Between Jeremy Zawodny losing 50 pounds
over the past year and Aaron Swartz having success with the Shangri-La Diet
I decided a month ago to (again) make a serious concerted effort to lose some weight. The discovery of The Daily Plate
website has been extremely helpful with this effort. It combines a calorie search engine with easy meal recording and daily weight monitoring all in a simple interface. Do a search for what you ate, click 'I Ate This' and it gets added to your daily record. Specify some information about yourself along with your weight goals and the site will provide guidelines on how many calories you should eat each day to achieve those goals. Record your weight each day and a nice graph is generated to give you visual feedback of your progress.
Losing weight is really quite simple in principle -- eat less than your body needs and your body will burn fat reserves to make up the difference -- but it was a surprise just how little I need on a daily basis and how easy it is to go over that limit. I'm trying to lose 2 pounds a week and at my age, height and current weight this means I should be eating around 1400 calories a day. Did you know that 1 tbsp of mayonnaise has 100 calories in it? It suddenly makes you think twice about how much you smear on that sandwich when it is going to consume so much of your quota for such little payoff. I'm hardly aware of the flavour anyway. Take a look at a tablespoon. It really isn't that much.
After a few days of keen awareness of each item I put into my mouth I seemed to naturally migrate towards items that satisfy my hunger with minimal calories. To eat something greasy or sugary seems like just such a waste of my daily caloric budget. Something like a donut will taste great in the short term but ultimately will make it difficult to not over-eat by the end of the day. When you have all the information the choice is actually quite simple.
During previous weight loss attempts I would down-play the need and effectiveness of exercise. I would compare the amount of exercise needed to work off, say, a piece of cake and would argue that not eating the piece of cake is much easier. That may be true, but tasty cake eating aside, doing some exercise and being able to increase your caloric intake by even a hundred calories is a very nice incentive. Once I fully grasped how quickly 1400 calories can be reached I was suddenly very interested in exercising as it gave me the ability to replenish my daily budget. A good brisk walk means a guilt-free beer with dinner. An hour of Squash or Badminton and, depending on your exertion level, you are looking at an additional meal.
I started at 188 lbs four weeks ago and am now down to 180 lbs. I love how the process is deterministic and predictable. Follow A and get B as a result. It isn't easy but it also isn't mysterious. Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain weight or just stay the same I would definitely suggest checking out The Daily Plate to get some perspective on what you consume everyday.