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John Raven on his high-veggie diet snapshot
John Raven on his high-veggie diet

It's Not What You Eat, Part 2

by John Raven, Ph.B.

Last month I made the bold statement that you can lose weight simply by cutting down the number of calories you consume. I know from experience that is not an easy road to follow. We seldom eat because we are hungry. We eat because it is fun, and it makes us feel good. And we eat because it is time to eat.

As far as food is concerned, we are a nation of plenty. We have an ample supply of food. All the food servings are getting larger. Everything is "Super Jumbo" or "Big" or even a "foot long".

There was a time when a simple hamburger was a thin patty of meat, some mustard, pickles, onions and lettuce. Now a "regular" hamburger has two quarter-pound meat patties, a slice or two of cheese, a couple of strips of bacon and maybe even an ample daub of Ranch dressing. The giant servings extend beyond the fast food establishments. Servings in our restaurants are usually enough for two people. If you eat these oversize servings you will either get fat or stay fat. Period.

The two things you really need to avoid when on a diet are fat and sugar. Any of the oils contain 120 calories per tablespoon. Even the wonderful, healthy, organic olive oil is 120 calories per tablespoon.

Sugar digests very quickly. It does not give you a feeling of being full. Substituting honey for sugar will not get it; honey contains more calories per measure than sugar.

Avoid diet soft drinks. When you consume them, the artificially sweet taste tells your body you are consuming sugar, and the process of digestion goes into high gear.

These are things I have learned from years of experience. I don't know if the medical community agrees or not, but my advice is free.

For me, the easiest way to cut down my calorie intake was to cut down on the size of my breakfast. I have cut the calorie count in half without feeling deprived of anything. A few of the things I have found that make the diet go easier are:

  • Splenda, the sugar substitute. No calories, and it will work in things you cook unlike some sweeteners that die when heated. You can get it in bulk form, and it is hard to tell it from real sugar.
  • Nature's Own Bread, Light. It has 40 calories per slice, as opposed to about 100 calories per slice for regular bread. It comes in three flavors: whole wheat, sourdough and honey wheat. It toasts very nicely. While on the bread subject, tortillas (corn or flour) have 100 or more calories per each.
  • There are several brands of low-calorie sandwich meat available. The turkey breast or the fat-reduced ham both are very tasty. They go about 70 calories per slice.
  • The no-fat cheese may be too expensive to mess with. Get the 2 percent milk cheese -- only a couple of calories difference.
A sandwich with two slices of the 40 calorie bread, two slices of the meat of your choice and a slice of cheese and tomatoes and lettuce runs just a tad over 200 calories. You can even have mustard on it if you like. Mustard has no calories. There are 540 calories in a Big Mac.

Smart Squeeze which you can find in the dairy case near the margarine is a butter substitute that tastes like the real thing, but has no calories to speak of. On steamed vegetables or baked potatoes, you can't tell it from the real thing.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are free. You have never seen a fat vegetarian have you? I like the baby carrots and cauliflower. I use a bit of no-fat, low calorie dip to make the veggies more tasty. You can find a lot of dips with 70 or less calories per serving, which is generally 2 tablespoons. A tablespoon of dip will go a long way.

Here's Raven's secret of making a low calorie diet work: After you eat a reasonable-size meal or snack, drink a cup of warm liquid. I made it work with tea, but now have discovered that broth is even better. A cup of beef or chicken broth after a small salad will fill you up like you would not believe. I make my broth from various bouillon cubes or granules. A cube of the bouillon or a teaspoon of granules dissolved in hot water makes a delicious drink and contains not enough calories to count. Often a bad case of the hungries can be cured with a cup of broth. The broth comes is several flavors, but beef and chicken are my favorites. There is a vegetable broth that is good. In the Mexican food area you can find Knorr "pollo e tomate" cubes, which are a chicken and tomato-flavored base. Read the label, as some contain enough chicken fat to raise the calorie count too high.

Losing weight is very difficult. I'm not talking about losing five pounds so you will look great in your thong at the beach. I'm talking losing a lot of weight to take the strain off your body.

As I said earlier, eating is a habit. It is just as much a habit as smoking or narcotics. The only thing here is you can’t go cold turkey. You gotta eat.

Calories are the villains. It is not the number of calories you save by leaving the gravy off your potatoes at supper. It is the number of calories you leave off everything over a month's time. If you reduce your intake by 67 calories a day over a 30-day period, you have reduced your 30-day intake by 2000 calories, which is the recommended daily intake for calories. This means you will have skipped one whole day's worth of calories. Leave off 134 calories a day and you will have skipped two days worth of calories for the month. You see what I mean?

It won't be easy. You will cheat. You will lie to yourself about what you eat. When you fall off the calorie wagon, don't kick yourself. Just climb back on. I allow myself one day per month where I can eat anything I want and as much of it as I want. I'm still losing weight.

In three months I have lost about 40 pounds. I do not exercise. I have bad legs and don't walk any more than necessary. If you add about a mile a day walking to my diet, you will do real good.

In closing,

  • Avoid diet soft drinks; they make you hungry.
  • Don't let yourself get too hungry to where you overeat. Have several low calorie snacks a day.
  • Need something sweet? Fresh fruit with or without Splenda on it.
  • Don't weigh yourself more than twice a month.
As long as you want to do it, you can do it.

[Note: I am not a doctor or dietician. The above is what works for me. If you are serious about losing weight, ask your doctor what he thinks of the Raven Eat-Less-Lose-More Diet.]

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