Sometimes, I look at myself and say, “You know, you could kinda stand to lose some weight.” Not anything seriously life-changing – just time to get in shape already. I imagine a lot of guys feel the same way.
Unfortunately, the writing about how to do this is ridiculous. Everything out there about losing weight is aimed at two demographics – women, and men prepping for the next Mr. Olympia pageant. Google “Losing Weight for Men,” and you’ll find article after article from Men’s Fitness or Men’s Health with lines like “We know that you want to get rid of that last bit of subcutaneous layer of blubber.” There isn’t a lot for the guy who is fine with keeping both that last bit of subcutaneous fat and his sanity.
And the thing is, losing weight is not really complicated. It’s mostly just eating less calories. People with enough willpower and professional help (think boxers trying to make weight) can more or less turn their body mass into a simple arithmetic exercise – a certain amount of calories are gained by food, and certain amount of calories are expended by exercise.
But most of us don’t have that willpower or professional help. So if you’re not looking for a complete lifestyle overhaul, just an uncomplicated way to drop a few pounds, I can tell you what to do. I call it the (wait for it…) the guy-iet. It’s seven easy, uncomplicated steps to dropping the paunch. For reference, it takes my 5’10” self from its “getting kinda chubby” 180 pounds down to its “Not bad for pushing 40” 165 in about two months!
1. For Christ’s sake, don’t drink calories
This is some serious low-hanging fruit (which is something you shouldn’t be liquefying and drinking, by the way). No soda. No fruit juice. No lemonade. No sweet tea. Coffee (we’re talking black coffee, not double-latte frappe-whatever), tea, seltzer, water, these things are your friends.
Now, if you’re the type of guy for whom trading the beer after work for a nice cup of Earl Grey just isn’t happening, at least change your brand to something reasonably low-calorie – porters, stouts, and IPAs especially should stay on the shelf (for a list of beers-by-calories see: http://www.beer100.com/beercalories.htm – or just drink champagne.
2. Stop with the refined sugar already
Now listen. I’m not saying go through everything you buy and look on the labels to make sure there’s no sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Sugar happens, and in the American diet it’s a serious hassle to make sure it doesn’t. I’m just saying put the donut down. Put the cookie down. Do a month without dessert.
3. No calorie-loaded condiments
Putting mayo on everything adds a ton of calories. Ketchup, ranch dressing & barbeque sauce aren’t too much better. Mustard, vinegar, hot sauce, this is what you should be adding to sandwiches and dipping your French fries in.
Really, you should question everything you eat in sauce or pureed form, as it’s super easy to down a ton of calories and barely notice. Hummus used to be a staple of mine, until I noticed that the typical amount I’d eat while just snacking was close to 1000 calories.
4. Eat low-calorie salty snacks
I have a salt tooth – I absolutely love salty snacks. I can eat a whole bag of Doritos or 27 large pretzels, no problem. But the good news about having a salt tooth, is that salt has no calories. Unlike sugary snacks, there are plenty of salty foods with no- or low-calories. When I’m on the guy-iet, those Doritos turn into popcorn. I’ll snack on olives. I’ll eat a whole jar of pickles. If I’m not feeling like salt, I go with vegetables. Find whatever low-calorie snack you happen to like, and make it your go-to.
5. Skip a meal once in a while
This is the one where diet professionals start to yell at me. But really, it’s not going to kill you, and an easy way to cut a chunk of calories out of your day.
This one really relies on knowing your own personal eating habits. I get super-hungry in the evenings, and am almost never hungry in the mornings. You might be different. Regardless, skipping a meal is all about knowing when you’re hungry and powering through it – I know that if I manage to get to bed without dinner, I’ll wake up not too hungry. This also has the benefit of cutting out the meal where I usually eat the most. How many meals I skip really depends on how committed I am, but on average I’ll skip maybe two or three dinners a week on the guy-iet.
Yes, this means sometimes you’ll be hungry. Deal with it. That’s how you know it’s working. If you can’t tough out the hunger, you have no business calling yourself a guy anyway.
6. Always get the small
This, in regular diet land, is called “portion control,” meaning basically “don’t eat so goddamn much.” The easiest way to accomplish this? Don’t order so goddamn much.
Now, maybe you’re the kind of guy who can get the large and legitimately eat half and save the other half for the next day. That’s not me – I, like most guys, eat what’s there. So when on the guy-iet, my automatic pilot switches to “get the small.” No supersizing it, no adding chips and a drink for 99 cents, no none of that. Whatever it is I’m getting, it’s the smallest size, and the least frills.
7. Add in some weight-bearing exercise
Do some exercise that build some muscle – you’re really trying to lose notches on your belt, not “weight,” per se, and converting fat into muscle is an easy way to do it without having to reduce how much you eat even more (and the ability to build muscle mass fairly easily is one of the big advantages we have as a gender).
Now, we’re not talking a coordinated workout cycle with spreadsheets and all that jazz. You don’t even have to go to the gym. Just use your body some more. Throw in a couple sets of push-ups before work. Get some dumbbells and mess around with them. Try to break your chin-up record. No excuses about how you “don’t have the time for the gym,” we’re talking 10 minutes in your bedroom here.
You can also try to do some other additional easy non-aerobic stuff – for instance, take the stairs at the office, or if it’s less than a mile and a decently nice day, walk it. Don’t get me wrong. Aerobic exercise is great if you’re into it. It’s just time-consuming, and also makes you hungry as all get-out, which makes it easy to eat twice as many calories as you just burned and not even realize it.