You heard me. Eat less.
Well, duh. But it’s not that easy.
You’re telling me! Of course not. It may not be easy, but sure is simple. (See previous version of the Laws of the Dinosaur)
Wait a minute. If all there is to losing weight is “eat less”, what about things like bariatric surgery, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Biggest Loser and all that? Isn’t weight loss a multi-billion dollar industry in this country?
Of course. But the final common pathway to every single successful weight loss program is eating less.
Come on, you’re a doctor. There has to be more to it than that.
You want longer words? Here you go: consume fewer calories than your body expends per unit of time.
Now you’re talking. How do I do that?
Seriously. Weight Watchers is basically a support group combined with weight loss counseling. Their “points” are nothing more than pre-counted calories. Following their program means limiting how many calories you eat. If you do, you’ll lose weight. If it lets you eat the same as you were previously, then you weren’t overweight.
Jenny Craig, NutriSystem, and those “delivery diets” that bring food to your door are also controlling your portions. If you don’t eat more than they let you, presumably less than you were eating before, you will lose weight by eating less.
Bariatric surgery consists of a variety of procedures that either mechanically restrict how much the stomach can hold, or induce a state of malabsorbtion; that is, intentionally causing the body to fail to absorb nutrients; in other words, forcing you to eat less.
What about just exercising more?
That sounds like it might work in theory. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out that way as a practical matter. It turns out that while exercise is definitely good for you and very important for cardiovascular well-being, it doesn’t really make you lose weight (another reference here). It actually increases your appetite, and you ALWAYS end up eating more than you burned off. Once you’ve lost weight, though, it is indeed the only way to keep the weight off.
Pshaw. How do you know about all this?
I know because I’ve just lost 50 lbs. in about ten months. Everyone keeps telling me how wonderful I look. I’ve gone down at least four clothing sizes. When I go shopping for clothes I feel like a kid with a new toy. I do double-takes when I catch a glimpse of myself in passing windows. I’m wearing white pants, for heavens sake, and they are not making me look fat.
Wow, that’s great. How did you do it?
By eating less.
Dammit! That’s not what I mean. How did you DO it?
By eating less. Sorry. That’s what I’m trying to tell you: there is no other way to lose weight, except to eat less. Sure, there are techie tricks you can use for tracking. Do they work any better than pen and paper? Not really. Whatever it takes to get you to eat less is what is going to work for you if you want to lose weight.
That can’t be all there is to it. C’mon; share your secrets!
Okay. Here are some dirty little secrets about weight loss:
- You’re going to be hungry sometimes.
- It takes a long time.
- You’re going to hit plateaus from time to time.
- The less you weigh, the fewer calories your body needs.
So what do you do when those things happen?
Eat even less. If you want to lose weight, it’s the only way to do it.