Sunday, 22 November 2015

How to Lose 20 lbs Without Counting Calories - My experience on a paleo diet

I'm not talking about going on an all liquid diet (although that would work too!). You can still eat
Before my paleo diet (dukan diet)
Before Paleo in 2008, I'm in red!
regular food and lose a ton of weight. You may have to drastically change what your version of "regular" is though. Shifting your concepts of normal food could be a really tough decision for you to make. Your partner and others around you might be scoffing at this idea and telling you it won't work. But you know what, it can work. I lost 20 lbs with regular exercise and by drastically changing what was normal food for me... without calorie counting!

The Secret to Stop Calorie Counting 

The easiest way to shift to weight-gaining foods to weight-losing foods is to eat a paleo-diet. I'm not
Before paleo and accutane in 2008.
I had perioral acne which was painful but luckily
scarring isn't as obvious as on the cheeks.
going to tell you that eating what cave-men ate is the healthiest thing you can do for your body. Cave men lived significantly shorter lives than we do today. Humans have been altering what we eat for a long time.  What I can tell you though is eating a paleo diet will effectively cut out all processed food from your diet. It will force you to avoid weight-gaining ingredients hidden in restaurant food. For this to work though you're going to need to go all in - treat non-paleo food as an allergy and don't stray. You can still eat at restaurants and eat fast food - but your choices will be limited.

What is Paleo

There are a lot of arguments on what a paleo diet really is. The simplest form is to cut out grains and
After paleo in winter 2008.
dairy. That includes rice, wheat, cheese, yogurt, milk etc. Yes even rice is a grain! The next level of paleo is to cut out legumes - this means beans, lentils, peanuts and peas. If you want to go even more extreme try cutting out "nightshade vegetables". Nightshades include tomatoes, white potatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, and hot peppers. If you have a sensitive stomach that's been labelled as "IBS" (ie. the doctors can't figure out what's wrong with you) or skin issues (food sensitivity can manifest itself in eczema) it would be totally worth your while to go paleo for 3 months because the paleo diet targets common food sensitivities! You might not completely feel the effects in the first month so it's important to commit to it for a full 3 months with absolutely no cheating. Many doctors will recommend cutting out milk or gluten but common elimination diets will skip legumes and nightshade vegetables which could be a food sensitivity. These foods contain a lot of lectin which many people have an undiagnosed sensitivity to. If you do not have a sensitive stomach or weird skin then for weight loss you might want to try the simplest form of paleo - cutting out grains and dairy. This will effectively cut out most fast food and processed food which is our aim here.

Why Processed Foods are Just as Bad as Fast Food

What I'm talking about when I say processed foods doesn't mean going to McDonalds. It can mean going to the grocery store and grabbing hamburger helper - or even Indian Spice Mix. Any food in
After paleo and during accutane in summer 2009.
My eyes were red from the drying effects of accutane!
I look like a vampire!
the grocery store that's prepared and convenient is probably a processed food. The really tasty pasta sauce you love? It's processed. What's the big issue with processed foods? These companies add in all sorts of filler ingredients like whey, maltodexterin and soy lecithin to improve the consistency of the food. This can cause stomach issues for a lot of people. The companies then add a ton of salt, sugar and fat to make the food taste amazing. Our taste buds then become accustomed to these intense flavours and when we eat whole foods it tastes boring. It doesn't have to be that way though. Look carefully at the ingredient lists of prepared foods and learn to read nutrition labels. Or - better yet - stick to whole foods. By that I mean sticking to the edge of the grocery store and picking fresh ingredients and learning how to make sauces from scratch. If you prepare the ingredients in bulk it's not a lot of extra work and will be a lot cheaper too. I prepare bulk sauces and then freeze them. For marinade and salad dressing I simply combine olive oil and balsamic vinegar with oregano which only takes a minute. Yes even vinaigrette salad dressings I avoid since it's a processed food. It's cheap and easy to make my own so why not! All it takes is a bit of habit forming. I wasn't always so savvy in the kitchen though - I watched youtube videos and googled recipes to learn. In this day n age anyone can learn simple cooking - you can do it too! Just watch the Secrets of Sugar to scare you away from the sweets.

My Elimination Diet

Years ago I went to a naturopath to treat my acne. She told me to eat more fish and that I was "sensitive" to wheat, eggs, white potatoes, dairy and nightshade vegetables. My whole diet was based on wheat, eggs, white potatoes and dairy so I didn't really know what to do. This was the first time I had tried what was effectively and "elimination diet". I started googling what to eat. I was making baked yam for breakfast, chicken and rice for lunch and salmon with spinach for dinner. I also realized there's basically nothing in the fast food land that I could eat so I put a lot of effort into bringing food to work and planning what I was going to eat ahead of time. I learned new recipes and how to cook simple things like just straight-up sweet potato. I tried new things like almond milk and stevia (no white sugar on this diet either!). I was not going to cheat on my new diet because damn, I wanted to see if this would work. She said even the tiniest cheat would throw off the diet. She also said it could take two months for it to work so I dug in my heels for the long haul. I would not cheat on this diet if you paid me. But you know what, I wasn't counting calories and I wasn't portioning my food at all. At the end of the two months I had lost 20 lbs. Over time, since I wasn't cheating, my taste buds got used to it too. My acne wasn't cured (blerg) at the end of two months but I was turned on to some new foods and armed with a ton of recipes.

Keeping the weight off 

I went off the diet and I didn't have any adverse effects. And you know what, I didn't gain back the weight! I had changed up my eating habits enough that, even though I allowed myself to eat wheat again I wasn't over doing it or eating fast food as much as I had before. All the work I had done to learn how to cook from scratch and experiment with new foods stuck with me. My taste buds also adjusted to less sugar - now when I drink a double double coffee (that's double cream / double sugar for you non-Canadians in the crowd) I wince because it tastes way too sweet. Your coffee may taste too bitter now but your taste buds will adjust - be patient! I had also changed my lifestyle by adding cycling to my commute and stuck with that. I was still overweight but on the path to a healthy lifestyle. At this point I really wanted to be healthier and started cooking for myself regularly. Once I gained some fitness confidence I started P90X and lost an additional 30 lbs in 90 days. It was my most drastic and life changing health motivation.

Read more about my health journey and my P90X transformation in My Weight Loss Transformation.