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August 18th, 2013:

Jeff Duntemann’s Metadiet Picobook, Part 2

To begin: Everything you think you know about dieting is wrong. Put it all out of your head. You’re going to have to start from scratch. This is work. It’s also a species of science. You’ll have to be rigorous and consistent, which involves four important first principles:

  • Keep good records. This suggests a calendar, but all those little squares on calendars just aren’t big enough. I’ve been tempted to write an eating-specific database utility in Lazarus, and I may if time ever allows. In the meantime, an ordinary diary in a text document will do.
  • Change only one thing at a time. Jumping feet-first into a whole new way of eating may lose some weight for you, but it won’t teach you anything about losing weight. Learning what works is the whole idea here.
  • Record consistently. Weigh yourself on the same scale at the same time every day. Ditto blood pressure, if you choose to record it.
  • Don’t give up. Individual metabolisms have inertia. The process may take some time.

Here’s what I call the Jeff Duntemann Metadiet: You’re going to try a number of relatively narrow changes to your daily diet, one at a time, and record what happens with each. Some will work. Some won’t. Continue with any change that works. Abandon any changes that don’t. Repeat until you’ve lost the amount of weight that gets you where you should be.

The above paragraph comes in at under 100 words, so it’s what I call a picobook. If it had come in at 10 words, it would have been a femtobook. IBM published an attobook once. It was a runaway bestseller. Anybody ever read it?

If at all possible, get some fresh blood numbers before you begin. If you’ve had a recent physical, that’s perfect, and it doesn’t have to be yesterday, just within a year or so. If you’re lacking a recent physical, I’ve had good luck with a chain called Any Lab Test Now. You don’t need a prescription or a doctor appointment. Also, their phlebotomists are among the best I’ve ever experienced. Other such labs are all over the place, and they’re not horribly expensive. Weight is only one indicator of health. Get your cholesterols and triglycerides at bare minimum. Record your blood pressure as you go, on a daily basis.

A sidenote: Exercise doesn’t really help you lose weight directly. It has lots of other benefits, especially training that builds muscle. Since muscle consumes energy 24/7, exercise helps indirectly by goosing metabolism. But we don’t burn calories like we burn charcoal in a grill. Calories don’t count. (Doctors knew that in 1964. By the late 1970s, they’d forgotten.) The type of calories counts critically.

Another sidenote: The BMI is bullshit. It doesn’t distinguish between fat and muscle. If you’re in the process of losing fat and gaining muscle, it’s less than useless, and I will no longer discuss it. Don’t even bring it up.

Still another sidenote: There are other causes of overweight beyond diet. Genetics is big, as is the state of your endocrine system. You may not be able to eat your way skinny. My experience and research suggest that you can eat your way healthy.

The last sidenote (for today, at least): Don’t starve yourself. Eating less generally is a good thing, considering how much we eat, but taper off slowly. Going off a calorie cliff kicks survival mechanisms into gear that you don’t need, and over the long term will only make you gain weight again.

Tomorrow: The Biggie. I suspect you already know what it is. I suspect that you’re right. Get that calendar ready. And put down that doughnut.