“Anything is good if it’s made of chocolate.”
(Quick note: This is the second part in a series. If you missed the first part, be sure to check it out here. Also, use the follow button on the right side of this page to make sure you get an email reminder when I post fresh content. Thanks for the support!)
If you are wondering what the most important part of my dramatic weight loss was, this is the post for you. I cannot emphasize enough how key nutrition is to your success. This is the most critical part of the whole change. I fought this truth for a long time. Most of my failed weight loss attempts started as a commitment to really start working out hard. I would go hard for as long as I could ( a few days or a few months, it didn’t matter). The end result was always the same. I quit. Why did I quit? Probably the same reason you quit, I wasn’t seeing the results I had hoped for. Now when I quit, this wasn’t a conscious thought, I just convinced myself I wasn’t, “strong enough”, or didn’t have enough, “willpower”, and I just gave up. Sound familiar? The problem wasn’t my willpower (although that needed strengthening as well). The problem was that I was using an inefficient system. Instead of addressing the biggest part of the problem (my eating habits) 80% responsible for my body composition, I adjusted my fitness (20% responsible for results). So, I would work really hard on the 20% and get 20% results. But, I was putting 100% of my effort in and only getting 20% results. I’m not a math guy, but that seems to be an equation for failure. Here are the three most important steps I took to establish healthy eating habits.
1. Eliminate Grains 6 Days a Week
The change for me really happened when I got serious about the 80%; what I was eating. Now, this was EXTREMELY difficult. I love food! Let me clarify, I love bad food. Fried, greasy, sugary, sweet, bring it all on! When I first started doing the research, and seeing that effective weight loss meant giving up grains, I was literally mad. I looked for other ways around it, but the effective diets I saw all included either a reduction. or total elimination of grains. Now what exactly do I mean by grains? Basically, breads, rices, pastas, tortillas, and potatoes (not a grain but something to be avoided). I know when you look at that list you will ask the same question I did, “If I give up all that, what will I eat?” Everything I ate at the time had grains in it. Almost every restaurant has grains in every meal. When you go to a nice restaurant, what’s the first thing they bring out? Bread. Here’s the bad news, if you want to efficiently lose weight, you have to drastically reduce your consumption of grains. Die-hard Paleo and Primal folks would say you have to completely eliminate them. I am not on that bandwagon for one simple reason, I haven’t been able to do it yet. If you can, awesome do it, there is nothing about grains that your body needs. They provide no nutritional value and only act as a cheap source of calories that help people feel full. If you can ditch them completely, do it.
But, I stuck more to an idea I read in, The Four-Hour Body, by Tim Ferriss. He proposed a diet similar to what I am advocating, with a cheat day built in each week to eat what you want. This is the strategy I have been following. I keep track of what I am craving during the week, and then on my cheat day, I eat those things. There will be a number of different opinions on this, but again I’m just telling you what worked for me.
Here is the simplified version of what I eat. Six days a week I eat: eggs, meat, fruits, veggies, and nuts. I avoid everything else. On the seventh day, I eat whatever I want, pizza, fast food, soda, etc. I know it sounds crazy, and I have been refining my own process as I get closer to my goal weight, which I will discuss in a later post, but it is really nice to be able to still have some of these treats and lose weight. Again, the key here isn’t to eliminate bad food until you lose the weight and then start eating bad again. We are in the business of lasting lifestyle change, so we’re looking at this long term. I want to still be able to enjoy tasty food for my life, I just need to have limits on how much and how often so that I don’t gain an unhealthy amount of weight.
As far as portion sizes go, I didn’t worry about it initially. As long as I was eating the right foods, I didn’t worry about how much I was eating. What I found happened to me, was that my hunger began to regulate itself. When I first started I would eat 4 scrambled eggs and 4 strips of bacon. A few weeks in, I realized I wasn’t that hungry so I cut down to 3 eggs and 3 strips of bacon. Again, this wasn’t a conscious decision, I just let my hunger dictate my portion sizes. Because I wasn’t eating a bunch of grains, I stopped having the wild hunger swings where I would get really hungry and crave sweets and grain-filled foods. These were killers in my previous weight loss attempts. These were the proof that I wasn’t, “strong enough”, to stick to any type of eating plan. Again, I was fighting an inefficient battle. I wasn’t maximizing my efforts. My body was working against me because of the poor fuel I was giving it. Again, try it for a week. If you don’t feel better after sticking strictly to it for a week, then you can email me and tell me I’m an idiot. But if you go 7-10 days of eating no grains, you will notice the difference and probably email me to thank me. Again, I didn’t come up with this, I’m just telling you what has worked for me and loads of other folks I have been able to work with.
2. Organize Your Kitchen For Success
The way I set up my kitchen is important to my success. I have one cabinet in the kitchen that has all the food I can eat in it. So, anyone else who lives with you doesn’t have to eat what you eat, but you won’t be tempted because you have your one cupboard with only Primal food in it. I also have the same thing set up in my fridge. Keep the temptations out of your house as much as possible, or at least put them somewhere where you won’t eat them. This is key. If you have junk food in your house, you’re going to eat it. That’s just the reality. Get rid of it. It doesn’t support your goals. If you want different results, you have to be willing to do things differently.
Again: eggs, meat, fruits, veggies, nuts.
3. Cook and Package Your Food On One Day for the Whole Week
I cook on Sunday night for the week. As busy as teachers get, it is not realistic to imagine you can teach all day and then come home and cook Primal meals. It makes more sense to cook all at once and eat them throughout the week. I will also post some super simple recipes I’ve been using to make really good food in a later post.