How to do a diet.

How to do a diet.

I have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This means that on a daily basis I see some sort of post pertaining to starting a diet, diet progress, or diet fuck ups. Within my social circles the majority of these posts are from women (just an observation).

I have tried every diet under the sun over the past two years and as such surely my insights must be useful (in some capacity) to someone (male or female).

I never started a diet because I was fat. A few years ago I was a bit 'podgy' but I did eat basically whatever I wanted to. It was not like I didn't deserve to be fat.

Whilst I never regularly weighed myself I have no reason to believe that my weight fluctuated that much. My body was aware of what it needed, I ate accordingly, and I lived a moderately active lifestyle. For example in 2013/14 I ate all of the foods that I enjoy - steak, chips, greek yogurt, burgers etc but I also went swimming each day.

A change of focus led me to build my own gym and start training for physique. That worked. I got 'big'. At some point down the line I was motivated to take up running. Since then I have gotten 'small'. My dedication to the gym was somewhat for nothing because a big muscular physique is not really compatible with long distance running (I appreciate that there are a few notable exceptions).

During my running 'career' (coming up on a year) I became consciously aware of my weight (big mistake). I started weighing myself, paying attention to my weight, and trying to lose weight. As a result I ended up trying a number of diets. This is what I found.

Keto

You basically just eat fat. If you are fat I recommend Keto. Carbs are pretty bad for you. Generally carbs are calorie heavy without being very satiating. They also make you more hungry. Most carbs are processed and as such are loaded with sugar. Most people whose diets I am witness to seemingly can't eat good carbs ergo they shouldn't eat carbs at all (in my opinion).

Fat is satiating, and fat is really good for you. Again the generally naive assumption is that fat makes you fat. It does not. Carbs make you fat. For most sedentary people losing weight Keto is perfect because it is pretty difficult to eat loads when all you are eating is fatty food.

Unfortunately for me fatty foods do not really satiate me. When I tried a strict keto diet (eat anything you want as long as it is high fat and eat less than 25g carbs daily) I put on an astonishing amount of weight (in 3 weeks) because I wouldn't get full. I was eating bags of nuts (very calorie dense) and drinking double cream (it is so tasty that once you start its impossible to stop).

During a discussion (about diet) recently, a friend stated to the other participants that I do sometimes eat unhealthy foods. She specifically mentioned burgers. This seems to be a common misconception. I eat 100% beef quarter pounders which are absolutely in no capacity bad for you. They are probably one of the healthiest things that I eat.

The downside of keto is that if you do any kind of serious exercise, keto does not work. I tried it. I saw my running performance drop by 25% (not insignificant..). Burning fat for fuel is a lot less efficient than burning carbs and thus if you are running at or above threshold pace your body will hate you as it tries to get in enough Oxygen to fuel the burning of fat.

That said.. if your aspirations are serious endurance e.g simply finishing a marathon (with no consideration for time) or doing some non-maximum exertion exercise, keto I imagine would be perfect. There are for example stories of ultra runners who utilise ketogenic diets because it allows them to keep going for a long time.

Yes. Keto is somewhat similar to Atkins.

CICO

Calories In, Calories Out (CICO) is a more general approach to dieting. It is based on science. If you burn more than you consume then you lose weight. Simple. You can (and probably should) take a CICO approach to any diet.

Whilst a little bit obsessive in nature, weighing what you eat is the only truly accurate way of doing CICO. It is ridiculous how little 30g of peanuts is. Likewise your bowl of cereal is certainly more than one serving. Weighing your food is essentially the first step to acknowledging exactly how greedy you are.

200 calories of peanut butter is ~30g. That is a large, heaped teaspoon. I could eat that in 12 seconds without even noticing. 10g of butter is ~70 calories. 10g of butter is nothing. I bet you put at least 25g on your average small crumpet (which also contains a remarkable number of calories given than 50% of it is holes..).

The science says that 3500 calories is approximately 1 pound. If you eat 3500 calories less than you need then you will lose 1 pound.

My diet based issues have all come about as a result of taking this too seriously. I run and as such I burn calories. At one point I was eating less calories than I need and doing exercise daily. As such my deficit was significant. I was losing weight but behind the scenes I was shooting myself in the foot.

The human body is pretty clever so whilst 'damaging your metabolism', 'and starvation mode' are bullshit non-existent excuses made up by fat people, it is possible to not eat enough. When you do not eat enough your body lets you know about it. For me this appeared in the form of Binge Eating Disorder. I would pretty methodically eat at a deficit during the week but then at the weekend (with a little more time on my hands) I would have a small bowl of something nice (ice cream, cake etc) and then boom.

My record for horrendous binges is 14 heaped containers of Nando's bottomless chocolate frozen yogurt (after a full Nando's main meal), followed by 2 boxes (750g) of cereal, and various desserts. I can't remember what I had for breakfast or dinner on that day (but they were not insignificant either).
Whilst I am not proud of that level of gluttony, I am impressed. Sugar is renowned for making you more hungry but the volumes that I ate during my binges were indicative of an actual bottomless pit. I never counted my binges, but I suspect that they regularly exceeded 10,000 daily calories.

Fortunately (I seem to) have gotten past my binges by being less restrictive. My rules for dieting follow the maxim that you shouldn't 'do a diet', you should 'change your lifestyle'. You should not have to consciously think 'I am doing a diet', but rather change your approach to food for ever such that it is a none thing.

For me this amounts to:

  • Counting the calories in everything I eat (because as mentioned it is too easy to get it wrong)
  • Eating whatever I want in moderation such that it fits into my calorie 'allowance'
  • If I am trying to lose weight, maintaining a small calories deficit (no more than 500 net calories) over a longer time (so that it is sustainable).
  • Eating back a low end estimate of the calories that I burn from running (see above - so that things are sustainable)
  • Not weighing myself. Who gives a shit. Muscle weighs more than fat.. I could put on weight just by gaining muscle. It could be water weight. Yadda yadda. It is a number that only has the potential to make you feel bad. Just look in the mirror. If you look like a watermelon, eat less (you greedy bastard) or move more.

Finally, I'd say.. the most important part of dieting is that you have to do it for yourself.. for your own reasons (whatever they may be). Compliments are great.. but there is no certainty you will ever get them. Have no expectations and do things for the right reasons. After all, other peoples opinions (whether positive or negative) don't matter all that much.

I've written a post on dieting. I practice what I preach. You probably wouldn't take dieting advice from a morbidly obese person. That said.. here is something that you wont see every day - regress pictures.

![November 2015](/content/images/2016/07/body-november-2015.jpg)
November 2015
![July 2016](/content/images/2016/07/body-july-2016.jpeg)
July 2016 (Today)

I've lost muscle and/or gained fat.. but I have not stepped in the gym in who knows how long. I've been focussing on my running (which has been insanely physically demanding) and on my one day a week marked 'Rest/Cross train'.. I rest.. because I need it.

Running and pacing (in my experience) are an extremely fickle thing. I cannot train at the paces I race at. The psychology of the situation and the adrenaline brings something extra out of me. All things considered I believe that I am a significantly better runner now than I was last November.

The point I was trying to get at is that shit doesn't just happen. I lost muscle because I lost my way with my diet, and stopped going to the gym. You know.. in the same way that I got better at running by running.

You won't lose weight if you don't do anything. And if you don't do anything, don't complain. It's bloody annoying.

Finally.. There is a big difference between motivation and discipline. The Internet is wonderful for many reasons, but this resonates with me.. a lot.

![On motivation..](/content/images/2016/07/motivation.png)

I get up at 5.30am every morning and I run. Sometimes I hate it. I'm tired, havn't slept, am hungover etc etc. I get up and do it anyway (because I am disciplined). Guess what.. regardless of if I reach my training goal I feel bloody great when I get back home. Its basically smugness. You know that you've done something a lot of people can't do.. and you know you've done it before they've rustled in bed. It sets me up for the day, and has improved my mental health leaps and bounds.

It's not because I am motivated, its because I'm disciplined.

It is too easy to say I'll do it tomorrow (and then not do it). Be a realist. Better yourself. Push yourself.


Thomas Clowes

Thomas Clowes

I am a 28 year old software engineer from the United Kingdom. During the day I build multi platform applications. In my spare time I eat food and run marathons. Sometimes I write angry tweets.