Like most people in the USA I have struggled with weight control. I started gaining weight in high school and gained rapidly after leaving college and starting my first Engineering job where I sat on my ass all day every day.
Any diet should have 2 goals: reduce fat, maintain/build muscle mass. I started making a serious dieting effort in 2005. I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time and unfortunately reduced calories too much, didn’t eat enough protein, didn’t lift weights and so lost muscle along with fat.
What have I learned?
- Waist size is highly correlated with bodyfat percentage (at least for me). I tried using the electrical bodyfat monitors and also the calipers but neither really gave a good reliable measurement. Eventually I realized waist size was all I really needed to know.
- Don’t reduce calories too much. If you do this you are going to feel like absolute shit, lose muscle mass (which will reduce your metabolic rate – bad) and probably not lose much fat.
- Don’t rely on protein for energy. You can get energy from protein (gluconeogenesis), but it is hard on the liver and made me feel like shit.
- Don’t reduce carbs too much if you want to build muscle. Some people claim you can build muscle on a no-carb or very low carb diet. I disagree. I found that short periods (~1 month) of a no-carb diet help, but I can’t say I enjoyed it very much.
- Do some light cardio every day. By light I mean 20-30 minutes of walking and/or jogging. I don’t know why this makes so much of a difference but it has for me.
- The food supply in the USA seems to be poisonous and most likely the root of our problems. This dawned on me last summer when I spent a month in Germany/France, ate like a cow and lost weight. We have too many preservatives and unnatural chemicals in our food. The food supply in the EU is much more natural and they don’t have obesity issues to the degree that we do.
Reducing body fat has been a real struggle for me and I’m still not quite where I want to be. It has really made me empathize with people that have a lot more to lose.