ATTN. This is how to lose weight

Happy New Year! If you’re anything like me, you don’t really buy into the new year resolution racket. But maybe, like me, some part of your brain still kinda sorta knows that it’d be a good idea to lose a little weight, for whatever reason. For me, it’s a combination of wanting to carry less weight around during obstacle races and, if I’m honest, just a little bit of vanity. I spent a big part of last year learning a lot about nutrition and exercise. In this edition, I’ll try to distill some of that information down for you.

The thing about weight management with humans is that somewhere along the line we have lost sight of the fact that it’s pretty simple. We stopped seeing the forest for the trees. We let ourselves get marketed into beliving that losing weight is a complex process, and that all these diet plans are somehow making it simpler, when actually the reverse is true. Losing weight is pretty simple. Depending on your goals and lifestyle, it might not be easy. But it’s definitely simple. Don’t believe anyone who tries to convince you otherwise. There are several legit “good guy” authorities on nutrition out there. If you’re interested in knowing more than what I’ve written here, the bottom of this letter has a list for further reading1.

The Secret

The secret to losing weight can be summed up as: eat less than necessary, and be patient. That’s really it. As with most simple things, there’s a lot of meaning packed in there. Let’s unpack a bit of it. First, when I say “eat” I really mean eat real food. Eating doesn’t mean drinking protein shakes, though they have their place; it doesn’t mean eating nutrition bars or prepackaged meals or whatever. As Michael Pollan notes2, when you go to the supermarket, shop around the perimeter rather than in the inner aisles. The edges of the store are where you’ll find the real food: veggies, meat, fish, dairy. The next part, “less than necessary” just means that you consume fewer calories than you require to maintain your current weight. The “be patient” part means that this takes time. The more weight you have to lose, the more time it will take. Healthy weight loss occurs at about 1lb to 1.5lb per week, with some exceptions for start-up water weight loss. Pretty simple, eh?

Corollaries

There are a couple of corollaries to the above “secret” which can be helpful for active people to remember. The first is eat less, move more. The second is you can’t outwork a lousy diet. If you aren’t an athlete, or an active person, then don’t worry about these two corollaries. Sure, it’s good to move more, and you should. But if you live a generally sedentary lifestyle, with no plan to increase activity, then your weight loss is going to be all about food, and movement isn’t really going to play a part, so that first “secret” is all you need to know. Skip down to the bottom for a reading list, and I wish you luck. Everyone else, listen up.

Moving More

If you think you can just add in a three mile run every couple of days and watch the pounds slip away without adjusting what you eat, you are mistaken. The “move more” bit just means that when you eat less than necessary, you can increase weight loss by increasing your activity. Activity alone isn’t going to do it, unless you’re already eating less than necessary.

Moving Too Much More

Moving more doesn’t have to be hard. Just walking more will help. This stuff is all interrelated though, so be aware that if you move a LOT more, like run for miles and miles, your body will adapt to the “new normal” and respond by decreasing metabolic rate. The very thing you think should burn up more calories/fat actually contributes to slowing down your body’s ability to do so, making it more difficult to drop pounds. This applies to any cardio-based activity, not just running.

Count Something

If you are serious about losing some weight, you need to either count calories or macronutrients3. I know you didn’t want to hear that (I sure don’t), but it’s true. At least for a while, until you’ve got your schick down pat. If you are active, you probably should count macros. If you’re sedentary, either is fine. Here is a good generic calculator for starting to figure out your macros (and recipes). Sedentary folks can use this calculator. Active people should prioritize protein intake. If you’re vegetarian/vegan, you probably know where your protein comes from. Everyone else, get your protein from low fat meat: chicken, really lean beef, and seafood. It turns out that your body has a tremendous capacity for processing protein, so eat up.

Macronutrients

Active people need to pay attention to the macronutrient makeup of their food. There are lots of ways to approach this, so feel free to do your own reading to see what works for you. The basic advice for active folks is to eat sufficient protein every day, and cycle your carbs and fat. That means assume you’re eating the same amount of protein each day, but on workout days you eat more carbs and a little less fat. On rest days you eat fewer carbs and a little more fat. You need those carbs on workout days so your body gets enough fuel. You want to lose weight, but you don’t want to sacrifice muscle. Eating insufficient carbs on workout days puts active/lean people at risk of catabolism, which is where your body starts using muscle as fuel rather than fat or readily available carbs. There’s plenty more detail behind all this, but thems the basics.

Tools For Success

Use online calcutors to help you figure out your macros and build receipes to fit them. Learn about, and consider using, intermittent fasting to give yourself some contraints. Reject the idea of “cheat days”; embrace planned breaks (aka refeeds) in your diet. Relax, and don’t get all OCD about food. The most efficient activity for weight loss is to build muscle (which increases metabolism), so consider learning how to lift heavy things.

That Is All

I’ve gone on too long already, but in summary, pay attention to your food, and don’t stress out about the occasional slip-up. Accept and move on. If you need more details on any of this, read the authors listed below. In particular, learn about the causes of metabolic slowdown and the solutions for fixing or avoiding it. Also, if you find misstatements or mistakes in the above, please let me know! I’m an absolute layman when it comes to this, and I’m learning as I go. Writing this for you helps me understand it better.

Good Luck With The Diet


Thanks for reading,

–Bren


  1. For deep info and how-to information, read Lyle McDonald. For good reviews of current nutrition science, read Alan Aragon. For a combo nutrition/fitness perspective, read Martin Berkhan. If you want a little coaching on nutrition while staying active, look into Andy Morgan. ↩

  2. Michael Pollan’s books, in particular Omnivore’s Dilemma. ↩

  3. The main macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Some folks also include alcohol. When counting macros, it’s a good idea to include a little buffer and stay flexible. Andy Morgan has a great outline of how to do this.  ↩

ATTN. here are your lists and guides

 

By this time each year we start to see a proliferation of end of year lists and gift guides. This edition takes a look at a few. My favorite “list of lists” used to be produced by Rex Sorgatz, but he stopped doing it a couple of years ago. Take a look at the glory it once was. This edition will be nothing like that, but I will point out some of the book lists and gift guides I’ve found most interesting lately.

 

Before we get to the actual book lists, check out this list of best book covers of 2012. The entry at #8 is a book that our family read aloud together during Spring Break this year, and we loved it. Wonder is a fantastic young adult novel about a boy with congenital facial deformities, and how he made his way thorugh his first year of middle school. Highly recommended, and it pops up on some of the lists that follow. Also, re: the following lists, I left some off because I hated their paginated design. Notably HuffPo, Esquire, and Christian Science Monitor. Look ‘em up if you like.

2012 Books

  1. Amazon’s Editors Picks >> don’t miss the categorical sidebar on the left (also: some big discounts on this list)
  2. Amazon’s best sellers >> depressingly predictable
  3. Goodreads Choice Awards >> great categorization, chosen by readers
  4. NPR’s Best Books list >> good variety
  5. Publisher’s Weekly >> nothing in here for me, honestly
  6. Barnes & Noble’s list >> lots to browse
  7. NY Times Notable Children’s Books >> one of several lists from NYT
  8. NY Times 100 Notable Books >> another from NYT
  9. NY Times 10 Best >> this is the list you’ve probably already seen
  10. Washington Post’s 10 Best >> be sure to check the links at the bottom of the page for more lists
  11. About.com’s bestseller list >> better variety than Amazon’s list
  12. Audible’s list >> in case you’re more inclined to listen
  13. The Guardian’s list >> good British sensibilities (also)
  14. Brainpickings’ Kid’s Illustrated and PIcturebooks >> love
  15. Brainpickings Psychology and Philosophy >> this is the list I wish I could just import into Amazon
  16. Brainpickings Science Books >> SCIENCE (be sure to browse BP’s site for more lists you might like)
  17. Largehearted Boy’s list of lists >> a bit of overlap, but lots of good indie lists here
  18. strategy + business list *>> the original list is behind a paywall (humbug!), but 800CEOREAD grabbed it. Also keep an eye out for 800CEOREAD’s own list coming later
  19. Bloomberg’s list of business books >> lots of overlaps in this genre

Gift Guides

There are too many niched-out guides to count. I’m sticking with the ones that interest me. Maybe they’ll interest you, too.

  1. Uncle Mark’s Gift Guide and Almanac >> a classic, though this year is pretty spartan. check previous editions by just changing the year in the URL of the PDF (if you don’t understand what I just wrote, keep moving)
  2. Maker’s Kids Gift Guide >> always fun stuff here
  3. Make Magazine’s Gift Guide >> more stuff for making
  4. Duluth Trading Gift Guide >> love Duluth Trading
  5. Lehmans Gift Ideas >> some fun old-school ideas
  6. Manufactum >> not a gift guide, and not cheap, but I love the stuff you can find here
  7. Ask Mefi’s metaguide >> keep an eye on this page in case more guides pop up

I know that feel bro




also! be sure and check out ChristmasGIFs.org for the finest in Christmas GIFfery.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

–Bren

ATTN. Please enjoy your food

Here’s a very short letter for you today, since I’m at the beach with family for a long weekend and can only ignore them for so long. First a quick bit of housekeeping. There’s a little ATTN. badge over there on the left. If you don’t see it, something went wrong. I’m grateful to Darryl Brown for the graphics assist. The badge will show up here, and on the brand spanking new ATTN. archive site. The URL is attnplea.se, the double entendre of which pleases me greatly. :-)

 

You Shall Not Buy

Here in the U.S., it’s the day after Thanksgiving and consumerism is in full effect. It’s kinda gross, actually. For years now, AdBusters has organized Buy Nothing Day. The posters are still cool, though the movement seems to be less visible these days. Or maybe the ideas are spreading more broadly: check out the front page of Patagonia.com today (screenshot).

 

But I’m a pragmatist and a good deal is a good deal. I kinda don’t even want to start telling you about some of the deals that are going on, because you have a brain and can find them yourself. Those were some weird disclaimers I just wrote. Do I sound conflicted? Anyway, there’s no need to camp all night in front of a store (I’ll admit to doing this for REI return sales, but c’mon, I was in college). The Wirecutter has the best roundup of online gadgety deals, if that’s your thing. The Clymb has some ridiculous deals on outdoorsy stuff (invite if you need it)RetailMeNot has the rest of it. And that’s enough of that. (Why isn’t there a deal on the Whisky Advent Calendar?)

 

Obligatory Book Section

One book that I haven’t read yet is How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read [insert joke about needing this book in college]. Rest assured that I will eventually read it (Maria Popova already has). I’ll probably grab it from my local library. It is sometimes a hassle find a book on a web site like Amazon, and then copy the title, then fire up your library’s reservation page, paste in the title, and reserve the book. A little trick that might help speed things up is the old library bookmarklet generator. If it works for your library, it will totally be worth the time it takes to figure out and build the correct bookmarklet. It didn’t work for me a few years ago, so I had a smart undergrad build me a version that did work. Very handy.

 

This Sums It Up

 

Thanks for reading, and happy Friday.

Bren

P.S. Did you know you can just reply to this letter and it’ll come right to me? Try it out if you’ve got pointers for me, or think I screwed up, or just want to say hi.

ATTN. You should read this

Because I read a lot, I’m probably going to write a lot about reading. Because you subscribed to this letter, sometimes you’ll get to read what I write about what I read. Convenient! This edition takes a look at some cool reading options that have popped up lately.

Read this

  1. Amazon’s Kindle singles offering is a super handy place to find good stuff to read quickly. When it launched there wasn’t a whole lot to choose from, but I think authors and publishers are starting to realize there actually is a market for short, inexpensive, high quality writing. You don’t need Kindle hardware to read these offerings, but you’ll at least need the Kindle app for your computer or smartphone. I’ve read Lying and The Walk Up Nameless Ridge. Very curious about Do No Harm.

[Read more...]

ATTN. I want to go to there.

I’m on the road this weekend, and apparently I had a lot of travel-type stuff to say, so this edition is geared toward travel and a little bit of adventure reading. Believe me, two letters in two days will be an anomaly. As always, thanks for your attention to Attn:

Travel tricks

I know some of you readers have serious road warrior credibility, but I’ve found a few little travel tricks and tips that are worth passing along. This breaks down basically into gear and tech. Gear first.
[Read more...]

ATTN. Welcome to here

Today is Friday, November 9, 2012, and this is the inaugural Attn: newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

Email is not dead, and newsletters are cool

I have subscribed and unsubscribed from newsletters for as long as I’ve had email (*cough* 1994 *cough*). Here are some that I like these days. If you’ve know of other interesting newsletters, let me know!

  • NextDraft: Dave Pell is doing good work on this general interest daily newsletter. He helped inspire Attn:
  • The Ryan Holiday Reading Recommendation Email: Longest title ever, but he is a voracious reader. I pick up good book tips here.
  • Photojojo: Focused on photography tips and tricks. They will also try to sell you stuff.
  • Edge: Interviews with thinkers from many disciplines.
  • Brain Pickings: Eclectic batches of themed interestingness. Maria Popova is inhumanly productive.
  • CoolTools: Cool tools. Email subscribers see reviews first, but to become a subscriber, you must first submit a review. Yes, I have.
  • The Listserv: Daily distribution. Many readers, one randomly chosen writer. Quality varies.
  • Viewsource: Daily email of a a video you probably haven’t seen yet.
  • The Scout Report: Aimed at educators, focused on STEM and humanities.
  • Media ReDEFined: Jason Hirschhorn is a prolific aggregator of tech, entertainment, and media stories.
  • This Is True: Long-running newsletter of unusual-but-true stories.
  • TomDispatch: An alternative to mainstream media coverage. Think Bill Moyers, Rebecca Solnit, Bill McKibben, etc.
  • The Straight Dope: Produced by syndicated columnist, author, and polymath Cecil Adams. A little of everything.

Learnin’ and earnin’

What I like most about the Internet is the opportunity to learn new things. I really love it when I learn stuff that I can put to immediate use at work. OpenCulture has a great (regularly updated) list of certificate courses available. This turns everything upside-down. Instead of falling asleep in a class you don’t care about, you can stay awake on your bed and learn something interesting. I enjoyed a pint of ice cream while watching a lecture about calories.

Buy the way

How do you decide on your purchases? Thanks to the largesse of my father-in-law, our household has been a long time subscriber toConsumer Reports. I like reading the magazine, but I can never find the appropriate issue when it comes time to make a purchase. Lately I’ve been using The Wirecutter and Decide. The Wirecutter is a blog that’s mostly technology focused. Their mission is simple: they just tell you what the best thing is, and why. Decide will cost money each month, but the quality and timeliness of their reviews is worth the expense.

A fundraising masterclass

I spotted a weird Twitter exchange between Obama advisor David Axelrod and Donald Trump. I kinda considered them arch enemies, but they were just chatting like old pals. I storified it so you could gawk too.

Lock it down

Good article this week from the NYT on password security. I think password security is one of the building blocks of basic Internet literacy. I use a combination of a password manager, and a unique passphrase that can be customized to the site in question. As a consequence I have 515 (and counting) unique passwords. Matt Haughey’s password tips from back in 2005 were super helpful for me back then, and I continue to refine the approach. If you are repeating even one password, take ten minutes out of your day and come up with a basic scheme for unique, easily remembered passwords.

Happy Friday

That is all

Since this is the first edition, I’m keeping it short today. Hope you enjoyed it.

Bren