1. Burn more calories than you consume. If this makes you go: “D-uuuh!!”, snap out of it and consider that this elementary aspect of dieting excapes countless clueless — and doomed — dieters. Tabloids may claim to have the “miracle foods” that’ll allow you to eat like a pig and have the pounds melt off, but it’s a load.
2. Establish your base metabolism, and set a target calorie goal approx. 500 calories below it. I wrote an article dedicated to establishing your metabolism earlier, so look it up in the article archive if you need a refresher.
3. Keep an honest log. Make estimates of how many calories you stuff yourself with every meal and tally up the total to make sure you stay within your target calorie goal. Convenient “mistakes,” under-estimates and forgetfulness allows you to eat more now, but you’re defeating the whole point of dieting.
4. Actively choose good sources of fat. This may sound like stupid advice — shouldn’t you AVOID fat when dieting? Well, yes and no. You have to keep consuming some fat, just not going overboard. Avoid butter, bacon, whole milk, coconuts and such like the plague. Instead, make use of olive oil (virgin) and fatty fish. Peanut butter is an interesting topic. I used to put it in the same category as the “bad” fats. It belongs there, packing saturated fat as well as artery-clogging trans fatty acids. However, based on highly unscientific testimonies by others as well as personal experience, it seems like a handful of peanuts once in a while when dieting can do wonders in keeping energy levels up while not wreaking havoc with your overall diet. Strange and illogical? You betcha. But it just so happens to work anyway, kind of like bumblebees flying though they technically shouldn’t be able to.
5. Eat small but frequent meals throughout the day. You’ve heard it a million times, I’m sure, but facts remain: In order to keep an even level of blood sugar, you have to eat small, balanced meals.
6. Don’t go wimpy on the weight training. When you diet, you’re in the danger zone for losing muscle mass most of the time. To avoid this, keeping pumping iron, and be diligent about it!
7. Avoid alcohol. Given that barbeque-season is upon us, this can be tough when your friends bring out the ice-cold brewskis. The solution is simple: Only associate with other bodybuilders, so you at least won’t be the lone dweeb sipping a diet soda! For those of you who have the ridiculous idea that your life should not revolve around bodybuilding: Snap out of it.
8. Do cardio in moderation. Doing 45 mins on the stairmaster every day is a great way to get the pounds off quicker. 2 hours is not so great, since you’re bound to start losing muscle mass. When and how much is individual (and depending on what you’ve had to eat earlier in the day) but avoid cardio sessions in excess of 1 hour. If you need the punishment do one session in the morning and one in the evening. Also remember to stay in the 65%-70% heart rate zone for optimal fat burn.
9. Schedule “cheating” days to stay sane. Dieting is no fun. No matter how gung-ho and motivated you are when you start out, you’ll have days when everything is darkness and the world is out to get you. Make sure to get a treat once a week on a set day (Saturday is good) as it gives you something to look forward to. A juicy burger is fatty and calorie-dense, but if you prepare by doing extra cardio for three days in advance you’ll come in right on target for the week.
10. Don’t be afraid of soy. I used to avoid fake-meat products, but having been married to a vegetarian for 3+ years I’ve tried soy hot dogs, burgers, chicken patties, even riblets that taste just like the real thing. And here’s the kicker: Soy products is mostly protein! Granted, soy protein is not the highest quality out there, but if you drink a glass of milk or have some other high-quality protein source with it you can bump up the overall quality in a hurry. Besides, soy has a number of great health benefits when eaten in moderation and contains very little fat.