The Basics of Diet & Nutrition
As I have mentioned before … Weight loss is simple – at least mathematically. You have to eat less calories than you burn. What you burn each day in calories = your BMR (basal metabolic rate) + “Active Calories” (earned by exercise and activity).
You must keep records (track everything you eat and your active calorie burn + BMR) to really know how you are doing towards your goal of a weekly calorie “deficit” which leads to weight loss.
3500 calories equals about 1 lb of fat. So, you need to average a 500 calorie a day “deficit” (BMR + Active Calories burned -minus- calories eaten / day) to lose a pound a week. Weight Watchers will help you do this “automatically.” If you are using other tools you will need a better understanding of good nutrition (good foods, bad foods, protein needed, etc.) to ensure a proper diet.
TRACK TRACK TRACK … I used my own spreadsheet and also used Weight Watchers for the first 8 months. I still use my spreadsheet, but have stopped Weight Watchers for now because I am close to my goals and feeling pretty good. I am now using “MyFitnessPal” to track calories. MyFitnessPal also “links” to my Apple Health Kit app data on my iPhone and Apple Watch – saving a lot of time with data entry. My current goal is a 3500 – 5000 calorie a week “deficit” until I hit all my goals.
Cautionary note: If you use only an online service (i.e. Weight Watchers) to do ALL your tracking, you may lose your data. Several years ago I did Weight Watchers with good success and logged everything, food, weekly weights, progress photos, etc. and then the site was bought out and updated and when I re-signed up for another go ALL of my prior entries and data were lost. I was more than a little annoyed. Thus, I always track the most important stuff (weekly weights, progress notes) on my spreadsheet and keep my photos on my own devices. Sometimes it is VERY useful to look back on prior attempts and try to determine what went right and what went wrong and determine a timeline for progress. Do NOT rely too heavily on any online site or app to do this for you!!!
You MUST be committed to some form of tracking for any “plan” to work. Now that I am much more fit, I do not track “steps” anymore. Instead, I have increased my cardio workouts in length and intensity and shoot for that magic 500 calorie a day average deficit – by tracking calorie intake using MyFitnessPal and calorie burn via Apple Health Kit and using my tracking spreadsheet.
You MUST drink enough water. This means “half your weight in ounces.” I.e. if you weigh 210 lbs you should be drinking at least 105 ounces of water a day. That’s a lot. I suggest getting a big, quality insulated cup. I use a 30 oz “Yeti Rambler” and fill it 3x a day with ice water (at least) at home. At work I drink SEVEN 16 oz bottles of water a day. It takes attention and focus to do this, but is well worth it.
Consider supplements. I take a protein supplement (Invigor8) on heavy (weight training) workout days. I take multiple vitamins and supplements that effect metabolism, cartilage health, blood flow, micronutrient needs, etc. A list of the supplements I take (and why) can be found here.
The tracking spreadsheet I use in Excel Format is here for everyone. I recommend downloading it and then printing it out. Modify to suit your needs, upload to your favorite cloud server to access anywhere.
If you are quite out of shape and overweight (as I was starting out) – meaning you cannot walk up two or three flights of stairs briskly without being out of breath and are 30-40 or more pounds overweight – Then I strongly recommend using Weight Watchers as your “diet plan” to get started. As you near your goals and have learned to eat a healthy diet, you can drop Weight Watchers and switch to a simpler meal plan and tracking strategy as I have done. My current daily meal plan – with details – including foods to avoid and foods to focus on is here as a downloadable file.
At this stage in my journey, my plan is simple. Eat “good” foods – avoid “bad” foods – get my daily water and supplements – do my exercise regimen – and keep my total calorie intake equal to or below my BMR (basal metabolic rate). Again, details are provided on the downloadable file which you can edit and customize as desired.
Why Weight Watchers?
Bottom line, Weight Watchers works. Exercise is a big factor in reaching your general health and fitness goals. However, when it comes to weight loss, Weight Watchers has proven to be a successful strategy over many years. The Weight Watchers method – when followed precisely – forces you to eat better, lose weight and gain healthy eating habits that last. Through my own extensive research and reading on diet and nutrition, I think I have good understanding of “why it works.”
Weight Watchers basically “tricks” you and your body into doing what you should be doing anyway … eating RIGHT and not just focusing on calories. To hit a few key points, Weight Watchers uses a “point system” rather than simple calorie counting. I think of the “points” like money. I only have so much to spend in a day and a week. Weight Watchers rewards you for eating “good” foods (i.e. fruit and veggies are ZERO points – eat all you want of these!). Also, it “over charges” you in points for “bad” foods, meaning processed carbs and sugary foods, fried foods, etc. are very high in points – even if these foods would not “cost” you so much using a purely calorie counting based system. Over time, you find yourself gravitating to healthier eating habits to stay within your point goals. You will start eating more fish, chicken, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, etc. and avoiding “high point” foods that are not very good for you. Also, you can spend your money (points) however you like. You CAN eat whatever you want on Weight Watchers – including cheeseburgers, fries, steaks, junk food, etc. – but it will cost you in points – and you will be forced to make up the difference by choosing healthier options for other daily intake in order to stay within your point goals.
If you choose to do Weight Watchers and truly stick to your point goals, you WILL lose weight and WILL learn healthy eating habits. It is that simple. Also, the program gives you “extra weekly points” intended to be used for days when you are really hungry and for nights out / social events, etc. so you can eat like everyone else. It is not so much a diet as a scientifically based healthy nutrition strategy.
With Weight Watchers you can also earn “extra points” with daily exercise. However, if you really want to lose weight, I recommend tracking your hard earned exercise points (see Exercise pages) but NOT using these points (i.e. don’t “eat these points”). Anyway, Weight Watchers works, it is simple and elegant and SIMPLE IS GOOD! There is no reason to make the nutrition part of your overall plan to achieve weight loss and peak fitness harder than it needs to be.
I do not mean this to be an endorsement for Weight Watchers. There are other good and healthy plans out there – i.e. Jenny Craig and the Mediterranean Diet. These are also proven programs, I just know less about them.
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