A developer’s approach to diet

I recently lost 12kg (26lbs) and of course being such a lazy potato it was all about changing my diet (input) rather than increasing the physical exercise (output). Everyone is asking how I did it as if there was some kind of secret recipe that would magically make you slimmer. Well, I simply guinea pig'ed myself and found the right method by trial and error.

First of all a mandatory warning: don't do it at home! If you want to put yourself on a diet, ask a doctor. What you'll be reading here is my process, what worked for me might not work (or even be dangerous) for you. This is just a report of my experience, not a step-by-step tutorial.

It's all about the attitude

I believe the most important thing that I learned is that "diet" is not a punishment that you inflict to yourself in a finite time frame, but a whole new attitude at eating.

This basically means that your diet actually never ends or you are going to gain weight back very quickly. Don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds, keep reading.

The first month, or how I did it all wrong

So. Trial and error. The first month was all about error.

My first approach was to simply remove fat and carbohydrates and reduce sugar.

My new friends were green vegetables and white meat (chicken, turkey and low fat fish mainly). Very little potatoes and carrots of course.

No more butter, just a teaspoon of olive oil when needed (fortunately we don't miss that here in Florence, Italy). Pizza and pasta were my new enemies. Soda and beer the anti-Christ, water my new master.

I won't lie to you: the first week is pure hell. Don't even bother to weight yourself, you'll be suffering without losing one pound.

If you stick to your diet for one week, things start to get slightly better, not because you don't pain but at least you finally see the results. Not sure why but it seems my body needs one week before burning the exceeding fat under the skin. From that moment on motivation kicks in.

I weight myself every other day, always at the same time in the morning. My body fluctuates quite a bit during the day, so if you miss your daily appointment with the scale, skip it that day, you'll spare yourself a disappointment.

The breakdown

After one month the good news is that I was not suffering anymore for the reduced income, but my body collapsed. And I'm not talking metaphorically. One morning I woke up and I could barely stand. That day I had the best breakfast in one month, even though it seemed the best of my life.

A new balance

That episode forced me to rethink my method.

I understood that carbs are not my enemy, they are actually pretty important in my diet.

The new balance was:

  • Little carbs in the morning. They give you an energy reserve that lasts the whole day. But –this is important– don't take carbs after lunch. Once a week I reintegrated pasta or pizza at noon if I knew I had an intense afternoon.
  • Drink lots of water during the meals. Drinking a lot during the meal makes you feel full earlier.
  • Sugars are actually fine. During the diet sugars are not bad, it's pure energy the body consumes right away. When I feel hungry or feeble I drink a glass of half-water-half-fruit-juice or eat an apple or a pear.
  • Light at night. The last meal of the day should be very light. No carbs whatsoever (sorry, no late fridge-cold Pizza), no food meant for breakfast, no fat (yeah that includes bacon).
  • Eat regularly. Especially don't reach the table hungry, I always end up eating more than I need if I do. I eat breakfast at 8am, lunch at 1pm, dinner at 8pm. No exceptions.
  • Eat at home. Or at least prepare your meals at home.

So what do I eat?

Salads. Huge bowls of salads, with tomatoes, little cheese and some grilled chicken maybe.

Risotto with very little rice and a lot of vegetables (zucchine and onions for example).

Salad with green beans, potatoes, tomatoes and black olives.

Veggie-balls with actually any kind of vegetables and a dice of cheese in the center to spice it up.

Beer or soda, once a week. Water diluted fruit juices any time I need it.

Be constant

I believe the best suggestion I can give is to be constant with your diet. Make a program and stick to it. One days maybe you feel you need extra energy because you've been standing 2 hours at the post office, or you took the bike for a 30 minutes ride, or you worked late to meet a deadline.

Your mind will tell you that you deserve some culinary satisfaction, don't listen to him/her! S/he is a liar! You might feel tired but you don't need more energy. Stick to the plan.

It's finally over

This new system brought me to lose approx 200gr every two days. Very slow –I have to admit– but steady. 12kg later, my body stopped losing weight, if I wanted to lose more I probably had to reduce carbs or sugars in the morning but I'm happy with the result and I can say the diet is over.

Not because I'm back eating like before I started, but because this is my new diet now. The way I eat changed drastically, now I meet the body scale once a week and my weight is steady.

I should probably increase the output as well (ie: exercise more), that would definitely help with the heart, but if I work out I need more energy and losing weight becomes harder (at least without an expert's advice).

3 thoughts on “A developer’s approach to diet”

  1. Hi Matteo, I’m an Italian developer too and I came across your website today, after joining the Granite Keycaps Set drop, I’m sure it’ll look great on my TKL, thank you!

    In regards to dieting, I’ve been mainly on intermittent fasting as a diet policy, and it worked. I lost as much as 10kg in one month, partly because I also have an active lifestyle. The problem with fasting was that it required being able to sustain a very precise food schedule and whenever I missed some window for some reason, I would screw up. Fasting is something I’m able to sustain and it is very effective, but I don’t know if I would enjoy all the hassles, long term.

    Now I’m giving a serious try to MyFitnessPal, which I can use on my Android device to log everything is in my meals. I don’t feel much on a diet as I feel I’m that I’m learning about food, all the nutrients and macros that I’m getting in and how they affect my daily calories allowance. Eating good stuff leaves me satisfied a energetic. This is my first month, and I lost 3.5kg, but most importantly I don’t have cravings and I learned how to screw up “gracefully”.

    So… best of luck for the maintenance phase! I find that to be the hardest one.

    1. I believe there’s no one catch-all solution to dieting. It’s something very personal. Maybe a doctor can help, but personally I found the right balance for me, and it seems to be working in the long run.

      Thanks for your message and good luck with your diet!

  2. Hey Matteo:

    You’re so lucky living in Florence! I probably would find it hard too to lose any weight there.. I’m a mathematician by training (France, US) and have done my time in university and corporate companies re math, applied with of course programming of all sorts (old time tho, that was pre Java, Linux et al) and have been working independently for small business systems support and special projects.

    re dieting, it’s all been part of a basic health search for me, as luck would have it I did a stint in a Yoga community, so vegetarian healthy eating and living naturally got and kept me in great shape. Trouble started when I started again on an omnivorous diet – though keeping away from hormone and antibiotic contaminated mainstream meats and processed foods kept me relatively ‘normal’. This may not be so much of a problem in Italy, but here in the USA, everything is loaded with sugars and starches.

    As one ages, though I discovered it is increasingly difficult to lose one’s belly fat – it has to do with hormones I gathered – so when that belly of mine gets to be too much (essentially when my wardrboe becomes too unusable lol) I’ve figured the best bet is a new method to burn fats with ultra sounds (not as effective as liposuction but not as brutal either), see ultrashape (about which I heard good things) and a few others.

    Anyway – best wishes in your efforts!

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