Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Quick and Healthy Diet

Peppy & Brompton Shopper
I don't usually pay attention to my weight unless I start to feel uncomfortable. Well, a week ago that day came. I've been super busy and not riding as much as I'd like over the past month, without changing my eating habits to accommodate. It was fine for a while, until one day I got on the bike and... well, let's just say I felt my tummy jiggle and fold in on itself as I pedaled. It was disconcerting. So I decided to go on a diet and get myself to a state of feeling comfortable again. The healthiest version of a crash diet I know is a low-carb, high fiber, high nutrition diet. It works extremely well, because in addition to making you eat healthier it also acts as an appetite suppressor. Here are the rules for anyone interested:

Things to cut out completely: 
alcohol, sweets, junk food, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, soda, most juices

Things to eat: 
vegetables, lentils, nuts, eggs, milk, fish and meat (or tofu and quorn), high-fiber oatmeal, apples, berries, cheese, butter, unsweetened carrot and cranberry juice

How much to eat: 
For a woman my size not engaged in strenuous exercise, around 1,200 calories a day will work. But this is ballpark; adjust for size/gender/exercise level. Go heavy on the vegetables, light on the fatty stuff, and medium on the protein.

How long will it take? 
I see results in 1-2 weeks when I follow this strictly.

Sample Day's Menu:
  breakfast:
     oatmeal with butter and blueberries
  lunch:
     steamed spinach with sesame seeds and sliced almonds
  dinner:
     grilled salmon and asparagus, lentil soup
  snacks:
     apple, nuts, broccoli florets, baby carrots, coffee and tea with milk

So... I have been doing this for 5 days now. It was difficult on the first two days, then it got much easier. The fiber, the reduced carbohydrates, and the elimination of alcohol are the key here. I already feel a difference and in another week my body should be back to normal. Then I will have a good look at my schedule and try to get more riding in, so that I can eat whatever I want again (kidding, I will try to generally eat healthy from now on is what I meant to say)...

48 comments:

  1. I've been following the Paleo/Primal diet for about 6 months now, and with weight lifting and bike riding, have lost about 20 lbs (cheating once or twice a week). Anyway, I find it interesting that the plan you're starting to follow (other than the oatmeal, beans, and soy products) is rather paleo! I'd recommend it heartily to anyone who's not happy with their current situation.

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    1. All of these diets, like ketogenic, low glycemic, Atkins, Paleo, etc., have some common threads, but labels are really irrelevant. It is really a matter of packing as much nutrition as possible into a fairly low-cal diet (which is much safer and healthier than simply cutting calories while continuing to eat whatever), eliminating non-essential carbs, and eating a bunch of fiber which is like nature's diet pill.

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    2. You are spot on with fiber being nature's diet pill. Another outcome of this diet is that sugar starts to taste disgusting once you are weaned off it. Cravings cured!

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  2. Umm, vegetables and fruits are mostly carbohydrates. Oats, of course, are also primarily carbs. It's a lot of great, unprocessed carbs, but carbs nonetheless.

    The carbs from things like sugar and highly-processed flour are "bad" because the body digests them quickly and stores them as fat if you don't engage in some physical activity soon after eating them. They're also bad for all-day energy because of the quick processing, sugar-high and all. For us that aren't running a marathon, it's practical to have the slow-burning whole foods, but as you see in the endurance athletes that carb-load, processed carbs aren't a death sentence if you intend on using them.

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    1. net carbs (carbs minus fiber)

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    2. To quote:

      "'These terms [net carbs] have been made up by food companies,' says Wahida Karmally, DrPH, RD, director of nutrition at the Irving Center for Clinical Research at Columbia University. 'It's a way for the manufacturers of these products to draw attention to them and make them look appealing by saying, 'Look, you can eat all these carbs, but you're really not impacting your health, so to speak.'

      Although the number of products touting 'net carbs' continues to grow, nutrition experts say the science behind these claims is fuzzy, and it's unclear whether counting net carbs will help or hurt weight loss efforts."

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    3. Oh gosh. Let's just say opinions on this differ and agree to disagree. It is not out of line to refer to the diet I described as low-carb, but think of it as "low glycemic index" if that makes you more comfortable.

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    4. Like I'd take a carpenter's word on what wood to use, I take a nutritionists word on what constitutes a carb and what to eat.

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    5. And just like if you were to ask a bicycle frame builder what material to use, you would get different answers depending on which specific professional you ask. No one is saying that vegetables don't contain carbs. But for the purposes of describing a low carb diet, I consider the concept of net carbs to be useful. If you disagree, fair enough.

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    6. @6-3-2 Yes, starches and fibers are both carbohydrates, however, starches are chains of sugar, and insoluble fiber is not digested. I have yet to meet a nutritionist who would disagree.

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    7. @6-3-2 I think perhaps being able to understand the context of the nutritionist's comment would serve you better. The nutritionist in question was commenting on deceptive advertising on packaged products not a whole food diet.

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  3. Is the kitty watching you while you eat?

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    1. This was actually a guest post by Peppy...

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  4. "I see results in 1 to 2 weeks"

    If you are on a 1200 calorie diet and continue moderate exercise (walking or slow bike rides for 1 hours a day), you should lose about 2 lbs a week, so I would say it is fair to expect "results" of 2 to 4 lbs of weight loss in that time.

    But I would caution others not to expect to be able to lose 2 lbs a week for a long period of time. Even if riding or doing other exercise daily and eating less, it is hard for most people to sustain a calorie deficit of 7000 calories a week (which is necessary to lose 2 lbs a week). But many people can lose 1 lb a week, or every 2 weeks, with much small lifestyle changes, and this can lead to more sustainable changes for some.

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    1. For me weight loss tends to be a little uneven, like first there is a lag and then boom I can suddenly zip up my old jeans. But overall your figures are correct. For me "not cycling much" is still more than what you describe though, so the loss might be a bit more rapid.

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  5. Wtf we are arguing about your waistline now. Thanks for the graphic description of your jubilee bits BTW.

    You write one thing yet I spy something quite different: canned soup, aspergrass, mayo and milk from lactating almonds.

    Helmut police, dietary police on my back. What have I done? What have I done?

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    1. I object. That is oatmeal, not canned soup.

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    2. Canned oatmeal?

      What has Jim done, indeed?

      Wait. Is the can lugged?

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    3. Cylindrical cardboard container, the latest in packaging technology. And yes of course it's lugged.

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  6. peppy the nonplussed catDecember 13, 2012 at 2:34 AM

    please don't make me eat that

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  7. This is much like the diet Grant P advocates in Just Ride. I try to do something similar, but find what really helps is laying off the starchy carbs (bread, spuds, rice, etc) in an evening. I wake up feeling hungry and not sluggish, if I do this.

    Oatmeal and butter though, that sounds peculiar! I have oats with rice milk (dairy product intolerance before any comments about lactating rice! I love cheese but it does horrible things to me) and blueberries for brekkie.

    Hats off to you for doing this in the run up to the festive season as well - that must take some willpower.

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    1. Speaking of GP, he posted a reply to the Just Ride review earlier today and is giving away books to the first few who ask for them.

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  8. Two years ago I shed 35 pounds over 7 months, which is less than 2 pounds a week. I had been eating healthy food anyway, just too much of it and taught myself that the peckishness you might feel rising from a small meal soon leaves you and can be helped on its way with a pint of water. Then no sugar. Sugar is the devil.
    Last year, on a trip to the US, I was astonished by how bad the food was and how much fatter most people I met were than the average at home in Ireland. Just like I didn't see small cars, I didn't see many small people.
    Weight loss proceeds in stepped stages and stops for a while, even though you are eating less. I was able to break through these plateau phases with vigorous exercise before breakfast, even just for 5 minutes, so long as my heart was pounding and I was breathless at the end of it. This may be bad health advice for some, but it worked.
    I have kept the weight off without counting calories or fretting. I enjoy my food but never eat sweet things and I cycle a little every day and life is an awful lot better than when I had a parcel in my lap and couldn't ride a bike in comfort because my knee pressed into my gut. It's all in the book - On My Own Two Wheels.

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    1. "Last year, on a trip to the US, I was astonished by how bad the food was and how much fatter most people I met were than the average at home in Ireland. Just like I didn't see small cars, I didn't see many small people."

      Did you consider the possibility that a lot of Americans want to be fat?

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  9. Totally agree, Velouria.

    Dumping grains and sugar (including those in alcohol)are key if I want to lose weight. I've learned to quit fretting about the numbers like calories and net carbs. If I eat more veggies plus protein and drop grains, legumes and sugar, I look and feel better.

    Thanks for the straightforward reminder.

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    1. Legumes are protien (lentils as V mentions above are legumes) and by themselves very low in calories.

      The devil is in the details. If prepared with pig fat, etc. calories pile up. A solution is to find a better way to prepare legumes rather than cutting them out.

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  10. I've lost 65 pounds since May 20th using the tried and true "eat right and exercise".

    ** No junk (ie: sweets, soda, fried stuff, alcohol, etc.).
    ** At meal time, I load up just using my eye -- half my plate is vegetables, one quarter is lean protein (mostly fish), the other quarter is a good clean carb (whole grains, potatoes, etc.)
    ** Healthy snacks mid-morning and mid-afternoon (fruit, nuts, etc.)

    I eat a ton of food, I eat every three hours or so, I don't measure anything, I don't count calories/fat/carb/protein. And if I'm out with friends, I'll indulge in whatever I want. But it has to be "event dining". :-)

    And no, I'm not in the gym two hours a day. I walk my dog 40 minutes a day and do a 2-hour hike hour twice a week. But even that I'm not strict about. If I'm really dragging, I'll take the day completely off.

    I think it really is about cutting out the junk.

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  11. I find if I pay attention to how I feel in terms of blood sugar levels I can avoid putting on fat. It is a certain feeling that comes from increased insulin levels that result in calories being converted to adipose tissue (I think I am getting that right). In any case, I have found that eating by feel, not in stomach terms so much as in blood sugar terms, is a pretty effective approach to healthy eating. The writer Martin Amis penned a nice phrase to describe it: "fizzing with calorific excess".

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    1. Yes, this sounds reasonable. Like Velouria mentioned, protein is a natural appetite suppressant, whilst carbs and sugars actually tend to increase appetite (they burn quickly).

      In any event, as I have generally had hypoglycemic type issues from childhood (but fortunately not diabetes), I try to avoid foods that lead to that awful, sluggish post-meal feeling and the "can't keep my eyes open" sugar crashes that come from indulging in high-sugar/high-carb meals. This has generally meant cutting out most, if not all wheat products, focusing instead on occasional grains like quinoa and oats that have a lower impact on blood sugar.

      Additionally, I've played around with some veggies like bitter gourd and seeds like fenugreek which are supposed to have a moderating effect on blood sugar levels.

      That said, I haven't yet heard of someone who has tried a low-GI type modification of limiting carb/sugar intake and upping protein consumption without some positive result to report, either in terms of weight or overall feeling of alertness and energy. :)

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  12. Cycling (I can haz your cheezeburger) PeppyDecember 13, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    Just wanted to point out that cat is not part of healthy quick diet.

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  13. I'm on a high fat, high sugar diet and I've never been healthier. If you eat one hundred grams of chocolate everyday you will lose weight. No-one believes me, but it is a fact. Sugar is very bad when the proportion of fructose is higher than glucose. Sucrose breaks down to fifty fifty so it isn't anywhere near as bad as high fructose corn syrup. Too much fructose is the deadly stuff. Some people can't eat too much fruit because it's worse than sweets.

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  14. Velouria, do you have a strong walking program and/or good walking time in your everyday? I remember your post on how important that is in the scheme of things.
    Jim Duncan

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    1. Yes. Having seen what a regimen of cycling-only did to my other muscles, I now make sure to walk regularly. For short distances, I'll walk for transportation instead of riding. And if there is no opportunity for that, I'll just take a 30 min walk.

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  15. It's like attempting to discuss bicycle tires.

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  16. I always start onto the puritanical 'time to cut out cookies and desserts' diet just before the Holidays. Must be some kind of deeper meaning there somewhere, but I can't find it.

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  17. Eat real food,
    Mostly fruits and vegetables,
    Not too much.

    Easy to remember, somewhat hader to follow, but generally effective.

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  18. Dieting isn't really a good idea, but I can understand and cutting back short term to readjust is probably sensible. I haven't been biking as much as usual and a ear problem has meant no more swimming for some time which was supposed to be my big fitness plan to offset not working at my heavy labour job anymore. I am still active in other ways but, it's also a bad time of year for fattening treats, and I love eggnogg! Come January it will all be gone. I mostly eat healthy and all, but It is coming up to winter, shortest day of the year, closing in of darkness and all that. I think we are meant to fatten up a bit and all the fattening treats come out on schedule. I do not partake in most of that, but probably eat more chocolate and chippy things. Colder weather means we need more calories to keep warm and cutting back on calories might mess up metabolism which is likely on must heat body up mode.
    I'd rather have snow than rain, and the pacific northwest has been particularly awful this season. I need new rain gear, and get very wet when riding in the rain, plus I'm not working so don't have to force myself to commute in all weather.

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  19. Another issue, I have read that some paleo type diets call for low fibre diets. Insoluble fibre is a problem, especially for those with IBS and the like.
    The western diet is a problem because of all the chemicals in food that cause the body to gain weight and keep the weight on. Even if you switch to healthy eating, organic etc the damage is somewhat done. I don't think un refined 'cane' sugar and the like is bad within reason, but fructose and the like derived from corn are very very bad, and in all packaged food, pop, candies etc..
    I try to stick to organic good quality chocolate, and occasionally succumb to bad stuff. Ironically, now that I am not working at an organic food business I have actually cut back on the 'organic food' junk that is very salty, greasy, fattening etc..

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  20. I often think that a "diet" actually isn't always a bad thing. I like to call it "modified eating", providing the diet is a healthy one and not a loony one like Atkins and the like. As someone who is marathon training and also an IBS sufferer and been very conscious of the foods I have been eating for a long time now, I would say you are spot on with your choices. I am someone who can drop pounds quickly not necessarily through all this running (although it is great at keeping pounds off) ... but honestly, it is all about diet. Dietary choices. I like to eat smaller portions, 6 smaller meals rather than 3 larger ones. I find the weight drops very quickly in that way. I also do more proteins in the morning and mid day to keep too much grazing at bay and also to balance my carb-protein ratios so I don't crash mid-afternoon. In my case, I do my carbing in the evenings, which I normally wouldn't advise to most folk unless you are doing extreme fitness/endurance. For me, it is the best time. Good luck and I say you are doing well with this plan! :)

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  21. one may call it fasting, or something else, ritual and purposeful in action and thought. and in most cases I suspect a positive if not surprising delightful outcome to be experienced from said occasional ritual consumption of food. a lasting and healthy, spiritual and physical existence in connection with food may need a change of purpose and understanding altogether. experience and observation of myself and others tells me that the size and content of the trash bin are a strong indication of health and habit. to any good friend I would recommend as a first step to reduce the trash container to the smallest size, a common small plastic shopping bag. may be eliminate it eventually altogether. food in it's natural state is perfectly protected from spoiling for an impressive amount of time and as such telling us also when it is of good benefit. the requirement of additional packaging is a strong indication of processing and that the original nourishment and spiritual value of the plant or animal has been altered by man. the emphasis on man is not accidental just as the all too present and lasting state of the human world is not either. the more natural and unaltered food one eats, the more one has to cook and prepare the food. thus engaging closely with what sustains us it is within this close dialogue where body and food, lovely and silently, select each other according to desires and needs, in a balanced, healthy, and most importantly voluntary way. less influenced now, and counter from what the commercial world may tell us, the food serves us as we equally serve it. in the same token we reduce - the need for other humans to do what we can do well ourself, the negative impact of manufactured products on our world, the cost of our living to everything else living, and all the sadness which comes with it. conversely and in the same token, by reducing the size of one's trash bin, one may be increasing - the need to do for other humans what may lie outside of their capability, the positive impact of manufactured, crafted, and farmed products, the benefit of one's life on everything else living, and all the joy that comes with it.

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  22. I thought about not posting on here because, well, to each her own. But, when one has a public blog, they have public influence.

    As a cyclist who is recovering from an eating disorder, it just broke my heart to see this post that is so focused on weight, rather than strength or health. It's not true that 1200 calories is reasonable for a young woman, regardless of exercise. Yes, it is a "crash diet." Crash diets are not healthy, and perpetuating the myth that 1200 calories is accurate is dangerous. Recent research shows that even women with full-blown anorexia nervosa eat, on average, about 1000 calories a day. I got so sick on 1200 calories a day that, after a while, my body started shutting down. I was diagnosably anorexic - no period, hair loss, seizures, etc. And I was far too weak to exercise, much less ride regularly.

    Food is fuel for our bodies so that our bodies can be strong and happy on our bikes and repair quickly and fully on our days off.

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    1. Say - I am sorry to read about your experience. From my point of view, nothing I've described here is unreasonable. But I understand that not everyone will feel that way.

      As a contrast, you might enjoy this post.

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    2. Please know that I am not simply basing this on what I "feel." I am basing this on years of working very, very closely with numerous dietitians, none of whom condone a diet of 1200 calories for a young, even non-active, woman.

      Aside from the numbers, however, I'm disappointed to a strong, female cyclist focusing (there are so few public female cyclist role models) so much on weight rather than health or strength. Or cycling.

      I will check out the other post that you recommend.

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    3. Say - As with everything, expert opinions differ. The medical doctors and nutritionists I know approve of the 1200 cal figure for a woman my size. And as another reader stated earlier, that calorie intake would amount to a loss of 2lb a week. That makes it a diet, but not an extreme one.

      As a "strong female cyclist" it is important to me to express myself as I see acceptable, and not as others wish I expressed myself. I understand that you have a different perspective and I am fine with you voicing it here.

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  23. As a diabetic, I follow a similar dietary regimen to what you've described here - essentially low carb/elevated protein/high fiber. Typically, this dietary approach results in lowered fat intake and lower calories. For me, about a 1:1 or even a 1:2 carb to protein ration keeps my blood glucose numbers where I want them to be, along with spirited exercise. Around this time of year I'll notice a change in body chemistry, no doubt associated with a drop off in daily cycling to that of less frequency, and I have to force myself to be more strict with the carb/protein counts. I'm not a doctor or dietician, but I've become an informed consumer, regulating what I eat and when (several small meals), when I exercise and how. Although one factor is that I maintain (more or less) a more ideal body weight, it's not about self image - it's about staying fit and healthy in a very reasonable way. It cannot be stressed enough: NO dietary/exercise approach is a one-fits-all-all kind of deal, so each person should make their plan to fit their own lifestyle and body type. I make this last caveat as an acknowledgement of the comment above about eating disorders - we cannot make the mistake of confusing healthy lifestyle choices with decisions that might lead to a disorder. Caloric intake is a variable for each of us.

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