I always thought I ate a healthy diet. My typical day would probably have involved toast for breakfast, a sandwich of some description at lunch time probably followed by a low fat yogurt and then a mid-afternoon snack of a cereal/granola bar. My evening meal was then typically a pasta or rice dish or maybe a jacket potato with a filling, sometimes there might be pizza, sometimes there might be chips (but the oven variety because they're the healthy ones right?!) or maybe a curry or stir-fry. I enjoyed the occasional treat (although looking back it was probably more than occasional!); I enjoyed cake every now and then but I always had biscuits and snack chocolate bars in the house and one or two of those a day wouldn't hurt...would they?
But when I decided to take on the 'Get Real Fat Loss' challenge I had to re-look at my food in relation not only to the amount of calories I was consuming but more importantly the breakdown of fat, protein and carbohydrates. I had kept a food diary of my 'usual' food so I could see where the changes (if any) had to be made. Using a calorie counting app (I use My Fitness Pal) I could quickly see not only the calories contained in a food item but also the amount of fat, protein and carbohydrates. When I compared what I usually ate to what I was now being told to eat the biggest change was not so much in the calories but where I was getting those calories from. It was the amount of fat, protein and carbohydrate that I needed to change.
So previously on an average day I was taking in around 230g of carbohydrates, 30g of fat and about 60g of protein. But under the 'Get Real Fat Loss' programme I was told to aim initially for 70g carbohydrates, 55g of fat and 130g of protein; so you can see the biggest change was to reduce my carbohydrates and increase my protein. Now these levels have slightly changed after I lost the initial weight and moved over into maintaining the weight loss. Levels today are around 80g of carbohydrates, 60g of fat and 110g of protein.
But what did this change in macro-nutrients actually mean to the food I was eating? The great thing with the 'Get Real' programme was that it was up to me to figure out where the changes had to be made; there was also the secret Facebook group that enabled us all to swap ideas as well as keep each other motivated and accountable.
So cutting the carbohydrates was the first starting point; so what was I eating that was causing my intake to be so high? Well the most obvious was anything sweet but then it was bread, potatoes, rice and pasta. The sweet stuff wasn't a surprise but the rest were, after all these were staples of most peoples diets and rice and pasta were touted as healthy options. By cutting the carbohydrates I naturally had to replace them with foods that contained more protein and more fat. And the result? Very quickly the pounds dropped off and within the 90 day challenge I had lost almost 28lbs and dropped down to a UK size 8!
But the great thing has been that once I'd adopted this change (along with the rest of the family) I have stuck to it. I don't feel hungry. I don't have cravings. I eat good, real food that leaves me feeling full and satisfied and able to maintain a steady weight around 128lbs. Check out my post one year after I'd started this lifestyle to see my 'before' and 'after' shots!
Three years on I have developed a general interest in what we eat and how it affects our bodies and have read a number of books that have all supported the lifestyle changes that I made following the 'Get Real' approach. Basically I have adopted what is often referred to as either a 'low carb' or 'low carb, high fat' (LCHF) way of eating. This means cutting down on the sugars and starches (potatoes, breads, pasta or rice) while eating plenty of fish, meat, eggs, natural fats and veggies (those that grow above ground!).
I no longer count calories - lots of studies now show that not all calories are the same; the way your body processes calories depends on where they come from! Take in sugars or carbs and your body doesn't really know what to do with them and so stores them as fat which leaves you feeling hungry...so you eat more (usually more carbs) and so the vicious circle begins. Take in fats and proteins and your body uses these for energy and actually starts burning your fat stores, you also feel satisfied when you've eaten fats and protein and so avoid the cycle of eating more when it's not needed.
The key to all this is to eat real foods and ditch the highly processed sugary rubbish that is way too easily available. Many years ago the official dietary advice to lose weight and keep your heart healthy was to eat low fat foods...the food industry obliged and provided us with a ton of low fat or fat free alternatives. The problem with removing the fat was that the food tasted pretty nasty so the food industry replaced the missing fat with sugar or sweeteners. But this meant our carb intake increased; we didn't feel 'full' so we ate more. The food industry recognised they were onto a good thing by supporting the official dietary advice and so kept on producing more and more processed low fat foods. We now find ourselves with a food industry still supporting the 'low fat advice' and not wanting to make a change because of the detrimental affect it could have to their profit margins.
The latest evidence now tells us that fat has never been our enemy, it's been sugar all along. The advice that governments followed about having a low fat diet was wrong...they simply listened to those that shouted the loudest, those scientists who, at the time, had the connections and believed their ideas to be right...unfortunately for us they were not. I urge you to read a book called 'Why We Get Fat and What to Do About it' by Gary Taubes - a fascinating and easy read which explains why we find ourselves today with the highest obesity and diabetes rates ever, despite following all the government advice to eat low fat.
So the answer is simple ditch the carbs, enjoy fats and protein and eat real food. No fads, no gimmicks, no magic powders simply good, tasty, satisfying real food. And yes you can throw some exercise into the mix as well but the exercise won't make you lose weight; it will keep you fit and will tone what you've got but it's what you put into your body that will make the biggest changes.
I have been eating this way for almost 4 years. I might do some body weight exercises at home when I'm in the mood and I try and get to a local gym a couple of times a week (we go as a family which is great fun). I dropped from a size 12 (UK) to a size 8 (UK) and have stayed that way. Yes my weight fluctuates every now and then but it stays pretty constant. While changing the way you have eaten all your life can be daunting and a challenge I have found it really straight forward to stick to; there's no portion control or calorie counting it's simply finding the right food, eating it and enjoying it.
If you want to make a change, feel good about how you look and at the same time improve your health and well being then give this lifestyle a try. I did, it worked and I'm staying this way!
Update: Please check this post written in June 2018 - Four Years On
Please feel free to comment below, or contact me via Twitter @JaynePhipps should you want to know more.
A really good website to give you more information and some great recipes is www.dietdoctor.com and also try Public Health Collaboration for more easy to read and understand information.
Look out for books by;
Gary Taubes - Why we get fat and What to do about it, The Case Against Sugar, Good Calories Bad Calories & The Diet Delusion
Dr Mark Hyman - Eat Fat, Get Thin & The Blood Sugar Solution
Andreas Eenfeldt - Low Carb, High Fat Food Revolution
Dr Jason Fung - The Obesity Code; unlocking the secrets of weight loss
Nina Teicholz - The Big Fat Surprise
Follow these on twitter;
Professor Tim Noakes
Dr Aseem Malhotra
Dr Rangan Chatterjee
Dr David Ludwig
Dr Jason Fung
Support Gary Fettke
The Noakes Foundation
Dr David Unwin