How did I lose 20 pounds this year? There were about ten things I did. Only a few of them had to do with changing the food that I ate. The rest were cultural.
The first thing was to ask a pharmacist what was the best weight reducing supplement. He told me that none of them were any good. So he helped convince me that there was there was no science. I knew that intuitively because of two things I remember. The first wat that people tend to believe the labels on food. I call this scientism - they believe the scientist because he's a scientist not because they understand the scientific method. You trust the label because you're not able to determine what cholesterol looks like under a microscope. I knew this a long time ago - back in the late 80s. I even wrote a rap about it called Food in a Box. Rule No. 1. No dietary drugs or supplements.
Rule No. 2 - Count Calories.
The next thing I did was to count my calories. I did so to a degree I never did before. I had a general idea of what food was 'healthy' and what was not. We all do. But I never realized that there were a whole day's worth of calories in a large Quizno's sub. I got an app called 'Lose It!' for the iPhone and I learned a great deal. It turned out that Carl's Jr, was not so bad after all depending on which sandwich you eat. What was the surprise was that the chicken sandwich wasn't less than the cheeseburger. Just knowing which was which helped.
Rule No. 3 - Drink Water.
OK so I lied. I changed the food I ate. But it was some of the food I ate instead of all of the food I ate. I always drank water and tea, but not all the time at every meal. Now I did. I really used to think that drinking lemonade saved me calories instead of drinking soda. For years. I counted the calories and I realized I was wrong. So I changed what was wrong. Now I have all different kinds of water and all different kinds of tea 90% of the time. The rest of the time I drink what I like. It was changing the main habit.
Rule No. 4 - Add Spice.
Whenever you have a snack, make it spicy. The hotter the better. I love chips and salsa. That's my snack. Otherwise, I'll do popcorn with seasoning salt. But even for meals, if you're going to experiment, try something spicy for a change. It forces you to eat a little bit slower, drink a little bit more water, and enjoy the experience of eating food just a little more. That adds up.
Rule No. 5 - Ask Out Loud.
You're hungry and you want to eat. What do you eat? I dunno, whatever. If you don't ask anybody, then you make up your mind. It's better to socialize your eating question. Don't just make up your mind and do it, ask somebody. They'll look at you funny, like it's a quiz or something. After a few times, they'll get used to you asking. They'll almost never say Twinkies. And if they do, you know what to do anyway. It's a simply trick to get you to think twice about what you're eating.
Rule No 6. - Don't Clean Your Plate.
If you think mathematically about how you eat, then you should employ the 80/20 rule. The time it takes for you to get past 80% of the food on your plate should go exponentially up towards..
Aside: I spent about 45 minutes designing a function that would show the curve. I think it's the first time I've ever done that - using calculus in the real world. I have a sense of where the numbers should be but building it into an algebraic function was interesting. Something clicked in my head. Still, I didn't perfect it.
The point is to always leave something on the plate, and that requires that you eat a little bit slower. Bring something to read if you're eating alone. Talk more if you're not.
Rule No 7. - Schedule.
Eat at the same time every day, in generally the same amounts. Get yourself on a rhythm and stick to it. You will get really hungry if you're one hour late to a meal, and then you'll snack on something in between. It's too easy to get 500 calories in a snack. One soda and a candy bar will do it. That ruins the whole day in 10 minutes.
Rule No. 8 - Stagger
I decided that what I wanted to do was have a tiny breakfast, a small lunch and whatever I want for dinner. Since I'm not a breakfast person during the workweek, I might skip breakfast and then have an oversized lunch. That's a no no, but I did make sure that one of my meals was exactly normal or even large instead of scrimping all around and feeling cheated. So dinner is my reward meal and so that I can have that, I'm willing to sacrifice the other stuff. On the weekend, I do have a big breakfast and no lunch and a generally light dinner, so I've got the variety.
Rule No. 9 - Token Exercise
Token exercise for me works when I'm on the road. It's easy enough to do 20 minutes of something every day when there's a gym or a pool at the hotel. At home, I just don't do it. I have 2 hours of beach volleyball a week and that's it. A token. But with a good diet, that's enough.
Rule No. 10 - Weigh every Day
I weigh myself every day, down to the tenth of a pound, and I write it in a diary. I know exactly how my weight fluctuates and how what, when and how much I eat makes a difference. When I'm disciplined and doing all of the rules, I can lose 2 pounds a week. When I take it easy, I can lose one pound a week. Right now I'm keeping my weight at 198.
Here's Pollan. I'm surprised at how much we say in common.