How I Plan to Lose 20 Pounds – And Win the Bet

For those that don’t know the background story read How I Regained the Weight I Lost, The Fat Loss Bet and The Fat Loss Side Bet. In this post I am going to outline my plan for losing 20 pounds and winning this bet.

Since I started researching and experimenting with nutrition again in 2007, I have been exposed to so many ideas. Some of the ideas that swayed me early on no longer do. There is rampant disagreement on the best way to lose fat. Unlike other bloggers that talk about nutrition, I’ll be the first to say that I don’t know the answers. I come from a finance background and I approach nutrition from the mindset of an investor. This means I assume I am working with incomplete knowledge.

Calories, Carbs and Caffeine

Any discussion of dieting starts with calories. There has been an endless debate on “do calories count” in the blogosphere. People much smarter than me have been going back and forth on this never ending debate. To me it is all about appetite. Some calories stimulate appetite and some suppress appetite, but those calories do count. I want to have the appetite of someone who weighs 20 pounds less. Since my metabolism isn’t broken and I otherwise seem quite healthy, I must assume that reducing calories is the logical path to reach that goal.

I don’t think carbs are bad or inherently fattening. If I happen to reduce carbs, it is because I am reducing total calories or trying to reduce appetite. I’ll be seeking high satiety foods, some of which may or may not be carbohydrates.

For me caffeine helps suppress appetite. When I cut back, I get hungry, which is exactly what I don’t want to happen now. So this means it is unlikely that I will be reducing caffeine until I hit my weight goal (or lose the main bet ).

cake_wish-MAS

No cake for me!

Exercise

Exercise is the least important part of the equation, because it is where I am the most constrained. Due to my knee injury, I am limited by how much I can move. I can do some low intensity cycling and rowing for rehab, walking – but not too much- and some upper body strength training. In other words, nothing is changing as far as exercise.

Adding more exercise could jeopardize my knee’s ability to recover, which is the entire reason for losing the 20 pounds. I am following the exercise ideas in the book Framework for the Knee.

Strategies

Before I list my plan of attack, I want to say this is what I think will work for me, not everyone. The sequence of these items is important.

#1 Remove Foods that I Eat Past Satiety

I don’t eat fast food or much processed foods. For me the two foods that I used to help gain weight when I was underweight were ice cream and dairy kefir. I have stopped eating both. I still consider both foods to be healthy, but just not at this time. I see these foods as tools.

I do not consider sugar harmful, but it makes sense to remove the foods that dis-regulate appetite the most. I disagree with the health bloggers that claim food restriction leads to binge eating. It may for some, but my inner economist tells me that if you’re trying to cut your heating bill, the first thing you do is close all the windows. For me ice cream and dairy kefir were the open windows.

#2 Create a Food Journal

I started writing down all the food I eat in a notebook starting on February 19th. I have zero plans to count calories, as I kind of know where the problem resides (see #1), but if I am wrong I will at least have a record of what I ate. I might even make the food journals available publicly as a form of accountability.

#3 Reduce Eating Window

I have found that reducing the number of hours a day that I eat is the most effective and sustainable path to lowering calories. Others get benefit from eating as soon as they wake up to jump start their metabolism. All that did for me was cause me to gain more weight. I must eat right before bed. If I don’t I will not fall asleep and if I don’t eat enough, I will wake up in the middle of the night hungry. The often repeated “don’t eat before bed” if you want to lose weight is a myth.

This means I need to fast or eat very few calories in the AM hours. My willpower is very strong before evening and weakens before bed. I’m also more likely to eat socially and away from my kitchen in the evening. Building up a calorie deficit early in the day is important for me.

#4 Increase Protein

One of the reasons low carb diets seem to work well is that they are usually higher in protein. Protein has the greatest effect on reducing appetite. From the Perfect Health Diet article Protein, Satiety, and Body Composition:

A number of studies have found protein to be the most satiating macronutrient, with fat moderately satiating, and carbs least satiating.

Thus, when people reduce carbs and increase protein, their appetite declines and they almost always reduce calorie intake. This can leads to rapid short-term weight loss. This is why most popular weight loss diets are high in protein: increasing protein causes dieters to quickly lose some weight, encouraging them to continue.

Since I dropped ice cream and dairy kefir, this means I’ll need to add additional sources of protein. I already consume red meat and eggs, so I’ll be increasing my seafood intake. Recently I’ve become a big fan of a Vietnamese fish soup. I also love Korean fish soups.

#5 Cold Thermogenesis

Because of my exercise constraints, one way I could trigger more fat loss without movement is cold thermogenesis. For more on this topic see Shivering Thermogenesis. I don’t plan to start this at this time. I want to focus on getting the first 10 pounds lost using the above strategies. Then if I get stuck, start tinkering with cold exposure. I’ll be careful not to stack stressors.

Restricted Foods

Ice cream, liquid calories (kefir, juices, alcohol), wheat, most processed foods, nuts and vegetable oils.

Metabolism

Some readers will want to know about my quest for increasing body temperature using some of the ideas from the Ray Peat / Matt Stone / Danny Roddy camp. I will continue to avoid nuts, as I still believe that excess PUFA is the common enemy in nutrition. However, I will be reducing my dairy and avoiding liquid calories such as orange juice and Mexican Coke. I also think Peat-atarians are wrong by promoting low fat dairy, as it has lower satiety.

If for any reason I start to feel uncomfortably cold, I will stop and consume some carbs. This might be a sign that too large of an energy deficit is happening. See the Calories Proper post Hypothyroid-like symptoms, energy balance, and diet quality for a detailed discussion on this topic.

Last Words

I have no idea how much weight I will lose and how fast. I’ve never actually successfully dieted before. The weight I lost in 2008-2011 was unintentional. It just happened when I cut out the wheat, started cooking more at home, reduced my eating window and embraced a diet based on nutrient density and diversity.

My plan is to use a combination of food restriction, eating window restriction and accountability via food journal to create a caloric deficit. I believe this will result in a 20 pound weight loss that is sustainable.

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MAS

Critical MAS is the blog for Michael Allen Smith of Seattle, Washington. My interests include traditional food, fitness, economics, and web development.

11 thoughts on “How I Plan to Lose 20 Pounds – And Win the Bet”

  1. Another suggestion (and it sounds strange at first) is to use swimmer’s nose clips when you eat. Shut off your sense of smell while consuming food. I don’t know why it works, but it seems to work for quite a few people. There’s a short book called the Shangri-la Diet that recommends an alternate to this idea, but I find that eliminating the smell of food also reduces the sense of taste of food. You reduce these two senses, and it stifles appetite. And lowers your body’s set-point re: bodyweight.

  2. My plan, such as it is, is to eliminate processed foods, and just eat whatever I like of whole foods. One rule I came across was buy nothing with more than five ingredients or any ingredients I don’t recognize – unfortunately that eliminates commercial bacon, but maybe that’s for the best. Right now I’m craving carrots, which should be pretty safe.

    Re: cold thermogenesis, I take it Seattle isn’t as cold as much of North America this winter? We have finally warmed up to early January temperatures in late February here in Montreal, and March is set to be colder than average too. At least it’s finally warm enough to go outside.

  3. @David – I read that book a few years ago and forgot about that idea. I’m going to hold off on that idea unless I get stuck. https://criticalmas.org/2011/08/flavor-signaling-and-the-shangri-la-diet/

    @Anemone – I stopped eating bacon a while back. For reasons I can not understand, it makes me sleepy. My cold exposure will be from showers or Puget Sound swims, but I learned that I need a warmer ambient temperature before I begin or it is too hard on my body.

    Today will be 50F in Seattle and I plan to wear a short sleeved shirt.

  4. I predict success and agree with pretty much everything you are doing in terms of diet modification. Having said that, it’ll take time… perhaps not 5 months but somewhere between 3-4 I would guess. The weight doesn’t fall off really fast after 40 and certainly not for someone already relatively thin.

  5. This year I have made a goal of learning to eat smaller portions, not restricting anything except gluten. The goal is to learn new ways of sustainable healthy eating by making small goals and having small successes. The timing or how long it takes is not as important as gaining new habits and weight loss as a by product. I have included more smaller daily portions of fruit and vegetables, even protein is cut back and fat. Getting things in balance. I need my coffee, so I have to adjust portions of chocolate or treats accordingly. I am looking to find a healthy weight that is more focused on changing small daily habits into a lifestyle. I have also decided to increase the variety of foods I eat, especially fruits and vegetables. I have started walking in nature, the light and being out in the open all adds to a greater feeling of well being and I am sleeping more deeply. Here my goal is small too only 30 minutes but often its 45-60 mins without thinking about. I think maintenance as a goal is not often the focus, losing weight is but you can keep losing the same weight over and over gain. So this year I focused on something small like portions that will make maintenance of new habits more interesting and a focus. I don’t do fasting very well and restricting of foods also not too well. My brain seems to need variety and enjoys a little bit of everything. I have lost 5 pounds in two months and have enjoyed the maintaining of that loss and it seems to be working. We all need something to focus on and this has worked for me. Good luck with your weight loss and knee improvements, your motivation and sharing inspires us all along the way.

  6. @Pauline – good luck to you as well

    @newtopaleo – I’m skeptical, but the cost seems low enough. I’ll do some reading on the topic this weekend. Thanks.

  7. I just recently stumbled on your blog and love it. You’ve got a lot of great information.
    I was reading your weight loss menu and wanted to suggest using barley instead of rice.
    You’ll be surprised at how filling it is.

  8. Good for you. I also have my own diet program but it seems that it’s now working haha I may lack the determination or there’s something I’m doing wrong so if I got involved in any bet, then I would have lost a lot of money lol But I’m glad you fared well with yours, now I gotta get back in shape by changing my diet plan.

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