The Weight Loss Memory Game
Lately I’ve had a lot of people come up to me unprompted and ask how they can fix their diets. They immediately launch into detailed descriptions of their current nutrition plans and then ask for my thoughts. It’s great that they’re trying to eat healthier—I’m very supportive of those decisions. But most of the time I can’t offer them much advice beyond the completely generic. I barely know most of these people, and there are so many factors that go into creating a personalized diet plan (e.g., body fat percentage, basal metabolic rate [BMR], age, weight, current workout routine, foods your body handles well, personal likes/dislikes). I don’t have anywhere near the amount information I need to help them.
This is a crucial point, one lost in the world of nutrition programs and fad diets: People are different. A one-size-fits-all diet simply doesn’t exist.
Imagine a celebrity doctor who tried to diagnose patients across the world based on only one symptom. Given the choice, you’d probably prefer a doctor who checks your other symptoms, along with your vitals, allergies, body type, and family history, because that doctor might have some fucking idea of what he’s talking about.
Although I believe strongly that a personalized approach to dieting is by far the most effective, you can benefit from some of the fads. For instance, the ketogenic diet is an awesome way to lose fat and maintain lean muscle by focusing on low carb and high protein/fat intake, but you won’t be able to gain as much muscle on a low-carb diet. The problem with fads is that my conversations about them end up looking like this:
Q: What do you think of the paleo diet?
A: Is it working for you? I think the paleo diet is a list of delicious foods. You can gain or lose weight on any diet, depending on how much you eat.
Q: I feel better when I don’t eat carbs. Is gluten that bad for you?
A: Does it really matter? You feel better without them. (Although if gluten were truly poisonous, you’d have to question how a great deal of human civilization survived to this point.)
Q: What is your personal diet plan?
A: I am not on a diet. I just eat as healthy as possible 95 percent of the time. I track my protein intake and I try to consume around 2,000–2,200 calories a day.
Q: What can I do to improve my diet?
A: Can you remember everything you ate today?
That last answer brings us to my new favorite piece of advice: the memory game. Asking people if they can remember everything they ate in a day is a great way to make them conscious of what they’ve put in their mouths.
Basically, this is just a modified version of a game I used to play with my parents in the car, called My Grandfather Owned a Grocery Store. The premise of the game is that, well, your grandfather owned a grocery store, and in it he had a lot of stuff. He had anything you could imagine, from apples and bananas to elephants and lasers—it was an exotic store. The catch was that you had to remember every item you added to the inventory. The game had very few rules. This simple memory game does, too:
Rule #1: Eat healthy. That means more veggies and things that you know are healthy.
Rule #2: Remember what you ate.
And that’s it. It sounds simple, but after a few days something will start happening. You’ll find yourself thinking, “I’m not going to eat that handful of peanuts, because I don’t want to have to remember it.” Try this for two weeks and I bet you’ll see some interesting results. Most people will lose weight, but at the very least you’ll have some insight into whether your current diet is working for you. If it’s not, knowing what you eat in a normal day will help give you the information necessary to create a customized plan that works for you!