Monday, February 25, 2013

The FAT Challenge

There is charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable – Mark Twain

Photo Credit
There is truth in that statement.  There is nostalgia, charm, and even romance about sugar.  Sugar is in the memory of your celebrations, your sadness, and your temptations.   It just tastes good!  I do however feel I have sufficiently laid out the reasons why we need to alter our nutritional future and our love affair with the substance.  In this article I hope to point out some the hidden sugars in our live and then help my readers define a diet plan and tips to stick with it for life.


Yes you do.  You may just not realize it.  If it’s packaged, it likely has sugar.  Manufacturers add sugar to EVERYTHING.  Did you know an 8oz serving of coca-cola has 75mg of SALT?  Why would it need salt at all?  Well because salt makes you thirsty.  So you drink more.  It also has caffeine, which is actually quite bitter, but caffeine is a diuretic so it makes you pee more (which makes you thirsty).  What an awesome product from a business standpoint.  They sell you a drink that they claim is “refreshing” that actually makes you thirstier.  Of course no one would drink a salty, bitter beverage so they add sugar to it to cover it up (sugar is diuretic too by the way).  Manufacturers add salt to lots of things to strengthen flavor and then use sugar to cover the “saltiness”. 

Hidden salt isn't the only story.  Manufacturers know that some people read labels so they have found really interesting ways to say sugar like the following; corn maltodextrin, dextrose, molasses, HFCS, rice syrup, sorghum extract/syrup, and my personal favorite dehydrated cane juice/syrup (dehydrating sugar cane juice is the literal process of making sugar).

An 8oz “serving” of Snapple, Vitamin Water, and Gatorade all have about the same amount of sugar as a serving of coca-cola (about 4-5 tablespoons of sugar).  It’s not healthier it’s just different.  Your average fruit flavored yogurt has 25-30 grams (half of that is added, the other half is lactose).  Last week I almost ate a granola bar that had THREE different added sugars.  I am glad I read the label for that “health food”.


As many of you know, my hobby is cooking.  I love to cook and experiment with food.  Most of my fondest memories involve the interaction of friends and family around food.  I love to watch people enjoy what I have created.  I also love science.  These two loves have led me to addiction of sorts.  I have a confession to make.  I have a man crush on Alton Brown, the creator of Good Eats on the food network. 

Fans of the show know that Mr. Brown underwent a visual metamorphosis while producing the show.  For those of you that are not familiar with his story, have a look below.

All four of those images are the same person, Alton Brown.  They were taken over approximately 12 months of time.  Mr. Brown didn't like what he saw on camera.  So he, a professional cook, made a diet change.  He didn't hire a personal trainer and fast for weeks at a time.  He just changed WHAT he ate and 9 months later he was 50 POUNDS lighter.  Mr. Brown had this to say:

“Having wrestled with weight my whole life, I knew that a diet based on denial—based simply on don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t eat this, don’t eat that—would ultimately fail for me. I rebel against that. I knew if I was going to design a plan that had any hope of success, it would have to be based on not things I couldn't eat but things I had to eat, because that’s more proactive.   So I came up with this concept that there are a great many foods that are extremely high in nutrition that you ought to be getting every day, some things several times a week. And I balanced that with the things that did need to be restricted…” – Alton Brown

His point is that your diet needs to be something you can live with.  His diet was low in carbohydrates, moderate in proteins, and relatively high in fats, fruits, and vegetables.   I recommend the same, but let’s look at some helpful tips before we get into the specifics of the diet.


The classic “western” diet is designed by manufacturers and food producers to be cheap, tasty, and portable.  It fits our lifestyle so it’s convenient but it doesn't fit the waist band most of us want.    Your stomach is a fuel tank not a waste basket.  I know plenty of people that insist on premium gas for their car but don’t think twice about fast food into their own fuel tank daily.  I strongly recommend you follow these tips:

  • HOME CONTROL – Control what is coming into your home!  You and your children can’t snack on unhealthy foods if it isn’t in the house to begin with.  If Ho-Ho’s are around, Ho-Ho’s will be eaten.   (GOAL:  NO IN HOME JUNK FOOD)
  • PLATE SIZE –Numerous studies have shown that smaller plate sizes work.  People put smaller portions onto smaller plates.  Studies also show that people tend to leave the same percentage of food on their plate at the end of the meal.  In the 1950’s the average plate size was 9 inches, today its 12(GOAL:  SWITCH TO SALAD PLATES FOR MOST MEALS)
  • EXERCISE BEFORE MEALS – This one is a little harder.  It takes a little time and effort.  Studies show that our insulin resistance goes down significantly immediately after exercise.  This means you need less insulin release to get the same effect.  Daily exercise at even a light level for 15-20 minutes will increase your basal metabolic rate.  Try to plan a 15-30 minutes of activity before your largest meal.  This could be as simple as picking up the pace of your daily dog walk and moving it to before dinner.  (GOAL:  20 MINUTES OF EXERCISE BEFORE DINNER)
  • EAT AT HOME - 70% of meals in America are now eaten outside of the home.  Unless you are brown bagging it you likely are consuming more calories than you should at these meals.  Eating out significantly limits your control over what is in your meal and what your meal options are.  (GOAL:  EAT OUT NO MORE THAN TWO MEALS WEEKLY & PACK YOUR LUNCHES)
  • LIVE ON THE EDGE –All the good stuff at the supermarket is located on the edges.  The supermarkets do this on purpose.  They want you to walk through the processed foods (both there and back) to get your milk, meat, and vegetables because processed foods are much more profitable.  The only canned foods I regularly buy are tomatoes and beans.  (GOAL:  SHOP WEEKLY FOR FRESH FOODS ALONG THE EDGE, BUT ONLY SHOP THE AISLES ONCE A MONTH)
  • NO SUGAR DRINKS –Eliminate all sugar added drinks.  Limit fruit juices in quantity and drink those that are only 100% juice with no added sugars.   Diet soda drinkers should be aware that newer studies show that artificial sweeteners are linked to almost as much weight gain.  They appear to cause insulin release and may lead to increased hunger as well.  Alcohol has sugars too.  I suggest limiting yourself to no more than SIX alcohol beverages a week.  However if weight loss is your goal, this should probably be closer to THREE a week.   (GOAL:  NO SUGARED BEVERAGES & LIMIT ALCOHOL)
  • MINIMIZE FAST FOOD – I would like to say eliminate all fast food, but sometimes it is the only option.  So instead I will say minimize fast food to only once every other week and always because it is the only option convenient.  Never “go-out” for fast food.   Try to make “healthier” choices.  Also I would like to point out that not all fast food is in fact “bad”.  Two grilled fish tacos with lettuce, cheese, and salsa from Fuzzy’s is heavenly, and actually pretty good for you.  (GOAL:  NO FAST FOOD)
  • FIBER COUNTS – Fiber improves digestion, fills you up, and naturally helps your blood sugar levels when consumed with fructose.  Try to limit carbohydrate foods to no more than 6-8 servings per week and try to consume most if not all your carbohydrates with natural fiber!  (GOAL:  FIBER WITH ALL CARBOHYDRATES)
  • 20 MINUTE WAIT – Food intake takes a while to signal to your body that you are full.  The faster people eat the more they tend to eat.  Start with this simple rule: Anyone (especially kids) can have seconds if they feel they need it but they must wait 20 minutes from the time they finish the first portion.  (GOAL:  WAIT 20 MINUTES) 
  • PLAN YOUR MEALS – Dietary changes fail because we set up ourselves for failure.  We restrict too much, we make unreal goals, and most importantly we fail to plan.   If you don’t plan out your weekly meals in advance you will be throwing away a lot of produce and defaulting to pre-processed “quick” meals.  Sunday afternoon is a great time to prep several meal items for the week.  (GOAL:  MAKE A WEEKLY MEAL PLAN & SHOPPING LIST)


So, when it comes to eating healthy, it's just doing the right thing. And it's not something you have to do 365 days a year, but I think it's something you have to do 25 days a month. Let's put it that way. - Mike Ditka

That is sound advice.  It’s not about every day, it’s about most days.  Desserts are a huge source of extra calories.  If you are going to have a drink, consider it your desert.  A small desert is often better than depriving yourself of one and then having 3 scoops of ice cream the next day.  

  • Lean meats & eggs (30-35% of diet)
  • Fresh/frozen & cooked vegetables & legumes (45%)
  • Fresh & frozen fruits (10%)
  • Potatoes – limit 1-2 times weekly
  • Pasta or rice – limit 1-2 times weekly
  • Whole wheat breads – limit to 1-3 times weekly (never with another carb)
  • Olive, canola, grape seed oil, or butter
  • Low fat milk and Greek yogurt
  • Cheese (limited)
  • Nuts and seeds

  • Bread with meals
  • Processed baked goods
  • Non-whole grains
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Added sugar & sweet beverages
  • Fried foods and fast foods
  • Margarine
  • Most canned items


Finally we get to the challenge.  I am asking my readers to consider sticking to my dietary advice for 6 weeks.  If you are willing to keep a food journal (basic items eaten and estimated amount) as well as let me know your starting, mid, and ending AM naked weight, please contact me at  I too will be joining you in this quest and hope to post some results (anonymous) in April.  I am confident that if you stick to my plan you will not only lose weight but likely feel better as well.

  • Breakfast
    • Egg Muffins
    • Quick-cook steel cut oats with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and raisins 
    • Plain Greek yogurt with homemade berry sauce (1-2 tablespoons)
      • Berry Sauce: (1 cup fresh berries, blend to desired consistency.  Sweeten with a little honey if too tart)
  • Lunch
    • Mixed green/spinach salad with fresh vegetables and scoop of chicken or tuna salad
    • Left-overs in smaller portions  from night before (if you eat right this is quite healthy)
    • Spinach, Swiss, and turkey on whole wheat tortilla wrap or bread
  • Dinner
    • Pork
      • Sear 2-4 center pork chops on each side and remove from heat.  Saute onions and garlic in pan.  Add can of Rotel and reintroduce pork chops and 1 sliced zucchini.  Simmer 10-20 minutes
      • Serve with avocado salad:  Diced avocado, tomatoes, red onion and one can black beans
    • Chicken
      • Bread Chicken breast (I often use chicken tenderloins) in freshly grated Parmesan and panko bread crumbs (egg wash) with seasonings of choice.  Bake in oven at 325 until done
      • Serve with Alton Brown’s cauliflower & cheese and fresh green beans
    • Steak
      • Marinade and grill steaks
      • Serve with mushroom ragout and roasted brussel sprouts
    • Salmon
      • Place salmon fillets in oven safe glass container.  Add 1/4 cup white wine, pepper, and a dash of dried tarragon.  Bake on 350 for 16-18 minutes 
      • Serve with sauteed asparagus and orzo pasta with pesto (1/2 cup cooked)
Check out the other three parts:  The FAT In Me, The FAT In Sugar, and The FAT In You

No comments:

Post a Comment