It is the most common New Year’s Resolution made. So you want to lose weight, and you want to keep it off- but it is terribly difficult, or easy.
How You Got Here
First review how you gained the weight. Often people look back and find some lifestyle change: a new relationship, leaving college, retiring from daily sports activity, a new child. This may have led to eating more meals, eating poorly, and eating more calories than your body burned.
It is important to figure out why you got to the weight you are. It isn’t your thyroid, or other hormones- it is what you ate and how much. The first step to making this change is to realize something got you here- and while you may want to blame it on some other force, it was you who ate your way to this weight.
The False Sense of Maintaining
So you gained weight for a few years, and have been successfully maintaining at your current weight, and spending the last years eating “healthy.” So you think – if only I could lose weight I have proven I could maintain.
If you are maintaining at a weight higher than your ideal weight than you are eating more than your body will burn at a lower weight. Suppose you are maintaining at 220 pounds – if you lose to 180 pounds, but then return to how you are eating now you will end up back at 220 pounds (or maybe even more).
Realize that what you are eating now is keeping you where you are and if you return to eating this way you will return to this weight.
Activity: The Busy January Gym
Every retired professional athlete that comes into my office were at the highest level of activity, and now they were still active, but could not overcome eating with exercise. In spite of Biggest Loser, or other shows, nutrition is ninety per cent of weight loss. Few in the world can maintain daily workouts – few make the time – and few want to make that effort. But think about this: if you do have the time and start to work out- what happens if you are injured? If your back gets sore, or you have a rupture of an Achilles tendon? What is your plan for weight loss when the athlete can’t run?
You want to start something- start by walking. Every day. Something you should be able to do for years.
What is Your Meal History
What foods do you eat for your meals? Write them down. Every food you like, and every food that you normally eat. When you look at those foods you will realize a few things:
(a) You are boring about the foods you eat
Most people eat about four things for breakfast, four or five things for lunch, and about ten things for dinner (usually not even that much).
(b) You are eating enough to maintain your weight, and that is too much
The foods you are eating- no matter how “healthy” you think they are- keep you at your current weight. This has to change.
(c) The more you eat out, the more food you eat
You may find that you eat out every day for lunch, or a few nights for dinner. If you find how much you eat you will discover that it is a lot more than you need to eat, and it is easy to fall into the habit of cleaning your plate.
Now it is time to take control and change a few simple things:
(1) No more liquid calories – with rare exceptions.
Don’t drink your calories. Coffee is OK- but it shouldn’t be more than 30 calories a cup. Protein shakes are not “calorie free” nor are most drinks. Your body gets hungry when it drinks calories, but not when it has real food.
(2) Start to cook.
We have lost two generations of cooks in this country, because people stop. The one resolution you can make that will help you lose weight is to eat more at home and less out. You will get a sense of proper portion size and you will learn about great food. When you prefer the food you cook over the food that is made in a restaurant then you have achieved zen. Start with sous vide cooking- it is fool proof, it is easy, and it allows you to have some great foods.
The other advantage- with Sous Vide cooking you have the food made in the pouches and you can store it for a long time. You can have the perfect portion size for you. You can make a bunch of food, cook it, and it will last in the freezer for months, so if you come home late you can pop the frozen meal into the Sous Vide and have it ready in a few minutes.
(3) Plan your menus.
It is time for some new food, or old food presented in new ways. You don’t have to eat chicken:most chicken isn’t that great and it is over cooked and has no taste. See my post Chicken Consumption Correlates with Obesity.
You can eat beef just fine- but portion it so you like it. Beef is a great food, and you can enjoy it quite a bit. But you don’t need to eat 18 ounces of Porterhouse, and beef is not calorie free. See my previous post Eat Big But Small.
You don’t have to eat breakfast if you don’t want to. Breakfast does not jump start your metabolism, and it is not the most important meal of the day. The calories you eat for breakfast do count. See my post Is Breakfast the most important meal of the day? Nope.
(4) Make a list.
Alton Brown made a list of foods and changed how he ate. It is a good way to make certain you plan your food and that you keep it in line. I evaluated his diet plan in my post: Alton Brown’s diet: is it useful is it nutritious. Some foods you should never eat (diet foods, prepared foods) and some foods you should eat once a week (dessert). Some foods you should eat daily.
Your resolution should really be broken down then to this:
* You will cook the majority of meals this year
* You will learn and make ten new dishes this year that you will like and be your new favorite dishes. This year I added Chicken Korma, Pork Vindaloo, and re purposed steak to have smaller portions (instead of 12 ounces I eat 4 ounces without any guilt).
* Don’t fall back- falling back means that you have not made new food that you like that has more vegetables and better portions of food. It means you didn’t cook but fell back into eating out.
* Eat better – cook your meals – portion your food- stop eating crap.
Happy New Year!
Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, a renowned weight loss surgeon, is a leading advocate of culinary medicine. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.