The Strategic Retreat

The 3 principles of weight loss

proven 60 second weight loss


The internet does not need another weight loss article, I get it. If I were going for hits on keywords, bountiful SEO and trying to sell ad space I’d stay far away from this topic. The market is glutted with weight loss tips far flashier than mine. But I’m not here for the SEO and the CPI, I’m here for the people. I’m here for the truth. The truth of the matter is that nearly everything involving weight loss on the web is a lie, or a half truth at best. I’m not here to coddle you, or sell you sucitin(ad shown above), or give you tips on how to lose weight 5% faster. I’m here to give you the very simple basics, the building blocks that all successful weight loss are based off of. I have nothing to sell and don’t have a trick to make a difficult task easy. I have facts. Any and all weight loss is based on these facts, those that say otherwise are lying.

How to lose weight

1. Expend more energy than you consume

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That’s it right there. That’s the entire principle of weight loss. Anything and everything else you read is just a way of explaining how to do that better, easier or is lying to you. Atkins works because it actually lowers the amount of calories you consume, not because of some keto magic. Walking works because it increases your energy expenditure.

There is no way around this fact. Regardless of medical condition, metabolism, genetics, anything; if you expend more energy than the amount of energy you take in you will lose weight. If this were not true we could use you as an infinite power source or perpetual motion machine.

This seems simple enough but millions of people don’t, or refuse to, understand it. One of the smartest guys I know thought that drinking diet soda would cause him to gain more weight than drinking regular soda. Think about that, he though that something with energy would give him less energy than something with no energy. If that were true our cars would run off Diet Dr. Pepper. Even really smart people can get super confused when it comes to weight loss.

The key is to understand calories and fat as forms of energy. Fat is a battery that provides the electricity you need to run your human machine. Your human machine runs off either battery power(fat) or from energy you recently consumed(food). You can’t get energy from nothing and you can’t expend energy without using your energy reserves.

If you understand this, you’re ahead of the game. If you use more energy than you take in you will lose weight.

2. You must properly account for energy

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Other than denial I think poor accounting is the main reason that millions of Americans think their bodies are sci-fi power stations, not bound by physics. It all comes down to keeping your ledgers in order. When somebody claims they are eating at a calorie deficit and not losing weight they aren’t necessarily lying, they’re just bad at accounting. This isn’t just true for most people but for all people. Every single time. 100% of the time. They are not properly accounting for their energy. It is not possible to use energy without losing mass. There’s a math equation and everything.

If you use 100 calories and take in 90. You will lose 10 calories of equivalent mass(1.3 grams of fat). This is a fact, there is no special circumstance where this is not true. None.

There are some common pitfalls in energy accounting though, so I’d like to address some of them to help out.

Counting Food Energy

People suck at counting calories. If you eat anything that’s not prepackaged and labeled you are forced to estimate. Overweight people are especially terrible at this, skewing the count more when they take more. Some people are also in denial and won’t include particular pieces of energy in their tally, saying “it doesn’t count”. It’s birthday cake, it’s a cheat day, it’s a latte. It all counts. Lying to yourself doesn’t change the amount of energy you put in your body. Do a better job of estimating the energy you put in and realize that closing your eyes while doing it doesn’t eliminate the energy you added to the system.

Counting Expended Energy

The amount something sucks doesn’t equal the amount of energy it takes. Running hard for 5 minutes may make you want to cry and curl up on the floor but it takes less energy than slowly walking for 20 minutes. You can’t estimate exercise by how difficult it feels, energy expenditure doesn’t work that way. Go on the internet, look at a chart, use that for a base. Keep in mind that many charts give gross calorie expenditure rather than net. That’s a common mistake people make. You may expend 300 calories for an hour of walking but remember to subtract 1/24th of your BMR from that. If you expend 100 calories per hour just by existing the net affect is 200 calories, not 300.

3. You have to actually do it

In Yosemite

Losing weight is not complicated. It’s simple. It’s simple and it’s difficult. There’s a billion dollar industry out there whose entire goal is to lie to you about this. People want to believe it’s easy and complicated, that only if they are able to find some complex, mystical or new-science trick they can ignore the laws of thermodynamics. They are basically looking for the philosopher’s stone and believe that they can buy it in pill form for $9.99. It doesn’t exist.

To lose weight you have to use more energy than you consume. Not think about it, not want it, not wish for it. You have to actually do it. You have to do it and keep doing it.

Pretty dang simple right? That’s it, that’s the entirety of weight loss right there. Succinctly put, if you understand the above then you understand everything you need to lose weight. Everything else is just finding the right balance between energy consumption and energy expenditure that works best for you. I like hiking and eating salmon, but your balance could be anything; from no exercise at all and restricted calories to running marathons and pigging out. Once you understand the underlying concept an energy plan can be simple and fun to create.



Buying Water in Bataan

One thing that can fool people from believing science is water fluctuation. You are mostly water. You’re some kind of weird monkey-water-monster that walks on land. The majority of weight-shifts you see day-to-day are actually shifts in how much water you have in you. This is a lot like weighing yourself with vary amounts of weights in a backpack and attributing any change in those weights to actual weight that you lost or gained. This is how many diets claim you can lose 10 pounds in 10 days or why some people get frustrated despite actually accounting for energy and actually having a deficit. It takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat. It takes drinking one glass of water to put a pound of weight back onto the scale. This can confuse a lot of people. Water is heavy but it’s not really you. A program like Atkins causes people to lose many pounds right away, this is encouraging to dieters but it’s also dishonest. Carb energy stores water with it. Once your carb storage is depleted this water leaves as well. This is several pounds you’ll lose, but it’s not really lost. You didn’t lose any of you, just some water that hangs out with you.


Other liquids:

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Don’t drink your calories. One Coca-cola a day is 14.6 pounds of fat a year. Liquid calories don’t satiate and are easy to consume a lot of. Many people burn out on weight loss because they try to do too much too fast. Losing weight should be like saving up for a vacation. A little bit, each and every day, goes a long way.

About Jeff Penman

Jeff is a classically underemployed philosopher and MBA student, Singapore trivia champion, seeker of happiness, truth and the perfect sandwich. He once survived for 4 months in a lean-to on the side of college housing with only a fishing license.