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Walking and Weight Loss - The Keys to a Successful, Long-Term Weight Loss Program

Vegetables - Key to Weight Loss as Part of  a Sensible DietA final way to increase your metabolism is to change the way that you eat. This one may be the most difficult aspect to modify, but it also is one of the most effective methods. The benefits aren’t limited to weight loss, but include improvements to almost all measures of your health including: cholesterol, blood sugar level, and blood pressure.

The secret is greatly reducing your intake of animal protein, all fats, and simple sugars. Many are under the assumption there are good fats and bad fats. After all, we’ve been told that. In reality, there are bad fats (saturated and trans fats) and not as bad fats (unsaturated fats). There is plenty of scientific evidence to back this up as well as my own anecdotal experience.  There is also lots of evidence that eating certain herbs and vegetables increases your metabolic rate albeit temporarily.

Personally, I’ve always watched what I ate and have exercised regularly since I was in high school. However, my father had a heart attack in his early 40’s and both my mother and father have aged poorly. I vowed not to let this happen to me. Despite my efforts I seemed to be gaining a pound or so a year. Having started at a ridiculously light weight of 160lbs while standing at 6’2” I had a lot of room to hide the extra baggage. No one really noticed as I porked up to my “peak” weight of 192 lbs. To the public I looked tall and thin, especially compared to the average American. On a routine physical I had a wakeup call. While my cholesterol was never great, it usually hovered at around 200. I broke the seal and rang in a reading of 239. I was aghast. My doctor’s reply was a simplistic “I can give you something for that.”

No way. I was not about to live on drugs for the next 50 years (I am an optimist). Instead, I employed my former competitive discipline and went on a strict Mediterranean diet. Loosely described, it entails eating chicken and fish instead of red meat and eating food rich in the “good” fats and with little of the “bad” fats. Three months later I had dropped about 10 pounds and scored a 199 as my total cholesterol. Good, but not great. Technically, I was still borderline, but at least I returned to where I was before.

Given my success I figured if I followed my diet more closely I would improve. My body had other plans. When I got retested a year later I was still at a frustratingly consistent 199 total cholesterol score. If that weren’t bad enough, given my borderline results and family history, my doctor suggested I get a heart scan. I didn’t know anything about a heart scan, so I did some basic research and discovered that it exposed you to the equivalent radiation of 35 chest x-rays.  This really didn’t sit well with me. I devised a new plan to ensure my cholesterol drops farther so I am not considered borderline.

I turned to the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn as a blueprint for my cholesterol lowering strategy. Dr. Esselstyn recommends a diet of no more than 10% fat. Basically he starts your diet as a vegan and removes the supposed “good” fats. So no or very little nuts, no oils, no avocados, no coconuts and a greatly reduced level of simple sugars are major changes he makes to the vegan way of life. Not having heart disease, I decided this was too strict for me.

Instead, I applied a modified approach. I limited red meat to once every three weeks or so. I almost eliminated chicken and reduced the portion size of my fish to 4 to 6 oz. You’d be surprised how small that is for  6’2” guy. I dramatically cut down the juice I was drinking as well as the occasional soda. Breakfast became a very high fiber cereal with almond milk and a banana. Snacks became fruit and high fiber bars. I switched my pasta from regular pasta to a combination of high fiber pasta and regular pasts as I just couldn’t stomach the taste of straight high fiber pasta. I cut down on oils like Smart Balance, oil olive and stuck to tomato based sauces. I added foods high in fiber and low in fat like Quinoa and black beans. Over the three months, the results were dramatic. I dropped an additional 10 pounds and lowered my total cholesterol to 184.

Personally, I don’t think I am at the end game. As we learn to cook better and make better choices I feel my cholesterol will continue to drop. As to weight, I am really not trying to lose any more and my wife already thinks I am thin enough. However, much like Dr. Esselstyn suggested in his book, if you eat the right foods your body simply regulates itself. I never watch how much I eat, just that I am eating the right foods. I rarely walk away from a meal and not feel full. Occasionally, I do become hungry during the day and try to have healthful options available.

You may be wondering what my wife and I eat on a daily basis. It is a challenge. We try to make batches of food so we can eat it for a few days. Our three big winning dishes so far are gazpacho,  a veggie chili utilizing TVP (texturized vegetable protein), and a cabbage/spinach soup. Often, we supplement meals with the quinoa, black bean and corn dish. All are virtually fat free and made with no added oil or sugar. We will post recipes shortly.

So don’t get caught up in hype, apply simple science and a lot of will power and you will see the pounds drop and stay off.

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, 2008
The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health by Thomas M Campbell, 2006

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