Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Simple Starter Diet

Okay, I've received a lot of questions about diet. What's the best diet to use to lose weight?

Well, in some ways it will take me all year to answer this question. But if you want a fast, easy answer, here's The 365 Day Turnaround Simple Starter Diet.

Step 1. Make a list of foods or food combinations that have less than 300 calories each. Start by looking at the foods you normally eat, then expand the list from there.

1 cup of nonfat Yoplait and 1 cup of nonfat cottage cheese: 290 calories
1 apple and 1 cup cottage cheese: 220 calories
Healthy Choice Classics Frozen Dinners: 250-300 calories
Wendy's Spring Mix Salad and Reduced Fat Creamy Ranch Dressing: 280 calories
Wendy's Small Chili w/ 2 saltine crackers: 225 calories
McDonald's Chicken McGrill, no mayo: 290 calories
McDonald's Apple dippers w/lowfat caramel dip and McDonald's Fruit & Yogurt Parfait: 260 calories
Subway 6 inch Savory Turkey Sub: 210 calories
Two Fudgesicles: 208 calories
Krispy Kreme original glazed: 200 calories
1 cup Vanilla Ice Cream: 265 calories
Baskin Robbins Pralines and Cream Ice Cream Bar: 280 calories

Step 2. If you're a guy, eat something off your list six times a day. If you're a girl, eat something off your list five times a day. Try to spread it out as much as you can, but if you miss a meal, double up on the next one.

Step 3. Don't eat or drink anything else except water. Drink two cups of water with every meal, and as much more water as you would like.

That's it! An eat-anything-you-want diet that you will lose weight on. It's good for people who are busy or on the go, because nearly every fast food restaruant gives out "Nutrition Guides" and store bought food has the nutritional info on the side. You just find something with under 300 calories, and you're good to go.

Wait, you're saying. Can I really lose weight doing this?


But there's ice cream and stuff on that list.

Yes, but remember, diet isn't really as much about food types as it is about calories. If you eat less calories than you burn, you'll lose weight. This diet is designed to provide less calories than a moderately overweight person would burn, but still enough to keep them going. You'll lose weight, and have energy.

How much weight will I lose?

Well, that depends on a lot of factors. How much you weigh, how tall you are, how much you exercise, and how old you are.

And if you're not at least moderately overweight, this diet may not work for you at all. It's not designed to fine-tune away those last four or five "vanity pounds."

Ah-ha! I knew it wasn't as simple as you said.

Look, if dieting is an art, this is a paint-by-numbers. If you do a paint-by-numbers, you'll still end up with a painting. It just won't be as creative as if you'd done it yourself, but it will still be a painting.

So how much more complicated is diet, really?

As complicated as you want it to be. Not only could you get into counting calories, you could get into counting carbs and protein and fat, even counting milligrams of vitamins and minerals. Some people do math to try to keep these things in exact proportions. If you're a retired accountant looking for something to do, you could spend the rest of your life managing the numbers of your own diet--if you were really, really missing number crunching.

For normal people, even if you want to count there's really no need to look at anything more than calories, protien, fat, and fiber (The carbs will magically take care of themselves if you do this--but that's another post). A good multivitamin will keep everything else covered.

Is there a way to diet that doesn't involve counting?

Yup. Books like Body for Life and The Zone talk about "portions" instead of calories. A portion would be about the size of the palm of your hand, or the size of your closed fist. A portion of potato would be a potato the size of your fist. A portion of chicken would be a piece of chicken the size of the palm of your hand.

Using this system, you try to have a "portion" of protein and a "portion" of carbs at every meal. The protein should be a lean meat, like chicken breast, or perhaps a low- or non-fat cottage cheese. The carb should be something low sugar and low fat, but high in fiber, like whole wheat bread or a piece of fruit the size of your fist. Eat this five or six times a day, as outlined above. Three or four times a day, add in a portion of vegetables.

Wow. Eat meat six times a day? Isn't that a lot?

Yup. But it's not that much each time--that's the key. Just a handful of protein and a handful of carbs.

Okay, when you put it that way, it doesn't sound like very much.

It's more than you think. And if you're hungry, you can drink more water, or just hang tight for a while. When you're eating five or six times a day, you're never more than a couple hours away from your next meal.

An ideal "meal" in this diet would be some grilled chicken and onions served up in half a whole wheat pita.

Does this "portion" diet really work?

It works, but it can be hard to do, especially if you're on the go. To ease it up a bit, most people swap a few of the meals with some kind of meal replacement shake.

I will say that in practice, it's usually little high calorie, so you may have to exercise a little more than you would on the "Simple Starter Diet."

But you should really be exercising anyway, so what difference does it make?

Don't get snooty with me. You're the one talking to yourself.

I'm blogging to myself. Believe me, that's far more common.

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