If losing weight is mostly about diet, what is it that we’re supposed to eat?
My sister Dee Dee and I have a favourite diet food that we’ve never tasted. It’s called, strangely enough, Popcorn Pop-up and, wouldn’t you know, there isn’t any popcorn it in. The recipe is quite simple: take one cup each of raw broccoli and carrots. Chop them into small pieces. Dissolve two packages of mint jelly in half the recommended amount of water. Mix in the raw vegetables and one drained tin of corn. Pour into ice cube trays. Chill until hard. One is meant to eat that as a snack. The best part, of course, is that it is meant to help one lose weight.
Ah, losing weight. Fitness professionals will (very rightly) try to steer you away from losing weight and towards a more sensible goal such as improved health. After all, concentrating on just losing weight doesn’t necessarily mean good things. If taken to enough of an extreme, losing weight could even endanger your health.
That’s because the heart of losing weight is mostly diet. The best way to lose weight is to change what you eat in order to lower caloric intake. The problem is, if you stop eating or eat so little that your body starts cannibalising your muscle mass, your internal organs begin to shut down and your endocrine system goes out of whack. Sufferers of anorexia nervosa are perfect examples of what happens when you eat too little.
As we hear all the time nowadays, a controlled diet with a good exercise programme is the best way to go. But what consists of a controlled diet? When bodybuilders try to emphasise their muscles (known as ‘cutting up’ or ‘leaning out’), they will famously eat only chicken breast and egg whites in order to cut down on fat. Marathoners will go through ‘carb loading’ phases of their training when all they eat is pasta. These are hard-core athletes, and the type of physical activity they do dictates the nutrients required for success. So what is a normal person to eat when he wants to lost about five to 10 kilogrammes?
There are those who will tell you that popcorn is a good diet food. Along with rice cakes, iceberg lettuce, cabbage soup and Popcorn Pop-up; real popcorn is one of many controversial diet foods out there that are supposedly guaranteed to make you lose weight.
I think, however, in the case of most of the food items I just mentioned, their real value is that they’re so unappetising that you will probably vomit and — voila — that takes care of whatever caloric intake you had before. See? Weight loss without the tears. And, just as there are people who will tell you that popcorn is a good diet food, there are people who swear by bulimia.
And then, for many Thais, there is the nam phrik num diet, which consists of nothing but pork rinds and the signature dip/salsa from Chiang Mai made from a local green chilli. It is so spicy that those unaccustomed to the dish often develop diarrhoea, taking care of any caloric intake for a good few days.
After all these years of our trying to find the holy grail of weight loss, the food we should eat to lose weight is still a mystery to most people. You would think we’d have figured out by now how to do it effectively. I know, I know, there are television programmes out there like Biggest Loser and Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition to show morbidly obese people how it can be done, but in many of the cases, people gain the weight back after taking part in a gruelling regimen. If there were a weight loss food that worked definitively, we wouldn’t have the numerous weight-loss pills, plans and television shows on the subject.
Just to give you an idea how diet food has changed over the years, Dee Dee sent me this link to a website she came across that features Weight Watchers recipe cards from the 1970s, featuring such delectable dishes as Cabbage Casserole Czarina, Fluffy Mackerel Pudding and Frankfurter Spectacular.
I’m sure that people lost weight eating that stuff, but I can’t imagine how anyone would stomach any of it. But then I guess those dishes are just old-fashioned. Nowadays, we have equally disgusting stuff such as protein powders, energy bars and meal replacements. And I’m sure they’re all just as effective as Popcorn Pop-up.
Face it, much of what we call diet food is highly dependent on the times. In the 1970s, it must have been exciting for middle-class Americans to eat such exotic dishes named Cabbage Casserole Czarina, just as much as people nowadays would prefer to have easy, time-saving alternatives like Xenical diet pills and Ultra-Slim Fast diet shakes. Depending on whatever diet is all the rage at any given time, pork bellies, whole wheat bread, popcorn, cabbage soup and tinned tuna fish can all be considered a part of a weight-loss diet. I mean, if you can lose weight eating Popcorn Pop-up, you can lose weight eating anything.
The sad truth is that the only way we can shake the kilos is to take in fewer calories than we consume. And so we can theoretically eat anything we want and still lose weight.
Believe me, I know that’s a lot easier said than done. I have tried every diet there is out there and, while I am not morbidly obese, I have a good 10-15 kilogrammes that I’d like to lose.
This time ‘round, I’m not really concentrating on any specific diet foods. I’m eating what I want within reason and exercising sensibly. If anyone wants to know what diet plan I’m on, it’s one I’ve discussed before, the LL Cool J Platinum 360 plan. It has worked for me in the past and I think it will work again.
My point, however, is that while people will tell you that losing weight is mostly about diet, it isn’t eating the right food that is the key to losing weight. It’s getting oneself into a position to expend more calories than are being taken in. It is a complete lifestyle change that makes the difference. Food is a key part of it, but so are exercise, rest and, in my case, meditation to keep me from getting too stressed.
I’ll let you know how I do.
05/06/2012 - 12:01