Sunday, January 29, 2012

An Open Letter to a Friend Who Wants to Lose Weight

Dear ___________.

If you truly do not like being overweight, you need to do whatever it takes to get rid of the fat. The only logical way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you use, each and every day. Sugars and starches are literally addictive, and they're fattening so it helps a lot to eliminate 100% of the sugar and concentrated starches from your diet. Concentrated starches are things such as wheat, corn, and rice. The refined versions of these grains are even worse than whole grains, but even eating whole grain products can make it more difficult to lose weight.

Eliminating sugar and concentrated starches means no sodas (diet sodas are OK, except many of them are sweetened with aspartame, which is toxic), no sweet tea (you can use Splenda or stevia sweeteners to sweeten tea, but the sweet tea sold at stores and fast food places contains corn syrup), no tortillas, no hamburgers, no bread, no rice, no fast-food french fries (they add sugar to the french fries to make them taste better!), and go easy on potatoes.

It sounds grim at first, until you actually start eating meals without sugars and starches. Once you get used to not having these things, it becomes much easier to enjoy meals without them. For example, I love Mexican food, especially things such as enchiladas and tamales. I've been working on recipes that approximate these foods but without the masa. For example, a beef and cheese fritata is a tasty substitute for an enchilada. I'm pretty sure one could make something similar to a tamale using ground nuts instead of masa. They would not have the smooth consistency of a traditional tamale, but they would taste great.

One of my favorite lunches is the lettuce roll, where you roll up sliced turkey, chopped tomato, onion, olives, etc -- whatever veggies you want -- in a large lettuce leaf. It tastes a lot like the sandwiches they make at Subway, only I actually like the lettuce rolls better.

Here's the website of Barbara Berkeley,  a doctor who specializes in helping people lose weight and maintain their new weight once they've lost:

Dr. Berkeley has also written an excellent book called Refuse to Regain about how to keep the weight off for good, once you get to your target weight.

Here are some websites of people who were overweight and who have lost weight and, even more impressive, kept it off: (scroll down to the middle of the page to see her "before" picture)

There are lots more blogs and websites. You don't have to do this alone, there are thousands of people out there trying to lose weight.

I KNOW how hard it is. Even though I've only lost 26 pounds (9 to go to reach my target weight of 130), I've gone through the same things everyone else goes through when they lose 10% or more of their body weight. I posted a comment on the weight-loss doctor's blog, and she confirmed that it's just as difficult to deal with maintaining one's new weight after a 20 pound loss as it is to maintain it after a 150 pound loss.

I'm not going to lie and say it's easy. It's one of the most chanllenging things I've ever done. It's much harder than quitting smoking and, I suspect, harder than quitting addictive drugs. One reason is that we're constantly bombarded with temptations to eat unhealthy foods. You have to plan each day carefully. For example, if you know you're going to be away from home all day, pack a healthy lunch and healthy snacks instead of buying food at a convenience store or fast food place.

Here's something surprising -- even though I'm eating more fresh veggies and good-quality nuts and grass-fed beef from Central Market, my food bill has actually gone down. I'm not spending money at restaurants, I'm not buying prepared foods and I'm eating less. For a snack, I used to have, say a mini-cheeseburger from Wendy's or a $1 carton of yogurt and some crackers or maybe some prepared food from Central Market (they add sugar to their prepared foods, including things such as chicken salad). Now I eat a few nuts. Easier, cheaper, healthier. And, surprisingly, just as satisfying.


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