The 75 Percent Diet

A few years ago, I came across a very simple dieting concept. No calorie counting, no weird diet foods, no skipping meals. It was simply this:

Eat 75% of whatever you normally eat.

So, if you’re currently eating a 40g bowl of cereal with milk for your breakfast, switch to a 30g bowl. If your usual lunch is a 300g baked potato, switch to a 225g one. And so on.

Why It Works

The theory behind this diet is that if your current food intake is keeping you overweight, reducing your intake by 25% will be enough for you to lose weight – probably 1-2lbs per week.

If you think about this in terms of calories:

  • 100% of your normal intake might be, say, 2,500 calories (this is what an average man needs in order to maintain his weight).
  • 75% of this is 1,875 calories – creating a deficit of 625 calories per day, which is 4,375 calories per week: enough to lose over a pound.

(Check out “What is a calorie?” for more about calories and what they measure.)

Why 75%? As you can see from the figures, this is enough to create a sensible deficit. Eating 90% of your usual intake would give you very slow results. Eating 50% would be too little and you wouldn’t get the nutrients which your body needs to stay healthy – plus your metabolism could slow down.

75% is also (usually) quite easy to work out visually. Cut your normal sandwich into quarters and discard one quarter. Eat three quarters of a pizza instead of a full pizza.

Reasons to Try It

Low Cost

The 75% diet isn’t going to cost you anything to try out. You don’t even have to get used to “light” versions of your favorites: you can just carry on eating the exact same foods which you always eat.

(You may have to plan ahead to avoid food wastage, however, or accept that sometimes you’ll need to throw food away.)

Simplicity

If you’re constantly planning to start a diet – but never quite getting round to it – then you might be trying to make things too complex. Eating 75% of your normal food intake is incredibly simple.

Familiarity

Although a few people do find that faddy diets help – surviving on shakes or cabbage soup, for instance – most of us prefer to eat the foods which we’re already familiar with. If you don’t want to spend time preparing unfamiliar meals or trying out new foods, perhaps the 75% diet is right for you.

Potential Pitfalls

There are a few drawbacks to the 75% diet, however:

Fruit and Veggies?

If you cut all your portions by 25%, you’ll be eating fewer fruits and vegetables than before. This isn’t a good thing, as most of us aren’t even meeting the 5-a-day requirement. So if you do choose to follow this diet, you might want to increase rather than decrease your portions of fruit and vegetables .(The good news is that the calories in many of these are negligible – especially in salad vegetables.)

Not Necessarily Healthy

If you’re currently eating a lot of junk food, eating less will help … but you’re still not going to be getting a nutritious diet. Three-quarters of a large burger, fries and milkshakes isn’t a great dinner! Although some dieters just want to lose weight, it’s also the case for most of us that we need to learn to eat better in order to stay fit and healthy.

Easy to Fool Yourself

How much do you actually eat at the moment? Most of us have a rough idea of what a “normal” portion looks like – but a different plate or bowl, or a full-fat instead of a low-fat spread, can have a big impact on the number of calories we consume. The safest way to ensure you really have reduced your food intake is to weigh everything you eat for a week or two, then cut back to 75% of this – using your scales to make sure you’ve judged correctly.

Doesn’t Change Habits

The key drawback to the 75% diet is that it doesn’t really change your habits. Yes, you’ll hopefully get used to smaller portion sizes (and one of the reasons why many of us are overweight is portion creep) – but you won’t switch to light versions of old favorites, and you won’t discover new low-calorie high-taste foods which you love.

What About Exercise?

The 75% diet doesn’t have anything to say about exercise, but I’d suggest that you try to increase your exercise by one third.
That means that if you currently spend half an hour walking each day, you increase that to forty minutes. If you spend fifteen minutes on the treadmill every evening, increase that to twenty minutes.
It’s a small enough increase that it won’t be a big struggle on a daily basis – but over the course of a week or month, you’ll burn a good few extra calories.

Have you ever tried to simply cut down your portion sizes? Did it help you lose weight?

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