2017 Secrets To Weight Loss
By: Anthony Carrano
C.S.C.S., M.S. Kinesiology, B.S. Physical Education, Hoteikan System of Martial Arts Instructor, NYC DOE Physical Education and Health Teacher
With so many options for diets out there, deciding on the ideal diet for weight loss can be overwhelming. Paleo, Atkins, raw food, low fat, low carb, and calorie counters—it’s a confusing world. As a professional, let me say this, no diet can accomplish what healthy eating can[.1] . So this year, instead of focusing on a new diet fad, focus on healthy eating strategies. More often than not, it’s the simple stuff done right that truly works, and when it comes to weight loss, it’s no different. In this article, I will highlight a healthy eating strategy that I believe works best for weight loss. I will explain it in detail, and also give you some tips and tricks to help keep you on track along the way.
Let’s dive straight into this.
Minimize your intake of processed and refined foods and replace them with whole foods.
This right here is the game changer, but just being able to understand the statement is not enough. Let me break it down for you in a way that you can apply in your life.
What are processed and refined foods?
Processed foods include any food that goes through a series of actions or steps prior to human consumption. Refined foods include foods that have certain parts removed and or things added to it. Let’s consider the example of white bread. Most companies will remove parts of the grain, such as the bran and germ, in order to improve shelf life and alter taste. The problem with this is that the bran and germ include 3 important things, essential vitamins, minerals and most importantly, fiber. As we will learn fiber will play a huge role in weight loss.
What are whole foods?
Whole foods are foods that are complete and un-tampered, or in other words, not processed and not refined. A professor of mine once said, “If you can’t pick it, pull it, hunt it, or fish it, it’s probably not that good for you.” In addition to repeating this to myself every time I think of eating the donuts my co-workers offer me at work, this quote also helps me remember the definition of whole foods. If I pick an apple from a tree and I do not put it through any kind of process, and I do not add anything to it or take anything off of it, it is a whole food. Whole foods include fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts/seeds, beans, meats, and dairy products.
What makes whole foods so good for weight loss?
The first reason why whole foods are good for weight loss is that they contain a high amount of fiber. Since the body is unable to break down fiber, when you consume foods with high fiber content, you experience the sensation of being full so you cut down your intake and therefore reduce your calorie count. The second reason whole foods are so good is that they contain sugar levels that your body is used to dealing with. The problem with most processed and refined foods is that they contain too much sugar (natural and/or added). Let me give you an example of how sugar and fiber are related with weight loss. Let’s compare the process of juicing and blending. Juicing is when you take a whole fruit and put it in a machine that presses it to separate the bulky stringy stuff (also known as fiber) from the liquid juice. You can take, let’s say, 8 apples and juice them to get one cup of juice. You now have a cup of 8 apples worth of sugar and no fiber to go with it. Now let’s look at blending. If I put 8 apples in a blender…let’s stop right there, no one puts 8 apples in a blender. You’re going to put in much less, maybe one apple with some amount of water. So you now have a glass containing sugar equivalent to that found in 1 apple, along with fiber to fill you up and water that maintains a liquid texture. So while juicing removes the fiber and increases the sugar content, blending keeps the fiber content intact and keeps the sugar level low.
When it comes to weight loss this is exactly what we aim for—to eat foods in their whole and un-tampered form, which contains normal levels of sugar and adequate levels of fiber. And this is the basis of my weight loss strategy.
Sub Focus Strategy #1 - Avoid processes that remove fiber
Sub Focus Strategy #2 - Avoid refinements that add sugar
Common foods to avoid and substitute foods
In this chart, I will highlight common foods/ingredients that cause the most problems with weight control, and I will provide good substitutes. The items in the left column represent poor food choices that either contain low or no fiber content or contain a high amount of sugar. All the items on the right are substitutes for the corresponding foods on the left that either are in their whole form or go through a process to keep the fiber intact and/or has minimal to no added sugar.
Poor Food Choice For Weight Loss-Replacement Food
- Coffee with loaded sugar and syrups- Tea, Black coffee or dark coffee with as little sugar as possible
- Quick snacks, cookies, candies, chocolate- Popcorn, banana’s, whole fruits, nuts, granola, cacao (usually bitter, but try at least 50 % or more cacao with low added sugar)
- White bread and whole wheat bread with added sugar-Minimize breads, Ezekiel bread, sprouted corn tortilla, green leafy wraps
- White rice- Wild rice, quinoa, brown basmati rice, brown rice
- Table sugar- When it comes to table sugar, there is no substitute. Limit it as much as possible.
- Juices/Soda- Blended fruits with water, diluted juice (my favorite is 1/3 water, 1/3 seltzer and 1/3 juice combined), iced teas (unsweetened/minimally sweetened)
- Cereals with added sugar- Whole grain cereals, granola, rolled oats (with minimal or no added sugar, read the nutrient label)
- Pasta- Farro (grain similar to risotto), Whole-wheat pasta/ variations of whole grain pastas (kamut, spelt, and quinoa, etc.)
- White flour- Whole-wheat flour/whole grain flours (buckwheat, amaranth, rye, etc.)
- Must have snacks/packaged snacks/anything with added sugar- It’s nearly impossible to totally eliminate packaged snacks. In fact I wouldn’t recommend just going cold turkey. (Most people can only keep it up for so long). For the few packaged snacks you keep in your life make sure you keep them to a limit, and make sure to choose wisely. Try to have snacks that are low in sugar and that are also whole grain.
For more great ideas and further insight, check out the Whole Foods website where a lot of healthy ideas have been listed: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/food-guides
Some tips and tricks to help you on your weight loss journey
Replacing processed and refined foods may seem like a lot to take on, but here are a few things to keep in mind that will help you succeed.
- Learn to cook at home
- For anything made inside your own kitchen, do your best to use ingredients that are in their whole form, and try to keep them in their whole form.
- Eating more whole foods does not mean that you have to eat them raw; cooking whole foods is fine, as long as you stick to baking, boiling, or broiling them. Use more water and less oil while cooking, as water absorbs the taste and fats from the foods you are cooking and oil is a processed fat that is calorie dense.
- Stay away from fried and deep-fried foods; adding tons of fried oil to your food will add to weight gain, which is exactly what we are trying to stay away from.
- Healthy cooking does not mean dry and tasteless food (this is one of my biggest pet peeves). Learn how to use your herbs, spices, and foods for flavor. My favorite flavor boosters are onion, garlic (powdered or chopped), cayenne pepper, white/balsamic vinegar, cooking wine, parsley, cilantro, Himalayan sea salt, paprika, thyme, vegetable/chicken broth, and whole fruits (cranberry, mango, etc).
- Use your whole vegetables as fillers, for example, beans, chickpea, green peas, zucchini, tomato, corn, squash, peppers, carrot, and eggplant. Don’t forget to add some green leafy vegetables for flavor and life, such as broccoli, collard greens, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. Get to know your whole foods, find out which ones you like the most, and add them to your everyday dishes.
2. Learn to shop healthy
- When you go food shopping, stay on the outside aisles, as the inner aisles typically stock packaged and refined foods and the outer aisles are intended for whole foods.
- When shopping for your whole foods, you will often be posed with the question of buying organic or not. This question is worthy of a whole article within itself, but for this article, I will say that while organic food does affect health, it does not make a difference when it comes to weight loss.
- As for packaged goods you cannot avoid, check the nutrition information label for how much added sugar they contain. Keep in mind that there are many forms of added sugar, such as high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and evaporated cane juice, to name a few.
- Avoid snacks that claim to be loaded with fiber, but are still loaded with added sugar. (you want to get your fiber from whole foods, not added fiber in sugary snacks)
- Avoid foods that claim to be whole wheat or whole grain and have a long ingredient list that also includes added sugar.
- Avoid all packaged foods with long ingredient lists, as it means that the food is highly refined.
- Avoid ingredients that you do not recognize, as this is usually a good sign that they are not whole foods.
Below is an ingredient list for bread listed as whole wheat on the top, and a snack listed as being high in fiber on the bottom. These are both examples of wolves in sheep's clothing, if you catch my drift.
A. Bread listed as whole wheat ingredient list- rolled oats, whole wheat flour, unbleached enriched wheat flour, riboflavin, sugar, raisins, alomonds, vegetable oils (palm and or interesterified and hydrogenated soybean and or hydrogenated cottonseed), brown sugar, steel cut oats, pecans, raisin paste, crystalline fructose, invert sugar, butter (milk), corn syrup solids, contains 2 percent or less of cranberries, honey, whole eggs, leavening, salt, cornstartch, citric acid, elderberry juice concentrate, natural flavors, spices, and sunflower oil.
B. Snack listed as high in fiber ingredient list- Chicory root extract, semisweet chocolate chips (sugar,chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, natural flavor), whole grain oats, corn syrup, rice flour, barley flakes, sugar, canola and palm kernel oil, vegetable glycerin, high maltose corn syrup, maltodextrin, tricalcium phosphate, sugarcane fiber, soy lecithin, cocoa processed with alkai, salt, fructose, malt extract, caramel color, cellulose gum, baking soda, milk, natural flavor, mixed tocopherolis.
- Keep in mind that you can eat some processed and refined foods, but do so in moderation. Try to plan out and shop ahead of time to monitor your daily eating habits. I usually shop once a week or once every two weeks, and pick out what I plan on eating for most of the days. The worst thing you can do is eat on the spot. Brooklyn and NYC do not have many healthy places where you can grab a quick bite, although there are some if you know where to go.
3. Take baby steps
- Start off slow and steady. Try swapping the poor foods for their healthier alternatives only a couple of items at a time first. The body responds better to gradual changes (mentally and physically).
- Make a long-term goal and then break up that goal into months and weeks. Just so you have an idea of where to start, losing 1 to 2 lbs. a week is a healthy number to play with. Losing too much too soon means that you are probably also losing muscle mass (which we do not want to lose) and or water weight (which fluctuates naturally). Weight loss of 1 to 2 lbs. a week translates to 4 to 8 lbs. a month, which means that a 3-month realistic goal is probably somewhere between 12 and 24 lbs and a 6-month realistic goal is between 24 and 48 lbs. Weight loss does not happen overnight; it requires time and commitment, but I can promise that when you reach your intended goal, the sacrifice will be well worth the reward.
Everyone always wants a quick solution, but it takes effort, time, commitment, and discipline to make any big change in your life. I’ve noticed that the harder you work for something, the more you appreciate it once you get it. Keep in mind that the beginning is always the hardest part, and that it gets easier from there. There is no quick, cheap, and easy way to weight loss; it just does not exist. Quick and cheap methods lead to temporary fixes, but they will either break you down later or create a new problem. The good stuff takes time and effort, as with anything in life. You must figure out what is most important to you and invest your time there. My advice is, take your time, get the good stuff, do it right, and be prepared to put in the work.
On a final note, I will leave you with this quote I read online. Unfortunately the author is unknown so I cannot give anyone credit for it, but it speaks the truth: “It will hurt. It will take time. It will require dedication. It will require willpower. You will need to make healthy decisions. It requires sacrifice. You will need to push your body to its max. There will be temptation. But, I promise you, when you reach your goal, it’s worth it.” Good luck and stay strong. I hope to see you on the beach this summer flaunting your confident bodies ;)