We joke sometimes that we’ll launch a “Kitchen Stewardship® Diet Plan” with weird taglines like “Eat nuts, all the time!” or “Eggs, eggs, and more eggs!” or “Make everything yourself so you’re too tired to eat!”
But truly, real food weight loss shouldn’t be a diet plan.
It should be a lifestyle, a change (series of many small changes, actually) that an individual or family can make over time, integrating them into regular daily living.
I always want to say that when you eat real foods, whole and in their natural form, there aren’t taboo foods like when you go on a “low fat” or “low carb” sort of diet. However. In the world in which we live, that doesn’t really work out, because there are so many things sold as “food” that just aren’t food.
Unlike other diets, you won’t have to avoid eggs, salad dressing, or cheese or buy low-fat everything. You probably will have to make homemade dressings, so there’s certainly a trade-off.
If you’re currently eating a Standard American Diet of processed foods, white flour bread (or even whole grain bread at every meal), and sugary goodies, just switching to eating whole foods – things that grow in the ground or animals that eat things that grow in the ground – in their whole form – will do loads of good for your health.
Which brings me to the first key to weight loss with real food:
Weight Loss With Real Food
1. Eat Real Food
This alone, especially when it’s a change in dietary habits (notice I didn’t say “diet,” because it’s not), often causes extra pounds to peel away.
Real food doesn’t have MSGs to make you want more food all the time or addictive and harmful artificial sweeteners or artificial colors. It takes longer to prepare, so hopefully you aren’t mindlessly eating. And your body can recognize and knows what to do with all the parts, unlike trans fats, which ravage your arteries like a bull in a china shop.
Many people find that skipping the “diets” and simply changing their diets results in weight loss automatically.
Here’s Marianne’s story:
I have lost 73 lbs in the last year and real food has played a huge part, especially in the last two months after hitting a 2 month plateau. I am slowly but surely converting my family to more and more clean/real foods and spending a lot of time on menu planning and food budgets to try to control spending.
As far as real food goes, I have cut out almost all processed foods and switched to whole grains such as Ezekiel bread. Starches include sweet potatoes occasionally, and quinoa. As far as fats go, I use organic coconut oil, all natural nut butters, olive oil. I do count calories but I eat a lot more food now than I used to because I have learned that all calories are not created equal. I keep my total sugars for the day under 36 grams including fruit.
I make some of our yogurt and make all of our granola and homemade granola bars, starting with your recipe and making a few changes to suit our needs. I buy eggs from the farm whenever I can and feel like I have hit a gold mine every time they have some for me. I have always cooked meals and really we probably ate better than 80% of other families out there even before. Now, though, I meal plan and work hard to get as much organic produce as possible. I am learning to bring my own food when I am not sure what will be available outside of the house or at events.
We limit school lunches to once per week are noticing that the kids don’t even ask for that some weeks. Here is a copy of my Facebook status yesterday afternoon if you need a good laugh. Z is my 10 year old son:
Z says, “Mom, this girl at school today, guess what she had for a snack?” Me, “what?” He says, “you won’t believe this. She had a chocolate milkshake, 2 chocolate pop tarts and a co-co puff cereal bar. I showed her that the milkshake alone had 51 grams of sugar. Isn’t it true that she shouldn’t have more than 30 grams in a whole day?” Me, (trying not to crack up), “Yes, that is true…” Z says, “I told her so and then my other friend added up the calories and it was over 1000, Mom.” So, I feel very badly for this little girl’s body however, very proud that not everything that I say to my kids is ignored!
With what I have learned I was able to take my boys’ school to get them to change how they were doing pre-state testing snacks. They wanted the kids to have a juice box and cereal bar. I was able to get that switched to water, oranges and cheese sticks. I don’t know if it will last but it feels good to know that I tried. One parent even acknowledged that it was a wake up call to her to remind her of how poorly her family had been handling nutrition.
Isn’t that awesome? I’m particularly inspired by the changes Marianne has been able to make outside her home, even as she is making so many, many changes for her own family.
The importance of meal planning mustn’t go unmentioned with real food, since from-scratch cooking is kind of prerequisite to not using processed foods. If you don’t plan, it’s very difficult not to get tempted to fall back on an unhealthy convenience food when it’s suddenly 4 or 5:00 and you don’t have anything started. If you are planning, you likely have something thawed or soaked or partly prepared even by lunchtime, so you practically can’t give in and go out to eat on a whim, because you’d sacrifice work already done and have to re-adjust things too much.
For those of you who need a little help meal planning, especially if many of your recipes (or new whole foods recipes you’re finding, like the ones here at KS), you may find that a system like Plan to Eat can be a lifesaver. The software is very simple to use, and you can import recipes from websites without even opening a new tab in your browser using the bookmarklet tool (it’s really fast, promise!).
Drag and drop your recipes into the week’s meal plan, and you’ll get a shopping list to print to make sure nothing gets in the way of you succeeding at making meals from scratch. (It can’t actually keep children out of the kitchen or the phone from ringing though, sorry…)
I started with organic, traditional foods four well almost five years ago at 235 pounds with many health problems. I dove into traditional whole foods. Now 4 plus years later I am 135 pounds, running every day and teach traditional whole foods on a budget classes and love it. Whole traditional foods changed my life.
I switched to whole foods almost 3 years ago, and have lost about 30 lbs. From a size 14 down to a size 4/6. I don’t own a scale, so I can’t give my exact weight loss, I just go by whether my clothes fit me or not!!
3 years ago, I realized I had a problem when none of my clothes fit me anymore. I had stopped breast feeding my youngest about 6 months prior to that, and I was hungry ALL of the time (something that started when pregnant with my last baby).. I was probably eating something every 30 minutes, and would still feel hungry after a full meal – even the big holiday meals. Realizing I needed to change something, I checked out the book “Master Your Metabolism” by Jillian Michaels. I found out why I had the constant hunger, and I followed her advice – cutting out processed foods, eating 4 times per day, eating a lot of veggies and fruit – eating certain veggies together – oh and getting 7.5 hours of sleep at night! For the first 3 months I did not incorporate any new exercise routines. I wanted to see how much this diet / lifestyle change affected my weight (I was skeptical). After the first month, the weight just started to melt away. I was able to fit into my goal shorts after 2.5 months. The following summer, those shorts were too big for me. (By that time I had started playing volleyball again and exercising more.)
I feel like I’ve been on a food journey. We’ve made changes gradually, and now eat mostly organic, full fat dairy, and grass fed meats/eggs as much as possible. I feel better than I can remember. I have just started really cutting back on sugar as well. There is some irony to my story as I have a BS in Food Science, hence where some of my original skepticism came from.
Real food alone is a powerful force for overall health and well-being, but it doesn’t quite do the trick for everyone who wants to actually lose a few pounds.
RELATED: Tone your tummy.
2. Eat Proper Fats
Technically, eating real fats is part of eating real food, but because our culture gets so down on all fats, especially saturated ones, it’s important to point out that real food includes real fat, and plenty of it.
Milk comes out whole from the cow.
There’s no such thing as “low-fat butter” without a chemistry lab.
Fat is necessary for good digestion, energy, healthy fertility, and a host of other bodily functions.
Eating the right fats is the key here. Check out the Fat Full Fall series for everything you want to know about healthy and unhealthy fats, or skim the baseline fats chart for a quick primer on how to use healthy fats in your kitchen.
My husband decided to count calories for Lent one year, and by keeping track of all his food intake with the Livestrong app on his phone, he was able to see not only calories, but the percentages of fat, protein, and carbs he ate on average for each week.
Over 7 weeks, his average fat intake varied between 35-46% of his diet. (It was probably more, because when I made green beans and asparagus in pastured bacon grease, he unknowingly inputted “green beans” alone. When he heard about the bacon grease later on, he said, with a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face: “Ohhhh, that’s probably why they tasted so good.”) I believe the government’s food pyramid/plate/whatever guide says to eat no more than 30% of total calories from fat. Boo yah!
His protein never went above 20%, and carbs were never over 50% but of course, varied from about 35-45% as well. And for the first half of Lent, we were totally grain-free, so any carbs were from either fruit, corn or potatoes.
Common fitness guru recommendations always include bulking up on the protein to help your muscles bulk up and shed the pounds.
My husband lost 10 pounds in 7 weeks – he looks awesome! – and he clearly was on neither a low-fat nor a low-carb diet. He likes to point out that when he would have 3 eggs for breakfast, his app would tell him he was already over double the recommended cholesterol intake for a day. But wait until you hear about his lipids numbers at the end of the seven weeks!
Not worrying about less fat, but only the right fat, are a goal of this reader on Facebook, too:
Awesome. We are trying do to this. My sister in law looked at me like I was crazy and said, “You’re trying to lose weight and are buying full fat cottage cheese and milk?” Yes, yes I am.
3. Cut Sugar Down and Out
I don’t think anyone tries to claim that sugar is good for you.
If it’s not good for you, get rid of it.
Particularly if you want to lose weight, the addictive quality of sugar can really be a hindrance to your goals.
Mandi at Life…Your Way (link no longer available) is launching a “no sugar” challenge in the next few weeks here, and there are some great resources at Naturally Knocked Up for cutting down on sugar, as well. In our house, we use honey and maple syrup instead of white sugar, and we try to keep those at a minimum, especially if trying to shed pounds.
Making homemade treats can make a huge difference here for two reasons:
- You’re in charge of the sweetener and can use less and still have a “treat”
- Homemade treats take time to make, so you won’t be able to have as many on hand as if you purchased cookies on sale at the grocery store
My desserts eBook, Smart Sweets, has lots of ideas for incorporating healthiER (not healthy, but better than most) sweets into your repertoire, and Healthy Snacks to Go has lots of awesome ideas for snacks without any sweeteners at all.
If taking real food on the go is a challenge for you, you’re not alone.
Join thousands of other happy owners of Healthy Snacks to Go, an eBook that is helping real foodies everywhere keep their families nourished (and kids happy) even when they need to pack a snack — without resorting to processed junk food or expensive health food store treats.
With over a dozen different “bar” recipes alone, including many that are grain-free and contain zero refined sugar, I guarantee you’ll find a new family favorite in Healthy Snacks to Go.
Cutting sugar is not easy…but it’s well worth it, and many people discover a bonus of feeling better and even being able to concentrate or sleep better without sugar.
Here’s Stephanie’s shout out:
I went sugar-free one month and lost 10lbs without thinking about it (except all the label reading; that took some thought)
4. Eat Fewer Grains or No Grains
If you’ve been grumbling your way through the post so far, thinking to yourself, “I eat healthy – whole foods, very little sweeteners, no refined sugar – and I’m still hanging onto 5-10 pounds extra. This is not going to work for me,” now is the time to make a grains change.
Many, many people find they can only lose especially those last few pounds if they eat fewer grains. Going grain-free and sugar-free for Lent finally knocked my last five pounds of baby weight off for me, and believe me, I was NOT counting calories. I eat massive quantities of food, often late at night, and I add fat to everything.
Cutting grains makes a huge difference in digestion and weight loss. I highly recommend trying it for at least 6 weeks to see what happens.
- Start small – one meal per day to raise awareness
- Simple elimination diet menu ideas and FAQs
- Grain-free banana Paleo pancakes
- Grain-free pumpkin pancakes
- Grain-free apple flax muffins
- Grain-free coconut muffins (pictured above)
A success story from Diana:
Here’s our story: my husband has rheumatoid arthritis and was on Prednisone for a few months several years ago. Between the medicine and not being able to exercise due to pain, he put on a good bit of extra weight super-fast. He also has a relatively slow metabolism, so he hasn’t just bounced back to normal, and he’s tried lots of different things over the years.
About a year ago, he also developed eczema, and he hasn’t been able to get that under control either, until recently.
Then he decided to start an absolutely no-sugar, no-carb diet. That was hard. Talk about being tired of meat and vegetables! 🙂 (I know you Paleo people do it all the time… 🙂 ) After a few weeks, his eczema improved dramatically! And, like most low-carb diets, he started losing weight automatically.
What does this have to do with real food, you ask? Well, when we stay on a real-food, not-too-many-carbs diet, he feels great, loses weight without hardly trying, and his eczema stays away. Add in processed foods (sugar, refined flour, etc.), and most of those symptoms come back.
“Let thy food be thy medicine” definitely works in some cases! This method won’t necessarily work for you, but don’t discount the power of a simple, healthy diet when you’re trying to lose weight. Now we just need to add in habitual exercise–we’re working on that one!
5. Eat Less Food
Once you’re eating the right foods, sometimes the key to losing weight is just simple common sense: Eat less of it.
Don’t go back for seconds.
Don’t have a late-night snack.
Pack small portioned healthy snacks (nuts are great!) and don’t go back for more.
I’ll share more about my husband’s journey later, but let me just give the encouragement that although he loves eating and loves food, he said that keeping himself to 2000-2500 calories wasn’t actually that much of a crazy sacrifice like he thought it might be. Entering everything into the doggone app, however, got old! He was glad to be done with that part, and even though he’s not counting anymore, he’s maintained his new weight for over the long-term.
Here’s another interesting story reminding us that even eating perfect foods and no grains can be a problem if you overeat: How I Gained 5 Pounds While Eating Paleo/Primal
Mom, The Amazing Human Garbage Disposal
How many of us moms finish what our kids don’t eat? I know I do it, as it pains me to see expensive ingredients going in the trash.
If you’re struggling with weight, or even if you’re already satisfied and not hungry anymore, no matter what your weight, you do not have to be the human garbage disposal. Here’s a well-said comment from a reader on one of last week’s posts:
As for this “don’t waste food” issue; it must be addressed.
You have to change your mindset on this. In the case of extra food, that you don’t need nutritionally or will harm you if you eat it, it’s not your responsibility to not “waste” the food. The raw materials that created that food or “food” item have already been wasted.
By the time it gets to you, it’s just a matter of where you are going to throw it away — into your body or in the trash can. If you are not hungry and don’t need the nutrients in that food item, or worse, if the things in that item are going to harm you, you are “wasting” it by eating it just as much (if not more so) as if you threw it away.
Your body is not a trash can. Don’t ever eat something because “you don’t want to waste it.” It’s already wasted; there’s nothing you can do about it except pick its ultimate location — in your body where it will harm you, or in the trash where it won’t.
Is Real Food Weight Loss Possible?
I’m no expert, not a nutritionist or medical professional, and I don’t have a degree in anything other than talking (i.e. English and Education), but I hope I’ve demonstrated that real food weight loss is not only possible, but very doable and a goal worth shooting for!
See all the Real Food Weight Loss and Exercise posts here at KS.
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