With the multitude of diet books and methods available, I think one of the hardest things to deal with is the overload of information. One approach is to set aside a decade of your life to try nearly every diet out there. I would not recommend that approach. Still the question remains: what is the best way to initiate a transition into a healthy diet?
The most common advice you’ll find is that you need to “eat less and exercise more”. Everyone from the government to the media wants to blame the obesity epidemic on gluttony or sloth (or both). I don’t know how many times over the last decade I’d silently resolved to “eat less and exercise more” after looking at myself in the mirror. Sort of like how Mark Twain said, “quitting smoking is easy; I’ve done it thousands of times.” I’d be lucky if my resolve made it through even one meal. I was trying to muscle through a problem that required a far more elegant and efficient solution. I needed a more specific plan.
I mentioned the Belly Fat Cure by Jorge Cruise in my first post and in my disclaimer. I favor that diet as a starting point because of its simplicity. No foods are banned outright, but many foods are effectively eliminated because you simply won’t be able to fit them under the limit of 15 grams of sugar and 6 servings of carbs while maintaining a sufficient level of calories. So while you’re not going to be counting calories, you are going to be paying attention to food labels. Be warned; you may be shocked by how much sugar is in that fat free yogurt you assumed was healthy.
Tightly controlling sugar is going to get you on the road to metabolic recovery. Sure, there are other things to worry about–including other hormones that can derail your weight loss–but worry about that later. The BFC book explains how insulin is largely responsible for partitioning calories–whether your body uses them as energy or stores them as fat. Over the first couple weeks of low sugar and moderate carbohydrates, you may start to feel a little sluggish. That’s okay. Your body is getting used to using stored body fat as energy because the sugar it had been using is no longer available. This is exactly what you want to happen.
To finish this post, I’m going to discuss some common questions that usually come up when someone starts on the Belly Fat Cure.
Wow, so what can I eat?
Initially you’re going to try to force all the foods you currently love (i.e. the ones that support your metabolic derangement) into your new diet by re-inventing them with less sugar, fewer carbs, etc. That’s fine. Everyone does it. But the sooner you can get over that and move on to real whole food, the better. The goal of this diet is replace your sugar demons with a healthy respect for fat as a driver of both flavor and satiety. This is a concept we’ll build on in future posts.
Your meals are naturally going to feature fats and proteins as there are no restrictions on the quantities of these. Meat of all kinds (especially fatty meats) are obvious choices, as are fibrous vegetables. Whole eggs, cheese, sour cream, salsa… all work great on this diet. The book has lots of recipes, plus there a lot of Belly Fat Cure-oriented blogs out there. I stumbled across this lady’s blog about two years ago; a big strength of her blog is answering the “what can I eat” question.
Seriously, no fruit?
Yes. No fruit. For now, not forever. A healthy metabolism can handle fruit but if you look more like my before picture, that is not you. A large apple has 23 grams of sugar. I know that it’s “natural sugar” and that it “comes with fiber” but your broken hormonal system doesn’t care. Your body will react in a similar manner whether that sugar is disguised as honey, agave nectar, HFCS, organic cane juice extract or any other caloric sugar.
Do I really need to write down what I eat?
Yes, absolutely. You won’t need to do this for the rest of your life but for a couple months, yes, plan on it. I think this is one of the biggest keys to success in any effort to control what you eat. Writing down everything put an end to unconscious impulse eating. When I sit down and estimate what I ate during a day, I tend to have romantic view of my discipline. If I note it as I eat it, then I am able to accurately gauge my compliance if I’m not getting the results I’m expecting.
So isn’t this just like Atkins?
Not really. You get plenty of carbohydrates on this diet so you never go into ketosis. Atkins is scientifically sound but I found it hard to stick with and never was able to transition it into a lifestyle. I think ultra low carb can become problematic when you decide to mix in exercise–you need to be careful. Also keep in mind that for me, the Belly Fat Cure was a stepping stone in the direction of my current way of eating. It was a necessary step in my opinion, but it’s not the end of the road.
What about exercise?
That’s coming soon, I promise. In the mean time, remember that exercise is the thing you do for a few hours a week. Diet is the thing you do every hour of every day. While smart exercise can be beneficial, it is not necessary for losing weight. I started on the Belly Fat Cure in January and didn’t start working out until April–after I’d lost most of the weight. Don’t misunderstand me; exercise is crucial to overall body recomposition. But first we fix the fuel. Then we start on the body.