This article about healthy weight loss has been a long time coming. Like so many Americans especially, my weight and Diana's weight have been up and down. We both had normal weight as children and adolescents and young adults. But, as I started my working life and some fat started to accumulate, I joined a friend in an Atkins "no carbohydrate" diet one summer. This was the beginning of my yo-yo with weight.
Each time I would lose the weight, and return to "normal" eating, I would gain back more than I had lost. This is a typical pattern for many. I began to wonder why and how to reverse it. I was looking for a healthy weight loss that would last indefinitely.
The Biggest (er, fattest) Person I Know
When I was young, my grandmother was round. I loved her very much. She was the best cook I knew, and she was especially fond of deserts. Since my family usually didn't usually have deserts other than fruit in the house, it was a treat to go to Nana's to eat. I have never eaten fudge better than hers, and she always had fresh cookies in her cookie jar. There was always a cake or pie under a cover somewhere in her kitchen.
I never saw Nana eat, except at Thanksgiving or Christmas. If we would eat at her house, she would not eat with us. She always said that she was waiting for Grampa to come home. However, when he was home and ate with us, she would fuss about the kitchen, and rarely sit down to eat. This should have been my first clue that skipping meals will not make you thin. Grampa ate all the time, and he was thin. Nana only ate on holidays (or so it seemed to us) and she was round. She was not engaging in healthy weight loss, but some kind of calorie counting. This is one of the hardest diets with the worst long term effect.
About two decades ago, I knew another round woman. Like my Nana, she didn't eat three meals. She generally ate one good one. She drank coffee all day with milk (or milk substitute) and sugar but she only ate lunch or dinner. Again, she was round. Her ankles, feet and knees were badly swollen and reddish. She walked with discomfort so she didn't walk any more than necessary.
About that time, I learned that the problem with the Atkins diet that I had already tried, was that it starves your body. Again, this is not a healthy weight loss. Historically, our bodies know what to do when starved. This is part of our indigenous roots when we were living off the land and winter brought scarcity. Our bodies slow our metabolism to sustain us during a winter with dried or salted meats and some dried fruits or berries and an occasional loaf of bread.
This is also what we do when we skip meals. We slow our metabolism. Skip a few meals and nothing will happen, but if you make a habit of eating only two meals a day and one of them a large one, you are going to continually slow down your metabolism. Each large meal will seem like the bear's last meal of the fall which will cause you to store more and more fat. If you are underweight, perhaps this is what you want.
How Do You Let Go of Fat if not by Reducing Calories or Carbohydrates?
We only need to change the carbs and sugars that we consume to those that have low glycemic levels like apples, berries and melons rather than pineapples or figs. This will give us the desired healthy weight loss.
When we eat carbs, if we eat the whole grain version we are including the roughage or fiber and the vitamins and micro nutrients that generally lie beneath the skin. This lowers the glycemic index which will put us on the road to healthy weight loss. For example, brown rice has a favorable glycemic level and white rice does not. A whole potato with the skin will not raise your insulin level as will a skinned and mashed potato.
And, the colored carbs are also great for healthy weight loss. Beets can be eaten happily, whereas any food with added beet sugar should be avoided. This is especially true of corn. Whole Corn or corn eaten from the cob is fine, but avoid like the plague any food with added high fructose corn sugar (HFCS).
Eating whole grain carbohydrates or fruits several times during the day keeps our metabolism running at full speed. We have all heard this. We know that whole foods are better for us. But, why? Why is corn ok but HFCS is poison?
What is so Bad About a High Glycemic Index?
The glycemic level gives you an idea of the amount of energy from the sun that is stored as sugar or carbohydrate in the food and the speed at which it is released. When you eat the whole food with its skin, fiber and nutrients, it takes more digestion to release the sugar. Apples are so slow to digest that a diabetic can eat apples without the worry they would have with any other fruit. Eating apples will provide for you a healthy weight loss. Funny. That is the one fruit that was always available in our house and none of us had a weight problem until we left home. We didn't even know that our parents were providing a low glycemic fruit for normal healthy weight loss.
Too much sugar in your blood will harm your organs, especially your heart. Insulin is the natural system to reduce the sugar in our blood stream, thus protecting us. It does this by converting the sugar into fat which is then stored for later energy needs.
Diabetics have a broken insulin system. Their pancreas can no longer release the insulin needed to control the amount of sugar in their blood so they need to either take a pill or inject insulin directly. They have to monitor the sugar in their blood to know when and how much insulin they need. When they don't monitor this carefully, organs break down. One of my best friends died on her 40th birthday of a massive heart attack. She had been a diabetic as a youth, and then believed that it was cured in her adult years.
Either the damage had already been extensive, or the sugar was out of control once again and continued the early damage of her heart.
The more foods you eat with a high glycemic level, the more strain you put on your pancreas, and the more likely the stressed organ will give up and quit. So, eat plenty of carbs and fruits to keep your fat storage at a minimum, but use more of those with a low glycemic level.
What is an Ideal Diet for Healthy Weight Loss?
Perhaps you have heard that it is better to eat several small meals? This is ideal. If you have been having trouble with your weight, increase the number of meals that you eat.
Five is great for healthy weight loss. And, if you are physically active, eat an apple or orange in between meals. With normal or light activity, eat five meals a day, every three hours and you will never be hungry.
What does this mean? Won't I gain weight? How can I eat that much? How can this provide healthy weight loss?
We challenge you to do this with us. Eat no more than 1.5 cups of food at any sitting. Eat .5 of a cup of protein with 1 full cup of either a high energy carbohydrate (brown rice, red potato, whole grain pasta) or a color carbohydrate (apple, orange, beets or cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli or beans). Eat the high energy carb only two meals out of the five. Eat a color carb three meals of the five.
When you eat every three hours, your body will never go into a starvation mode, and if you have been there, it will start to perk up pretty quickly. Try it. You will notice an increase in energy and enthusiasm that will carry you forward. Your levels of cortisol (which causes belly fat accumulation) will drop just from having 5 meals a day rather than three -- even if you consume the same calories. You will discover healthy weight loss and you will never be hungry.
It will only take a week or so before your stomach will shrink to a normal size. If you leave the table a little hungry after one meal, you will be eating again in just three hours. Most Americans have stretched our stomachs due to eating a couple of high calorie meals each day. You will feel better as soon as your stomach shrinks back to a normal size.
Watch out for secret sources of sugar. Fruit drinks generally have added sugar, and of course sodas are out. There are other dangers of the sugar substitutes and we will be back with another article to discuss them. Avoid them. The four that are not addictive or harmful are truvia, Z-Sweet and Sun Crystals, or stevia.
Why do we Call this the Frodo Baggins Diet?
In the books and movies in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series, the Hobbits believed in eating several times a day. Frodo's friend asks what happened to elevenses, and twelvses and twoses and so on and so on. They normally ate every hour or two which made the trip to conquer Mordor a big hunger pang. In this diet, we're not asking you to eat that frequently, but at least every three hours. Thus, loosely translated, we are calling it the Frodo Baggins diet.
And, don't forget that the Hobbits were smaller than people. So, don't eat more than 1.5 cups of food at any sitting.