Quick answer: 1500 calories a day, and LOTS of protein to keep hunger away. Limited exercise, as in, somewhat expanding the physical activity in your daily routine.
Because I've wrestled with weight all my life and hated being fat. I worked damn hard for years to take the weight off but rarely got anywhere. I know what it's like to feel like there are no answers. So once I figured out something that worked for me, and far easier than most of what I'd previously tried, I wanted to help other people in the same boat.
No, just a person who is delighted to find the pounds coming off, and wants to share what he's figured out. Do check with your doctor if you're concerned about trying this.
I don't believe so; I'm not suggesting special foods with magical properties. All I'm recommending is taking in fewer calories than you burn, and a way to make it a pretty comfortable process. I still recommend following the general principles of nutritional balance, but leaning into protein to make weight loss workable.
Consider it a nice round number. They say the average man needs 2500 calories a day just to maintain his weight (a little more if you're heavy-set), and the average woman needs 2000. Consume less on an ongoing basis and you lose weight. Maybe 1500 calories is too aggressive/ambitious for your purposes, which is fine. Make it 1800 calories or whatever best suits you. (Myself, I rarely hit 1500 exactly, but I usually keep it below 1600.)
One way or another, it takes a calorie deficit of 3500 calories to lose a pound. Expect weight loss to be a gradual thing; it's hard to lose more than two pounds a week. On the other hand, that's 100 pounds a year, assuming it's sustainable.
Protein is a source of calories too -- about as dense as carbohydrates (roughly 4 calories per gram, while fat is about 9 calories per gram) -- but protein takes a long time to process. Rather than give you a spike of energy and then you come down, it will give you a steady burn that will help you feel full. That's why I recommend protein; your mileage may vary. Eat whatever makes you feel full, so long as you can hit 1500 calories (or whatever). Drink lots of hotdog water if that's what works for you; just keep the calories within bounds.
But in my experience anyway, protein is the best appetite suppressant.
Okay, here: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/82/1/41/4863422
There's a lot of science there, but this seems to be the takeaway: "A more important mechanism by which dietary protein promotes weight loss appears to be its ability to produce greater satiety than do other macronutrients."
Another consideration from that article: it may be the reason that low-fat and low-carb diets sometimes work is because they involve increased protein. It's really the protein that's doing the important part.
Surprisingly, no. That protein thing seems to really work. There are days I want to eat more, and as with all diets, I allow myself some "cheat" days. It's better to give in once in a while than to give up. But most days I can keep it to 1500 calories or thereabouts.
NO! The Atkins Diet is terrible. It holds that you can lose weight by eating lots of fat and cutting out carbs, which will then force your body to start turning some of your fat into "ketone bodies", an alternative energy source to glucose. The process is known as "ketosis", and it is an adaptation your body turns to only under genuine hardship, and it's rough on your body. I am recommending a more direct approach: cut back on the calories, and do what it takes to keep from feeling hungry and weak (which is where the protein comes in). Again, for me it's working extremely well.
Note that the high protein levels I'm recommending make ketosis impossible.
Here are some protein sources to turn to. Each of these portion sizes is 250 calories, so you could do six of these a day, in whatever combinations or schedules you prefer:
Sure, why not. Some taste better than others, and some of them have no taste at all. Throw a scoop in whatever you're cooking, and recalculate the numbers accordingly.
Well yes. A slice of wheat bread is something like 70 calories and 3.5g of protein, which is far heavier on the calories than I like (see my ten-to-one rule below). That doesn't mean cutting bread out altogether, but it does mean cutting down on it significantly.
That said, I have discovered a pretty good workaround: Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes. At 380 calories and 28g of protein per cup, that's impressively close to my ten-to-one rule for a bread product. So what I do is use my silicone burger mold to bake pancakes (375 degrees, 20 minutes) and use them as slices of bread (one cup of mix makes six slices of "bread"). It's not exactly normal bread but it works well enough for sandwiches.
If you aren't finding that high protein sources are doing it for you, maybe try some high fiber foods. Conventional wisdom is that fiber can make you feel full for a long time because it slows down digestion of carbs, but as I haven't actually tried a high-fiber diet, I can't attest to that. This site exists because I want to share what has actually worked for me, and what has worked for me is protein. But if it doesn't work for you, fiber might be a workable substitute.
Personally I'm skeptical about fiber, if all it's doing is tricking your body. Protein, at least, provides amino acids that go to building tissue. Fiber passes through your body undigested.
I do find that lentils are more filling at 20g than some of the higher protein options, so maybe there's something to the protein / fiber combination. (My go-to foods are pork and yogurt, but I've tried all the other options at least a little. Except for the 15 egg whites at one sitting. This isn't the Cool Hand Luke Diet.)
I do a lot of diet beverages and sugar-free Jello. And on days when I haven't reached 1500 calories, I might eat something that's delicious but bad for me.
Yeah, you will. That sounds like a pain, but remember: you got heavy exactly because you took in more calories than you were expending. To fix the problem, you'll need to start paying attention to how many calories, so you can figure out best options.
I use a ten-to-one rule of thumb. The two numbers I look at on a food are the calories and the grams of protein, and ideally the calories will be no more than ten times the protein. Not all foods will pass that test, but it's what I aim for.
For example, a MorningStar Garden Veggie Burger is 170 calories and 16g of protein. The calories are a little more than ten times the protein, but it will probably do. On the other hand, two slices of wheat bread are typically something like 140 calories and 7g of protein ... the calories are 20 times the protein, which is way out of range. You can still eat wheat bread if you so desire, but understand that it won't be very filling and so you may end up exceeding your daily calorie count. (HOWEVER, put something high-protein / low-calorie on your bread -- say, turkey lunchmeat (90 calories / 16g protein) -- and the overall numbers get into the desired range, with 230 calories / 23g protein.)
Sure, they're good for you! Also there's a lot of fiber, and again, that might help with satiety. But bear in mind that fruits can be calorie-rich too, so you'll need to count calories. Salad dressings can also turn otherwise-healthy salads into gastronomic abominations, so be mindful of the numbers. (I am fond of raspberry Greek yogurt as salad dressing -- 120 calories and 12g of protein.)
No, but bear in mind that calories add up, and 1500 calories isn't much to work with. You'll quickly find you need to choose your calories strategically.
This is where it's worth learning to cook just a little. Lentils are very good with tomatoes and basil, and there are a thousand lentil chili recipes online. Ground pork / turkey / chicken can be turned into sausage just by adding spices. Wheat gluten can be fashioned into pseudo-meat. Chicken paprikash, if made with fat-free sour cream and TVP, is pretty nutritious (the recipe posted there would result in seven servings of roughly 250 calories and 35g of protein, assuming 2 cups of TVP). Italian sausage plus mozzarella cheese plus tomatoes is delicious. Tofu, a potato masher, and spices can simulate all kinds of food.
For breakfast, I might have a sausage sandwich: that's 1/3 pound sausage that I made from ground pork (250 cal / 30g protein), with two slices of "bread" made from Kodiak Power Cake mix (125 cal / 9g protein), and a slice of American cheese (100 cal / 4g protein). That's 475 calories and 43g protein -- almost hits my ten-to-one target. (If I were to forego the slice of cheese and eat some yogurt instead, that'd be 500 calories and over 50g protein.) Side note, it's good to have the sausage patties and Klondike "bread" baked ahead of time, so all you have to do is reheat them.
For lunch, I might have a salad with raisins (100 cal) and a container of raspberry Greek yogurt as dressing (120 cal / 14g protein). Maybe a lunchmeat sandwich of some kind: two slices of Kodiak Power Cake "bread" (125 cal / 9g protein) plus a double helping of turkey lunchmeat (90 cal / 16g protein) and a slice of cheese (100 cal / 4g protein). That's 535 calories and 43g of protein -- still not quite ten-to-one but close enough.
For dinner, maybe lentils / tomato sauce / mozzarella cheese / basil (500 calories / ~50g protein). At this point in the day I'm generally a little more free-form: I make sure to eat enough to keep myself full until breakfast. If for whatever reason I'm still hungry even beyond 1500 calories, I eat something filling. 1500 calories is pretty aggressive and a little flexibility helps keep a diet sustainable.
I miss a lot of sandwiches: I find that I can't fit much bread into my diet (70 calories per slice of white bread), and there are days I could really go for a salami sandwich. Also, I miss eating according to whim; it gets a little old sometimes, planning my food and trying to calculate whether mozzarella sticks are going to put me over my total.
But the compensations are more than worth it. Feeling better about myself, having more energy, being able to walk longer distances, not wondering exactly how disgusting of a blob I will be when I finally ruin my body altogether ... it sure is nice to see a better future. Also, I sleep better, and I haven't awoken with heartburn in months. I sure don't miss that.
I said limited exercise. The goal isn't to be bedridden, after all.
Exercise is very important to overall health, and I strongly recommend exercise to people in general. HOWEVER -- if the biggest problem in your life is weight, then you need to make losing weight your priority. And unfortunately, for as valuable as exercise is, exercise puts demands on your body that run exactly counter to weight loss. Exercise requires increased caloric intake for recovery and building muscle, while weight loss requires reduced caloric intake. And exercise doesn't even burn up that many calories ... but it does make you hungry.
Almost all weight loss regimens tell you to exercise, but as far as I'm concerned, they're instructing you to sabotage your own weight loss efforts. And that makes me angry. Millions of people are trying to get themselves healthy and are being told to do so by methods that cannot work. No wonder such a small percentage of people lose weight! No wonder people give up: you work your ass off trying to work your ass off and you get nowhere ... because people have told you to undermine your own efforts.
So, I am recommending against exercise programs, if losing weight is your top priority. That said, as the pounds come off, you'll almost certainly find yourself becoming more active; a certain amount of exercise will find its way into your life just because you can do more. You'll take on more projects, you'll do more things, and isn't that kind of the point? Do that extra walking, go up those stairs, and so on -- ease it into your life. But making a point of pushing yourself to exhaustion is just counterproductive.
Or depending on your situation, you can balance weight loss and exercise, and do one OR the other at any given time. For example, focus on weight loss during the bad weather months, and commit to exercise during nice weather. Admit it, you weren't going to go the gym in winter anyway.
If you're still skeptical, look up the numbers on how many calories you burn with any given exercise, and then figure out how much exercise it would take to burn 3500 calories. That's just a single pound of fat. For example, walking a mile will burn 120 calories, give or take. So you'd have to walk something like 30 miles just to lose a pound. How many days will it take you to walk 30 miles (and remember, you're not allowed to compensate by eating more)? I can lose a pound in just a few days through diet alone; diet wins. (Please, don't tell me about Jared Fogle: no way did he lose weight by walking a couple miles and then eating 500 calories of bread. There's something sketchy about that guy.)
I have to admit, by about month five of doing this, I started losing my drive; I was getting sloppy with what I was eating. I didn't gain any weight back, but my progress slowed for a few weeks. That's because the noticeable indications of progress stopped coming quite as fast, and it got easy to lose sight of the long-term impact.
One thing that helped me get motivated again was buying new pants: instead of wearing the same increasingly baggy pants and pulling my belt tight, I got new pants that were just a little uncomfortably small. That gave me motivation and feedback, and helped me get back on track.
The very fact that I was losing weight stopped feeling remarkable to me. Now that's unusual mental territory.
That is something of a trick question, because it looks like diet management is going to be part of my life from now on. The question is more, what will my life look like when I'm no longer doing only 1500 calories a day? Well, I'll probably bump it up to 2500 calories, but I'll still count calories. There will be more sandwiches in my life, but within caloric limits. Also more deliberate exercise; I enjoy bicycling, and look forward to it not being an exhausting process.
I suspect that I won't be able to trust my hunger signals to tell me when to stop eating, though, which is why I intend to count calories. First of all, if I were good at knowing when to stop eating, I wouldn't have gotten heavy in the first place. But also, it seems that our fat cells are responsible for producing the hormones ("leptins") that tell our body when we're full ... and our fat cells tend not to be happy until they've regained all the fat they've expended. So I'll have to continue counting calories habitually.