I’m not going to eat between meals and I’m not going to take seconds. Just today. And I’m going to try this for a year to see what happens.
I got up this morning and weighed myself and logged it in the weight log I printed last night. I’m going to set up the actual notebook tonight. I haven’t got the tabs or a binder that’s worthy of this project but I didn’t want to put off my formal start of The Hacker’s Diet by waiting until I got them. So it starts now.
Why plan meals?
The goal of meal planning is a predictable and reliable daily calorie intake. We can’t really wear an eat watch to tell us when to stop eating, but we can accomplish the same objective with a little paperwork in advance. By planning meals then sticking to the plan, you’re not only guaranteed to achieve your goal, you eliminate the uncertainty about meals and the need for on-the-fly judgements about what, when, and how much to eat that are a prime contributor to weight gain in people living stressful, chaotic lives.
Planning meals in advance may seem foreign; an act that stamps out some of the precious spontaneity that makes life enjoyable. I think you’ll see the reality isn’t that bad, but first consider why planning meals is worth discussing at all. Eating is important; it’s one of very few things in life that isn’t optional. If you don’t eat, you die. If you eat too much for too long, you die. You wouldn’t consider for a moment investing in a company that had no budgets, where everybody said, “We just spend whatever we feel like from day to day, and hope it will all work out in the long run.” Not only would such a business be prone to bankruptcy, its managers would have no way of knowing where the money was going; there’d be no way to measure actual performance against goals to discover where problems lay. No, only a fool would risk his money on such a venture.
Yet by trying to “wing it” with regard to what you eat, to balance your long term calorie intake meal by meal, making every decision on the spur of the moment, you’re placing something even more precious than your money, your own health, in the hands of a process you know inevitably leads to serious trouble.
You encounter, in business, the rare exceptions: managers who can run a small to medium sized business without a budget or a plan. They are “naturals,” endowed either with a talent for assimilating vast quantities of detail and extracting the meaning within, or else with a sixth sense for emerging problems and an instinct for solving them. These rare individuals, born with a “sense for business,” are the managerial equivalent of people with a built-in eat watch like Skinny Sam. They can get along without the help of the numbers and calculations the rest of us need to steer a steady course.
So it is with weight control. Just because some people manage without planning their meals doesn’t mean it’ll work for you or me. We must, like most managers in business, supplement our unreliable instincts with numbers that chart our goal and guide us there.
He says (in his update, yesterday) that he no longer has to count calories or do a formal meal plan. That years of experience taught him how much to eat and he doesn’t deviate from that. Maybe I’ll reach that point someday. But, for now — he says to plan my meals and that’s what I’ll do.
In business, a budget collapses a huge amount of detail, the individual transactions, into a small collection of numbers: how much money is allocated to various general purposes. In planning meals, all the multitude of foods and the infinite variety of meals are similarly reduced to a single number: calories per day. To plan meals, it’s essential to know how many calories per day you’re trying to eat. Where does that number come from?
As you gain more and more experience monitoring and controlling your weight, you’ll collect enough information to know precisely how many calories your own body needs per day. Until then, you can start with guidelines for people about like you. Based on your height, frame size, and sex look up the calories burned per day in the tables on pages and . Pick a number in the middle of the range given. For example, Dietin’ Doris, five foot four in her bare feet with an average build, would start with a calorie target of 1770. (The range in the table runs from 1574 to 1967, and the average of these numbers is (1574+1967)/2=1770.)
Well, what do you know? I don’t actually have to follow the links — I’m dietin’ Doris! I guess it’s 1770 calories a day for me (and this number happens to be exactly right — I’ve tracked it in the past). My meals for the day are set (I’ve had my cereal and milk & I’ve made my sandwich for lunch.) And I’m pretty sure we’ll have the same casserole tonight that we had yesterday. I’ll work on the calorie calculations tonight when I get home.
If you’ve got time (and interest) today read the section on meal planning. I’ll be putting it to work tonight when I get home.
The author of The Hacker’s Diet, John Walker, has generously given me permission to discuss his diet in detail using some quotes, with links back to his site. (Earlier E4T articles on The Hacker’s Diet)