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Weight loss requires eating less. Exercise is a good idea for other reasons, but it is a brutal way to get trim.

Posted by John Reed on

Eat less

I recently did an experiment on myself. I weighed about 170 at 5'10". That is pretty good. It is a body mass index of 24.4. Doctors recommend that your BMI be 18 to 24.9. I am 76 years old.

I was happy with everything but a minor spare tire or love handles and some belly fat. I figured I would try to eliminate them by reducing food intake.

Your meal should look like a deck of cards

I just eliminated pieces of food. For example, instead of a hamburger on a bun, I got a plastic knife and fork from the restaurant and just ate the burger, not the bun or cheese.
I would order two “add prawns” off the bottom of the salad menu. No salad. I would just eat 8 good-sized prawns. Today I just had the “add chicken” at another restaurant—a grilled breast, no salad.
Bowl of cereal, sugar, and low-fat milk, and nothing else for another meal. Grilled fish with no sides for another, Chinese snow peas prawns for another, and so on.

Do not tell me WHAT to eat

I do not want to discuss what food to eat. That is a religious, circular, endless debate.
My point here is that you must reduce the quantity that you eat. For weight-loss purposes, whether you are a vegan or a junk food junkie appears not to matter one whit.
So if you suffer from orthorexia—obsessing obnoxiously about eating the perfect diet in terms of which food to eat—take it elsewhere. All I am only talking about here number of calories consumed per day.

I got down to my high school weight!

I just slowly eliminated bread, fried food, most snacks. Long story short, I got my weight down to 154. That was my high-school senior-year weight!

I have a doctor and discussed it with him all along. He said it was fine. 154 at my height is a BMI of 22.1.

I feel really light

How does that feel? Light. Really light. Do I feel “GREAT” like some guy who just went gluten-free? No. Just normal. Fine. But light, which is very nice.


Doctors give the range of 18 to 24.9 as good BMI to make achieving this “fit” status not so hard that people do not even try. But I suspect the optimal BMI is a narrower range more like 22. And it probably varies by body type somewhat.

Hunger pangs are temporary; they end when you hit your target weight

When you reduce your food intake—say by eating your usual scrambled eggs and bacon, but not your usual English muffin—you will feel hunger pangs for a week or so. Then they stop because your stomach has shrunk. Your body also shrinks as your body burns stored fat to replace the food that no longer arrives in the stomach.

Hunger pangs are your body saying, “If you do not put more food in the stomach now, in the quantity to which we are accustomed, we will use fat that we stored around your body instead.” Use it.

That is how you lose weight and inches. 

‘Real men’ do not diet, they exercise

Generally, American men refuse to diet. That think that is the feminine way. “Real men” lose weight by exercise.
Here is an excerpt from a pertinent Atlanta Journal-Constitution article:

You damn near have to kill yourself to lose weight solely with exercise

“To lose 2 pounds per week, you'd need to reduce caloric intake OR burn extra calories for a goal of 1,000 fewer calories per day.”

The CDC lists these calorie burns for common physical activities.

Moderate physical activity calories burned/30 minutes for a 154-pound person
Hiking: 185
Light gardening/yard work: 165
Dancing: 165
Golf, walking and carrying clubs: 165
Bicycling at less than 10 miles per hour: 145
Walking at 3.5 miles per hour: 140
Weight lifting, general light workout: 110
Stretching: 90

Vigorous physical activity calories burned/30 minutes for a 154-pound person
Running/jogging about 5 miles per hour: 295
Bicycling faster than 10 miles per hour: 295
Swimming slow freestyle laps: 255
Aerobics: 240
Walking at 4.5 miles per hour: 230
Heavy yard work such as chopping wood: 220
Weight lifting with vigorous effort: 220
Basketball, vigorous: 220
Let me make sure you understand this. The CDC says you need to lose 1,000 calories a day to lose two pounds a week. They also say here that if do it by walking, you must walk for 1,000 ÷ 230 = 4.3 hours a day of walking—every day seven days a week. Isn’t it obvious that the far smarter and easier way to cut those 1,000 calories a day is to not eat them to begin with.

About 1,200 calories a day I think

We are often told you should eat 2,000 calories a day. That is the formula for being obese. I am not sure how many calories I eat a day to maintain a 154 weight. I guess around 1,200. I did not count calories.

Rather, I simply kept cutting food intake every week my weight was still higher than 154. I used to eat two of those McDonald’s fish sandwiches at lunch with no tartar sauce or cheese. I still weighed too much. So I stopped eating the bun. Still too heavy. So I went down to one fish sandwich. Bingo! That is my formula. Keep eating less until you weigh what you want. No need to count calories.
I heard one doctor say that each or your meals should be about the size of a deck of cards. I found that is exactly correct. If you are vegan or vegetarian, your same number of calories will be larger than a deck of cards. The deck of cards is if you eat a fair amount of protein, which I do.

A pound of fat is like a pound of butter

Did I get rid of my love handles and belly fat? Almost. I got down to 154. That did not do it. Fat is like butter in density, Three pounds of butter in your supermarket is three bricks of four sticks each. The bricks measure about 6 x 3 x 1.5 inches. The unknown is where will your body go for the three pounds of fat you lose. It may save the love handles and belly fat for last.

And how does a person with a 22 BMI look in a bathing suit? Great. My arms look skinny, but so do a lot of people’s. Skinny arms are really kind of normal notwithstanding the Hollywood ideal of more powerful-looking forearms.

My waist is quite slim like when I was in high school. Legs, chest, and shoulders look better than when I was in high school. My mom would say I “filled out.”

Exercise, but not for appearance

I exercise, but not for appearance. I am endomorphic. That means I can lift weights all day and my muscles will not get bigger. I walk 7,500 steps, the doctor-recommended amount—about 3.5 miles—every other day. And I lift weights on machines at the gym on the non-walking days. I add a little weight cautiously whenever I feel confident I will not injure myself. I do that for the health benefits that are essentially invisible

  • Increased upper and lower body strength
  • Improved joint health
  • Better balance and stability
  • Enhanced metabolic fitness (including glucose tolerance and cholesterol control)
  • Easier time maintaining a healthy weight
  • Keeping or building bone density, which can reduce breaks and fractures (

Most men are doing this wrong

I think most people have it wrong. Your BMI should probably be about 22. The average American male adult is 26.6. The 24.9 that the doctors say is good enough I suspect is actually suboptimal—too heavy. They are just manifesting a belief that weight loss is the art of the possible and that if they say 24.9, more people will lose more weight than if they say 22.



Being fat is committing suicide

Overweight is very unhealthy. Here are the benefits of a healthy low weight:


Increased mobility. More movement means less reliance on others, which means more independence.
  • Lower chances of heart attack or stroke. ...
  • Lower risk of diabetes. ...
  • Lower risk of inflammation. ...
  • Lower cost of living. ...
  • Less burden on caregivers. ...
  • Lower rates of depression.

Thinner people generally live longer than overweight people. If you like food, eating less of it per meal may mean you end up eating more total because you lived longer. Also, the quality of your remaining years of life will be higher.

Less is healthier

If you want a better bathing-suit or birthday-suit appearance, don’t spend more time at the gym. Spend less time at the table.
The gym and walking are recommended, but they are not going to improve your appearance perceptibly. Getting your BMI down to 22 will dramatically improve your appearance. The gym alone will barely improve your appearance. Got that, macho man?

Less time and cost

Improving your appearance by reducing food intake not only works, it takes less time and costs less. One of the reasons no one is pushing this is they cannot make money off of it.

2,000 calories a day is nuts as you get older

The big surprise to me is how much less than the normal American diet is required to get to the 22 BMI. I keep reading that 2,000 calories a day is normal. I would weigh 200 pounds if I ate that much food a day. I did years ago.

Eat like a European

Europeans are less fat than Americans. If you travel on a European airline, you will see why. I asked for a Coke on SAS once. It was about the size of a V-8 juice can—about 1/4 of a standard US 12-ounce can. Similar reduction in the meal size in Europe.

I do not know my daily calorie count—probably 1,200 to 1,500. 1,200 is how much we were allowed to eat each day in Army Ranger School on patrols and we were starving there. But at age 76 and not humping an M-14 rifle and a 60-pound pack 10 km a day, 1,200 is fine.

Diet gets it done; exercise does not

Your appearance is determined almost entirely by what you do not eat, not by how much weight you lift or how far you run. The normal American diet is way too much which is why the average American male adult is 20 pounds overweight, fat, unsightly, and slowly killing himself as a consequence.
My body fat percentage is now 16.5% according to this web site:

16% body fat percentage for men

I suspect optimal is about 16%. Note that is for men only. The correct body fat percentage for females is much different. I suspect most of this web article of mine also applies to females, but I made no effort to confirm that. But body fat is definitely different for women.

Live long and prosper.

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