Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How I lost 55 pounds without exercise, hunger or gimmicks

Considering how amazingly long this post is you may be surprised to know that I could summarize my weight loss plan with just three words.  However if I just told you that you’d never believe how easy it is, how well it can work and how healthy it is for you. This is why I have resisted telling those who have asked me in passing how I lost my weight.  I’m afraid if I just gave you the short answer you’d too easily dismiss it.  Of course with this super long blog post I’m sure most people won’t spend the time to read it, but at least you had the opportunity to hear the arguments for this way of eating.

Throughout this blog entry I treat weight loss as a simple mathematical equation.  I recognize that weight and diet for most involves a large emotional and social component that I basically ignore.  For example if you eat food for comfort I don’t know how to deal with that, so I will bravely ignore that challenge for the remainder of this post.
Secondly, I don’t really care if you or anyone else loses weight or reads about how I lost weight.  However I know that many people want to lose weight but don’t know how. This is despite a non-stop barrage of weight loss info.  Unfortunately most weight loss info is wrong, even if it comes from a source that should be authoritative on the subject.  Recently researchers have started working on correcting the misinformation, but it takes a long time to correct an idea that has been held for so long, regardless of how wrong the idea is. 

My “diet” (which isn’t really mine, I just copied others) is so simple and easy I just wanted to share it so people have another option to consider if/when they try losing weight.  In other words I think the single thing preventing most people from losing weight and being healthy is not willpower or physical capability, it’s simply a lack of knowledge about how to lose weight effectively and easily.
I’m a pretty average guy with an average American diet.  Over the years since leaving college I’ve slowly lost muscle and gained weight.  Not really noticeable at the time, but after two decades all the years of small gains in weight had finally accumulated to a noticeable gain in weight.  Medically speaking I was obese.  I’m 6’2” tall (188 cm) and weighed 260 lbs (118 kg) prior to my weight loss.  According to that gave me a BMI of 33.4 which is labeled as “class I obesity”.

At work we have annual health screenings.  In May 2015 my Viverae biometric health screen gave me these scores:
  • Overall health score: 70.5 (average range is 70-79)
  • Blood pressure: 130/86 (moderate risk)
  • Total cholesterol: 199 mg/dL (less than 200 is low risk)
  • HDL cholesterol: 33 mg/dL (HDL cholesterol greater than 60 mg/dL is desirable)
  • LDL cholesterol: 112 mg/dL (LDL cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL is desirable)
  • Triglycerides: 267 mg/dL (a triglyceride level less than 150 mg/dL is desirable)
  • Health age: 46 (38 actual)
  • Lastly I was identified as having Metabolic Syndrome

After one year on my diet I’m now 205 lbs (93 kg) which means my BMI is 26.3 which is merely overweight (so I could still stand to lose more weight) and my May 2016 Viverae biometric health screen gave me these scores:
  • Overall health score: 86.2 (good range is 80-89)
  • Blood pressure: 126/82 (moderate risk)
  • Total cholesterol: 160 mg/dL (less than 200 is low risk)
  • HDL cholesterol: 50 mg/dL (HDL cholesterol greater than 60 mg/dL is desirable)
  • LDL cholesterol: 92 mg/dL (LDL cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL is desirable)
  • Triglycerides: 86 mg/dL (a triglyceride level less than 150 mg/dL is desirable)
  • Health age: 27 (39 actual)
  • Lastly I no longer have Metabolic Syndrome

Lots of people have lost much more impressive amounts of weight.  What I’m proud of and what I want to share is how easily I lost my 55 pounds (or 21% of my body weight).  I lost this weight without exercise, without being hungry, without gimmicks, without money, without calorie counting, without spending any time on it, without really any effort at all.  I basically just followed one scientifically sound rule and the weight practically took care of itself.  No amazing willpower or physical fitness required.

Note to health geeks out there, I recognize that BMI and weight are not the best metrics of your health.  Tracking your gut circumference is probably a better measure of health.  However weight/BMI are easy to understand and easy to measure which is why I use these metrics.  For example my belly circumference has also decreased from 45” to 38”, but it’s much easier to see/measure/track a 55 pound loss vs a 7” loss.

What is my amazing super secret rule for losing weight?  Not so fast, if I revealed it now you would surely reject it as too hard, impractical and/or deny that it really works (and therefore absolve yourself of any guilt for not trying it).  Before the grand reveal of my weight loss “secret” let’s review some basic weight facts:
  • When we eat we ingest calories (energy).
  • We burn calories by being alive (i.e. this article does not apply to zombies).  We burn more calories when we’re active, but we’re always burning calories (for example even when we’re sleeping).
  • To lose weight we must burn more calories than we consume

Nothing controversial yet, right?  Everyone can agree on the three basic facts above.   The next thing everyone does is consolidate those three simple facts into one even simpler rule for weight loss.  That is “to lose weight you must exercise more and eat less.”  Everyone knows this rule.  Even my young kids know this rule.  This rule is wonderfully simple and it makes sense.  At a theoretical level it’s even true.  The problem is at a practical level it’s wrong, it does not work.
Why doesn’t it work?  I’ll tell you, but you have to promise to read the web page I link to below that will back up this shocking yet true statement:
Exercise does not help you lose weight

Blasphemy you say.  Everyone knows that exercise is great for losing weight.  Why just above I wrote that being active burns calories, so how can I write a few short sentences later that exercise does not help you lose weight!?
The basic problem is the amount of calories exercise burns, which isn’t much at all.  Therefore everyone greatly overestimates how many calories exercise uses.  As a result most people will reward themselves (consciously or subconsciously) for exercising by having a treat or a little something extra to eat later and negate much (if not all) of their (small) exercise weight loss benefit.  In fact those who start exercising are as likely to gain weight as they are to lose weight.

Why should you believe me over your local fitness professional that’s telling you to exercise to lose weight?  You shouldn’t believe me, I have no training in nutrition, diet, exercise, health, etc.  However the scientific data on this point appears to be pretty solid.  Just check out this short summary of scientific findings:
This article is required reading.  You’ll have no chance of believing the rest of my post if you don’t read the article above.  The downside to reading the page linked to above is that it kind of ruins my shocking reveal, but hopefully you’re not exactly sure yet what my weight loss trick is.  Please read the Washington Post web page now if you haven’t already.

As the article above states exercise is great for a whole variety of reasons, weight loss just isn’t one of them.  If you can’t accept this fact then you should quit reading this blog post now.  My awesome super secret weight loss plan will only work for those individuals with the willpower to not exercise for weight loss (exercising for any other reason is ok).

I actually proved to myself that exercise does not help weight loss.  During my year of weight loss I spent four months exercising before I injured myself and had to stop exercising.  My weight loss rate before, during and after the time when I exercised was identical.

In review “to lose weight we must burn more calories than we consume” (in other words we must maintain a daily caloric deficit).  If you accept the hard scientific fact that we can’t increase the calories we burn to lose weight that means the only way to lose weight is to decrease the amount of calories we ingest.  This is the single way that all diets work.

Before I get into the details of how to easily and healthily decrease your caloric intake now is a good time to review some more beliefs I have and guidelines I follow (that I believe are common sense and hopefully backed up by some scientific study I haven’t read).
  1. Any benefits from a change in diet only last as long as your diet is changed.
    1. I back up this profound statement with this sound argument “duh”.  For example I could go on an all lemonade diet for two weeks and probably lose 10+ pounds.  That’s great, but as soon as I revert to my previous eating habits (you can’t live on lemonade alone forever) my weight will come back.
    2. Does anyone want just short term gains (short of specific athletes that need to make weight)?  I don’t think so.  Therefore why waste time with a change in diet that you’re not ready to commit to forever?  Seems like a waste of time and effort to me.
  2. The weight loss race is best ran as a marathon not a sprint
    1. I don’t know if this belief is scientifically sound, but it’s how I managed my weight loss.  I was not (and am not) concerned with how quickly I lose weight (or even overly concerned with how much I lose).  All I’m really concerned about is that I’m heading in the right direction.  In my case it took me two decades to to add ~40 pounds of excess weight (I went from ~225 lbs to ~265 lbs).  If I can take it back off in 2 years that’s a pretty slow weight loss rate, but it’s still 10 times faster than it took me to put it on.  Additionally I believe that by running a small caloric deficit my weight loss is much less painful/noticeable and therefore I’m much more likely to stick with it.  Sure losing 10 lbs in a week is impressive, but you can’t keep that up.  I’d wager soon after that impressive weight loss you’re going to have a rebound in your weight.
  3. Any weight loss plan needs to be simple
    1. This one may only apply to me, but I don’t have the time or patience to follow a complicated scheme.  I.e. counting calories is not for me (but if you can count calories there’s certainly nothing wrong with that and that would be a accurate way to track/reduce your calorie intake).
  4. I can’t live being hungry all the time
    1. Denying yourself food when you’re hungry is hard and takes a lot of willpower.  We have a finite amount of willpower to use each day.  I don’t have enough spare willpower to simply not eat and ignore my hunger.  And when you’re hungry you’re more susceptible to the effects of decision fatigue.

To expand on point two above, what is an appropriate amount of weight to lose per week?  Depends on how much you have to lose, but a pound/week is reasonable goal that’s easy to calculate.  To lose one pound per week you need to have a caloric deficit of 500 calories/day (one pound is equal to 3500 calories).  Therefore losing half a pound/week requires a daily deficit of 250 calories, a quarter pound/week = 125 calories, etc.  Decreasing your caloric intake by a couple hundred calories/day is not a lot of calories which is one of the main reasons this diet is so easy.  You don’t even notice you’re not consuming as many calories anymore.

But how do you decrease your calorie intake by that small amount without counting calories.  How do you measure your calories/food intake if you don’t count calories?  You don’t.  At least I don’t.  I basically just follow one simple rule and the rest takes care of itself.

One last warning/plead before I release my much hyped super publicized secret to weight loss.  When most people hear my secret their minds immediately jump to how horrible it must be to eat like I eat.  Please don’t stop reading immediately after seeing my secret, at least give me a few more sentences to defend it.  My way of eating is both worse than you think and much easier/better than you think.

My secret to weight loss is to simply not eat sugar.

That’s it.  There are a few more techniques I use to help make this easier/more effective for me, but if all you do is follow that rule I can almost guarantee you’ll lose weight.  I’ll explain why I chose to cut out sugar at the end of this excruciatingly long post.  All I’ll say for now is that this plan is backed up by both common sense and science.

Yes, not eating sugar has its drawbacks, but let me remind you of some of the advantages to simply not eating sugar:
  1. It doesn’t get any simpler than this
  2. Never go hungry
    1. If you’re hungry, then eat.  Just don’t eat sugar.
  3. Eat anything you want! (as long as it doesn’t contain sugar)
    1. Steak?  Love it
    2. Eggs?  Most days I eat two, some days I eat more.
    3. Butter?  No problem
  4. Eat anywhere you want
    1. Short of dining at an ice cream parlor you shouldn’t have a problem eating out anywhere
  5. Easy to stick to this diet while traveling
    1. I occasionally have to travel for work and have never had a problem sticking with the no sugar plan.  Eating out every meal does make it easier to overeat (since many restaurant meals are energy dense), but it’s actually pretty easy not to consume too many calories.  While I’m not a calorie counter, I know that the recommended average daily calorie consumption is 2,000 calories.  Therefore if I have ~ 500 calories for each of my three meals that should leave me about 500 calories for my snacks.  The end result is eating ~ 500 calories/meal is an easy guideline for meals (in reality I know I burn more than 2k calories/day and therefore I’m sure I eat more than 500 calories per meal, but it’s an easy number to work with, and I like easy :).  When I’m at home I never look at calorie content, but if I’m traveling and need to figure out what to eat I will take a quick look at the calorie content of their meals.  If one sandwich contains 500 calories I know that ordering one (instead of two) sandwiches will be enough to fill me up (even if it takes my brain 20 minutes to realize it).  Remember I don’t even do this quick calorie check unless I’m travelling and eating out a lot.  I don’t sweat the occasional dining out I do at home since a bad (high calorie) meal once in a blue moon isn’t going to hurt me (I rarely eat out at home).
  6. No cost
    1. Which is probably why this method of weight loss hasn’t be popularized (yet).   Since no one can make money off of this diet no company has an incentive in promoting it.
  7. No exercise
    1. Exercise is great.  You certainly can and should exercise.  It just doesn’t have anything to do with weight loss.
  8. No time
    1. No time is spent exercising, counting calories or following a complicated plan
  9. No effort
    1. Granted the first couple weeks were tough.  But once you get over the initial shock of not eating sugar it’s really pretty easy.
    2. Once you simply accept that you’re not allowed to eat sugar you don’t have to make any painful decisions about which desserts, which cheats you’re going to allow today.  They’re all off limits, no thinking required.  No willpower required to make the same decisions over and over again all day.  The decision is already made, i.e. you should not experience decision fatigue.  I’m serious, this is an advantage.  It’s when we spend mental willpower trying to decide whether or not we should eat something that we get beat down.  Eventually your willpower gives out and you’ll cheat if you must keep deciding which foods you’re allowed to eat.  Skip the decision, skip the pain, just know you can’t eat sugar.  Never going hungry also helps you make good decisions (i.e. if you're never hungry you’re much less likely to cheat).

Seriously folks.  A diet that works, is scientifically sound, is free and allows you to eat whatever you want (as long as it doesn’t contain sugar) whenever you’re hungry.  You can do this.  You can easily do this, but only if you want to.  Sugar does taste good.  If you don’t want to give up sugar that’s fine, I really don’t care.  Just know that it is a real, legitimate option that really works.  Just don’t sell yourself a lie that it would “never work for you” unless you seriously try it and prove to yourself that it would not work.
Before I acknowledge the few drawbacks to this radical way of eating (which is how everyone ate 100 or so years ago) let me share a few more unexpected benefits this diet has had for me.  Prior to giving up sugar I would have stomach issues at least once a week and heartburn at least a couple times per month.  I was three to four months into my sugar free zone when I noticed that I hadn’t experienced a single instance of heartburn or had any stomach problems since giving up sugar.  My wife claims I was a loud snorer, but since losing weight I no longer snore.  I.e. cutting out sugar has not only given me a significant weight loss but it has also dramatically improved my overall health and well being.

I quit eating sugar on May 23rd 2015.  My goal was to make it one year sugar free.  I actually ended up going one year and one week without sugar (on May 30th 2016 I had a slice of one of my wife’s delicious pizza size chocolate chip cookies).  When I quit eating sugar I assumed/hoped that I would end up at around 225 lbs since that was my weight all through high school and college back when I was in better shape (and exercised).  I was pleasantly surprised when my weight kept dropping below 225.  On May 28th 2016 weighed 205 lbs.  I have never been this light.  I had also just assumed that the dietary guidelines that defined me as obese were wrong since I had a large build (i.e. I was an exception to the rule).  In other words I lied to myself and tricked myself into believing my old weight was ok.  It’s easy to do when it happens gradually over years and decades.  It turns out the cause of my big build was all of the excess weight I had been carrying for decades.

There is a downside to not eating sugar.  Sugar tastes really good.  Not eating sugar means eating less super sweet super good tasting food.  Yes, I view that as a negative (from a taste perspective), but it’s not like I’m living a life of suffering.  Yes some of my meals are more boring, but most taste good or great (just not super sweet).

Before I go one I must make a confession, when I say no sugar I really mean almost no sugar.  The only significant sugars I eat come from whole fruit and dairy.  This comes from the WHO guidelines here:
  • 4 March 2015 ¦ Geneva - A new WHO guideline recommends adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.
  • The WHO guideline does not refer to the sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables, and sugars naturally present in milk, because there is no reported evidence of adverse effects of consuming these sugars.
  • Much of the sugars consumed today are “hidden” in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets. For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4 grams (around 1 teaspoon) of free sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of free sugars.

I estimate my sugar intake (excluding whole fruit and dairy) averages about five grams per day.  I.e. I’m pretty strict about not eating sugar.  Obviously no sweets, but for example I don’t use ketchup, I don’t eat baked beans, etc.  Basically all processed foods are eliminated (which is why cutting sugar may be worse than you initially think).  I don’t eat any food with added sugar (or syrup or sugar alcohols or whatever name they use to hide the sugar).  However I won’t eat a food just because it doesn’t have added sugar.  Take fruit juices for example.  No added sugar but they still have LOADS of sugar in them.  This is because fruit juice basically takes fruit and compresses all of the sweet sugar in it into a drink.  Despite being “all natural” this is not healthy for you.

I should probably point out that my anti-sugar manifesto is not making an argument for or against natural/organic/non-gmo foods.  Sugar is bad, regardless of its source (natural sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.).  The reason the WHO says that whole fruit and dairy is ok is two fold:
  1. When you’re eating whole fruit (not dried) it’s really difficult to sit down and overindulge.  How many of us would sit down and eat 10 apples?  However I bet most of us could easily drink 10 apples’ worth of juice.  Same thing for dairy, you just don’t drink a gallon of milk.
  2. Fruit and dairy have health benefits which more than offset any (theoretical) negatives from their sugar impact
  3. I’ll add a third personal reason, fruit and dairy taste good.  Therefore since they’re a net health win and they taste good I’m going to eat them.

I’m also not completely free of (non-dairy/whole fruit) sugars.  Take spaghetti sauce.  We now buy spaghetti sauce with no sugar added, but it does still have some sugar in it.  Breads and pizza will have some sugar in it, I don’t avoid these, but I also don’t eat a pizza every day either (otherwise I would probably gain weight instead of lose it).

I know, I know, I’m not really sugar free, but that really just further shows how effective reducing sugar is.  Even without going completely sugar free I’ve had a significant weight loss.  Beware the siren song of moderation though.  Moderation usually means “eat however much of it I want and feel good about it because in my personal opinion I’m eating a moderate amount.”  Once again I don’t care if you try to eat less sugar.  Just don’t eat sugar in “moderation” and complain to me that you didn’t lose weight despite not eating raisins one day a week.

So what do I eat?  My normal daily routine looks like this:
  • Breakfast: oatmeal made in whole milk and a protein shake
    • I make oatmeal and a protein shake primarily because it’s quick.  On weekends when I have more time I’ll often make eggs.
  • Lunch: Salad (greens with tuna and/or cheese) or anything else that doesn’t have sugar (burger, grilled cheese, pizza, etc.) with a cup of whole milk
    • Note that prior to cutting sugar I was not a salad eater.  I wasn’t really a fan of most vegetables in general (aka rabbit food).  However since I’ve stopped eating sugar I find that enjoy vegetables more.  Even salads aren’t so bad (I still don’t like dressing though).  I think once my tastebuds got used to not have super sweet sugar explosions every day other non-sweet food has started tasting better in general.  Regardless of the cause, I don’t mind salads anymore since quitting sugar.  This is another benefit I wasn’t expecting.
  • Supper: Anything  without sugar (steak, spaghetti, hot dog, vegetables, etc, etc.) with a cup of whole milk.

I also usually have snacks 3 times a day.  My regular snack foods are:
  • Almonds
  • Cheese stick
  • Banana
  • Apple
  • Cottage cheese
  • Hard boiled egg

High protein snacks are great for muscle growth (if you  exercise) and also help keep you feeling fuller longer.  I like fruit because mainly because it tastes good.  I have my snacks about 2.5 hours after my last meal (mid-morning, mid-afternoon and about 9 at night).  I have one snack item in the morning, two snack items mid-afternoon and one snack item at night again.

Snacks are not a requirement for weight loss.  What is helpful is that you don’t eat to stuff yourself.  To achieve this goal at meals I try to slow down when I’m eating.  The old saying that you should “wait 20 minutes to see if you’re full” is true.  Nine times out of ten when I think I’m still hungry if I can just wait 20 minutes I’ll realize I’m actually full (it just took 20 minutes for my brain to realize it).  A side effect of not stuffing myself is that I find I often get hungry at the snack times listed above.  As you know a tenant of my plan is not being hungry so I just plan ahead and always have a healthy  snack with me.  If I do slip up and eat more than I needed to at a meal I simply don’t eat a snack if I’m not hungry.  Sometimes if I know a meal is coming up where I want to “cheat” and stuff myself I may skip the snack before the meal (and after if I’m still full) so I have more room to fill up at the meal.  This is a pretty rare occurrence though.  Most times I just eat my snacks without thinking.

If you’re a coffee drinker you can keep drinking your coffee, you  just can’t add sugar to it.  If you’re a pop drinker like I used to be you’ll need to kick that habit.  Sugar free diet pop might be ok, I’m not sure.  I don’t like the way it tastes so I just switched to water (which is the healthiest drink you can have anyway).  For my caffeine fix I split these caffeine pills in half and take 100 mg with breakfast and lunch. These pills are easy to quarter as well if you only want 50 mg at a time (you might even be able to split them in eighths).  You don’t have to take caffeine of course, this is just what I do since I like caffeine.  For some reason most people think taking caffeine pills is very strange and unhealthy, yet no one gave it a second thought when I took this same amount of caffeine mixed with with a few chemicals, a lot of sugar and called it Mt. Dew.  A non-logical hypocritical response IMHO, but I digress.

At this point I think I can safely assume that not a single person has kept on reading, but I’ll continue typing out of sheer stubbornness.  On the outside chance someone does make it this far and you’re wondering if going a year sugar free is necessary the answer is no.  I don’t recommend anyone go for a year sugar free unless you like a challenge.  I thought it’d be fun to prove to myself that I could go an entire year, make it through every single holiday without cheating once (and I’m a big fan of Christmas cookies....).

For me the first few weeks were the worse for giving up sugar (I used to drink two Mountain Dews a day).  Therefore I’d recommend you try giving up sugar for a month.  One month’s time should be long enough to kick the sugar addiction.  It’s also long enough that you will have been surprised at how many “special occasions” you will have attended where normally you’d treat yourself with sugar but had to skip out on pop, dessert, etc. (birthday parties, seeing friends, going out to eat with co-workers, etc.).  This should be a sufficient amount of time to prove to yourself that you can indeed function without sugar.  If you want to go longer without sugar, great (on average it takes 66 days to form a new habit).  If you want to go a shorter duration without sugar, you can do whatever you want.  I just suspect it will actually be harder for you to resist sugar if you don’t go cold turkey first (and prove to yourself you can do it).

After your abstinence from sugar (during which time you may eat whole fruit and dairy since that doesn’t count) then I would try allowing yourself a dessert or two per week.  I define a dessert as being a single serving of something rich in sugar, like a candy bar, soda pop, piece of cake, etc.  This actually increases my sugar satisfaction (compared to where I was a year ago).  Instead of just mindlessly eating every sugary confection that comes my way I am now deliberate with my dessert quota.  I make each and every dessert count so I have the joy of anticipating dessert and the desserts I do eat are all of high quality.  I.e. while sugar does taste good there are a lot of high sugar items out there that honestly don’t taste that great, so why waste calories on them?

Note that I just started allowing myself a dessert or two per week on 30MAY2016.  Therefore it will take me a few months to determine how much this sugar leniency affects my weight.  I assume this will cause me to gain a few pounds back, but I’m ok with that.  In one year I’ll update this blog with my new weight.

Making your desserts count is why I don’t have a problem being married to someone that does this.  After starting my year without sugar my wife thought it’d be a great idea to start making cakes and desserts for others, thanks honey.  :S  I had to go the last 12 months without having a single Embellished Sugar item.  Now that my year long sugar free period is over I have no problem making my weekly sugar dessert an Embellished Sugar treat.  And because I abstain from sugar the rest of the week I appreciate that dessert even more.  No I don’t recommend you have my wife’s confections on a daily basis, but once a week shouldn’t be a problem.

I recommend taking your weight weekly and tracking it in a spreadsheet.  As an example you can view my weight tracking spreadsheet here.  Note that (according to my four week moving average) I lost weight every week for over 50 straight weeks, not bad for an effortless non-calorie counting diet.  Note how my weight loss levels off as I approach 200 pounds.  This is expected.  If you lost weight forever you’d end up at zero, not a healthy weight!  As we lose weight our basal metabolic rate (aka BMR) slows down.  I.e. as you lose weight you burn less calories, therefore eventually you’ll reach a point where your new lower BMR matches your new lower daily caloric intake and you’ll stop losing weight.  Click here for advice on what to do when your weight plateaus.

I take my weight once a week right away in the morning after going to the bathroom.  This should give you the most stable/consistent weight measurement.  However in my experience my weight can fluctuate by up to 2 lbs between two consecutive days.  I’m obviously not gaining or losing 7000 calories in 24 hours, so I can only chalk that up to natural inter-day variability in water retention, etc.  That is why I think a spreadsheet is useful, it allows you to easily create a four week moving average of your weigh-ins.  So while any single week’s weight may be abnormally high or low that doesn’t really matter.  It all gets smoothed out by the four week moving average which should be a very accurate measurement of your weight loss.  This is necessary since (if you follow my weight loss plan) you’re probably losing less than a pound per week (perhaps a lot less).  Only an average of multiple weigh-ins will allow you to accurately track this small amount of weight loss.  I.e. don’t worry about one bad week or cheer too much about one great week, only the average really counts.

One last note on taking your weight, weighing yourself more often than once a week is a waste of time.  For example with my slow weight loss method the only thing you’d see with daily weigh-ins is a lot of inter-day variability noise.

If you’ve read this far and are still on the fence about whether to give this a try all I can suggest is that you do try it.  You’ve got nothing to lose (other than a few desserts) if it doesn’t work.  If you think that giving up sugar would be to hard, then consider this to keep things in perspective.

My daughter Luella has a severe form of epilepsy (Dravet syndrome).  I like to think I could endure any hardship my kids might face.  With Luella that isn’t possible.  I’m not able to know what it’s like to have a seizure.  When Luella has been on carb free (not just sugar free but almost completely carb free) diets in failed attempts to control her seizures I was not brave enough to join her in eating no carbs.  If my sweet little girl is able to give up all carbs (which she did not enjoy), how can I be afraid to just give up one carb, sugar?  While the ketogenic (LGIT) and GAPS diets did not work for Luella the highly restrictive ketogenic diets do work great for some kids (and adults) with epilepsy and they live for years basically carb free.  I actually just had a great idea.  Let's have all of America give up sugar until a cure for epilepsy is found?  I bet that would mobilize the nation to find a cure quickly!  But anyway, if these young kids can give up all carbs to stop their seizures then giving up a few sweets (not even all sweets now that I’ve hit the one year mark) seems like a pretty small feat compared to what these young warriors go through.  I.e. I aspire to be half as tough as my little girl.  :)

I know that going (almost) sugar free seems strange, but this is the way we all used to eat just over 100 years ago.  I highly recommend the book Sweet Poison by David Gillespie.  He goes through the history of sugar and lists off a scary number of studies that show negative health effects of sugar (some severely negative).  He also has some interesting graphs that show how highly correlated sugar consumption is not only with obesity but also type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes).

If you don’t have the time for Sweet Poison then you owe it to yourself to at least read this web article titled The sugar conspiracy.  I think you’ll be shocked to find out how we became overweight and addicted to sugar based on bad science that is thankfully just now beginning to be corrected by the scientific community.  I.e. I fully expect the radical sugar-free plan I’ve stumbled on will be mainstream info, but this will likely take years if not decades to happen.

If you want extra credit some other resources I haven’t reviewed yet but look very interesting/informative are:
  • Robert Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California who specializes in the treatment of childhood obesity. A 90-minute talk he gave in 2009, titled Sugar: The Bitter Truth
  • The Big Fat Surprise, by Nina Teicholz

If you read any of the resources above you’ll know all the sound scientific/health reasons why I chose to eliminate sugar as the easiest/best way to lose weight (and improve my health).  There is, however, an additional common sense reason why cutting sugar works to lose weight (I don’t remember if this is my own idea of if I plagiarized it from one of the articles or books I linked to above).  Foods that are high in sugar also tend to be high in calories (i.e. they’re energy dense).  Additionally foods high in sugar also taste good, so it’s very easy to overeat high sugar foods.  It doesn’t take a scientist or a research paper to see that consuming high calories foods you’re likely to overeat is a recipe for disaster.

I strongly believe that the average American has a simple choice, quit eating sugar and have a healthy weight or choose to continue eating sugar and just accept the fact that you’ll always be overweight (and accept all the negative health effects that causes like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.).  It’s a free country, you’re welcome to make that choice, just be aware you have a choice to make.

Note that I said “average American” above.  There are exceptions to every rule.  For example I know some people that eat very little sugar yet still aren’t satisfied with their weight (it is possible to run a caloric surplus without eating sugar).  At the end of this post I do have a list of other things you can do to help lose weight asides from cutting sugar (but cutting sugar by far gives you the best weight control ROI).

Likewise cutting out sugar isn’t the only way to run a caloric deficit.  If Weight Watchers gives you the structure and social support you need to lose weight than that is a worthwhile investment (even if you need to stay in Weight Watchers forever).  If gastric bypass surgery is the only way you can control your weight then there’s no shame in that, get the surgery.  Or if you’re happy being overweight than just stay overweight.  I would never tell Santa Claus he needs to slim down since he seems very happy and comfortable with his weight!  Just beware of telling yourself you’re the exception too easily.  The harsh truth is most of us aren’t exceptions to the rules.

I believe that eliminating sugar is the easiest and healthiest way to lose weight that you’ve never heard of.  I’m certain there is a large percentage of the population for whom the no sugar diet plan could work if only given a chance.  If you give it a try you may be surprised how well it works.  You’ll never know unless you (seriously) try it...

Just two more things before I finally let this post end.  First a checklist for what I believe is the easiest way to lose weight.  This list is ordered from most to least important.  I.e. if all you do is step 1 (not eat sugar) I think you’ll have a significant weight loss.  Other than not eating sugar, the relative ranking of the rest of these is based on my best uninformed guess (i.e. I wouldn’t consider the relative ranking of the rest of these as scientifically sound).
  1. Don’t eat sugar (I believe this accounts for 90% of my weight loss and it makes most of the remaining ideas easier to implement)
  2. Don’t stuff yourself at meals (wait 20 minutes after eating to see if you’re still hungry)
  3. Don’t go hungry (i.e. eat healthy snacks if you get hungry between meals)
  4. Eat more protein like eggs, dairy and nuts (almonds are especially good for you)
  5. Limit your intake of processed and refined carbs (potato chips, things made from white flour, etc), eat whole grains instead

Lastly photographic evidence that I have indeed lost a significant amount of weight.  I present to you “obese face Jim” and “merely overweight face Jim”: