Reading about you is inspiring. I am 48 years old, live in New Delhi, India, height 5 feet 10 inches and weight around 100 kg. My recommended body weight is around 70 kg and I have started a calories restriction diet of 1600 calories a day, 3 days ago. I wish to pursue this practice and any suggestions or guidance you could give to me on this, would go a long way in helping me.
Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us. You are inspiring.
Q: I am an attorney who is 44 (soon to be 45) and who just came across your blog. Currently I am reasonably athletic but quite heavy (6’2” and about 260 pounds). Considering doing caloric restriction, not because of any immanent issue but just wanting to get this part of my life under control. I am trying to figure out how to navigate this undertaking given my rather hectic lifestyle of little sleep and lots of crappy food. Since it looks like you were probably in a similar place, I was curious if you had any advice or tips on how to start – did you get into a routine slowly and ratchet it up over time (I saw your analogy to mountain climbers and oxygen)? Did you just go “cold turkey” one day? Things I should look out for? I’d be grateful for any advice you might have, since I expect your experiences and mine are likely to be similar.
A: Great to hear you are considering CR. I moved along quickly in my enthusiasm when I started. But I still lost weight at a pound or less a week. Studied show it's very important to lose slowly Animals/people actually show diminished lifespans with CR that's too precipitously implemented- probably relates to toxins otherwise benignly stored in fat tissues that are released too quickly and copiously for adequate elimination. Furthermore, this is not a sprint; it's the ultimate marathon. Those that endure proceed at the right pace. In fact, it's the best indicator, in my experience, of success.
Regarding a hectic schedule, you have to plan. Buy raw salads at your local grocery store or make at home at the first of the week; carry them with you. Have no inhibition about bringing your raw veggies (with some subtlety) into elegant or other restaurants to add to their likely corrupted or meager salads. Explain to your dinner companions or others concerned that you are confined to a special diet.
Because CR is about less food and less exercise, with planning it should require less time.
Hang in there!
Several studies suggest that eating a low carb diet can keep weight low because it, in effect, restricts calories. The argument goes that people feel fuller at a given volume of calories when the calories are comprised of protein and fat than when comprised of carbohydrates.
This may be true (but I doubt it)...
...which means that the program would meet one of the two elements of healthy CR, i.e. the restriction of calories. But that is only half the plan. CR requires, in addition, that the calories consumed be especially nutritious. As a practical matter, that means that the diet must include copious fruits and vegetables.
This is not something you see on “low-carb” diets. The centerpiece of every low-carb diet that I have seen is animal based, i.e. fats (saturated) and protein. These are not nutrient-dense foods. Furthermore, a plethora of studies exist suggesting, if not clearly establishing, a link between animal-source foods and cancers, heart-disease and diabetes. A good summary of this is found in “The China Study” by Colin Campbell. Also Google the terms under research.
The safest approach to CR is to stick with calories comprised of plant foods (especially raw) with animal products being no more than an occasional component. You will find that you are eating such a large quantity of food that you should rarely feel hungry. By contrast, animal foods are comparatively calorie-dense and nutrient-sparse.
The weight loss on such programs probably has less to do with calorie restriction than the questionably healthy and little-understood effects of ketosis--a complex process by which the body is forced to consume its fat stores for energy. This is a metabolic survival response normally associated with starvation which, when recommended as a weight loss strategy, should at least raise some intuitive red flags for even the least informed aspirant to health and longevity.
The unsatisfying fact is that CR practitioners are unanimous on only two things: 1) we must reduce our calorie consumption substantially below our respective set points, 2) we must maximize the nutritional content of the calories we consume. Beyond these fundamentals, strategies and tactics vary. While prong 2 does assure that all practitioners eat generous quantities of fruits and vegetables, strategies vary regarding carbs vs. fats vs. protein percentages in each diet. Practices also vary among us regarding the related issues of bread and dessert permissibility. Positions also vary regarding meat & dairy consumption, though it’s fair to say that most of us minimize or eliminate these. Some of us, but not all, take lots of supplements, consume alcohol and/or caffeine, prefer raw foods, eat only organic, etc..
Regarding exercise, prong 1 creates a general consensus that the calorie restriction effect can be nullified by too much exercise. CR is not about being lean, its about restricting calories. That being said, the actual amount of exercise varies greatly among practitioners. Some push the envelope in my humble opinion. People have told me they were doing CR while regularly exercising an hour a day. The problem is that there is no clear guidance on this point. We know that exercise is good since it benefits us in so many ways, not the least of which relates to our functional health (bones, muscles, flexibility, etc.). The key question is how many exercise calories can we expend without the caloric detriment outweighing the caloric benefit. We know, for example, that heavy aerobics activity--which by definition requires heavy calorie consumption-- does not produce exceptional longevity (though it improves average longevity).
Our strategies also vary regarding how we schedule our meals. Some of us eat 3 meals of approximately the same size each day. Some eat only one or two meals; others eat more but eat larger meals early in the day. Some snack. Others eat only on alternate days. The research does not indicate that any of these is clearly the best approach. I suspect each of us chose the pattern that we can live with best, then developed our supporting arguments.
Despite, however, the marketing challenges facing calorie restriction, there still remains the preponderating fact that CR is the most intelligent diet option available to man at this time. No eating strategy has been shown to provide better protection against all major diseases, to preserve physical functionality longer and to provide, potentially at least, dramatically greater longevity. Furthermore, not only are these claims greater than those of 95% of the more popular diets, the documentation supporting these claims dwarfs that of its best-selling counterparts (for which in many cases no such evidence exists). Therefore, my path is clear. Along the way I will continue being one of those voices in the wilderness for which an occasional convert is ample satisfaction.