Last January, I started my path to healing food allergies by strengthening my gut. Although how I lost weight was at first a mystery, it presented a fortuitous side effect to the food allergy cure. I’ve lost 11 pounds and counting, one jean size (going on two) and when I’ve strayed on vacation, once I get back to reality, my body settles right back into my normal lower weight equilibrium within a week. 11 pounds might not sound like a lot but I’m 5’2” and started at 124. A little goes a long way on my small frame. Now, I look in the mirror and say, “Hey, I’d do me.”
I don’t strictly follow any particular “diet” like Paleo, although there are many tenets I espouse (but the anti-dairy mantra seems overboard to me and holds few if any merits for me personally), I’ve written numerous posts on how I’ve done it and what foods were introduced to the menu. There are links to these posts at the bottom of this one as well as resources which have proven both inspirational and educational throughout my food indoctrination. Keep in mind, however, that every single human is different and, unfortunately, there are no magic bullets for all bodies – the journey is yours to figure out (it took me a year and I’m still learning) but well worth the effort to feel better, sleep better and be more focused. (That last tidbit showed up unexpectedly and so welcomed on days that are, um, cloudier than others). Although I’ve learned a ton about myself, I’ve managed to put together a list of six universal insights into how I lost weight and have kept it off. Here’s to you and your improved health.
- To truly lose weight, you need to know how to cook. We all know fast food is destructive, but convenience food in the grocery store also harbors things that aren’t good for us (the ingredient list on a Lean Cuisine reads like a chem lab inventory… seriously). And restaurant food, although super tasty, hides a multitude of sins as well. To keep off the pounds, these short cuts need to be exceptions to the-eat-at-home rule. This is how I lost the weight – as a former chef, I cook all the time. But I’m lucky I have those skills. Don’t know how to cook or are intimidated by this foreign subject? Youtube has umpteen channels that can help you feel more comfortable chopping, mincing, sautéing and roasting. Once you learn these skills, you’ll ask yourself why you didn’t learn sooner. And eat so much better.
- Weight loss is 80% food and 20% exercise. Still spending countless hours at the gym to try to lose those pounds? Mounting evidence says that all exercise does is make you eat more. Yes, exercise builds muscle which is great, makes you feel super awesome and helps boost metabolism, but all you really need for cardio health is about 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times per week. Or as often as you feel like. But don’t toil for countless hours for weight loss. You might be saying to yourself (and to me): “But I know so many trim people at the gym who aren’t overweight.” Ask those people what they eat and likely you’ll find that they eat a healthy lifestyle at their tables, which is where the weight loss happens. I seriously doubt they are chowing on white bread, sugar, pasta and processed food.
- Stay away from the middle of the grocery store. You might have heard of “shopping the perimeter”? This is where there are no coupons, promotions, and marketing to influence your purchases. The American economy is designed to maximize profits and the marketers in the middle aisles have held us captive with processed food. And made us fat… 2/3 of the American public is overweight or obese. Don’t let them do this to you. Venture into the middle aisles for paper products, mustard, capers, beans and other one line ingredient items. But then run away to the perimeter again for vegetables, fruits and meats/seafood. If you’d like to delve deeper into these concepts, as well as all the processed food health claims which are bogus, watch Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food video.
- Counting calories is an utter waste of time and restricting them only leads to more weight gain. When you limit calories, your body goes into starvation mode, holding on tightly to everything you give it. I know this goes against everything we’ve been taught but slowly, too slowly actually, scientists/nutritionists are starting to admit that the past 40 years of eating advice have been an unforgivable sham. If you’re eating right, everything will fall into place and calories don’t matter.
- Eat vegetables at every meal. Think green at every, single, meal. Consider each food you put in your mouth as the opportunity to gain more nutrients to improve your health. This has been the biggest change for me and I believe the largest influence on how I lost weight — switching out my plate to vegetables and protein. Breakfast could be a scrambled eggs (or frittata) with mushrooms, spinach and onions; a green drink (but make sure it’s a whole food smoothie and not just juice, which will send sugar straight into your bloodstream), or baked mini quiches. And don’t count fruit as a vegetable… although a couple pieces of fruit per day is great for you, if you go hog wild on fructose (the sugar in fruit), it will introduce too much sugar to your system. Vegetables can be super delicious… I’ve published quite a few recipes on this site which have all helped me stick to my plan.
- Don’t eat white. Cauliflower and white asparagus are the exceptions. Make pasta, bread, desserts, white rice and all others a once-in-a-while thing. And make sure that once-in-a-while doesn’t turn into several times per week. Tasty as they are, it’s a slippery slope. Weight loss is caused by too much excess sugar in our body and all of these foods – while not containing sugar themselves – turn into sugar in the body. I’m still on the fence about whole grains like brown rice, bulgar, farro, whole wheat pasta, etc. and how they affect my body, so I limit them. I’ve discovered that gluten makes me bloat so I tend to avoid wheat products but that’s not the case for everyone. Again, every body is different and you’ll find your equilibrium.
Good luck! Please share your success stories either on this post or on my personal Facebook page.
Darya Pino Rose’s book Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting
Sarah Ballantyne’s The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body
Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto