Thursday, April 23, 2009

Everything in Moderation

Two of the most inspirational books I read in my own personal weight loss journey were Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman dn Kim Barnouin ( and The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose (

I say "inspirational" because I am not, and will never be, a raw food vegan. However, both books did inspire me to make long term changes to my diet, decreasing the amounts of dairy and meat I consume, and increasing the levels of raw vegetables and fruits.

Skinny Bitch is pretty much a vegan polemic in the guise of a weight loss book. It is, however, pretty well researched, and the information conveyed on how eating meat, fish and dairy can impede weight loss efforts is indeed eye opening.

But I am not about to forgo eating meat, fish and dairy. For one thing, I enjoy eating all three. For another, I really have no empathy for animals (sorry vegetarians and vegans out there). What's more, my husband would probably leave me if I starting cooking and serving vegan meals, and the kids would elect to leave with him.

What I've done instead is, over time, slowly decrease the amounts of meat, fish and dairy I eat and serve the family. As I'll explain in a later post, it's always better to gradually make changes than to make drastic ones. When you're trying to change not only your own eating habits, but those of your family's it's even more desirable to do so.

For example, two years ago I routinely made family meals with 1 pound of Italian pork sausage--such as pasta with red sausage sauce. When I decided to begin decreasing the amount of meat I served, I initially decreased the amount of sausage I bought to 3/4 pound. After a year, I decreased it to 1/2 a pound.

I did the same with fish. I started out making 2 pounds of fish for family meals, then decreased it to 1 3/4 pounds, and am now at 1 1/2 pounds.

In place of the meat or fish, I added vegetables or whole grains to the menu. For example, while I might have formerly served a side dish of 1 pound of asparagus on the side, I now serve 2 pounds. With the fish I now serve brown rice or cooked barley as a side.

I'm not saying this is easy. My husband believes that every meal should have meat in it (and fish doesn't count). But I've been able to persuade him to accept the changes for health reasons. He's not completely happy, but now accepts having fish once a week and a completely vegetarian meal weekly as well.

The Raw Food Detox Diet is less polemic and more subtle in its encouragement for you to move to a mostly raw food, vegan diet. Natalia Rose, is also brilliant in explaining why you change your diet gradually over time rather than make sudden drastic changes. The bottom line is if you try to suddenly make drastic changes in your diet, your body will just not accept it which will lead to you failing. But, by gradually changing your diet, you'll be more apt to make permanent changes.

Rose is also more accepting than the Skinny Bitch writers in understanding that going completely raw may not be for everyone. She encourages her readers to go as raw as possible--for example aiming to have 50-60% of your diet be raw and vegan over the course of the week.

I generally aim to have 60-70% of my diet be raw and vegan over the course of the week. This leaves plenty of room to enjoy meals out, meals with the family, and to go to other people's homes without being a complete pain in the ass (could you imagine showing up at someone's house and telling them you only eat raw, vegan food? It would be the last time you'd be invited there). In the summer, when there's plenty of wonderful fresh fruits and veggies around, I'll aim for 80-85% of my diet to be raw and vegan.

The importance of moving to a mostly raw and vegan diet is that it allows you to drastically cut down on the calories you consume, while still getting all the nutrition you need and not feeling hungry. It's also better for your health overall. But as I explain above, and will go into more detail some later time, you need to move in this dietary direction gradually. You want to change your habits for a lifetime, not for a month.

To that end, if you love potato chips and eat them daily, deterimine how much of them you eat every day. The first step may be to take the amount your eating and cut it down by 1/4. After a while, cut it back again. Maybe after a while you can alternate the days you're eating potato chips, then reduce it to once or twice a week. After a year, maybe you can then resolve to eat potato chips now and then as a special treat.

If you gradually decrease a food you love (but one which is ultimately unhealthy and bound to put the pounds on), you'll be more apt to stick with the changes.

Again, you won't lose 20 pounds in a month, but by just initially cutting out 1/4 of the potato chips you typically eat, you'll be cutting calories, which can lead to eventual weight loss.

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