Nov 2019 Update: This is a so so way to lose weight, further reading for me makes me think that is the better way to do it.

I’ve lost weight multiple times in a row. I’ve tried many methods. Ketogenic diets, low glycemic index diets, intermittent fasting diets, bodybuilder-style cutting diets, intermittent fasting, being vegan and other kinds that I cannot remember. I have the Fitbit wifi weight scale, the fitness tracker and everything. I’ve even done DXA scans.

But out of all the ways I’ve ever tried to lose weight, I’ve found the best way to lose weight for me is just plain old calorie counting. Everything else was a lot of work, annoyingly restrictive or made me feel like crap, especially the keto diet with it’s “keto flu”. Just eating a with 800 calorie deficit a day felt surprisingly good for what it was.

I think the big reason why people are attracted to other kinds of diets is because they offer a false promise of being less work or being able to almost eat as much as you want. Do the keto diet and you can eat as much cheese as you want! Do the low glycemic index diet and you don’t have to measure how much you eat! Become vegan and stop eating impulsively because almost everything has an animal product in it!

They want the magic bullet, the way to cheat the hunger gods. Calorie counting is too much work. You need to weigh and make your own food all the time because it’s hard to get the calorie counts of food made by other people.

The first time I tried calorie counting, I tried a meal ordering service called Diet2Go. Subscribers are shipped a packet of frozen meals from Florida overnight once per week. You got full nutritional information and a guaranteed calorie count. I lost about 10–15 pounds during a period of 2–3 months. I didn’t feel that low energy or hungry and it was a pretty low effort thing to do. What stopped me from continuing the diet was getting sick of eating small frozen meals from a microwave.

I got to my lowest weight in my adult life by doing that. 172lbs.

Graph of weight from 2011 to 2018

My weight history. Circle 1: Keto, 2: Frozen food, 3: “Weightlifter”, 4: This Diet, 5: Going to Taipei & This Diet

It worked really well! I bought a cool ‘thin’ dress shirt shortly after that diet.

Of course, after the diet, I gained back the weight like everyone else over the course of a year or two. Such is diets.

After hovering around 200lbs for about a year, I had a wake up call. I haven’t been consistently over 200lbs for many years. I had to lose the weight. So I thought back and looked at my weight history and thought, what was the most effective, and saw it was calorie counting. But I didn’t want to eat microwaved frozen food again, I definitely did not want to cook any food. I didn’t have any time or the inclination for it. I still wanted to go out and eat with friends sometimes.

The Realization

So I realized, chain restaurants have calorie counts for their meals in the USA. My requirements for them were:

  • Fast
  • Fresh & Healthy
  • Don’t make you feel like crap if you eat them all the time, so no Taco Bell
  • Filling for their calorie counts, which usually means a lower glycemic index

And the places that met that were:

  1. Subway
  2. Chipotle

Supermarkets also stock an assortment of frozen snacks that taste pretty good after you microwave them. They also sell prepackaged fresh snacks like vegetable packs, salads and so on.

I shop at the Trader Joes close to my home, so I buy their frozen pork gyoza potstickers, frozen soup dumplings, and microwavable brussel sprouts. I also eat low calorie jello sometimes.

My freshness requirement was solved!

The Diet

Go get a calorie tracker app for your smart phone. I use myfitnesspal since I find it has a more extensive database than others and I don’t have to pay for it to integrate with my fitbit scale. Put in your weight loss goal / week as part of your profile, and it should calculate your calorie goal per day. For every piece of food you eat, try to put it in the calorie tracker, even if it is just an estimate.

Sandwich on a plate with fuzzy background

Most of your meals will look like this, minus the bokeh

Eat 2 meals from one of the healthy chains, or split it up into 3 or 4 mini meals. A meal from subway is typically a footlong sandwich, or a burrito bowl from chipotle. Aim for a meal to be 600–750 calories.

Have a third mini-meal consisting of snacks you got from the grocery store in the evening. Aim for 200–300 calories from that, depending on your weight.

When you go out to a restaurant with friends, mark it as a social meal that is 1200–1500 calories. Skip one of the chain restaurant meals. Be OK with going over your limit for that day, don’t be surprised if you actually don’t that much.

Drink as much calorie free drinks as you want. If you’re hungry, sometimes it’s because your thirsty, try drinking water instead.

Some people find liquid meals such as Soylent a good supplement that works well for their body, so that is another convenient meal option.

Another good thing about this diet is you can do it on business trips or while on a road trip fairly sustainably, since it is very flexible.

My Daily Routine

When I wake up, I weigh myself in the morning on the wifi scale. Some people like to go to the bathroom before weighing themselves to have a more consistent measurement, but it doesn’t matter that much, since it’s more about your running average.

You can also measure your waistline, but that might be too much hassle after a while compared to just standing on a scale for 10 seconds. Frequent records of your weight is helpful, since it lets you catch trends relatively early. But if the daily oscillations of weight can discourage you, then I recommend only weighing yourself once a week.

Graph of weight with running average

Measuring your weight can be very noisy, you can go up and down several pounds every day, don’t let it discourage you.

I eat two 600–750 calorie meals from either Chipotle or Subway. I pick them up on the way to work or get them during my lunch break. I even pre-order my meal with the subway app so I don’t have to wait in line, often during my commute.

I skip breakfast since I am a late riser and eat lunch and dinner. I eat when I’m hungry, so often I will eat my second meal around 3–5 pm. When I get home, I will snack on about 200–500 calories of frozen potstickers, vegetables or jello. I aim to hit around 1750 calories a day, but don’t fret if I go over or under a few hundred calories.

I drink my calorie free caffeinated beverages as usual. I don’t worry about rumors of diet soda making weight loss hard. I do make sure to drink enough water, because feeling hunger is often thirst and a lot of soda has sodium in it, creating a cycle. I do avoid liquid calories as much as possible though.

Sometimes I have a social life, so I mark them as a ‘social meal’ of 1200–1500 calories on my calorie tracker. I avoid eating desert, candy, sugary drinks and too much free bread when I eat with friends. I don’t worry about it beyond that.

I try to avoid eating fruit or fructose in general, since many dieting guides say eating fructose causes the body to pause weight loss. I try to make sure I eat enough vegetables to get the micronutrients I would usually get from fruit instead. I don’t worry about eating an orange once in a while though.

I don’t worry about exercising too, since making dieting the lazy default is more important. I don’t worry about the actual calories counts of the meals I buy being %100 accurate, since being %80 accurate is good enough. I don’t worry that my sodium intake is about 1000mg over the daily recommended amount, since not being fat is far more important to my health than a high sodium intake for a few months. The goal is to make losing weight habitual.

I set my weight loss goal as 2lbs per week. I often go over my calorie limits with this by one or two hundred calories, but this way I give myself a more ambitious goal than I’m actually striving for that is okay to not actually meet.

This is my daily routine, strive to find something that works for you and your body. If your an early riser for example, just eat your first meal a couple of hours after waking, don’t necessarily wait for lunch like I do. If you feel distractingly hungry shortly after waking up, then eat when you wake up. If a 500 calorie deficit is the minimum you can go, then do that. The goal is to have a sustainable diet, and a sustainable diet is one that doesn’t make you want to stop doing it anymore.

Sleep is Very Important

Try to get a good amount of sleep. Late night munchies can add a persistent few hundred calories per day, since the hunger hormone ghrellin is elevated when you’re sleep deprived. One of the most overlooked tips in weight loss is getting enough sleep. This man did some data analysis of his own personal weight loss and found sleep was the most import factor in losing weight.

On the other hand, even if your sleep schedule isn’t that good, you shouldn’t let it discourage you from weight loss journey. My sleep schedule is far from perfect, being a night owl and I am still able to lose weight with this lazy method.

Getting Discouraged

Often with diets, I get discouraged about 1 month in when my weight loss starts slowing down and eventually I stop my diet. Something I’ve realized is that I am still losing weight, but not as fast as I used to in the previous few weeks.

This I’ve realized is a vital time to keep on going. The goal of the diet is to have your overall running average keep on going down. If it feels like the scale is not moving much or moving in the wrong direction, looking at your running average is important. Often your running average is what your weight loss trend actually is.

Graph of weight with plateau marks

As you see in this chart, I had 2 plateaus when trying this diet. The third line shows when I gave up just as I was starting to lose weight again.

If your weight loss is starting to flatline due to not tracking calories that well any more, getting sick of eating subway every day or not getting enough sleep or water, then use it as a reminder to see what you’re doing wrong and getting back on track. Try eating chipotle instead of subway or vice versa.

The Magic of Living Where Everyone is Thin

When you go on vacations to countries where everyone is thinner, you tend to lose weight without thinking about it. Something about the food in those countries tend to be more nutritious, more filling or something else I don’t know. Often you can tell the difference immediately after one day.

One time I went on a trip to Taipei for 1 week and lost 4lbs. I was not hungry and small portions of Taiwanese food would keep me full. I kept on making jokes about how they put hunger drugs in the food in America. On my flight back to the USA, I ate American food again and instantly it took more food to make me full.

Friends that would move from Asia or Europe would often comment that they gain weight when they move to the USA, often gaining something around 20lbs. Some would say they ate same amount, and even tried to eat food from home mostly and still have the weight gain. This even applied to people who ate a lot of pasta and pizza back home, meals often associated with weight gain. That person is fairly thin, and actually used my method to successfully lose his American weight better than I did.

This youtube video “Why is it so Easy to be Thin in Japan?” goes into more detail.

If your location independent, a great way to lose weight is to often just move to countries where everyone is thinner. Through osmosis of the food culture and your body being unadjusted to the food environment, you will probably lose weight naturally.

Once your weight loss has slowed down, move to another country where people are skinny, but have different food and start your no-effort weight loss again. I haven’t done this, since I am not location independent, but I imagine it would work well.

Living in America is definitely fighting against food gravity, and it’s unfortunate that we have to do things like diets to stay healthy. I really hope more healthy, filling, fast food options past Subway and Chipotle pop up in the USA one day.

The Unsolved Issue of Eating the Same Thing Over and Over Again

Often with diets, you eat a small amount of different meals to make calorie tracking easier. The issue with this is your body seems to start digesting this food more efficiently, and you get hungry again faster.

I don’t know specifically what causes this. Is it a change in food processing enzymes / gut bacteria as your body adjusts to a different diet? After a few weeks is your body super efficient digesting that kind of food, so you need to change it up to keep your digestive system off balance?

Is it a persistent lack of certain nutrients makes your body keep the hunger hormones on for? I’m not sure. If you know, some tips would be appreciated!

Personal Psychology Matters the Most

In the end, finding out what works for your body and your psychology is what matters the most. For some people ketogenic diets are magic. For others eating 3000 calories of pasta and then going for a 1 or 2hr bike ride every day is what works well for other people.

If this weight loss guide doesn’t help you, don’t let it discourage you. Try something else, experiment and figure out what works best for you. If something in this article doesn’t sit well with you for whatever reason, then don’t do it and figure out something else if necessary. Losing weight with friends or some other support group often works better than going it alone.

If you want more ideas and info on how to lose weight I would recommend this article: The Best Fat Loss Article on the Motherfuckin’ Internet