A few days ago, I mentioned in reference to something else that after having lost a great deal of weight last year, some of it has been creeping back so I'm being extra diligent now about what goes in my mouth.
There is only one way to lose weight: eat less than you expend in energy. Fewer calories in than out will always result in weight loss. What will not help with weight loss is exercise.
Increasing numbers of studies show that exercise contributes almost nothing to weight loss. Sure, it's good for you. It enhances cardiovascular health and people who exercise regularly develop cancer, diabetes and other illnesses less often. But it doesn't help them lose weight.
The reasons are obvious when you look into it. A pound is equivalent to 3500 calories so you must use up that many in energy expenditure to lose one pound. Walking briskly at 3.5 miles per hour for an hour burns about 250 calories depending on your weight. Cycling at a moderate rate for one hour burns an average of about 550 calories per hour.
If you know a little math, you see the problem.
Plus, studies show that rigorous exercise makes people hungry (duh!) and they then “reward” themselves with high-calorie drinks or snacks afterward. There is a good review of dieting, exercise and weight loss at Time magazine.
My weight loss plan is just a more stringent version of my normal eating plan:
No red meat – ever
Little or no chicken*
Lots of fish
Lots of many kinds of fruit
Lots of many kinds of vegetables
Brown rice and other whole grains
Whole grain bread
Olive or canola oil
Very little butter for cooking
No fat milk
No fat, unflavored yogurt
Any amount of spices, herbs and flavorings
No pastries, cakes, pies, etc.
Keep sugar to a low roar
Sugar is mostly for making apple and cranberry sauces which I use in a variety of ways – in hot cereal, as side dishes, etc.
*Note: I want to avoid antibiotics, etc. in food and chickens raised without drugs are so expensive, I rarely buy them.
So I eat piles and piles and piles of vegetables. In winter, I roast them. In summer, I make “gorilla salad” - 10 or 15 different cut-up veggies – pre-cooked when necessary - maybe some fruit like grapes or melon and hold it all together with homemade dressing.
Commercial salad dressings can be gigantic calorie hogs and the low- and no-fat varieties have an awful, chemical taste. But if you make your own, you can control that. (What else are you doing with your time in retirement.)
As one example, I use no-fat yogurt or no-fat sour cream with a little lite mayonnaise for flavor along with some honey, fresh chopped ginger, a few red pepper flakes and a couple of tablespoons of orange juice to thin it a bit.
You probably know this, but just in case: when using oil-based salad dressings, add only the barest minimum amount to the salad and then toss and toss and toss the salad. The more you toss, the less dressing you need.
In summer, breakfast is almost invariably a fruit smoothie – whatever berries I found at the farmers market and melon with no-fat yogurt, chopped fresh ginger (I like ginger a lot), pineapple juice, very ripe banana. It varies depending on what's available and can be made just as easily with any frozen fruit.
Winter breakfast is almost always oatmeal with a variety of additions – several at once: cranberry or apple sauce with sliced banana and some frozen berries, peach, cherries, etc. I like a little cereal with my fruit...
Three or four times a week, lunch or dinner is fish, usually steamed or broiled with a small salad or a pile of veggies over rice. Often, gorilla salad is the full meal; occasionally I add some fresh-cooked pasta. If there is a particularly good bread in the house, a slice or two of that – no butter.
All of this is so naturally low calorie that I never need to count. When I think I'll die without a snack in the evening, I nuke a bag of Orville Redenbacher “Kettle Corn” – the small, 100-calorie bags.
Also, I've recently discovered that when I think I'm hungry between meals, if I take a quick walk – 15 minutes or so – the feeling goes away.
With all the fish and fresh fruit and vegetables, this sounds expensive and it can be. But frozen fruits and veggies are equal in nutrition to fresh and can be bought in bulk when they're on sale.
Cod and other fish is often only $5 or $6 a pound and you don't need more than a third of a pound for one meal. Even fresh, in-season salmon doesn't cost much when that's all you buy.
There are a lot of other things I eat, but that is my basic diet.
The weight piles up when I indulge in cheeses – something I've been know to actually dream about – and drink wine with dinner. A normal-size glass of wine is about 200 calories. An ounce of cheese averages about 100 calories and who eats only one ounce at a time.
Ice cream, of course, is hundreds of calories per serving - almost all of it, as with cheese, fat which is bad for weight, bad for your heart. When I crave one of these things, I usually crave the other two.
Even when I'm having a cheese and/or ice cream binge, I never drink soda – just don't like it so that saves calories – and I never eat fried foods of any kind.
When I eat in restaurants, it is usually Asian, Thai or Japanese. And when I occasionally indulge in a pastry from the lovely French bakery in town or overdo at the Italian place, I just make sure I don't do it again for another couple of weeks.
Now, what about you.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Barbara Sloan: A Woodland Birth