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Want to Lose Weight? Quit Playing the Diet Numbers Game and Start Counting What Counts

Updated on September 3, 2014

100 Pounds Gone

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Lose the Diet Fails and Lose Weight

Common knowledge isn't always common sense. That's true in many areas of life, most especially in weight loss thinking. I've lost 100 pounds and learned that many commonly-held dieting ideas are in fact, myths. And doggedly adhering to misinformation stalls weight loss. I had a lot to lose and to do so, I had to quit doing what wasn't working. As I gained new diet wisdom, I lost weight. Here are common diet mistakes with sensible change-ups.

Diet Numbers Game Fails

Diet Fail Numero Uno is constantly weighing yourself. You micromanage that number on the scale till it drives you frantic. You can do things to get the number down, but you can't make the scale change. That happens slowly, so slow that watching it constantly just frustrates.

Or we refuse to see what's happening in front of our face-- like checking weather reports instead of looking out the window. A few months back, the scale said I hit a weight loss "plateau." The number wasn't changing but my clothes continued to fit looser. I had less flab, looked and felt skinnier.

I got scared that I wouldn't get the number down and tried a steroid weigh loss supplement called DHEA. It made me jittery, sick and darn near suicidal. I read the label more closely and found out why. DHEA contains testosterone!

Had I just trusted the weight loss process and the evidence of my own eyes, I could have avoided a nasty episode.




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How to Play the BMI Numbers Game and Win!

So calculate your BMI once, initially to get an idea where you should be. Then, forget it, until you get near your goal. Constantly recaching the numbers only frustrates you. Seeing "obese" or "overweight" listed by your number, continually, hurts. And for heaven's sake, choose a BMI calculator that factors in real-life measures, like WebMD's linked here. BMI calculators should include age, gender, body shape, activity level and clothing size at the very least. I suggest it factor in health conditions, too. Any that just relies on height and weight, should be cast in the fiery furnace.

BMI Numbers Game Fails

Another weight loss enemy is, ironically, the highly-touted BMI calculator. Doctors talk low BMI (body mass index) number like it's the Holy Grail. It's moderately helpful at best--because it simply ratios height to weight. No factoring in of any other circumstances or personal characteristics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines other limitations of standard BMI calculators.

Used wrongly--as many dieters and doctors do-- the BMI is a slave driver. To get to that magic number, we dieters often resort to dangerous, unhealthy techniques (like my experiment with steroids). And doctors encourage us to. Mine actually said I had to get to "super skinny" his words--whatever it took. What does that even mean? And is stick thin--as I took him to suggest--really that healthy? Of course not.

And the goal numbers are skewed. I have some body fat now that I've lost weight, but very little. My hands, face, legs, arms, neck, chest are bony. But my weight to height ratio puts me just under "overweight" because it's mostly muscle. If I lost to the point of "low-normal" on the BMI--my doc's be-all-end-all, I'd be too skinny.


Do these things to lose weight
Don't do these things to lose weight
 
assess BMI to know where to start
babysit the scale
 
weigh yourself no more than once a week
agonize over minor weight shifts
 
count calories
mindlessly eat
 
aim for a certain daily caloric intake
keep eating portion sizes you're used to
 
reduce portions to recommended sizes or less
eat all your calories at once
 
eat more smaller meals
 
 

100 Pounds Plus and Minus

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Numbers You SHOULD Crunch to Lose Weight

Having said that, there are times to numbers crunch--calorie counting. Calculate daily fat, sugar, sodium, fiber, protein, vegetable intake. Those are numbers you can micromanage and see results.

Maybe you've read how you can lose weight without calorie counting. With all due respect to the authors, baloney! I don't know what other way there could be to lose weight, short of surgery or drugs. And those are not the silver bullets doctors would have you believe they are.

Changing how and what you eat, controlling portions, limiting caloric intake--those are self-controlled, self-sustaining changes. And self-discipline is at the crux of weight loss. This is from 100 pounds lost, not fanciful theories.


Quit Trying to Change What you Can't and Change What You Can

Remember my analogy of checking weather reports instead of looking outside? My husband and I have a standing joke. I'll look say "it raining now." He'll quip (looking at NOAA) "well, it isn't supposed to be yet." And we laugh at the irony of ignoring the empirical for the theoretical.

That's the danger of scale and BMI babysitting--we can't see the forest for the trees. All we see is a number that is affected by many things and may or may not be reliable. We don't listen to biofeedback. If we rely on outside confirmation of what we know is true, and it doesn't come, we get discouraged. We may try something stupid, like crash dieting. We might conclude we're destined to be fat and give up.

Whereas calorie counting, that's doable. I can diet all I want and not make that scale move just where I want it. There are too many variables and change is too incremental. But I know if I deny myself the 400-calorie slice of pie or opt for a 100 soup over a 600 calorie burger that I am putting less in and it will pay off at some point.

So I quit weighing myself, controlled the heck out of portions and calories. I started paying attention to observable changes and trusting my common sense to know if I was losing. And I did.

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