It’s the end of the year and time when people start thinking about their New Year’s resolutions. Invariably this boils down to family, health and finances. This post talks about health and the #1 thing most Americans want to do is lose some weight. Some more than others, but lose weight nonetheless.
I think the best way to organize this article is to tell you my three lifestyle changes first, and then explain them one at a time. Here they are:
- Reduce (try to eliminate) all sugary drinks.
- Time-restricted eating.
- Daily walking.
That’s it. It simple and sustainable. The only thing that is difficult, if you want to think of it as difficult is to actually do it. If you decide you want to do this, my suggestion is to think about this as a lifestyle change and not as a diet. This is not a binary test. You didn’t simply pass or fail. It’s a lifestyle and each of these ideas should be thought of as a spectrum. If in your mind you want to walk 30 minutes every day, but you only waked 15 minutes one day, or missed a day, just quickly forgive yourself and use it as a reminder that this is a lifestyle not a requirement. It’s something you want and like to do, not have to do. Simply pick up where you left off and keep going.
If you can keep these three ideas as the rule, not the exception then you will be healthier.
Also, by adopting this as a lifestyle, you can move your time horizon out significantly. You don’t have to think about achieving your goal next week or next month. You can think about a year, 2 years, 3 years or 5 years. Lifestyle has a much more powerful and lasting connotation than diet which is generally related to and thought about as a temporary fad.
I could go on to say consult your doctor before making any dietary changes, or beginning an exercise routine, but if your doctor disagrees with any of these changes then get a new doctor. Let’s get to it.
Reduce all sugary drinks.
Reducing sugar is the biggest dietary change Americans should make, but the worst of all is sugary drinks. One of the leading researchers on health and nutrition is Dr. Rhonda Patrick and she has spoken extensively about sugar, and the effects on insulin resistance and the gut microbiome.
Is it better to reduce all sugar? Sure, why not. But beginning with sugary drinks is one great way to start.
So what is a sugary drink? Soda of any kind, fruit juice and alcohol. What’s left? Water, tea and coffee without sugar. What’s best? Water, tea and coffee in that order.
Too much already? Examine and be truthful with what you currently drink. Is it 90% sugary drinks and 10% water? Or worse? Just flip those numbers around. You don’t have to be ‘perfect’ just most of the time. Sugary drinks should be the exception not the rule.
This seems like such an obvious thing to do, but I’m sure some of the readers would like to study this to death, so here is some additional reading if you need it.
- Health Benefits of Reducing Sugar
- Dr. Rhonda Patrick on Sugar
- What are the benefits of giving up sugar?
This one is simple. Pick ten hours in the day. That’s when you can eat.
I absolutely love this concept for one reason: It forces you to become a conscious eater. Yes there are lots of biological reason why this is good for you, but for people who have previously tried fad diets and failed, this may well be the holy grail.
Why? Because all diets explained in books come with a long list of what you can eat and what you can’t eat. This, in my opinion, is an impossible task for most people. Yes I understand that people with peanut allergies don’t eat peanuts, but for most people to stick to a pass/fail diet with incredible food type and quantity restrictions is a recipe for failure.
Another issue with food is you can’t quit it altogether. If you were fighting a nicotine addition for instance, you could quite cigarettes. Quitting food though will kill you. So for people who have a very unhealthy relationship with food, restricting it is completely out of the question. Limiting when you can eat is a more reasonable proposition.
I find overweight people tend to be habitual snackers and this plan forces conscious eating. In other words, it makes you become more aware of what you are eating because you have to track when you eat.
Restricted eating is different psychologically than time-restricted eating. Have you ever started a diet that has extreme restrictions? This provides a sense of loss and most people would rather have something that tastes great than look good. That’s why most of America is overweight.
Time-restricted eating sidesteps that problem. There are no restrictions on what you can eat or how much you can eat. The only restriction is on when you can eat it. Okay, limit sugary drinks is a restriction. But I suggest that after a few weeks, sugary drinks will start to seem gross.
Eating is a very social event. Have you ever been on a raw vegan diet and attended an office party only to have to explain why you’re not eating? I have, and it’s not fun. I experimented with raw vegan for two years, but that’s for another blog post. If your eating window is noon to ten, then office events pose no problem. Business parties and after-hours events fall right into your plan.
Isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day? I hear you ask. I break the fast at noon instead of 7. I love omelets and bacon and other traditional “breakfast” meals. I have them at noon.
Of course as you move along your journey, you can experiment with different combinations of food, and hopefully, towards more healthy eating. But a great start is just to watch the clock. Conscious eating will naturally lead you towards better food choices.
Here is some more information on time-restricted eating:
- Time-restricted eating.
- Does it work: Beginner’s Tips
- Watch this video: Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Joe Rogan on time-restricted eating
It’s an easy, time-tested formula for losing weight: East less, move more. Save yourself the expense of a gym membership, and the inevitable injury from running and walk a little. We love swimming, so that works too, but walking is something almost anyone can do and with out any fancy gear or extra expense.
Start walking short distances. If 10 minutes is all you can do then start there. Every day congratulate yourself for getting out and walking. Maybe someday you’ll feel like jogging, maybe not. Here’s the deal though, for every minute of walking, you burn about half the calories of jogging.
Right now, can you imagine walking for one hour? Probably so. Can you imagine jogging for half an hour? Probably not. What’s more is if you’re overweight an jogging your chances of injury are very high. Stick to something simple and walk.
As an example, here is my current routine: 3x per week: Walk 5Km to the swimming pool, swim 2Km, walk back 5Km. 2x per week: Walk 2Km, job 2-4Km, walk 2Km. It’s nothing too strenuous. It’s challenging sometimes if I want it to be. It’s 5x per week.
These three choices: Reduce sugary drinks, time-restricted eating and walking set you on the right lifestyle path. It’s pretty easy to do, and it’s pretty easy to stick to the plan. Interestingly, these three choices are a foundation that will lead to many other beneficial choices in the future. Remember this one thing as you set out on your journey: It’s your lifestyle, not somebody else’s diet plan.