Millions of North Americans are trapped in some stage of the weight loss cycle:
– Thinking about dieting
– Buying into a diet book/program
– Dieting
– Giving up on the diet
– Feeling bad about themselves for giving up
– Gaining weight
– Thinking about dieting…

Some people actually succeed and make the necessary and sustainable changes that lead to a new and healthy life. Unfortunately, most are stuck in some stage of that cycle.

I may be over-simplifying this, but I think there are four primary reasons for the failings:
• Hormonal imbalances
• Will power
• Emotional eating; and
• Uncertainty.

If you have truly made consistent positive changes to your eating but have not seen results, you may have a hormonal imbalance. A Naturopath may be able to help.

I have a newfound empathy for those fighting with will power issues in terms of diet. This is partly a result of reading the book
The End of Overeating . The food industry seems to be working very hard at enticing us to eat what we shouldn’t.

For those who deal with emotional eating, there is only so much success to be had with addressing eating habits. But hopefully a good therapist can help address the underlying emotional issues.

That leaves uncertainty. They go through the diet cycle trying to choose which of the myriad of “scientifically-based”, “doctor-supported” diets to follow. There are thousands of diet books on the market. There is contradiction among these programs, but most of the reputable ones are more alike than different:

• Eat lots of vegetables
• Eat enough protein
• Stay away from sweets
• Drink lots of water
• Eat less food more often
• Exercise

The main area where they differ is on fat and carbohydrate consumption. Some advocate low-fat; others low-carbohydrate; some support carbohydrates as long as they are high in fiber (low glycemic index); some say fruit makes you fat; others say fruit makes you healthy.

One True diet?
I personally do not take a stand in either direction because I don’t believe there is “one true diet”. We are all different, and as such, we will have different results with different diets. I put this into practical application with the following four statements:
1. I have a lot of energy.
2. I rarely get sick.
3. I am happy with my performance (in life, family, work, and/or sport).
4. I am happy with my weight.

If you can honestly say “yes that’s me” about each of these four statements, then you are probably eating right for you. Keep on doing what you are doing.

For everyone else, you should think about making some changes. I recommend that you write down what you eat for a week (be honest!), and enter it into an online nutrient calculator. Pay attention to serving sizes. Yes this is a pain to do, but it’s only for a week. Take a look at the results and you may find there are some surprises. Now try to make some changes.

My personal story
I went through this process about 6 years ago. I discovered that I was eating about 75% carbohydrate, 15% fat and 10% protein. I think even those of you who swear by your carbs will agree that is not a good mix.

As I looked at the food I was eating I noticed a few little things that were devastating my efforts. The cool thing is that they weren’t even things I really cared about. I swapped cereal and juice out in favour of a protein and fruit smoothie for breakfast, and I switched the afternoon Starbucks cookie and Grande latte for a chocolate frozen yoghurt and a coffee. That amounted to reducing my caloric intake by 635 calories a day!

Those little painless changes helped me lose 25 pounds (more than 25 lbs of fat as I was also gaining muscle on account of a new workout).

Eat perfectly all the time?
I think there are some people who eat well all the time. They don’t crave anything, and they generally don’t snack. I am not one of those people. I suspect most of you are not those people either. One of the best lessons I have learned is how to judge junk.

Pre-weight loss, if I went to a Tim Horton’s and felt snacky, I would order a bran or oat muffin. I wanted the chocolate donut, but I wouldn’t get it because I wanted to be healthy. Take a look at these numbers:

Best and worst of their muffins:
Low fat cranberry: 280 Cal, 2 g fat, 62 g carb, 5g protein, 7 g fibre
Carrot whole wheat muffin: 440 Cal, 23 g fat, 52 g carb, 5g protein, 4 g fibre

Best and worst of their donuts:
Chocolate dip: 200 Cal, 6 g fat, 31 g carb, 4g protein, 1 g fibre
Blueberry fritter: 360 Cal, 13 g fat, 55 g carb, 6g protein, 2 g fibre

I’m not trying to say that donuts are good for you. None of these items are good for you. The important point is that if you think the muffin is a healthy option, you are mistaken. It is junk food. Personally, I make some room for junk food in my diet. Not every day, but some days.

But I take my junk food intake seriously. In fact I have developed what I call

The Four Laws of Junk Food Efficiency
First Law: If I am going to eat food that’s bad for me, it better taste really good.
Second Law: Ideally it shouldn’t be so bad for me that it will undo 3 days of good eating.
Third Law: If there’s a choice between two mediocre tasting junk food options, pick the healthiest one.
Fourth Law: Less is better.

By the First Law of Junk Food Efficiency, the muffin is dead to me. What a waste! 440 calories for whole wheat and carrot? I don’t think so. But 200 calories for chocolate dip? That I can do. That Homer guy knew of what he spoke: “mmm…donuts…”

More examples of Junk Food Efficiency failures:

Ever had a Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken at McDonald’s? Here are the numbers (including dressing): 530 Cal, 26 g fat, 49 g carb, 27g protein.
Meanwhile a Big Mac looks like this: 540 Cal, 29 g fat, 45 g carb, 25g protein.

Not so different. First Law of Junk Food Efficiency says eat the Big Mac already! The Second Law of Junk Food Efficiency says to steer clear of the large fries (500 cal), large milkshake (1160 cal), and don’t swap the Big Mac for the Angus Burger with Bacon and Cheese (790 cal). That is a 2,450 calorie meal, with 329 g of carbohydrate, 91 g of fat, and wait for it…2,930 mg of sodium! For reference, the US Food and Nutrition board recommends 2,400mg of sodium each day.

The frozen food aisle
We are all in a hurry sometimes, and a quick frozen meal may be exactly what you need to stay out of the drive-through. But which one? Take a look at these three options:

a. Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Rotini
b. Italian Sausage Cavatappi
c. Italian Meatball Mafalda

I was quick to reach for the sun-dried tomato and pesto option as this was a clear application of the Third Law of Junk Food Efficiency. But then I looked at the nutrition label on each and quickly exchanged it for the Italian Sausage meal. What world is this we live in where the Italian sausage and cheese option is healthier than the sun-dried tomato and pesto option? I can’t say I’m too disappointed though as I do like Italian sausage.

Beware of volume trickery
Lots of people apply their own version of Junk Food Efficiency when shopping, but because their model is not as well-developed as mine they buy things like baked chips and low-fat sour cream. My issue with these products is that these “healthier” versions are usually sold in larger quantities.

Look for it next time you are in the grocery store. The baked chips often only come in the mega family size packages, and the low-fat sour cream only comes in the medium and large containers, the small is reserved for the full fat versions.

If you are someone who possesses will power, then this is not a problem for you. But if you’re like me, you will be hear little chip voices coming from the kitchen reminding you that there’s an open bag of chips and the ingredients for dip calling out to you incessantly until you’ve eaten them all.

And thus the Fourth Law of Junk Food Efficiency buy the junk food that comes in the smallest quantity – don’t fool yourself into thinking that you won’t go back for thirds, fourths..Chips are very convincing when they’re sitting open in the cupboard.

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