Level Up: Beware the fads


I love my wife.  One of the many things I love about her is how she can seem to find anything on the internet.  What I mean is that if you tell her to find something, and it exists, she’ll find it.  Well, Saturday morning, she sent me a thing about something called the Military Diet.

Being a veteran, and looking to lose weight, she thought I’d find it interesting.  In and of itself, I do.  It gives me a golden opportunity to discuss fad diets.

Most likely, you’ve heard of at least one fad diet somewhere along the way.  The Grapefruit Diet, The Blood Type Diet, the Werewolf Diet (no, I’m not making that one up, as awesome as it sounds), The Cookie Diet (one I’ve at least considered just as an excuse to eat cookies) and numerous others like the Military Diet.  They all pop onto the scene and promise weight loss.

Sure enough, someone tries it and it works!

Those folks tell everyone they know how much it works, and more people try it.  And make no mistake, they work…at first.

Most of these diets, like the Military Diet, aren’t realistic diets for long term health and some are downright dangerous.

How most of these work is that they restrict what you eat to almost insane levels — and occasionally cross the sanity line — and spur up a sudden loss of weight.  They restrict calories, some as low as 500 calories per day, which will produce weight loss, but they cause other problems.

You see, the problem with extreme caloric restrictions is that your body has evolved in a world where famine was common.  Even today, there’s famine throughout the world, and our bodies are designed to deal with it.  One of the mechanisms it uses is storing fat during times of plenty (which I talked about on my own blog last week), but another one is far more applicable to this discussion, and that is how extreme caloric shortages will trigger your metabolism to slow down.

If you’re trying to lose weight, that is a very, very bad thing.

A slow metabolism means that it’ll be harder to burn through fat for one thing, and it also means that your body will retain fat more easily as your body tries to prepare for the next famine.

Now this isn’t a permanent situation for most folks, but it’s a pain in the butt for a time as your body sorts itself out and often you end up weighing more than you did to start with.  If weight loss is your goal, the problem with this is obvious.

The truth of the matter is that there is no fast track.  While shows like The Biggest Loser may show contestants losing massive amounts of weight per week, that’s not reasonable for most individuals.  For one, the contestants are often so massively obese that even a drop of 30 or more lbs in a single week isn’t quite the same thing as someone like me losing that much weight at once.

If you want to lose weight, slow and steady is the mantra you need to adopt.  A good, safe target is two or three pounds per week.

Which, coincidentally was how much lower the scale was for me last week.

Since we’re now talking about me and my own journey, I have to say I was somewhat surprised by dropping two pounds.  The only real change at that point was eating more home cooked meals, and that really does make a difference.  I consider myself a home chef wannabe, and that means I use little in the way processed foods.  This may have contributed to actually losing weight, though it wasn’t really supposed to.

Now, a confession.  My desire to eat more protein hasn’t gone quite like I hoped.  I really have to make it a point to eat more often (confusing for someone trying to lose weight, but it’s true) and most especially eat breakfast.  Protein, protein, protein is still a goal.

However, now it’s time to make the big change.

Carbohydrates.  As I was discussed over at my blog a short time ago, carbs are really the problem for most folks. As I said on the first post I linked to, the human body runs on carbs, so cutting those will let your body convert from carb burning to fat burning.  This is called ketosis and it’s a real thing.  Embrace the science and stuff.

Unfortunately for me, that means it’s time to strict up.  For example, I had brown rice last night.  I served it with a measuring cup so I would know exactly how much I had on my plate.

Now, I suspect some of you are thinking, “How sustainable is eating like this?”  I mean, measuring out your food gets old pretty quickly.  The thing is, I’m not planning on measuring everything out indefinitely.

Going forward, starches will get measures for a little while until I can eyeball it accurately.  I suck and judging measurements, so I’ll measure my food until I’ve got a better eye for that sort of thing.  I’ll probably do the same for vegetables too, just to be safe.

A rule of thumb a lot of people use — and it’s not a bad one — is to use servings the size of your fist.  That is, roughly, a cup of food.  Unfortunately for me, I have small hands and don’t trust that in my case.

Next week, I’ll discuss my macros.  “Macros” means my macronutrient breakdown.  Macronutrients are things like protein, carbohydrates, and fats.  Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals you get.  Those are important too, but a topic for another day.

Of course, if there’s something else you want to see, let me know and I’ll see what I can do about talking on the subject.  If I don’t know anything about it, I can find out pretty quickly.

Now, I’d like to say congratulations to my friend Robin who just competed in her first figure competition.  She looked amazing and everyone at the Knighton household is damn proud of her!

14 comments on “Level Up: Beware the fads

  1. If the Werewolf Diet let me become Earl Harbinger, I would totally try it. 😀

    Seriously though, excellent advice. There’s no substitute for controlling carb/caloric intake and burning it off so your body doesn’t store it. Math is a Harsh Mistress.


  2. […] new level up is now…well…up.  Today, I take a shot at fad diets.  You see these everywhere, and they really piss me off.  I play nice over there, but ask me how I […]


  3. I will share my own experience with chopping out the carbs. YMMV, but my story is pretty typical of others I’ve read.

    If you go “cold turkey”, which is what I did, it takes a couple of weeks. By cold turkey I mean very few. No oatmeal, cookies, chips. Chips were hard to give up. You’ll feel bad. Drink water, lots of water. Switch from soda to coffee but don’t add sugar. You can try to drink the zero-cal diet soda, but frankly I don’t trust the artificial sweetener. If you can’t do coffee do tea.

    If you have a hamburger, load up on cheese, lettuce, pickles, onions, mustard. No ketchup, no BBQ sauce. Those have tons of sugar. Use the full fat beef, not the super lean stuff. Include a bun, sure, but if you are super hard-core eat it open-faced to get 50% fewer carbs. It is the ratio you are after. If the “Fat Head” guy can eat burgers for every meal for a month and still lose weight, indulging yourself isn’t gonna kill the diet.

    If you get that low blood sugar feeling, try cottage cheese with cinnamon. Yeah, I didn’t believe it either but it helps. Yes, the cottage cheese is the full fat stuff (I think 4%). If you do it with yogurt really check that ingredient list – they really sneak in the sugar to make up for the blah taste. Yogurt with fruit is out.

    Add a tablespoon of butter or whole milk or even half-and-half (provided there is no sugar or additives!). You want more calories from fat than protein.

    Tortilla wraps can be used for sandwiches. Include more cheese/meats/veg.

    Okay, before I switched I used to have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast at 9:00am, a sandwich or something for lunch, and whatever for dinner. Often that would include pasta. If I didn’t get a meal pretty much on time I’d get a migraine.

    I wake up between 4:00am and 5:00am and slug down two cups of coffee, about 10% half and half, over the next 2-3 hours. Some days I actually notice I am hungry and it will almost always be after 10:00am and if I get busy it is usually after noon. A few times I’m simply not hungry and force myself to eat something at 2:00pm. Yeah, it’s weird. Breakfast, even at 2:00pm now is 2-3 slices of bacon and 3 eggs, fried or scrambled. Add cheese, veggies, whatever. Cook in butter, not the fake stuff but the real stuff.

    Dinner is usually whenever I get hungry, sometimes I don’t eat it at all. Usually we’ll work in salmon (canned, full fat kind), tuna in oil, hamburger (20% fat), shrimp (shrimp and bacon in an olive oil stir-fry – yum!), or fresh fish. I hate vegetables so I don’t usually have a whole lot of them, but when I do it is salad or whatever I can wash down with butter or salt or olive oil.

    Snacks are cheese sticks or celery with cream cheese. Lots of people use their vegetables here. I used to do nuts but they are incredibly calorie dense and I found a handful wouldn’t dent my hunger, and more will pack in extra calories. Peanut butter – no, especially not the kind with sugar in it.

    You will get thru it, I don’t recommend making any other changes while you are adjusting. If you drink, make it a glass of wine or a drink with vodka/gin/whiskey/bourbon. I think tequila is okay. Flavored liquor like Kahlua is not. I love Kahlua, that one was hard too. Having a partner switching as well might help but might not.

    Once I’d “adjusted” I started to add some stuff back in but only limited. I might have a kahlua drink, or perhaps a little ice cream. If you go back to the bread and pasta, you are doomed. Some people I’ve read cut out a little at a time and they report weight loss but it is slower.

    Sorry for the length!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I’m trickling down myself. I’m fine with dropping it, but I know my family might be a little less than accommodating, and since their riding this pony with me, I have to be considerate.

      It’s easier to ease them down a bit than to deal with a divorce. 😀


  4. Everything I learned about losing weight I learned from Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. Banned sugar, lost 15 pounds in three months. Didn’t even have to give up pasta.


    • Oddly enough, I’ve been debating about talking about sugar elimination either here or at my blog in the near future.

      Short version is that if you’re getting a good bit of sugar in your diet, then eliminating it will do wonders for your health and weight.


  5. I’ve drastically cut sugar intake (which was hard, since I’m a sweet-tooth) and in general cut back on carbs, and it’s been helpful. Haven’t lost a lot of weight but my blood sugar dropped out of the “watch it!” zone and I do feel better generally.


    • Anything that helps.

      Do you have any idea how many carbs you’re taking in?


      • yes. Small portions, and almost exclusively complex (1-2 slices of whole wheat bread). Lots of protein (harder to do in the Middle East than in the USA).


        • Yeah, I’d imagine it is. They’re a very carb based cuisine over there if memory serves. Never eating Middle Eastern food that I can recall, but just stuff I’ve seen.

          If you want to know exactly how many grams of carbs you’re getting, check out http://fitday.com and get an account. It has tons of foods in their database, but also has an option for custom foods. I’m going to have a review and discussion about the website over at my site either today or tomorrow if you’re interested.

          If not…well, that’s cool too. I won’t get my [sniff] feelings hurt [sniff]. Not too much, anyways. [sobs uncontrollably]



  6. […] over on Level Up, I mentioned that it was time for me to start keeping track of what I eat.  To do that, I want to introduce to how I keep track of all of it.  My little helper is called […]


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