When I got on my exercise kick, I shed pounds like crazy. You can see from the main photo (above) – just before I pulled off my magic trick of losing so much weight.
In 6 to 8 weeks, I went from 190 lbs to under 160 lbs. I was pretty pleased with that because it meant I could weigh in as a middleweight.
I don’t know why that mattered to me. It’s not like I’m gonna up and about and challenge Floyd Mayweather Jr anytime soon (he’s about 145 lbs anyway). But it did.
Honestly, I was shocked by how fast I shed the pounds, and so was everyone else. A couple of people even asked if I was sick.
But the No. 1 question that I get here in Hong Kong as to how exactly I lost 30 lbs is “What did you change in your diet?”
Unfortunately for these people the answer is, “Not very much.”
The bad news is that there’s no magic diet that will ensure you lose weight. In fact, I advise against “diets” altogether. The concept itself is flawed, that if you just stick with this one feeding pattern for a spell, you’ll get your dream body and then you can go back to eating exactly how you used to.
If you starve your body or treat it badly, it will respond in unusual ways. Starving it just provokes the “starvation response,” in which your body will crave every calorie it can possibly get. It will burn up fat reserves, it’s true, but then it will start eating its own muscle. If you resume normal eating, watch out for very rapid weight gain. And you’re back where you started.
Then there are the crazy ideas that eating a tiger’s penis, a pangolin’s scales or a puff of rhino horn will make you more “manly” and/or cure cancer, or any number of other ills.
Rhino horn is made from keratin, the same stuff as your fingernails. If biting them makes you more manly, you’ve got a steady supply. Meanwhile, leave the poor rhinos alone – their horns are worth more than their weight in gold right now purely because of our selfish desire to consume everything we encounter.
You won’t find rhino horn, deer antlers or cobra in my kitchen cabinet.
Yes, I have experimented with scrapping carbs at night. The problem with this strategy is that I often woke up starving in the middle of the night, and would stock up on chocolate instead.
Carbs have a place in your diet, even at dinner. In fact, they should make up around half of your dietary intake. The rest should be an even split between protein and fats.
Yes, fats. They fulfill a vital role in our body by helping nutrients cross the membrane barrier between cells.
So a solid diet = 50% carbs + 25% protein + 25% fats.
There are sensible ways to get the nutrients you need, though.
One change my family has made is to switch from white rice to brown rice. We were already mixing it up a little when I started to pay a little more attention to what I eat, white rice now, brown rice next time. But we made the move exclusive from white to brown after I started looking into nutrition a little more closely.
The kids complained a time or two, but they soon piped down. Now brown rice is just what we do.
Why? Brown rice is a complex carb. That makes it harder to digest. It provides fiber, which helps clean out your insides, and it stays in your stomach and intestines longer. That means you absorb more nutrients and feel full for longer.
All of those outcomes are good. On the other hand, your body will burn through a bowl of white rice quickly, leaving you looking for more. You eat more, absorb less, and your body doesn’t get the full benefit.
We have a general rule at home: eat natural. I’m not sure you can max out on fresh fruit and veg, so you can eat as much of those as you want, in my book. I’ve switched my snacking to dried fruit (check the pack there’s no added artificial sugar, they have enough natural sugar anyway), and nuts.
I’m nuts about nuts. They’re filling and packed with healthy fats. I normally have a small bowl next to my desk, and I take a nut-and-fruit mix, with some yoghurt-covered raisins for a treat, to the gym.
If you want to cut down on the amount you eat, try cramming in a handful of almonds or cashews 10 minutes before your meal. I’ve found that it reduces my appetite, substantially, and prevents me from overeating. Instead, I take my meal mindfully, savoring every bite.
A diet needs to be a diet in the original sense of the word: the food that you regularly eat. It can’t be a fad or a phase. It needs to continue.
Combined with regular exercise – even just in short bursts of 15, even just 10 minutes, as I wrote about yesterday – a healthy diet will help you a) lose excess pounds b) stay healthy and c) stay happy.
The last point is the most important. Exercise should be a joyous thing, and we should enjoy our food. We do few things more frequently than eat, and we should feel good about that process rather than fear it. Eating should be a pleasure, not a point of pain. We should savor our food.
But food won’t be your savior. The real reason I lost 30 lbs very rapidly is that I gave up alcohol, having been a pretty heavy drinker, at least 3 or 4 beers, half a bottle of wine, or half a bottle of sake every day. Sometimes quite a bit more. That meant I was consuming the equivalent of at least an entire extra meal on top of my 3 a day.
And I started to exercise, regularly and in moderation, every day.
We have to put in the exercise effort as well as putting the right ingredients into our body to be healthy. Once we combine that diet of exercise and healthy food with a little mental fortitude and a positive attitude to life, we can call ourselves “fit.”
Fit for life.
Why not give it a try? Now?