This blog is supposed to be about building a business career, but lately I’ve been writing about everything other than work. Life is just more fun to write about than work. Also, I think the things I have been writing about, like having hobbies, managing my personal finances, and staying healthy, are important balance points for a career, so in that sense, this is still a business blog.
A few years ago I wrote about how I lost 30lbs or so because I was in danger of developing diabetes and cholesterol problems. After my scare, I went to a registered dietician and got my eating game together in a hurry. I lost the excess weight and got all of my bio-metrics back to normal levels and I’ve never looked back.
Since then, nutrition has become a passion of mine. I’ve driven my wife nuts experimenting with different diets and watching food documentaries.
Before I go any further, I am just an ametuer nutrition fan, not a real nutritionist, and I’m sure I have a lot more to learn, so take my recommendations with a grain of salt.
I’m writing this post because it’s fun for me and maybe it will be helpful for you. A lot of people I know want to be healthy, but have a hard time managing their weight even when they’re trying to eat well.
I think the problem for most people I know is believing that a low fat, high “healthy” carb, calorie restricted diet is the best way to lose weight. This way of eating just did not work for me. Eating this contemporary Americn diet made me heavy and pre-diabetic, and I think it’s hurting a lot of my friends and family out there.
I have also tried extreme macro-restricted diets like Atkins/Keto and Vegan diets. These eating styles might be good for some people, but they didn’t work for me. I tried.
In a nutshell, what does work for me is making a meal with a lot of lean protein, tons of veggies, and limited (1 cup max) carbs coming only from legumes (beans) or whole starchy veggies.
It sounds so simple after I write it down. Simple is good. Now for the details.
Here are my 8 simple tips for losing pounds and maintaining a healthy weight, in order of importance:
- Food determines about 70% of my health and physique. Maybe more. I used to think health was 50/50 between diet and excerise. I was wrong. It is impossible for me to exercise enough to burn off the calories and sugar from eating bad foods. In order to look, feel, and be healthy I have to eat healthy.
- Carbs are bad. Carbs turn into sugar and sugar in the blood is really bad. For me to maintain my weight, I have keep my net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) under 100g per day. For me to lose weight, I have to eat my carbs only from vegetables, beans, and high-fiber wraps/protein bars. Controlling carb intake is the hardest part about being healthy for almost everyone I know, because high carb meals are everywhere, and traditional nutrition education gave people the wrong idea about carbs. Most people I know have no clue just how much sugar they put into their bodies and how bad it is for them. Here’s a detailed list of carbohydrate (sugar) sources that I avoid if I want to maintain a healthy weight:
- Obviously bad carbs I almost never eat: candy, sweets, full flavored soda, donuts, (i.e. all the awesome stuff from Cafe Canole I ate over Christmas vacation)
- Processed carbs I consider bad that I eat less than 2x per month: bread, pasta, rice, pizza, bagels, muffins, fruit juice (yes, orange juice has as much sugar as a Coke)
- Not so obvious, but carbs I still consider bad that I limit to maybe 2x per week: whole grain products like wheat bread and brown rice, almost all granola bars, potatoes, corn, yogurt, alcohol*.
- I’m not sure about these, but I’m pretty sure they’re bad, and I limit to 3-4x per week: diet soda, most fruit (except high fiber berries, which are good), most cheeses and dairy products (technically not a carb, but cheese makes me gain weight).
- Vegetables are very good. Especially spinach and green leafy veggies that look like spinach. I’ve probably 7x’d my vegetable intake over the past few years. I have 2 servings of green veggies with every meal including breakfast.
- Fat is not as bad as they told us. Fat from avocados, nuts, olive oil, and fish is defiantly good for us. I think the fat in Sicilian sausages and bacon is still bad though. 2-3 whole eggs each day are good for me and they do not raise my cholesterol.
- Calories kind of matter, but not as much as most of us think, and definately not as much as eating the right foods. I can eat as much chicken, spinach, salsa, and black beans for dinner as I want and still lose weight.
- Exercise is still very important for me. I exercise very hard twice per week, and moderately two more times per week.
- I have to cook my own food (that’s a lie, mostly my amazing wife cooks), including packing my own lunch. Restaurant made and packaged foods almost always have added sugar and bad fat to make them taste good . It’s impossible for me to maintain my weight when dining out.
- Go to bed hungry. This is hardest for me. I hate going to bed hungry and I love a little snack before bed. But all of my best morning weigh ins came after no-snack nights and all of my worst morning weigh ins came after bad eating nights.
I eat pretty close to the Mediterranean Diet, which is kind of how my grandparents ate. This is also close to Tim Ferriss’s Slow Carb diet, and kind of like the Paleo Diet. Here are some typical meals:
- Breakfast: 2-3 whole egg omlet with mushrooms and fresh spincach cooked in olive oil with 1/2 avocado and hot sauce.
- Lunch: Left over crock-pot chicken breast with broccoli, black beans, and a lot of salsa.
- Dinner: grass-fed ground beef bolganase with canalini beans over spaghetti squash.
Think Mexican food without the rice, burrito shells or dairy. Or Italian without the pasta, bread and cheese. Or middle eastern, but limiting the grains. Or Indian kebabs without the breads and pitas. There are tons of options.
I like my diet because I don’t feel like I’m dieting. When I get into a good grove, I can eat this way for weeks without craving junk. It’s usually some outside influence, like a kids birthday party or a corporate dinner or the holidays, that get me to eat bad foods. But I don’t have trouble getting back on track because I’m eating big tasty meals that I enjoy.
I love food. This is a stupid thing to say, of course, because everyone loves food (except maybe my son). A lot of people want be healthy. Maybe we can still love food and be healthy. Why can’t we have our beans and eat them too?
*A note about alcohol. The carbs in booze are not what causes weight gain for me per se. The nutritional issue I have with alcohol is even with just one or two drinks I develop an intense craving for carbs and I end up eating badly. This doesn’t seem to happen to other people as much as me, but I avoid alcohol most of the time because of the foods I end up eating.
**A note about beverages. I drink water and black coffee. That’s about it. I love diet soda, but I try not to drink it most days. If I’m out, sometimes I order a club soda or unsweetened tea. Drinking calories and carbs is not good.