I realized some time ago that over the years I had been gaining weight, about a pound a year. In the 1950s I weighed 155. In the 60s I was up to 165. By the 70s it was 175, and by 2005 I was over 200 pounds. It dawned on me that at that rate, in another 50 years I would be a mountain. My wife had also put on a little more weight than she wanted, so we decided to go on a diet together.
We read up on several weight-loss plans, and adopted elements of several, mostly high protein, low-calorie and low-carbohydrate diets. The weight experts showed me how to calculate my ideal weight, based on my age, height and body type. They said I should weigh about 155 pounds - the same I had weighed fifty years ago! That seemed impossible. I would be content to get down to about 185. I didn't see how I could lose 45 pounds, almost one quarter of my present weight.
The key, we decided, was to monitor carefully everything that went into the mouth. We made a one-page listing of all the foods we ordinarily eat, with serving sizes and values for protein, calories and carbohydrates (carbohydrates from fiber were also listed, since they subtract from total carbs). Our list is here. Your list will of course list different items, but you might use this as a start.
We carefully weighed or measured everything we ate and drank. Everything! (except water - that's a "freebie"!) We each kept an individual log, with a running total of each value, of everything we ate. A sample page from my log is here. (If the image is too small, try enlarging it with CTRL-+.) Each large column is one day's food intake, with size of serving, and columns for calories, protein and net carbohydrates. Above each day's column is the date and my weight upon waking. This page shows days 88 through 93. A star on days 90 and 91 marks that day's weight as a new low..
That may sound quite tedious, but we felt it was important. There is quite a difference between eating a three ounce slice of beef and a five ounce slice (150 calories vs. 250). When one tablespoon of oil has 125 calories, there is a great difference between one tablespoon of salad dressing and two (or three!). If you don't measure, you will be tempted to fudge, and 50 calories here and 100 there and 150 somewhere else quickly adds up.
We set initial daily limits for ourselves for maximum calories and carbs, and minimum protein, based on several diet guidebooks. We weighed ourselves each morning and recorded results. During the first two weeks we found that tiny snacks mid-morning and mid-afternoon kept the hunger in check (half an apple, a raw carrot, a one-ounce piece of cheese, a dill pickle). After two weeks we no longer needed the snacks, and were able to up the carb limit by 20 grams, and resume our customary glass of wine in the evening.
We obviously eliminated all high-calorie or high-carb foods: baked goods, candy, jams, sugars, potatoes, pasta, rice, oil-based salad dressings. Lean meats, eggs, vegetables and fruits made up the bulk of meals, with some dairy products. We used artificial sweeteners and substituted low-fat items where available (milk, sour cream). Since salads were an important part of the diet, I developed my own recipes for low-calorie salad dressings. (See the recipes here.)
Results: I immediately began to lose weight, averaging two and a half pounds per week. At the end of five months I had lost 46 pounds, and was back to what I weighed in the 1950s. I lost two inches off my waist and two inches off my chest (and a quarter inch off my hat size). I no longer suffered reflux attacks during the night. My wife had similar success.
Since I got rid of that 46 pounds (over two years ago) I have kept it off, varying only by two or three pounds up or down. The key to keeping weight off is that you simply cannot go back to eating the way you did during all the years when you were putting the weight on. Yes, I miss pies and cake and ice cream and hot cinnamon rolls and chocolate candy. Once in a while - a great while - I will have a small serving of something like that. But those are no longer friends. I don't want to go back.
- Cyril Connolly