Saturday, January 16, 2016

Secret to Success

Our weight loss challenge at work is under way.  It's been a nice way to promote team work and collegiality.  I have been doing what I can to support my colleagues with information about nutrition and sharing my “secrets to success.”

People always ask me "What did you do?"  "Can you help me?"
The most important thing you can do to lose weight is to track your food.  I can’t begin to tell you the difference this has made for me.  If you are not currently tracking your food – through calories or Weight Watchers or another system, I strongly recommend you do that.  It’s the best way to see your eating trends and probably the only way someone can help you if you need it.  I track calories using MyFitnessPal.  I wrote about how to use MyFitnessPal here:   Flexible Dieting Basics and Tracking Calories with MFP.  

I know, however that not everyone is ready to track calories and can’t be bothered with Weight Watchers points.  Even if you are tracking calories, this post is for you!!!

The two most important things I have learned about nutrition:

ONE:  You MUST read nutrition labels! Look specifically at the following: calories, protein grams, fat grams and carbohydrates. (Fiber is good to look at too, but if you're just getting started, don't think too much about that just yet.)

When looking at the nutrition facts, consider if the food is worth the calories? Is it worth the fat grams? Is it worth the carbs?

For example, look at these two granola products:


Each one’s serving size contains 10 grams of protein, 3 grams fiber and a minor difference in fat grams (4.5 vs. 5).  However, the serving size of the Nature Valley granola is ½ cup, containing 210 calories and 32 grams of carbohydrates.  The serving size of Bear Naked granola is ¼ cup, with only 130 calories and 13 grams of carbohydrates.  Even if you double the serving size of the Bear Naked granola to make it equal, that doubles the fiber and protein, making it a Win / Win product.  I put granola in my yogurt, so ¼ cup is more than enough for me.

TWO:  PROTEIN!!!  You want to make sure you have enough protein in your diet.  Unless you have a kidney problem you should aim for at least 100 grams of protein per day.  I don’t eat a snack or a meal unless it has at least 15 grams of protein in it.  If it doesn't, think to yourself, "How can I get more protein into this meal (snack)?"   Protein helps to stabilize your blood sugar, promotes muscle growth, it helps to sustain your appetite longer.

My go-to sources of protein are:
Chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken
Ground turkey
Protein Powder (I use whey protein.  I buy it at Costco.)
Cottage cheese
Egg whites
Eggs
Feta cheese (I add ½ oz. to a salad or to an egg frittata)
Fish – salmon, haddock, tuna
Lean ground beef
Did I say chicken?
I buy 10 lbs. of chicken breasts from the local meat market.  I rinse and cut the chicken into portions, then marinade it in Italian dressing for 1 - 2 hours.  I cook all of the chicken on the grill (even in January).  When the chicken is thoroughly cooked, I take it inside, and wrap the chicken and then put it in a ziplock freezer bag.  I store the cooked chicken in my freezer.  I use it for lunches and dinner throughout the month.  It's a life saver!
Other protein sources include nuts, seeds and beans (legumes), but these also include a significant amount of fats (nuts) and Carbs (legumes), so you have to be mindful of those in consideration for the amount of protein these contain.

I wrote about protein on my blog here: Protein

There are several products which are supplemented with protein:  cereals, oatmeal, granola, and bread.  Anything that has 10 or more grams of protein in it is worth looking at.  Pay attention to the labels.  You want to be careful of anything that seems high in calories.   

Final thoughts:  

If you are trying to lose weight, start reading about nutrition, educate yourself. Many people have been overly and mis-educated about food from different nutritional programs they have followed.
We are told that certain foods are bad, or that you should only eat some foods in combination with other foods.  In my humble opinion, the only “bad” foods are white bread and things which are high in refined sugar.  White bread really has no nutritional value whatsoever, although I do eat garlic bread when we eat Italian.  During cycling season, I will eat a PB and Jelly Sandwich on white bread right before a long bike ride.  As far as sugar goes, it's in everything, so you need to read your labels and be aware of how much sugar you are consuming!

I recommend that you disregard what you think you know and start to read and learn more from reliable nutrition sources.  To further educate myself about nutrition, I subscribe to both BodyBuilding.com and MyFitnessPal for their weekly articles. They include helpful information about both exercise and nutrition. I've also picked up several recipe ideas from MyFitnessPal. 

If you hear or read something telling you to not eat an entire food group ... that you must buy their product for guaranteed weight loss .. if you have to write lengthy notes to remember what you're supposed to do ... or refer to a book to follow it, it’s probably not for you.  The reason I follow flexible dieting is because you really can eat what you want, as long as you stick to your calories and try to stay within your daily macros (carbohydrates, protein and fat).

It's practice. As you read labels and start thinking about how to get more protein into your diet, you will get better and better at it. You will start to become smart about what you eat and you will understand how your nutritional choices affect you.   Some foods affect me differently at different times of the day. For example, I can't eat a bagel for breakfast. It carb loads me too early and sets me into a tail spin of hunger that lasts all day.  But if I am out on the run, need lunch and don’t have time to sit down for a salad, I will grab a multi-grain bagel at Dunkin Donuts for lunch and eat a protein bar from my emergency stash.  In the late morning or afternoon, a bagel doesn’t disrupt my blood sugar the same way as in the morning,


So, read your labels and make sure you are getting enough protein!

Here are links to other posts where I have discussed nutrition.  They are worth a second view if you are serious about flexible dieting as an option.

Carbs:   The first in a two-part series dedicated to carbs.  What are they?  Why do we need them?

Carbs 2 Part two.  WHY are carbs such a struggle?  What's good?  What's better?  What's best when consumed sparingly?

Nutrition 101:   I talk about meal prep and give examples of the food I eat on a daily basis.

Wonder Woman:  I explain how I got the nickname "Wonder Woman" by tracking all my calories and macronutrients.  I give a brief explanation of macros here.

A Calorie is Not a Calorie:  This post talks about the different effect foods have on you.

Question for you: 
(Answer in the comment section below.)
What's on the menu for today?  Anything good?

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