A lot of folks start the new year with a goal of losing weight. That goal lasts for a solid couple of weeks, and then, like all good New Year’s resolutions, is abandoned until next year.
I also began the year needing to shed a few pounds. Over the holidays, I go nuts and eat everything set before me. I used to ration myself and stretch out whatever goodies were on offer, and then I finally realized I wasn’t enjoying the battle of attrition. If I can’t gorge like a true American, I’d rather have nothing. So nowadays, I show the same reserve towards the holiday bounty that my dog does to something we drop on the floor. I’ll worry about the aftermath later.
Now it’s later. But once again, I have managed to undo the damage of the holidays and am already back to my fighting weight. Yeah!
So today I’ll share my secret weight-loss plan. We’ve already covered “Why” I don’t get fat; today we’ll cover “How”. While this would seem a stretch for a personal finance-ish site, a lot of people spend a ton of money trying to lose weight each year. And good health is valuable? Yep, that’ll do.
This Stuff Doesn’t Work for Me
Let’s first cover what my weight-loss plan isn’t. It isn’t exercise. While exercise is lovely for its own sake, it’s a terribly inefficient way to lose weight. The How Stuff Works article on dieting (a great resource, btw) explains why: our bodies are simply too efficient. In order to lose a pound of fat, you need to burn off ~3,500 calories. Running a marathon burns roughly 2,600 calories. Whoa.
My plan also isn’t based on eating well. I believe I do eat well, but that’s because of the missus. If it weren’t for her, I’d probably be dead from scurvy. I eat the veggies she serves to keep her happy, but that doesn’t mean I like it.
And finally, my plan doesn’t rely on deprivation (at least directly…). I don’t have to cut out certain foods – or even desserts – to shed some serious pounds. Rather than eating less than I want, I’ve found a way to want less.
My Super Awesome Weight Loss Plan
I used to not even think about weight loss. I just ate what I liked and my teen or twenty-something volcano metabolism took care of the rest.
That changed in my 30’s. If I ate well (which was easy to do when traveling for work), I started getting a little tubby. There was no way I was buying new clothes, so it was an official crisis.
I tried running and rationing, but those were neither effective nor fun. I wanted a weight-loss plan that was simple, not time consuming, and wouldn’t involve a lot of sacrifice. Was that too much to ask?
That’s when I remembered an interesting tidbit I’d picked up in college. My university was pretty serious at athletics, and I was friends with a number of varsity athletes. Each year, at the start of the season, these guys put on a ton of muscle mass. They would work out like crazy and consume protein powder and creatine and the blood of their enemies, but they also needed to rely on old fashioned food. And when they ate, they never drank anything. One of them explained: the trainer told him to eat at least two plates of food at every meal before drinking. Drinking – especially zero calorie water – would fill their stomachs and limit how much protein and calories they could eat. They needed that protein to get ripped, you see. They drank water all day, but at meals they focused solely on eating.
As I patted my growing belly, I had a crazy thought. So crazy, it just might work. What if I took their strategy and reversed it? Before my next meal, I drank a huge glass of water. Sure enough, as I ate I started to feel bloated and uncomfortable (no pain, no gain…) and stopped well short of normal. I did get a little hungry before the next meal, but before I had a snack (I hope you’re taking notes, because this gets a little complicated) I drank another huge glass of water. That didn’t make me super happy or content, but it did somehow seem to tide me over.
After a week I noticed a difference. After a month I was back to a lean mean fightin’ machine. My weight-loss strategy had worked!
So that’s my plan. It’s not exciting, but it seems to work. Whenever my clothes start to get snug, I start every meal with water, power through any vegetable attack, and then move on to the real food. I consume enough to be healthy but not enough to maintain my weight.
Until you’ve tried it, you have no idea how annoying it is to front-load every meal and snack with a lot of water. It truly is a tax on eating. Late at night, when I’m feeling a bit peckish, I’ll have a painful internal dialogue. “You can have some ice cream, but you need to drink a pint of water first.” “Fine! I don’t want it anyway.” And then I send myself to bed.
And while my weight-loss plan is annoying, it’s cheap, easy, and (for me at least) way more effective than anything else. To borrow from Churchill, losing weight by drinking a lot of water before eating is the worst form of dieting except every other one that I’ve tried.
In order to lose weight, you need to burn off more calories than you consume. While exercise is important for overall health, our bodies are simply too efficient for that to work alone. Reducing consumption is the key for me, but putting my fork down when I still feel hungry is hard.
Drinking a lot of water before eating is like a poor man’s lap-band. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, but I just have less space for it. If you’re about to give up on your weight-loss goal for the year, maybe give this one a try. It certainly beats running 🙂