Eating within the plan is very effective for weight loss. I know; it’s working for me

All week, I’ve been eating nothing but home-made food. Everything I’ve put into my body this week was made by my wife or me. The result? I’ve hit my lowest measured weight since active duty three weigh-ins in a row. 172.2 lbs. This is great, as my weight has typically been fluctuating +/- 2 lbs over the past few weeks as it trended lower. This time, it seems I’m set for another block of lost weight.

When I was losing weight more steadily and quickly, I would notice my weight stop at a certain point for a few days before shedding a few pounds. This was a trend I discovered after four months and it continued for about 8 months thereafter. I haven’t seen this with my weight for around five months, so to be seeing it again now is very motivating.

Analyzing my intake, I have been eating only home cooked foods, and even then, slightly larger portions. Each day has been:

Breakfast

Two eggs, sunny-side up
Three slices of bacon (no salt/sugar added)

Lunch

Meat Loaf/9 meatballs with Chipotle sauce/Shepherd’s pie
Side of either broccoli, sweet potato, or cauliflower rice

Dinner

Two deviled eggs
Meat Loaf/9 meatballs with Chipotle sauce/Shepherd’s pie
Side of either broccoli, sweet potato, or cauliflower rice
Paleo Almond Joy

As you can see, my dinner was slightly larger, but just a bit. This amount seems to be the right amount for my body and has allowed for me to start losing weight again. I’m hoping to be in the 160’s soon. Then, my final goal will be in view!

Focus on Foods, not Calories

I don’t count calories. Sometimes, I will look at a label because I’m curious, but I don’t look at calories in food anymore. I look for sugar and I read ingredients to make sure there aren’t any that are bad for me.

When I hear people say that counting calories and moderation are the keys to weight loss, I feel that they miss the mark. Even at its most basic level, calories in < calories expended misses the mark. The quality of those calories is every bit as important because of the way the body handles and processes those calories.

I eat foods that are heavy on protein and nutrients. I avoid foods high in sugar, contain artificial trans fat, contain additives, have grain, soy, or beans, and that contain dairy (for the most part). Fats are not the enemy as long as they are saturated contain omega-3’s. Eggs are GREAT for you!

Here’s something novel: I eat meals that would fit into both my hands if I cup them. It doesn’t seem like a lot, and compared to how much I used to eat, it’s not, but it’s enough to fuel my body from meal time to meal time. I eat three times a day, not all through the day. I don’t snack or eat between meals unless I am going to have to delay a meal by a few hours. Then, I’ll eat a snack and eat that much less at the following meal.

I focus on eating food that fills me up, not on meeting some calorie number. Calories are typically underestimated for foods anyway, so it’s not even a good starting point when trying to determine how many calories you’re eating. Then there is the fact that different foods have different satiety regardless of caloric content. That means there are high calorie foods that don’t fill you up versus foods with a reasonable amount of calories that will. Natural foods (meats and vegetables) are typically higher in satiety, and (who’d a thunk it!) are better for you overall.

Skip the calorie counting and concentrate on eating quality foods. You will be surprised at how much better it is for you, how much better you will feel, and how much more filling it is.

Friday Paleo-friendly lunches with friends and the constant struggle of portion size

On Fridays, I usually have lunch with some friends as we celebrate the end of the work week and the beginning of the weekend. We typically go to Logan’s Roadhouse or Saltgrass Steak House. At these two places, I can order a very Paleo-friendly 6oz Filet steak with a baked sweet potato with regular butter. As my pre-meal food, I usually order a Caesar salad with no croutons and I pull most of the cheese off of it and set it to the side. I know that the Caesar dressing is probably not the most Paleo-friendly, but it’s a small indulgence I allow myself once a week.

When we don’t eat steak, we go to Mexican restaurants where I can order some type of fajitas with grilled onions or grilled mixed vegetables. The looks on the faces of the wait staff as I tell them I don’t need beans, rice, or tortillas is always pretty hilarious.

It is possible to eat lunch at restaurants that are Paleo-friendly. Most restaurants have some sort of meat and vegetable option unless you’re at a sandwich shop (in which case you might just have to eat a salad). I’ve had to ask for something off the menu only once, and even then, it was only a slight change.

Incidentally, today’s lunch marks an important turning point for me: I didn’t eat my entire sweet potato. I have a hard time not eating an entire sweet potato because they are so delicious to me. I often eat the whole potato which makes me feel over-fed. Today, I stopped short of eating the whole thing, leaving about 1/4 of it on the plate. I felt full and decided that I was only going to finish it for the sake of how much I liked eating them, and that wasn’t good enough. Three hours later, I feel sated and actually, I feel great about having not eaten the whole thing.

You’d think that by now, 16 months after staring my Paleo journey, I would have had this licked by now, but you’d be wrong. Sweet potatoes have been my Achilles heel. It’s one of the very few foods that, while Paleo, I have a hard time controlling myself over. Sherry is very good about only giving me one half of a sweet potato with any meal we eat, but if I’m left to my own devices, I’ll grab an entire sweet potato. It’s not good for me to eat the entire potato with a regular-sized portion, so I typically compensate by getting less protein to go along with it, but not always.

When you have a bad relationship with food, you have to always remain vigilant. The fight never ends, and you must always be looking not only at what you eat, but also how much you eat. For me, the struggle is real, and I’m always learning something new about myself and how to control my relationship with food. I feel good about today’s victory and I will cling to it to push me into the future.

Paleo Pancakes? Heck yes! And they’re DELICIOUS!

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This is what my breakfast looked like on Saturday: Paleo pancakes and bacon with some coffee. Notice that I use real organic maple syrup. I don’t slather it all over, but I do have it on there, and it’s enough to add the sweet maple flavor without going overboard. It’s really delicious, and a great (and dandy) way to start the Saturday.

One of the reasons people fall off the eating healthy wagon is because they miss foods they used to eat that were not good for their health. For me, pancakes was one of those foods. Sherry has been experimenting with recipes and has come across one that is made from scratch while we also found another that is literally a mix you can buy either on Amazon or at Sprout’s that you just need to add water to (I think). These taste like real pancakes to me, and they really help keep me from missing these special foods. Adding blueberries to them really transforms them into a next-level experience. I love ’em!

Paleo isn’t boring. It’s filled with great tasting foods that are good for your health. A lot of these foods are substitutes for foods that are bad for your health and these help keep you on the right path. There are many recipes and cook books available, both online and for purchase.

Afternoon snacking: Good? Bad?

My wife swears by having snacks. She typically has some nuts in the afternoons to hold her over between lunch and dinner. As for me, I have adopted a no snack policy unless I’m really, really hungry. This is a hold-over from my early dieting days when I believed that the hungry feeling was a good thing, and that if my body was hungry, I was “Burning fat.” Of course, this is false, and is actually bad for us. Intermittent fasting is one thing: starving between meals is another.

What ends up happening when I get too hungry between meals is that when I do finally get a chance to eat, I tend to eat more than I otherwise would have. It takes longer for me to get that full stomach feeling, so I eat until that feeling comes and by then, I find I’ve eaten too much. Then comes the pain of having eaten too much food. My stomach doesn’t quite hold as much as it used to.

Does that mean I will stick to this no-snack policy? I don’t think so. I’m going to likely start bringing some nuts with me to have between lunch and dinner to try to reduce the hungry feeling I get. So far, I’ve increased the volume of the food I eat at lunch which has helped me stay sated until at least 4:30-5:00 p.m., and I can typically deal with an hour of slight hunger. It’s not uncomfortable, and when I run in the afternoons, I prefer to run on an empty stomach. Besides, if I am hungry when I start a run, that feeling quickly goes away as my heart rate goes up.

What about you. Do you snack in the afternoons? Late morning before lunch?

Counting Calories and Satiety: Why there’s more to it than just calories in vs calories out

I tried to count calories to lose weight. It didn’t work for me. Why? Because without understanding the differences between good and bad calories and satiety, I would often still feel hungry after a meal. On its most basic level, nutrition is easy: eat fewer calories than you expend in a day to create a deficit which, in turn, will yield weight loss. Seems simple, right? Well, there’s more to it than that.

Satiety: the quality or state of being fed or gratified. This is a word many people don’t know, understand, or consider. It turns out that it’s one of the most important keys to losing weight effectively. If you eat 500 calories at a meal but don’t feel full, you’ll be miserable at best and unless you have really great willpower, you’ll succumb to the cravings and eat more. On the other hand, if you eat 500 calories that fill you up, you will be less inclined to snack or over-eat and will be able to make it to the next regular meal without any discomfort.

That’s a huge key for many people: comfort. Nobody wants to starve. It’s hard-wired into our brains to avoid starving. It’s uncomfortable at best, and downright horrible. I’ve had to go days without food before, and I can tell you, I never want to experience that again. As an overweight person, going for too long without food was very uncomfortable. Heck, I’d find myself hungry a few hours after a meal and would snack to make that bad feeling go away. Many overweight people who want to lose weight fail because they can’t deal with that hungry feeling. That’s because the food they eat are hyper-nutritious but low in satiety. These are foods like pizza, hamburgers, Taco Bell, etc. You have to eat a lot to feel full, but then you took in 2-3 days worth of calories.

The main factor in our success in being able to stick with Whole30 and Paleo has been satiety. Every meal we eat is very high in satiety which in turn not only fills us up but keeps us from getting hungry again too soon. It makes meals satisfying in a way that doesn’t make you feel bloated or stuffed. It energizes you instead of drags you down.

Some people succeed with counting calories. A good friend of mine lost a lot of weight this way, but it is not sustainable. They gained the weight back (and then some). I am not one of those people either; counting calories always ended in failure for me. Like an idiot, I tried time and time again and found short-term success only to have it return with an addition 10-15 lbs each time. It wasn’t until I addressed the reasons I ate too much coupled with learning to eat good foods high in satiety did I find success.

Designing a menu for success

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Pecan crusted Paleo Salmon with Paleo Coleslaw and cauliflower with onion.

So, you’re either contemplating a new, healthy lifestyle or you are already trying to eat better but you’re finding your options lacking variety and flavor. This is a common problem for people new to Paleo, and especially for those who are either in or coming from a Whole30. A friend of mine was once on a rather restrictive diet that left him eating salad and chicken breast for nearly every meal. He said there were other options available to him, but they were either too complicated or difficult to make in a reasonable amount of time which led him to the excessively bland and repetitive diet. Eventually, he quit eating that way and went back to his old eating habits and gaining back the weight he lost.

This is more common than you would think, and was the primary concern of my wife Sherry when we first discussed changing our eating habits to be healthy. She did a lot of research before we started, and yet we still found our food to be a little on the bland side compared to what we were used to eating. This was due to a few reasons.

  1. We were going from a diet that was heavy in sugar and other fillers. These are full of flavor and, while not good for us, are quite delicious. Do you ever wonder why there’s sugar in savory foods? It’s because we love it!
  2. Our bodies hadn’t adjusted to the reduced sugar in the food which made them taste more bland than they really were.
  3. We were used to foods with lots of spices. Many recipes go easy on spices.

The first month or so of cooking when adhering to our first Whole30 was a rather bland, although not entirely unpleasant experience. As Sherry learned the flavors and our mouths were freed from the sugar influence and addiction, we were rewarded with being able to taste more subtle flavors we had never noticed before. Foods we used to eat and were not impressed with before our Whole30 took on new favor. I used to tolerate sweet potatoes. After starting my Whole30, I began to really appreciate them. Now, I love them!

Another thing that happened is Sherry began to learn how to use the new ingredients properly, the ratios and amounts to use, and this applied to the spices as well. While using the same spices, using them in conjunction with new ingredients came with a learning curve. Fortunately for us, she’s overcome that curve, and I can say honestly that the foods she makes for us now are flavor-filled and delicious! We are not wanting for more flavorful foods.

Of course, it’s been fifteen months of clean eating that have led us to where we are today. Foods that taste sweet to Sherry and I are still probably semi-sweet to those who still eat sugar-added or pre-processed foods regularly. I cannot drink a soda anymore: it is literally so sweet as to make me nauseous. No, this is not a bad thing. It keeps me from ever wanting another Coke again, and I see that as a good thing for my health and longevity.

As for meals, I look forward to them not only because they fuel my body, but because they are delicious. A large part of the human experience lies in the food we eat, and most people feel that it’s not worth living if the food is bland and terrible and I agree! That’s why I’m so happy Sherry has found such amazing recipes and has learned to cook so well with them.

To find success in adopting a healthy lifestyle, you have to find success in the kitchen. Fortunately, we have the Internet and sites like my wife’s that has many great recipes to choose from. Don’t shy away from experimentation with spices, too. It’s amazing how much a little bit of spice can transform an otherwise bland dish.