You need a strong drive to successfully navigate the start of a diet and exercise program. Do you have the steely mindset of a marathon runner for the long haul? Commitment is vital because all of us want to give in at some point in the first month. Are you the type of person to wade into the pool or the type who dives in? You’ll want to be strict the first fifteen days to turn your body in a new direction.

Let’s be clear: when the term ‘Weight Loss’ is used, we are actually referring to ‘Fat Loss.’ It is recommended you get your body fat measured. The cheapest way is to buy a scale that will estimate your body fat percentage. Even if they are not as accurate as a sports lab, they will help you monitor your fat loss. Many diets reduce weight by the loss of muscle tissue and water. This is not a successful diet or way of life. What do we want then?

Retain and Build Muscle

Muscle mass aids your metabolism. Losing muscle lowers the amount of calories needed in the daily diet. The keys to sufficient muscle structure are strength exercise, sufficient nutrients, and protein.

Reduce Dietary Fat

Merely reducing the number of calories in the diet often results only in a slower metabolism and thus, no weight loss. Interestingly, eating a small excess of carbohydrates and proteins will usually temporarily increase your metabolism to burn those extra calories. Some excess will be stored in your muscle cells after daily exercise. However, there is no increased metabolism with saturated fats.

I don’t count calories. I look at the amount of fat, especially saturated fat. 1% milk is almost 20% fat. Coconut milk has almost 20% saturated fat. Read the labels on cheese. Ouch!

Gradual Loss for Permanent Fat Loss

Often two pounds a month is a good rate. Don’t think that you can lose drastic weight by cutting calories in half. There are several detrimental effects of an extremely low calorie diet, defined as 1200 calories or less. They include:

  • A large drop in metabolism
  • Cannibalizing of muscle tissue
  • Increased appetite
  • Production of the enzyme Lipoprotein Lipase, a defensive mechanism to preserve body fat
  • A reset of your fat levels. Your body will store excess fat to a higher level whenever it becomes available

Items to Avoid

  • Fried foods
  • Preservatives and sodium nitrates including deli meats, bacon, sausage, and ham. Just look at the ingredients in those packages of Ramen noodles!
  • Corn syrup
  • Junk food: soda, candy, cake, ice cream, cookies (with one exception below)
  • Alcohol
  • Salad dressings and hydrogenated oils
  • Reduce all saturated fats. Choose skim milk.
  • Pork and beef. Choose lean meats, such as turkey.
  • Eliminate, as best you can, restaurant and processed foods.

Take the Dive

  • Try cooking with sesame oil. Do not to use high heat. Most oils become heat damaged. With cold foods, use olive or pumpkin oil in small amounts.
  • Use honey and real maple syrup in place of sugar. Don’t be tempted to use artificial sweeteners.
  • Use only grass-fed beef and milk, and free-range organic chicken. Try vegetarian for a bit.
  • Avoid farm-raised fish. Tilapia, catfish, salmon, and especially fish from Asia are on many lists of foods to avoid.

Further down the road in this series, we can go into the evidence for these restrictions. Why so strict on meat? The problem with meat sources is corporate selected animal feed. Much of our meat source is fed junk food to fatten up as fast as possible. As an example, read these articles: Fish, and Tilapia. You may not agree with Dr. Axe. But his warnings can not be brushed aside. Let me just paraphrase a doctor who said that ‘definitive proof is not available yet.’ He added, ‘Don’t wait for that report. Act sensibly now.’ Other health experts say there is sufficient evidence to make these changes.

Helpful Tips

  • Use a smaller plate, except for a salad bowl (preferably only balsamic vinegar or lemon juice).
  • Put the veggies on your plate first, not last. Take a large serving.
  • Eat breakfast daily, preferably after morning exercise. This will keep your metabolism steady. If you lower your metabolism, weight loss will be much more difficult.
  • Buy a protein powder and use with a meal instead of a meat protein. You’ll want about a 20 gram serving size. Whey protein is a good source readily found. I prefer egg white protein, such as Healthy n Fit. Egg whites are one of the best protein sources. Don’t eat raw egg whites. They have a very low absorption rate.
  • Snacks: Try to plan ahead to have a healthy snack available if needed; a kiwi, a few walnuts, or another healthy alternate. I sometimes eat frozen cherries. Be wary of snack bars that are basically candy bars with oatmeal and processed soy protein. Again, homemade is the only good choice.

Now, it’s time to fill up your shelves, fridge, and freezer with healthy choices. Put a lot of pictures on your phone of healthy food choices and meals. Scroll through those pictures when you are shopping or when you get hungry.

Make a Shopping List

  • Special items: Bone broth, green tea, fat free Greek yogurt, kombucha
  • Veggies: peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, broccoli, corn, spinach.
  • Starches: pinto beans, white beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, hummus, rice with a few cashews, green pea soup.
  • Flavorful: kimchi, salsa with corn tortillas baked in the toaster, ginger, hot peppers, scallions.
  • Snacks: pretzels, air-popped plain popcorn.
  • Sweets: fruit Smoothie (banana, cherries, blueberries), raisins with a square of unsweetened chocolate, Newman’s Organic Prunes (to die for), homemade biscotti (an occasional treat).
  • Bread: Bread isn’t evil. Always choose one with simple ingredients, not a long list of chemicals and preservatives. If it comes in a can, avoid it.

Hunger is for Nutrition

Hunger is your body seeking nutrition. It is not satisfied by just eating calories. Foods that lack nutrients will not satisfy that hunger. You may not feel like you are full when eating a bag of candy. Even when we overeat, our hunger often returns as soon as our body recognizes there is still a lack of needed nutrients.

I trust some of this will strongly benefit your successful diet.  In our next article, we will discuss your exercise program. You can find my recipe for low fat Biscotti at ZwiftOff. I’m planning a workout Zwift class starting in January. Group workouts on Zwift are growing by leaps and bounds, and it would be great to workout together!