I had been working as a private chef/physique chef for some years and as focused as I was on my clients nutrition, exercises and goals I really seem to never have time to take care of myself Seemed that as much as I knew it was not the best, having fast food or ready to eat meals was the most of the time easiest option for me. To put it in context, I grew up in a household that cooked, my grandmother cooked, my mother cooked and I learned to cook. My love of food is what drove me to become a professional chef and study for that. Eating pre-prepared meals and junk food is not my natural style but I cannot deny that it is cheap, quick, tempting, easy and yes…addictive. But the “eating out of a bag” life style has its consequences and I quickly found myself 40 pounds overweight and 25% body fat. Along with the increased weight and body fat I had a series of health problems that are both common and part of my genetic predisposition. I began to live and battle with; high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, insomnia, low energy, high cholesterol, and was at risk of type 2 diabetes and many other conditions that just speak “malnutrition” All this and I was now in my late 30’s so not the young buck that can process that much punishment to my metabolism.
I had to do something to get my life organized and back on track. I needed to do it not just lose weight and lower my body fat but also to feel good and get healthy again. You are probably saying, “oh one of those health nut conversion stories” well yes and no, you see I LOVE TO EAT, and I love good food. Dieting by eating soups salads and juices and taking down my calorie intake to ludicrous 3 digit numbers per day was just not going to work for me. Being a professional chef and interested in nutrition I always knew that good food can be healthy and delicious, and by applying cooking techniques I knew it could also be easy to make and quick. The essence of these goals while cooking is what I call Well prepared food.
The only way that I could solve my problem was to start cooking my own meals, take control of how it is prepared, but being a “need it now” kind of guy I had to come up with ways to get this done with minimal effort, quickly and have some fun while doing it. If you are able to do that than what seems like a burden is a just part of your day and something you look forward to rather than dread.
I am not just a professional Chef I also have a AAS degree in Culinary Management so I know that food business is all about profits not just food and like any business it works based on the bottom line and unfortunately what is bad for us are also the cheapest ingredients that add flavor and texture to food such as; sugar, salt, white flour, fat etc. My idea then was simple, how to replace some of these ingredients for healthier one, how to use technique to achieve texture and taste and that way end up with an equivalent yummy meal but that is not loaded with what is essentially bad for you. There is no reason I could not have a hamburger or chicken wing (I can’t live without chicken wings) but there are ways and then there are ways…You can have your cake and eat it it’s just a question of taking some more care and preparing well
So, I started my journey and began by making a list of the food I wanted to eat, the hamburgers, chicken wings, jambalaya rice, etc. all those food that are “forbidden” if you go on a die.t One by one I looked for ways to make then in another way that would give me the taste and variety I wanted yet be nutritious and healthy. I experimented on myself and over the course of some months I not only lost the all the extra weight and drastically reduced my body fat to 1 digit but my health issues regressed. Just to give you an example, from high blood pressure that had to be managed by taking medication and still have it at borderline levels today my blood pressure is normal and I am completely off any medication.
The changes I made where simple, eat better, keep my activity levels and enjoy what I was doing to keep my commitment. I knew this was not a diet I was embarking on, it would be a lifestyle change so I had to make sure it was a “desired lifestyle’ There is no use on trying to change your lifestyle by going from fast food to salads and being hungry, that will only make you bitter and it’s a sure way to get on the up and down elevator of weight. Additionally, I believe that “most of the time” is good enough. If you have a moderately active lifestyle and can eat well prepared food 80 or 90% of the time a few cheats along the way will not be so bad and you should be able to keep any weight off. Think about it. If the day is made up of 4 meals (including a snack) that means that 2 meals a week can be an act of indiscretion. Isn’t that a life worth living and more important possible? I can tell you, in the time it took me to take my body and health to a better state I was never hungry, I never was left wanting for something I craved and I enjoyed what I was doing.
GIVE CREDIT TO YOUR BODY
Losing weight is a slow process that requires some patience and a mindset. It is very important to not obsess with the numbers you see on your scale as they can vary based on other factors that can be circumstantial (i.e., water retention on a given day) and focusing on only that can discourage you momentarily.
Your line of sight has to be on your body, how you are feeling and the overall positive attitude that better health brings. Learn to be happy with the small but consistent results as it is true what Confucius said; “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones”.
If you are following a healthy and balanced diet and increasing your activity you should be losing 1 to 2 pounds a week although this can vary up and down per person and per week. This is the right way to do it not just because its healthier but the result will be maintainable and not just attainable. Your goal has to be to achieve your target and make your result permanent.
Our body is very smart, it has been built and evolved to resist and endure. If you put your body in stress when you are dieting it will make your life a nightmare but if you give your body enough credit for the good work done I can guarantee you results that will be amazing. Don’t complain that you are not losing 10 pounds a week those results are not only very momentary and not actual fat loss they will go away very fast unless you continue your effort.
Our mind is also a powerful tool and if we work together with it command of your body is possible. When you go to the gym, take a walk, bicycle, swim or whatever it is that you prefer, bring your body and your mind with you, imagine your results and dream of the body you want.
When I started my journey, I knew exactly who I wanted to become and the body I wanted for myself. Of course, I had to be realistic, I could not shoot for something impossible so I worked with something possible. Once I had my inspiration I looked at myself and I said “this it is possible and I am going to achieve it”.
Types of diet and why they don’t work.
It is very common to go on a quick loss diet that you read on a magazine, saw on TV or that a friend did and worked for them. Ask yourself; do they have the same metabolism and genetics that I have? Do they lead the same lifestyle? Is it real fat loss? Answer is more often than not “of course not”. Quick diets are only quick in producing a temporary weight loss, an illusion of health with longer lasting negative consequences. If you lose weight “miraculously” in 10 days and doing a “5-minute workout” chances are that you lost weight via simple water loss or worse still, by eating away at your muscles and thus increasing your body fat percentage making it even harder next time around you have to go on a diet which, believe me, is just around the corner as sure as a Yo-Yo has a string because I can guarantee that you are going to gain the weight back plus some extra pounds of fat.
Another typical trend is the ultra-strict diet. It would seem that there is a sense of “I must punish myself for being overweight” so let me avoid eating any real food; meats, grains, vegetables and fruits and just drink shakes, salads and juices and have a minuscule portion of boiled food that would not even fill a tooth cavity. Don’t get me wrong, protein shakes, salads, juices and smaller portions are a great idea but you cannot get anywhere just with that.
The only thing you achieve by severely depriving your body is make it fight against you and the only way to win that fight is to starve your body into submission so if you are on that war path just remember “starving yourself to death:” is not just a saying.
Our body is a machine and not eating your daily macronutrients (calories and where they come from) properly will slow down your metabolism and instead of losing body fat you are only cannibalizing muscle mass and loosing water. The end result is that the numbers you see on your scale are just a big lie and as soon as you start eating normally you will gain all the weight back, remember the yo-yo and the string? Each and every one of us has a need for a specific amount of nutrients (proteins, carbs and fat) it is by exceeding those amounts over a period of time that we produce a weight gain. This is something bodybuilders understand very well and they use it constructively. Each of us needs to know exactly how much macronutrients we can eat daily before starting any kind of diet.
“I EXERCISE, SO I CAN EAT ANYTHING”
I am sorry to say this but this is another myth that I wish was true. This is the most common mistake. You may constantly workout very hard and still see no concrete results, why is that? The answer is simple; to lose 1 pound of body fat per week an average individual will have to reduce 400-500 calories daily from their intake. This deficit, on a consistent weekly basis, is crucial for success.
If you are consistent and on track for 5 days a week but come the weekend you eat everything and anything you want the calorie deficit you have achieved in 5 days will be replaced during the 2-day feast. Remember, our body has been built and evolved to survive so it recognizes when it’s time to load for future times of deprivation so, just like the yo-yo, this can be a never-ending journey to nowhere.
The main reason why most diets fail is that they are designed with the mindset that dieting is something you do for a short period of time in which subjecting yourself to unrealistic lifestyle changes is acceptable because, at the end, it is only for a short period of time. They are usually fad diets based on extremes, e.g. consume massive amounts of protein or severe restriction of carbohydrates, living on just salads, soups or juices. The list of these diets is limitless.
All these diets have one common theme “do something drastic” and they can be very tempting if you just need to fit in that dress or blazer for that wedding or annual school reunion. The problem is that if you do not do something to build on your victory it will be short lived and you will surely gain it all back plus an extra gift as soon as the clock strikes 12 and the carriage becomes a pumpkin because your body now wants to make sure it is ready for the next time you want to starve it to death.
“JUICING” ISNTEAD OF EATING FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
This one is a double-edged sword. If you are replacing a half liter of a sugary soft drink or a fatty appetizer then by all means, juice it up! Now, if on the other hand, you are replacing a piece of fruit or vegetable with a juice or blended soup then take a step back and think about what liquefying something does to it. Fruit juices have all the sugar from the fruit and no fiber, the same can be said for vegetables. If you replace natural occurring fruit and vegetable fibers with a juice you are losing most of the benefit of the food. Always try to eat fruit the way it is, and those fruits you can eat the skin please do so as there is where all the nutrients and vitamins are and in some cases, most of the health benefits. Lastly, if you still want to drink a fruit juice please make sure is 100% juice and with no added sugar. You have no argument from me that a glass of natural juice is 1000% better than a glass of sugary soda.
EATING SALADS/SOUPS ONLY
How long can you live that way? Salads and soups are a good alternative and they do work when you use it properly, soups should have at least one source of lean protein to be effective and the same applies for salads. The best time of the day for a salad and/or a soup will be dinner because they are light, easy to prepare and a smart meal to go with your slower metabolism. High calorie foods eaten at night turn into fat in a larger percentage than during the daytime when your metabolism is higher.
NO SNACKS BETWEEN MEALS?
Some people can’t understand this but snacking can be an ally not an enemy. Again, used properly, having a snack that can fit your daily calorie intake will help you achieve your goals faster and happier. Try to find something that you like, that is low in calorie, sugar, carbs, sodium and fat.
Why not? Don’t worry I am not going to tell you “just eat a fruit” First of all when we crave a dessert the last thing we dream about is a fruit right? Make your own dessert this is the best way. I could write a whole chapter of a book on healthy desserts, wait, I Did! So, go into my book and you will find many options of no sugar added and gluten free desserts for adults and kids. With desserts, the key is not just they are “well prepared” you also need to avoid large portions. Remember that it’s a treat not a meal. If you are in a restaurant in a special occasion you deserve a treat and if the portion is too large share with your friends and NEVER bring home what you couldn’t eat. That brownie you brought home will be yelling so loud from the refrigerator at 10 pm you will not be able to ignore it. Remember one day of bad food is not going to make you fat but 2 days will.
PAY NO ATTENTION TO FOOD LABELS AND INGREDIENTS LIST
Read the nutritional facts so you can make better choices and know what you are putting in your body and avoid food with a very long list of ingredients that you can't pronounce.
Carbs are a great source of energy don’t avoid them your life will be miserable without carbohydrates. That being said, favor the right ones which are complex carbs such as whole grain rice, pasta, bread etc. Find the best times to eat your daily carb intake dividing it very smartly during the day and meals. Avoid simple carbs such as white rice, white bread, pasta and sugary goods.
Nutrition is 70% of your results, as they say abs are made in the kitchen and this is completely true. Cooking your own meals is crucial for a consistent result.
The seed for a longer life
DRINK MORE WATER