Here’s a few basic dieting and exercise truths that anyone who wants to lose weight should know. Some of them go counter to traditional wisdom or current dieting hype, but the facts support them. Read them all, and then reconsider how you want to diet next time (after your current diet fails).
This is a big one that no one really wants to admit. Everyone wants to hear that there’s an easy way to lose weight, which works out great for everyone who’s selling the latest “lose 30 pounds in 15 minutes” fad diet. There’s an entire industry built to sell the idea that there are easy ways to lose weight. Losing weight is hard, though. It’s hard work.
You will feel deprived, because you are, by definition, depriving yourself when you are on a diet. You are denying yourself that 400 Calorie muffin. You’re skipping the extra helping of mashed potatoes. You are depriving yourself of food, either in quantity or variety, and it’s hard to do that, especially at first. Don’t expect it to be easy. You have to decide if dieting is worth it to you, and if so, commit to working through the difficulty, rather than looking for a nonexistent easy route.
You will be hungry.
This is the primary reason that dieting sucks. I know, you read all about some new diet in Redbook that promises to allow you to lose weight without being hungry. News flash. You will not lose weight if you aren’t hungry. I know, it goes counter to everything the diet books have told you, but then, those diet books didn’t work, either.
In order to lose weight, you will have to eat less. That’s the basic rule of dieting. You must consume fewer calories than you use. Guess what happens when you eat less than you burn: You get hungry. It’s basic physiology. Don’t try to fight it. Accept it, and prepare for it. The best any particular diet can hope to do is minimize hunger, not eliminate it.
Exercise is an inefficient way to lose weight.
Don’t try to tell yourself otherwise. Certainly, exercise is a wonderful thing to add to your health regimen, but it’s not going to do much as far as weight loss. When you see that snickers bar in the vending machine, don’t give in. I know, you think you can just run a little further and make up the calories. However, you would have to run an extra 2.5 miles, almost 30 minutes, to burn off the 280 Calories found in one Snickers bar (assuming a 150 pound person, running 5.5 mph).
If you want to have an occassional treat, your best bet isn’t to try to exercise it away, but to eat less for your meals. Instead of trying to run an extra 2.5 miles just so you can eat a Snickers, trim 100 Calories off each of your other meals for the day.
Situps will not slim your belly.
It sometimes seems like this is common knowledge, but based on all the ab exercisers that still pop up on television commercials, it must not be. Targetted exercises will build muscle, but they will not burn fat in a targeted manner. Situps won’t slim your abdomen any better than bicep curls will slim your arms. Growing the muscle will actually cause an overall mass increase.
If you want to lose fat on your stomach, you have to lose weight all over. 100 crunches a day won’t help as much as cutting 300 Calories per day.
“Diets” do not work.
Fad diets all rely on denying yourself something. Fat, carbohydrates, food diversity, etc. This leads to a feeling of deprivation, and the associated high failure rate. The latest diet you read about doesn’t have a high success rate, no matter what they claim. Most diets do work in the lab, where the participants are prepared for the harsh reality of the diet. In the real world, very few people are successful long term with dieting. Many people give up on their diets because they have the silly notion that it will be easier this time, with this new diet, and then it isn’t.
Diets further set people up for failure by making them give up so much. Low carb: no breads. Low fat: no bacon. Fad diet: give up everything except, e.g., grapefruit or soup. I know a guy who’s put himself on a tortilla diet. He’s going to eat nothing but tortillas. How long do you think that will last?
Denying yourself the ability to eat from massive portions of the food universe is just setting yourself up for frustration and defeat. Don’t give up fat, or carbohydrates, or anything else. Just eat less food overall. Yes, you’re still denying yourself calories, but that’s a deprivation you’re going to have to live with if you want to lose weight. You don’t have to live with lots of other artificial deprivations.
Most days for lunch, I eat a turkey wrap with bacon and cheese. It’s only 330 calories. I feel less deprived eating that 330 calories sandwich than I would eating a 600 calorie sandwich with just turkey, because I’m allowing myself cheese and bacon.
Packaged foods are not your enemy.
Diet “gurus” have told us that to lose weight, we have stay away from packaged foods. We can’t eat frozen pizza and lasagna, for example. On the contrary, eating packaged foods makes it very easy to eat the correct number of calories. It’s printed right there on the package. There’s no estimating calorie content in that chicken breast, or wondering if a cup of chopped zucchini means big chops or little.
The brand of frozen pizza I generally buy has 1200 calories in one pizza. “Oh my God,” you’re screaming. “You’ll never lose weight eating that kind of stuff!” Well, I don’t eat the whole damned pizza. Just because what you bought has too many calories doesn’t mean you have to consume them all. I generally eat 3 slices of frozen pizza, and save the rest for later. 3 slices (out of 8 total) works out to only 450 calories, a pretty small meal.
Eating fresh foods, rather than packaged foods, might (or might not) be better for you, but that has little if anything to do with actual weight loss.
You are not “genetically predisposed” to being fat.
Unless you have some funky mutation, you don’t have any genetic predisposition, so don’t try to blame it on that. Widespread obesity is a relatively recent phenomenon. Do you think you just suddenly developed the “fat” gene that your grandparents and great grandparents didn’t have? You just learned bad eating habits, and you’re more sedentary than your ancestors. Even if you were predisposed to wanting to eat more, you don’t have to eat more.
You also don’t have a “low metabolism.” Unless you’ve actually been tested to determine your basal metabolic rate, you have no reason to say that your metabolism is any lower than normal. It’s well established that people who are overweight actually have higher metabolisms. They have higher metabolisms because supporting that extra weight requires fuel. Nonetheless, metabolism differences do exist, and it’s possible that some people might have a slightly higher metabolism than you. All that means is their food expenses are higher. A lower metabolism doesn’t mean you gain weight easier. It means you simply need fewer calories. If you need fewer calories than Joe, then eat fewer calories than Joe. If you are overweight, it has nothing to do with your metabolism, and everything to do with you overeating.
If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. Your “predispositions” are irrelevant. Your metabolism isn’t to blame. Every excuse you give yourself for why you are currently overweight is just an excuse to stay overweight.
If you’ve really decided to lose weight, bravo. I wish you good luck. Keep the previous info in mind, and prepare yourself for the journey. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. And a healthier body is definitely worth having.