Diet: Food – Carbs

Carbs have gotten a bad wrap.  The American people are always on the look-out for the bad guy when it comes to food.  Being a nation that is obsessed with the quick and easy fix, we are constantly on the search for “The Master Villain”: the one thing that is the source of all of our problems and that, if eliminated, would end the pain, anguish and misery of living in the wealthiest and most food-abundant country on Earth.  And once we find the culprit, we shall waste no time in pointing the mighty finger of blame from our incredibly high horses.

"I feel so judgemental!"

In the 90’s it was the evil Fat Content, spurring loads of so called “low-fat” foods that either tasted like shit, weren’t really fat-free at all, or both.  People ditched the “fat-free” concept when the new millennium hit, mostly because everyone was tired of eating cardboard, and started to go after carbohydrates as the root of all weight-loss evils.  This has not only caused a drastic and horrible demonization of wondrous and glorious bread (ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY BREAD!  ACCEPT MY SACRIFICE OF THESE HERE EIGHTEEN VIRGINS AND BLESS MY CROPS WITH LONG LIFE!) but also created a fast-track fad diet that causes more damage than good and made it popular beyond belief.  But losing a lot of weight doesn’t mean eating what other people tell you to, it means understanding what you put into your body and why.  Have I said that enough in these posts yet?  IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII don’t think so.

I'm literally drilling this into your head.

Goofus & Gallant – The Starchy Version

So, according to me a paragraph or two ago, carbohydrates are good for you.  So good, in fact, that you should be eating a healthy portion everyday.  But are all carbohydrates created equal?  As opposed to protein, whose dietary value is measured by how many grams of protein you consume by how many calories come along with it, carbohydrates are guaranteed to bring calories because that is their job.  But just as there are some people who work harder at their jobs than others, there are some carbs that do a lot more than just provide energy.  You may have heard the terms “Simple” and “Complex”  in relation to carbs , but to think of them as “Lazy” and “Productive” would probably be better in understanding what these two groups do.

Simple Carbohydrates (aka – Lazy Bastards, aka – Bare Minimum Achievers, aka -Me) are essentially comprised of one or two sugar molecules and their primary purpose is to get those sugar molecules into you.  They are also easy (extremely easy) to digest, so not only do simple carbs get sugar into your system but they also do it very fast.  Imagine hiring movers to help move your couch out of your apartment on the fourth floor of a building and instead of carefully taking it down the stairs, or even using the large and stable elevator located right near your front door, they just throw it out the window.  That’s simple carbohydrates: throwing a couch of sugar straight down into your stomach so they have more time to sit around and talk about the latest episode of “House”.  Food items belonging in this category: White bread, sugar, honey, rice, pasta, brown sugar, alcohol, and the list goes on.

Complex carbohydrates (aka – Hard-working, aka – Overachievers, aka – Not me) are made up of long chains of sugars linked together that take longer for our systems to digest, and sometimes our bodies can’t even digest them at all.  Imagine, once again, you have hired movers to do some good old couch moving.  Complex carbs won’t just take the couch down via the stairs, they will reupholster the couch, paint your apartment, fix your kitchen sink, and pay a couple months of your rent just for the hell of it.  Food belonging in this group: oatmeal, bran, green vegetables, brown rice, yams and many other roots, and oh, so much more.

It not hard to tell these two classifications apart; if it’s white, fluffly and just generally delicious, it’s a simple carb.  If it’s brown, dense, hard to chew, and generally not very appetizing without two or three buckets of melted cheese upended over it, then you have complex carbs.  Now I’m not going to focus on complex carbs too much right now because they are usually loaded with fiber, which I am saving for later post.  Instead, let’s take a closer gander at the simple carbs, which are the ones being harassed nowadays.

The reason people are hating on the simple carbs is because our bodies can easily render them into fat.  The image of a fat person holding a box of donuts while they reach over to fill another mug with whipped cream, while incredibly insensitive and cruel (and a good idea), is also an accurate depiction of what can happen to your body if you load it with sugar.  Another ill-effect of eating too much sugar is throwing your inner chemistry set out of whack, ruining your body’s natural insulin production and creating the truly horrible disease of diabetes.  So a few people (one who had a medical degree) figured that if you stopped eating those carbs, that so easily turn into sugar that so easily turn into fat inside of our bodies, you’d lose weight.  And they were right.  If you are no longer eating things that your body can store as fat it will start to eat away at your reserves, which is generally what you want.

Now before we go on, I must admit that I haven’t been completely honest with you.  Technically, carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient for the human body.  Your body does not need carbohydrates as it can also get energy from the fat and protein already in your body.

"DECEIVER!"

Okay, hold on now, calm down and stop pointing that finger at me.  While your body may not need it, it sure does want it.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, carbohydrates (especially the simple ones) are the fuel for your body; they burn quicker and turn into energy faster and more efficiently than any other food.  Glucose (which is the basic scientific term for sugar and what carbs are made of) is the largest energy source in all of biology.  You can see I italicized, bolded and underlined that, so you know I ain’t fucking around.  From the smallest bacteria to the largest animal, almost everything that breathes, eats and lives uses glucose because it is the most efficient source of pure biological energy.  But it’s not just your body, it’s your brain, as glucose is the brain’s primary source of energy.

"I want a cookie . . . "

So, yes, cut out carbs and your body will stop storing fat for energy and burning it, thereby losing weight.  But without the energy that comes from carbs and their glucose, at the same time you start burning away that fat your body is also going to start burning the protein in your body.  You might think that just means a loss of some muscle mass (which is really scary in and of itself), which will also cause you to lose weight as muscle is heavier than fat.  But when you realize that there are other things in your body made up of protein, like your liver, kidneys, heart, and everything else, suddenly the image of your body eating itself won’t get out of your head.

"Yeah, I gotta tell ya I'd rather eat the sugar."

And what about your brain?  Not only will your brain be starved for the wonderful glucose that the brain uses as food, but because of your carb-free diet, your body is starting to burn brain matter since your brain is basically a large lump of fatty protein.  Listen, I’m dumb enough as it is, so I can’t go around doing things (or rather, doing more things) that kill off brain cells.  I want to lose weight, but I also like my brain.  Sure, it’s squishy and smells weird, but it helped me enjoy The Matrix without anyone explaining it to me and remembers how to make balloon animals.  It’s just not fucking worth it!

Simple carbohydrates are not the bad guy.  Sugar is not the bad guy.  Fat and calories are not the bad guy.  The bad guy here is misinformation, laziness and years of bad habits that have turned into detrimental behavior.  You can not trick your body into losing weight.  You can only understand what the food you’re eating gives you and start to learn how to utilize every bit of it.  Anything else and you’re only hurting yourself.

So give white bread, pasta and sugar a break; they’re only trying to keep you alive.

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Diet: Food – Protein

Meat is important.  I’m not just saying that because I like (love) meat, but because it is a vital component to weight loss.  Now now, I hear all you vegetarians starting to hem and haw already, but odds are that if you’re a vegetarian you probably don’t have to worry about weight, unless you’re the vegetarian who can eat eggs, butter, cheese, fish (sometimes), chicken (when no one is looking), and pays no attention if it’s olive oil or lard that those onion rings were fried in.  In that case, I have to ask, “Who are you kidding?  Man the fuck and eat the goddamn bacon!”

EAT IT!

Will cutting meat out of your diet help you lose weight?  Yes.  Sorry, no doubt about it, it will.  But you have to understand that you will have to work twice as hard and consume (and buy) almost twice the amount of meat-substitutes to get all the protein your body is going to need once you get into the heavy stages of weight-loss.  There is no replacement for meat.  It is the most effective, more bang for your buck, and frankly the cheapest way to get protein.  Soy? Be gone!  Quinoa?  Have at you!  Lentils?  Fuck off!

Just a bunch of tiny, colorful assholes.

Actually, a cup of lentils has more protein in it than a 4 oz. chicken breast and cost a dime for 19 lbs. of the stuff, but I maintain my position.  I’ve said it before and I shall say it again until you pay me, literally PAY ME (please pay me) to stop, but successful major weight-loss has more to do with your head than anything else.  You can’t go from having three bacon, double cheese, triple patty cheeseburgers with French fries a week to having a cup of lentils and some steamed broccoli.  That is how riots start.

"I just want some tacos!"

It’s not enough to eat right, you have to change your eating habits so you enjoy eating right.  This doesn’t mean replacing your burger with some malformed vegetable puree that will only leave you hungrier for the real thing, it means understanding what you put into your body and what it is giving you.  To make such a drastic change is only going to leave you open for extreme failure, and part of what I am trying to do is help you avoid those detrimental pitfalls.

So here is the list of the protein that worked the best for me in getting my daily requirements, filling me up, and didn’t completely destroy my pocketbook.

Chicken

Chicken is THE protein in my opinion.  It was practically the only protein I ate in all of my weight-loss escapades.  A chicken breast is not only loaded with about 25 grams of protein, it is also relatively low in fat, extremely filling and it’s so cheap they might as well be giving it away.  It’s also completely versatile and lends itself to any culinary genre with minimal effort.  It cooks fast and goes well with anything; rice, pasta, salad, fruit, and vegetables (how is that different from salad? Stop asking questions).  It is even good by itself.  Seriously, stick a chicken breast on a stick and put it over a fire and you won’t be asking, “But where’s the butter?”

I was hoping to find a funny picture of a cartoon chicken over a fire with a stick up its butt, but all I found were kabobs.

On the downside, chicken needs to be prepared as it is mostly tasteless.  When people say, “Everything tastes like chicken”, well that’s because chicken doesn’t taste like anything.  You can’t steam some chicken thinking the flavor is going to astound you because all you’re going to get is a hot, steaming, juicy clump of “that cheap newspaper insert has more taste than this.”  But this isn’t such a bad thing as learning how to cook is also one of the most helpful things with losing weight (but that is for a much, much later post).

Fish

I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to put that salmon down.  And that shark.  And the lobster, shrimp and crab.  Those are all great fish, and contain wonderful omega-3 fats, but they also contain a whole lot of them.  The reason a lot of people love these fish is because of their meaty texture and buttery flavor, but if you use the word “butter” to describe a food, odds are it might not be the best for diets.  No, the fish I am talking about are the whitefish (trout, tilapia, mahi mahi, flounder, etc.).  These have a lot of protein and are filled with a lot of great stuff other meats don’t have, and are low in fat.  They cook in a snap, have tons of flavor without having to prepare them extensively, and can help with that “trapped on a deserted island” fantasy you have been having since the premiere of “Lost”.

"You know what would go great with this fish? Confusion and time travel."

The downsides are two: fish isn’t that filling.  Fish is light and flakey, and will often leave the dieter wanting not just one more piece, but like, 437 more pieces.

"I'll have all of them, thank you."

It’s mostly the price, though.  You can’t always find the right kinds of frozen fish at the market, and to buy fresh means you’re going to pay a pretty penny.  And when you get home, you’re going to have to cook that fish right away because a fish’s shelf life is very very small.  You wouldn’t think that it would matter, but how long a food will last in the fridge is going to become a very big part of your culinary decisions while losing weight.

Eggs

Eggs are a miracle food: a tiny oval containing pure protein with a little yellow orb of the perfect sauce inside.  They are extremely cheap and are easy to cook and can be prepared in a variety of ways to help keep you from getting bored with your food.  From scrambled egg whites for breakfast, to hard-boiled eggs for lunch/snack, to a lovely green pepper and feta cheese omelet for dinner, eggs can be eaten for any meal of the day.  Two hard boiled eggs contain as much protein as a chicken breast, and are a lot more fun to eat.

The downside?  Shit, I have been eating eggs for years and I find myself hard-pressed to see a downside to eggs.  If forced to (at gun point) I would say that unless you only eat hard boiled eggs, it’s going to be hard to transport them.  There is just something about reheated scrambled eggs that isn’t quite the same.  I don’t put any credence in “eggs raise your cholesterol” argument because the authorities have been going back and forth on the matter for decades.  Just make sure that in the end you are eating more of the white than the yolks (which can be saved to make custard for ‘Reward Days’). Otherwise, they are great.

Nuts

Snack food is going to have its own post, but I will tell you that if you are on a diet, nuts are important to your hunger level.  Almonds and peanuts are jam packed with protein, are easy to portion out, have a looooooooooooooong shelf life, and taste superb.  Feeling peckish?  A handful of almonds will cure what ails ya.  About to slam your boss’s head through the window if you don’t get a donut soon?  Slam down a few peanuts, that’ll fix your murderous rage.  And this includes peanut and almond butter, things that are loaded with protein and will sate that “creamy” craving of yours.

The bad part?  Well, you saw me use the words “butter” and “cream”, so what do you think?  Nuts are loaded with fat.  So much, in fact, that nuts could almost be considered a fat.  A handful of almonds will help ease your cravings while providing nutrients, but anymore than a handful and you might as well be eating butter straight from the wax paper.

Or as I like to call it, "A Shamestick".

Protein Bars/Powder

Hey, we live in an age of technology, why shouldn’t it have a representative in the food world?  Protein bars/powders have chemistry on their side, providing you with a massive amount of not just protein but also as many minerals as a multivitamin.  It requires no cooking or preparation, is easy to transport in a purse or bag, and can be saved for later without the fear of spoiling.  I ate at least one protein bar and used protein powder every day during my major dieting seasons.

The drawback is in the pocketbook.  I was lucky enough to have an employer who bought a ton of healthy snacks for the office at the time, but no matter how hard I searched I couldn’t find affordable bars/powders in the quantities that I wanted.  Sure, you could get a big tub of MUSCLESUSBTANCEDRINK for $50, but when it comes to the chemical stuff you want to pay extra close attention to the ingredient list.  Most of the time, those bars and powders are nothing but sugar which is the opposite of what we’re looking for here.

——–

And that’s the protein I ate.  Sure, there’s beef, which if you get the right cut and consume with modesty can be an excellent source of protein, but I found it hard to battle my cravings when beef was around so I just cut it out.  Sorry, but pork and all of its incarnations will have to go.  I have tried tofu and other soy-based products and those only made me angry, so out they went.  It’s not that I don’t like it, but tofu isn’t really my thing and I have already said that replacing the food you love with imitation food just seems straight-up sad to me.  And I don’t do beans.  Ever.  Listen, we all have the one food we can’t do that everybody thinks we are crazing for hating.  With my father, it’s onions.  With a good friend of mine, it’s tomatoes and egg yolks.  Almost every person of color I know hates mayonnaise (something about reminding them of the White-Man).  With me, it’s beans.  I hear they are a great source of protein, you just won’t find me talking about them.

GET 'EM AWAY!!!

Diet: Food – Drinks

Before we move onto the nitty-gritty of your new nutritional regime, let us take a second to pause and ponder about what you should be drinking.  Then let’s take a second second so you can slap yourself silly thinking I was going to tell you to drink anything other than water.  Lots and lots of water.  Buttloads of water.  Or rather, bladder-fulls of water.

Look, I said these articles would be helpful. I never said they wouldn't be disgusting.

Now from what I have read online, at least 75% of America is dehydrated.  After a little more research online, I discovered that statistic is probably complete bullshit, although I will state that the required “eight glasses of water a day” has no scientific basis whatsoever either.  In fact, most scientists don’t really agree on what the minimum water intake should be.  Depending on the temperature of the environment, your size, the amount of exertion you exhibit through the course of the day, and the amount that you eat, the amount of water you should be drinking ranges from 1 liter to 3.7 liters.  That’s about 4 – 15 cups.  Let’s pause for a moment so you can contemplate how long it took me to calculate that.

I had to use my toes and everything . . .

It’s not very helpful when all the doctors really say is, “Eh, you should be drinking some water everyday.”  Thanks, Doc, I’m glad you had to work for five years in a shitty residence trying to pay off school loans to tell me such a vague answer. That being said, you should be drinking water, and a lot more than you’re going to be comfortable with drinking, at least for awhile.

Stupid Word, how the fuck is that last sentence a fragmented one?  Shit, you got high standards Microsoft.

Sorry, I got distracted.

In my diagram of last week . . .

Yeah, that one, I failed to mention water, which really should be on a diagram of things you need to live.  You can last a couple of weeks without food, but you can only last a couple of days (if that) without water.  While you do get water from food (and a lot more of it than you would think) you also lose about ten cups of water a day through sweat, urine, pooping (heeheehee, I said pooping), and simply fucking breathing, and this is water that must be replenished.

One reason I left water off the diagram is that I had a hard enough time separating a circle into four equal chunks, let alone five.  But I really left it off of my diagram for one very important reason: I don’t consider water food.  Water is, and should be, a completely separate factor.  Unlike the other groups, where if you have too much of one food group you can compensate by having less of the others, you can not do this with water.  You need water, a lot of it, every single day no matter whatever else you may consume.  And this is where I introduce a concept that I will come back to on a later post: Although your body is very good at taking care of itself, it is upright fucking retarded when it comes to notifying you of significant changes.  By the time you are feeling thirsty, you better drink a lot of water fast because you’re not just on your way to being dehydrated, you are already dehydrated.  Dehydration is not something to fuck with, so drink up.

DRINK IT, ALL OF IT, NOW NOW NOW NOW!!!

But when it comes to weight-loss, amping up your water intake is not enough and is probably going to make you heavier at first.  Heavier, and provide a need to piss like a race horse every eight minutes.

You have to go right now, don't you?

But it’s an incredibly important distinction to have water separate from even other liquids; to think of water as the one and only true liquid.  Let’s go down the line and look at other things you may drink when you’re thirsty.

Soda?  That’s just a big pile of liquid sugar, so throw it out.  Diet soda?  What are you, a hippie-communist?  Besides, part of dealing with major weight-loss is also cutting out the things the even remind us of what we are missing.  It’s sad and desperate to replace everything with “diet” versions of all the foods you love, so throw it out.  Juice?  Juice does have a lot of sugar, but it also comes loaded to the brim with nutrients and can help make low-fat, high-octane smoothies that I feel are essential to weight-loss.  But they can also give you too much fruit, as one tall glass of orange juice is the equivalent to twelve oranges.  You want to sit here in front of me right now and eat twelve goddamn oranges?  I didn’t think so.  You don’t have to toss it out, but be mindful.

Milk?  Milk is truly a wonder food as it provides nutrients, proteins, the right kinds of fat, and a slew of other healthy ingredients all in one sweet package.  But it does come with more fat than you would expect, so tread lightly.  Slim Fast?  Who let you in?  Toss out that heavy-ass can and the get the fuck outta here.  Alcohol?  Now you all know I love alcohol, but it has almost and many times even more sugar than those sodas you so begrudgingly threw out, so if you want to lose weight, you better toss out the liquor.

Don't actually throw it away, for Christsakes. Let's not go crazy. Just lock it in a box and put it in the back of your closet.

Coffee and tea?  Actually, neither of these comes with calories, and in the case of green tea, can actually help boost your metabolism and energy levels to compensate for the massive sugar drops you’re going to be experiencing the first couple of weeks.  But the moment you add sugar, the first drop of cream (or substitute thereof) you are ruining whatever health benefits you were hoping to gain.

But you know what doesn’t have sugar, fat or an amount of preservatives that makes me shiver just to think about?  Water.  It is completely different.  You don’t have to be wary.  You don’t even have to watch your intake, really, as it’s hard to drink too much water.  You just need to drink it.  Don’t think of water as food.  In fact, think of every other liquid other than water as food.  With the amount of calories and sugar that are in other liquids, they should be considered food anyway.  Think of water as the one true liquid, the purest fluid on earth, the only thing your body ever wants to drink and ever should.

DRINK IT!

Diet: Food – Food Groups

Okay, enough of these diet and nutritional generalizations.  You’re reading this blog because you have no idea where to begin or how to start losing weight, not because you want to hear me wax poetic about how strong you are for really deciding to change your life, or how you’re really worth the time and effort, and how you’re not alone and blah blah blah.  All of those things are true, but it’s time we start getting serious and serious means DETAILS.

No, not that kind of detailing.

From an early age we’re taught that food is just something we’re supposed to eat three times a day, but no one ever gets around to teaching you what food actually does for you.  Sure, those elementary and middle school teachers attempt to teach you the basics of nutrition, but in my opinion they are hitting way off of the mark with that one.  When you’re in middle school you’re just starting to learn about and enter into social circles, just beginning to form your own opinions about the world around you, so you couldn’t care less about what Mr. Run-N-Jump has to say about diet.  Besides, when you’re in middle school you could eat a bus and still be okay because your body is just that strong.

Yum.

Words like “calories”, “protein”, “carbohydrates”, “cholesterol”, don’t mean that much to you and so they don’t sink in.  What you’re left with is an image of food that you’re taught in the second grade and that will remain food-gospel to you well into your adult life.  An image of food, by the way, that is wrong.

You see that?  Everyone recognizes that.  The Infamous Food Groups.  Grains, Veggies, Fruits, Meat, Dairy and Fat, all with the number of servings you should be having each day.  It’s pretty, it’s traditional, it’s standard.  It’s also complete bullshit.  If you’re trying to lose weight and you follow this stupid triangle, you will end up either maintaining your current weight or even gaining weight.  Anything that tells you that you should be eating more bread than all the other groups combined is pure crap.  It’s also horrible at portion control.  How much is a serving of grains?  Does it count as two servings of fruit if I eat eight grapes instead of seven?  What the fuck does “alternative group” mean?

What The Fuck?

But this pyramid betrays you even further than that because it doesn’t give you any kind of sense of what these foods do for you.  There is no evidence of actual science in that pyramid, just a taught willingness to eat whatever people tell you to.  It teaches you that food is cute pictures of bread, carrots and chicken drumsticks.  So it’s time to deconstruct that pyramid; to take it down, brick by brick, and start realizing what food actually is: Unprocessed, raw ENERGY.  And we will begin by learning the real food groups.

For the purposes of weight loss, you can not categorize food by what section of the store you buy it in, but instead you need to categorize food by what it’s made of.  You need to start thinking of the different foods you need to consume to survive.  And what are those?

Protein, Carbohydrates, Fiber and Fat.  As long as you are eating these things, you will stay alive.  And unlike the shitty pyramid that we’re doing away with, what these foods do for your body can be easily explained through analogy using inanimate objects.  Because I started off this post with a couple of pictures of automobiles, I’ll use that.

Don't laugh. This is you.

So you’ve just bought your new car/body and are ready to take it out for a spin, but before you do, let’s take a look under the hood.  You see that engine?  That engine represents the inside of your body; all of the organs and tissue.  And why that blood of yours is nothing more than transmission fluid.  It is a well-honed machine, resilient, strong and pliable, and it’s very good at keeping itself healthy . . . as long as you treat it with care and don’t pour sugar in your gas tank.  It truly is a miracle in and of itself.  Pretty, isn’t it?

Uhhhh . . . . sure.

Let’s see what things you’ll need to put in it to make sure you get your money’s worth.

Protein
Protein is what the car of you is made of, and I mean everything.  Other than water and some other chemicals, you are pure protein.  Skin, organs, hair, teeth, bones, everything.  You are a walking piece of protein.  But unlike the metal of a car which more or less stays the same shape and size without a lot of degradation, your body is constantly shedding its protein away, protein that you have to replace.  Seeing as buying slabs of beef and taping it to your body doesn’t count (I know from experience), the only way you can replace what you lose is to eat more protein.  Chicken, eggs, fish, beef, nuts, seeds, beans; there are many sources of protein, and you must consume them.  It’s not just “You are what you eat,” but also, “You must eat what you are.”  But no cannibalism, please.

Carbohydrates
Forget all the negative things you have heard about carbs, because you need them, especially if you are going to be exercising more.  Carbs are the gas of your body, they are the fuel on which your body runs.  Put gas in your body, and you’ll be able to run a marathon.  But unlike an actual car where if you don’t put gas in it you’ll suddenly have a very heavy tent, if you don’t put fuel into your body it will begin to eat itself.  Yes, you will start to burn fat, but you will also start to burn away protein, the thing your BODY IS MADE OF!  Grains, cereals, roots, sugars; all cheaper than actual gas, so go ahead and fill your tank up.

Fat
Look, I never said fat was bad.  Fat is great.  In the car of you, fat is the oil that helps your engine run, that insulates the wires to the battery and all the electronics, and they are the air bags that protect the occupants in case of a crash.  In a more real, less analogical sense, it promotes healthy skin, processes and distributes vitamins, protects your organs and nerves and maintains your body temperature.  All from a little butter.  That’s what I call a gift from God.

Fiber
Fiber keeps your insides clean.  In the car of you, fiber isn’t so much a thing you put in your car but more the act of cleaning it.  It’s an oil change, changing your filters or flushing the transmission system.   It regulates insulin levels, helps prevent cardiovascular disease, balances intestinal pH levels and stimulates intestinal fermentation production of short-chain fatty acids.  I don’t really understand that last one, but fuck me if it doesn’t sound important.  This is the group of fruits and vegetables.  It keeps you regular (a phrase I have always found disturbing in this context) and makes sure that you don’t keep gunk in your system.  In other words, fiber is car maintenance.

There are other things that you need to be healthy (like vitamins or, I don’t know, water or whatever), but as far as things you have to chew, these four groups are what you should be focusing on.  In the weeks to follow, I’ll be going over each one in more detail, but for now just start looking at your meals through this lens.  Every time you sit down to eat, look at your plate and see the parts that help make and run The Car of You.

Diet: Food – The Key

In the summer before my senior year in high school, my mother and I tried a new diet plan that she had ordered off the television.  I scoffed silently to myself as previous diet plans ordered off of late night infomercials never did anything except waste time and money, two things I could have used to buy and eat some cookies.  I wouldn’t be thinner, but instead of a heightened sense of failure I would only have had my normal sense of failure, plus some cookies.  What we found was a reasonable system of exercise and food intake that sounded suspiciously like nutrition to me.  This angered me.  “Of course eating right and exercising would lead to weight-loss.  I want results now, not six months down the road!  Now, dammit!  NOW NOW NOW NOW NOWNOWNOWNOWNOW!”  After my mother slapped me so I would stop screaming, I calmed down enough to start thinking a tad more rationally and decided to give it a go.  Who knows? I said to myself, maybe I’ve been doing it wrong this entire time.

And I'm kinda dumb, so it's not impossible.

How wrong was I?  I lost ten pounds in the first two weeks, that’s how wrong I was.  Granted, almost all of that was water weight and not actual fat, but the drop on the scale was enough for me to start taking the plan seriously.  For six weeks I followed the plan to the letter, doing exactly what it told me to do.  By the end I had lost around 20 – 25 pounds and was hopeful that I could do the rest.  I wouldn’t end up losing that weight until five years later, but that hope that I could stuck with me.  Without what that plan taught me, I would never have seen that real weight-loss was something I could actually do, instead of some far off fantasy; I would probably still be fat today.

And what did it teach me?  That everything, absolutely everything, I thought about food was wrong.  It taught me that food was not just what I stuffed into my gob just because it was lunch or dinner time, or something tasty to put in my mouth to help pass the time.  It taught me that FOOD IS LIFE in a way the old adage, “You are what you eat,” never succeeded in getting across.

Which is an image that has always frightened me.

FOOD > EXERCISE

90% of my weight-loss I achieved through diet.  Exercise helped me start to tone and sculpt my body and made me stronger so I could push myself harder, all of which helped me lose weight faster and more efficiently.  I still would have lost the weight though, albeit at a much slower pace, and all through diet.  What you put into your body entirely dictates the overall shape of your body.   For weight-loss, food is the beginning, middle and end, and if you’re serious about the deed, you’ll be focusing almost all of your attention on what you are putting in your mouth.

I’m not saying exercise isn’t important to weight-loss or to good health in general, but if you’re trying to lose 20 – 50 pounds or more, it’s ALL about the food.  Many dieters think that as long as they’re exercising they should lose weight, when it’s the exact opposite. Your exercise plan can be as simple walking at a brisk pace on your lunch hour, or always taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, and as long as you are eating right you will lose weight.  But this is not a two-way street.  You can’t eat everything you want (pizza, crème brule, a two liter soda, a baked potato, and a brownie) and then just work out a lot to burn it off.   For a large person this plan is futile because you will have to work out for three hours just to burn off everything you just ate, by which time you’ll be too tired to start burning off the fat you see in the mirror.  Exercise = strength, and food = every-fucking-thing else.

And this attractive young scientist supports my position.

YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT HUNGER IS

One thing that astonished me about the diet plan that my mother and I were on was that I was eating all the time.  I was eating five to six times a day, and not tiny-ass portions either.  Every two or three hours I was sitting down and eating a 4 oz. chicken breast and rice, an apple, a salad or something else, and it was enough to fill me up.  Of course I was still craving all the food I was used to eating, but that’s not because I was hungry; it was because I was mental.

As seen here.

It’s not only about teaching your body what’s good for it, it’s also about teaching your mind.  When I was large I didn’t know what being hungry felt like.  I would eat because I was told I should three times a day, or because I was bored, or just because the food was in reach of me.  Over years of that kind of eating your brain gets rewired to think that whenever you see food you should be eating it, and it will trick you body into feeling hungry.  A huge part of changing your diet is not just managing your cravings but understanding why you are having the cravings in the first place.  If you’re eating five times a day and getting all the calories you need to live and you’re still craving an entire Stouffer’s lasagna, then you have to start asking yourself, “Why?”

DIETING DOES NOT MEAN “NOT EATING”

Do not starve yourself.  You will fuck up your metabolism, hurt your heart and other organs, and do damage to your body that might make it impossible for you to be healthy, let alone lose weight.  Weight-loss is about improving your life, giving you more life, making it richer and fuller.  It is not about killing yourself to look good.  If you have the choice to either eat one large ice cream sundae or nothing at all for the day, eat the fucking ice cream.  If you live in a first world country and are reading this on some wifi in a Starbucks, that means you are lucky enough to make a choice of what to eat.  Starvation is not nutrition, it’s an epidemic, and it is not not not the answer.  Ever.

Is there more?  Of course there’s more I have to say about food.  It’s the biggest thing about all of this so I have a lot to say on the subject, but I can’t put it all into one post and expect people to read.  Plus, it’s late, and I plan to string out these diet articles for as long as I can.  The next few articles will cover more of details and particulars like what you should be eating and why, ways to prepare and store your new food regime, and how chewing on a damp dish rag can help get you past the hard times.  So clear your head of everything you thought you knew, because we’re going to replace it with the right stuff.  And always remember that Food is Life.  Say it to yourself when you want to cover your salad with butter.  Drill it into your brain; because once you lose weight, and you can and you will, you’ll finally understand the key to weight-loss: