I just finished reading an inspiring letter in the recent Spring 2012 issue of Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation. This contribution by Ron Buch from Woodbridge, Virginia is a great example of how lowering carbs and eliminating processed foods is the “slow and steady wins the race” approach to sustainable weight loss. I have received permission to republish it in its entirety to help motivate readers of my previous blog post on weight loss. Enjoy and thanks for reading:
I had no particular reason for starting my diet. I am a large-framed person and have been somewhat overweight most of my life. Each year I gained a little more weight, but nothing dramatic in any one year. About two years ago, I was told that my cholesterol level was high, but that it could be managed through medication, so this news did not alter my eating habits.
My pre-diet eating habits were pretty straightforward: eat anything, any time. Breakfast: bagel with cream cheese and bacon. Lunch: a full meal from the office cafeteria, followed by three cookies (the three-for-a-dollar special!). Starting mid-afternoon, repeated trips to the vending machine for chips and candy bars. Multiple trips throughout the day to the jar of chocolate candies on one secretary's desk. In the evening, a full dinner, always with dessert. After the family went to bed, then the real eating began—raiding the pantry until I fell asleep. I gradually ballooned to two hundred eighty-three pounds.
Again, I had no particular reason for starting a diet, but my doctor recommended a nutritionist: Janet Zalman. Janet gave me two remarkably easy rules to follow: don't eat or drink anything with more than four grams of sugar (except whole fruit and milk) and don't eat any "double carbs." Now, when I say 'easy' rules, I mean uncomplicated and understandable—no calorie counting or weighing of food. Living by them was difficult at first. But there was a principle underlying these rules.
Sugar is a poison. Excess sugar creates fat. It creates metabolic highs and then lows. It creates cravings. By limiting sugar, you do not create fat, your metabolism levels out, your cravings relent, your calorie intake drops, and weight loss follows. Thus, the rules.
The four-gram rule is easy to understand, but hard to implement. Try shopping the breakfast-cereal aisle at your local grocery. At mine, I found only four cereals that fit within the rule (and that assumes that your serving size is really the same as is labeled on the box). So nearly every morning I have eggs for breakfast—cholesterol be damned. On weekdays, those eggs are coupled with turkey bacon (I eat in the office cafeteria). On weekends, I cook the eggs with either ham or vegetables mixed into them. Some items are completely out: no juice, no alcohol. Obviously, no candy or sweets.
The no-double-carbs rule is, in principle, the same as the four-gram rule. Your body efficiently turns carbs into sugars. But eating too many carbs at any one sitting results in excess sugar in your system. Thus, eating a single carb is okay, but a double carb creates a sugar glut. What is a double carb? You can have a sandwich. You can have a bag of chips. You can't have a sandwich and a bag of chips. Hamburger with bun, okay. Fries, okay. Hamburger with bun and fries, no way. Meals that used to appear balanced don't look balanced upon closer examination. Steak, potatoes, and corn? Potatoes and corn are a double starch. Fajitas with rice and beans equal a triple starch (tortilla, rice, beans). Because of its density, a typical bagel, standing alone, is a triple starch.
At first, this took discipline. I tried to stick to only eating at meals, but allowed myself a small bag of pretzels in the afternoon and a piece of fruit in the evening after dinner. Eggs for breakfast, choosing the right items from the cafeteria at lunch, and a fabulous, thoughtfully prepared meal at dinner. Throughout, the nutritionist gave me guidance to tweak my eating habits. One thing that worked (and continues to work) for me: eat salad last. After a meal, I eat as much salad as it takes to fill me up.
I learned one other thing through this process: I am an addict. After months of not eating sweets, we were on a family vacation. The kids bought fudge, caramel corn and taffy. I took a small taste of the fudge, expecting that to be all I would eat. In fairly short order, I had eaten one-fourth of the block of fudge, about two cups of caramel corn, and ten or more pieces of taffy. I was out of control. I have not touched sweets since; they scare me.
So how did this turn out? I started on April 14 at two hundred eighty-three pounds. On October 20, I weighed in at two hundred six, seventy-seven pounds lighter and counting; I am continuing to lose weight. My first new suit in a few years was a size forty-four; the last suit I bought before the diet was size fifty-four. My waist dropped from forty-four inches to thirty-six (so far). Admittedly, this was not solely due to a change in eating habits. After I lost the first twenty pounds, I began exercising. That accelerated the weight loss, and the reward of noticeable weight loss became the motivation to continue. I recently completed a one hundred mile bike ride in just over eight hours (including rest stops).
One unexpected change also occurred: given my egg breakfasts, I expected my cholesterol to rise. I was surprised that my good cholesterol remains unchanged, but my bad cholesterol dropped by more than one hundred points. I am on a low dose of cholesterol medication, but the drop in my cholesterol is more than can be explained by the medication. The change, in my view, has been dramatic. See for yourself!