Some tips for those of you who are intrigued by what I have written over the last couple of days and want to try an eating regime yourself:
Don’t eat anything processed. Learn how to make your own soups; it is not as difficult as Campbell’s would have you believe. Homemade soups are dense in nutrients and stingy in calories.
Find the lowest calorie salad dressing in your favourite supermarket and stick to it. Some dressings are eight to ten times more calorie rich than others. You will lose all the benefit of a nutritious low calorie salad on the wrong dressing choice. Read the labels.
Get yourself a decent kitchen scale that allows you to measure quantities less than 500 grams with some accuracy.
Start compiling a list of foods you normally eat and their caloric value. There are plenty of websites on the internet that do this for free, so you won’t have to ‘sign up’ to get the information. Some sites are more reliable than others so do a comparison of values and use your own common sense. Then post these on the fridge.
It is best to use a standard method of comparison. Weight lifters use calories per gram, and they spend a lot of time calculating these things, so it is a pretty good way to go. There are 5 grams in a teaspoon, 14 grams in an ounce and 227 grams in a cup of water.
A cup of water is not the same weight in grams as a cup of sugar or a cup of watermelon because the density of these things is different. Again, use calories per gram as your standard and you won’t be misled.
Find some low calorie treats to comfort yourself along the way. I found some sugar free mints I liked for the day, and now much prefer hot lemon tea with sweetener to my usual hot milky tea with sugar. Since I do about five of these in a day, I also save about 125 calories (or one supper portion of roast beef!)
Discount the bunk. There is a lot of nonsense out there about food and caloric intake. This route is “dangerous,” that path is “inadvisable.” Trust your instincts and listen to your gut. You body will tell you what feels right.
Make peace with your spice rack. Ginger aids digestion and speeds metabolism. Turmeric has been shown to be more effective at reducing Alzheimer’s than cholinesterase. Garlic strengthens your immune system. All of these things add taste and interest to your food; and if your food isn’t tasty, you aren’t going to continue eating it for long.
Make friends with Chinese vegetables. You don’t see many overweight Chinese, do you? The secret is their incredible vegetables. Bok choy is an example. At 0.1 cal/gram (the same as lettuce) you can nuke it, steam it, stir fry it (not a wise choice) and chop it raw in a salad. A cup of this stuff has 10 calories, yet contains 50 % of your daily requirement of vitamin C and 40 % of your vitamin A, as well as being rich in other nutrients. And it is tasty!
Avoid sauces like the plague. You DO see a lot of overweight Indians, and they eat a lot of veggies too. The difference is their sauces. The Chinese cook in soya sauce, about 0.7 cal/gram, depending on the brand (read the label). Indians cook in oil, about 8.2 cal/gram. Malays like peanut sauce, about 6.2 cal/gram. Choose your poison, for you will have to wear it on your waist for years.
Give up snacks for the duration of your regime. There are very few healthy snacks. If you are feeling peaked have a fluid instead. Caffeine is not the enemy it is made out to be and I think all the nonsense about aspartame is overblown as well. Pepsi Max is my friend, but a large slice of watermelon has only 50 calories.
Give up alcohol for the duration as well. Wine has 70 calories in a glass, beer 150 calories in a can. A shot of Bailey’s is 100 calories. That is a lot of roast beef. If you can’t give up alcohol for a month, then you have more problems than can be dealt with in a post about nutrition.
Get 30 grams of carbs in a day. There really aren’t a lot of dangers with a low cal diet, but low carbs is one. Fortunately carbs are easy to come by as they are in bread, pasta, grains and leafy green vegetables. I start my day with 35 grams of oatmeal, so I don’t have to worry about them. Carbs are more dense in calories than raw sugar (3.8 compared to 3.2) so for the duration you will want to keep these to a minimum.
Do not cook in oil. Fat has 9 calories per gram; oil has 8.2, so it is just about all fat. Nuke, steam, bake or poach your food, or eat it raw. Use spices for flavour and you will never miss the oil. Nuke your veggies lightly and use a teaspoon of soya sauce.
Take a fish oil supplement for the duration of your regime to make sure that you are getting enough essential oil in your diet. I also recommend a vitamin supplement if you don’t like veggies and take acidophilus to aid digestion. You body has gotten used to the crap you normally dump in it. The added bacterial supplement will help your body adjust.
Learn to eat with chopsticks. This will slow down your rate of consumption so your body can naturally trigger when you are full and will also teach you to savour each morsel of food for its own distinctive texture and flavour.
Limit the duration of your regime in advance. Tell yourself that you are going to give it one month or two (at the most!) and then stick to that. Of course when you return to your ‘regular’ diet you will be much better informed and less likely to dump all that crap into your body that you used to.
Reward yourself with a nice meal when are finished your regime, and then get back to the basics. You don’t have to be so hard on yourself once you have made your target, but you don’t want to forget what you have sacrificed to learn either.
Read positive books. A lot of our bad diet comes from a poor image of ourselves, and it gets to be a vicious circle. When you decide to break that circle in the physical realm, you need to reinforce that in the mental and emotional realms as well. I am a spiritual man, so I read spiritual books that help me deal with the negative self-image that poor body image reflects. I need to not just reorient my body; I need to reorient my mind as well.
Pray or meditate. You are making a major life change; you are going to need some help. For me this is where is all begins and ends. If I am doing this to please myself, I won’t bother. But if I have some higher purpose, I can do just about anything. If God led me to this place, then I figure that He will lead me through it as well. Sure I listen to my body; but I listen for His still small voice as well. That is why I know it is time to bring this regime to an end, and resume a regular routine, informed by what I have learned. It has been an interesting two months.
Oh yes, the results. Well, for what it is worth I now have a waist of under 32 inches, a waist to hip ratio of 0.9, and a waist to height ratio of under 0.5. All of these fall within the ‘fit’ range for a man of my vintage. In other words, I hit all of my targets. Good luck with yours, and let me know if I can help in any way.