Diets

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So, you want to lose some weight but how much do you want to lose?  When I first started to get serious about losing weight, I picked a time of my life when I was in prime athletic condition and top of my form in martial arts.  You might have a similar goal or maybe it’s just an arbitrary number.  My question to you is: What would your doctor or insurance company recommend as your optimum weight?  We’ve all had our doctors tell us they’d like us to take 10 pounds off but deep down we know that’s not the weight they have in mind.  They actually use a formula based on your present weight and height.  The formula is called Body Mass Index (BMI)¹ and it tells them where you are on the health scale and where you should be.  The formula is easy: multiply your current weight by 700, then divide that number by your height in inches, and finally divide that number by your height in inches.  An example for a 6ft tall male weighing 250:

250 lbs x 700 = 175000

175000/72 = 2430.6

2430/6/72 = 33.76 or 34

Index:

18 and under = underweight

19-25 = healthy

26-30 = overweight

31 and over = obese

So, this 250 pound male would be considered obese by his doctor and his insurance company.  To be considered healthy, this male should weigh 185 pounds.  That’s 65 pounds of weight loss.  I’ve used a male as the example here but the BMI formula is the same for male or female.  No wonder his doctor suggests losing 10 pounds; he is setting a mini goal for his patient’s optimum weight.    See more about this strategy below in Tips and Tricks for Weight Loss.

The only other formula you need to know is how to calculate your calorie needs.  The following formula calculates calories needed to get to or maintain a desired weight.  You have to assess your daily activity as honestly as you can.   You can also use this formula to determine how many daily calories you use to maintain your present weight.

Desired Weight x factor = daily calories

Factors:

10 for inactive and obese
13 for inactive but not obese
15 for moderately active
20 for extremely active
You may have to reduce your calorie intake by 500 or more to get to your desired weight.
Make the changes in small increments and it won’t feel like you are sacrificing too much.
Remember that vegetables and fruits count as zero calories in Weight Watchers² so you can
bulk up on them and still feel “full” after a meal.

 

General Views on Diets

My bookshelf is loaded with books on diet.  That’s not a claim as an expert or a nutritionist.  I’ve tried several diets but always ended up back at the weight from which I started.  I’m not going to list all the diets here, but rather I will offer an overview of what didn’t work and what did.  I end up with specific recommendations.

First and foremost: If you are viewing this because you only need to lose 10 or more pounds just to fit into that dress or suit for a meeting or reunion coming up next month, then you need to spend some honest time with yourself.  Eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight is a commitment to a healthy life and not just something to get you by until the next public appearance.

The next caution is to realize is that eating healthy to lose weight can only take you so far; exercise is a key component to your healthy life.  Proper rest is important, too.  Think of a three-legged stool – healthy food, exercise, and proper rest – as a strong support for your health.

Diets based on denial of certain foods simply did not work for me or for anyone that I know who wanted to lose weight and keep it off.  Several diets deny carbohydrates and, as a result, I craved the carbohydrates denied to me.  After years of being on and off numerous failed diets, I finally sat down and thought about it: What healthy foods can I feel satisfied with for the rest of my life?  I happen to like all kinds of fresh vegetables and fruits.  I don’t have cravings for meat products but they are a part of the foods that I prepare and eat.  More about that is found on the Meats recipe page.

Which diet helped me to go from XL to Medium in 12 months while enjoying cooking and eating?

After considerable research and comparison, I found two diets that were compatible and effective for losing weight keeping my interest (read: I could eat the foods that I enjoy).  Links for websites are provided for your convenience.

Weight Watchers is a diet designed to lose weight but does not make the claim as a nutritious diet.  Granted, you will find a lot of nutritious foods listed but let’s not forget the first word in the system is “Weight” and that is the primary focus.  I realized that I needed something else that focused on nutrition and discovered DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).

DASH is a diet designed by US National Institutes of Health for good nutrition especially for controlling hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes.  It does not make the claim as a weight loss diet.  However, eating healthy as recommended by DASH, you will lose weight.

Either of these diets will help you lose weight but combine the two and they form a powerful marriage of weight loss and nutrition with all kinds of benefits such as lowering blood pressure and controlling diabetes.

Weight Watchers is not that expensive to be a member.  I’m a guy and I admit that it took a long time to overcome my macho attitude about WW but I now proudly proclaim its value and I thank the system for helping in my weight loss.   DASH is free and offers online information that will lead you to a healthy lifestyle – it’s never too late!

Tips and Tricks for Weight Loss – Six Simple Suggestions

Measure everything – every time!  Weight loss and weight gain is all about the numbers.  Unless it’s a glass of water or some non-calorie product, everything has calories.  Hopefully, the food item in your diet comes with a nutrition label.  If not, you have to research it yourself and for this you start with it’s weight.  A digital scale is a worthwhile tool to have on the counter when preparing meals.  Inexpensive scales can be found online, in big box stores, grocery stores, and hardware stores.  Select one that has scales for grams, ounces, and fluid ounces.

In addition to a digital scale, measuring cups and measuring spoons help to control the amount of volume and prevent the hidden calories when you underestimate the food item by “guesstimating” it.

Where do you find the calorie information of the product once you have its weight?  In your browser search line, type the food item (e.g., apple) followed by the words “nutrition information”.  For more information than you’d ever want to know about nutrition for any food item, use the database provided by United States Department of Agriculture.

Eat more fruit and vegetables.  When I was a child my mother always told me to eat more bread instead of having more of the meats or vegetables left after the first serving.  As a result, I crave breads to this day.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing when the craving is tempered with moderation, but that extra serving of vegetables will go better for a healthy diet instead of the slices of bread.  As mentioned in the Meats recipe page, less meat (and I’ll add bread products here) and more vegetables at the main meal will produce a healthier diet and a faster way to losing weight.

Reduce the oils.  A lot of recipes from cooking books and TV shows start with copious amounts of oil or butter.  Granted, some oils are healthier than others but they all, like butter, contain 11 to 14 grams of fat per serving – usually a tablespoon.  That’s 17 to 22 percent of the recommended daily amount by USDA³.  Total the amount of oil and butter after a month’s worth of cooking and you will start to see why the weight loss is not what you expected.

To help control the oil when cooking, I use spray bottles.  I have a green one for olive oil and a purple one for canola oil.  You might want to have other oils available on your cooking counter.  Three to four spritzes total a quarter teaspoon of oil and is totally adequate to lube a pan for sauteing vegetables.  The same goes for my favorite snack: popcorn.  A couple of spritzes of oil replaces the quarter cup that I used for over 50 years!

Butter adds a certain flavor to prepared foods but, here again, we can reduce the amount and still have the flavor without the extra calories.  To fry an egg or breaded eggplant, heat the pan a little and then “paint” on the butter by holding the end of the block or quarter to the hot surface.  Just a little will work fine.

Have a desired weight in mind, but set mini goals to get there.  Give yourself something to celebrate as you incrementally make your way to your desired goal.  Whether you define your interim steps by a certain weight or by percentage of the goal (or perhaps a combination of the two) stand in front of the mirror, smile, and tell yourself, “congratulations” out loud.  You deserve it!

Start 9 out of 10 main meals with a broth or soup.  Get to like broths and soups and have a lot of them.  It’s a good way to get more fluids.  75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated according to an article in Medical Daily.  Broths and soups also provide extra nutrition to the meal as well as preparing the stomach for the main course.  Instead of encouraging others to “fill up on bread” the better advice is to “fill up on soup”.

When eating, SLOOOOW Down!  Eating a meal too fast doesn’t allow time for the stomach to communicate to the brain that it’s time to put down the fork and stop eating.  By the time the brain gets the signal, the stomach is overfull and those extra calories get stored in conspicuous places.

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¹ Some experts (and non-experts) disagree about using BMI because of too many variables or whatever.  I don’t care.  I’m not here to argue or to debate the issue and I include the formula here as a tool to help potential dieters set a reasonable goal for their desired weight.

² One of the reasons why I like Weight Watchers is because it doesn’t count a regular serving of fruit or vegetables (there are exceptions, of course) as part of the daily caloric intake.  Of course, everything, with the exception of water and non-calorie products, has calories.  Weight Watcher’s point system has the caloric value of fruits and vegetables calculated in.  Weight Watchers has a proprietary formula for converting calories into easily manageable “Points”.  I’ve seen on various websites and forums that one point is equal to 50 calories but it’s not that simple and following that ratio can lead to underestimating calorie intake.  My suggestion is to keep track of your daily calories unless you are a member of WW and have access to their food database.

³ More accurately, the Institute of Medicine, U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

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