Progress on the Hacker’s Diet

Back on July 11th I started following John Walker’s Hacker’s Diet and using the Palm software which accompanies it in order to track my weight.

The principle of the Hacker’s Diet is simple: eat less than you burn and you will lose weight; eat more than you burn and you will gain.

The hard part of dieting is dealing with day-to-day fluctuation in your weight and not being depressed or over-encouraged by it. You need to understand that even with a stable diet your weight will vary somewhat due to other factors such as water consumption and retention. What matters is the weight trend over time. That’s what the software (or a mathematical formula, for the pen & paper inclined) gives you.

One thing I particularly like about the diet is it doesn’t require you to change what you eat, just how much of it. It doesn’t require you to miss out on wedding receptions and dinners with friends. Once again, it’s the trend that matters. If most of the time you’re eating less than you burn and if you eat enough less than you burn to make up for the times when you don’t, you will lose weight.

I’ve been on the diet for 45 days. I have considered myself “off diet” for 17 of those. I have lost about 7 pounds. That’s about a pound a week which as aggressive a pattern of weight loss as is advisable for most people.

I recommend this approach to weight loss.

“Yeah, but what are the on diet days like?” I hear you ask. Here’s a typical one:
breakfast (8am or so): 1 Luna bar (180 cal) and a strong & interesting herbal tea (0 cal)
second breakfast (11am or so): mug of McCann’s instant oatmeal (2 packets) from Trader Joe’s (260-320 cal depending on flavor chosen)
lunch (afternoon sometime, usually between 1 and 4pm): Tasty Bites boxed lunch, e.g. Sprouts & Curry or Basmati Vegetables with rice (320-365 cal) with water or herbal tea
dinner (around 8pm): 3 or 4 sliced shiitake mushrooms slowly sauteed in broth, small zucchini sliced and sauteed with just a teeny bit of butter, slices of daikon radish, salad of 1 cup fresh red cabbage (approx. 300 cal) with water or herbal tea
dessert: small bit of extremely high-quality chocolate e.g. Scharffen-Berger Bittersweet (20 cal)

Throughout the day I’ll also have half a dozen Altoids or so and teas of various kinds to satisfy me when my mouth gets bored. That adds up to another 20 cal, say.

Note that that’s based on a guess that my neutral point – eating about what I burn – would be something like 1670 calories and I’m trying to lose a pound a week so I eat 500 calories less than that a day.

Published by

dinahsanders

Author. Discardian. Defender of life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness. she/her

11 thoughts on “Progress on the Hacker’s Diet”

  1. Heh. The only problem with composing your blog posts on the bus while disconnected from the web is remembering to hit the post button when you actually get to work and plug in.

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  2. I did the Hacker’s Diet in 2001, and lost a huge amount of weight (260 -> 185 lbs.) However, I was also running, for awhile over 60 miles per week. And I ran a marathon (my first), in October of that year. Was it the diet? Well, yes and no I think. I could have probably eaten just about anything, but John Walker’s formula holds true anyway. I was burning 7000-10000 calories a week just exercising! Good luck on your diet.
    (BTW, I quit running and went back up to 220 lbs. I never DID go back to my old eating habits, which I think is the other “educational” piece Walker stresses.)

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  3. My wife and I have used a simplified version of the Hacker’s Diet and have been very sucessful. I’ve lost over 65 lbs (250 -> 185) and my wife has lost about 40 lb (170 -> 130). We used a simplified weight plotting technique (just plotted it on graph paper which we kept on the the door of the fridge, and did the averaging by drawing a line through the middle of the last week). It took a while to accept the daily fluctuations in weight as normal and reasonable, but we got used to looking at the trend of the curve and were able to keep it heading downward.
    We followed Walker’s method of calculating the calories going into the “rubber bag” and cut back on our input by about 700 calories per day (on average… with some wild fluxuations including fasting for a day once in a while and pigging out on special occasionals like Xmas dinner).
    We also introduced some exercise (2 hours of exercise three days a week at a nearby YMCA fitness center).
    The combination of diet and exercise made us feel better physically and emotionally. We have more energy and look much better.

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  4. Congratulations, Al! That’s great! And very encouraging.
    I’ve lost a little over 10lbs, but am working to lose more. Already, though, I feel way better, have dropped a size and am getting compliments.
    Hooray for healthy!

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  5. I am a programmer, am stressed, overworked, but am far not fat. I am skinny and attractive. One does not need to be a hacker/programmer to realize that what u eat is what u are, so u should intake less to lose. Only it seems some poor lost American souls need to read books to get enlightened about the simplest truths of living.

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  6. The American lifestyle tends to help people get fat. It’s not just the heavily processed food, but particularly the lack of walking. Many, many Americans get everywhere by driving.
    It’s astounding what a difference walking an extra 2 or 3 miles a day – just in the course of getting to & from work, going to lunch, running errands in the evening – can make in being healthy.

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  7. Dinah suggests it’s lack of exercise in the American routine, but Walker takes issue with that suggestion. You have to have a brisk run upwards of an hour to burn off a big mac. Alternatively, you can simply extend your diet by a day.
    Exercise is important for overall health, but it ends up being a drop in the bucket when doing the Cals in vs. Cals out analysis. I’ve dropped from 240 to 175 (still going strong, shooting for 145), and I’ve found that really strenuous exercise makes me soo hungry, it tends to cancel out its benefits in regards to weight loss alone. (I still recommend it for general health, just not as a primary means to lose weight, unless you’re training for marathons).
    The real reason Americans gain so much weight is simple economics. No matter where I live in my state, I can get a meal for about $2 USD in under 10 minutes. No search costs, no prep time, service is instantaneous, and I can find these meals 24/7. The meals that are so incredibly accessible are incredibly high in calories and low in satisfaction.
    It’s tempting to believe there’s some deficiency in American lifestyle or culture, but these are all just deterministic trends. Studies on the tendency of recent immigrants to rapidly adapt in weight support this, as does the current balooning of other countries with more accessible fast food, including Britain.
    (1)
    http://onhealth.webmd.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=55916
    (2)
    http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=677&id=46382003

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  8. Okay, I’ll agree with you, Thomas B., that cals in vs. cals out is the critical element.
    But I think it’s not just a factor of the cost of what we eat, it’s also the choice of how we eat. You mentioned that, but I think it’s central. Many Americans are completely unmindful of their food. They don’t pick fresh ingredients, they don’t cook, they just sit down and start stuffing in some high-fat, high-sugar convenience food. I think the “low in satisfaction” part is really vital. Once you take away all the other pleasures of feeding yourself – and getting the ingredients & cooking really can be very pleasurable – you’re relying completely on the tastebuds and the sensation of fullness.
    So, good ways to lose weight should reflect not only watching the calories you’re taking in and getting the calories you’re burning up to a decent level of activity for general health, but also paying more attention to what you eat and when and how. Slow down a bit. Eat locally grown/made ingredients. Get more of your calories lower on the food chain and from less heavily processed ingredients.

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  9. I lost about 30 kilos (aprox 66 lbs) using the information in the hacker’s diet and NO exercise at all. The only problem is that I regained it – it had nothing to do with the hacker’s diet itself but with keeping those kgs out. That’s tough, very tough. In the end you lose all hope – the doctors don’t know enough to actually help you – and stay away from the pills. If you overeat as I do, there’s only one sensible (IMHO) solution known to mankind – eat less than you burn. But of course, that doesn’t change the underlying problem, whatever it might be… anxiety, genetics, processed foods, whatever – tough stuff.
    Lately I’ve found that exercising helps a lot – but again, I just love eating.
    Good luck!
    – ANK

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  10. One does not need to be a hacker/programmer to realize that what u eat is what u are, so u should intake less to lose. Once you take away all the other pleasures of feeding yourself – and getting the ingredients & cooking really can be very pleasurable – you’re relying completely on the tastebuds and the sensation of fullness.
    There are lots of medicines to reduce your weight. But they have too many side effects. I found a product, which will reduce the weight with in 30 days, without any side effects. Isn’t it amazing! [ advertising link removed here & as commenter’s affiliation – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, mm? ]

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