Eating Healthy And Becoming Your Best Self With Mark Suster

Can we ever break the discouraging cycle of losing weight and then putting it back on? Yes, we can, says Mark Suster in this episode of What’s Ahead. 

A noted venture capitalist and entrepreneur, Suster posted a blog on New Year’s day entitled, “How I Lost 65 Pounds In 18 Months Without Any Fad Diets And Gimmicks.” 

During our conversation, Suster explains why most diets don’t work and why relying too heavily on intense exercise also doesn’t work: “You can’t outrun the fork.”

The key to succeeding is changing your lifestyle in small steps. Don’t start with a comprehensive plan. The basic concept is that “You manage what you measure.” You must measure your weight each day and religiously log everything you eat. Sensible exercise—again, starting slowly. This doesn’t mean you forever foreswear eating foods you love, such as pizza, cheeseburgers and ice cream, but you eat them in moderation—and not every day.

Suster shares with us the ways in which he deals with the need for snacks, especially in the evening. His average weight loss was little more than a pound a week. He makes it all sound so doable, and he didn’t—and doesn’t—rely on unrealistic willpower and forbearance.

Listen and give it a try. I plan to!

How my brain processes information

“I was 39 when I realized I had ADD. And I realized because my executive assistant told me I had ADD. And I said to her, ‘I’m accomplished. I’m a two-time CEO.’ I sold both of my companies. My second company, I sold to I was VP of product at Salesforce, one of the fastest-growing companies in the entire country. Uh, I’m now a venture capitalist, this, uh, you know, industry, many people want to be a part of. And I run my own venture capital fund. ‘I’m too successful to have ADD; you’re surely talking about the wrong person.’ So she gave me a book—it’s called Delivered From Distraction—and I started reading it, and everything in that book described me, and I couldn’t believe it. So, uh: late to meetings, driving cars fast, argumentative, uh, start lots of tasks, don’t complete lots of tasks, really bad at time management. Like, you go through this checklist and it, I felt like it was a Bible for my brain. It told me here’s why you do what you do. And I started to realize that the things that I didn’t feel good about myself for were really just how my brain was wired. So when you have ADD, you have a slow-processing frontal cortex, it’s not a disease. It’s just how your brain processes information.”

The key to course-correcting and getting back on track

“Psychologically, there’s a term called licensing. When we work out, we think we’ve earned the right to eat more or eat foods that we want. So I went for a 16-mile run. I’ve earned the right to have chicken wings and deep-dish pizza. But the over consumption that you do from the licensing effect, more than outweighs the good from the exercise. So if you’re going to focus on only one thing, and I think you should do both, but if you’re going to do only one thing, focus on food. And the second thing that I’d like to make a point about is, uh, not just that there’s a problem with licensing, uh, but ultimately you have to keep track of total calories, total consumption, and get control of what your day looks like. And what happens is if you stop measuring because you had three or four bad days, three or four bad days becomes three or four bad weeks become six weeks. And people stopped measuring.

“If you have a bad day, it’s okay. If you have three bad days, it’s okay. But you need to still measure every morning, even when you’re having bad days, and hold yourself accountable to three to five bad days. Cause that’s the only way that you’re going to course-correct faster and get yourself back on track. And what happens is on diets, when people break them, they stopped stepping on the scale because they don’t want to see it cause they don’t want to be accountable for their bad behavior. And three days becomes three weeks, becomes three months. And I know because that’s my life. Okay. And when I held myself accountable for the bad weekend or the bad week, even I got back on the track faster, and I never blew my diet out for weeks.”

Holding yourself accountable

“You need to understand that you cannot outrun on the fork. So 80% of weight loss—and weight loss isn’t everyone’s goal—but 80% is what you eat. And 20% is exercise, and they’re both important. But if you’re going to start on something, start on what you eat and hold yourself accountable. As Americans, we don’t measure what we eat. So we really have a skewed sense of portion control. As you know, I lived a long time in Europe, and in Europe the portions are significantly smaller than in the U.S. So [how much is in] a bowl of cereal or a bowl of rice or how much bread do we consume? How much milk do we put in a cafe latte, for example, are things we just don’t think about. The reason I recommend products like Noom and My Fitness Pal—but there’s many others and I’m not an investor in anything I mentioned. And if I do, I will disclose it—but the nice thing about those products is their food-logging tools. They hold you accountable to measure what you eat and to say, what is the portion? And they tell you how many calories. And it builds up throughout the day. And what I found was a portion of rice was a third of the size of how much rice I eat. A portion of cereal was about a third of the portion of cereal that I ate. And I just didn’t realize how many calories I was taking in every day. Once I learned what portions were and I started eating smaller portions, I found I could eat anything, really. Truly. I eat pizza. I eat cereal. I, as you mentioned, I eat bagels, but I eat them in healthy proportions. I know how much I’m eating, and I know when I’m overrunning. So at the end of the day, I hold myself accountable.”