In March of 2008, I made a commitment to start losing weight. At that time, I weight 206 pounds (and had already come down from my all-time high of 215, which I only reached through lots of drinking and junk food during college). My goal was to get down to 175 pounds, which was 5 pounds less than my lowest weight during high school. Once I achieved that goal, I would evaluate from there. 175 pounds would place my BMI at around 24.4 — the high side of normal and probably closer to “true” normal, given my frame.
This morning, I weighed 181 pounds. I still have a little ways to go, but I’ve managed to shed 25 pounds and that seems like it merits some commentary.
I’ve tried two “diets” while attempting to lose weight. The first, recommended by Cody, is the Fat Flush Plan. I lost a lot of initial weight when I started this diet, though I suppose that’s to be expected with any diet. However, the food restrictions on this diet are beyond difficult and are also comparitively expensive. In short, it doesn’t work for me as a long-term plan. I can do the initial two-week “flush” portion, but the follow-on phases are just too hard to stick with. Plus, I had no way (other than, y’know, the scale) to determine if it was working.
I set about looking for a different diet and stumbled across the Hacker Diet. Designed by an engineer from an engineer’s perspective, it treats the body as what it is: a complex water pump. Everything that goes in either comes back out, gets used, or gets stored. It’s a little more complex than that, but that’s the core idea. It also discusses the idea of an “eat watch,” a conceptual device that you wear like a wristwatch that tells you “it’s time to eat!” and “okay, you’ve eaten enough, stop now!” Some people have a natural eat watch, while others (*cough* me *cough*) have a broken one.
This revelation lined up with what Cody had always observed: I used to eat a lot. Even if it was a lot of “healthy” stuff, it was still a lot. I resisted this idea until I saw it put in terms of the eat watch, at which point everything fell into place. The Hacker Diet simulates an eat watch by making you track your calorie intake. The gist is you take your basal metabolic rate (i.e. how many calories you burn just by existing), subtract 500, and try to eat that many calories in a day. 500 * 7 = 3500 calories, or about 2 pounds per week. Add in generous amounts of water (seriously, drink a ton of water and it does the same thing as making you feel full; it also helps keep your insides cleared out), and you’ve got a reliable recipe for losing weight.
The wonderful thing about the Hacker Diet is that there are no specific food restrictions. Eat whatever you want, up to your caloric limit. This can take the form of nothing but ice cream, if you want. You’ll lose weight, but you’ll suffer other health issues if you do this. It still pays to eat a balanced diet. So, I’ve been eating bacon and eggs or cereal (with almond milk rather than dairy milk, which has far fewer calories and tastes better) for breakfast; a store-bought microwave dinner for lunch (only about $2 per meal); and various different things for dinner and snacks throughout the day. And, of course, I keep a full Nalgene of water by my side at all times. You quickly develop a sense for how much to eat and stop needing to track your food item-for-item in a spreadsheet (though it can still be fun).
The downside to the Hacker Diet is that while it can work for everyone, it’s a lot harder for some people. My basal metabolic rate is fairly high — I’m on the tall side, have a broad frame, and am male (men have higher basal metabolic rates than women) so by just existing I burn somewhere between 2000 and 2500 calories per day. I averaged this to 2250. To lose weight, I try to keep my daily intake to about 1750 calories. In practice, I should probably cut it back a bit more, but this has been fairly comfortable. But what if you’re small, with a medium frame, and are female? Your basal metabolic rate’s low to begin with, and cutting out up to 500 calories can make your dietary restriction intolerable.
For my part, though, the Hacker Diet has been a smashing success. Soon, I plan to start doing 100 Push-Ups to build up muscle and gain tone to replace the flab I’ve lost. My weight might go back up at this point, but I don’t mind adding a bit of weight back if it’s in the form of muscle.