I’ll like to make a suggestion to those who wish to lose 20 or more pounds during the New Year. In our world of quick fixes and instant gratification I realize that what I’m about to say may seem bizarre to some of you. But that is not going to stop me from suggesting a diet plan that promotes long-term success rather than a quick fix. (My definition of a quick fix is any change in your diet that you won’t be able to continue for the rest of your life.) My hope is that enough people are fed up with quick fixes that they are ready to make the commitment to a long-term diet plan and make 2013 the year that they finally reach their ideal body weight.
My suggestion is that you make a commitment to lose weight for the entire year. Yes, you heard me right—an entire year. We are going to take all your positive energy and motivation and spread it out throughout the year. If you don’t learn to manage your motivation it is going to be squandered in a few short weeks. But don’t worry, this plan is for normal people that like to eat and have a good time. I’m not asking you to be perfect for the whole year. Unless your name is Tim Tebow that’s not a very realistic approach. Yes, one year is a long time. But one year of finally doing things the right way is better (and shorter) than a lifetime of bouncing from one ridiculous diet to the next. Just think, in one year you’ll be able to walk past the Diet & Health section of the bookstore and laugh, knowing that you have your eating under control and the confidence that it will stay under control. And we won’t have to have this same conversation a year from now.
(The suggestions that I’m about to make are featured in my book titled, “Diet for the Sports-Minded Male.” The following is a brief description of the main principles of the book. Those wanted more detailed information about the diet can order the book through a direct link to the publisher at the end of this article.)
OK, let’s get down to business. How does this miraculous transformation take place? Allow me to explain. First we need to look at the BIG picture. We need to break down the year into 365 days. I have found that during the course of a year the average person is only going to be able to restrict their calories (500 calories below what they would need to maintain their weight) for about 100 days a year. We’ll call these GOOD dieting days. There will be another 165 days that a person would break even; eating the amount of calories needed to maintain their weight. Let’s call these NEUTRAL days. That leaves 100 days when a person would significantly overeat. These days, depending on the person, could be weekends, parties, watching sporting events, tail-gate parties, weddings, vacations, going out to eat, poker night, an overly stressful time, an overly joyous time, or you name it. We’ll call these BAD dieting days. The first things we need to realize is that every day counts. Let me say that again; EVERY DAY COUNTS. You need to keep your focus during the GOOD days, the NEUTRAL days, and most of all, the BAD days. Keep in mind that on a GOOD day you may only be able to restrict calories by 500 or so. But on a BAD day—the sky is the limit. You can easily overeat by 1,000 to 2,000 calories or more. That is why I’m saying that the BAD days count just as much, if not more, as the GOOD days.
With that said let’s now break up those 365 days into 3 dieting cycles. We can’t expect to put together a string of 100 straight GOOD days which are needed to lose a significant amount of weight. So we are going to break them up into 3 dieting cycles. I personally like 3 dieting cycles a year of 16 weeks each (with 4 wild card weeks). You, of course, are free to structure your cycles any way and any length that you see fit. The idea is for you to ride the motivational roller-coaster for the entire year. You need to structure your year to account for the good times and the bad. How you do that is up to you. The goal is to make sure that you stay focused when your motivation is high, neutral, and low without losing sight of the finish line. It’s not realistic to think that you are going to be a saint for the entire year. The enthusiasm that you have for dieting right now will surely diminish in time—so let’s plan for normal ups and downs of life.
The next step is to structure the 16-week dieting cycle to match the motivational highs and lows of a normal person with a real life and a real job.
AN OUTLINE OF A TYPICAL 16-WEEK DIETING CYCLE
WEEKS 1 THRU 4:
Selecting better meals and snacks – The first four weeks are dedicated to the selection of more nutritious meals and snacks while not being overly concerned with weight loss. You will be more likely to eat better foods if you don’t limit yourself to small portions. Selecting more nutritious foods is a great first step and shouldn’t be hampered by trying to eat like a bird. It’s more important to focus on improving your foods choices at this time. Week one will focus on improving your breakfast and morning snack, week two will focus on lunch and the afternoon snack, and week three will be dedicated to the improvement of your dinner and dessert. By week four you will be ready to put it all together.
The book has a complete listing of improved food choices ranked as gold, silver, and bronze so that you can progress at your own pace. There are also sample diets for the book’s three fictional characters so that you can see for yourself how a new and improved diet is constructed.
Increasing Nutritional Knowledge – You will need to calculate your dietary needs by utilizing the USDA website; you need to know how many calories and nutrients you need for a day. http://rayoflife.com/resources/ (the first two on the page).
Keeping Score – You then need to complete the Scorecards from on the rayoflife website. http://rayoflife.com/downloads/ (Appendices A, B, & C). These calculations are needed to determine if your new food choices are within the USDA Dietary Guidelines for 12 key nutritional categories.
WEEKS 5 THRU 8:
Calorie restriction – These weeks we will focus on calorie restriction. During the last four weeks you improved your food choices. Now is the time to eat less of these improved foods. You will be eating 500 – 750 calories less per day than the calories needed to maintain your weight (for at least 5 days a week). You will keep score of how many calories you are eating with the help of a calorie scorecard that can be found at http://rayoflife.com/downloads/ (Appendix D).
WEEKS 9 THRU 12:
You will no longer be filling out scorecards or restricting calories. Now is the time that you go on automatic pilot and truly be able to tell just how far you have progressed. Now is the time to see if your new and improved food choices have become a normal part of your life. During these weeks you will try to maintain your weight. Your motivation level for dieting and eating better has probably fallen to moderate if not low. Don’t be alarmed—that’s normal. Simply switch your focus from food to exercise which will aid in maintaining your weight.
WEEKS 13 THRU 16:
It’s time to loosen-up a bit. This diet plan is designed for the purpose of getting healthy and fit, and remaining that way. The best way for that not to happen is to try to be perfect for the rest of your life. It is only natural that you may feel like loosening up a bit after 12-weeks of disciplined action. However, this is not the time to pig-out. Remember: EVERY DAY COUNTS!
The goal now to re-gain no more than 25% of the weight lost. Typical loses during the first 12-weeks are usually 10 to 15 pounds. During the next four weeks it is not uncommon to gain a few pounds back. Some dieters will maintain their weight while others will continue to lose; but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. What we are looking for is a 4-steps forward and 1-step back scenario. After three dieting cycles (one year), you will find yourself nine steps forward. The goal eventually is for your weight to fluctuate only two or three pounds from your ideal weight, for the rest of your life.
Let’s look at a hypothetical example for a guy who happens to be thirty pounds overweight. During his first dieting cycle let’s say that he loses fifteen pounds, and then during his off-season he regains five pounds. During his second dieting cycle he loses twelve pounds, but this time he regains three pounds. By the third dieting cycle, he really starts to get the hang of it and proceeds to lose twelve more pounds but only gains one of them back. That would be a thirty-pound net loss for the year. Now armed with a solid diet plan, his weight will range only a few manageable pounds from his ideal weight for the rest of his life.
Let’s look at how the 3 dieting cycles fit into the months of the year. You may find that the months of these cycles coincide with your normal motivational levels:
DIETING CYCLE #1
JANUARY: The perfect time to start a diet.
FEBURARY: Time to restrict calories. The holidays and Super Bowl are over. Get to work with the major focus on weight loss.
MARCH: Keep up the good work while maintaining your weight.
APRIL: Take a mental break from losing weight. Enjoy the beginning of spring and take your mind off weight loss and put it on increasing the amount or intensity of your exercise routine.
DIETING CYCLE #2
MAY: Time to get back to work and put an end to any of the bad eating habits that happened to creep back into your diet.
JUNE: Time to restrict calories once again and get ready for the beach.
JULY: Maintain your weight while enjoying the summer.
AUGUST: Enjoy the end of the summer. But don’t gain more than 25% of the weight you lost during dieting cycle #2. Continue to exercise diligently.
DIETING CYCLE #3
SEPTEMBER: Labor Day and summer are over making it a great time to start the last dieting cycle of the year.
OCTOBER: The last 30 days of calorie restriction of the year.
NOVEMBER: Maintain your weight. Remember to leave room for Thanksgiving.
DECEMBER: A great time to chill out and enjoy the holidays.
I realize that there is a lot that I didn’t cover. Topics like making food choices are left out. They are left out because I don’t believe in just telling someone what to eat. Besides, a person will only follow someone else’s diet for a limited amount of time. It’s been my experience that that approach does not produce lasting results. Every person needs to learn how to make healthier choices for themselves. And that learning process is far too complicated to explain in an article. The ideal is to change YOUR behaviors, not for me to dictate the behaviors that you should have. It is also imperative that you learn how to make food choices by yourself. That’s the only way to produce lasting results, in my humble opinion.
My book will guide you through the entire process if you feel that this diet plan is for you. It’s called, Diet for the Sports-Minded Male, but don’t worry ladies; it will work for you too. After all, we are all the same and fat is fat. The principles are the same for men and women. I wrote it for men because statistically speaking they haven’t been as eager to diet as females. I thought that a book written just for them would help. You can find out more about my book at http://rayoflife.com/about-the-book/, or you can go right ahead and order it at http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/diet-for-the-sports-minded-male/12443653.
I realize that changing your diet during the course of an entire year is challenging and that you will undoubtedly have many questions. Therefore, I will dedicate a section of my blog to answering questions about the book.
I hope that this article has made some sense to you and that you are motivated to improve your diet during the course of 2013. I wish you well and hope you have a happy and healthy New Year.
All the best,