How to play and win on the diet table

Gain a few unwanted pounds over the Christmas and New Year period? James Addis reckons he has the perfect strategy to lose that spare tyre and stay slim for the rest of your life. Too good to be true? Well, read on …

One holiday season a few years ago, I somehow managed to gain more than 10 pounds (4.5kg) and, quite  frankly, I was well on the way to making Fats Domino look slender. After giving the matter some thought, I hit on what I now call The Blackjack Diet. It worked a treat and has kept me reasonably trim ever since. If you find your weight a challenge, I invite you to give it a try.

Why Blackjack? Well, every good Blackjack player has some idea of “basic strategy”. This is the most advantageous way to play depending on what cards are dealt. This is carefully worked out mathematically. A good player might indulge a whim and play contrary to basic strategy now and again, but he will consistently return to basic strategy to give him the best chance of winning in the long run.

It seems to me that the fundamental problem with many diets – especially the more extreme ones that require you to cut out essential food groups and which you can’t hope to continue for very long – is that there is no basic strategy. The diet succeeds only as long as a person stays on the diet. When the dieter comes off the diet, the weight goes back on. They have not established a general pattern of eating that is guaranteed to get their weight down and keep it down.

The aim of the Blackjack Diet is to find a basic strategy that helps you reduce weight until you reach your goal weight and then, far from being abandoned, the strategy continues to be deployed to maintain the goal weight. The Blackjack Diet is a life-long diet and therefore it must be reasonable.

There are many wonderful things to eat like cake, chocolate, cookies, ice cream, hamburgers and pizza. It’s going to be a pretty miserable existence if you never get to enjoy these things. The Blackjack Diet almost insists you should enjoy them.

How can you do this? By working out your life-long basic strategy. This means working out your eating and exercising pattern in a regular week. There will be some weeks in your life that are not regular – you might be sick or on holiday or on a business trip. At these times your eating and exercise habits will also likely be irregular. This does not matter much, so long as when the irregular circumstance ends you immediately return to basic strategy. Basic strategy is so devised as to always be pushing you in the direction of your goal weight. Once the goal weight is reached, continued application of basic strategy will keep you at your goal weight.   

Below is my basic strategy. This strategy will not suit everyone, but I suspect it’s a good place to start and can be easily adapted. My basic strategy will consistently drive me toward my goal weight of 178 pounds. Personally, I prefer to work in pounds because it seems to me a more useful measure for weight than kilograms, but up to you. For me, 178 pounds represents 25 on the Body Mass Index, which is just within the acceptable range, and keep in mind the BMI is an extremely tough standard.

10 step basic strategy

1. Run. At least three days a week, I get up at 6am and run two miles before work. If you can’t manage a run, do a brisk 20-minute walk. It might seem tough at first, but believe me after a few weeks you will hardly notice except for the physical and psychological benefits, which, I have to say, are enormous.
2. Scales. Weigh yourself stark naked at the same time every morning. Use digital scales that preferably measure in half-pound increments. Analogue scales are no good because I find it impossible to see if you have lost half a pound. Seeing those half-pound losses, is a great encouragement and keeps you going. Again, I find half a pound a more useful unit than 0.226kg. If your scales measure in kg, see if there is a switch underneath to convert to pounds.

3. Breakfast (Monday to Friday). Oatmeal porridge with chopped banana, a sprinkling of raisins and a sprinkling of cinnamon. No sugar. I find the banana and raisins mean you don’t need sugar. The advantage of this breakfast is it’s pretty filling and low in calories. The oatmeal takes a couple of minutes to prepare in a microwave.

4. Lunch. I usually take sandwiches to work. If you are at your goal weight you can finish off with a cookie, pastry, muffin or similar. If you are still some way off your goal weight, omit the treat. 

5. Dinner (Monday to Thursday). For dinner from Monday to Thursday I enjoy a home-cooked meal. I’m blessed with a wife works part time and is happy to do most of the cooking. I eat just enough so I don’t quite feel full. The key is no dessert after dinner. It’s the no dessert work week.

6. The weekend. Things get easier on the weekend, which for me starts on Friday evening with perhaps a beer after work. I’d generally have dessert after dinner on Friday and Saturday, maybe a cooked breakfast on Saturday mornings.  Generally light meals on Sunday. Treats on the weekend are fine – a pastry, muffin, buying an ice cream, sampling the wife’s baking is all okay.

7. The splurge. I may be invited to a party, have a meal at a restaurant or enjoy some fast food during the week. This is OK so long as I permit myself only one splurge per week. If I’m invited to two parties in one week (highly unlikely), I must turn one down or eat nothing at the second party.

8. Alcohol. A few glasses of wine over the weekend, a beer or two after work on Friday. The occasional drink in a bar with a friend. All acceptable. I try to keep it down to around four drinks a week. 

9. Soft drinks. All soft drinks must be diet versions. No exceptions.

10. Identify your weak spot. Your weak spot is the times during the week when you feel ravenous. For me, this is often around 9.30pm when I have a sudden urge to snack. Make it a point of principle never to eat anything during the weak-spot periods. If you can beat the urge to eat at these times, you can beat it at any time. After a week or two, these sudden urges will disappear.

Daily monitoring

I find daily monitoring is essential. When I embarked on the Blackjack Diet it seemed to take three or four days before the effects of the diet started to show up on the scales. But after four days the weight started to come off surprisingly quickly. Usually half-a-pound per day, and sometimes I dropped a whole pound in a 24-hour period.

On the other hand, I might gain a pound or slightly more over the weekend, given the more liberal rules at the weekend. This is acceptable because in a typical week I was still losing around two to three pounds overall. The rate of weight loss declined the closer I got to my goal weight, but I did not find it necessary to change my basic strategy.

I seemed to hit a barrier at 182 pounds. I stayed at 182 for a couple of weeks before I noticed I was declining in weight again. Once I got below 182, I reached 178 quite quickly.

I anticipate your basic strategy will likely follow a similar pattern. Of course, if you are not seeing any decline after a few weeks, you will need to rethink your strategy. Are you overdoing things on weekends? Drinking too much? Compromising during weak moments? My guess is you will not necessarily need to radically alter your basic strategy, rather just tinker with it until you get it right. Here’s to a slimmer you.