By a funny coincidence, I came across the meticulously-built Hacker's Diet today on the internet. Although called "Hacker's Diet," it's really more of an engineering-oriented description of the body processes involved in eating, diet, weight loss and weight gain. This is just one of the contributions to the world made by John Walker, software engineer and writer of AutoCad and co-founder of Autodesk.
If you're of a) a hacker/software writer bent (and I know at least a few of you who follow here are); b) somewhat Aspergery (same deal); or c) enjoy technical explanations and can see their relationship to other systems - you'll really like the Hacker's Diet.
Did this work for him? Well, he wrote the Hacker's Diet in 1991. Recent pictures from Europe show Mr. Walker at a normal, healthy weight. Was John Walker even close to the extraordinary level of massive overweight that so many in Western society are today? By his own description, his weight fluctuated anywhere from 30-80 pounds overweight. 80 pounds is pretty darned serious, but 30 pounds is within the realm of the majority of the US population. I don't think there are too many residents of the tiny island nation of Nauru who are only 30 pounds overweight. 97% of men and 93% of women who are residents of Nauru are overweight or obese.
A number of epidemiological studies have identified factors contributing to the high rates of obesity in all Polynesian/Melanesian countries, as well as in some First People nations here in the U.S. Basically, fatty, unhealthy Western diets of processed foods pack pounds on people that share the genetic profile of the people in Polynesia/Melanesia like Nauru.
This is as simple as "Eat less, exercise more, lose weight."
If it were truly that simple, most people who needed to lose weight would. They wouldn't allow their body fat to increase to such high, ultra-unhealthy proportions.
Some people might really get a lot of benefit out of reading John Walker's Hacker's Diet and adopting his methods.
According to Mr. Walker,
Through all the years of struggling with my weight, the fad diets, the tedious and depressing history most fat people share, I had never, even once, approached controlling my weight the way I'd work on any other problem: a malfunctioning circuit, a buggy program, an ineffective department in my company.
As an engineer, I was trained to solve problems. As a software developer, I designed tools to help others solve their problems. As a businessman I survived and succeeded by managing problems. And yet, all that time, I hadn't looked at my own health as something to be investigated, managed, and eventually solved in the same way. I decided to do just that.
In just one of the extensive, clearly-written discussions in The Hacker's Diet, Walker points up the long-term cost of little extra "treats" and snacks each day. Over the course of a year, a daily excess of 250 calories (i.e. a doughnut, small muffin, bag of chips, two sugar-sweetened sodas) adds up to over 25 pounds of excess body fat. There's definitely a sliding curve where increased body weight will burn more basic calories, and the "doughnut effect" will level off. It's probably around 50 excess pounds, which explains the various set-points of people's weight gain (and loss).
As I've been telling people lately, one way to get at excess food consumption and start the weight loss engine is to look at food sensitivities and intolerances, since they not only cause weight gain through an inflammatory response, they also cause a perverse increase in hunger and reduced ability to determine when to stop eating. So, eliminating problem food groups can make losing weight easier. But . . . it's still calories in, calories burned and finding a balance of what to eat, when, and how - for a lifetime. Thanks, Mr. Walker. Another great contribution to the world . . .