Way too long a post on how to lose weight

TL:DR version of this. No secrets. Boring routine comprising eating less and exercising more and recording food day to day to keep an eye on things. Not giving up because you enjoyed yourself one day.


I have been overweight most of my adult life, I have managed to lose major amounts of weight three times. How major? In two cases basically the mass of an adult human.

Keeping it off? Not so good at. I plan to learn how to do that this time, but I have lost it in the first place and occasionally people ask me “what is your secret?”.


The basics

Firstly, I don’t have a secret. I have no “5/2” or “Atkins/Dukan” style thing going on, what I said in the summary at the top about boring routine, that is it, but I will put down what I do and what advice occurs to me.

Firstly I think that it has to be right for you. Having someone hassle you won’t help, doing it for yourself, for reasons you feel are right, at the time that is right for you, that helps you hit the right mindset.

Secondly. As the summary above implies, the way to lose weight is to expend more energy than you take in. As a rule of thumb, 500 calories less food per day that what you need to maintain your weight will give you a 1 pound loss each week. There is a calculator here. I record each thing I eat and the exercise I take. You can use a notebook for this, but I use an app, I use an app/website recording this, My Fitness Pal – http://www.myfitnesspal.com/. With that you can also put in your height/weight/lifestyle and your weight loss goals and it will calculate your calorie needs.

Thirdly. Recording everything is key. Boring, but key. It is too easy to graze and forget little things eaten when cooking or at the desk and forgotten biscuits at the work desk. If you want to keep control then record the lot. If you eat more one day, have a drink or whatever? No problems, just go a bit lighter the next few days to counteract that.

But you may ask, I’m going to get hungry. How do I handle that?

Fourthly. Regular meals and spaced out snacks. Breakfast, lunch and dinner but also a morning and afternoon snack AND a supper before going to bed. My snacks are usually fruit (banana in the morning, orange in the evening) and supper is warm milk (living on the edge, huh!). By having these things spaced out regularly, hopefully you are never too long before you get something and that will help you hang on till then.

Fifthly. As you will know portion control is important and empty plates make people feel hungry. It does not help that dinner plates these days are much bigger than they were back in the 70s, almost twice the surface area. We bought replacement plates online to add to those remaining from our 70’s set. This wee psychological trick does help. Don’t be silly, don’t use side plates as as substitute. You are not punishing yourself, just trying to undo the effects of ridiculous dinner plates the size of an olympic swimming pool

Sixthly. If you are exercising, remember you will need to eat a little more to fuel it. I usually have an extra snack half an hour before I start, so that I don’t feel faint towards the end (it happened, the physio [metaphorically] slapped me and told me why that occurred). I also have a slightly more calorific lunch on those days. If you get a chance, a sports physio can help you plan a routine that suits you.

Seventhly. Measure progress, but not too often. Weekly is a short enough timespan to help prevent feelings of “ach well, I’ll make it up later” getting out of hand, but more often than that will send you mad. Weight differs from day to day. Ensure that, as far as possible, you are wearing similar clothes, at the same time and under the same circumstances, e.g. before breakfast, each time. If you are exercising you may add muscle mass as you lose fat, so also keep an eye on what is happening to your clothes sizes, just in case the raw numbers aren’t encouraging.

Eigthly. Don’t get het up about “setbacks”. If you have a day when you ate a bit more than you think you should have or you have a celebration that includes food and drink, then that is that. Don’t give up. That was that day, this is this day, get back into it.

Ninethly. If you have a lot to lose, then hold off on buying new clothes as long as possible. If you bought clothes every size change then you will spend a fortune. You will end up with baggy clothes and it’ll be a bit silly, but when you do get replacement clothing it will feel so good.


Thoughts about food

A few thoughts about food. I think commercial Slimmer meals are a waste of time. It is better to prepare things yourself if possible. Make them to your own taste and more appetising than your usual cook chill meal.

Avoid diet drinks, things with sweeteners. Not only do some have potentially bad effects, including affecting your gut bacteria, but the brain reacts to them as if they were sugar, your blood sugar will spike and crash and you will feel hungrier. WebMD on this. Better to stick to tea, coffee, herb teas if you like that sort of thing, water. I put lime or lemon juice in water sometimes to give it some taste. In Scotland we have “soft” water, no chalk in it. Nicer to drink.

Avoid low fat products Fat isn’t the problem in any case, but low fat profucts often use sugar to make up the flavour. Just use normal products and keep an eye on what you use.

Be wary of diabetic products some sweeteners used in diabetic products will basically give you the runs.

Try to increase the proportion of the meals that are protein and reduce the carbohydrates. Usually for meals uncooked weight of carbohydrates like rice or pasta should be no more than 75g, a little over 2 ounces per person. Believe me, it’s enough.

So obviously a big thing is to keep meals interesting. Flavours you like. Meals should not be a drudge, but a nice taste. Lunches for me these last two summers have been salads with about 40g of cooked grain, like pearl barley, lentil or cous cous (seasoned) some cooked meat like chicken breast, chunky peppered beef or tuna. The idea is to put this into a container so at lunchtime they can be heated. The other container has salad leaves, sundried tomatoes and or baby tomatoes, some olives and some flavoured hummus or cottage cheese depending. Follow that up with an apple. The seasoning and the hummus/cottage cheese actually give it some flavour. The heat in the meat/grains is nice.

If you have a sandwich, most of the calories are often bread, so as I say, you want to have more protein as a proportion. If you are in Scotland, a morning roll, being airy, is not that bad as a container of a good meaty sandwich.

The main meals are usually normal meals, though if we had a big lunch then we will take a smaller dinner, closer to being a lunch.

Abstinence is easier than reduction. With things like chocolate, crisps and chocolate I fnd that not having any is a lot easier than trying to have a small amount only.

Fat isn’t the issue. Well, fat has calories and too many are what you are trying to avoid,  but in general fats are useful for the body to help it absorb nutrients. Fat as fingered in the 50s, using some very skewed and cherry picked evidence. Sugar is much more of a problem. Have a read here or here.


A typical day for exercise and food

I don’t drive. So I walk more than you might if you are a driver, but I still use public transport. I used to walk to work and back in Glasgow (helping me do 10,000 steps) but damage to my knee means I can’t now. However walking between home, bus, train and shops mean I usually walk an hour or more each day.


usually porridge, or toast with cream cheese or cottage cheese or a boiled egg with buttered oatcakes

Morning snack

Usually a banana. On gym days I also take a seed, nut and or fruit shot of around 100 calories


As described before, a meat salad or roll with grain mustard, chock full of meat and salad, or a decent, hearty soup. An apple or yoghurt to follow.

Afternoon Snack

Orange, or a couple of buttered oatcakes


Normal enough, but exercising portion control and trying to keep the carbohydrates down and the protein and vegetables up.


Warmed milk. Friday I treat myself with stirring cocoa (not hot chocolate) powder into it.

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