Reducing your calorie intake (not your food intake) to obtain a daily calorie deficit.
2. Boost your metabolism to help you burn more through normal activity to increase that deficit.
You can be successful by identifying those foods that meet those requirements, starting with foods that boost your metabolism: oatmeal, whole grain cereals, fresh raw and steamed vegetables, fruit lean meats (Chicken, Turkey and Fish), spicy soups, milk, cottage cheese, tea and coffee and even water. There are a lot more and I have some menus but just look at all of the vegetable possibilities alone. I usually eat oatmeal or Special K Fruit and Yogurt cereal for breakfast with a little honey dew melon or cantelope. Thats less that 500 calories for breakfast. I may eat a fig newton bar around mid day…about 100 calories. I drink water throughout the day. I eat a late lunch…usually about 2 PM and thats where I go bananas. I may eat a piece of skinless grilled or broiled chicken breast, a huge salad with green peppers, tomato, lettuce, black olives (yes chedder cheese too), cucumber, etc…I may eat Blue Cheese Dressing, but Ranch Lite is ok. Balsamic Vinegar dressing is great! I will eat some side veggies…steamed brocoli (w/cheese ; ) ) or carrots, whole kernal corn or even COC). I will have some cottage cheese and a green olive or two. Now I really pile it on and Im still under 700 calories. When I leave I am full for a while. The next day I mix it up…maybe some tuna, a bunch of veggies, etc.
What I avoid about 4 to 5 days a week is starches (no potatoes, pasta or rice) , breads and legumes (no beans or nuts). I do usually drink a protein drink at night and I get some of those carbs I lose from the starches.. I rarely eat a third meal anymore. Im just still not hungry from the late and big lunch. Now I know that runs contrary to what we all hear about eating smaller meals more often. Some eat as much as 6 meals a day. But again, this is just one approach and I can tell you from experience it is a very legitimate one. If I get hungry at night, I eat a bag of popcorn (buttered of course) and may drink a Monster (Absolutely Zero) or a diet pepsi! If Im really hungry, I will eat a turkey sandwhich (with mayo and mustard!), tomato, lettuce and provalone cheese…swiss is ok too but I would stay away from processed American cheese. If I want something sweet I eat some fruit or a couple of fig newtons. Thats it. I keep my calorie intake at around 1800 a day. Im not saying that is good for everyone and I think if you plan on doing something like this you should talk to your doctor. You should reward yourself a couple of days a week…go bananas with the pasta or something…those are good days to eat Pork, Spaghetti or Beans. Rewarding will help you set goals and stay honest. After about a week and a half of this diet, I started feeling more energetic. Im a food eater…I love to grill and eat anything. But I had ZERO problems getting used to this…I liked it almost immediately. Not only have I been able to meet my weight loss goals in just 8 weeks (32 pounds), but I am never ever hungry, my digestive system works better and I feel much better than I did before…AND I did it without alot of extra exercise. Now I say that because I know that most folks wont be able to discipline themselves to exercise more in the beginning…but when you feel the energy you gain and you begin to see the magic of the weight loss, you will get motivated. My goal was always to get motivated to run and lift again but that does not mean that you have to exercise in that way for this to work for you. You should be careful though. If you start feeling weak, talk your doctor. You may just need to increase your calorie intake slightly. Remember, this is a low cal-high met approach to weight loss. It is not appropriate for body building. My next experiment was to build lean muscle mass. To do that, I needed significantly more calories a day and higher levels of protein intake as well as a very organized workout regimen to build muscle, burn fat and avoid catabolism. This includes progressive weight training and low to mid intensity cardio…I will hit more on that subject in a future article. The important point to understand is that the low cal-high met weight loss program was different because the desired outcome was different. Here I wanted to lose weight. Building mass requires a completely different approach and I stress that because of the inherent dangers.
Ten years ago I ran 35 miles a week and weighed about 165 pounds. I want to be that guy again. This is something I think anybody can do and see results. You do not need suppliments and you dont even need alot of will power in the beginning. Its about eating the right kinds of foods to lower your calorie intake and boost the metabolism to maximize the number of calories you can burn in your normal daily routine. It works for me and is working for at least 3 other people I am close to. If I can help you, even to the extent of building you a sample menu or list of high metabolism low calorie foods that you can work from, just let me know. But alot of the information you need is right there at your finger tips. My own success in losing weight, however short lived it may be, was about motivating myself through choices…my choices, not ones that others made for me. If I can do it, anyone can.