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Monday, October 18, 2010

Healthy Weight Loss: Calorie Restriction Without Starvation

On Friday, I mentioned that the way anyone could lose weight was restricting their calories...which is true. But Professor Haub's experiment proves that there are healthy ways to do this...and unhealthy ways. Eating only 1200 calories a day will help you lose weight, but eating 1200 calories of Twinkies and the occasional vegetable is very terrible for you, and can no doubt cause all kinds of health issues. I would venture to say that those people who are interested in losing weight generally want to keep it off, right? Which means eating healthy foods while still restricting calorie intake. (And building lean muscle, but we'll get to that in another post.)

With all the millions of diets out there, it's easy to get overwhelmed. In the checkout at the market they intersperse homemaking magazines (each advertising the latest fad diet) with beauty magazines (each displaying the latest air brushed figure), a powerful form of suggestion. In fact, it's less like suggestion and more like being beaten over the head with a blunt object loosely designated as "marketing". But the fact is that all of this rigmarole is a little unwarranted. When trying to lose weight, you're best off eating whole foods, plenty of raw foods, and getting the bulk of your calories from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which you can eat a lot of without reaching 1200.

If you aren't naturally inclined toward vegetables and whole grains, I would encourage you to try a few dishes wherein they are prepared less traditionally. Many people dislike steamed vegetables because of bad memories of lunchline mush or watery last-minute dinner additions. But if done correctly, steamed vegetables can be delicious...the trick is cooking them to an al dente texture and using fresh vegetables. If you still don't like them, you can roast vegetables, bake them, stir fry can use them in soups and even breads! There are too many possibilities to just write them off as something you don't like without really exploring the tastes, textures, and uses.

Whole grains are similar. Often those who are used to white, processed flours are often immediately turned off by the heavy consistency and texture of whole grain flour. However, it's not difficult to get used to and once you try to go back? Well, white flour becomes unfulfilling. For example, I always like whole wheat flour, but I certainly ate a lot of white flour as well. I've been eating the anti-anxiety diet for nearly a year now, and when I had some white-flour pancakes earlier this week, they tasted like chemicals and made me feel stuffed to the gills, and then an hour later my stomach hurt and I felt hungry. Getting used to whole grains means rarely wanting anything else.

Most people I know enjoy some type of fruit...if you don't like bananas, eat apples! If you don't like apples, eat stonefruits! If you don't like stonefruits, eat berries! If you don't have time to peel and slice a fruit, drink a cup of juice instead. Fruit is an important part of your diet and fruits themselves can have some truly wonderful properties. Apples are an appetite suppressant, blueberries are full to bursting with antioxidants, the vitamin C in citrus fruits can help keep your immunities strong...the list goes on and on.

Legumes and nuts are another great way to supplement your diet without raking up too many calories. Buy unsalted nuts (usually in the produce section, or in Whole Foods you can buy them in bulk) and dried beans. Nuts can be portioned out to take as a quick snack on the go, or you can keep the bag in your desk at work. Beans can be cooked in advance, refrigerated for a few days or frozen for a few months. Canned beans can be used in a pinch but the flavor and nutritional profile of dried beans cooked at home is better. Combining beans with a whole grain and vegetable can create a nutritious, vitamin-heavy meal of complete proteins and complex carbohydrates.

Last of all, lean meats. I made lean meats last on the list because they should be used sparingly (no more than one 3-4 oz serving per day, generally speaking) and because many people choose to restrict them (becoming pescatarian, vegetarian, or vegan). My family pretty much requires that I cook with meat, and I think that meat can be rather delicious. However, it's best to reserve it for one meal per day...mine is usually dinner.

If you are involved in an exercise program, you must be careful to get enough protein to build muscle, but we'll talk about that in a future post.

Basically, build your meals around whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and use legumes and lean meats to achieve a balance and create complete proteins. Eating in this fashion and watching your portions, it's not at all difficult to stick between 1200 and 1600 calories per day. And once you've trained yourself to eat healthfully, it's a lifestyle you can stick to easily, because you wont want processed, chemical laden foods anymore. My favorite resource for healthy foods and the healthiest ways to cook them is Worlds Healthiest Foods, which I highly recommend!

The Calm Cook

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