Saturday, August 11, 2018

Added Sugar: BMI = 27.0

Sugar is sugar, but not all sources of sugar are equal. I recently encountered someone who argued that there is no chemical difference between the fructose in their sugary beverage and the fructose in the fruit that I eat at breakfast. While they were right about fructose being fructose, they were very wrong in thinking that it doesn’t matter how you source that fructose.

To begin with, sugar is not an essential nutrient – it is nothing more than a source of empty calories. The can of soda pictured above contains more sugar than the bowl of fruit next to it and no other useful nutrients. Both are sources of sugar, but the bowl of fruit provides essential fiber, vitamins and minerals. Also, that bowl of fruit fills my belly much more than a can of soda ever could.

Even though that bowl of fruit contains lot of great micronutrients, that doesn’t mean you can eat as much fruit as you want. The Canada Food Guide recommends that I eat 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. It also recommends that I include one serving of dark green and one serving of orange vegetable in those 8 servings. That means that if I skip all other vegetables, I should only have 2 bowls of fruit as pictured above.

If I choose to have a sugary beverage in place of fruit, then I am cheating myself of essential nutrients. If I choose to have a couple of sugary beverages as well as all that fruit, then I am simply doubling or tripling my sugar intake for the day. Not all sources of sugar are equal.

By the way, I am now 6 weeks into my experiment of eating an extra 900 calories per day and I’ve put on 3 lbs. I think that I will have gained nearly 5 lbs by the end of August and then I intend to cut out that extra 900 calories to see if my rate of weight-loss goes back to what it was in the early days of my reformed diet.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Metabolic Adaptation: BMI = 26.9

In the first 100 days after I changed my diet, I lost 60 lbs. I went from eating about 4000 calories per day of comfort food to eating about 2500 calories per day of mostly healthy food with some snacks that I slowly cut out of my diet over the first 7 weeks.

In the second 100 days of eating a healthy diet I lost about 25 lbs. During that period, I went from eating about 2500 calories per day of fairly healthy food with some cheating, to eating about 1800 calories per day on a very balanced diet with very little cheating.

In the third 100 days I lost about 12 lbs, eating an average of 1800 calories per day of very healthy food. The forth hundred days were about the same, as were the fifth 100 days. I’m now well into the sixth 100 days of eating right and several weeks ago it became apparent that I was unlikely to lose 10 lbs by the end of this phase.

So how did I go from losing 60 lbs on a 2500 calorie diet to having trouble losing 10 lbs on an 1800 calorie diet that is healthier than ever? Then answer, it seems, is that my metabolism is adapting to a diet that has been very static over the past year. My instincts keep telling me that I need to eat less, but each time I cut back, my weight-loss plateaus. Because of this, I’ve decided to eat more!

About four weeks ago I decided to try to increase my calorie intake to 2700 calories per day. The biggest change is the portion of pasta that I now eat. I’ve increased the portion of my pasta lunch from 450 calories to about 800 calories.

It’s hard to eat 800 calories of pasta and sauce, so to ensure that I get up to 800 calories I add some grated Padano cheese.

I’ve also increased the amount of fruit I have at breakfast, and increased my portion of hot cereal a bit, increasing my breakfast from 650 calories to around 850 calories.

At supper, instead of adding my protein to my veggies, I put it in a sandwich of whole grain bread, which adds an extra 100 to 200 calories more than eating my veggies with crispbread.

Since it takes a deficit of 3500 calories to lose a pound of fat, one would think that eating an extra 900 calories per day would cause me to gain almost 2 pounds per week. As it turns out, however, over the past 4 weeks I’ve only gained about 2 pounds, and most of that was gained in the first 10 days.

What I’m trying to do here is get my metabolism to adapt to 2700 calories per day. I’m hoping that if I keep eating like this until the end of August, I will only gain another 2 or 3 lbs. At that point I want to drop back down to 1800 calories per day to see if I can return to the sort of weight loss I experienced in my second 100 days of eating right. In other words, I should be able to take off 25 pounds before Christmas.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Accurate Portions: BMI = 26.7

Even though my healthy eating habits are well established, I still take the time to accurately measure my portions for each meal. It’s easy to overlook a little extra pasta sauce or oversized portion of pasta when I’m hungry.

I weigh my pasta when it is dry to get the most accurate portion possible. If you weigh your pasta after cooking, you might find that you have left-overs, and then you might find yourself eating those leftovers rather than storing them for another meal. Lately I’ve been increasing my pasta portions – for reasons that I will be discussing in a future post.

I measure my vegetable portions to ensure I’m getting all the servings recommended by the Canada Food Guide. I rely on counting servings more than I do on counting calories.

I usually use a scale for recording and recreating my recipes – a habit that I picked up at work. Scales are the best way to measure when baking, although I must admit I don’t do much baking anymore.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Switching Habits: BMI = 26.7

If you have a bad habit that you would like to curb, try sugar-free gum. I’ve recently begun trying to cut down on my cigarette habit and I’ve found sugar-free gum helps a lot. I think it might have helped a lot when I was trying to break my bad habit of snacking.

I also chew gum when I’m around a lot of finger food. Sliced meats, cheese, pickles and crackers are still very temping to me but I’ve found that chewing gum keeps my cravings in check.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

An Easy Food Diary: BMI = 26.7

If you are having trouble figuring out why you keep gaining weight, then try starting a food diary. If you have a smart phone or a tablet, then it only takes a moment to grab a photo of each meal or snack.

How much cheese are you adding to your pasta? Do you really care to remember?

If you grab a bag of snack food or a yogurt cup, take a photo of the nutritional information label to remind yourself later.

At the end of the day you can go back and verify whether you’ve had all your servings of fruits/veggies and grains, and whether or not you’ve overdone it on protein-rich foods and/or snack foods.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Sugar-Free Iced Tea: BMI = 26.8

On a hot summer day, nothing beats a tall glass of iced tea. Unfortunately, commercially-made, powdered iced tea has far too much added sugar. The good news is that iced tea is so easy to make that there is no reason at all to buy commercial iced tea.

All you need is a pot of boiling water and some orange pekoe tea. Simply add three teabags per liter of water and let it steep for twenty minutes. Remove the teabags and refrigerate.

When it has chilled, pour it into a tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with lemon and resist the urge to add any sugar. If you really need a little sugar in there, then go ahead but try to add a little less each time and you might eventually find you don’t need that sugar as much as you had believed.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

My Daily Meal Plan: BMI = 26.9

I typically eat between 1600 and 1800 calories per day. That can be a lot of food if you avoid added sugars and go light on protein dense food. I’m not that worried about calories, though – what concerns me is getting all the servings of fruits/veggies, grains, milk, and meat as recommended by the Canada Food Guide.

Breakfast is my biggest meal everyday. I try to eat two servings of whole grains, two servings of milk, at least two types of fruit, and two walnuts. When I do an audit of my breakfast it normally totals between 600 to 700 calories. Without any added sugars, that is a lot of food but that is why I have very little cravings for snacks.

Lunch these days is usually just whole wheat pasta and sauce.

I use a scaled to portion out both the pasta and the sauce, just to avoid going over 500 calories.

It’s not a terribly exciting meal but sometimes I add some crushed pepper flakes to spice it up.

For my evening meal I like to start with a half liter of diced veggies. Make sure to include one dark green vegetable and one orange vegetable.

At least twice a week I have a half can of salmon or tuna with my veggies. Other nights I just have roasted pork, beef, or chicken.

I mix it all up with some mayo and/or my sugar-free vinaigrette. This mayo has some sugar in it, but I do allow a little added sugar from time to time for convenience.

By the time I top my salad with three slices of Wasa crispbread, my supper provides over 500 calories.

By ensuring that I eat three square meals everyday, getting all the servings recommended by the Canada Food Guide and limiting the foods against which they caution, I’ve managed to lower my BMI slowly, but consistently, almost every week for the past 18 months.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Normalization of Snacking: BMI = 27.0

Canadians now snack so much that few people sit down to three square meals in a day anymore. Stopping my snacking behavior was probably the most difficult part of my dietary rehab. Now that I no longer snack, I really notice just how often people around me snack, and how often snack and/or take-out food is shown in movies and series.

I recently watched an episode of a cop show from the 70’s. The detectives spent a lot of time with coffee cups in their hands, but no one was eating. I watched a few more episodes and finally saw an old detective eating a lunch that he had brought to work in a brown paper bag. When is the last time you saw a workmate show up with a brown bag lunch?

I decided to watch an episode of a much more recent cop show. In the first episode I picked, the cliché of cops talking about a case while eating from Chinese take-out containers popped up. This sort of scene really is cliché now but would have been very out of place just 30 years ago. It’s not just cops, though, because even the bad guys seem to need snacks to plan a robbery. I recently watched Ocean’s Eleven and noticed Brad Pitt snacking throughout the movie.

These big bags of snack chips should be for a family or guests to share. I have to wonder how many of those bags get eaten by a single person in one evening. I know I’ve wolfed down a party-sized bag of snack-mix in an evening but at least I was embarrassed about it. These days you can open a giant bag of snack chips and leave them by your monitor to graze on all day at work and no one seems to think that is strange at all.

The snack food aisle is just for the salty snacks, though, because the cookies get an aisle of there own in the middle of the store.

Even the breakfast aisle is turning into a third snack food aisle. This section used to be for granola bars, but now there is more chocolate and caramel than grains to be found here. It’s not hard to see that the snack food market is the fastest growing segment of the food industry.

The baked goods section offers us some more snacks. One of my favorites used to be the one-bite brownies – I would finish the bag in an afternoon, one bite at a time.

The yoghurt aisle is the snack food aisle for people who don’t want to admit they are snacking. Hey, look, there’s some real fruit in some of that yoghurt.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not trying to totally trash talk snacks. I just find it amazing that around half of the grocery store stock is now snack oriented food. The major problem with snacking is that it’s easy to not remember everything you ate in a day if you spent all day snacking and didn’t sit down for a meal. If you have a snacking problem, try taking a photo of everything you eat in a day. You might not like looking back on those albums but they might help you realize just how fast snacks can add up.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Tried a Weight Loss Diet: BMI = 27.2

I’ve been consistently shedding about a pound per week for the last several months, but I decided to see if I could speed things up. It’s summertime, so fruit prices have dropped, and I thought I would switch my breakfast core over from grains to fruit. I’ve done this before, and it didn’t work, so I have no idea why I thought it would work this time.

I dropped my hot cereal and began loading up on fruit in the morning. I also dropped a serving of grain from my other meals and increased my veggie intake. By the end of the first week, I realized that I wasn’t losing any weight at all. That’s when I decided to do a little experiment.

I started eating a big bowl of pasta with meat sauce in the middle of the day. It wasn’t the best choice in grains because I didn’t have whole grain pasta on hand, but I wanted to keep eating lots of fruit for breakfast and it seemed that I had to find a way fit some grain back into my diet.

The meat sauce is rather high in fat and I also often topped my pasta with a bunch of cheese. Well, second week of eating all that fruit for breakfast but with a big bowl of pasta in the middle of the day and my weight has started dropping again.

I think I’m going to go back to having a grain-heavy breakfast. I’m going to try to eat more fruit than what I was previously eating but a low-grain diet just doesn’t work for me. Why do I keep messing around with a plan that has been working?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Binge Eating: BMI = 27.4

Yes, I was a binge-eater. Yes, I felt ashamed about it. I tried so hard to control my eating but several nights a week I just couldn’t take it anymore and I found myself across the street buying a double pack of double cheeseburgers or a large bag of snack mix. If I managed to control myself until the corner store closed, I often wound up making a chicken nugget sandwich.

I used to source my proteins from the discount freezer at the discount grocery store. These nuggets are very unhealthy. Almost half the calories come from fat, less than 16% of the calories come from protein, and the rest come from highly refined carbs and dextrose. By the time I slammed 4 nuggets into a sandwich with red onion and mayonnaise, my late night ‘snack’ would deliver around 700 calories, with half of those calories coming from fat. Did I mention that I often made a second, and occasionally a third sandwich? On nights when I ate a third one I would roll around in bed half the night feeling sick.

So why did I do it? I now know that I did it because I was starving. I had become so conditioned to high calorie-density food that I became averse to low calorie-density food like vegetables. Vegetables are very nutrient dense, but that doesn’t appeal to someone who is conditioned to eating a lot of comfort food. Without proper nutrition, I found losing weight to be impossible. Intellectually I knew what the problem was but emotionally I just couldn’t face up to it. Rather than correcting my diet, I just tried to starve myself all day – although I rarely succeeded.

I felt most in control in the morning, so I would skip breakfast. I would go as long as I could without eating and when I finally couldn’t take it anymore I typically grabbed a slice of pizza or some poutine at work. Having broken down and eaten something that was unhealthy, I just kind of said ‘screw it’ and spent the rest of the day nibbling on cheese, stray fries, and other calorie dense food – but I avoided having a meal because I was trying not to eat.

It was almost impossible for me to avoid the corner store as I arrived home, so I would try to limit myself to one pepperoni stick or maybe a small can of soda. I still refused to eat a meal even though I was still snacking on unhealthy food. By the time the corner store was closing, my willpower was eroded. It’s not as though my stomach was rumbling and my blood sugar was low – but I had spent all day trying, and failing, to avoid eating anything significant.

I now eat very substantial, yet healthy, meals. In an earlier post I discussed the importance of breakfast. For me, binge-eating was a side effect of skipping meals and trying not to eat. It was also the result of letting myself become conditioned to eating only high calorie-density foods and averse to nutrient-rich foods like vegetables. I had to put myself through a dietary rehab to learn to eat properly again. Everyone who has told me that they are a binge-eater has also admitted to skipping meals; most people brag about it, starting their sentence with, “Well, ALL I ate yesterday was...”

Eat for your health rather than starving for your vanity.