Thoughts on Losing Weight and Why Natural is Your Friend

So it’s time to talk about something other than New Zealand for a while. In point of fact, as great as the trip was, it’s time to settle back into normalcy.

With three months until Thanksgiving and the holidays (holy crap, did I just write that?), it’s time to get down to some serious healthy-lifestyle stuff. More specifically, I’m focusing on losing 50 pounds in the next 90 or so days.

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It does, but I think it’s doable.

My diet actually works…it’s only user error (read: lack of willpower) that keeps me from sticking to it. It’s a combination of the Weight Watchers plus a few things I’ve picked up from trainers and other experts along the way.

First and foremost, you have to get enough fiber in a day. It might shock you to learn that “enough” is actually 30 grams…which, if you’re familiar with the labels on the back of foods, is a veritable shit-ton.

This is why low-carb diets don’t work for many in the long-term. (Side note: low-carb lifestyle is a term that makes my ass itch).

The second is various supplements. No matter what you’re doing for a diet, you’re giving up SOMETHING. So a variety of vitamin supplements have to help get you the missing pieces. To fill in, I take a multi-vitamin and a B-complex every day. I also take a C to boost my immune system, and a garlic to help cardiovascularly. Finally, a good friend of mine who is a professional trainer is big on the Omegas, both in terms of helping balance your system and even for weight loss. So I take a Fish Oil-type supplement which gives Omega 3, 6 and 9.

The third is the value of an important breakfast. I know it’s very American-in-the-21st-Century to skip breakfast, but it’s a horrible idea actually if you’re trying to lose weight. You need a healthy dose of protein and whole grains in the morning; this will make you less hungry throughout the day and give you energy. (Side note: I hate coffee, so unlike what seems to be most people, I actually have to wake up without the benefit of caffeine. Maybe you quad-shot expresso people are fine without this, but it seems like a bad idea to me). I tend to try and do a huge dose of fiber in the morning as well, then try to turn down the carbs as the day goes on, leading us to…

Fourth: while I can’t stand the low-carb crap, I do think there is something to reducing it towards bedtime. Carbs convert to sugar and I think it’s a fairly good idea to refrain from stimulants (caffeine, sugar, etc) before bedtime. A healthy eight hours of sleep is a key component to dieting as well.

The next point, and I can’t emphasize this enough, is the importance of water. On the whole, you should be drinking a glass of water at least every two hours (and probably more). This doesn’t mean that you coffee substitutes for this; I mean actual, clear, non-additive water. Caffeine (therefore soda and coffee) and liquor have dehydrating properties, so these don’t count, sorry guys. If you’re hitting your fiber and water quotient, then your body is much more likely to flush out the crap it doesn’t need, rather than converting it to fat and storing it.

Fruits and veggies (point six) is something that’s a relatively new addition for me. Not going to lie: hate fruits and veggies, and have constantly avoided them, even on diets. For me, meat and potatoes (and sandwiches) is pretty much the cornerstone of my food likes. But, veggies can actually have negative calories, in that it takes more calories to consume and digest them than they actually provide you, plus they have that all-important fiber factor. Fruits have a variety of vitamins as well, though I tend to take these in the form of fruit juices which also have a dose of calcium since dairy products are a necessary cut on a diet.

Which brings us to point seven: avoid dairy like the plague. If you like a glass of skim milk or one of those small yogurts every day (I hate them both), go for it, but cheese, ice cream and butter are horrid for a diet. Also: margarine has some really nasty ingredients in it. I can’t remember what they are, but if you Google it, I’m sure you’ll be as revolted as I was. Substitute olive oil if you need to use it on a piece of toast or something.

Eight: exercise. Most experts seem to agree that 20 minutes, three times a week is the way to go. Probably so, but I think you need to do it every day. I also can’t stand gyms; won’t go to them (something about the combination of vanity and sweat makes my stomach turn). So I have a treadmill at the house planted right in front of a TV. I watch something every day for 40 minutes or so (Northern Exposure right now, probably Mad Men next) and I stretch and power walk on the treadmill. Once I re-establish my routine, I’ll probably add some core strength exercises as well. If you’d like to know what I do (some I got from a personal trainer years ago), let me know and I’ll cover it in a future blog post.

Last but not least: all-natural is your friend. The obesity problem (of which I am a contributor but hopefully not for much longer) in this country is caused by two things: lack of exercise and the food we eat. But the food problem isn’t what you think: most of it is actually caused by food companies, who add a shit-ton of preservatives, chemicals and such in order to better preserve their food to allow them more efficiency and longer shelf-life with the expressed goal of raising their profits (did you follow that?)

Basically, it’s this: most grocery stores get their food from a central distribution center, which is sometimes days away by truck. These trucks are essentially hot-boxes; unless it’s necessary, they are not air conditioned, and the food bounces around inside them as the temps top what you or I would deem acceptable in our homes. So what these companies do is shoot our meat, produce and anything that comes in a can full of preservatives, which is mostly (if you’re lucky) salt and potassium but sometimes (if you’re not) a whole bunch of shit you can’t pronounce, in order to further preserve their food, therefore reducing their waste.

Makes sense if you’re a company looking to maximize your profits. But what this stuff does is send the sodium level in the average person off the charts. This makes you feel sluggish, bloated and sets the stage for weight gain.

Great example: I ate out 2-3 meals a day in New Zealand. We did some walking, some boating, but nothing too out of order. I didn’t watch what I ate; in fact, I ate a LOT and drank even more (the wine is awesome) and had dessert almost every night.

I lost five pounds on the trip.

Related example: I can feel it when I’ve had too much salt in a meal, particularly for dinner. When I wake up and go to flex my hands, my fingers feel like they’re pushing together too tightly because they’re bloated from all the salt. I didn’t wake up to this feeling at all in New Zealand, but the night we got back, we went to a Mexican place down the street for dinner (chips, salsa, queso and a burrito, no dessert or alcohol). Sure enough, I woke up the next morning and there was that familiar tightness.

This is because of New Zealand’s focus on local food, no preservatives and a reduction in salt and chemicals. My wife once noted that the ketchup tasted different; in point of fact, the ketchup we were served had very little sodium or sugar. The fries they served were fried, but barely, and had just a touch of sea salt. The food had little additives, and was usually very fresh. It all tasted wonderful, and didn’t have the crap.

And let me say it again: I lost five pounds on a two-week vacation.

So, this is a long way to say that avoiding additives, particularly salt, is absolutely key. But don’t trade salt for some other chemical (usually potassium) either. You need the natural stuff. I will cover this more throughly in a later post (what to look for, etc), but you generally need to stick to the outside edges of a grocery store (fresh produce, meats and some frozen stuff) as well as the organics and natural section. There’s a few brands in the middle that will be of help as well. It was my plan to cover this in this posting, but it’s gotten so long, I think I need to save it for next time.

I’ll keep you updated as things progress, and also let you know what I specifically am doing as well as what works and doesn’t for me. One of the things about diets is that everyone is different: what works for me may not for you. But maybe some of what I post here will help you if you need it. We’ll see.

Thanks for reading.