photo credit:  The P:E Diet by Ted Naiman (recommend the diet advice in book, some reservations about exercise portion)

This entry could have been called “Step by Step” for “Losing Weight” or “Losing Fat” but I chose “Improving or Maintaining Body Composition” because it is more accurate in terms of either losing fat, gaining muscle or both.

A previous post Dietary Guidelines gave high level info on nutrition in general with some general recommendations, but my goal with this entry is to be more specific and give easy to follow directions that I believe will work for anyone.

First off, there is a different strategy on days when you are on track for your goal, whether that is maintaining or losing, and days when you are not.  So if your goal is maintaining existing body composition, pick a given body weight, or if you have access to a tool that measures body fat percentage,  use that or a combination of the two.

Even though the scale is not as important or accurate as other measures such as skin fold measurements or body composition tools like Inbody, BodPod or Dexa, don’t lose sleep over the accuracy.  (Even the best tools are confounded by constantly fluctuating water retention, kind of like trying to measure someone’s height when they won’t hold still or stand up straight). The important thing is that you’re measuring.  It will come out in the wash in the long term.

If you goal is to lose, then pick different numbers (whether fat% or weight), over time e.g. If I weigh 200 lbs. today, and I hope to get to 180 lbs, I might decide to lose a pound a week, so the first week, my target would be 179, the next 178, and so on.

So first few steps apply whether you’re on track or not.

  1. “Weigh in” every day in morning, after voiding and before eating.  (I know some say this is counter productive and not accurate but trust me on this for now, it’s about accountability, and keeping your goal front of mind)
  2. Strength Train regularly.  (check out rest of site for preferred methodology that I espouse)
  3. Avoid prolonged inactivity.  Just get up frequently, go for a walk, ride a bike or exercise bike, but only at low intensity.  This is not meant to be exercise per se, which is where the strength training comes in.  Just avoiding sitting all day.

Next steps are if you are above your target on a given morning.

  1. Don’t eat till noon. (a little milk or cream in your coffee, or anything less than 200 calories, isn’t the end of the world, if you find it difficult)
  2. Drink at least 3 litres of water.  (if plain water is hard for you to drink, a little flavouring can help, but see above about sticking to less than 200 calories in the morning.). Ideally this would be over and above coffee or tea.
  3. Keep your carbs and your fats at less than 100 grams each that day.  Use kitchen scales, measuring spoons or cups to make sure, as well as a phone app where you input everything you eat.  I recommend Cronometer.
  4. No need to limit protein.  If you’re not sure which foods contain fats, carbs and/or protein, the Cronometer app becomes invaluable.

Next steps are if you are at or ahead of your target on a given morning.

  1. Dispense with measuring that day but…
  2. Staying hydrated by drinking water will help.
  3. Try to consciously only eat when you’re hungry.
  4. When you are hungry emphasize protein (meat, fish, poultry, low fat cheese, tofu etc) and next go to high fibre vegetables (think colourful).
  5. Avoid or minimize foods that contain fat AND carbs together with little or NO protein.
  6. Note, it is almost impossible to overeat foods in #4 and almost impossible not to overeat foods in #5.
  7. The more you can be somewhat “good” on these days, the fewer of the stricter, measuring days, you will have to deal with.  One of the goals of this methodology is to eventually make good choices on your own and use the stricter methods above as a reset when needed.  Being able to slack off on days when you’re on track or better will help long term compliance and serve as a reward for the strict days.