Many people believe that to lose weight they have to go on a low-calorie diet. That often means starving oneself until the diet is no longer tolerable. Then the weight goes right back on—and then some. Happily, there is a much better way. It is easy and offers many other health benefits, too.
No More Diets
The first thing to realize is that changing eating habits must be more than a short-term means to an end. Changing eating habits is the cornerstone of permanent weight control. There is no way to “lose 20 pounds in two short weeks” and make it last. Very-low-calorie diets cause two major problems: they lower one’s metabolic rate, making it harder to slim down, and they lead to bingeing.
Fat Versus Complex Carbohydrates
The old myth was that pasta, bread, potatoes, and rice are fattening. Not true. In fact, carbohydrate-rich foods are perfect for permanent weight control. Carbohydrates contain less than half the calories of fat, which means that replacing fatty foods with complex carbohydrates automatically cuts calories. But calories are only part of the story. A recent study in China found that, on the average, Chinese people eat 20% more calories than Americans, but they are also slimmer. Part of this is due to the sedentary American lifestyle, but there is more to it than exercise alone. Earlier studies have shown that obese people do not consume more calories than non-obese people—in many cases, they consume less.
The body treats carbohydrates differently than fat calories. The difference comes with how the body stores the energy of different food types. It is very inefficient for the body to store the energy of carbohydrates as body fat—it burns 23% of the calories of the carbohydrate—but fat is converted easily into body fat. Only 3% of the calories in fat are burned in the process of conversion and storage. It is the type of food, not so much the quantity, that affects body fat the most.
Although protein and carbohydrates have almost the same number of calories per gram, foods that are high in protein—particularly animal products—are usually high in fat, too. Even “lean” cuts of meat have much more fat than a healthy body needs. And animal products always lack fiber. Fiber helps make foods more satisfying without adding many calories, and it is only found in foods from plants.
Still worried about protein? These foods are packed with protein: quinoa (8 grams per cup), chia (4 grams per 2 tablespoons), spinach (5 grams per one cup), seitan (36 grams per half cup), hummus (7 grams per 2 tablespoons), nuts (5 to 7 grams per ¼ cup serving), tofu (10 grams per ½ cup serving), edamame (17 grams per cup), chickpeas (6 grams per half cup serving), lentils: (18 grams per one cup serving).
Exercise is essential. Aerobic exercise speeds up the breakdown of fat in one’s body and makes sure that muscle is not lost. Toning exercises and weight-lifting help firm muscles and increase muscle mass. A combination of exercises will help one achieve a slimmer, firmer, healthier body in a shorter period of time. The trick is to find activities that one enjoys and that can fit one’s lifestyle. Walking is popular because it requires no special equipment and can be done anywhere at anytime.
The best weight control program is a high-complex-carbohydrate, low-fat, vegan diet complemented by regular exercise. This is the best choice for a healthier, longer, happier life.