How to Be Slim

If you could sum up Mustachianism in one word, it would be “Control”.

When people come into the confines of this blog from the outside world, they’re shivering and worn after spending a lifetime buffeted by the storms of unfettered capitalism. They feel like their lives are out of control, and that other people are the ones deciding their fate. Their happiness, wealth, and even health are decided by the politicians, or the economy, or the corrupt corporate leaders. And to a certain extent, they are right – through the pervasive nature of marketing and political lobbying, many of the features of the modern world are designed to politely and pleasantly enslave you, so that you will work for a lifetime while agreeably handing over everything you earn to buy products and pay interest on loans.

When you embrace Mustachianism, you start to recover immediately, as you see the excess of your past lifestyle. But it is still a long journey to full freedom, because you need to get control over not only your spending, but over your desires as well. Your goal is not simply to force yourself to buy less stuff – it’s to feel ultimate happiness about a whole new way of life, which just happens to involve buying less stuff.

So what we’re really doing is learning to gain some control over our own minds. We do it by learning about ourselves, about our true needs as a species, and about other cultures and philosophies. These are not things that the television advertisements teach you about, because the very knowledge has the power to destroy the Sukka Consumer mindset that keeps companies like Cadillac and Tiffany and Louis Vuitton in business. But the knowledge is there, and it’s old and golden, dating back thousands of years.

Once you learn that controlling your own mind is the sole key to succeeding in life, you can start applying the control to areas of life other than just becoming wealthy. You can begin breaking old destructive habits like addiction to various drugs, TV watching, and even the circular self-denial regarding food and exercise that leads most of us to be less physically fit than we would like to be.

Physical fitness may sound rather different than financial independence, but it’s actually the same thing – it is control over your mind, which means it is part of Mustachianism. Because I care for you, I must ensure that you end up healthy and fit just as I must ensure that you become wealthy at a young age.

How to Be Slim:

I really like the idea of being healthy. I’ve enjoyed about 21 years of regular weight training and 32 years of cycling so far. I’m not one of those buff musclemen you see in front of the college bars, but I have plenty of secret inner health that keeps me going in the form of extra energy, resistance to sickness and injury, and confidence in the face of hardship.

So when I see other people my age who have already lost their ability to walk or become dependent on heart drugs, just because of their earlier food and exercise behavior, I am very curious about the huge mental battle they surely endured as they slipped down that path.

Doing some research on the matter, it seems that there are two major factors that are causing the massive fat gain in modern society today:

  • Lack of understanding of what even constitutes good diet and exercise (people thinking it is fine to drink Coke or have a day where the only exercise involves walking to and from a car, etc.)
  • Psychological problems with resisting the urge to do things they know are bad for them (binge eating, exercise avoidance)

I try not to rant about these things too much, because I know I can’t see the world through the same lens as someone with these problems.  But I did recently come across a great BBC series that addresses the problem in a very smart and educational manner. Check out all six of the ten-minute parts on YouTube when you get a chance someday:

BBC the Truth about Food – How to be Slim

Here are my thoughts on the show, in case you want to compare notes:

It’s a simple and catchy documentary, with good music and some nice British wit thrown in. The most valuable part to me was how it used experiments on real people to debunk common myths that compromise people’s weight loss goals:

“I’m fat because I have a slow metabolism” – wrong! Fatter people actually tend to have faster metabolisms, because their bodies are working hard to maintain the extra tissue and pump blood through the constricted blood vessels. In most cases, overweight people simply eat more due to higher appetite, without realizing it. The key is to find ways to take in fewer calories, without feeling like you are starving yourself. It’s addressed in the documentary, but I’ll give you a hint: eat more protein and cut out bread if you need to lose fat!

“Calories consumed are always digested fully” – surprisingly, foods that are high in calcium tend to block digestion of fats that are in the stomach at the same time. In the show, test subjects eat a variety of diets, and save their own dung in plastic bins for later analysis. Then attractive Danish women meticulously processed and burned the logs, finding much more undigested fat in the output of  the test subjects who ate low-fat yogurt as a calcium supplement.  Danish scientists theorize that the calcium causes the fat to bind into a less digestible substance in your stomach, so it ends up getting excreted.

This may explain why I lost fat when I switched my typical breakfast from cereal and whole-wheat toast to a higher fat (and calcium) one including almonds, cheddar cheese and fried eggs. The higher protein of this breakfast also probably reduces my urge to snack throughout the morning (I was formerly famous for the size of my “Second Breakfast”).

“Portion size affects how much we eat” – true: studies revealed that when you double the portion size given to an unsuspecting test subject, he’ll tend to eat about 45% more.

“Keep a food diary” – it really works. Just whip out your phone and snap a picture of everything you eat, just before you eat it. The mere act of becoming conscious enough to record your eating, makes you much more likely to eat well and avoid frivolous snacks like oreos and nachos in front of the football game.

I’ll also throw in something from my own set of tricks:

“Learn to appreciate mild hunger” – it’s an unusual feeling for a rich-world person, but once you get used to it, having a slight craving in your tummy can make you feel invigorated and warriorlike. When you are really hungry, eat a good meal. But if you’re just slightly hungry, imagine that your body has moved its suction tube from the usual “stomach” setting, over to “stored fat reserves”. It is now a positive challenge to maintain this mild hunger as long as possible, because you want to keep that suction going for many hours each day. You should still strategically throw in nutrients during this stage, like a plate of celery, cucumber, or carrots. But keep the burn going and build your hunger enjoyment skills – it can lead to a whole new level of control over your appetite, and thus you can maintain any weight you like, right down to the last half-pound.

This is not to be confused with anorexia, where an already-skinny person starves themselves into a skeleton. I’m talking about people with a visible beer belly, eating vegetables instead of ice cream for their bedtime snack – and enjoying it.

“Weightlifting is a the world’s best Fat Vacuum Cleaner” – it takes more than 4,000 calories to build a single pound of muscle. But as a beginner to weight training, a person can trigger over one pound of lean muscle gain with a single full-body workout! So to lose a pound of fat and gain a pound of muscle, you can spend about eight hours sweating on a stationary bike, or several days of mild hunger, or you  can do one or two good intense sets of squats, bench presses, and bent-over barbell rows, and lose a pound of fat just like that.

So to summarize How to be slim: watch the documentary and apply the principles to your own eating. Take up very easy weightlifting at home. It will happen quickly, once you can control your mind enough to keep these activities happening without giving up! If you stumble on this quest, realize the problem is entirely in your mind, and just keep working on taming that old noodle.

How have YOU tamed the natural human natural tendency to ignore physical fitness – or struggled to do so?

  • Tim January 19, 2012, 6:42 am

    ““Keep a food diary” – it really works. Just whip out your phone and snap a picture of everything you eat, just before you eat it. ”

    That’s a damn fine tip. Sad as it is, writing things down just doesn’t last.


    • Terry January 19, 2012, 10:06 am

      There is even an app for food diaries – iWatchr. It costs maybe $2 and is very easy to use.

      • Lorin April 28, 2013, 8:57 pm

        I know this comment is over a year old, but I just had to point out that there are numerous free apps that will do the same thing – I have used & liked both spark people and my fitness pal. Both also have good free websites.

        • Medea_Taleswapper January 27, 2014, 11:29 am

          Personal endorsement of sparkpeople – very intuitive, website + app makes it rather flexible. Through consistent tracking I’m down 80 lbs of a 110-pound weightloss goal over the course of a year + a couple months.

    • Bryan January 19, 2012, 12:43 pm

      I use an app called Expense Manager to keep track of every penny I spend. It has varoius categories such as business, household, personal, and so on. I’ve noticed several times since I’ve started using it that I think twice before spending money on certain things. I think about how I’ll feel as I review my expense reports and see that particular entry.

      Thanks to MMM I also use Mint.com and really like it. Using both Mint and Expense Manager may be a bit redundant but I like the fact that Expense Manager relies on me manually entering my expences, making me think about it at that exact moment and not in the future when I see the Mint reports.

  • Baughman January 19, 2012, 6:55 am

    My diet is this: Only purchase, keep, and cook healthy food. By healthy, I mean anything that comes from nature (i.e. whole grain pasta, brown rice, beans, nuts (including natural peanut butter) fruits, veggies, air-popped popcorn, etc). When you only purchase, keep, and cook healthy food you have no alternative other than to eat it. Junk food is not an option.

    Because healthy food is loaded with fiber, your digestive system will properly moderate your food intake. If you over-eat, you will be on the toilet half of the day, so it’s a good feedback mechanism to tell you that you over-ate. Fiber aside, I think this diet lends itself very nicely to calorie intake moderation as well. Your body knows when it has ingested enough calories.

    We also do eggs, skim milk, yogurt, and some cheese. That’s pretty much all we eat though? Half of our meals are probably beans and rice.

    I challenge someone to get fat on the above diet. If you attempt to do so, you will have massive diarrhea and will be unsuccessful!

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple January 19, 2012, 1:59 pm

      I managed to gain weight on that diet. Too many carbohydrates, not enough protein. I tend to be a carboholic.

      It didn’t give me any digestive issues either.

    • Nerode January 19, 2012, 2:06 pm

      A truly Moustachian sales approach! “Buy my product (approach) and if it fails you you’ll feel awful, so don’t let it fail”.

      Beware, Consumer Sukkas, a new marketing world order is born :-)

      • jeff January 27, 2012, 5:27 am

        I think the whole mustachian slim mentality can be summed up by control over mind. Eating, finances, lifestyle all require self discipline. Of course i’d rather pig out all the time and spend lavishly, but I try to make the conscious effort not to. Condition your mental willpower just like you would muscles in your body.

  • Evan January 19, 2012, 7:33 am

    It seems to me that a big key to becoming fit is to realize that the “natural tendency to ignore physical fitness” doesn’t exist!

  • Heidi January 19, 2012, 7:37 am

    Develop your tastebuds and your family’s tastebuds. That means you have to try new things like herbs for flavor while also putting sugar in its proper place–a treat every few days or gasp, less often.
    After you have done this for awhile you will naturally buy less packaged products because they will all taste like cardboard and sugar. Seriously, who wants their bread and crackers to be sweet? Gross.

  • Weightlifter January 19, 2012, 7:47 am

    “But as a beginner to weight training, a person can trigger over one pound of lean muscle gain with a single full-body workout!”


    • MMM January 19, 2012, 9:54 am

      I guess I’d just cite personal experience, and “the 4-hour body” for this statistic. Think about it: a beginner does a big workout, once per week, for four weeks. It seems obvious that the body composition change from fat to muscle would be greater than 4 pounds in this case!

      I can easily gain 5 pounds per month (for the first couple of months) when I embark on heavy weight training as well, and that’s just the weight gain, not counting the amount of fat that also gets converted to muscle.

      • The Perpetual Student July 15, 2012, 1:39 pm

        Not going to knock it or hate it, but those muscle gain numbers probably holds true more for men than women.

        Women get great results from weight training as well, but your audience is not all-male, even though nearly all of us aspire to Mustaches.

    • carlos January 20, 2012, 9:18 am

      Try ‘Starting Strength’ by Mark Rippetoe. He’s been training people with weights for years and finds this to be common.
      Personally I gained about 8 pounds in the first month of training on this program.

  • Kevin Meyers January 19, 2012, 7:50 am

    I often think the principles of Mustachianism are very similar to the paleo/primal lifestyle. Both are centered around rejection of the “conventional wisdom” BS that we are fed in our consumerist society and preach a return to the simple pleasures of our human ancestors, who had dramatically lower rates of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and all kinds of “diseases of civilization.” In fact, I’ve seen Mrs. Money Mustache popping up in the comments recently talking about her own experiences with a paleo-ish lifestyle, so I’ll bet that has something to do with MMM’s embrace of what sounds like paleo/primal breakfasts.

    The two websites that have changed my life the most in the past 12 months are this very site and marksdailyapple.com. Since adapting the primal lifestyle, I quit my gym, work out far less frequently than I used to, and have lost 20 pounds (and counting).I just finished a big pile of scrambled eggs, and I won’t even be hungry until it’s time for dinner (when I’ll have a big old burger made of organic beef from Costco).

    • Heidi January 19, 2012, 8:16 am

      The paleo lifestyle has many good tenets. I’m skeptical that diet will work for a majority and is also not tenable for some budgets due to the carb restrictions. Any thoughts on that?

      I think the reason dieters on whole-foods diets sustain lasting weight loss and health is because it eliminates convenience foods and promotes self-control. So, any whole-foods diet from the plethora available- Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, Raw, Gluten-free, Mediterranean- will promote health, weight-loss, and good times with others.

      • Kevin Meyers January 19, 2012, 8:33 am

        Seems like good advice. You can probably get 90% of the way there by eliminating things that come in boxes and wrappers. I have found my stomach doesn’t agree with gluten and beans, so I’ve dropped those, too, but YMMV. I know plenty of healthy vegetarians (or at least appear to me to be).

      • Kathy P. January 19, 2012, 8:42 am

        According to Volek and Phinney, approximately 1 in 4 Americans can thrive on a low fat, high carb diet. The rest of us exhibit various degrees of carbohydrate intolerance and should be eating low carb (or Paleo, if you prefer).

        Recommended reading on the science of low carb:

        Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes – a 450 page critique of the science that (doesn’t) back up the low fat dogma. 60 page bibliography citing just about everything that’s ever been published on the low fat and low carb.

        Why We Get Fat, also by Gary Taubes – “lighter” verson of GCBC for lay people.

        The Art & Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Jeff S. Volek, PhD, RD, Stephen D. Phinney, MD, PhD

        • jennypenny January 19, 2012, 11:13 am

          Why We Get Fat is a great book. I second the recommendation.

        • Spork January 19, 2012, 5:40 pm

          Yep. There is a serious issue of people not understanding what constitutes good food. And, as Taubes explains, it’s because those guys in the white lab coats have it all wrong. It turns out that just because you are a scientist doesn’t mean you practice SCIENCE… aka, the scientific method. We’ve been told for a long time to eat grains and low fat… and it turns out that’s exactly why we’re fat and exactly why we’re all keeling over with heart attacks.

          It turns out that fat storage and insulin are absolutely tied together… and it’s looking more and more like heart disease and insulin are tied as well. Yet we continue to avoid fats and eat more grains.

          Switching from breakfast cereal to high fat makes you lose weight because it controls your insulin.

          If you’re not a book person and don’t wanna read Taubes, try Tom Nauton’s Science for Smart People:

          I’d also recommend his movie: Fathead.

      • Stashette January 19, 2012, 8:43 am

        I agree, Heidi. In addition to being more costly, a more meat-centric diet has a higher environmental toll than one that includes more grains. I can’t imagine how the world could support 7 billion people on this diet.

        • Questionable Goatee January 19, 2012, 9:41 am

          Good Calories, Bad Calories is a fantastic book, and one I’d highly recommend to MMM and any of his followers that can handle dense, incredibly informative scientific journalism. I wrote a review of it on Goodreads, but I can’t access the site while I’m at work…

        • Mrs. Money Mustache January 19, 2012, 9:50 am

          I agree that a meat-centric diet has a much higher environmental toll. There’s all kinds of paleo people out there and for me, it’s more about experimentation and finding the diet that is right for me. I am gluten free, but don’t eat all my meals paleo.

          For me, I absolutely cannot tolerate gluten. It took a long time for me to realize this, but after my brother was diagnosed with celiac, I started looking into cutting out gluten and it resolved a whole slew of problems I was having (many I didn’t even realize I had – always being tired, constant headaches, occasional minor stomach upset, but mostly psychological issues – inability to control anger, irritability, noise sensitivity, etc.).

          However, after cutting out gluten, I did not crave substitutes at all (like gluten free bread, for example) and I started becoming more aware of what my body wanted to eat. I naturally ended up cutting dairy quite a bit and just followed my instincts. I eat more naturally now and I eat WAY more vegetables than before. Yes, meat intake has gone up, but the amount of meat I eat is a lot less than the typical American, I bet.

          Those supporting paleo are very interested in sustainable, grass-fed, organic meat and having people start demanding this is a good thing, I think.

          Now, there are folks on paleo diets that eat a pound of bacon a day. That’s probably not a sustainable practice. But, if you eat a small amount of meat with a large portion of vegetables and some healthy fats, then I think we could support this type of diet. Especially since the current state of people’s diets is pretty abysmal and already creating a huge environmental toll. Not only are we eating a lot of meat, but we’re eating way too much.

        • Drew January 19, 2012, 6:19 pm

          I think that something we have to keep in mind is that the main reason meat is not sustainable in the US is due to the high amount of grain the animals are fed and how that grain is grown. Corn and wheat are not grown sustainably at all. Modern agriculture is stripping our land of top soil to the tune of 1.9 billion tons a year flowing out of the mouth of the Mississippi. This all comes from conventionally grown grain and soon we won’t have any land left that is suitable for farming.
          The best option in my mind is paleo diet from sustainably raised animals that are grass fed, pasture raised and/or free range. As well as growing/raising some of your own food. If every family in America had a 4 foot by 4 foot garden and a few chickens we could solve a lot of problems. Nothing will make you healthier and happier than eating food that you had a hand in raising. It will also save you a ton.

          • Spork January 19, 2012, 9:01 pm

            I agree with you totally, Drew. And I can add only one thing that is oh-so-off-topic: The only way you could possibly grow something so unsustainable is with government help. Wheat and corn are only grown at a loss. The only way they are “profitable” is through subsidy. It’s meant to help… but you see how well that’s working out.

          • Bakari January 20, 2012, 1:00 am

            You can grow at least an order of magnitude more food calories per acre with grain than with grazing.

            Think about how much more land agriculture would take up if American’s ate the same (or more) amount of meat, but all of it was grass fed?

            Subsidies aren’t the only reason for the factory farm system – it is also cheaper than doing it the right way.

            If every American who lives in an apartment complex had enough land for both a food garden and chickens, how much extra suburban sprawl would that require?

            I’m not against even eating meat, but keep in mind that every time you go up the food chain you waste approximately 90% of the calories – eating meat instead of plants means about 10x more land area, 10x more water, 10x more energy, for the same amount of calories.

            Perhaps we should be more like the rest of the world (and, for that matter, our actual paleo ancestors) and only have small amounts of meat on special occasions?

            • Bakari January 20, 2012, 1:02 am

              p.s. I actually have both a garden and chickens, so realize this is partially devils advocate… i’m just saying, the answers are not so simple

            • Kathy P. January 20, 2012, 7:22 am

              Grain is a monocrop that is destructive and as has been stated previously, is unsustainable. It needs huge government subsidies and lots of fossil fuel to survive.

              Good grazing systems restore the land and are infinitely sustainable as was the case when bison roamed the plains. Current systems that mimic ancient, natural ones can produce quality meat at far lower economic and environmental cost than monocropping of grain. Grain fed CAFOs are horrible for the environment (not to mention the animals) but sustainable grazing systems are far superior to monocrop subsidized farming.

              The leading example of sustainable grazing systems is Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia. Grass grows for free and in mimicking natural systems he gets beef, chicken and pork off the same land. Unlike most farmers, he makes money too – without government subsidies. I recall him saying (can’t find it right now) that fuel prices would have to quadruple before he’d even notice.

            • Bakari January 20, 2012, 11:14 am

              The thing is, when bison ruled the land, there were about a million humans living in North America. And they STILL were driven to extinction (and it wasn’t just white people either, Native Americans drove many large mammal species to extinction).

              Now there are 300 million people living here, and far less grazing land, as much has been displaced by places for humans to live and work.

              I am a huge fan of Salatin, but that system does not necessarily scale up by a factor of several hundred thousand.
              Part of why it is profitable is because many wealthier Americans are willing to pay a high premium for food grown the way his is. Because people pay more for designer clothing doesn’t prove that they have a more sustainable business model than WalMart.

              His system is very land and labor intensive. Even without subsidies, factory style farming would probably still be cheaper (from a purely economic stand point) – although, granted, cheap fuel is a part of that.
              I totally agree that the industry standard is horrible, for both the environment and the animals.

              What I am suggesting is not that we shouldn’t switch to Salatin style farming, we should. What I am saying is that it is incompatible with a Paleo diet level of meat consumption. We need to either collectively cut down to about 1/10th the level of meat consumption, or cut down to 1/10th the population, and I think the former is a both easier and healthier alternative.

    • Grant January 21, 2012, 1:39 am

      They also died a lot sooner – you are mentioning age-onset medical issues. I don’t dispute that eating more naturally is better, but no one diet will be the answer for everyone.

      • Bakari January 21, 2012, 8:48 am

        Many per-historic groups tended to live about as long as us. The expected life-span at birth is misleading: because so many children died in the first year of life (and women in childbirth) the average gets dragged down.

        The problem with the Paleo diet from a true historical perspective is that according to actual archeologists, the majority of per-historic cultures got a majority of their calories from gathering, and only a small fraction from hunting

        • LT October 9, 2012, 11:17 am

          The Paleo diet is also called the Hunter-GATHERER diet. If you researched it a little more you would know this and realize that it isn’t just about eating meat. The diet teaches to eat more food that can be found naturally, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and more game-type meat (some people can’t access game meat easily so grass-fed beef, pork, chicken, etc is fine)

  • James January 19, 2012, 7:55 am

    “Learn to appreciate mild hunger”

    Do I see a bit of Stoicism in your advice? :) I really like that idea of simply enjoying the sense of being hungry rather than “tolerating” it like some sort of flaw. It has the added benefit of voluntary discomfort leading to increased future enjoyment of food.

    I’ve found keeping a five pound bag of carrots in the fridge is perfect for during those times I’m hungry, I’ll down a few large carrots enjoy them so much more than the crappy foods I used to choose. I’m now adding more weightlifting to my exercise rather than the all-arobic activities I was doing, we’ll see how that changes things over time.

    • kiwano January 19, 2012, 10:19 am

      In a similar vein, I remember a time when I had a chance to attend a week-long conference in Banff, in January, and we had the Wednesday off. I got together with one of the other conference participants, we found a relatively challenging cross-country skiing trail that ran for about 15km from almost in town to almost at the hot springs, rented some skis, and skied over.

      Then we availed ourselves of the hot springs. I can’t remember a time when hot springs, a hot tub, or something of the sort have ever felt so good.

      Food tastes better when you’re hungry, beds feel more comfortable when you’re tired (physically; not from staying up too damn late staring into some sort of screen or other); so many of the pleasures of life are made immeasurably more enjoyable by not running a calorie surplus.

      (However the discipline to delay gratification can take a little conditioning, but that conditioning–like so many other things–comes with practice).

      • Jan in MN January 20, 2012, 8:43 am

        I agree – it’s all about the contrast.

  • Stashette January 19, 2012, 8:17 am

    “Learn to appreciate mild hunger”–> I like this thought. Some hunger is normal if you aren’t eating constantly throughout the day. Also, a lot of “hunger” I experience isn’t a true physical need for food–it’s more like a craving. When I think I’m hungry, if something like carrot sticks or plain grilled chicken sounds good, it’s probably real hunger. Often though, I just FEEL hungry looking at some cookies, bacon, etc.

    Eating is tricky, because people eat for some many reasons other than just to provide fuel and nutrition for our bodies. I’m guilty of this, too.

    • Uncephalized June 12, 2012, 5:54 pm

      My way of thinking about this goes like so:

      If you feel like you want to eat, and you open your fridge, which is full of food, stare at it and close the door, then pace around your kitchen because nothing but a piece of Delicious Cake sounds good to you, but there is no Delicious Cake in your fridge, you are not hungry. You are just addicted to Delicious Cake.

      If you feel like you want to eat, and you open your fridge, which is devoid of food except for one old container of Possibly Spoiled Leftovers, which you can not identify, and sniff them to discover they are actually Decidedly Spoiled Leftovers, and the thought crosses your mind that you should maybe try tasting them anyway to see if they are Really Spoiled or only Slightly Spoiled, then you are hungry. Also, you should probably buy groceries more frequently.

      Obviously there is a whole spectrum in between, which is what can make it sometimes difficult to determine whether you are a Seriously Starving Sally or merely a Cake-Craving Cathy.

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple January 19, 2012, 8:21 am

    I look forward to watching that documentary. I lost 50 lbs in 2002 and have (mostly) kept it off since. A few ups and downs due to childbirth and injuries and turning 40, but am still at a healthy weight.

  • RubeRad January 19, 2012, 8:25 am

    “Learn to appreciate mild hunger”

    I’ll pile on with my agreement; this is a fantastic way to express a concept I’ve had for a while (but not strongly enough to make much difference to my own midsection!) The way I was thinking of it is, you should be hungry before every meal (and the reason for the meal is to address the hunger, not merely because “oh hey, the little hand is on the 12, so it’s time to stuff more food in my face!”).

    So if you are never hungry, then you’re eating too much! (Or too soon; but if waiting for hunger makes your dinner too late, then you ate too much for lunch)

  • Brandon Quinn January 19, 2012, 8:30 am

    Give this a try if you want to get lean and mean (no I don’t work for this company, but I completed the program years ago).


    It will teach you how to plan a menu in advance and give you feedback (scorecard) on your diet, what foods to eat to lose fat, and provide support along the way. Not for the faint of heart though. Only true Mustachians need to apply.

  • NC Medicare January 19, 2012, 8:36 am

    Three years ago, I had a bad check up (age 38, high cholestrol and high blood sugar). I decided I was going to make my changes.

    Dr wanted to put me on meds, but I decided to change my lifestyle and eating habits. I stopped eating 95% (I knew I would have slip ups) of the process food I was eating, but I did very little exercise. After 1 year, I dropped 20 lbs (185 to 165), dropped my cholestrol and blood sugar to below normal levels. My doctor said I was the 5% of his patients that actually make a change.

    Here are a couple rules I used:
    – only eat what is natural. If it will not rot in 1 week if you left it outside, imagine what it does inside your body – (so long oreos, etc).
    – if your great great grandmother would not recognize it as food, don’t eat it. So long twinkies, morning cereals, etc, but she would know what an apple is!
    – If food had any processing done to it, it was market as “health” you can not pronounce the names of it’s ingredients, don’t eat it. Oranges don’t have a “healthy” sticker on them.
    – eat 5 small meals a day, and nothing after 7pm.
    – Optional – exercise should be a full body high intensity, short duration. Example – 20 full body weight squats as fast as you can. Get your heart rate elevated, then let it return to rest, then repeat several times. Should take about 4-5 minutes.

    Now I use crossfit for exercise, but you can most of what you need to at home. I tend to enjoy the family nature of my local cross fit.

    I think many people are worried about the pain and denial a lifestyle change will take, but I am here to say, after all the changes I have been through, you don’t really remember the crappy parts, but you love the results. And the results fuel you for more.

    A couple other statements I find ring true:
    – the 1 hour you spend in the gym will not make up for the 23 hours of poor decisions you make outside the gym.
    – most people live to eat, I choose to eat to live.
    – nothing tastes as good as feeling fit feels.


  • Chris January 19, 2012, 8:46 am

    We are collectively suffering in this country from a massive outbreak of obesity due to poor diet and sedentary lifestyles. Every time I go out in public, I’m amazed at how many obese people I see. I find myself pleasantly surprised to see a fit person, occasionally, in public. I suspect we have it all wrong when it comes to diet and lifestyle.

    I’ve spent the last year experimenting with P90X and Insanity workouts/diets. They’ve 1) gotten me into the best shape of my life and 2) more imporantly, taught me how to eat. P90X has a fantastic food plan that comes with the workout and shows you how to set up a food diary and literally track every calorie and balance your meal plans between carbs, proteins, healthy fats (flaxseed oil) dairy, veggi’s and fruit. It’s painful and strange at first, but after a couple of weeks you settle into a rhythm and its easy. I’ve found by changing my diet to this balance that my energy level is constant throughout the day, I never feel stuffed, yet get enough to eat, my digestion is much more efficient (less heartburn) and I sleep better.
    I also suspect we eat way too much meat in our typical diets. It takes a lot of acid to digest meat. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how efficiently my system digests veggi’s and how much better I feel when I stick to unprocessed natural foods like veggi’s, fruit, whole grains and lots of water.

    Gaining control of your diet is a worthwhile investment!

    PS-I would bet the P90X program can be aquired for free on the internet or library if you didn’t want to pay for your own copy.

    • BDub January 20, 2012, 12:57 pm

      I am 4 weeks into the P90X program and I feel fantastic (albeit a little sore).

      Another good place to get P90X is from Craiglist. Better yet, find a friend who ordered it at 2am after a bag of Cheetos and then decided it wasn’t for them because it was too hard. That’s what I did!

  • DollarDisciple January 19, 2012, 8:52 am

    Personal finance and fitness definitely have one huge thing in common: psychology. Creating lasting changes in either arena require changes first within your own mind.

    I knew a guy who did one of those extreme calories restriction diets, the kind that are offered by hospitals. Most of your food is either liquid or comes in a packet. Sounds awful to me. Anyway, he lost over 100 pounds and within a year has gained it all back. The reason? When we was done, he was a fat man in a skinny man’s body. You have to be skinny on the inside to be skinny on the outside :)

  • CG January 19, 2012, 9:04 am

    I’ve been slim my entire life. I’m a very controlled person in all areas of my life so I’ve never struggled in the weight area even after three kids.
    Here’s a tip you missed: take a long time to prepare your food. When you start from ingredients, not boxes of this and cans and packets of that, you spend more time in the kitchen creating your meals. Thus you appreciate what’s on your plate even more because you know exactly how much time you needed to put into that nourishment. I make everything from our pasta to out maple syrup. No it’s not convenient. But I know exactly what goes into our food, we save money, shopping is a breeze, and we’re all slim and healthy.

  • Matt G January 19, 2012, 9:07 am

    Losing weight is exactly the same as becoming financially free. And everyone already knows how to do it.

    Spend less and earn more.
    Eat less and exercise more.

    • James January 19, 2012, 9:26 am

      I agree, which is why I have to say I disagree a bit with MMM when he listed “Lack of understanding of what even constitutes good diet and exercise” as a major factor in the massive weight gain society is seeing. Being in the best shape possible takes a lot of knowledge and understanding, but how to not be obese is very common knowledge and well understood by the vast majority of society. They lack desire, willpower and encouragement, and the pressure to just keep piling their plates is about as strong as the consumerism message is in this country.

      • Terry January 19, 2012, 10:16 am

        I would expect, though, that most people don’t realize how easy it is to get in shape. If your health or finances are in poor shape, I can imagine that it’s hard to believe that there is a way out.

      • Spork January 19, 2012, 5:47 pm

        Totally disagree. What makes us obese is not understood by the vast majority. The vast majority understands it as “calories in vs calories out” and, oddly enough, science has a really hard time proving that. When you look at obese people, oddly enough the majority of them have bodies that are technically starving. Even though the body is storing fat, it is burning muscle. It’s an insulin reaction.

        • Bakari January 19, 2012, 7:17 pm

          calories in/out VS insulin is a false dichotomy.

          It is technically impossible to starve if you have stored fat.
          Many people consume excess calories, but are deficient in specific micro-nutrients. That’s possible because most high-calorie density foods are low in nutrient density.

          But you can lose fat on a high-carb, high-sugar, highly processed food diet:

          • Spork January 19, 2012, 7:27 pm

            you do understand that I mean “technically starving” I mean “their body is behaving like a starving person”, right?

            …but you cannot store fat without elevated blood sugar. It’s the trigger. That’s how it works.

            …and yes, technically no matter what you do, it’s calories in vs calories out… but like Taubes explains: its the wrong question entirely. There is conservation of energy… because there are additional chemical processes involved.

            • Bakari January 19, 2012, 7:37 pm

              I always try to clarify that because I have heard so many people who wanted to lose weight lamenting that no matter how much exercise they do, they don’t lose weight.
              When I suggest that there hunger will make them consume more calories to make up for the burned calories, thats why they aren’t losing fat, and they should consider eating less, they say “I don’t want to starve myself”.

              I also find that many people claim that bodyfat percentage is purely a factor of genes or hormones or food additives – i.e. the individual has little or no control over it – which is disingenuous.

              I realize you aren’t meaning to imply either of those things.
              I also know that the equations most websites and books use are over simplified (they don’t account for calories consumed but not digested, nor for changes in basal metabolic rate, among other things).

              But I think the vast majority actually don’t understand that, after all is said and done, calories in vs out is the bottom line.

            • Kathy P. January 20, 2012, 7:49 am

              Calories have little to do with it. It’s a simplistic theory designed for mass consumption but the reality is that too few calories actually inhibit weight loss because the metabolism slows. In other words, the body says, “Wow. This is a famine. Better slow down and conserve my body fat. Don’t know when food will be available again.”

              For the majority of people, obesity is about high carb intake keeping insulin levels high keeping fat storage high and not allowing any of it to be released. It’s really very simple and there’s ample science to support it but a whole lot of important medical people have been pushing the low fat-high carb dogma for so long, they can’t really back-track now, can they? They’d look like fools – or at the very least, really really bad scientists.

            • Bakari January 20, 2012, 11:20 am

              Kathy P., thats exactly the sort of comment which inspired me to write the above in the first place!

              There is a limit to how much metabolism can slow. It can’t slow to zero. Also, you can consciously control about 1/2 of calorie expenditure by exercising.

              I think there is probably a lot of confusion in the fat management world (including in thees comments) between what causes fat gain, and what it takes to lose it.
              High carb intake may be a large factor for many people in causing obesity in the first place, however cutting out carbs without restricting calories will NOT (directly) cause fat loss.

              It does indirectly for many people because protein, fat, and fiber quell hunger, and if a person gets full sooner, they eat less. If they eat less, they get fewer calories. If they get fewer calories, they burn fat.

              Incidentally, I don’t think there are a lot of dietary scientists pushing low-fat diets anymore.
              A good scientist always changes their opinion to match the latest information, that’s what makes it science and not faith.

            • Bakari February 27, 2012, 12:22 pm

              I realize this conversation is quite old by internet standards, but my girlfriend and I recently got gym memberships and a tub of protein powder (we are vegetarian) – she is trying to lose fat, I am trying to build muscle, (we are both slowly succeeding); so I have been thinking about this stuff – and this conversation in particular – a lot lately.

              I think part of the difference in our outlooks is exactly what you were getting at: asking different questions.

              The question I was trying to answer is: “If you are ALREADY overfat, how do you lose the excess fat you already have?”

              The question you seem to be trying to answer is: “why do people gain excess fat in the first place?”

              Which is a good question to ask, and to which your answer has a lot of validity; but it won’t necessarily help someone who is already too fat. In that case the issue is not just avoiding having the body store additional fat.

            • Druid October 4, 2014, 11:30 am


              I agree with your interpretation of the science of weight loss. People afraid of slowing their metabolism by not eating enough is a horrible misconception that impedes peoples weight loss goals.

              The slower metabolism is mainly related to the digestion of food. For example it might take 90 calories to digest a 300 calorie hamburger. So the person who ate the hamburger has a metabolism that burns an extra 90 calories a day. However the person who didn’t eat the hamburger wasn’t exposed to the 300 calories and could potentially have a greater net loss of 210 calories.

              People with slower metabolisms live longer, so a slower metabolism is something that should be sought after. A slower metabolism by definition is a more efficient body. It is only because a great number of us are obese that slow metabolism’s are considered a bad thing. In a lean society the slow metabolism is the best metabolism! It is very mustachian in that it requires less maintenance costs and results in a more efficient lifestyle..

        • Kathy P. January 20, 2012, 7:41 am

          Agreed. The thing that people don’t get is that insulin is a fat-storage hormone. If you’re eating lots of carbs (and especially have done so for a long time, so that you’re likely to be insulin resistant) the frequent release of insulin locks away the fat and won’t let it out of the fat cells.

          When you switch to low carb (and “low” can vary some, depending on the individual), your insulin levels stay much lower and stored fat can once again become a fuel source. People think low carb is high protein but in fact the protein levels are quite moderate. It’s the fat levels that are high – sometimes as much as 80% of calories. This is perfectly healthy IF it’s not combined with high levels of carb intake.

          It’s also how paleo people ate. Fat was prized in their diets. Indigenous peoples went to great lengths to acquire fat and had methods of food storage that ensured it would always be available (pemmican is a good example). They knew that a high protein diet with low fat was unhealthy and could even be lethal in extreme cases.

          The lowfat dogma of present medical “science” is based on the opinions of a few medical “movers and shakers” who decided that fat MUST be the cause of heart disease and went about designing bad studies or misinterpreting good studies to “prove” what they had already determined. There is no science to support the fat-theory of heart disease. Again, see Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories.

          Likewise, excercise does not make you lose weight. Exercise makes you hungry. Exercise IS good for fitness, toning and strength but does nothing to help you lose weight.

    • Matt G January 20, 2012, 12:25 pm

      You’re just nitpicking over the basic concept.

      Eat exactly the same as you are eating right now, and jog 3x per week for 45 mins for 6 months, you’ll be slimmer.


      Exercise exactly the same as you are right now, and cut out 500 calories of soda every day for 6 months, you’ll be slimmer.

      How can you disagree with that?

      • Bakari January 20, 2012, 4:43 pm

        I’m with you on the basic principal, however, the body can adjust basal metabolic rate by 500 calories a day, so it is very possible for a person to eat 500 less or exercise 500 more and not lose fat.

        This is what makes so many people think that calories in VS calories out isn’t true, when in reality its just a more complicated formula

        • Spork January 20, 2012, 4:52 pm

          No, the problem is that calories in/out is the wrong question. To steal Taubes example: Imagine 2 restaurants side by side. One is packed with customers and has a line out the door. The other is empty and about to go bankrupt. You could say “it’s customers in and customers out that makes it a success”… and while that is true, it is also meaningless.

          Calories in/out seems obvious and we take it as truth. The problem is that in clinical trials, it just hasn’t been shown to be true. They’ve tried and for some reason just can’t do it. Instead of saying “well then, that must be incorrect or important or the wrong damn question” they just keep trying. What’s the definition of insanity again?

          • Bakari January 20, 2012, 5:34 pm

            • Spork January 21, 2012, 9:00 am

              nejm article “Carbohydrate-rich foods with a low glycemic index were recommended in each diet”. Awesome. Get insulin under control and lose weight. I also don’t find actual calorie intake in the study, just percentages. Maybe it’s buried in the references, but I don’t see it.

              obesity article: This isn’t a clinical study, just an article. It is also not about calories in/out. Oddly it says low carb works better short term and people stick to it better over time. It also mentions how diabetes and cholesterol profiles improved under low carb.

              Natural news: again not a calories in/out clinical study. “Drinking water helps
              weight loss.” Okay.

              Twinkie diet: While it’s fun and interesting… there’s no real data there of calories in/out. It’s fun. It has a study size of 1. I’d not call that a clinical study.

              Here’s a scientific method: lots of people. Measure calories in. Measure calories out. Vary amount of protein/carb/fat (and I mean vary AMOUNT, not percentage). This is expensive and takes a long time and it’s hard to keep participants engaged.

              Let me put it another way: let’s assume an average maintenance calorie intake of 2000 calories… That’s close for a lot of people.

              Then let’s take your own statement: “it is very possible for a person to eat 500 less or exercise 500 more and not lose fat. This is what makes so many people think that calories in VS calories out isn’t true, when in reality its just a more complicated formula.”

              Other than proving my point (“it’s a more complicated formula”) this can be extrapolated to “it’s just calories in vs calories out… with a mysterious +/- 25% margin of error.

            • Bakari January 21, 2012, 9:44 am

              From my first link: “Conclusions

              Reduced-calorie diets result in clinically meaningful weight loss regardless of which macronutrients they emphasize. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00072995.)”
              This was the overall conclusion.

              The second one isn’t a paper about one specific trial – it cites 24 existing clinical trials, with references and links.
              “a small but daily negative energy imbalance can lead to a significant amount of weight loss”

              The 3rd was a clinical trial, I just didn’t link to the original paper: http://www.nature.com/oby/journal/v18/n2/abs/oby2009235a.html
              I found it relevant because the only thing they are varying by filling the stomach with water is how much the subjects ate, not what they ate.
              “consuming 500 ml water prior to each main meal leads to greater weight loss than a hypocaloric diet alone in middle-aged and older adults. This may be due in part to an acute reduction in meal EI following water ingestion.”

              It sounds like now you are saying that the reason scientists can’t “prove” (to your satisfaction) that a negative overall calorie balance causes weight-loss is because clinical trials are expensive and difficult.
              What I was asking for was your source for implying that calorie balance is not a factor in bodyfat percent increase or decrease. You didn’t just say it hasn’t been proven, you said it has been shown not to be true. So please reference the clinical trial that shows it not to be true.

              The “+/- 25% margin” is not one of error, and it isn’t mysterious. The body has a baseline basal metabolic rate which is variable, but only within certain limits.
              Dieting often triggers a reduction in metabolism, because the body is preparing for famine.
              That doesn’t invalidate the equation, it is part of it.

              Calories in = calories consumed – calories not digested.
              Calories out = basal metabolism + exercise and daily movement.

              That is what I mean by “more complicated” because most people take the equation as “calories consumed – exercise and movement”.

              I am not disputing that insulin spikes are a factor in fat loss, what I’m saying is that the primary role it plays is in regulating hunger. Hunger regulates consumption. Yes, a person is less likely to store fat without insulin spikes, but they will not store any fat at all if they are in calorie deficit. Similarly, Someone who avoids high glycemic index foods but maintains an overall calorie balance is not going to lose any existing fat.
              In order to claim otherwise, you would have to find a study where people are on a high-carb, but calorie deficit diet, and are gaining fat, or have a low-carb diet with a calorie excess and are losing fat.

          • Bakari January 20, 2012, 5:38 pm


            1) The state of being seriously mentally ill; madness.
            2) Extreme foolishness or irrationality.

            The definition you are thinking of is just like the claim that calorie balance isn’t the bottom line to bodyfat gain or loss:
            it is repeated so often that people just begin to accept it as truth, but it was never true.

  • Peter January 19, 2012, 9:20 am

    I got a free app on my phone: MyFitnessPal. It’s got a ton of different food information stored in it (you can add your own too, if they don’t have it), so you can calorie (and fat, sodium, sugar, carbs, etc.) count. It does ask for information about your current weight, age, etc. and what your goals are, but you can ignore this if you have your own plan.
    It makes it SO much easier to actually keep on track as long as your are honest. It’s amazing how much those bad for you snacks are and how quickly they add up.
    So far I have breakfast, lunch, and the afternoon snack under control. Dinner is the issue as I am the only one dieting. I think portion control is key in those situations. If there is a bunch of food in front of you, learn to limit what you put in. There is nothing wrong with leftovers.
    And I am a full believer in strength training being the best bang for your buck exercise-wise. I have already been lifting regularly and have noticed a difference. You didn’t mention it here, but I think you have before MMM, a pound of muscle actually burns more calories while doing nothing then a pound of fat. So by lifting, you are increasing muscle and decreasing fat while doing it, but then you’re also losing more calories while doing absolutely nothing!

    And don’t forget one of the financial gains here, you are spending less on groceries AND spending less in general because more of your time is spent working out instead of having free time to shop or be hit over the head with ads.

    • Peter January 19, 2012, 9:21 am

      I noticed a few grammar mistakes in my comment. Bear with me.

    • KathrynHR January 19, 2012, 10:27 am

      I second the recommendation of MyFitnessPal. That’s been the key to my success too. It’s right there on my phone, and almost everything you could possibly eat has already been added to the database by someone else. And I love the way it handles exercise calories!

      • Peter January 19, 2012, 11:11 am

        Well… that is my one problem with the app. It doesn’t seem to know what to do with strength training. It doesn’t really say add or subtract anything, all I’m doing is tracking my exercises, weight, and reps. Not that how many calories I lose per exercise would affect what I do or anything. I consider whatever benefits I get from lifting to be a bonus that’s not being tracked.

        • Lucy January 4, 2017, 5:08 pm

          I also have been an on & off user of MyFitnessPal for over a year. It has actually become a lovely routine that I have incorporated into my day. In fact, I have found that tracking my calories on MyFitnessPal often takes the place of other mundane time wasters, such as checking Instagram and otherwise messing around on my smartphone.

          I absolutely love that it has so many options for prepared foods and foods from specific grocery stores.

          I don’t have to worry about inputting individual ingredients when I make soup. I can just search “cauliflower soup” and pick whichever item seems to match most closely to mine. It is not always super accurate but it is better than not logging anything.

          In addition, I can search “Trader Joe’s half salt tuna” and pick the exact portion size in just seconds!

          However, I TOTALLY agree with Peter that recording weight lifting and strength training is the downside of MyFitnessPal. Especially if you do Crossfit or similar workouts, it is just too tedious to add each exercise one by one. Not sure how the company could create a shortcut for this though.

          Thanks for the simple tips, as usual MMM! I know I am late coming into the game but I am quickly becoming a passionate advocate for this lifestyle.

  • Will January 19, 2012, 9:59 am

    “Doing some research on the matter, it seems that there are two major factors that are causing the massive fat gain in modern society today:”

    The two factors you mention are great points, but I think you’re missing one: the proliferation of sedentary work. A generation ago, “work” likely meant feeding heavy sheets of steel into a stamping machine, now it’s more likely to mean feeding spreadsheets into a database. Spending 10 hours sitting at an ergonomically-designed workstation hardly burns more calories than lying in bed all day, but leaves you feeling mentally tired anyway.

  • Bakari January 19, 2012, 9:59 am

    Timely post.

    Just this morning I logged on to the computer to change and clarify my post on fat loss, only to find you covering it.

    If you don’t mind, I think I’ll borrow some ideas from the section “learn to appreciate mild hunger”

    Check it out – its quite long and detailed, but it has some great graphics:

  • Steve January 19, 2012, 10:12 am

    One thing that’s helped our household is to eat out of smaller plates. I serve our dinner in salad plates, and only use dinner plates when we have company. It sounds silly, but it really works.

    Another thing are those little 100 calorie snacks packs. They are pricey, but they do curb over-eating. So I buy larger quantities of snacks, and then move them into small ziplock snack bags and make my own 100 calorie snack bags at a fraction of the price. They stay fresh longer too.

    Lastly, EXERCISE. At work, overweight people always ask how I stay slim at my age. I say,”Come on, it’s break-time, let’s go work off some stress.” But there is always some excuse. You know who doesn’t ask? The guys I work out with every day of the week.

    • Valerie January 20, 2012, 12:12 pm

      Me too! I keep only the salad size plates in the kitchen cupboard. The dinner plates are stored in another room so we have to use the smaller plates without thinking.

      And exercising at work. I only have a half hour lunch break, but weather permitting I use half of that to get outside and walk. And I still get out and walk, hike or or cycle with my dog every evening – regardless of the weather.
      It’s a mindset. Don’t think about it – just go do it! And I always fine that once I’m outside moving I feel great about it!

  • bpm January 19, 2012, 10:36 am

    One more for Mark’s Daily Apple here, as well as intermittent fasting, which is a little more complicated than the paleo/primal ‘eat lots of veggies and meat’ view. There is Eat Stop Eat, Leangains, and probably 100 other sites that discuss it.

    Frankly, I think most people actually *don’t* clearly know what to do to be fit. Non-obese sure, but being fit does not mean you simply aren’t fat. If you can’t do at least a few pull ups, squat your body weight, run a 400 meter sprint without gasping in pain, etc, your body is not in the best place it can be, assuming you are a normal adult without injuries, etc. MMM’s tips on things like major muscle group work such as squats, presses, etc, are right on point. It always saddens me to see guys in my gym really cranking out heavy curls over their large beer guts.

    One of the best benefits of being fit is the invisible economic one. You literally don’t know how much it helps you every day, because while you instantly notice illness, you very rarely notice ‘health.’ The money and time you save and the pain you avoid by being even moderately fit is huge, but hard to be conscious of.

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple January 19, 2012, 2:03 pm

      Okay, I love MDA, but I’m gonna take one exception to your statement. I’m a girl with narrow shoulders and big hips, and I’ve never been able to do a pullup. Even after having been in the Navy (and working on them in PT), and having done P90X.

      And I’m okay with that.

      • Heidi January 19, 2012, 5:52 pm

        Absolutely. Every body is different. I have had varying levels of fitness in my 30 years and not a single year has passed that I couldn’t do several pullups. That’s just how my body works. Maybe because I have wide shoulders and average hips.

        • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple January 20, 2012, 8:29 pm

          My neighbor too. She’s slender and her dad was Mr. Maryland or something, she can do pullups like nobody’s business! I can do squats till the cows come home.

  • TLV January 19, 2012, 10:37 am

    Any advice for those of us with the opposite problem? I’m mostly sedentary (I make excuses and take the bus to work instead of biking far too often) and don’t eat particularly well (lots of carbs, not enough veggies, etc), yet I’m pretty much stuck at 135 lbs – officially underweight for a 6′ tall man.

    Exercising regularly has gotten me up as high as 140 in the past, but it drops off within a week or two if I stop. It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of exercise – eg running vs weightlifting. I gain about a half lb a week for a couple months, then plateau.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 19, 2012, 10:58 am

      Did you know that being underweight is one of the signs of Celiac or gluten intolerance? This is due to the inability to absorb nutrients properly.


      It might be worth looking into. Another thing I noticed was an addiction to bread/gluten. I ate it ALL the time (toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, pasta for dinner).

      Anyway, just a thought…

    • Bakari January 19, 2012, 7:26 pm

      You have to eat more than you want, just like to lose weight you have to eat less than you want. You partially answered your own question when you said you don’t eat particularly well. You probably don’t eat enough as well.
      Its hard to do!
      (without drugs. Steroids and pot both increase appetite and can help gain weight… um… not that I would know…)

      Avoid cardio (you don’t need to burn more calories) and do heavy, low-rep compound exercises (deadlifts, clean and press, squat, bench press, weighted pullups) – and keep doing them even when you plateau.

      When I stopped growing I weighed 115. I got up to 120 from my 2 month bike ride to Mexico City. The next 20 lbs I put on over the next 10 years, and they were hard won. 140 today, goal is 150 (5’6″) – but more importantly, I can bench 1.25x my own weight, do over 60 push-ups in a minute, and clean and press nearly my own weight. So nuts to what the charts say is healthy.

    • TLV January 20, 2012, 1:02 pm

      Mrs. MM – I hadn’t considered that, and I think it’s unlikely given that I don’t have any other symptoms (that I’m aware of). However, now that you’ve suggested it the idea will come to mind every time I eat a sandwich – “Am I addicted, or just uncreative?”

      Bakari – Thanks for the advice. It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one with a struggle to gain weight.

    • Bakari February 27, 2012, 10:36 am

      The best information I have found that address’ the myriad of physiological issues that make it harder for some people to build muscle:


      I’ve found that I have to keep working out for at least two months AFTER reaching a goal (after the plateau) – and then still work out at least a little – in order to maintain any gains.
      Also, a protein shake immediately before bed.

  • gestalt162 January 19, 2012, 10:38 am

    What I really need is Mr. Money Mustache standing at my side, ready to slap offending foods out of my hand, and punch me in the face when I want to dive in to some fakeypants food.

  • Mr. Frugal Toque January 19, 2012, 10:39 am

    “Discipline sets you free.”

    That should be your motto around here.

    “Learn to appreciate mild hunger”

    I’m just going to chime in here that, having always been force-fed as a child due to my apparently unacceptable level of skinniness, I have enjoyed being hungry ever since I left home for University. Imagine the luxury of skipping a meal or not clearing my plate and no one bugging me about it!

    I’d be surprised, though, if there were a significant number of people who really thought that they were supposed to be eating potato chips and drinking cola.
    Studies done here in Canada show that the vast majority of the population knows good vs. bad in terms of eating. We just knowingly eat the wrong stuff because we’re weak.
    Perhaps if an Austrian weightlifter were standing behind us all day long shouting, “What are you doing wizzat chocolate bar? You mean you eat ozzer peoples’ lunches? Stop it!”, then things would go better.

    • Bakari January 19, 2012, 7:27 pm

      reminds me of what bootcamp was like.

    • ov January 4, 2015, 1:12 am

      There are obvious things like soda that most people know are bad for you. I’ve seen many people forgo eating pizza because they were on a diet (fair enough). Instead they had a salad (yay!) but then put hundreds or thousands of high saturated-fat, calories of dressing on their salad, more than the pizza they were avoiding. I do not believe that everyone trying to lose weight understands the basic calories in vs calories out concept.

      I don’t know if it’s still the case, but once McDonalds started putting calorie labels on their foods, it was surprising to see that the Big Mac actually doesn’t have that many calories, but the salad with the dressing has way more.

  • Liz T. January 19, 2012, 10:42 am

    Is it just me, or is the hot new Paleo much the same as the revised (latter day) Atkins and its step-child South Beach? Sometimes all it takes is a name change and a new “take” on an old concept to make it appealing to more people. I admit, I do like the Paleo spin much better than its predecessors.

    The books that finally got me going are Eat to Live and the China Study. Since I read those I have eliminated nearly all boxed and wrappered foods from my house, and continue to whittle away at my remaining vices. It’s gonna be hard to give up my Diet Coke, tho…

    • rjack January 19, 2012, 11:23 am

      I never did Atkins, I did do South Beach and now I do Paleo. They are all similar in the sense that they are low carb.

      However, Paleo emphasis elimination of grains, most dairy and legumes due to the auto-immune/inflamation response that they cause. Eliminating these things was like flipping a good health switch for me. Also, I would say that

      Paleo is more of a lifestyle than just a diet. I’ve lost about 30 lbs in the last year, and Paleo is no longer a diet/lifestyle for me – it is just the way that I eat/live.

      • Kevin Meyers January 19, 2012, 12:03 pm

        Agreed – Atkins also never made any recommendations on food quality, so you had Atkins dieters thinking it was cool to eat five Egg McMuffins and just throw away the muffin part. That’s better than eating the muffin, but the Paleo/Primal lifestyle emphasizes the quality of foods (as Mrs. MM said earlier in the thread), so most paleo eaters try to emphasize grass-fed meats and sustainability in their food choices. Since going paleo, I do much more organic shopping, and buy things at farmer’s markets. I’m even going to join a CSA when it starts up again in the summer. Costco also has a great selection of organic meat and eggs for good prices, too. The way I see it, it may be a little bit more expensive, but you’re either going to pay the farmer now or the doctor later.

        If you really go deep into the paleo community, there is even some flexibility on non-starchy carbs like sweet potatoes and white rice. That’s a slippery slope for me, though, so I try to avoid that stuff altogether.

  • The Money Monk January 19, 2012, 10:54 am

    I have always been active and never had a terrible diet, but over the past couple months I have really focused on actually eating healthy instead of just not eating poorly, and it’s a big difference. Look, better, feel better, etc.

    Be ready to have some pretty intense cravings for crappy food in the beginning of any dietary adjustment.

  • Jackson January 19, 2012, 11:02 am

    One of my “tricks” to eating better is that I don’t keep junk food in my home.

    I can’t really imagine not working out. Exercise is part of my lifestyle and has been for about 17 years. Getting in a work out is very high on my daily priority list.

  • Jackson January 19, 2012, 11:04 am

    How does everyone feel about coffee? I have a caffeine addiction, which is probably a very bad thing. I get headaches if I don’t get daily caffeine.

  • Paula Deen January 19, 2012, 11:05 am

    Paleo diet? Vegetarian? Sparse use of fats? Exercise? Sounds like buncha big city talk to me. I use 8 pounds of butter and 4 pounds of sugar in the kitchen every week and I’m healthy as a horse!

  • Ali January 19, 2012, 11:36 am

    I appreciate the advice in this article, but it makes me very uncomfortable that this (like most health advice) is framed as a tool to “be slim” rather than to be HEALTHY. Our society inundates us with the constant message that thinner is better, but it simply isn’t true. Like TLV above, my body is thin, but I know that my sedentary lifestyle and reluctance to exercise make me unhealthy. Similarly, I know women who can complete double triathlons with bodies that, to the casual observer, would still read as heavy/fat. Part of the stoicism life contentment you’ve talked about should be an appreciation for one’s own body, the desire to take care of it rather than focus constantly on changing it. A true Mustachian should not work to achieve some ideal weight or body shape, but rather to bring their personal body to its maximum health, whatever size that may be.

    • Bakari January 19, 2012, 12:29 pm

      Agreed, 100%

      I think so much is geared toward fat loss just because it is such a huge problem in modern America.

      When I wrote about fat management, it started out as just a subsection of a blog about general health and fitness, which ended up being such a big topic it needed its own post.

      So, this one is for you:

    • abitha January 20, 2012, 6:42 am

      I got the impression that the post was titled that way as a quote from the title of the BBC program. But I agree that “how to be healthy” would have been a better summary of the post itself.

      It’s a difficult line to tread, isn’t it? On the one hand, obesity is a major health issue affecting a significant number of people in the developed world. On the other hand, society and the media is OBSESSED with weight loss, skinniness, and making people feel bad about themselves if they don’t meet an unrealistic ideal, and fat-shaming is rampant.

      Personally, I’m rather on the skinny side, but I am in favour of the various campaigns that have been around recently that promote self-acceptance at whatever size and speak out against fat-shaming. People who are overweight or obese don’t need to be made to feel ashamed of themselves – that’s more likely to be counterproductive anyway – but at the same time, if their weight is actually going to harm their health then it’s important to face those facts and do something about it. It’s quite a complex issue, and a difficult one to tackle constructively in any kind of public forum.

  • olivia January 19, 2012, 12:08 pm

    OK – at the risk of being labeled a complainypants, here goes.

    There are some similarities but also differences between financial independence and being healthy.

    1) You save $500 and pay down credit card debt. You can see that the next day, your balance is $500 less. You can calculate, to the very day, to the very penny, how much more you have to go and for how much longer you must make payments.

    You’re a female at 5’5″, and you eat 1200 calories a day and run 2 miles every other day, for 6 weeks. You lose zero pounds, even though all the websites and math in the world will tell you you’ve done it right. (This has happened to me.)

    2) While both sugar and spending money can be addicting (sugar and casein have been shown to be physically and psychologically addicting), I think you can make the case that it is harder to kick with sugar, etc. Your body fights processes that cause you to lose fat. You release different hormones. Your body decreases its metabolism because it senses that food is scarce. Additionally, You can go into actual physical withdrawal when withdrawing from sugar. (I have experienced this.) You get psychological withdrawal from not spending, but I don’t think it’s a physical addiction.

    3) While you can have “no spending days” and you can just “cut off cable”, you can’t not eat. You have to eat three times a day, and each time you eat, you have to mentally battle and choose eating healthy. You can’t go “cold turkey” on eating healthy like you can with say, cutting out expenses, or smoking cigarettes.

    So yeah these are a bunch of excuses blah blah blah. Thousands if not millions of people have lost weight and kept it off so it’s obviously possible. And I agree with you that bottom line, it is all about control, I’m just saying, it’s not as easy as say, being hungry once in a while, taking some pictures, and just getting up and moving. If it was that easy, everyone would do it. Go find me one fat person that says they’d prefer being fat than be hungry once in a while and get up and move a bit. Fat people know, intellectually, that this is part of the key. So why don’t they? The solution is just much harder to implement than the way you’ve described.

    For your reading pleasure:

    http://www.fit2fat2fit.com – here’s a blog by a guy who was a personal trainer addicted to exercise. He spent 6 months gaining 70 lbs, and committed to losing that 70 lbs. He did it so he could see what it was like for his overweight clients. He realized it was not as easy as just “eat less, move more” although he is doing just that and losing the 70 lbs at a good clip now, there is an emotional/physiological battle he’s fighting at the same time.

    So to conclude, any moron can run the math and see how much they need to pay down debt, how much they need to save to be FI, etc etc, just like any moron can see how many pounds they have to lose and multiple that by 3500 calories to see how many calories to cut over how many days to lose weight. Losing weight, and becoming financially independent, is only 15% about the math, and 85% mental.

    • Bakari January 19, 2012, 12:25 pm

      1) Most of the websites and their math over simplify.
      I don’t know enough of your specifics, but its likely that you did lose FAT even if you didn’t lose WEIGHT. If you started running, you probably gained muscle in your legs. Muscle weighs much more than fat does.
      If you are doing strength training (which you should be) you might end up weighing MORE than before, but you will wear a smaller pants size, have a better strength to weight ratio, and be much healthier – no matter what the number on the scale says.
      Never use a scale unless you also are using a tape measure.

      Also possible is that 1200 calories is too much for you, after your body adjusts to your calorie deficit by reducing its basal metabolic rate. You can either run a smaller deficit, to avoid reducing basal metabolism, or a larger one to over-compensate for your bodies adjustment.

      Much more detail here:

      2) I agree with you.

      3) You do not need to eat 3 times a day, or even every day. In fact, studies have found enormous health benefits with alternate day fasting (eat only every other day), both in helping people lose fat (even without deliberate calorie restriction) and in improving other health factors (lower cholesterol, improved brain function, resistance to toxins and radiation) even in people with normal body fat levels.

      However, I get your main point that, unlike with drugs, you can’t give it up 100%. Then again, that is true of spending also (unless you move to an uninhabited island somewhere).

      The thing is, to actually lose fat at a noticeable rate often requires not just being hungry once in a while, but being hungry most of the time. And that is difficult for anyone to ignore. I think more than any biological factor, a persons stoicism is what makes a diet succeed or fail.

    • MMM January 19, 2012, 12:30 pm

      Sounds like a nice perspective from the “losing weight is difficult” side of the spectrum, and I like to hear it.

      As a practical tip, I would not personally recommend running as a first choice of exercise to lose weight – it’s an aerobic rather than muscle-building activity, which means you get much less benefit per hour spent. And it’s hard to do for several hours a day. Running 2 miles doesn’t burn much more energy than walking two miles. And walking two miles every two days is obviously a very minimal amount of exercise. Compare that to parking 3 miles from work and then walking, or biking to work, or using a bike for all shopping errands. This usually ends up being a one hour round-trip which you do 5-7 days per week.

      If I woke up 70 lbs overweight, I’d start by doing squats. Then deadlifts, clean and press, bench presses, barbell rows, and other big compound exercises. The first and most important step is building more muscle mass in order to increase our resting metabolic rate (it has many other benefits as well).

    • rjack January 19, 2012, 12:44 pm

      “You’re a female at 5’5″, and you eat 1200 calories a day and run 2 miles every other day, for 6 weeks. You lose zero pounds, even though all the websites and math in the world will tell you you’ve done it right.”

      I disagree with the conventional wisdom/math found on most websites. The idea that you need to work hard at calorie-in/calorie out is basically bullsh*t! A calorie is not a calorie if your body has a different hormonal reaction to carb, fat, and protein calories. As a result, losing weight has little to do with being a mental exercise and alot more to do with changing the macro-nutrients of your diet.

      • Bakari January 19, 2012, 7:30 pm

        its over simplified, but its not complete bull.

        The body can’t produce fat cells out of thin air. If you eat nothing, you will burn fat just for basic life processes (breathing, thinking, moving).
        If you eat 200 calories a day, you will lose fat. No matter what your hormonal reaction is.

        The problem is that then you aren’t getting enough vitamins or protein.

        The thing that complicates the calories in/out equation is that the body can adjust basal metabolic rate when you drop your calorie intake, so then the equation changes

        • Spork January 19, 2012, 7:33 pm

          if you eat 200 calories a day you are likely to not have much time with high blood sugar.

          The point here is: there are diets that are technically “high in carb”. People lose weight on them. Oddly, they are usually lower in carb than what they ate before. Even high carb diets are carb reduced, just like your example.

        • rjack January 20, 2012, 6:11 am

          Of course, if somebody easts 200 calories a day (or fasts for that matter) they will lose weight. Is this a sustainable lifestyle? Hell no!

          My point is that counting calories is not a practical approach to sustainable weight loss. It is a will-power based approach that leaves you hungry all the time. Lowering carbs and improving food quality is a painless (as in I’m not hungry) way to lose weight.

          • Bakari February 27, 2012, 12:28 pm

            I realize this conversation is quite old by internet standards, but my girlfriend and I recently got gym memberships and a tub of protein powder (we are vegetarian) – she is trying to lose fat, I am trying to build muscle, (we are both slowly succeeding); so I have been thinking about this stuff – and this conversation in particular – a lot lately.

            I agree with you entirely that calorie restriction is not sustainable long-term; but here’s the beauty of it: it doesn’t have to be sustainable! Once a person reaches their goal bodyfat percentage, then they should start maintaining calorie balance – exactly as much as they expend, no more and no less. And at that point, I agree with you again that lowering carbs and raising nutrient and protein density will help promote eating in moderation at a healthy calorie balance level.

            Or to say it another way, eating high carb junk food leaves the body in a nutritional deficit, which it responds to by making you hungry, so you eat more total calories than you need in order to get all the nutrients. This causes people to get fat. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that switching to healthy food choices will alone make one burn off the excess fat they already have, unless they are also in a calorie deficit (which is easier to do when you have a high protein, high fiber diet)

    • jlcollinsnh January 19, 2012, 1:51 pm

      Thanks Olivia…

      I’ve been reading thru this wondering “How can I be so good with money and so bad with food?”

      Simple answer: Food is tougher.

      Still, good points in the post and comments. Motivation to redouble my efforts.

      Mmmm. Feeling hungry…..

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple January 19, 2012, 2:08 pm

      Firstly, for many women 1200 cals is too little. I lost 50 lbs way back when. I was probably eating 1200 cals a day. When I added calories to “maintain”, I lost weight FASTER. I wasn’t eating enough at 1200 cals.

      Recent studies show a calorie isn’t a calorie. I read on Marion Nestle’s blog several months ago that your body often has a “setpoint” (or more than one). Simply eating 100 extra cals a day isn’t necessarily going to put 10 lbs on you. Your body will likely burn it off (if you are at a setpoint). Most people have to eat way more than that much extra to gain weight.

      Conversely, it’s even harder to lose weight. For most people, cutting 100 cals a day won’t allow you to lose 10 lbs a year either.

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple January 19, 2012, 2:23 pm

    • Melissa January 19, 2012, 2:46 pm

      Are all of your calories from natural sources? If not you could be throwing your hormones out of whack with processed foods. Our bodies do not know how to process these frankenfoods and some people are more sensitive than others.
      Also, where did you come up with your calorie count? It is possible that you aren’t eating enough and your body is holding on to every calorie you are eating. And on the exercise front 2 miles is not much activity. 20 minutes of running every other day and thats all the physical activity you get? You need to mix that up with weight training to gain lean muscle mass.
      (And yes, I am a personal trainer and a Phyical Therapist Assistant- this stuff is my life)

      • Bakari February 6, 2012, 10:57 am

        “And on the exercise front 2 miles is not much activity.”

        That all depends. If its 2 miles in 10 minutes, then that’s a pretty good work out.
        If its 2 miles in 40 minutes, then, yeah, that’s not running, it’s jogging.
        Its not about time or distance, its about total intensity.

        Although, I agree, it is totally unbalanced, there should be fully body exercise mixed in with the (high-intensity) cardio

  • Matt January 19, 2012, 12:17 pm

    An extremely comprehensive book on strength training is “Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training” by Mark Rippetoe. The 3rd edition was recently released. There’s also an online startingstrength.com community. You can post videos of yourself and the author will critique your form.

    I recently picked up the book “Fit” by Lon Kilgore. It’s more general, in that it covers three big kinds of training: strength, endurance, and mobility. It basically argues for, and explains how to implement, a “Crossfit Strength Bias”-style exercise program without using that terminology.

    I also second the recommendation above for Gary Tabues’s two books.

  • DC January 19, 2012, 1:17 pm

    I’m one of those “high metabolism” persons. At least that’s how I explain how I can eat crap and stay very light for my age and height.
    “Learn to appreciate mild hunger” – I already do this but I still have to find the right balance between craving something and actually have an empty stomach for too long.
    Besides practicing Kendo (Japanese sword fight) I use a free app, ‘Drop and Give me Twenty’, that first evaluates how many push ups and situps I can do and then gives me a daily count to do to be fit. Doing push ups and situps is the most basic you can do and still stay fit.

  • Vanna January 19, 2012, 1:29 pm

    Control. There’s that word. The one that makes me have visions and feelings of being caged. Just saying it makes me want to get the bad taste out of my mouth.

    Through reading your blog, I’ve seen glimpses of your spirit and the freedom you’ve created in your life. By controlling certain aspects, you are able to be and do whatever you want.

    When I say thank you for creating clarity and focus; this is what I’m referring to. I now see how exercising control (in certain areas) can allow me to transcend into abundance and freedom in a way I never dreamed possible.

    Choosing minimalism is much more empowering than wondering what my life would be like if I were rich. I think I’ve been this person all along, but was reluctant to embrace it because it wasn’t the same as the consmerists all around me. Thank you for giving me permission to be myself and for giving me the tools necessary to go forward with confidence. And as an added bonus, I suddenly like myself a whole lot more.

    • Bakari January 19, 2012, 2:07 pm

      you thinking of the word control from the wrong side.

      Being caged implies you are BEING CONTROLLED, as in by someone or something else.

      If you HAVE control, it is the opposite of being caged.

      The thing is, cravings and marketing tricks us into thinking that we are “doing what we want”, when really we are being controlled.

      • Vanna January 19, 2012, 6:36 pm

        Thanks Bakari,

        I think this can of worms is too huge to cover here. But, in response to ‘being controlled’, I don’t think I’ve ever been controlled by another person nor have I ever wished to control another person. However, when you are married your bubble suddenly becomes much larger than what you once felt was perfectly within your control. Especially when it comes to money, food and exercise. Yikes!

        I think ‘the talk’ may be in order, however, I don’t think I can to that until I am capable of living by example. It’s going to be a journey for sure, but at least I feel like I’m going in the right direction now.

  • Andrew January 19, 2012, 2:26 pm

    Its funny that you posted this article…

    I took my financial discipline and strategic thinking and applied it last year to diet and exercise and guess what happened… I lost almost 50 lbs in about 5 months. This mind control stuff really works :) 7lbs were in the first month; all I did was track my diet, set a weight goal, and figure out my minimum # of calories to consume every day. By tracking on a free website (fitday for those interested), I was able to see how many useless calories I was consuming when I didn’t have time to make my own meals or when I was eating deli chicken breast instead of cooking chicken breast and refrigerating it, for example.

    The key is figuring out how many calories it takes to reduce your weight and tracking your diet. Adding exercise will increase the speed at which you reach your goals as it increases the calorie burn. I also shaved off sodium while I was at it and saw interesting results; seems like no one thinks about sodium much. But its everywhere in ginormous quantities!

    The irony is that now I find myself having to eat extra food to get the minimum # of calories every day. I’ll tack on beer, bread, etc. at the end of the day just to add calories because I’m not hungry enough, and definitely not eating enough for the amount of exercise I get now! And the amazing results that come w/ exercise are kickass!

    Good luck to everyone trying out there!

  • Paula January 19, 2012, 2:46 pm

    I find it interesting how many people use the excuse “oh it gets much harder to lose weight as you get older” and therefore let themselves go.

    I too find myself falling into this trap from time to time, but the truth is, whenever I get serious about losing some weight, all I have to do is cut out the processed sugar and high fat foods, and I lose weight. I always stay fit so that helps, but I am looking better now than I have in years, and I’m 44.

    Yes, it is about control and taking responsibility for your own life.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque January 19, 2012, 3:28 pm

      “oh it gets much harder to lose weight as you get older”

      That’s funny. Because the thought of getting weaker and frailer as I get older would make me think I’d better get to the weight room *now*, as such a theory would tell me that it will be harder tomorrow.

  • Brian January 19, 2012, 6:24 pm

    I think many of the Mustachians out there would appreciate checking out this article about Charles Atlas – old school badassity at its best!


    Loved the first part of the article!

  • Shawn January 19, 2012, 7:16 pm

    epic post. Food and $ and all their problems go hand in hand. You had me at “learning to gain some control over our own minds.”

  • Amicable Skeptic January 19, 2012, 7:54 pm

    I’ve been reading the China Study recently and the research that Dr. Campbell has conducted shows a mustachian path to health (all whole foods vegan diet to completely prevent heart disease, diabetees and some forms of cancer). I think I’m sold on his science but I find myself lookin into my risk percentage for these things and weighing that against the pleasure of some occaisional cheese. I feel rather unbad-ass about the whole thing. Trying to find out ways he’s wrong instead of making changes that will almost certainly improve my health.

    • Spork January 19, 2012, 8:04 pm

      The china study is not science… and by that I mean: It does not follow the scientific method. It is fun with math and statistics. Take a million surveys and a million variables and try to come to conclusions.

      Denise Minger has even shown the statistics to be not-so-reliable. I’d urge you to read her criticisms.

  • mjr January 19, 2012, 9:29 pm

    Statue of David, a symbolic of freedom from slavery and/or tyranny. Debtor is a slave to the creditor and indulging food is a well never mind you get the drift.

    For breakfast: I whip up some scrambled eggs (usually 2 or 3 eggs depending on mood) with handful of fresh spinach, fresh diced onions, and minced jalapenos. After the cooking, I add tabasco sauce and sprinkle with finely shredded cheese. For a salty taste, I sprinkle over with kosher salt. I add black beans or refried beans to the side. Rarely, I throw them together on a whole wheat tortilla.

    For lunch: Whatever is left in the fridge for work. Penny saved from eating out or driving home for lunch.

    For dinner: Always looking forward to what my wife had cooked. Always have leftover afterwards for the next few days.

    Man, breakfast is the surefire way to curb appetite for the next 4-6 hours.

    Basically, small portion makes me feel light and great. I avoid eating excessively few hours before hockey game or I won’t have the stamina and energy in high, strenuous activity like ice hockey.

    Large portion or ‘heavy’ food (not counting meat as ‘heavy’ food) makes me feel sluggish.

    Oh, fiber is my best friend which makes my digestion easier and resist appetite.

    Happy Breakfast!

    • mjr January 19, 2012, 9:40 pm

      I forgot to add one more thing – one rule to indulging food:

      If my waist is larger than my jeans, then I’ve ate too much

      Financial rule:

      If there’s no money in savings, then I’ve spent money on gas and eating out at a restaurant.

      I don’t want to complicate any further.

  • Dancedancekj January 19, 2012, 9:30 pm

    I think it’s more about knowledge/intelligence.

    A person can do everything possible to try and solve problems. Whether financial woes, losing weight, keeping a home clean, succeeding at a job, a person can have all the mental discipline, will power, and control in the world – but if they’re not understanding their issue fully and know exactly what to change, all their effort and stoicism is for naught.

    What I love about Mustachianism is its understated but essential use and need for information about the situation. Being a true Mustachian requires being able to crunch the numbers, do the research, sift the fact from the falsity, know what is a good source of information and what is bullhonky. It’s not enough just to say “Spend less than you earn” since that doesn’t take into account all the other factors along the road to retirement. It also is not enough to just say “Don’t eat junkfood” since there are so many factors along the road to healthiness as well.

    I also would be hesitant towards recommending universal advice. Everyone’s body is different, responding differently to both exercise and diet. While a semi-Paleo diet, a small bit of aerobic exercise and a lot of anaerobic weight-lifting and ballet keeps me in shape, it may work horribly for the next person.

    There is also so much informational crap out there regarding food, exercise, muscle gain, and long term effects of diet (even published articles suffer from poorly constructed studies). One has to use their noodle to distinguish legit from kaka.

  • stepthrough January 20, 2012, 9:30 am

    Discipline is a wonderful thing, but diet and exercise is an area where you can only overcome your environment to a certain extent.

    Someone who lives in a suburb where the grocery store is a 10 mile drive on a scary highway may certainly be able to be healthy-ish with some effort. But with the same amount of effort, someone who lives where they can walk to the grocery store and bike to work can get much better results. I enthusiastically agree with your posts where you tell people to move to a walkable neighborhood close to work.

    But the US has built about 100 million houses out in sprawling subdivisions, and only a handful in real towns. If everyone tries to move to town all at once, prices will skyrocket and only the wealthy (or highly-leveraged) will get in.

    So, I agree that most Americans need to learn, and practice, sensible eating and routine physical activity… But unlike spending less which is kind of easy once you get in the habit, in most settings better diet and exercise is the most difficult option, and sometimes more expensive.

    I want to encourage people not to just take better care of themselves, but also to go out and argue against stupid zoning regulations and crappy highway plans that make a healthy lifestyle more difficult, dangerous, or sometimes illegal.

    • James January 20, 2012, 11:13 am

      “But the US has built about 100 million houses out in sprawling subdivisions, and only a handful in real towns. If everyone tries to move to town all at once, prices will skyrocket and only the wealthy (or highly-leveraged) will get in.”

      But that is where the free market comes in. If demand for “walking communities” grew, the market would respond. Companies would put small grocery stores in communities to cash in on that demand. The big box stores would feel the pinch and change. It wouldn’t happen overnight, but everyone isn’t going to change overnight either. Increasing housing prices in these walking communities is a great way to show the market what the demand is, and that model will spread as demand increases.

      You see all sorts of people living in great walking communities who are driving everywhere and leaving their community to shop at the big box stores, so unfortunately making those zoning and highway changes won’t do it.

      • stepthrough January 20, 2012, 11:43 am

        The free market can’t do a lot for community design… On about 99% of private property in the country, it is currently illegal to build a store or restaurant with several stories of condos overhead. It’s illegal to even put in a corner store, or to build a new neighborhood with a traditional street grid. It’s generally illegal to create narrow streets in your new neighborhood that discourage speeding and make it safe to walk and bike. It’s illegal in many places to build a house on a lot smaller than an acre or so.

        And there is no free market at all when the DOT is spending your tax money.

        I’m not saying that personal choices aren’t a big part of it, but we’re straight up designing for failure here.

    • Bakari January 20, 2012, 11:25 am

      I agree with you on everything except that part where you contrast fitness with spending.

      If a person has to drive 10 miles to groceries and 20 to work, that means they need to 1)have a car and 2) use it regularly, which means they are forced to spend way more money than if they lived in “town”.

      Diet may be harder in terms of self-discipline, but its really simple and accessible to everyone. And you don’t need to have access to any equipment to do a daily one hour body weight work out and do as many thing manually instead of with power assist (from hedgetrimmers to escalators to rolling down the car window) as possible.

  • Heather January 20, 2012, 10:39 am

    I acknowledge that as a mere human, my willpower is limited. That is why I set things up so that I have to exercise my willpower only once a week instead of every day. That once a week is my trip to the grocery store.
    If I do not own any chips, pop, icecream, cake, cookies, butter, pre-prepared food, etc., then I don’t have to spend all day willing myself not to put them in my mouth.

    In addition, if I am getting a big heaver than I want to be, I adjust the palatability of my food, so that “as much as I want” is a bit less. I leave out spices, sauces, salt, sugar when I cook. Food is still enjoyable to eat, just not over-the-top yummy. Then, I just eat as much as I want. Plain cottage cheese is a good example. If I’m hungry, I like it. If I’m not hungry, I don’t like it. A nice self-limiting food item. For me, this technique provides gentle, natural weight control, without having to beat myself into a frenzy of guilt to boost up my willpower.

  • Tamara January 20, 2012, 11:30 am

    How about a segment in praise of sweat?!?

    Many is the time I’ve heard people claim they just don’t sweat. In my book that means they are generally not elevating their heart rates significantly enough to reap the real benefits of exercise – a strengthening of overall cardiovascular fitness.

    From a sport’s medicine website I pulled up today:” Fifty-four percent [of people] occasionally exercise, but without the necessary intensity to reap heart healthy benefits.”

    And personally, I find that it’s almost impossible to get an endorphin high (the best part of exercising in my book!) unless I’m expending enough energy to sweat.

    • Bakari January 20, 2012, 11:32 am


      What I’ve mostly hard is “I am willing to exercise, but I don’t want to sweat” – so they deliberately exercise at an intensity that keeps them from sweating (i.e. just going through the motions, and not actually exercising at all)

  • steveinfl January 20, 2012, 1:39 pm

    Great article. I must weigh in since I’m a lifelong exercise nut job.

    My simplified plan can be boiled down to the 3 shits:

    1. I don’t eat shit- if it contains chemicals, preservatives, fructose or anything I cannot readily identify as food I don’t eat it. I learned that I cannot out exercise a bad diet. When I ate shit, I looked like shit no matter his hard I worked out.

    2. I do shit – do full body exercise hard every day. Run, jump, climb, kettlebells, body weight exercises, Olympic type lifts. I recommend reading Men’s health power training by robert dos remedios (don’t let the Mens Health cheeseball factor discourage you, this program is rock solid with lots of variety.) After lifting for 2 decades with mediocre results and a spare 20 lbs of flab, following this program transformed me into an athlete in the best shape of my life at 43 years old

    3. I do extra shit –

    -yoga 3x a week delivers flexibility and peace of mind.
    -went vegetarian 3 years ago and now have a worry free diet. I simply eat as much as I want and I’ve conquered all weight gain issues with zero adverse effects (I recommend t colin campbell’s book for the scientific hoopla behind this. 1 page in the book lists exactly how to eat for maximum health).

    -Walk the dog. A lot. It’s fun for me, the dog and good for the neighborhood.

    -Drag an old tire loaded with weights up and down the alley. This is my $4 cardio machine

    – take the stairs, walk the extra block, hop on the bike and move a lot. Especially outside. I workout outdoors as much as possible to combat the effects of my dilbert like work life.

    Costs? A good weight set, some kettlebells, a pullup bar and a trx will cost a few hundreds bucks. I couldn’t find these used. They are virtually indestructible. After 3 years of use my only ongoing expense is chalk for sweaty hands and some rubber tubing for creative exercise experiments.

    For food my costs have dropped. Eliminating meat, processed foods and the majority of takeout means lower grocery bills.

    To numerous to list. However I will note that I have become what to me is freakishly strong and surprisingly agile.

    Try the three shits. It’s a recipe for success.

  • Valerie January 20, 2012, 1:41 pm

    I grew up in the 70’s with immigrant parents. (My mom is Swiss and grew up on a dairy farm, and I believe instinctively knew what was healthy and what was not.)

    As a child I would jealously watch my neighbourhood friends eat their amazing WonderBread, while I embarassingly ate homemade bread. They always had desserts with every meal, while in my lame home, desserts were only available when guests were over for Sunday dinner. And it was always homemade apple pie or the like. I was never hungry but I thought we were poor, because my mom wouldn’t buy the boxed food and snacks all my friends were eating. Orange Juice (not to be confused with orange ‘drink’) and milk was all we were ever offered at home. I thought pop was only available for sale at Christmas and Easter ’cause that was the only time it graced our table.

    I attended a fairly wealthy high school, where I was never given money to buy food in the school cafeteria. I watched enviously as my friends stood in line to buy french fries from the lunch ladies, while I unpacked the simple brown bag lunch my mom had gotten up early to make for me and my siblings.

    I played team sports in public school and then through high school. In the locker rooms after games I would listen to my girlfriends as they complained about how fat they already seemed to be getting. (And they were, despite the fact that we were all going to the same daily basketball or volleyball practices and games.) I smugly thought I was blessed with ‘skinny’ genes – not connecting food with fitness at that age.

    Where is this story going? Thankfully by the time I got my first job and started having my own money to spend, it rarely went to buying fast food, or snack food. (Sadly it usually went towards clothes, then cars, then a family – not savings.)

    Anywhooo. Thanks to my mom, I was blessed with a healthy childhood and have usually made wise food decisions since then.
    (FYI. My parents are both in their 80’s, healthy, and still live in our family home. Interestingly my dad didn’t retire from carpentry and commercial construction until he was 79.) My mom is on no meds whatsoever and rarely sees a doctor.

    In the last two years I have become increasingly aware of the power of food to not only keep you healthy but to actually heal, whereas the mainstream diet is only harmful. I buy organic when it’s available to me, and I also juice regularly. (I do enjoy wine, so I like to think the juicing etc… helps offsets any negatives from the wine! :) And I also started making my own wine recently after MMM’s post on homemade beer! Liquor taxes are so exorbitant here in Ontario that the savings are HUGE! The only downside is that there’s always a bottle at the ready! Hahaha!)

    Thanks Mr MM for another insightful post!

  • George Carlson January 20, 2012, 5:57 pm

    I’m 6’2″ and 150lbs. and have roughly 5% body fat.

    My secret. Run 70 miles a week. Honestly, I guarantee you that if you run at least 70 miles a week it will be physically impossible for you to be over weight. If you run 7 minute miles that just one hour and 10 minutes of running a day (or a little over two television episodes).

    Pretty much the only reason that I finish eating is because my stomach starts to hurt from the total volume of food I’ve eaten. And I can eat a lot. My current personal record in eating is 5.25 pound of pizza in one hour (thats 5 jacks pizzas).

    Typically I:
    Eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast (5 servings).
    Eat two bowls of oatmeal for lunch (10 servings).
    Run 10 miles.
    Eat 100oz of some type of stew for supper.

    That totals to roughly 4200 calories in a day with 2250 calories coming from oatmeal.

    • George Carlson January 20, 2012, 6:01 pm

      Also, a nice side effect of all that running is that I am now fast (think 5000 meters in under 15 minutes fast).

    • ice January 21, 2012, 4:20 am

      Oh my God you’re my new hero. 5 Jack’ss? Incredible!

  • MacGyverIt January 20, 2012, 8:28 pm

    MMM, I appreciate the article’s photo change up.

    • MacGyverIt January 20, 2012, 8:30 pm

      Correction – thought David replaced Size Two Waist, my bad!

      • MMM January 20, 2012, 9:30 pm

        What, you’re saying you DON’T like the picture of the attractive lady’s midsection on the main page?

        That is a rare complaint and I think you’d lose a poll with other MMM readers on that one, perhaps split partly along gender lines ;-)

        • jlcollinsnh January 21, 2012, 6:47 am

          It is a sad day, Mr. MM, when you chose to replace the picture of the lovely young lady with one of me.

  • Earn Save Live January 21, 2012, 2:37 pm

    Fabulous post! I’m an American who recently moved to Australia. The differences in levels of obesity and physical activity have been pretty astounding. We have a school-age child, and I’ve really noticed how much more active kids are here – both in school and out of school. (Of course, we’re now car-free and our own son is much more active just through daily walking and biking!)

    I’m a runner and I’ve done 10 half-marathons and marathons over the years. If you start with the Couch to 5K and build up from there, it’s really possible – and even enjoyable. Of course, I know how good strength training is too, so I build that into my weekly schedule.

    I second everything that you said about switching up breakfast. I’m a huge fan of smoothies for breakfast. In case anyone’s keen, try rice milk, frozen berries, vanilla protein powder, and ground flax. Or you could do almond milk, 1 tb almond butter, spinach, a banana, and chia seeds. Very tasty – and very easy!

  • MacGyverIt January 21, 2012, 3:44 pm

    • Glenn December 29, 2019, 4:28 am

      I found that calorie counting alone would likely fail after a week or so, like all diets fail………….unless you built in a daily reward to incentivize you not to eat much. It also means no change to your lifestyle and no removal of any particular foods (but you are really only eating food between 5pm and 9pm)

      So I implemented a HALF regime of High Alcohol, Low Food whereby it incorporated the benefits of intermittent fasting as well as had a rewards program (evening alcoholic drinks).

      Keeping to 1200 calories per day resulted in me losing 1kg/week; so I dropped from 92kg to 78kg in about 4 months. Obviously, if you do exercise on any particular day, this will allow a greater alcohol consumption (or food consumption if you are desperate)

      Whilst most people think that the HALF regime is a joke, it seems apparent that unless you include a daily alcohol reward (or similar), you will fall off the diet bandwagon pretty quick.


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