I’ve spent the majority of my adult life in the “obese” clinical strata, and have only in recent years taken to caring about maintaining a reasonable weight. I am an American male, 5’10”, with Koren-Caucation ancestry and have ranged between 149 and 172 pounds in the past year. My bodies individual natural comfort zone seems to be in the 150-155 range. At my heaviest I capped out in the 200-210 range. In other words, my physical stature and default dietary habits are spectacularly unspectacular for an American, and I consider myself fairly representative of the “average American male”. I lost most of those excess pounds (180+) in a fairly short amount of time. Everyone is unique in many ways, but from my own research and personal experimentation I believe these points to be largely universal for adult men.
Weight And Health
Weight loss does not necessarily correlate to health gain. It’s possible to lose weight on a diet of Twinkies, but you would be seriously lacking in dietary components despite being lighter, and most likely put yourself at higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. Assuming that part of your motivation for weight loss comes from a desire for better health and longevity, remember to see the forest through the trees. It’s great to look healthy, and better to be healthy.
As a general guidelines, stick to eating actual foods. (Edible substances like high fructose corn syrup should not be considered “food”.) If you couldn’t produce the ingredient if you really wanted to, you probably don’t want to eat it. You have tons of zero-calorie sugar replacements–Splenda, Nutrasweet etc.–but these are not magic bullets and generally should be avoided as “crutch” substances. See Michael Pollan’s excellent Food Rules for guidelines.
- Weight yourself daily at a consistent time with no excuses. It’s especially important to continue weighting yourself when you’re struggling to hold yourself accountable and to prevent prolonged lapses of judgement.
- Treat weight management as a lifestyle, not a program. Programs are things you do for a short period of time before going back to the status quo. Lifestyle changes are long-term investments made for the benefit of yourself and those you love.
- Drink water and tea when you are thirsty. Have other tasty beverages for enjoyment, not to quench thirst. Beer and other alcoholic drinks are unfortunately high in calories, as are many sodas and even fruit juices. Water first.
- Shop when you’re full. Plowing through the aisles on an omg-I-have-nothing-to-eat rampage is going to result in a cabinet full of snacks. You body evolved to crave certain foods to compensate for natural rarity. When you’re hungry, reason goes out the door, and satisfying cravings for those foods that are now readily available becomes the easiest fix.
- Visit only upper-tier merchants such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s when at all possible. In addition to higher quality foods, they do a much better job than conventional grocery stores of not barraging you with excess junk. Fruits and vegetables are also of notably higher quality and tastiness.
- Maintain the lifestyle because “nothing tastes as good as fit feels”, not to punish or deprive yourself.
- Talk about solutions with others doing the same. Being around others taking action is extremely encouraging and motivating. Keep in mind the exact opposite also applies.
- Focus more on diet than exercise. Both are necessary, but you’d be better served with a good diet and only 30 minutes of exercise per week than horrible diet and 4 hours of exercise per week. Many weight loss systems prescribe disciplined physical regiments, but remember that diet matters more.
- Weight train for weight loss. Additional muscle mass allows you to burn calories faster, even when you’re not exercising. Cardiovascular exercise is great for your heart and blood pressure, but doesn’t build the calorie burning, protein-consuming muscle like weight training does. Also remember that you cannot control where you lose weight: only where you build muscle. No one is going to see your rock hard abdominal muscles if your mouth can’t trade in the cheese sandwiches.
- Know when to break the rules. If you use a formal system such as Paleo or Atkins you may have strict guidelines. At some point, however, most foods are going to be ok in moderation so long as you can control yourself. It’s ok to not be perfect!
Good living and good luck. 🙂