“I am less interested in concepts and philosophies, but more interested in systems that get results.”
- John Kehoe
Diets, diets, and more diets! In this post I’m going to talk about how every diet works and every diet fails. How there is so much information out there and how it can be… no, it is overwhelming! One study after another comes down the pipeline about the value of one nutrient or another. All the rages and raves of the “super fruits” like açai and then of course, kale. I touched on it last week with the various fads in the industry. We are looking for a magic bullet: One perfect routine, one magic food that will fix everything. Sadly, that doesn’t exist. But not all is lost. When we understand the basics and principles behind it, much can then be successfully accomplished! So, why every diet works? Well, if you ate today, and you are alive, congratulations–you are on a successful diet! Why does every diet fail? By misunderstanding diet for dieting, we get ourselves into a great deal of trouble. So let us be clear: whatever you eat in a day, week, month, lifetime… is your diet. Dieting is the removal or addition of foods on a temporary basis in the hopes of achieving a specific goal. Usually, losing weight, but some try and gain (bulk-up phases). The problem with this is that dieting doesn’t work! And what I mean is that it rarely works for the long-term because as soon as the goal is reached, the individual stops dieting. How often have we seen someone do this, lose the weight, stop the diet, and then bounce back to their previous form, or worse? Then we start labelling the dieting protocols: “I’m a South-beach man”… “I’m an Adkins lad”… “Vegan is the only way to go, you unholy butcher!”… “Vegetarian is clearly the true champion.” Oh and the Mediterranean… I almost forgot. The problem with this is that labelling diets and selling lots of books about diets is like trying to copyright or get a patent for walking.
So, what is the solution to all of this? Enter my friends: simplicity and common sense. And how I do it? I won’t tell you what you should do, and this post will not be a book about the food industry (there is a lot of that out there)! In fact, there is a lot of great stuff out there and I encourage you to continue learning, researching, and growing.
Point 1: Organic food is probably better than non-organic food in that, I will argue, food that has no– or at least, very little–pesticide is logically going to be better than food that has a lot of pesticide in it.
Point 2: Try not to be fooled by marketing and labelling. Many foods now say they are organic, but actually aren’t.
Point 3: Avoid foods that are “enriched” with stuff (like omega three’s). Again, the majority of this is simply marketing the fads and the new “In” discovery.
Point 4: This is important! If the food has ingredients you can’t pronounce, you probably shouldn’t eat it. But let us also be realistic: there is a trade-off. Some preservatives in foods will be necessary to allow me to go to the grocery store to buy that food, saving me the time to drive all the way out to that particular farmer or food manufacturer directly to pick up that food. Civilizations trade.
Point 5: Going back up to point 4, whole foods grown in the ground are much better and much richer in nutrients than the foods you buy in a box. Think outside aisles of the grocery store, not the middle ones.
Point 6: Sugar itself is not bad. Too much sugar–too much refined sugar–is really, really bad.
Point 7: You likely consume way too much refined sugar….
Point 8: High fructose corn syrup is in just about everything, and it is my conclusion/opinion the real threat to your health.
Point 9: This is why you likely consume too much refined sugar.
And lastly, Point 10: If you are looking to lose weight, you have to calorie count! At least in the beginning.
Let us be clear: you are overweight because you eat too much, drink too much, or simply consume too many calories. And if you tell me you watch what you eat and are overweight, you are lying your ass off and I don’t believe you! I won’t blame you, but you are clearly eating more than you realize. When that stops, amazing things will start to happen. So for the rest of this post, I am going to tell you what I eat. In this, you will see the principles and then you can get creative and do it your own way.
Oh, and lastly: meats from animals that eat what they are supposed to eat are really good for you! Meats from animals that are not eating what they were made to eat can be really bad for you in the long run. I cite grass-fed beef vs corn-fed, antibiotic, hormone-jacked-up factory cows as my example.
So, here was my dilemma a few months ago: I was less active with moving to Puerto Rico and eating (and drinking) more than I should have been. When I joined one of the local gyms, I measured a 36-inch waist, weighed 225 lbs., and according to those fat-measuring electronic devices, 22.5% body fat! Yikes! Going in the wrong direction for a fanatical rugby fan and player, former P.E. teacher, and a personal trainer, eh? But all would be fine because we joined the gym and I started getting some shifts and working at the other gym. So I was working out, I was more active, my fitness was getting back to where I like it. All was going well. I was making all of our brunches and dinners, I was drinking less. We were doing a lot of things right again. Except, nothing was really changing. I mean, I was getting strong, getting fit. Eating much cleaner. What was I missing? I have a confession. All the years I have taught and trained, I have never calorie counted; never really had to, I suppose, so I decided to take a real hard look at what I was eating to see where I could make the change. I won’t bore you with every food and its calorie number, but I do encourage you take a look for yourself. Now, to tell you what my lady and I were eating….
I really love fajitas! Breakfast fajitas with eggs, lettuce, sautéed onions, tomato, sweet pepper, salsa, and a little hot sauce. They are amazing! So for brunch I’d make three, one for my lady and two for me. I really love fajitas! So for dinner I’d make steak or chicken fajitas with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers, salsa, and hot sauce! Lots of vegetables! Protein! How could this be bad?! Just a quick note: a whole leaf of lettuce has 5 calories. Five! That’s it! An egg? 70. A tomato? 20-30, so all of these vegetable and the eggs are not the problem. 10 oz. of Steak has a lot more calories than chicken, approximately 700 calories to 450 for 10 oz., respectively. So the steak is heavy, but not the end of the world… but the flour tortillas I was using? 220 calories per wrap! Multiply that by the four I was eating on such a regular basis, and that was 900 additional calories I was consuming almost every day. WOW! So I cut out the wraps. In the last 8 weeks, I’ve lost 15 lbs. I’ve gone from a 36-inch waist back down to a 33.5-inch waist (my tailor-made James Bond suits fit great again), and I have dropped from 22.5 % to 16%. Much better!
So, to clear up a few things: I am not saying you have to completely give up breads, but most are full of extra sugar and extra calories. So be aware of this. One slice of toast is not the end of the world, but if you eat a lot of bread, toast, pancakes… IT ADDS UP! I also got into enjoying my own version of the pina colada (I make the best in Western Puerto Rico), but a glass of this deliciosa heaven is like, 300 calories. So treating myself to a couple of those on a regular basis adds up. So I knocked those off. I also occasionally enjoy a “butter coffee;” this recipe is courtesy of Dave Asprey and Brian Rose from the London Real Podcast. Having 2 or 3 of these adds up. So I cut back to only one and I don’t make them every day. On average, I have reduced my daily calorie consumption by 1000 calories. That’s a lot! But I haven’t drastically lost weight. It came off relatively slowly over these past two months, and I feel great and haven’t forced myself to starve… which leads me to my final point: Nutrient percentages on the back of food labels are based on a 2000-calorie diet. It is my contention that that is too high; unless you are a construction worker or other manual labourer, that’s too many! Now, I’m not going to preach calorie restriction either, but if you are not happy with your weight, you are consuming too many and need to cut back on your calories. But you don’t have to eat less! In fact, I eat more now than I did, but consume almost half the calories.
So here is what I eat currently (this could change as my tastes or preferences change, but the underlying basics won’t):
I enjoy a couple cups of coffee in the morning. (I do the intermittent fasting thing… it is not for everyone, but I like it). So for brunch I have 3 fried eggs with salsa. In the afternoon as a snack I will have some pepper jack cheese with cucumber, some lettuce with spice and homemade dressing (olive oil and apple cider vinegar). For dinner we have been on a real Thai curry soup kick, so I fill the pot with celery, onion, pepper, jalapenos, and sometimes broccoli or cauliflower. Basically, whatever vegetables we have in the house at that time which fills the pot about ¾ of the way up (so about 3 -4 cups worth of veggies). Then I add half a can of coconut milk, a jar of pre-made green, red, or yellow curry. Then I will mix it up with either chicken, beef, or no meat at all, add some water to fill the pot up, and boil for a bit. It is delicious and sometimes she gets full so I can score an extra bowl. Now consider the coconut milk and the meat, etc. It is fair to say that the pot is probably close to 600-700 calories, split between the two of us. That’s pretty good! And it fills us up. So the three eggs in the morning is approximately 210 calories. The lettuce in the afternoon with dressing is probably 250 (an ounce of dressing plus 15 calories worth of lettuce). A couple ounces of cheese is also a couple hundred calories, so my afternoon meal is rounding up to 500 calories, my two bowls of Thai soup are about 300 calories, and if I choose to have a couple ounces of spiced rum mixed with water, that’s an additional 120 calories. So my grand total for the day is approximately 1200 calories. That doesn’t sound like that many compared to the average 2,000, and it is much less than the 2500 calories (if not more) I was consuming before, but it was really making one change that has made such a difference: by cutting out over a thousand calories a day in tortilla shells and pina coladas and sangrias, I was able to add an extra egg for breakfast and not really have to change anything else! (I still ate the salad and cheese in the afternoons before.)
So your homework will be to Youtube a great TED talk by Brian Wansink and to think about one change to make to your daily diet. I will say that once you do, and start seeing results… you will feel much better, it will be easier to stick to, and you won’t feel as guilty about that office birthday cake. But take an honest look at how my calories you are consuming and where those calories are coming from… and reduce that number.