Weight loss and the hacker’s diet

Before I start, unlike most of the diet industry, this is not some sort of sales pitch. All of this is common sense, and free.

Since puberty I have struggled with my weight. Actually, struggled is probably the wrong word because it implies a certain amount of effort on my behalf. I didn’t struggle, I just ate.

I had a BMI of over 35. A healthy range is from 20 to 25. I know there is a lot of discussion about whether BMI measurement is a good measure of a healthy weight, but I’m certain that being at 140% of the top level probably isn’t.

Then, from a link on Slashdot, I found “The Hacker’s Diet” by John Walker. This free ebook explained some unpalatable truths. If I wanted to lose weight I had to consume less energy then I was burning. That is it. All weight loss advice condensed into a single sentence. If you want to read the full book then Google for “hackers diet”.

The book goes on to point out some other harsh truths. I think most people assume that if they want to lose a bit of weight then can carry on as before and maybe pop down to the gym a couple of times a week and the pounds will just fall off. Wishful thinking unfortunately. Gym membership does not guarantee weight loss. It is just something else to feel guilty about not doing. I read about swimming burning 400 kCal an hour. But guess what? That means an hour of actually swimming hard. You’re not burning those calories while you’re getting changed, catching your breath after a couple of lengths of having a poolside snack after your herculean efforts. If you’re at the pool for an hour, you’re probably only swimming hard for about 15 mins. So that’s only 100 kCal. About the same as half a peanut butter sandwich. I decided to not have the peanut butter sandwich instead.

I would point out that there are many very good reasons for regular exercise, but weight loss is not one of them. The primary reason is that, if done regularly and effectively, every minute spent exercising will likely lengthen your life span by more than one minute. Now that’s what I call an investment!

John Walker advocates counting every calorie you consume, and weighing yourself every day. Your weight on a given day is not relevant. What really matters is your average weight over a period of a couple of weeks.

I didn’t follow this advice word-for-word. I just concentrated on the output side of the equation. If my average weight was going up, I was eating too much and would cut down. Simple as that. How I did it was depressingly ordinary. Simple light cereal breakfast. Three or four pieces of fruit for lunch and a basic healthy meal in the evening. By this I mean no creamy sauces, no fried stuff, no cheese. Aside from that the only other concessions I made were to cut out all snacks, and substitute lower calorie alternatives for the products I used. Skimmed milk in my latte, sweetener instead of sugar, lager instead of Guinness.

And the result? I lost 25kg in 5 months and, more importantly, have kept within 2kg of my goal weight for a year. I don’t feel that I’ve given up much. I now have an awareness that my appetite is not a reliable guide to whether I should eat something.

I’m not saying that this is the right approach for you but (FFS) before you waste a load of cash on the latest book, weight loss club, or miracle dietary supplement, read John’s ebook.

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