A journal of my experiences with breast cancer to inform those who are interested and to help any one else who might have just been diagnosed.

“[She] will have no fear of bad news; [her] heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss: What I Have Learned About Losing Weight, A Researcher's Perspective

Kale and Chickpea Salad

As I promised last week, I will tell you about all the things I have learned about dieting and weight loss as they have come together for me. I have decided not to diet. Not to count calories. Not to weigh myself but to just monitor through how I feel and my weight checks at doctor's appointments. Instead I am trying to change my attitudes about food and myself. One step at a time, like putting one foot in front of the other, I am learning to walk the healthy life, but it takes time and practice before I will be able to run. Every tiny step, however, is a step none the less, and all those tiny steps add up over time. Here are the things I am working on, from a researchers point of view.

  1. Make better carbohydrate choices, and limit the portions of the less good carbohydrates. This is a lot different than going low carb. It is much more a "just say less" approach than a "just say no" approach. I am trying to eat more whole grains, especially whole pumpernickel bread, oatmeal and bran cereal, lentils and dried beans and some fresh fruits rather than potatoes, white breads and pasta, white rice, sodas, dried fruit. Some foods are in the middle, so I eat less of them than the best carb sources, but more of them than the worst carb sources. I just have to be careful of my portion sizes of these carbs. Those are wheatberries, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, bananas, sweet potatoes and whole wheat and sour dough breads. The basic rule of thumb is that I make three of my carb servings whole grains and get 45 to 55 percent of my calories from carbs every day.
  2. Eat more fruits and vegetables. I know that this is an obvious, but I am trying to make doing this more intentionally. One strategy is to eat a salad with each dinner with a little lemon juice or vinegar and olive oil. Another strategy is to mix just about any vegetable(s) with every carb dish. Adding tomatoes carrots and spinach to pasta or broccoli to rice or strawberries to cold cereal means that I will be eating a little less pasta, rice or cereal if I keep the portions of the dish the same. I snack on fruits such as peaches, plums or apples or some raw vegetables and low-fat dressing or a homemade bean dip. It is very important to pack some fruits and vegetables every time I leave the house for an activity with the kids so that I don't find myself surrounded by people snacking without a healthy alternative. I have found that there are some exceptions to the eat fruits and vegetables rule and they are potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, bananas, dried fruits and juices. I do eat these, but I limit them, whereas other vegetables I eat limitlessly.
  3. Eat protein at every meal. I try to eat about 20-30 percent of my calories from protein. Every time you mix protein with carbohydrates, it lowers the blood sugar reaction of the carbohydrate alone. It helps keep hunger at bay between meals. I should watch portion control with the proteins, however. Small amounts of protein with each meal is much better than one large serving with dinner alone. I try to make sure that most often the proteins are soy, fish or shellfish, poultry, nuts, seeds, low-fat cheese, low fat milk and yogurt, eggs, split peas, lentils and dry beans. I make sure to limit ground beef, beef with fat, sausage, bacon, high-fat lunchmeats such as bologna or salami, hot dogs, butter and cream.
  4. Choose fats carefully. First I cut back on sources of saturated fats. I cut back on fatty red meats, butter and margarine, cream, full-fat cheeses, whole milk, mayonnaise and ice cream. Ice cream is still my major weakness, but I have cut my portions in half. I use olive oil as my first choice and canola as my second choice of oils. I often substitute olive oil when I would have used butter before. I also get some fats from the nuts, seeds, fish and avocados I eat. I also eat flaxseeds. I eat more non-meat proteins than I used to. My husband is vegetarian, so I am more often eating with him, rather than what the kids are eating.
  5. Add lemons and vinegar as much as possible. As, I have said before, making foods more acidic slows the breakdown of starches into blood sugar, so the blood sugar rises at a slower and more steady rate. I use vinaigrettes rather than creamy salad dressings. I use vinegar-based marinades for meat and fish. I use mustard over mayonnaise. I eat pickles pr gardenia with my sandwich instead of chips.  I eat sauerkraut and sourdough bread. I sometimes cook with wine and sometimes drink a 4 oz. glass of wine with dinner. I squeeze limes and lemons on almost everything!
  6. Portion control. This is the piece that I am struggling with right now. I grew up in a very dysfunctional family and sometimes I went hungry as a child. This has never left me. I have gotten much better about it over the years due to the loving care my husband has given me, but childhood traumas are slow to leave you and often leave traces that you don't know are there until they pop up suddenly. I 'used to panic whenever I felt hungry or even if we were getting low on groceries. I don't really have that any more. Making sure that I keep my blood sugar steady and making sure I get adequate proteins that can carry you through until the next meal help with this as well. I have started with looking at the recommended portion sizes on packages. For example, the serving size for peanut butter is two tablespoons, so I actually measure out two tablespoons when I use it. I am learning what appropriate serving sizes look like. Did you know that a serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, but the serving size of fish is about the size of a fat checkbook? A serving of cheese is about the size of four dice. After looking at what a serving size is, I try to visualize something that is about that size so that I can remember it the next time. The only thing I do not control the portions of are fruits and vegetables (with a few exceptions of particularly starchy ones such as potatoes and bananas.) 
  7. If calories have to be counted, make sure they are high enough that you lose the weight slowly. I found a neat trick to determine how many calories one should strive for in a day. If you are trying for a modest, slow weight loss that won't trigger ketones, simply add a zero to your current weight. As you lose weight, your calorie intake should reflect that change as well.


  1. I usually do not have protein at breakfast. I'll try that this week. I'm also going to measure out proper serving sized like you suggest. Thank you for all of these wonderful tips!!!

  2. I really need to work on adjusting what starches we eat, because I have to admit that's my big weakness, I love pastas and white rice.