copyright © 2008, 2009, 2013 Scott Owen
Enjoy what you eat. Lose weight. Keep weight off for good.
Don’t be intimidated by the amount of text you see here. The diet is actually fairly easy to follow, but it works best if you understand more about how your body uses the energy in food.
Here are my four basic rules:
During your diet, limit your carbohydrates especially around exercise time, and in the evening.
Your body will convert your fat into energy if your metabolism is working and it runs out of carbohydrates (sugars) to burn. If your body can’t burn the fat fast enough, then it will start burning protein (and your muscles are a good source of protein for the body to break down for food). So eat sensibly, and try to emphasise protein rather than carbs or fats, and exercise at a constant, moderate pace (not too fast). Your body will continue burning fat for 30 to 60 minutes directly after exercising, but will stop if you give it carbs as an alternative, so don’t eat for an hour after exercising. That way your body will use its own fat reserves as often as possible.
Always, always, always read the labels! Get to know your food, and don’t eat or drink foods labelled “diet”, “light”, “low carbs”, “low calorie”, “low fat” or “no fat” - it’s more often than not misleading marketting because if a food is low in one thing, they are either high in another, or they’ve added junk fillers like gums and starches. So don’t consume foods containing gums (e.g. locust bean gum, guar gum or xanthum gum) or starches (e.g. cornstarch, tapioca starch), these are just junk fillers which mess up your ability to burn calories. Oh, and don’t eat or drink anything containing high fructose corn syrup.
Other than that, you may eat (almost) whatever you want provided you adhere to these three rules.
Okay, well maybe just one more rule:
Don’t take these rules to extremes.
Don’t starve yourself or nibble constantly, don’t exercise every day or twice a week for 3 hours, and don’t try to eliminate carbohydrates or fats altogether.
Have patience, pace yourself, and you can reasonably expect to lose about 1/2 to 1 kg (1 to 2 lbs) per week.
When we returned from Canada in 2008, I set out to lose the weight I’d gained while there. Well, I managed to lose all that weight, plus a few extra kilos that I’d collected over the years (for a total of 15.7 kg = 35 lbs), and I felt really healthy as a result. I created a diet-plan for myself by combining extensive reading with some common sense. This is the result.
Virtually every diet I’ve ever seen consists of foods I don’t like to eat. But for a diet to be successful, you need to be able to maintain the diet, then maintain your weight after you reach your target weight. If you don’t like to eat the food, then you’re more likely to cheat on your diet, and even if you do finish your diet, you’ll regain your lost weight because you revert to foods you like but haven’t ‘trained’ for.
For example, if you don’t like lettuce salads, don’t force yourself to eat them just because you are dieting. That makes the dieting no fun, and you just revert to fried chicken and ice cream when you finish anyway. That said, many foods you don’t like may just be prepared improperly. Salads can be really good if you take the time to add the right ingredients which complement each other, and you can add pieces of chicken or shrimp to make it a meal on its own.
So you need to eat foods you like, but you also have to ‘know’ your food, understand what is in your food and understand how your body breaks it down and uses different types of food. When you buy food, read the label every time. Check out what you are eating, and look especially at calories, fillers/thickeners (like gums and starches), and sweeteners.
For example, a lot of people think a Caesar Salad is a great diet alternative to a regular main course. In reality, a Caesar Salad with its dressing and Parmesan cheese can easily contain many more calories than a main course! Try oil and vinegar-based dressings instead – fruit-based vinegars can add some amazing taste, without the calories of a cream-based dressing – and skip the cheesy sprinklings on top.
If you understand your food, you may discover that some of the foods you really like but thought were fattening, are actually great snacks; and foods you thought were healthy are actually huge sources of calories. For example:
- a glass of apple juice has about the same number of calories as a glass of Coke;
- a Croquette (Dutch ragout snack) has fewer calories and is more filling than a Mars bar or three Sultana crackers;
- a portion of hot-air popped popcorn with hot-sauce sprinkled on it is a great high-fibre snack which fills you and raises your metabolism, with a fraction of the calories of microwave popcorn;
- a Caesar Salad with Parmesan can contain more calories than a full main meal; or
- putting one cream and one sugar in four cups of coffee amounts to more calories than a glass of beer (and I know which I’d rather have!)
Imagine a special vehicle, with a fuel tank that can expand and contract. This vehicle also has a special converter inside which will convert different types of fuel you put into the car into the type of fuel it needs, but of course the converter motor needs to burn some of the main fuel in order to do the conversion.
If you keep putting more fuel into the vehicle than you use driving around, then the fuel tank fills up and expands with the excess fuel, and of course that makes the vehicle heavier. If you drive around and burn more fuel than you put in, the fuel tank contracts and gets lighter. If you keep putting too little fuel into the vehicle, it will stop. If you keep putting too much fuel into the car, then at some point the weight of the fuel will be too much for the engine to move the vehicle, and the engine will seize up and stop.
If you put a type of fuel into the tank which needs to be converted, then the converter motor kicks in, does the conversion but burns some of the fuel in order to do the conversion. You’ll have put more fuel into the converter, but your tank won’t get as big as when you put the main fuel in, and you’ll still be able to drive around.
If you rev the engine when you are parked, then you burn fuel, even though you’re not going anywhere. But if your motor is switched off when parked, you’ll not burn any fuel.
As I’m sure you’ve already guessed: This special vehicle is YOU! Your body acts as a fuel tank which can store energy in fat, expanding and contracting depending upon whether or not you burn less or more energy than you eat. You can eat different foods, but they require conversion into the type of energy the body needs - some more than others - so even though they may have the same number of calories on the label, your body needs different amounts of energy to convert them into what it can use. If you keep your body’s engine running and rev-ing, even when parked on the couch, you continue to burn more energy than if your body’s engine revs very low (this is known as your “metabolism”). But if you eat too little and move too little, your engine is smart enough to rev very low and you burn less (so, ironically, if you don’t eat often enough, you can actually gain weight).
It is true that losing weight is simply a matter of burning more calories than you put in. But to do that effectively, you need to know what kind of foods use energy to be converted (so you can eat more of it to feel full while getting the same or less energy), you need to eat often and keep moving in order to keep the engine rev-ing and burning fuel, and you need to avoid foods and ingredients which trick your body into lowering the revs.
And here’s what you need in order to implement my rules:
One thing you absolutely must have, is a digital kitchen scale. You can measure the weight of your food and easily calculate the number of calories you are consuming. Weighing food is much more consistent and accurate than measuring volume (e.g. with spoons or cups). (I use Soehnle for their accuracy, style and affordability.)
The other tool I consider essential is a calorie-counting application, to help you calculate your calories, plan your day’s meals and track your progress. In the past I’ve used Calorie Count, but currently I recommend MyFitnessPal. Both also have apps for tablet and smartphone.
Things to know
- Men typically burn about 2500 calories a day; women typically burn about 2000 calories. If you have an active job and you exercise, you probably burn more than the typical amount. If you are a couch potato, you probably burn less than the typical amount.
- If you consume more calories than you burn, then you gain weight. If you consume fewer calories than you burn, you lose weight.
- A pound of fat is about 3500 colories / A kilo of fat is about 7000 calories.
- A safe and achievable rate of weight loss is 1 kg per two weeks, so you need to burn 7000 calories more than you consume in a two week period, which is 500 calories a day.
- The energy stored in foods is measured in calories. Not all energy stored in food is as easy for the body to extract - some foods are more difficult to digest (i.e. they cost more energy) and some sources are more easily converted to fat - so, in this way, not all food calories listed on labels are the same. For example, a few slices of meat and a few spoonfuls of sugar may have the same amount of energy stored in them, but the sugar is relatively easy for the body to convert to fat and your body expends more energy to digest the meat, so the meat is actually lower net calorie after digestion. Know your foods!
- You can exercise to burn an additional 500 calories in a day (e.g. an hour of quick-walking), or you can reduce your food intake by 500 calories. The very best way to lose weight is to combine them, for example on alternating days eat 500 calories fewer than your maintenance level on one day, then consume the maintenance amount and exercise to burn 500 more the next day.
- Weight-loss will typically not be linear. Some weeks you will likely lose quickly, but in the beginning you may actually gain slightly as your body adjusts to eating better (5 or 6 times a day) and exercising more (putting on muscle). Some weeks you may lose weight at double the rate (1 kg per week instead of 1 kg per 2 weeks), and some weeks you may plateau (not gain or lose). Personally, I found that I gained 1 or 2 kg at the start, and from then on I would lose gradually for about 20 days, then lost double or more in one week, and so on.
- “Metabolism” is the chemical process which converts food and fat into energy. Think of it as the rate at which you burn calories. So if you lower your metabolism (e.g. by eating foods with artificial sweeteners), you burn fewer calories. If you raise your metabolism (e.g. by exercising) you burn more calories.
- Not all fat is bad. You actually need fat for good nutrition, just not too much, and not of the bad (generally processed/manufactured) types.
- “Low fat” and “no fat” foods are typically compensated with carbohydrates (sugars) in order to make them taste better. “Low fat” and “no fat” foods also typically contain some sort thickener like cornstarch, tapioca starch, locust bean gum, guar gum or xanthum gum, none of which are good for you and all of which can slow your metabolism (meaning you burn fewer calories).
- “Low-calorie” foods often have artificial sweeteners. “Low carb” foods typically have more fat in order to make them taste better. Again, read the label every time, and get to know your food.
Weight, BMI and body-fat
- Muscle weighs more than fat. In other words, if I have a cubic centimeter of muscle and a cubic centimeter of fat, the muscle is heavier. What this means is that when you exercise for the first few weeks, you may actually find yourself weighing more, as you burn fat and build muscle. This is a good thing, because despite gaining weight, your body-fat percentage is actually dropping! After a few weeks, you should find that the weight begins to drop.
- BMI (Body Mass Index) is a very poor indicator for normal to active people. Because BMI is not actually related to the amount of fat, someone who is very active and muscular and low-fat can actually have a BMI which says s/he is overweight.
- Measuring body-fat percentage is actually much more important than measuring weight or BMI. If you can get a good body-fat meter (e.g. a handheld Omron) then you should aim for body fat under 20%. Check an online body-fat calculator for recommendations which take into account your age, sex, and fitness level.
- Sorry, but you must exercise in some form or other in order for your diet to be successful. If you don’t, your body will just get used to eating less, lower your metabolism, and you won’t lose weight. Exercising forces your body to raise your metabolism. If you are not willing to exercise, don’t bother dieting.
- One of the best, easiest and cheapest forms of exercise is quick-walking. Quick-walking burns almost as many calories as jogging over the same distance, it’s much easier on the joints, and it is more effective at burning fat. Quick -walking burns fewer calories per minute than jogging, but since it takes longer to walk the same distance, you are burning calories for a longer time, the net effect being that you burn almost as many calories either way. Also, quick-walking gives your body the chance to burn fat: jogging requires energy at a faster rate than your body can burn fat, so your body tends to use carbohydrates instead.
- Exercise at least 3 times a week, at least 60 minutes each time, working up a sweat for at least 40 minutes. Walk, run, swim, bike, aerobics... anything, as long as you are moving your whole body, increasing your heart and breathing rates. Ride a bike instead of driving the car or taking transit wherever practical. Buy a dog and take it for a walk twice a day. Use the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator whenever you get the chance. Remember, if you cheat on your exercising, then the only person you are fooling is yourself.
- Assume you’re burning fewer calories than you think when exercising. Be conservative in your calculations, round down.
- Don’t over-exercise. Three to four times a week of intensive exercise, with breaks in between is a good amount. If you can, vary the types of exercise you do.
- Use a tool like Calorie Count or MyFitnessPal to get a rough idea of how many calories are burned with various types of exercise.
- If you cheat during an exercise class (e.g. stop doing sit-ups when the instructor isn’t looking), the only person you are cheating is yourself. Push yourself to do what you can, and be proud of what you are achieving even when people aren’t looking.
- Your body will convert your fat into energy if your metabolism is working and it runs out of carbohydrates (sugars) to burn. Converting fat is a slow process and requires lots of oxygen. If your body runs out of carbs and is unable to convert the fat fast enough (e.g. you are training too hard), your body will start using protein, if necessary by breaking down your muscles. You don’t want to lose weight by losing muscles and no fat, you want to be lean and strong.
- If you do an aerobic exercise, then your body has enough oxygen to burn the fat. If you are doing an anaerobic exercise (fast pace, fast heart rate), then you are not getting enough oxygen in and fat cannot be burned quickly enough so you just burn carbs or muscle (or you faint!). The best kinds of exercises to lose weight are ones where you work up a sweat for 40 minutes or more, and you are able to talk or whistle normally. Examples are weight-lifting, fast walking, swimming, cycling, and aerobics-classes. So don’t exercise too fast - exercise at a moderate, consistent pace.
- If you smell ammonia after exercising heavily, then your body ran out of carbs and/or was unable to burn the fat at the pace you needed energy, and started to break down muscle. If this is the case, then you can slow down the pace of your exercise so you burn fat (the smell should go away), or you can eat some carbs (e.g. a banana) before you exercise (the smell will reduce) and have a protein + carb (30g + 30g) drink within 20 minutes of exercise to rebuild your muscles.
- Don’t reward yourself after exercise with a BLT or clubhouse sandwich or hamburger, or with a bag of chips. If you do, you could easily be consuming twice as many calories as you just burned.
- The body continues burning fat for up to an hour-and-a-half after exercise, so you really want to take advantage of this! If you have lots of carbohydrates immediately after exercising, then your body will just stop burning your fat and start using the carbs, which is a shame, don’t you think? If you do heavy exercise, have some some whey protein powder with either some yoghurt-drink or a banana right after exercising, and wait for about an hour and a half before any other meal if you can.
- Fat does not disappear from your stomach just because you are doing sit-ups, or from your bum just because you walk. Fat does not turn into muscle. Fat is an energy store, and your body uses it from the location it chooses when you are burning more calories than you are consuming. Generally, the last place you put on fat is the first place that will be used; and the first place you put on fat will be the last to be used. So if you do sit-ups, you’ll get good stomach muscles, but you may very well be burning energy from fat stored in your hips. Don’t worry though, if you continue, eventually the fat on your stomach gets burned too.
- Energy drinks, sport drinks or “isotonic” drinks for exercise are completely unnecessary, a waste of money and they just add calories. Moreover, they are carbohydrates, which stops your body from burning fat. If you find yourself getting a dizzy during exercise, drink a glass of chocolate milk and/or eat a banana before exercising. Drink plenty of water during exercise (I typically drink about a litre). If you starve yourself before you doing heavy exercise, your body will just end up burning your muscle tissue as energy.
Raise your metabolism - ways to get your body to burn more calories:
- eat hot spices (acts as a stimulant)
- drink ice-cold drinks (body burns energy to bring the drinks up to temperature)
- drink coffee with caffein! but without cream & sugar (acts as a stimulant)
- eat more often (keeps the digestion process going)
- turn the heating down a couple of degrees (if you turn it down to 17C/63F your body will burn up to an extra 300 calories per hour to keep you warm)
- Corn. Seriously. If you avoid only one single ingredient in your diet, let it be corn (corn, corn flour, corn starch, corn syrup/fructose). Read those labels, it is in a lot of food, and the rise of corn in our food corresponds to the rise in obesity.
- Foods which contain cornstarch, tapioca starch, locust bean gum, guar gum or xanthum gum. These are fillers used to thicken foods. They add nothing of nutritional value (xanthum gum is even used by the oil industry as a lubricant for drills!), but they do add weight and/or slow your metabolism.
- Foods which contain highly-processed sugars and especially corn-syrup / fructose. These sugars convert easily to fat, but they also reduce the feedback to the brain telling you to stop eating.
- Soy/soya-based products. Despite having the reputation for being healthy, soy contains a compound similar in nature to estrogen and it negatively affects thyroid function and libido, to name just a couple of things. With its estrogen-like substance, soy-based foods (including soy milk) are known to disrupt the menstrual cycle in women and testosterone level in men.
- Artificial sweeteners. Besides cancer risks, many lower metabolism so, while you are consuming fewer calories in the “diet” or “light” drink, you may be burning fewer calories from the other things you eat, so the net result is that you gain weight. So no saccharine, aspartame (e.g. Equal, NutraSweet, Canderel), sucralose (e.g. Splenda), acesulfame-K (acesulfame-potassium) or other artificial sweeteners. Don’t even use natural stevia, it messes with your insulin. Otherwise, if you must have sweetener in your coffee or tea, go for honey or cane sugar.
- Energy drinks, sport drinks or “isotonic” drinks. Why would you consume as much or more of the calories you’re trying to burn off in an exercise session? They’re a sales gimmick, don’t fall for it!
- “Light” drinks based on artificial sweeters - and beware of drinks which claim “no sugar added”, because they typically contain artificial sweeteners too.
Watch out for foods with misleading labels
- unreasonably small serving sizes. Per-serving nutritional information including calories are given for a serving of, for example, 6 potato chips (who can stop at only 6 potato chips?). Manufacturers are counting on the fact that most people can’t multiply, so they don’t realise the whole bag of chips has an astronomical number of calories.
- “0 trans fat per portion” (often with “per portion” in small print). Manufacturers are allowed to list “0” units for any ingredient which is less than 0.5 units per portion! No wonder the portion-size for some snack foods is unreasonably small!
- “No sugar added”. This does not mean there is no sugar, just none added while making the product. They typically contain other types of natural sugars like fructose, and it often means that artificial sweeteners have been added rather than sugar.
- “Reduced fat” or “less fat”. This does not mean “low fat”, it just means less fat than the regular version of the same product. In fact, if you check the calorie content, it may very well be higher in calories than the regular version.
- “Light” or “diet”. This does not mean “low-calorie”, it just means fewer calories than the regular version of the same product. It is often still high in calories, or it contains artificial sweeteners.
- “No aspartame”. This does not mean “no artificial sweeteners”, just not the one called aspartame. In fact, it typically means that another type of artificial sweetener has been used!
- “Crispy”. If “crispy” is in the name of a product it generally means “deep fried”, but they’re afraid to say that outright.
- “Natural”. While generally a good thing, keep in mind that just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it is safe, or extra healthy, or even good for you. Think of it this way: mushrooms are natural but many types are deadly.
- “Organic”. Often manufacturers will write “organic” in big letters and “contains” in small letters, which implies it’s all organic, but actually means the recipe includes organic ingredients - plus other things as well. I’ve seen a major brand of pickles labeled this way, only to read on the list of ingredients that it also contained saccharine! Also, as with “natural”, “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. For example, I’ve seen “organic” yoghurt-drink which contained organic cornstarch!
- “Healthy”. Healthy does not mean low-calorie. You can still get fat eating healthy, natural and/or organic chips, drinks, sauces and desserts.
- “High fibre”, “A source of vitamines and minerals”, “Wholegrain”. ... and often a ton of sugar and/or fat as well.
- “Thinly-sliced” or “deli-sliced” meat may sound better and/or healthier, but I’ve seen it with 20% carb-laden cornstarch filler (cheaper to produce, much less healthy for you) yet cost 30% more by weight than the marginally thicker - but much healthier - natural slices.
- “Plain” snacks which seem low-calorie, but aren’t. “Plain nachos” look innocient, but often are higher-colorie than even potato chips! And a bag of plain microwave popcorn often contains more than 400 calories just from the oils in the bag used to pop the popcorn, and you can’t make just a quarter bag! (Get a hot-air popper instead for a low-calorie snack.)
- “Raw food” is just a fad which sounds good but has no basis in fact. Cooking your food actually releases more energy and nutrients from food and kills harmful bacteria, and is believed to be one of the reasons human brains are bigger. (Just don’t over-cook your food. )
- Set a target weight for yourself. It could be that you just want to lose a few pounds so that your shirt collar fits again, or you may want to target an ‘ideal’ weight. I used this as my guideline:
*These calculations are based on the Divine and Robinson formulae. They do not take into account the kind or amount of exercise you do nor how much muscle you build. They are simply guidelines based on averages and normal, healthy body-fat percentages.
For example, if you have more muscle (which is denser than fat) and a lower body-fat percentage, your ideal weight may be higher.
- Give priority to keeping the calories within your daily targets (check the label, and your portion sizes), eat five or six times a day, and avoid foods labeled “diet”, “light”, etc. Do these three things, and you’ll already be eating much better.
- You are trying to lose fat, not weight. You are not trying to lose muscle, or fluids. So exercise and drink plenty of water.
- If you want to lower some bodyfat and increase muscle, your target weight may be higher than your current weight (because muscle is denser than fat), but you’ll still end up looking trimmer.
- Use a tool like Calorie Count or MyFitnessPal to log your calories for about three weeks, and use it to track your weight-loss until you’ve reached your target weight.
- Find out which of your regular foods are surprisingly rich in calories (in my case, it was cheese), and which foods are surprisingly low in calories (e.g. sliced sandwich meats). Did you know that a beef croquette has fewer calories than three of those Sultana crackers? And it’s much more filling and satisfying too! Did you know that a glass of apple juice has about the same number of calories as a glass of cola? But tomato juice has only a fraction of the calories.
- Eat five or six meals a day. Have your last big meal at least (preferably more than) 3 hours before you go to bed. Eat plenty of protein, but balance with carbs and fat. Yes, your body needs fat too. Lean protein like chicken, turkey, lean steaks, etc. are great.
- Plan your meals the day before, or in the morning. That way you can spread your calories over the entire day, rather than finding you’ve used up your quota by lunchtime.
- A protein shake made from natural whey isolate protein powder (important, no additives) blended in a blender with a glass of milk and frozen slices of banana is fantastic as one of the meals, especially after exercise. It makes you feel fuller longer and without a huge number of calories. Be sure to use natural flavour because anything other than that will contain additives (e.g. artificial sweeteners, thickeners).
- Enjoy tasty, good quality food. Eat slowly, give your tongue a chance to explore the taste and texture, and give your stomach a chance to feel full. If you eat fast, you waste your food’s taste, and you eat more than you need.
- Stay clear of fast-food restaurants, which typically deep-fry everything (how do you think they cook so fast?).
- When dieting, weigh yourself every day. But only record your weight when you lose. This allows you to see the general weight-loss trend, but also gives positive feedback.
- Assume you’re consuming more calories than you think when eating. Be liberal in the calories you estimate you’ve consumed, round up. So target 700 to 1000 fewer calories per day, knowing that all values are approximate and it’ll work out to about 500.
- Don’t round-off or pack measurements (cups, spoons, etc.) – all that extra rounding each day can amount to far more calories than you need to reduce each day. 500 calories is not a lot – to lose or to gain!
- Do not “reward” yourself with food. Food should not be a reward for anything. You don’t stop eating to punish yourself do you?
- Avoid highly “processed” foods (e.g. processed cheese). Buy natural foods, when possible/practical (e.g. sliced natural Gouda cheese). Foods like yoghurt and cottage cheese and sour cream should only contain dairy and bacterial cultures, not gums and thickeners.
- Eat natural meat slices, not processed/compressed. Did you know there is a difference? Check the label – if the ingredients are meat with possibly salt and a stabilizer, it’s natural meat; if the label contains less than 98% meat and includes starches, then it is mechanically recovered meat with fillers which may have been bleached (so it looks like white meat) and then pressed into form then sliced. For example, many types of “turkey” or “chicken” slices consist of 20% carb-laden cornstarch filler.
- Eat strategically. Eat more carbs before heavy exercise, eat more protein after heavy exercise, eat more carbs at the beginning of the day and more protein towards the end of the day.
- Have an apple and/or banana or two as snacks during the day. Try a few different types and find the one that tastes the best to you. A pure fruit smoothie is a great snack, especially with banana, because it’s filling, it tastes good, and it has a lot of vitamins and minerals you need.
- Simple versus complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates need to be broken down to be digested. These are preferable for giving you a fuller feeling and supplying energy for longer. Simple carbohydrates are useful for quick energy, but you’ll crash after an hour and need to eat more. For example, choose dark breads over white (rye is an especially good choice). Choose foods which are less processed (e.g. honey instead of white sugar).
- A breakfast of muesli and yoghurt may seem like natural goodness, but it’s actually a calorie-bomb and it doesn’t keep you feeling full for long. Cereal is even worse.
- Have a sliced hard-boiled egg with a thin slice of cheese on toast (no butter) for breakfast. It’s low calorie, packed with protein and you’ll feel full for much longer.
- Soups make you feel fuller, longer, than exactly the same ingredients (meat, vegetables, spices) eaten as a meal. Limit cream-based soups. Choose water-based soups to reduce the calorie intake. Pureed water-based soups (e.g. tomato soup) make you feel fuller, up to twice as long, than clear broth soups (e.g. onion soup). Avoid soups with thickeners.
- Don’t be afraid of whole or full-fat dairy products such as yoghurt or quark - the calories aren’t as high as you might expect, they typically contain no thickeners such as gum or starch, they taste much better, and they contain a lot more protein than the low-fat varieties, and protein makes you feel fuller longer (so you’re less likely to eat something else). Spoon in a small portion, and eat it slowly, enjoying every bite.
- Cream-cheese, Brie, Camembert, blue-cheeses, Parmesan, etc., taste fantastic, but they add huge numbers of calories in comparison to cheeses like Gouda. Sure, enjoy a moderate amount (less than 100g) of Brie or blue cheese, etc., once every couple of weeks, but stick to the lighter cheese slices like Gouda or Edam for sandwiches. Generally speaking, the older the cheese, the more calories.
- Avoid high-calorie spreads on your sandwiches - especially mayonnaise, which contains a lot of fat and cholesterol and clocks in at about 100 calories per TEAspoon! Try tasty spreads like (dijon) mustard or ketchup (available in various flavours) instead.
- Eat unsalted butter (in modest amounts), rather than margarine. Margarine was invented as a cheap alternative to butter, originally as a way of disposing of excess oils and whale blubber then later they replaced the whale blubber with saturated fats. Ignore what the advertising says – butter is a better product, and has been tested for centuries. Salt was added to butter in order to preserve it, and is no longer necessary now that we have fridges, so get unsalted butter and avoid the unnecessary salt in your diet.
- Buy foods which are pre-portioned in relatively small portions (1 serving portions), like cheese slices, to help with portion sizes.
- buy pre-sliced cheeses (non-processed Gouda or Edam), rather than slicing your own which is invariably thicker.
- buy thinly-sliced bread, rather than thick-sliced, or slicing your own, so you don’t overdo it on this highly processed carbohydrate.
- if you’re buying a drink (juice, softdrink, yoghurt drink, etc.) for lunch, buy single-serving drinks in packages of 200 ml or less. Many drinks show a low-calorie per 100 ml, but if the package size is 500 ml, it’s unlikely you won’t drink the whole package, and suddenly you’ve consumed the caloric equivalent of a sandwich.
- Hot spices raise your metabolism, so enjoy them on your foods.
- Find low-calorie snacks that you enjoy. For example, prawn crackers, pickles, high-fibre crackers with pesto are among my favourites – lots of taste, and no problem to eat (in moderation) in-between meals, without ruining your diet. For a low-calorie, high-fibre, metabolism-raising snack, try some hot-air popped popcorn with nothing but spicy mexican sauce all over it!
- Don’t buy snacks in big portions which you are likely - or must - eat all at once, such as a big bag of chips or a bag of microwave popcorn. One such bag contains between 50 and 100% of a full meal!
- Don’t fall for the advertising for snack crackers, like Sultana and Evergreen! Six of those small, thin, innocent-looking Sultana crackers contain more calories than a regular-sized Mars bar (!), and those crackers are not filling, so you keep eating them. Eat a piece of lean sandwich meat (e.g. turkey slices), or a high-fibre cracker with pesto instead.
- Eating too much food is just as much a waste as leaving food on your plate. Stop when you are full, and don’t use up whole packets/portion (e.g. portions/packets of butter, sugar, salt) just because the manufacturer made it the size they did.
- Wine and beer is not bad per sé, just limit it to one or two glasses a day. Better yet, drink vegetable (e.g. tomato) juice during the week, and enjoy wine or beer on weekend as part of your daily allowance… you’ll enjoy the effects even more!
- Skipping meals, or not getting enough calories for more than about 7 days in a row can cause your body to think it is starving, then slow your metabolism, which means you burn fewer calories and your body tries to store fat. When you eat normally again, then your body’s slow metabolism causes you to store even more fat.
So the trick is:
- eat a modest breakfast to kick-start your metabolism in the morning;
- eat several meals a day to keep your metabolism going;
- vary what you eat and when so you don’t get into a routine; and
- exercise, so your body is forced to burn calories and not store them.
- Have a couple of ‘no-diet days’ on the weekend. In other words, eat your full daily maintenance amount of calories (i.e. 2500 for men, 2000 for women).
- To make doubly sure I get what my body needs, especially since I exercise a fair amount, I take:
- One-A-Day men’s multi-vitamin
- men (and women past menopause) should generally have a multi-vitamin with no iron
- taken in the morning
- 1000 mg time-release vitamin C
- extra immune system support
- taken in the morning
- vitamin B-50 complex
- exercise, stress and alcohol consumpution can deplete your B reserves
- taken in the morning because B-50 at night increases my dreams too much
- One-A-Day men’s multi-vitamin
- eat a minimum of 5 small meals a day, including:
- black coffee
- boiled eggs (low calorie, high protein, very filling)
- apples (preferably a bit on the sour side to stimulate digestion)
- tomato juice
- tomato soup (water-based)
- lean chicken, turkey or beef (grilled without oils or batters, etc.)
- hot sauces (chili pepper, sambal)
- tip: for breakfast, have a sliced hard-boiled egg with a thin slice of cheese on toast, no butter
- exercise 3 to 4 times a week, e.g. go quick-walking for about 5 km (3 mi) a day
- turn the heating down a couple of degrees (or to 17C/63F for best results)
- no food for one hour before and after exercising
- no food for one hour before bedtime
- limited cheese (one or two thin slices, no soft cheeses)
- no cream-based soups or salad-dressings
- limited bread
- no butter
- no mayo
- no fried foods
- no fruit juices
- limited fruits
- no softdrinks with added sugar
- no food with artificial sweeteners
- no food with added starches or gums (e.g. potato starch, corn starch, tapioca starch, guar gum, xantham gum)
- no alcohol
Need to lose weight quickly? Here’s my crash diet to lose weight quickly:
Plus a multi-vitamin and minerals as listed above.
And whatever you do:
My mother died aged 57 from a stroke directly caused by her weight. So I get angry when people try to give me the “Fat is Beautiful” crap. She would look a lot more beautiful alive, than dead.
Fat is not beautiful, it’s deadly. If you care anything about your children and your spouse - not to mention yourself - then cut out the denial, deflection and the ‘victim syndrome’, and get yourself down to a healthy weight by eating properly and exercising.