Someone Asked Me For Help To Lose Weight—This Is What I Told Them.
A no-nonsense approach to real-world, real-food dieting. Take it, or leave it.
Someone sent me a rather desperate email the other day. In 620 words, writing in an eccentric font, the lady detailed her strife with dieting. She told me, ‘I’m worn out, trying product after product[…]Can you tell me what actually is the best method by which to tackle burning fat? Is it thermogenesis or targeting your hormones or fixing your metabolism or intermittent fasting or whatever else?’
So, in a world of information overload, what should you do? Take it or leave it; this is what I told her.
It sounds to me like you’re looking for shortcuts. You need to accept that they don’t exist. Once you’ve done that, you can begin to make progress. The closest thing you’ll get to a magic bullet is consistency, but it doesn’t have to be a grind. It takes a few weeks of propping yourself up with self-discipline, and then it all gets easier. I’m talking about the process of making changes to your diet.
Many people are addicted to the foods that are making them fat, and it makes dropping them seem like the hardest thing in the world. Remove the friction by being prepared at all times. Here are some tips:
- Eat no more than 3 meals per day, which means no snacking at all.
- Use up, or throw out all the snack foods in your house; I can tell you without looking they’re junk. I don’t care if it’s trail mix.
- Choose a protein first; animal-based is best. Eat as much of whatever it is as you like/can afford (animal-based only).
- Try and eat small oily fish a few times per week. Sardines, anchovies.
- If you don’t like fish, take a krill oil supplement daily.
- Have enough fat in the meal so that you enjoy it and feel satisfied afterwards. If you want to add fat to achieve this goal, choose from any of these: Don’t add more than you need to make the meal palatable/enjoyable.
- High-quality animal fats
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Butter, ghee.
- Flaxseed oil (small dark bottle, cold-pressed)
- Absolutely no vegetable oils (corn, soybean, canola, etc.)
- Choose above-ground vegetables, have as many as you want. Leafy greens are a good choice. If you want something stodgy, like potato, choose squash.
- Avoid starchy vegetables until you’ve reached your desired weight. Then add them back in if you like, don’t make them the main event.
- Don’t worry about portion sizes until you’re on track with sticking to only three meals per day. It’s important that you feel happy and content after each meal. Otherwise, you’ll snack.
- Once you’ve accomplished this, still don’t worry about portion size as long as you prioritise protein and fat, as I’ve explained.
- Drop cereals of all kinds until you have arrived at your ideal weight. Once there, never make them the main event. Avoid highly refined grains. (White bread, pasta, etc.).
- Don’t make legumes, beans, etc., the main event.
- Forget ‘breakfast’ foods, except for eggs. Breakfast cereals are junk foods, plain and simple. I don’t care how much it costs or how retro the design on the box is. Eat the same foods that you would select for other meals.
- Intermittent fast (16:8) if you’re not hungry in the mornings. Only do this if/when it feels natural and easy. That would drop your meals to 2 per day. That’s fine as long as you stick to the other rules herein.
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- Get prepared. Cook everything from scratch.
- Listening to an audiobook, or podcasts, etc. It’s a fantastic way of enjoying boring tasks.
- Batch cook meats, chicken thighs, etc., are excellent for this.
- Buy beef/pork, mince, add some ingredients that you like (herbs, spices, grated apple, onion, garlic, etc.) and press your own. Make a batch, freeze them.
- Use frozen fresh herbs.
- Process vegetables in batches, keep them in airtight containers in the fridge. Shredded cabbage is good for this.
- Frozen veg is good to have in a pinch.
- Batches of boiled eggs are brilliant for adding to salads etc.
- Learn how to use a chef’s knife.
- Buy an Air fryer if you like; roasting meat is the easiest way to cook. They’re much cheaper to run than conventional ovens, especially for a single portion.
- Buy a stovetop steamer for veg.
- Consider a slow cooker (multi-function device like an Instant Pot) to cook tougher cuts of meat and have foods available instantly, if you've thought ahead.
- Make a list of all the single foods (ingredients) that you enjoy. ‘Single’ means salmon, or beef, kale, squash, garlic, etc. Construct meals that you look forward to. Take this list, and only this list, to the supermarket with you. You’ll find you only visit 2 or 3 aisles. Buy lots of the foods, use your freezer. Never run out.
- Concentrate on those things you’ve put on your list, don’t start getting upset about all the things you can’t have. Forget them; they’re not your friends.
- Eat fruit. Concentrate on berries of all kinds, apples, etc. Leave tropical fruits until you’ve hit your desired weight.
- Don’t juice or smoothie anything.
- Add salt to taste. If you avoid dairy and fish, get the one with additional iodine.
- Buy organic if you can afford it, don’t worry if not. Google the ‘Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen’ if you want to reduce chemicals.
- Coffee: Drink coffee if you like; you can have a splash of full-fat milk, not cream just yet. Don’t add sweeteners of any kind, inc zero calories. Ideally, keep it away from mealtimes or choose decaf. Not instant. But don’t obsess about this.
- Don’t pick and choose from different diets; selecting bits you like from each. For example, don’t start making smoothies just because some fit yoga instructor on Instagram does it. Don’t suddenly decide you’re going to calorie count that day because someone offers you a slice of cake. Until you’ve reached your desired weight, the answer to proffered cake is ‘no thanks’. If they try and insist, you need to ask them for their support, not hindrance. Most people that insist you have a slice of cake, or whatever, are doing it because they want one without feeling guilty. Sometimes your best friends/family are the worst people for this. Tell them ahead of time that you will not want a biscuit, so they don’t guilt trip you with, ‘oh, but I bought these specially.’ They’re lying to you.
- Stop reading newspaper articles about diet/food. Stick to this advice and only this advice, don’t compare yourself to others, don’t worry about the BS headlines you read about this or that food being ‘artery clogging’ or the latest highly marketed superfood. It’s all nonsense.
- This is a real food diet, and it works if you stick with the rules. There is no such thing as a magic wand.
- Above all, be prepared, don’t go hungry.
I hope this helps you on your journey.
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