(Originally appeared in About Face Magazine, Issue 06)
So you aspire to draw gasps of delight, rather than horror, as you pedal through Portland in the nude. Or, perhaps you just want to look good in a thong by summer. Well, you’re reading the right article. Your friends won’t tell you this, so I will–nobody wants to see a guy in a thong. Please, don’t leave the house in that. Now let’s address your body. If you’ve tried eating less and exercising more and that hasn’t worked, these tips will make the difference.
First, let’s just get this out of the way. Are you actually eating less? Rather than thinking of overeating as consuming more calories over the course of a day than you burn, start thinking of it as consuming more calories in a sitting than your body can readily utilize.
For instance, your friend Botswana consumes only 1500 calories a day—all in one meal—and she can’t understand why she’s not losing weight. Your other friend Mozambique eats five meals of 400 calories each, and keeps losing weight, even though he’s totaling 500 more calories per day than Botswana. Here’s the deal: Botswana is going so long without eating that her metabolism slows down. Even when she eats both lunch and dinner, her body still goes 17 hours from dinner to lunch the next day. So her body says to itself, “I’m gonna run on 1200 calories per day”—which she exceeds by 300 calories. But more importantly, she eats 1500 calories at once. There’s no way she’s going to utilize all that anytime soon.
Be like Mozambique. Eat frequently. Don’t go more than about four hours between meals (except from dinner to breakfast). Eat a protein-rich breakfast—egg whites, lean meat, beans, nonfat Greek yogurt, etc. Keep dinner light. Your metabolism will speed up. Stop snacking—don’t eat anything between your meals. Let your stomach empty out completely. You’ll get to eat again in just a few hours, so stop yourself before you get full. Didn’t your mom ever tell you not to pack the washing machine with clothes? They won’t circulate at all. They’ll come out dirty and moist. Well, the same goes for your stomach. The goal is not to fill your stomach to capacity; it’s to eat just enough to not be hungry anymore.
Now, if you’re thinking, “But Peter, the food I eat is so damn good, I can’t stop eating until my body will simply not accept any more!” then we need to have a different conversation. It’s called the Stop Going Unconscious While You’re Eating conversation. Wake up. You’re tuning out your body while you’re eating. It’s the only possible way to ignore your body’s cries of protest. Tune in instead.
If your food is so good, why not do everything possible to enjoy the experience? That means putting away your reading material and your cell phone, turning off the TV, placing a piece of duct tape over the mouth of your dining company, letting go of whatever you’re stressing about, pulling over if you’re driving, sitting down if you’re standing, and then savoring the hell out of that food. Always keep part of your attention on how your body feels, and as soon as you’re not hungry anymore—usually with an amount of food about one-and-a-half times the size of your closed fist—stop. Bonus: you won’t be in a food coma after lunch.
You’ll also have more leeway with meals if you limit yourself to only non-caloric drinks. Instead of soda or juice (which have a ton of sugar in them), or a latte (basically a huge glass of milk), just stick to water, unsweetened tea, or—if you must—coffee with just a dash of milk. If you want a calorie-free sweetener, try stevia leaf extract instead of the chemical stuff.
Meanwhile, make sure you’re getting enough deep, restful sleep—at least seven hours. Studies show sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain. Next, ditch the plastics. Most plastics contain chemicals known as exogenous endocrine disruptors that can throw off our hormones and contribute to weight gain. Never microwave anything in plastic, and stop buying water in plastic bottles. Haven’t you heard of that swirling island of plastic in the middle of the Pacific that’s half the size of the US? While you’re at it, stop eating food from cans, since they’re all lined with plastic containing bisphenol-A (BPA), a known endocrine disruptor.
Finally, remember this: In the whole history of the human species, we’ve only consumed large amounts of grains and sugars in the tiniest, most recent slice of time. Our bodies just can’t handle it—we get diabetic, fat, and hypertensive. Even in the last few decades, we’ve gone low-fat due to overly simplistic thinking about how we form body fat. In the meantime, our sugar consumption has ballooned, and so have our waistbands. If you want to lose weight, the single biggest change you can make to your diet is to cut way down on sweeteners and flour.
If you take my advice, you should be in good shape for the naked bike ride. Might want to get your suspension tuned up before then, too.