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Weight Loss

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DIETS. They promise you the world, but do they teach you how to keep the weight off once you lose it? NO!

Anyone can stick with a regimented "diet" because it's only temporary. You lose the weight & eventually go back to your "normal way" of eating. But wait - isn't your "normal way" of eating what made you overweight to begin with?

So what's the solution?

After years of experience, I now realize the only way to succeed with weight loss is by making small, gradual changes in your current lifestyle. Let's face it... you didn't gain the weight overnight, so you shouldn't expect it to fall off your body fast either!

The first step is patience. Give yourself at least 6 months to lose 10 pounds. I know this sounds like a long time for such a small reward but if you think about how fast time flies, 6 months will be here in no time.

So, instead of focusing on the number of pounds you lose per week, focus on developing the behaviors that will allow you to maintain your weight loss once you reach your goal. In doing this, you will have already adopted the behaviors necessary for long term success & be well on your way to a healthful lifestyle.

What exactly are "healthy" behaviors? Well, it is now recognized that the most important factor of eating is not so much how many calories you consume but, more so, where those calories come from.

The major health organizations all agree that a healthy diet consists of:

  • 15 to 20% protein
  • 50 - 60% complex carbohydrates
  • no more than 30% fat

To look at this in more practical terms, if someone were following a 2000 calorie meal plan, his or her optimal menu would look something like this:

2000 Calorie Meal Plan

  • 300 to 400 calories from protein (ie: meat, chicken, fish, & plant proteins)
  • 1000 to 1200 calories from complex carbohydrate (ie: whole grains, legumes/beans & vegetables)
  • no more than 600 calories from fat (ie: butter, oil, nuts) preferably the healthy fats

Now this does not mean you can have 600 calories of added fat, such as butter & mayonnaise. The total fat count includes the fats already found in animal protein, grains, nuts & dairy products.

There are many advantages to lowering your fat content. For starters, every tablespoon (Tbls) of fat adds 100 calories to your menu. Whether you see the fat or not, if it's used in preparing the food, believe me, it's in there. Reduce the fat & you reduce your calories without eliminating actual, chewable food. It's as easy as that.

Reducing the fat you eat also helps reduce your body fat. Our bodies are very efficient when it comes to turning dietary fat in adipose tissue or body fat.  When you eat your excess calories from fat, your body can change it into body fat with very minimal effort - merely 3 calories worth, leaving 97 to become body fat.

On the other hand, if your excess calories come from complex carbohydrates, you will use approximately 27 of those 100 calories to change the carbohydrate into fat. Here only 73 calories become fat. Now this may not seem like a big difference but, in the long run, it really is, especially when you consider the fiber in the complex carbohydrates, as fiber helps you feel more satiated.

When you increase your intake of the lower calorie complex carbohydrates (ie: vegetables), you will feel more satisfied after eating a meal.

Fruits, vegetables & whole grains all contain fiber, which provides bulk & helps to fill a larger portion of your stomach. Fat, on the other hand, is a more compact source of calories so you'd have to eat more to fill the same void.

While you become aware of the fat & calories in your meals, it is an opportune time to familiarize yourself with portion sizes. This is particularly important if you eat out often. In restaurants, even the most innocent of foods come in jumbo portions. Bigger portions mean more calories!

Take a look at a bagel.....

If you look at some of the books & apps that give the nutrient content of foods, you will see a bagel listed as containing approximately 240 calories. A closer look, however, reveals this bagel weighs a mere 3 oz. The average bagel you pick up in a deli is anywhere from 4 to 6 oz - or 300 to 480 calories! Quite a difference, wouldn't you say?! And that doesn't even include the butter or cream cheese! Now don't get me wrong - bagels can be a decent, low-fat healthy food as long as you acknowledge how much of it you're eating & what you're putting on it.

Let's take the same bagel & order it with butter or cream cheese. The average deli plops a great big 2 to 4 Tbls of fat on top. Remember: each Tbls of butter or margarine adds 100 calories of fat. You have just turned an innocent bagel into a 600 to 800 calories dietary disaster. Cream cheese is slightly better, weighing in at 50 calories per Tbls & 90% fat; however, the light version of cream cheese, which is Neufchatel cheese, is an even better choice.

Without sacrificing taste, you could ask for half the regular amount of spread & save yourself about 150 calories. On the other hand, if you're really serious about your health, opt for the healthier avocado, nut butter, or a spritz of olive oil.

Since we're on the topic of breakfast food, here's another dietary disaster worth mentioning. The "Costco" muffin. Again, the calorie guide puts a mere 250 calories on a 2.5 oz muffin. But wait - weigh the "Costco" muffin & you'll see a 6 oz. muffin topping the scale at 600-plus calories, depending on the variety! To make matters worse, they are usually at least 50% fat! Maybe there is some truth to "from the lips to the hips".

Now can you see why it's important to familiarize yourself with portion sizes? I could go on about all of the various restaurants & fast food joints, but I'd take up the World Wide Web. Instead, don't take my word for it. One rainy day, when you have nothing to do, take out your measuring cups & food scale & start playing around with various foods.  Look on food labels to see what the company constitutes as a portion size. Put this amount into a bowl & then put a typical restaurant potion into a bowl. You should definitely see a difference.

Try applying some low-fat healthful strategies when you cook at home. Begin by recognizing how you cook. Do you tend to use a excess butter or oil in your preparation? If so, try reducing the amount you usually use by half. Better yet, just use 1 Tbls, spreading it evenly around the bottom of the pan. Believe it or not, this is all you need.

Why not experiment with other low-fat cooking techniques? You can:

  • poach
  • bake
  • steam
  • grill
  • stir-fry & air-fry

without using any fat at all. The key to taste is in the spices. There are so many tasty spices out there. Try saffron, curry, oregano, lemon pepper, paprika & my favorite, garlic. The possibilities are endless.

Condiment use is another way to drastically reduce your fat intake. Instead of drenching your healthful green with gobs of high-fat, creamy salad dressings, try the newfangled flavored vinegars & vinaigrettes, fat-free dressings, herbs & diced fruit.

Herbs are great because they are calorie free & enhance the flavor of foods, instead of hiding the flavor like high-fat condiments do. You can sprinkle herbs & spices on everything from soups to popcorn.

You can follow these same principles when eating out. Nowadays all eating establishments are receptive to the health craze. Servers are very receptive to their customers' concerns & will accommodate most requests upon the asking.

For starters, ask for all sauces, dressings & accompaniments on the side. Remember: Fat makes food taste good & restaurants want you to come back so, unless you ask for these things on the side, the chef will be sure to add a generous amount to your food. This will surely put a damper on your weight loss efforts.

Now this does not mean you have to avoid these tasty additions. Instead, I am asking you to take the responsibility upon yourself & control the amount of fat you use. You'd be amazed at how many calories you'll save by being a little assertive in your meal selection.

Now that you have enough information to start on your way towards healthier eating habits, I must add that I truly believe the only way to fully adopt a healthful lifestyle is by combining sensible eating with a consistent program of moderate exercise.

Neither exercise nor diet alone will work to achieve & maintain weight loss over the long haul. You really must be ready to commit to both exercise & menu planning consistently, on a consistent basis, in order to achieve a healthful weight loss. In the long run, not only will you reach your goal, you will have already adopted the healthy behaviors you will need for a healthful lifestyle.

Good luck! I'm rooting for you!

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