Merry Christmas: Take the Day Off!

The holidays are a great time to take time off and enjoy good food, wine, and family.  There are going to be days where living it up is the far better choice than eating in moderation.  And on those days, go for it!  Being in the moment with family and friends is more than worth it.

Don't worry, I have done the math for you:

Lets assume that your current basal metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn if you laid in bed without moving for 24 hours) is 2,000 calories per day.  If you ate 2,000 calories per day, you would eat 730,000 calories in one year.  Let's say you were aggressively trying to lose weight instead and set your weight loss goal to consume 1,500 calories a day.  During a one year period, you would eat 547,500 calories.  The deficit would be approximating 25% resulting in weight loss from one to two pounds a week depending on how much you weigh.  Now lets say that you wisely decided to take off 10% of there year where you planned to eat and drink in excess and on those days you consumed 5,000 calories.  So approximately 36 days of the year you consume 5,000 calories and the rest of the time you eat 1,500 calories.  Your total calories consumed would be 673,500 or an 8% deficit.  So you wouldn't lose as much weight in a year but you would lose weight and have a lot more fun.  Now most people don't take that many days off and when they do, at least speaking from personal experience, they rarely eat that many calories.  Often times, when I have made a habit of eating the right number of calories, my cheat days would end up being 2,500 to 3,000 calories.  Which usually means I had a couple of craft beers (345 calories per glass), a couple extra glasses of wine (185 per glass), pizza, or dessert.  Which was plenty for me to feel like I was not only cruising through the weight loss but having fun while doing it.  The point is, when it is time to celebrate and have fun, do it, and don't even think twice about diet frameworks or losing weight.  If you eat right most of the time you will lose weight.  So enjoy the times when you don't!

The Jumping Jack Exercise Exercise

I recently just started a jumping jack challenge with some family members.  The goal of the challenge is to start at one jumping jack and each day to add one more.  So the first day you do one jumping jack.  The second day you complete two jumping jacks.  The day after three jumping jacks.  The term of the challenge is one year.  At the end of one year, the participants will have been doing jumping jacks for 365 days straight with 365 jumping jacks on the final day.  As of this writing, we are on day 8 of the challenge.  There are some really interesting concepts that are revealed by this challenge.  First a couple of quick points.

1. Jumping jacks are not that hard. A jumping jack doesn't require very much athleticism to complete. Which means, most people can at least do some jumping jacks (I recognize there will be exceptions but the majority of people will be able to complete a jumping jack).

2. Jumping jacks do not take much time.  A single jumping jack takes about a second to complete.

Concept 1: We often skip out on doing things and the reason is not because they are hard.  Most of the time we often attribute our inability to complete a task because it is hard.  But since jumping jacks are not hard, there shouldn't be any reason to skip them, especially not in the first 30 days.  I can confirm that two of the participants (I was one of them) have already missed at least one day of the first eight days.  The question is why?  For myself at least, I believe I missed a day because I have not made a habit of doing jumping jacks.  Since there were no natural cues to remind me to do the jumping jacks, I simply forgot to do them.  The simple remedy, set an alarm.  When the alarm does off, get to it.

Concept 2: We rarely practice discipline and hold ourselves accountable to our goals.  When I said I wanted to do this jumping jack challenge, the first question I got was why.  I do exercise regularly and there are better ways to burn calories than jumping jacks.  If there is no purpose, then what is the point.  The point is to prove to myself that I can commit to something for a year and complete it.  Think about that.  If jumping jacks are not hard (at least for the first 90 days or so), then what would ever stop you from saying you will do it and actually completing it.  Wouldn't it be meaningful to set and hit a long term goal?  How good will we all feel on day 365 (December 9, 2018) knowing that we completed jumping jacks all year long?  Discipline, like any other skill, requires practice.  When you are disciplined, you can achieve almost any goal you want.

It is surprising that something as meaningless as a jumping jack challenge can reveal how important building good habits and exercising discipline are to success in life.  Just goes to show you there are no cheats or shortcuts.  Just a little bit of effort and focus and you can have anything you ever wanted.  All you have to do is decide to get started and show up everyday.  

By the way, myself and the other participant made up the missed day of jumping jacks.  We were both thankful we missed day five and not day three hundred.

Weight Loss: Where to Start?

If you have read The Wine Diet book, you may have noticed that I did not address the topic of specific nutritional advice.  Which was intentional.  Why?  Because in my experience, forcing yourself to eat radically different than how you eat now simply doesn't work in the long run.  Making those kinds of strict changes doesn't just impact the food you put in your body, it also impacts they way you live your life.  Which means all forces are working against you.  Instead, where I have had success, is first learning what I eat by writing it down using MyFitnessPal.  Then making choices that reduce total calories without sacrificing satisfaction; like eating a hamburger without cheese (see Diet Tip: Hold the Cheese for more details).  By implementing small substitutions, you can lower your total calories without feeling like you are giving up everything.  Which means you can lose weight and still do all the things you love to do like wine tasting and eating cake at birthday parties.  Once you learn how many calories are in the foods you like to eat (which will take no more than three months to accomplish for most people) and develop new eating habits, you will lose weight.  Only after you have achieved success with controlling what you eat should you focus on building better nutrition.  Using the same approach for losing weight, you can then start to substitute foods with a higher nutritional value into your diet and continue your path towards better health.  Good nutrition without controlling your eating habits isn't a good recipe for success.  Eating healthy foods won't save your health if you are still eating two or three donuts a day.  So first focus on learning about what you eat, then learning to control it.  Once mastered, take your health to the next level with better nutrition.



Does it Work?

One Wine Diet reader asked whether The Wine Diet really works.  He thought there was no way it was possible.  But it is.  Dieting is not a complicated thing.  Eat less than your body expends.  That's it.  But for most people it's hard.  Don't take my word for it, just look around when you are out in public.  Most people are overweight.  Many don't even realize how much they are overeating.  Making dietary changes are a very hard thing to do even though it doesn't seem like it.  What, when, and how we eat are made up of much more than the food we put in our mouths.  It is part taste and preference, part lifestyle, and part habits.  For the gents out there who watch sporting events, they are probably drinking beer and barbecuing too.  And how may people do you know that have the Starbuck's habit.  You never see those folks with out some sort venti frap in their hand.  How many people drown their sorrows in sweets?  You can count me on that one.  Whenever I am stressed out or feeling bad, the first thing I reach for is the ice cream.  Since what we eat is much more than food, losing weight often means bigger changes than just eating salad at every meal.  Our choice of diet must also take into consideration our lifestyle choices and our routines.  After all, what is the point of being thin if you are not happy?  Isn't happiness in life the ultimate goal with living long enough to enjoy it the second goal?  To help this reader on his journey, I would like to share with you, why The Wine Diet framework will make you successful in losing weight and keeping it off.

Losing weight is simple.  Eat less than you expend.  This fact can be stated simply by the following equation:  

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR: the rate of energy used by the body at rest) = Food - Exercise

If the food you eat and the exercise you perform are less than your BMR, odds are you will lose weight.  If the food you eat and the exercise you perform add up to more than the BMR, odds are you will gain weight.  To see how intuitive and easy this is, consider the following example.  Let's say that person x has a BRM of 2,000 calories.  If person x eats 4,000 calories a day without exercising, then person x will gain weight.  Why?  The body stores extra calories as fat in case of potential food shortages that would have faced our ancestors.  The more you eat, the bigger you get.  The second half of the equation is the exercise that you get.  The more you exercise, the more calories your body burns.  While exercise is very important to your overall health and well being, weight problems are more likely caused by the food we eat and not by the lack of exercise that you get.  For example, running for one hour (depending on pace and terrain) will burn somewhere between 600 or 700 calories.  A one hour steak dinner could easily end up in 1,200 calories consumed with plenty of options closer to 2,000 calories.  Working out to burn calories is significantly harder than eating less calories to begin with.  So watching what you eat is far more important in my opinion than how much or how hard you exercise.  Now that doesn't mean stop eating hamburgers and ice cream.  It just means that you should find a way to eat the same foods for less calories (like holding the cheese).  If you eat less than your body burns, your body will have to get energy from somewhere else.  That somewhere is the reserves currently being stored as fat.  Do this for long enough, and odds are you will lose weight and be thin.

Disclaimer: I recognize that there are more to food than just calories.  There are also nutrients to consider which have different impacts on our body.  For example, proteins takes longer to digest that do carbohydrates.  Most people should consider this topic after they have developed a solid understanding of how they eat now and how many calories they eat.  There is no sense in focusing on a marathon when you cannot run a mile.  So focus on one mile at a time and eventually you will run that marathon.

To make weight loss permanent, two skills that have to be developed.  First, you must learn about and become conscientious of what you eat.  Your lifestyle will change over time.  The person you are today will not be the person you are tomorrow.  A person in their twenties will not live or eat the same way as a person in their forties.  Since tomorrow will not be the same as today, having a specific meal plan won't be very effective.  Once your lifestyle changes, your meals will change, and you will find yourself out of balance and potentially gaining weight.  Understanding how many calories are in the food you eat is an invaluable tool for making healthy decisions for the rest of your life, no matter what lifestyle you are currently living.  The only way to develop this skill is to write down what you eat.  Do this for just a couple of weeks and you will have covered all of the foods you generally will eat.  The second tool for success is building better habits.  It doesn't do any good to know that a slice of cake has 700 calories and then eat two slices.  You have to develop the tools and the habits that will keep you eating on the right side of the weight loss equation.  Little habits like the reset meal and eating right at breakfast are invaluable habits to get you back no track even if you fall off for a week, or even two.  

Most important is to understand that learning to eat right happens OVER TIME.  There are no quick solutions (other than surgery; which as I understand offers no guarantees of permanency).  So give yourself time and be easy on yourself.  Reward your healthy eating habits daily.  And when those times come around at a party or celebrating some success, don't worry about you are eating and live in the moment.  There will always be plenty of time to get back on track but some memories will last a lifetime.  So be happy, drink wine, and lose weight. Cheers!

Diet Tip: Divert and Redirect

There are lots of reasons why people head to the kitchen to eat.  Sometimes they are hungry or thirsty.  Sometimes it can be from habit or boredom.  And sometimes it can be it can be from an emotional response or just feeling off.  I cannot tell you how many times I headed for a cookie because I was struggling with starting a hard project or just not feeling myself.  Even though a cookie might make me feel better for a fleeting moment, I often feel worse because I was eating junk food.  Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between eating when hungry and eating for other reasons.  So what can you do?

If you are not really hungry then all you need is a short diversion.  Just like with my three year old daughter, if we can change her focus for just a little while, she will often forget what she was fighting for in the first place.  The same trick can be used with dieting.  Here is how it might work.  When you head to the kitchen to get a snack, drink a big glass of water instead.  Then leave the kitchen and do something you like for twenty minutes like shop online, watch a few videos, or play a distracting game.  Any activity will work so long as you spend about twenty minutes doing it.  Most of the time you will find that you have forgotten all about the snack.  And if you don't, well then maybe you really needed it.  Either way you will have won a small victory by waiting and won't feel as bad when you do eat the snack.

Using this method might be difficult while at work since most bosses, including myself, frown on playing games or watching videos while you should be working.  But there are other productive ways to distract yourself.  You could take a brief walk while thinking about how you might tackle that tough project or you might take on a different small project that will feel good when completed.  The truth is it doesn't matter what you do as long as you are not thinking about eating a cookie.  And if you still eat the cookie, well then you earned it by at least having the discipline to make yourself wait twenty minutes.  Maybe next time you will forget the cookie altogether!

Diet Tip: Hold the Cheese

I once read a post where the author had suggested the only way to succeed at weight loss was to make significant changes.  That small changes were not enough.  I suppose there are some circumstances where that may be true; like military boot camp.  But in almost all circumstances, it is probably far better to stack small good habits to get big results.  For example, as of the beginning of last year let's say you weighed 200 pounds.  Throughout the year you ate what you wanted without any meaningful exercise and you stayed roughly the same weight throughout the year.  Now imagine you made only one change: hold the cheese.  If you ate exactly the same types and quantity of foods as the year before excepting any cheese, how would you fare?  First, all of your sandwiches, hamburgers, and tacos would likely be 150 calories less.  Your spaghetti, cheesy eggs, and any other breakfast or dinner entree which normally has cheese would likely be 150 calories less too.  If twice daily you hold the cheese, your total daily calorie intake would be 300 calories less.  

According to Go Ask Alice, a Columbia University healthcare promotion website, it takes a 3,500 calorie deficit to lose one pound.  While in the real world there are a multitude of factors that influence weight loss beyond a simple 3,500 calories, at least having a place to start makes the discussion easier.  So, 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound.  Now that you are holding the cheese, you are eating 300 calories less per day.  Dividing 3,500 by 300, you will lose a pound approximately every 12 days.  Each month you could theoretically lose 2.5 pounds.  Over one year you would stand to lose 30 pounds.

The question is: how hard is it to hold the cheese?  I like cheese as much as the next guy but cheese rarely makes the meal.  I certainly love cheese while drinking wine.  But eating a hamburger sans the cheese isn't significantly less satisfying than a hamburger with cheese.  The same goes for a ham sandwich.  So if holding the cheese means losing 30 pounds a year, which would you rather have?  A thinner you or a little cheese?

The same principle of holding the cheese applies to anything else. Holding the sauce, limiting the salad dressing or choosing a lower calorie alternative, or subbing skinny buns for regular bread will all add up over time.  If you stack multiple practices together, imagine how many wasteful calories you can cut out of your diet without hardly trying.  So start today by holding the cheese and get ready for a thinner you tomorrow!

A Pound A Week

Recently a gentleman posed the following question: Imagine how much better you would be at something if you had practiced steadily over the last year?  The thought is interesting because we often think of time in the context of going forward not looking backwards at the time we might have wasted.  However, thinking about potential time wasted in the past can be a very useful exercise in thinking about the future.  For example, imagine if you had managed your calories and managed to lose a pound a week over the last year.  Today you would be 52 pounds lighter.  Not a bad outcome.  But when you look to the feature, losing a pound a week doesn't seem all that great right?  We all have some reason to get super thin as fast as possible.  If not for any reason other than dieting isn't fun (unless you do it right).  Which is why fad diets are so attractive.  They offer what seems like a proven solution that works fast...just what we need.  But if you have ever tried a fad diet, they never work over time.  Why?  Because the very mechanism that creates fast results also makes the diet unsustainable: extreme change.  For example, the Atkins high protein, low carb diet, a diet I am very familiar with (I have lost 50 pounds on this diet twice), offers fantastic short term results.  As long as you can eat everything protein and minimize your carbohydrates, you will lose weight fast.  But what happens after you lose the weight?  How many carbohydrates can you add back to your diet and still maintain?  The problem with any fad diet is that it never lasts forever; even if they offer great short term results.  Eventually your life circumstances will change and with it your diet.  

Instead, imagine if you made some small change.  Maybe you decided to give up the doughnut for breakfast and had oatmeal. Or maybe you decided to hold the cheese on all of your meals.  Let's say that this one change was enough to lower your calories resulting in losing one pound a week.  How hard would that be?  Wouldn't it be easier to make one small change and let time do its thing?  Like the old Latin saying goes: festina lente (hurry slowly).  Instead of trying to lose weight right now now just to end up frustrated, try a little slow is fast.  One pound a week will make a huge difference over time!

Why I Wrote The Wine Diet

I cannot believe six months have passed since my last post.  I don't hardly know where the time as gone.  Certainly I have spent time with my young family.  And I have spent a lot of time at work as the real estate services firm I work for started to grow.  It is easy to get distracted and start to fall back into old routines.  Luckily for me I have been on The Wine Diet for long enough that I have built some new habits.  Which isn't to say that over the last six months I have been completely successful.  As time got short I had to stop working out every day.  I didn't adjust my caloric intake fast enough which resulted in some weight gain.  Also the stress of being a father and a growing company also resulted in some over-indulgence.  None of it is good for the waist line.  But I am back on track allocating time in life to get some exercise and keep my calories in balance.  Now its time to get the writing back on track so I can share everything I have learned about getting thin and staying that way.

What better way to start than to share why I wrote The Wine Diet.  I have never been the best writer.  My talents lay far more in the spreadsheet and finance world than the literary.  But I decided to write this book because I wanted to share with people a reasonable alternative to losing weight and keeping it off.  I had tried many fad diets from high protein and low carb, paleo diets, and juice diets.  All of them worked to some degree but none of them worked for very long.  There had to be something wrong with those diets to work for a while but not forever.  I now know what it was.  These diets were born from extreme effort and were not natural to the way we work, the way we change over time, and the way we live our lifestyles.  These diets required commitment which could be given in the short run but not forever.  I realized I needed to create a diet that worked for me that would not require me to give up the way I lived.  So I had to be able to drink wine.  Being a part of a wine family and foregoing the wine would not last very long.  How many times could I go out for a wine tasting picnic and watch everyone else enjoy the fruit of the wine while I sipped on water?  

So I built a diet framework which allowed me to lose weight and drink wine.  To get the nutrients I needed and to feel full and satisfied, I had to put every calorie to work.  So I paid attention to what I ate and ate less of what left me hungry and more of what left me feeling satisfied.  I eventually ended up with a sense of what I ate, how many calories were in it, and how to shed excess calories from foods that didn't add to the satisfaction. Ultimately all of this became The Wine Diet.  I wrote the book for all of those people who, like me, are tired of dieting.  I wanted people to know there was an alternative way of looking at diet that didn't require giving up your life.  I wanted to present a basic framework, that anyone could use, to create their own diet program and lose weight while eating and drinking foods that they loved.  And for the fellow winos out there, here is an exact plan you can follow to get and stay thin while drinking wine.  Cheers!

Life Transitions and Waistlines

As we start a new year, I cannot help but think about how life transitions influence our waistlines.  For example, you may have noticed that I have not posted a blog in a little over three months.  The reason for the lack of posts is that my wife and I were blessed with identical twin boys  who are now just over three months old.  To say my life has changed a little would be an understatement.  Instead of having a parent/child ratio of 2 to 1, my wife and I are now outnumbered 2 to 3.  Which means we have a lot less time to ourselves.

Through this life transition, I have gained a few pounds.  Sure the World Series happened followed by the holidays.  But I gained wait for more reasons that eating sugar cookies and drinking craft beer.  Weight gain was inevitable.  As my life changed, so did my calorie needs.  Even though I still ate pretty much the same way, I had less time for working out and other physical activities.  The result was consuming more calories than my body needed inevitably resulting in weight gain.  The solution to this situation is simple: eat less calories.  Which means I need to go back to my food journal and see where I can cut out excess and make calories count more (which for me generally means increasing my protein).  I will share my progress with you over the next couple of months.

Life transitions tend to be bad for the waistline simply because change is hard.  We are so focused on the change itself that we don't stop to think about how it might influence other areas of our lives.  The next time your life changes, it might be worthwhile to think about how your calorie and fitness needs might change.  Who knows, it could save your life.

Cheers to the New Year!

Weight Loss Tip: The Reset Meal

Every day I eat the same food for breakfast.  Two servings of All Bran cereal, one cup of almond milk, and a handful of blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries.  Aside from the nutritional value of my breakfast (I get more than 80% of my daily fiber before 10 am), having the same breakfast meal acts as a diet reset.  No matter how poorly I ate the day before, starting with the familiar high fiber breakfast puts me back on track to better eating.  The fact that I feel this way is not all that surprising.  The Wine Diet is a habit based approach to eating so eating a healthy familiar breakfast serves as a trigger of sorts to get me back on track.  Think about this example.  Have you ever rushed out the door for work in the morning and realized on your way to work you forgot to brush your teeth?  If you have, you know it can really ruin the rhythm of your day.  Getting up, getting dressed, and brushing your teeth are routines that you have established over years of practice.  When one of these steps are skipped, the day can be thrown out of whack.  Just like brushing your teeth, if eating a healthy breakfast can be formed as part of your daily healthy eating routine, it may positively influence the way you eat for the rest of the day.  So find a healthy breakfast you love and be sure to eat it after a day of bad food choices.