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When I was a teenager, I had a lot of trouble gaining weight. Part of it was that I stayed pretty active year round (football practice, track, after school weight lifting, all that stuff), and part of it was that when you're still growing and changing your stomach is a gas tank with a hole in it. You can never put too much fuel in it.
That was half a lifetime ago though. And while I kept up with a fitness routine five days out of the week, I spent the past several years with the exact opposite problem that teenage me had. Every year I added a few more pounds with a few more inches on my waist line, but it was so gradual that it took me a while to notice. And while I made some small changes, and intensified my regimen, they didn't stem the tide. When I hit about 240 pounds and my wardrobe was beginning to protest more stridently, I knew something was going to have to change.
About three months ago I did something I had always been vehemently against: I went on a diet. Not a crash diet, either. This was a permanent change to how I approached food in order to make long-term changes. In this case, that meant I had to eat significantly more tacos than I already did.
While that sounds like a joke, this diet is what let me drop 40 pounds in a little less than a season.
"You lost weight by doing WHAT?!"
You know those stories you see on social media about how college professors or personal trainers will eat complete junk food for months and either lose or maintain their weight by carefully regulating how much they eat instead of what they eat to make a point about fitness and nutrition? Yeah... that's basically what I did.
However, since I am not a nutritionist, a scientist, or a body-hacker, I used the Ultimate Food Value Diary app. The way it works is that you download the app (it costs something like $3) and then you plug in all your personal information. Once you have your profile set up, it will give you a certain number of points per day. Then all you have to do is make sure the point value of the food you're eating doesn't exceed your daily allotment.
That's really it.
But why tacos? Well, one advantage of tacos is that the shells are worth a lot fewer points than bread, which allows you to eat more tacos than sandwiches (and, in case you're wondering, Arby's roast beef is the next-cheapest meal deal, followed by McDonald's of all things). Additionally, one of my personal issues was that I would eat too fast, and thus didn't realize I wasn't hungry until I'd blown way past the point where I should have stopped. Messier foods like nacho boxes required me to eat slower, and so I would eat less overall because my body got time to adjust.
If you're asking why fast food instead of doing the home-cooked routine that so many weight loss folks recommend, there are three reasons:
- I don't feel like I'm punishing myself just to lose/maintain my weight.
- Fast food restaurants post all of the values for their food, which makes them easy to plug into the app and figure out how much they're worth in terms of my daily point allotment (microwave meals and box dinners are also good for this, and can be gentle on your wallet over the long-term).
- Fast food joints offer meal deals. This lets me eat for less (the $5 big nacho box in particular saved me a lot of grief while Taco Bell had it as a menu item), and it ensures that I don't order a bunch of stuff that I shouldn't eat because I'm picking off the a la carte menu.
Also, if you're thinking about giving this a try, the Smart Points Calculator is also a good thing to have on hand. It's free and it lets you easily calculate a food's point value. Once you get into the habit, though, you can usually eyeball stuff fairly accurate.
Before you close this page to follow in my footsteps, there are a few caveats to this story I want to bring to your attention.
First of all, everyone's health is different. I don't have any conditions or special physical requirements that make it harder for me to lose weight. I'm also a man in my 30s and I was already on a regular exercise regimen (I do a full hour routine three days a week, and two days a week I do a light cardio recovery day) when I started the diet. In addition to eating less than I was, I also cut regular soda out of my diet, sticking to water and diet soda when I needed caffeine.
If you have particular dietary needs, or if you have a condition that makes it hard for you to lose weight, then this strategy might not work for you. If you were like me, though, and you just stubbornly refused to go on a diet that meant you couldn't have cheeseburgers and fajitas anymore, then this might be just the ticket to getting your waistline where you want it to be.
For more articles by yours truly, check out my Vocal page. If folks enjoy this one, I might put out similar articles in the future.