Limit your choices and lose more weight

Thomas Secrest's picture
Green peas: Image by Thomas Secrest

Everyone who has ever been on a diet knows that getting consistent results over a period of months is extremely difficult. This difficulty has spawned an industry of products to help you with your weight loss. There is little question that the industry is profitable, however, there is a question about whether it is beneficial and whether it is always honest.

One of the biggest obstacles to weight loss is how slow it happens. Most nutritionists are very clear that the schedule for meaningful weight loss is on the order of months not days or weeks.

If a person can consistently lose 2 pounds (1 kilogram) per week they are doing extremely well. However, when you do the math, 2 lbs/week is still painfully slow. If you are trying to lose 20 pounds, you are looking at 2 and half months. If you’re trying to lose 50 pounds, it will realistically take around 25 weeks (or 6 months).

This is way extreme diets plans are universally ineffective if you’re trying to lose more than about 10 pounds. It just isn’t possible to live off of grapefruit or raspberries or yogurt or canned formula for months at a time.

We are social creatures and we are social eaters and the above diets put severe restrictions on your social eating habits.

To diet for months on end, requires that your diet blend into your life. In part this means your diet can’t be too extreme. The more extreme it is, the faster you will abandon it.

The best diets are the ones that you don’t have to worry about. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t that rich. Ideally, we would hire a personal trainer and a live-in experienced cook/nutritionist. Our cook/nutritionist would design a meal plan that achieves the desired caloric intake and then prepare a variety of nutritious, tasty, and satisfying meals served at specified times. All we would have to do is sit back, enjoy our meals and lose weight.

Okay – that’s not going to happen. However, the keys to weight loss are still the same whether you’re rich or not.
• Exercise
• Food variety
• Portion restriction
• Daily caloric limits
• Meal timing
• Hydration
• Rest

So how do we achieve these things?


To cover all of them would take a book, so I am going to address portion restriction (and to some extent variety), both of which are extremely important.

In a study published in the April 2013 issue of the International Journal of Obesity, researchers found that a prepackaged (i.e. portion controlled) weight loss plan (Medifast 5 & 1 plan) produced better weight loss results compared to people who were given basic information regarding portion control and calorie intake.

The research was carried out over a 26 week period, which as I mentioned above, is not an unrealistic time frame for people looking to lose 50 pounds.
The results showed that “fifty Medifast-diet subjects (83.3%) and 45 food-based diet subjects (75.0%) completed the study.” This result is significant, in that it shows prepackaged portion control diets are more sustainable for long periods of time.

“At 26 weeks, race-adjusted mean weight loss was 16.5 lbs in Medifast-diet subjects vs. 8.4 lbs in food-based diet subjects.” Remember that these numbers are averages and in each group there were people who lost more weight and people who lost less. Also remember, this study was intended to analyze the effect of prepackaged vs. food-based diets. The additional weight loss benefits that come from exercise, proper hydration, and proper rest were intentionally excluded since they would make the results almost impossible to interpret.

Should you rush out and buy into one of these prepackaged weight loss plans. Maybe, if you have the money. However, it is not necessary. The pearl of the study is free. Reducing you choices can help you lose weight. With Tupperware and zip-lock bags you can create your own prepackaged meals.

With a little effort, a kitchen scale and reading the nutrition labels you can prepackage several days of food. Then with a sharpie marker, you can mark them according to caloric content and on which days they should be consumed.

This effort will give you the discipline to consume your prepared meals and not go foraging in the cabinets or refrigerator. If your meal is sitting there waiting for you and you have put some thought into making it interesting and tasty, you will likely eat it and save yourself hundreds of calories. Additionally, reducing the number of forage foods in your home is also very helpful.

It is also worth noting that many companies try quite hard to make frozen meals that are appealing and have a known caloric content. You can easily include these as part of your prepackaged food. Even restaurants can function in this regard. Many have low calorie meals and restaurants have built-in portion restriction. By mixing and matching all these elements, you can create days where your caloric intake is right where you want it and you weren’t tempted by easily available extra calories. You can also maintain a life of social eating, assuming it is not every day.

Remember, you have to plan ahead. The last thing you want to do at the end of a long day is to pull out a loaf of bread, a jar of mayonnaise and a package of lunch meat. Instead, open the frig and pull out the zip-lock bag that contains a sandwich or slice of pizza or some other convenient meal you thoughtfully prepared to meet your diet goals.

If you have tips that have worked for your diet, include them in the comments and I will include them in future articles on weight loss. You can also email them to me at [email protected]

Good luck.


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