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Dieting and Exercise

5/14/2021 - 8 months ago

Diet

Exercise

Calories in Calories Out

Alright, let's start with the basics. A Calorie, or a kcal (Kilocalourie) if we're being accurate, is an energy unit. And we use it for everything that has to do with weight loss, exercise, etc.
Now if I might take a wild guess then most readers probably know what a calorie is:
The units they use to measure how much energy you eat and how much energy you use.
Everybody needs a certain amount of calories to live. How high that number is you can find out by using a TDEE calculator. TDEE stands for "total daily energy expenditure".
The calculator tells you how many calories you can eat per day.

But what in the hell do I do with this number?
First you need to find out how many calories are in the food you eat. For that I recommend getting an app like MyFitnessPal, LoseIt or Carb Manager.
You enter the food and the amount you ate and it tells you how many calories that costs you. Your calories are like a daily allowance you can spend on food. Spend too much of your allowance and you gain weight. Spend less than your allowance and you lose weight.

In order to accurately measure the amount of food you ate I recommend a food scale. You can get them fairly cheap on Amazon. They are very handy for baking! My european friends likely already have one.

Great, now that we're done with the basic basics let's get to the basics!
If you want to lose weight, restrict your calorie intake below your maintenance level. The more you restrict, the faster you lose weight. Don't restrict too much else you will get into unhealthy territory and could develop an eating disorder, get binge attacks or just feel outright terrible.

Other than that: Patience is needed, a lot of it. This journey will take you months. If you lose a substantial amount of weight you will have to recalculate your TDEE (maintenance calories). And if you want to maintain your new weight you will have to limit yourself to that new TDEE.
Other than entering your food into your app of choice to find out the calories of your food, you can also look at the back of your packaged food. Look for a number in front of the label "kcal".

Low Carb vs High Carb

Now that we've gone through the basics we come to the actually interesting stuff. This section might make your diet adventure substantially easier! Now what is low carb, or high carb? Let's start with a carb, a carbohydrate. It's a nutrient our bodies love, especially the brain. And we get that nutrient from eating food.

Now different foods have different carb content.
A slice of toast has 13g of carbs. A chicken breast has 0g of carbs. These carbs can make or break your diet and here is why:
When we consume carbs, our body reacts with a spike in the hormone insulin. Insulin is needed to store your energy in fat cells. That's a great mechanism.
The more carbs you eat, the more carbs are in your food, the more your insulin spikes. The higher your insulin spikes the steeper will be the drop. And that drop causes you to feel hungry. That's why sugar, candy, bread is so addictive. It's full of the carbs your body loves and it makes your insulin go haywire. Like a drug!

Now some people still prefer to eat high carb, meaning mostly carbohydrates. Food high in carbs is usually less calorie dense than food high in fat, disregarding candy. So you might be able to eat a lot before you hit your calorie limit. Some people, usually those who have weak insulin reactions, prefer this way of eating. They can easily eat a small piece of a chocolate bar, put it down and not touch it again until tomorrow.

Then there's people who prefer to eat low carb. I follow this rule myself, to lose and maintain my weight. I would also recommend this way of eating for people who suffer from binge eating. Longterm carb reduction will drastically lower your cravings.
People like me and realistically most of us have a normal if not elevated insulin reaction to carbohydrates. We are the people who eat a lot. We go to burger king, order a whole menu if not more, then buy a brownie and an ice cream. And we. can't. stop.
The truth is, for us carbohydrates are an addiction, they make us crave, desire and long for any and all food.

Now here is the trick: If you eat low carb your desires will fade, you will eat normal amounts of food, you will stop thinking about food all day, your hunger or appetite will lessen and you have a realistic chance at losing and maintaining weight.

The keto diet.
I take it a step further and follow the keto diet. This diet allows me to only eat 20g of carbs a day. No sugar, some fruit and vegetables, lots of animal products. Might sound a little crazy at first, maybe it is. But doctors did the research. It's a safe diet, it reduces your risk of diabetes, it calms your blood sugar. It's the only thing that heals my binge eating. I personally know a bunch of former obese people who lost a substantial amount of weight on this diet and maintained it.

Ok but how do I find out how many carbohydrates I actually consume?
You can either check your weight loss app, I especially recommend Carb Manager for this, or you could look at the food label on the back of your food package. It tells you the amount of carbohydrates in your food.

Fasting

Definitely a test of your mental strength and willpower. Dr Jason Fung knows all about it.
There's basic fasting and intermittent fasting, also called IF.

During a basic fast you only consume water and zero calorie goods. People use it for weight loss, to feel good about themselves or because they believe it cleanses their body. Most people do 24h fasts, others go for 48h, others go crazy for 30 days. During extended fasts it is important to keep your electrolyte levels stable. Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electrical charge, they spark cell function throughout the body.
The most important ones would be sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
It's best to supplement those. Sodium you can get by putting some salt in your water.

During IF, intermittent fasting, you restrict your food intake to a certain time window. Some people only eat 8 hours of the day, that would be called 16/8. 16 hours they won't eat and in the time window of the other 8 hours they will. Some people do 18/6, 20/4 or OMAD which stands for "one meal a day".

Binge Eating

I have personally struggled with binge eating. I had been crash dieting for a long while. My weight kept fluctuating wildly and I treated my stomach and myself terribly. This lead to binge eating. There were times I would go crazy, consume the whole fridge and eat 3000 calories in one sitting. My strict dieting and my lack of self care had caused this. Binge eating made me miserable.
If you suffer from binge eating, don't restrict your calories, eat at maintenance. Eat low carb, if necessary you might even have to go keto. I know how terrible binge eating is and how it undermines all of your efforts.

Strength Training

Now let's get to the topic of exercise and we'll start with the most famous one right of the bat: weight lifting! yay.
First misconception: Weight lifting will make you big, broad and muscly. Definitely not what we want and this myth is... not true.
For this get a gym membership, a trainer or a friend with knowledge and free time. Work your way up. Weight lifting will tone your body, give you muscles and this will give you strength and help you burn calories. Don't be afraid. In order to get broad and bulky you'd have to lift a lot of weight. You can do your weight lifting without worries. You will not lose your softness or cuteness. Your body will still look delicate. Just don't go overboard and you're safe.

Cardio

My favorite. It makes you sweat, it makes you dread and it makes you burn. Calories. Lots of them. Running, swimming, cycling. It's all part of the package. I personally picked up running using the C25K App. It stands for Couch to 5k and it will slowly ease you into running a 5k over the course of weeks or even months.
I love it.

How I exercise

I am smart. As smart as the other 4 million owners of a copy of Beat Saber.
I bought a VR headset, an Oculus Quest 2, cost me 300€ and Beat Saber. And from that day my whole fitness world drastically changed. In Beat Saber you slice blocks and evade obstacles to the sound of music. It's cardio pure and you don't even notice that you're exercising, because you're slicing your way through 200 calories per hour while having tons of fun. I will never set foot in a gym again.
I actually cancelled my gym membership. VR is the only way I want to exercise now.

Weight loss and exercise are both very personalized endeavours. What works for others might not work for you. Find out what fits you, what you can stick with longterm and then gather a lot of patience. Results will come. They just creep on so slowly, you don't even notice. But if you keep at it then one summer night you will look in the mirror and say to yourself:
I never noticed how goddamn beautiful I am.