Without a doubt, if I had any suggestions that I would want to scream from the rooftops concerning weight loss, it would be, “NEVER SAY DIET!” Engage in lifestyle changes by adding exercise and a better sleep routine, engage in self care (prayer/meditation, pampering, reading, etc), and of course, choose a healthier way of eating, but do not diet. To diet in the traditional sense that we all understand it, is to severely restrict caloric intake and/or limit the diet in a way that may not be realistically sustainable for a lifetime. When looking at a new way of eating, ask yourself what your goal is. Do you want a temporary goal to be met, or do you want a long term solution to living a healthier life?
Finding What Fits You
If you have read my earlier blog post about my own personal journey to weight loss, you know that I lost the lion share of my weight by making healthier substitutions for the junk food that was killing my body, and I incorporated exercise. After that I stayed at the same weight for YEARS. I would consistently weigh within 2-3 pounds of that initial weight loss achievement, and I maintained a similar fitness level most of the time. I did want to lose more weight for health reasons, I just could not figure out what it was that my body was needing. So, I began to research. I came across an approach that seemed fairly radical to me at the time, because in all of my training I had been taught to incorporate all food groups. That our bodies “Needed” all food groups. I am here to tell you that I no longer believe that. Veggies? ABSOLUTELY! Fruit? In moderation, you betcha. Protein? It’s essential. Fats? Yup, they are not the villain. But grains? Grains we really can do without. The more I read about the Paleo approach, the more it made sense to me. However, I saw one fatal flaw in the majority of Paleo recipes that I found. They allowed for too much sugar. Even if it’s organic, it’s still sugar. So I started reading again. Keto? I liked the idea of my body feasting on my fat stores, but I cannot agree with cutting out fruit for a lifetime approach, and what about all of that dairy? I don’t necessarily believe that organic dairy is evil, but there can be too much of a good thing. Vegetarian or Vegan? I know many friends who choose this lifestyle for various reasons. I just know that it is definitely not for me. So where exactly did that leave me? In the middle of several approaches really.
What I finally chose to do
I have read many books and even more articles on weight loss. Everyone has their own reason why their “diet” is the best, but the approach that I found to be successful was a modified low-carb approach. After a 5 year weight loss drought, I finally lost 22 more pounds off of my 5’3 frame. Why did this approach work? First, because for me, it is sustainable. But scientifically, because carbohydrates, no matter the source, all turn to glycogen (sugar) in the liver. Here’s some information that should peak your interest: One gram of glycogen can hold three grams of water in the body! That can add up to a significant amount of water weight. I know, it’s “just” water weight not fat weight… but here’s the thing: Water weight causes a strain on our cardiovascular system as well; not just fat weight. Water weight also adds to the weight we feel on our joints when we become more active, and last, it causes you to not only “feel” bloated, you actually are bloated (imagine a water balloon here)! Many people who begin a low-carb approach can easily lose 3-5lbs in just 1 or 2 weeks. That is significant! But water weight is not the only thing we are wanting to lose, right? We want our bodies to feast on our fat stores as well. Well, the fat feasting begins when our bodies enter into “Ketosis”. Ketosis is defined by Wikipedia as, “a metabolic state in which some of the body’s energy supply comes from ketone bodies in the blood (any of three related compounds (acetone, acetoacetic acid, beta-hydroxybutyric acid) produced during the metabolism of fats), in contrast to a state of glycolysis in which blood glucose provides energy.” It is in this state that your body will literally draw its energy from your fat stores. A body can achieve ketosis while maintaining 80-100 grams of total carbohydrates daily, which means that we can still eat smaller amounts of fruits and more veggies while also maintaining a fat-burning mode.
I’m going to digress here and make it personal. Not only did I need to lose weight, but my family had slipped into a very unhealthy set of eating habits which was not only causing them extreme weight gain, it was causing some serious health issues. Since I made most of the meals, I had the opportunity to implement changes into our diet. I went into stealth mode and decided to NOT have a weight loss conversation, or mention that I was about to radically change our eating habits. I simply changed them. Guess what? They did not notice for some time! Fast forward 8 months and the results have been staggering! My oldest son is the champion of this new lifestyle. He has lost a whopping 70+ pounds!! My mother lost 30+, and my daughter lost 40+ pounds. So, how did I do it? I eliminated most grains and starchy white vegetables because if you’re going to limit yourself to 100g of carbs per day and 1/2c of rice has 40g of carbs, it severely restricts any other carb choices for the day. I allowed 1-2 servings of low-glycemic index fruit and all of the non-starchy veggies that my heart desired. Also on the go-to list are healthy fats (avocados, olive oil, coconut oil), meats, and full fat dairy (to your own tolerance). I do incorporate tree nuts/nut butters, but they do have a very high caloric content, so I encourage everyone to limit them to 1-2 servings per day as well. In fact, I do not encourage anyone to go crazy with their daily consumption of calories. Instead, try to stay aware of what is going into your body at all times. OH, and did I mention one of the greatest aspects of this approach? Sugar cravings drop significantly. Many also report that they do not feel hungry after the first week, either. How amazing is that?!
One note about entering Ketosis, the sudden drop in water weight may cause a detoxifying reaction in your body. If you begin to feel achy or tired, or develop a headache, I suggest adding 1/8tsp of Pink Himalayan Salt to a glass of water and drinking it (this will NOT work with general table salt). The minerals in the Pink Himalayan Salt will help replace what was lost through frequent urination and allow your body to rebalance. You can also snack on pickles, but the mineral content is not naturally balanced in a man-made product.
Here’s the Low-Carb Breakdown
- Keep your total carbohydrate content to 80-100 grams daily- You’ll need to read labels, or better yet, prepare and eat whole foods.
- Go to food sources: Healthy Fats, Clean Protein sources, Full-fat dairy as tolerated, Lots of Non-Starchy Vegetables, Limited Nuts and Fruit
- Drink lots of water!
- As I mentioned earlier, incorporate a healthy, realistic exercise routine. Exercise has an amazing impact on mood, let alone the health and weight loss benefits. I always suggest starting out small and working into a more aggressive routine.
- Obviously, since we are trying to limit carbohydrates, avoid all sugar filled drinks. Unfortunately, you will not hear me encourage you to replace them with “Diet” drinks. Preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors will not help your body be healthy, and that is our ultimate goal, right? The best Pre-bottled/canned alternatives I have found are drinks such as Zevia and Bai.