So here is the story about the first time I’ve gone on a diet. After reading an article recently in the New York Times recently about how most Biggest Loser contestants have regained weight, it makes me concerned about the effects of extreme and yo-yo dieting. The article talks about a lowering of metabolism that follows weigh loss, along with painful urges to eat more and massive lethargy. Have they failed? Are these people weak-willed because they stopped working out 9 hours a week? Certainly not, it boils down to an issue of biology. Basically it revolves around the theory that we have a biological set-point for weight.As we attempt to lose weight, our bodies compensate by increasing hunger and decreasing activity/metabolism. Sheer force of will is often not enough to overcome this basic biological drive. I too have yo-yo dieted, and ended up weighing much more than I started. Here is my story.
You may know that over a year ago I was 250 lbs, obese, tired, and foggy. But for most of my life I feel I maintained my weight well around 230 lbs, likely starting back in high school after I was cut from the soccer team (mostly because I was too slow and lacked coordination). Nonetheless my weight and energy levels maintained well through high school and even college, although I’ve rarely weighed myself through the years. I’ve always eaten foods that taste good to me and eaten till full or satiated. I’ve never had a taste for sweets or chocolate, but do love my carbs of bagels, french fries, fettuccine alfredo, and rice. However, when it came time to get started in the dating world in 2011, I figured it might give me a leg up to slim down.
I did, in 2011, manage to lose a bunch of weight by following the Flat Belly Diet For Men. This diet touted the science of the Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs) found in high concentrations in olives, olive oil, avocados, nuts&seeds, and dark chocolate (see the pattern here? I like diets that allow me to eat fat.). These foods were somehow naturally slimming for your waistline. And by following the meal plan of 5 small meals a day highlighting these foods can help you lose weight! At the same time I had also transferred to a Manufacturing engineering position that had me on my feet more often, and I was starting school for a Masters in Chemical Engineering. I was counting calories at the time, and even looked up low-calorie alcohols to consume while out with my college buddies. I eventually settled on bourbon-on-the-rocks, and my friends would even start to ask me “how is your bourbon diet going”? And it was going well! I started to fit in my old high-school clothes, went down a size in shirts and pants, and started getting compliments from my co-workers!
When I think back to that diet knowing what I know now, here are the things that worked in my favor.
- Lower in carbs – By focusing on getting more “good fats” from olives, avocados, and nuts I was able to crowd out a lot of the carbohydrates typically in my diet, as well as being lower in potentially inflammatory fats like dairy or vegetable oils.
- Portion control – I did learn portion control by counting out my nuts into tiny prepared baggies, preparing wraps with feta, spinach, hummus, and turkey, and measuring the volume of my vegetables. While I think calorie counting isn’t the key to success in dieting, it is still good to understand the meaning of portion sizes and relative calories in foods.
- Skipping meals – Who has time to eat 5 small meals a day?! When I was busy in my Manufacturing Job and juggling school, I often skipped one or two of my 5 meals a day.
- More activity – As I mentioned I was on my feet much more for work during this time. I wasn’t doing any rigorous exercise but staying active at work and some occasional walks around the block seemed to help.
- Substitute beer for hard alcohol – Bourbon on-the-rocks is a much more fat-burning drink than beer. Hard alcohol is much lower in carbs, more concentrated so you drink less for the same buzz, and if filtered well avoids toxins that can come from beer or wine. Even now this is my drink of choice.
- Avoid the scale – For this diet I did not own or check in on a scale at all. As I mentioned I was doing this to look more trim and attract ladies. So for this purpose I didn’t need a scale, I could feel it when my clothes start to get baggy. When people asked me how much weight I had lost, I mostly just shrugged, truly not knowing.
Unfortunately, at that time I had no idea the reasons why I had been successful for weight loss. I only knew that blindly following the diet and counting calories seemed to be helping me. Eventually I would get bored of counting and measuring my food, start eating out more and slip back to old habits. Part two of this series I will dive into how I gained back more weight than I started with!
Thanks for reading!