Yet Another DietFilter (I think this is a decent one.)
February 25, 2010 4:56 AM   Subscribe

What are some great little diet and exercise tips and tricks to push weight loss and fitness progress over the edge? Not looking for a whole plan, just your favorite "diet hacks."

I've lost about 20 pounds since the beginning of the year using the shockingly effective method of eating a lot less and exercising a lot more. Who knew?! The problem is that after seeing daily progress on the scale and in the way my clothes fit, I seem to have hit a brick wall, even after cutting out more in my diet and working out even more.

I realize it's going to be a slow process and I shouldn't expect magical results. And I'm not looking for anyone's "eat as much celery as you want!" plans, no matter how tried and true. What I'm really looking for is the little tiny changes you've made that have helped greatly in your weight loss and fitness goals. Exercises I should be doing to get the most out of my workout time, great snacks that are still healthy, or even just ways to stay motivated even when I can't see the daily progress... any little tips you have would be great.
posted by joshrholloway to Health & Fitness (61 answers total) 98 users marked this as a favorite
Get a small kitchen scale ($20 or less). Weigh your food and carefully follow portion guidelines for meat and starch, and allow yourself to fill in the hunger gaps with as many vegetables as you want.

In terms of snacking, I have a chocolate weakness, so I work with it and not against it. You can buy high-quality chocolate (70% cocoa or higher), which has a lot of health benefits to it, and add it to other healthy foods to achieve the taste/health combinations you want. A few things off the top of my head:

- I grind the chocolate into a powder and add it to a smoothie made with yogurt, banana, berries, orange juice, protein powder and some essential oils.

- I grind it and add it to cottage cheese, which I enjoy with almonds or fruit.

- I make myself a really healthy version of hot chocolate using chunks of chocolate, pure vanilla extract, raw sugar and skim milk.

The key is to find out what you weaknesses are and see if you can modify the way you intake them to achieve a more nutritious version of the snack. If you're eating processed chocolate in bar form, you're getting very little chocolate to sugar and other additives. If you're buying high-quality chocolate and spending about 2 minutes or less to prepare something, you're really getting the best of both worlds. Good luck!
posted by Hiker at 5:13 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Not eating in the evening makes a huge difference for me! Night time snacking has always been my Achilles Heel. But, if I eat dinner between 5:00 and 6:00 and then close the kitchen down, I find it helps immensely.
posted by MorningPerson at 5:19 AM on February 25, 2010

Hitting a brick wall, as you put it, is to be expected with diets.

The body fights very hard to maintain excess fat.

There are two ways to lose weight:

(1) starve yourself (unhealthy, as I suspect you know)

(2) expend more calories than you consume. Assuming a healthy diet, this implies more exercise.
posted by dfriedman at 5:21 AM on February 25, 2010

I made myself a playlist of music I really like and I only let myself listen to it while exercising. See this post Best techno music for working out
posted by Melsky at 5:22 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I was stuck for a month in my weight loss after about 7-8 pounds (from 160 - 153). At that point I all but eliminated diet soda; from perhaps 36 oz. per day down to 10. Within a matter of days, the weight loss resumed and I went down another 8 pounds in a few weeks. It seems weird, I mean diet soda is supposed to have zero calories, right? But that did it for me. Water, water, water.
posted by netbros at 5:22 AM on February 25, 2010

Are you tracking your calories or just "eating less"? Get a food scale and track your calories with Cron-o-meter or your diet website of choice. Once you're doing that, my tip is a) minimize eating out as much as possible (because the calories are impossible to track accurately), and b) make a large batch of something healthy that you know you like, and pre-pack it into servings that you can grab for lunches or quick dinners. If you're a person who has to have variety, do this with a few different dishes and freeze the portions.
posted by telegraph at 5:29 AM on February 25, 2010

Cook with coconut oil. Best stuff in the world for you, and don't believe the lies about it being unhealthy. That's mid-20th-century propaganda & bad science.

Best of luck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:33 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Make sure you're weight training. (Many gyms will let you pay a nominal fee, or none at all, to spend a brief session with a trainer who can design a modest circuit for you).

I've been eating better and exercising more for health, not weight loss, in the last month, and even though I still weigh the same on the scale (actually at a relatively high weight for me, given build and my normal adult range), I look as "skinny" as I do when I'm 10 pounds lighter, due to muscle changes. Only it's much more awesome, because it's muscle instead of "tiny little thing" and my posture is better and I feel strong.

I paid a $15 fee at my gym to spend an hour with a trainer who designed a simple but tough (though not "grunting and powerlifting" tough) circuit that takes me 20 minutes total to do 3x.
posted by availablelight at 5:39 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Weigh yourself every day and use a moving average to track your weight loss. You can do this online at physics diet, or easily set up a spreadsheet to do it at home. I'm a big believer that unless you weigh yourself daily and use a moving average, you likely don't have as good an idea what's happening as you think.
posted by OmieWise at 5:41 AM on February 25, 2010 [8 favorites]

Two 30 minute workouts is better, from a weight-loss standpoint, than one hour-long workout per day. Your metabolism is kicked up, and tapers off, twice, netting you extra burn.
posted by notsnot at 5:46 AM on February 25, 2010

Also, this is a great tool, no matter what your fitness goal, to get a better picture of what's actually going on with the diet/exercise equation. Chain restaurant and pre-packaged foods, vending machine snacks, etc. are all included, and you can add your own recipes fairly quickly. Activity options include "19th Century Dancing." I found out that I was eating a huge amount of fat and sugar, even though, left to my own devices, I usually don't eat more than 1800 calories a day.
posted by availablelight at 5:56 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I found out that I was eating a huge amount of fat and sugar, even though, left to my own devices, I usually don't eat more than 1800 calories a day.

...and it turned out that some of my "healthy options" were the culprit--this tool made it graphically clear that my granola cereal was disproportionately FULL of fat and sugar that I would have rather gotten in more delicious ways.
posted by availablelight at 6:00 AM on February 25, 2010

when you're feeling snacky and you know intellectually that you don't want to eat, try this. First, have a big glass of water. Then go brush your teeth. Then set a timer for ten minutes, telling yourself you'll see if you still have the munchies then. Almost every time, the urge to snack will pass - especially if you can throw in a little burst of activity - maybe going up and down the stairs a couple of times.

The usual things - have a small warm something - diet cocoa, soup, etc, before a meal helps you feel filled up sooner.
posted by lemniskate at 6:01 AM on February 25, 2010 [10 favorites]

Also (sorry--this is too important to leave out)--diversify where you're getting your calories from and you wont feel so deprived. The body wants variety and will keep going until it gets it. If, for 400 calories, I can either have 1 donut, OR I can have a salmon fillet plus a roasted sweet potato plus a heap of veggies steamed with ginger and a little sesame body would rather have the 3 different colorful flavorful things than just 1. (I still eat donuts, just few times a week now.)
posted by availablelight at 6:06 AM on February 25, 2010

fewer times a week now delicious freudian slip
posted by availablelight at 6:07 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

It sounds counter intuitive, but have a day where you eat a bit more than usual. For some reason, a day of consuming more followed by the usual strict dieting seems to kickstart weight loss. I guess it's getting your body out of the usual routine, and out of starvation mode. But, depending on the dieter's personality, this could be a bad idea if it triggers you to get off your diet.

I agree with the person who suggested eating an early dinner and not snacking after.

Also, I don't know what kind of exercise you usually do, but there's nothing like some fun outdoor activity to make you forget you are exercising. Something you can do for a few hours, like hiking or bike riding. For example, a fun, long bike ride could easily burn 1,000 calories, but if you're having fun, it doesn't feel like exercise.
posted by beyond_pink at 6:08 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Can you do any errands by foot? Walk as much as you possibly can.
posted by mmmbacon at 6:08 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm in the same boat as availablelight, no weight loss but eating healthier and a bit of exercise has resulted in a tiny bit more muscle (which has made a big difference) and I feel great.

Simple hacks (I'm sure you've heard it all before): diet - drink a lot of water, snack on fruit and veggies, eat more plants, don't eat any 'empty' calories (ie zero nutritional value); exercise - in addition to weights rather than cardio (although personally I hate the gym so my routine involves bodyweight exercises: push-ups, pull-ups, pilates etc), try to just move more often, take the stairs instead of the elevator and take those stairs like you mean it! Go for a walk in the evenings, no need to power walk, but don't drag your heels either. Walking, incidentally, is one of the few things that has been proven to consistantly improve health.

Good luck. And remember, you've taken the first huge step to a greatly improved lifestyle, you shouldn't pressure yourself or your body too much but just settle into this new pattern, these new habits. If you can just keep up what you're doing, in a year or two from now you're going to look and feel absolutely fantastic. Don't get depressed and give up if you can't break through the 'wall' or don't see similar results to your first couple of months in the near future.

Seriously, what you've accomplished is awesome. But the most difficult thing is keeping it up without seeing the same extreme results.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 6:14 AM on February 25, 2010

Some people on Weight Watchers have had success breaking a weight loss plateau by following the Wendie Plan, which for non-WW people is just cycling your calories between high days and low days. Google calorie cycling for more info. Carb cycling is another possibility.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:19 AM on February 25, 2010

Watch what you drink. If you switch to water (instead of juice or soda), and keep the alcohol consumption minimal, you'd be amazed how many calories you can cut out.
posted by Go Banana at 6:25 AM on February 25, 2010

Eat soup.

I know that sounds stupid, but I just had jaw surgery and have been forced to eat nothing but soup and smoothies. Without feeling starved or deprived I lost 15 lbs in about 4 wks. The soup will fill you up and unless you're eating rich cream based soups, you won't take in a whole lot of calories.

Now that I'm able to eat regular food, I still stick to soup at lunch and drink lots of water and the weight has stayed off, no problem.
posted by jmmpangaea at 7:03 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Cut out sugar entirely.

Track everything - in your case, probably to make sure you are getting enough calories. I use FitDay.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:04 AM on February 25, 2010

This bit in Hiker's reply just made me blink:

...and some essential oils

I'm not sure what kind of essential oils you're referring to here, and it may be that you mean 'almond oil' or 'grapeseed oil', but if you actually mean the kind of essential oils used in aromatherapy, such as lavendar, peppermint, tea tree, etc....those are not intended for consumption. Proceed with extreme caution.

As to the OP, I've few suggestions, other than I had the experience that men tend to lose an impressive amount in the first 4-6 weeks of diet/exercise and then taper off considerably. Keeping carbs down to an absolute minimum helps.
posted by noxetlux at 7:30 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I learned these tidbits from a BBC special on weight loss.

- dairy binds with fat, so adding non-fat milk to meals (as long as you're not adding too many calories) will help if you're eating fatty foods.

- elevating your heart rate will help keep burning calories for 24 hours, so work out once a day & get in some cardio.

- blended soups help keep you full longer than watery soups with chunks. the water runs through your system normally, but if it's blended with the food (thick & creamy) then it stays in your stomach, filling it longer while you digest. again, just make sure you're not adding calories.

I also try to follow a GI diet and it's worked for me - 10 lbs in 2 months.... though it's all come back since I fell off the wagon.
posted by MesoFilter at 7:37 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Shun machines that make you inactive. No elevators or escalators. No phoning someone when you can get up and walk over to that person. No wheels when you can do it on foot. No blenders or mixers when you can grab a spoon and mixing bowl and get to work.

And pretend you have a wicked case of hemorrhoids: no sitting when you can stand and do the same thing. Even if you're standing still, you're better off standing than you are flopping into a chair. You have to keep you body in calorie-burning mode.

Your enemies are chairs and labor-saving machines.
posted by pracowity at 7:45 AM on February 25, 2010

notsnot said: Two 30 minute workouts is better, from a weight-loss standpoint, than one hour-long workout per day. Your metabolism is kicked up, and tapers off, twice, netting you extra burn.

Very enthusiastically seconded. I switched from a 60 minute run using Wii Fit Plus to two 30 minute runs (one at 5 in the afternoon and the other at 10 at night) because it worked for me schedule-wise. As soon as I did, I started losing weight like crazy.

I would like to know what you're doing for exercise, joshrholloway.
posted by iconomy at 7:59 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Quit eating one dairy and/sugar for a few weeks. If you stop eating dairy, you'll probably lose weight. If you stop eating sugar, you'll probably lose weight. If you stop eating both, you'll definitely lose weight.
posted by Rocket26 at 8:05 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Keep lots of berries (especially strawberries) on hand. If you're craving sugar at any point, just rinse and munch on a few to get your (healthy) sugar fix.

Someone mentioned it, but: it's easy to confuse thirst with hunger. If you think you're hungry, try drinking a glass of water first.

Also: caffeine goes a loooooong way towards staving off hunger. Do with this info what you will.
posted by achompas at 8:05 AM on February 25, 2010

I found out that too much salt was my problem. I go crazy with the salt and it makes me retain 15 lbs in water. Some notes:

cutting sodium may speed fat burning

aim for 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily

Red Lobster, Chili's and Olive Garden serve meals that have at least 5,700 mg of sodium in a single meal

on a salt restricted diet you can lose 5-10 pounds the first week and 25 pounds in a month

(of course then you have to make sure you are getting enough iodine. you should probably take a multi-vitamin. IANYD)

(sorry for the total lack of references)
posted by cda at 8:14 AM on February 25, 2010

Experiment. Metabolism is a goofy process that seems to vary from person to person and you need to mess around and collect data. I've never been able to do the "eat a lot of little meals thing" and have always lost weight best by getting by on one big, healthy meal every evening, which is absolutely the "wrong thing to do" but it's the only way I can avoid overeating.

Have you tried actually fasting for a day? Your body can definitely acclimate to a certain food intake and make itself do more with less. I've always needed a bit of a shock to the system to get my body to start losing weight...a day or two of 500 calories a day. Then I'll lose weight for a month or two and hit another plateau, do a couple super low calorie days, and continue to lose weight.

You might also try _increasing_ your caloric intake a bit for a while, not so much that you gain significant weight, and then cut back again. Again, just to shake the system up a bit from whatever equilibrium has been met.

Raw veggies are your friend. Get a large mixing bowl and fill it with baby spinach. What you're looking at is probably about 60 calories. Even a hungry person would have trouble choking that much down. It's virtually impossible to eat too many vegetables.
posted by paanta at 8:17 AM on February 25, 2010

Toss vegetables into a plastic bag with whatever (I like to blend soy sauce, fish sauce, olive oil, chopped garlic, salt/pepper, and whatever herbs/spices suit my mood) and either a little brown sugar or a can of pineapple chunks with juice. Let steep. Then grill using one of those perforated steel bowls--most of the calories will fall onto the fire--or roast. Stir now and then and let it take longer than you think so everything caramelizes thanks to the sugar. Be creative with the vegetables (brussells sprouts are crazy good roasted). Make a lot; the leftovers heat up easily in the microwave or on the grill or transition into tasty soup/omelet/pita delight.

Switch to black coffee for an easy loss of significant empty calories.

Excellent snack: microwave a box of frozen spinach with some garlic.

Grow vegetables and fruit: you'll want to eat your harvest.

Splurge on fine ingredients-- exotic seafood, organic fruit, saffron, etc.-- to make healthy eating more special. I view any meal I make at home as a savings or improvement over eating out (or both), which helps me justify buying lobster.
posted by carmicha at 8:19 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To answer a few questions I've had:

Today I weigh 280 pounds. That's at least 100 pounds higher than what I would ideally weigh.

I'm eating smaller portions, less often, and less junk. Probably eating a maximum of 1500 calories a day right now. (Most diet plans I've read suggest I should be eating around 2500 calories a day for maintenance weight, and that seems like way too much to me.) Very little fat, sugar, and carbs. I usually drink at least 48 oz of water in a day now. The problem I'm running into now is feeling hungry. All. The. Time. And always craving the things I've given up.

My exercise right now mainly consists of walking for 50 minutes to an hour in the morning, and doing Hacker's Diet/5BX stuff for 10-15 minutes before bed. I know running would be much more effective, but my asthma flares up severely when I try to run. I can usually only go for a minute at a time before I feel like my lungs are going to burst. I'm working on finding a solution to this so maybe I can long-distance run at some point.
posted by joshrholloway at 8:23 AM on February 25, 2010

Response by poster: I also meant to mention that even though I am constantly hungry and feel cravings, I've gotten very good at not giving into them. I've only had one big lapse in the past month - eating half a can of mixed nuts in one sitting.
posted by joshrholloway at 8:25 AM on February 25, 2010

If running doesn't work for you, you may want to consider biking.
posted by pyro979 at 8:35 AM on February 25, 2010

on the topic of running -- sprinting worked well for me. so maybe throw in a few 30 second sprints during your 50 minute walks

also, sprinting/exercising as soon as i woke up (before eating) and waiting to eat 30-60min after exercising seemed to help.

+1 for lifting heavy weights
posted by maulik at 8:54 AM on February 25, 2010

I find that I sometimes the hunger itch at certain times in the day. At certain times, it is legitimate hunger and I eat. At other times, I think it is more habitual as an unreasonable addiction to food. When I know it's the latter, I usually make myself a cup of hot tea and feel better.

Motivation for exercise is very hard for me. I usually take one exercise and stick to it (this doesn't work for all people) attempting to make it into some sort of fun game or internal competition - how much better can I do on a week-to-week basis. I love metrics so I also created a spreadsheet that tracks my exercise habits and weight. I have a ton of metrics that helps me see where I've been, where I am, and projections of where I will be based on trending statistical averages.
posted by seppyk at 8:59 AM on February 25, 2010

I hit a 3 week plateau.. very frustrating I can agree. What I did to get things moving again was cut the carbs and dairy way back (high fiber cereal for 2 - 3 breakfasts in the week only .. increased protein and leafy greens (all veggies really).. no salt and cut out sugars (including most fruit) for a week.. the trick is not to reduce your overall calories in a day while doing this..dropped 7 lbs that week (YMMV) and didn't feel tired or hungry.

Good luck with which ever adjustments you make!!!
posted by Weaslegirl at 9:26 AM on February 25, 2010

OP, you probably need to mix up your workout a bit. Even with asthma you can probably do some intervals of race walking and more moderate paced walking. And your calories do sound kind of low. Experiment for a week with either upping them to 1700-1800 daily or have a "cheat" day where you eat whatever you want. Or try both and compare results.

Basically, your body is trying really hard to hold on to fat right now, so you need to fake it out a bit.
posted by pantarhei at 9:35 AM on February 25, 2010

Are you male? If so, you probably aren't eating enough calories. Try adding 100 good calories, going up every few days. So, start eating 1,600 calories a day. In a few days, start eating 1,700 calories a day. During this time, start lifting heavy things. There are tons of resources out there for you. If you're not self motivated, get thee to a gym, and get thee, at least initially, a trainer. If you are self motivated, research things you can around the home with minimal supplies. Push ups, squats, lunges, etc, are all good. You can do curls with a gallon of milk. Stuff like that.

Basically, eat more to feed your body so you can start weight lifting, which is the best way to get where you need to go.
posted by duckierose at 9:43 AM on February 25, 2010

Today I weigh 280 pounds. That's at least 100 pounds higher than what I would ideally weigh.

I'm eating smaller portions, less often, and less junk. Probably eating a maximum of 1500 calories a day right now. (Most diet plans I've read suggest I should be eating around 2500 calories a day for maintenance weight, and that seems like way too much to me.)

Yikes. I don't know how tall you are, but I'm pretty skinny at 6' 195 pounds, and trying to gain weight. I aim for 4000+ calories a day and my gains have still been slow lately. I lift heavy barbells three times a week. If walking isn't working for you, this is a route you may want to consider. You have the potential to be a big, strong, useful person, not just a skinny flabby guy who's good at walking. If that sounds appealing, check out Starting Strength.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:45 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Holy fuck sir, 1500 is not enough. I follow a forum where there are a lot of people losing weight successfully at a wide variety of body types and sizes and programs, and no guy 250+ is eating less than 2000 calories, ever.

The body is not a rubber bag (sorry Hacker's Diet fans, it's more complex than that). It's not purely an in/out mechanism. Your body will adjust its metabolism and fat storage into relation to the stresses around it. It will also act tremendously weird about weight-loss and sometimes hit plateaus. If you try too much of a drastic calorie deficit too soon, expect amazing initial results and then the plateaus to hit soon and more frequently--you put your body under extreme stress and now it's freaking out.

Try a week or two at a higher calorie intake, 2000-2500. You will initially see some weight gain, as you're going to have some glycogen replenishment--you keep things low-carb and this will be minimized. I would hold at that intake and see how your weight loss continues to go.

Also, how long have you been plateauing? A couple of weeks is when it's time to shake things up. A couple of days, don't worry about it, things are just slowing down a little (though shit you should still be eating more).
posted by Anonymous at 9:57 AM on February 25, 2010

Also, lift, holy crap, lift, you do not know what a difference it will make in your general overall health, metabolism, and what you look like at the end. At 1500 calories a day you're getting rid of a lot of muscle. Lifting will mitigate that and help prevent an end result of looking like a skeleton with a lot of floppy skin hanging off.
posted by Anonymous at 9:59 AM on February 25, 2010

OMG you're starving. I'm less than half your size; the couple days I tried restricting to 1500 calories I thought I was going to die. For me to LOSE a pound per week at my current weight, I'm supposed to eat 1800 calories.

If your body goes into starvation mode, nobody wins.
posted by availablelight at 10:03 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Go to your Dr.! Get that Asthma under control! If asthma is keeping you from doing what you want to do, it is not under control. I've had asthma since childhood, and only recently do I feel like I really understand what the difference between feeling tired/out of breath vs asthma/wheezing for breath felt like. I was afraid to do any aerobic exercise. I've been making "lifestyle changes" for the healthier for the past 2 years, and while some weight has come off, the best benifit has been aerobic fitness. You'd be surprised how quickly you can build it up too. I (attempt to) do 3 weight lifting workouts a week. I started by doing 1 minute of jogging/jumping jacks before. Then next week make it 3 min, then 5, then 10. Each step gets easier. Now I do a jump rope video (like this) for 20 min or so, with a 5 min break in the middle. The first time I did it, I thought I was going to collapse, but it wasn't from asthma, it was just working-out-tired. My lungs were clear, no wheezing or coughing. I realized my body was pretty awesome and not my enemy.

I also noticed the difference in day to day things, as cliché as it is, I wouldn't be tired after walking 3 or 4 miles, could walk up the stairs and not even notice it. My asthma is still triggered by allergies, and temp changes, and occasionally by workouts. People without asthma don't know how scary it is to have an attack or flare up. A very primal part of your brain, the "Panic! You are going to die!" part, is triggered. It takes a lot to know that it could happen, but still have the courage to start.

Important to know is that lungs love moisture (wet membranes facilitate gas exchange). Bronchi hate cold weather, and sudden temperature changes. Drink room temp water, and stay indoors, or breathe through a scarf when it's cold.

You can do it! Your doctor and asthma meds are your friend! I'm not going to shill for big pharma, but I take a steroid/bronchial dialator inhaled powder (the one that comes with the "increased risk of sudden death" warning... obviously not for everyone) and it has helped tremendously. I also keep my rescue inhaler near by during workouts, and if I'm having a bad day I'll take it 20 min before working out. I would recommend seeing an internist as your primary Dr. instead of a family doctor, as they specialize in chronic diseases. Get a plan, and re-evaluate your meds.

Ok, so I know you were asking about diet tips, and maybe I went a bit rambly here, but obviously working out is a big part of this. If you're cutting calories as much as you can, you need to burn more. This is a sliding scale as you loose more and more weight. A great way to increase your resting metabolism is to have more muscle mass. So to summarize, lift weights and love your lungs.
posted by fontophilic at 10:21 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you live in a suitable location, walk to the grocery store when you need to buy food. This has three main benefits:
1. You get exercise from walking back and forth. I live about 10 minutes away from my store, up a gentle hill. It's a nice walk.
2. It limits what you buy to what you can carry home. Walking to the store pretty much stopped me from buying pop, ice cream, lots of meat and anything else heavy. Also, big bags of chips are pretty awkward under your arm. As a bonus, fruits and veggies tend to be fairly light.
3. You have to carry a decent amount of weight home, so you get bonus exercise!
posted by just_ducky at 11:41 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

If there are certain foods that make you "lose control" to any degree, consider deleting them entirely. I can't eat just 2 or 3 cookies, so I decided to keep them out of my house.

Eat before you're very hungry. You could just eat more frequently, or have a protein snack ready just in case. It's hard to eat wisely when you're starving.

You definitely need to eat more. Metabolism is very poorly understood, and involves many different factors. It's not true that you just need to consume fewer calories than you expend in order to lose weight or become smaller.
posted by wryly at 12:08 PM on February 25, 2010

I lost 50 pounds in 2007 while counting calories and exercising (and gained a bunch back when I reverted to the "drink sodas and don't exercise" diet, but I'm back on track now), but every time I hit a plateau, I found it was always because I wasn't eating enough. When I added back 100-200 calories/day, I started losing again.

As far as eating, to keep from feeling deprived I did things like work out how many calories were in my favorite foods and work them into my meals - bean and cheese chalupas for dinner? Have a vegetable-heavy lunch.

I also allowed myself to indulge in as much of some foods as I wanted, as long as it was inconvenient in some way. Want chocolate? Sure! As much as I want! But it has to be the Scharffen Berger stuff that costs $10 for 8 ounces (or however much it is). Or I could have as much popcorn drenched in butter as I wanted ... but not microwaved - I had to dig out the big pot and pop it on the stove myself and use the expensive European butter I paid too much for. It's amazing how you can restrict yourself to a small piece or easily choose not to have a treat when it's hitting you in the pocketbook.

I also laid out a few other ground rules -- I was not to feel guilty for indulging myself if I went overboard on the calories for a day or two. That used to lead to a vicious cycle of depression and guilt, which made it harder to get back on track. Instead, I actually enjoy myself and what I'm eating, which allows me to get back on track the next day with no fuss and with a great taste-memory of something that felt good.

I made the decision that I'd much rather have a small amount of a truly tasty item than a larger amount of a "diet" or "lite" item.

I also decided not to count calories if I was with my family, or out to dinner with friends. If I visited family or went out for meals with my friends more than once or twice a month, this would be harder to do: once my boyfriend moved to my city, I had to remove him from the "can indulge if I eat out with him" list. Now I indulge if we go out on special occasions, but not on regular dining forays.

And last but not least, at times when I was truly stressed out and overworked, I made a conscious decision not to aim for my calorie targets for the duration: for example, when I was getting artwork ready for a convention, I continued to track my calories so I'd know what I was eating, but I stopped aiming for the calorie target because that was One More Thing to Do and driving me nuts. But once the convention was over, I was easily able to get back on track, because I'd made a conscious, mindful decision instead of saying "Oh, I'll get back to that soon." (And I found out that I was tending to eat pretty close to my target anyway, which was nice to learn!)

My ultimate fall off the wagon was just drifting out of the habit: a three-week trip overseas combined with the Martian Death Flu when I got back. I hadn't made that mindful choice to stop for a certain length of time and start again, and it caused problems. I started drinking sodas again and kept putting off getting back on the exercise bike, and stopped weighing myself. I re-started the whole plan about six weeks ago, following my original guidelines, and so far it's been fairly painless. I now know that if I have an interruption that long again, I need to do the mindful-choice thing.
posted by telophase at 12:13 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

nthing it, but it's super-important... EAT MORE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Also lift weights.

I went from 190 lbs --> 135 lbs. in a year, eating more calories per day than you are eating. If I drop below 1700 kcal/day, I feel like I'm going to die and act really unpleasantly towards everybody. Seriously, use Fitday or NutritionData or something to figure out a ballpark estimate of how many calories you should be eating. Then aim for the middle of that range. If I plug 280 lbs. and male into a daily needs calculator, assuming a sedentary lifestyle + 50 minutes walking @ 3 mph + 15 minutes calisthenics per day, I get 3737 kcal/day for maintenance.

You are eating less than half of that, and your metabolism is shutting itself off.

For healthy weight loss, most people recommend aiming for a loss of 1-2 lbs. per week. This means you need to create a caloric deficit of only 3000-6000 calories per week, which means that the very least you should ever be eating is around 2500 kcal/day. You're a bigger-than-average guy, which means that you need more calories than the average bear.
posted by kataclysm at 12:40 PM on February 25, 2010

Good job on choosing something with healthy fats (nuts) for your indulgence rather than half a bag of potato chips!

What I'm really looking for is the little tiny changes you've made that have helped greatly in your weight loss and fitness goals.
I (mostly) stopped consuming drinks with calories. My liquids mostly come from water and some tea and coffee. I *do* use half and half in my tea (not the fat-free kind, either!). I hate soda nowadays.

I stopped eating low-fat foods all of the time. After spending a few days of eating lean meats and veggies and being ravenous all the time, I ate a serving of cashews. Oh my God, it felt so good. I'm not saying I think people should spoon lard into their mouths, but a certain amount of fat is good (since you're eating nuts, I assume you're on board with my line of thinking). Avocados are amazing!

I've started pre-portioning food as soon as I get home with it. I buy bags of nuts from Costo, walk in the door, break out the snack sized bags and my food scale, and have at it. If I don't do this, I eat WAY too much. Not so great for the environment, but it works for me right now.

I bought a vacuum sealer. I cook extra, freeze it in individual portions, and vacuum seal it. This makes it easy to grab non-freezer-burned lunches in the mornings. I freeze it first because it makes the vacuum sealing easier.

Also echoing that you should eat more. I'm a 5'4" female, 250ish pounds, and am aiming for ~1400-1700 a day now, plus one "free" meal a week. I'm consistently losing over a pound a week without exercise.

Best of luck to you! Weight loss is a frustrating undertaking.
posted by Aleen at 2:02 PM on February 25, 2010

I'm aiming for ~1400-1700 calories a day now. Oops.
posted by Aleen at 2:03 PM on February 25, 2010

Fiber takes longer to digest, which means you don't feel sated longer. My diet is basically oatmeal for breakfast with allspice, cinnamon, and a little nuts and dried cranberry. I skip lunch or eat an apple. For dinner, I eat pretty much anything I want, but don't go crazy. When I snack or eat dessert it's popcorn. For dinner, a great way to cut down on calories is to make a balanced meal: meat/fish, veggies, potato, a little dairy. I avoid processed food of all kinds.
posted by xammerboy at 3:01 PM on February 25, 2010

Yup, eat more. Your body is freaking out. You are probably hungry aaalllll the time, and a bit colder than usual. Increase slowly, but do increase up to at least 2000 calories.

Measure everything, and make sure that it is 2000 calories though, it's way to easy to underestimate portion size.

And Sleep! It makes and huge difference. And drink lots of water. Your body may still be holding onto the salt from the nuts.
posted by kjs4 at 4:15 PM on February 25, 2010

Sleep more. Add an extra hour of sleep per night and you'll be amazed at how much better you feel.
posted by fshgrl at 5:13 PM on February 25, 2010

A simple diet hack: Get a good quality essential fat supplement (and I do mean good quality, if you have fish burps or other gaseous discharge because of the oil supplement than you need to find a better quality) and pop those capsules throughout the day for upwards of least ten percent of your calories. You'll be a hell of a lot less hungry and gain all kinds of added benefits. Note: yes, this will help you lose weight.

A simple workout hack: Chose one - move faster, move more weight, or keep moving for a longer amount of time.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:57 PM on February 25, 2010

1500? Dude, you're eating less than your resting metabolic rate, so your metabolism has slowed to compensate. Never, ever eat less than your RMR. Eat at least your RMR, plus a little extra, and make up a calorie deficit with exercise.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:08 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Drink more water. Especially before and during your workouts.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:29 AM on February 26, 2010

I have one rule for myself when it comes to my weight: count something.*

One way of doing this, as various commenters have recommended, is to keep a food diary, which is, indeed, a very good thing. However, if you're like me and are generally horrible at logging things (particularly when that log must be updated multiple times per day), keeping a food diary can be difficult (I keep one, but off and on; I'm not able to sustain it for more than a few months—sometimes just a few weeks—at a time).

Even if you can't keep up a log with that kind of detail, you can still reap much of the benefit of a food diary. The point of keeping a food diary is to train yourself in mindfulness; specifically, being aware of how you are interacting with your body. You can do much the same thing no matter what you track, so long as it is relevant to the outcome you are trying to achieve.

I find that it is easiest for me to track things that occur once a day. At various points in time, I have tracked
  • my weight (if you do this one, I highly recommend doing it in a spreadsheet so you can do a running average; otherwise it can be too depressing)
  • whether or not I took the stairs at work
  • whether or not I ate french fries that day
  • how many hours of sleep I got the night before
  • whether or not I did some walking beyond my normal amount
  • at how many meals I ate complex carbohydrates
  • how many times I filled my water bottle at work each day
  • if I did an activity standing that I'd normally do sitting
Whenever I'm counting something, regardless of whether I'm actively dieting or not, I find that my health improves, and, usually, I lose weight.

*I stole this maxim from Atul Gawande's book Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance. I think it is equally applicable to anything you're doing that you think needs improvement.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:04 AM on February 26, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips, everyone. I decided to take the "you're starving yourself" advice and I had two great meals yesterday. I didn't go crazy, but I at A LOT more than I have been. And when I stepped on the scale this morning, I had lost weight.

I'm also going to give the Physics Diet charting and stuff a try. I think I'll really enjoy being able to see real numbers and track my progress each day.
posted by joshrholloway at 1:02 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding ocherdraco, and recommending as a free and private way to chart whatever the heck you want. I use it for weight, food diary, to keep track of weekly cardio/strength training goals, as well as things like drinking green tea, taking vitamins, etc etc.
posted by egeanin at 2:15 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like to do things that just make me move more so activity is sort of naturally added to my day. For example:

Park your care at the far end of the parking lot far from the front door so you have to walk it.
Get to work 30 minutes early and walk around the area - I like to listen to podcasts while I do this.
Ride my bike for every errand that's under 5 miles: post office, bank, grocery.
Having a pet that needs lots of activity.
If I'm watching TV I try and do sit ups or push ups or yoga poses during the ads.
If I have to walk down a long hallway at work sometimes I jog it - not enough to break a sweat or anything - but enough to raise my heartrate a little more than walking would.

These intermittant exercise burst increase my heartrate, and help me remember to breathe deeply and develop my lung capacity which helps control my asthma.

Foodwise -
Drink a glass of water before eating anything.
Drink carbonated water - the gas bubbles can feel filling.
If I'm having dinner with someone I try and make my focus our conversation and not my plate of food.

Great question and good thread. Good luck!
posted by dog food sugar at 10:53 AM on February 27, 2010

Holy hell, your body has gone into major starvation mode. You've basically shocked your metabolism, and your body is responding by holding on for dear life onto whatever it's got. I'm nth'ing all the comments above: you need to eat more!

Here's a suggestion: Make 1500 calories your basic "regular food" intake. Then allow yourself to eat as many e.g. apples, bananas, oranges, nuts, etc. as you want. These foods will make you feel better, and they'll probably bring your calorie intake to where it should be.
posted by spiderskull at 1:54 AM on March 4, 2010

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