I got an email last night from a subscriber to our Tip Of The Day weight loss coaching/training newsletter. The person asked for some general tips on what to eat now that they have decided to lose weight. We really refer out to the experts as much as we can, but I introduced her to something we call "Diet Fusion." This is something we talk about in the Point of No Return as well, I think in week three. But here is what I said to her in response to her specific question:
"This gives me a great opportunity to get a little more clear and focused on one of the key "organizing themes" of our overall coaching program.
First of all, you need to see your doctor for specific advice. That is not just boilerplate- we mean that. And you will see some videos coming from a great doctor who will be explaining the role they have in this process, and also what a great doctor should be doing. Not all doctors are great, but finding one is well worth the effort.
Now, one of the key themes we talk about in the overall PEERtrainer coaching/training program is an approach I have termed "Diet Fusion". Diet Fusion is customization, finding what works for you, depending on your life stage. If there is one thing we have learned, it is that having only one diet for fitness regimen works for very few people. This is a list of some of the diets we have seen work:
-Fat Smash Diet, this is something we see to help kickstart a diet. Very popular, very effective in the short term, very easy to fall off track. But it is a good shock introduction to better nutrition, and does take a page or two from Joel Fuhrman's work.
-South Beach Diet- another diet we have seen help people drop a quick 5 pounds. It works well especially if you are in metabolic risk. But this should be done in combination with WW points and a high nutrient diet like Eat To Live.
-Weight Watchers- we have seen really help people get a handle on portion control. They have also completely revamped their core diet with the introduction of the Weight Watchers Momentum Program.
-Joel Fuhrman's Eat To Live/Eat For Health- The most important idea of his is that intense amounts of greens help you lose weight, and that not all foods are created equal. He has designed a point scoring system to guide you to the best foods. He is probably the primary innovator in weight loss today, with people like Weight Watchers now following his lead.
Again the idea here is really find what works for you. Here is also a list of some very general principles, things we have seen work, and ideas put forth that we have seen help people on PEERtrainer get off the yo-yo cycle.
1. Nutrient Density- What this means very generally is eating a diet very high in fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans with a specific focus on greens. We see this work over and over again when it comes to successfully losing weight.
One of the things we continually focus on in our program is tips and ways to practically, cheaply and easily get high amounts of plant based foods in the diet each day. And making them taste good. And uncover the myths we tend to cling to that prevent us from seeing these as easy choices.
If you want to learn more about the work of Dr Joel Fuhrman you can read what we have written about his new book "Eat For Health". We tend to reference tips from him, simply because we see the specific effect his ideas have on people in the PEERtrainer community. We also like to link out to specific experts in different fields, to really make sure our readers and clients are exposed to as many ideas as possible. The core idea of Diet Fusion is customization, and the more good ideas you have, the more tools in your toolbox. We want to keep filling up your toolbox with things we see work.
There are many other doctors out there as well who are all focusing on the idea of pointing people towards diets that totally rebalance what we assume to be a "proper diet." The reality is that a growing number of people are really challenging our widely held assumptions. Dr. Bradley Willcox for example is another who is focusing on examining the habits of people in Japan who regularly live to 100, do not gain weight when they age and who tend to not get disease at anywhere near the rate Americans do.
It is important to point this out because what worked for you when you were 25 and single might not work now that you have a husband who you are eating with every night. Maybe you are a 70 year old man who is still eating with the diet assumptions you had in 1955. If what you are doing is not working you really need to be open to a real examinations of your assumptions. That is Diet Fusion.
2. Weight Watchers Points- this is another proven tool in our "Diet Fusion" approach. No matter how well you eat at home- fruit with every breakfast, salad as an entree, low levels of overall "animal protein" intake, spinach at every possible point- you are going to continually get out of your comfort zone. You will go out to restaurants, go to parties, be at the mall, on the road. You will be in situations where the option of nutritional excellence is not available to you.
So you have to be able very easy figure out how many points are in a bagel, and how to eat 10 point meals when you are out. A great way to do this is quickly to google "Weight Watchers Points Calculator" and start learning to add in calories, fat and fiber. Or go to a meeting or brush off your Points if you tried WW in the past and it did not work for you. This is much better than just plain calorie counting because the points system makes you look for high fiber, low calorie foods. Which incidently tend to be plant based. "Fiber" is the stuff in plants.
I have even recorded a short video that explains my own process of how I thought I was making the right choices, until I really mastered portion control.
3. Focus On The Transition- this is another very key point in the "Diet Fusion" approach. Restrictive diets fail because they are often all or nothing approaches. You are not going to go from eating cheeseburgers and bacon, egg and cheese bagels to spinach and fruit in a week. It is going to take time and take some work. So give yourself time and realize you cannot fail at this. View each day and each meal as an opportunity to make incremental progress. Something as small as deciding to eat a plate of veggies at a party instead of what the waiters bring around is a win- and should be celebrated.
4. Focus On The Volume Of Food When You Have A Chance To Eat Well. We tend to think of dieting as simply limiting calories. This is an incomplete approach for many, especially for the long run. How many times have you started a diet and then fell off?
You sort of have to do portion control, which is why Points are so important. But you have to feel full, not feel hungry. A truly healthy diet probably will not leave you cranky and hungry all the time. A large salad, that only has a tablespoon of olive oil in it, some lemon juice and garlic for flavor, with beans to make you feel full, tons of vegetables- can an ideal thing. You get a lot of plant based nutrients, but you also feel full. You can also feel full eating a lot less.
This is something that we have seen work and is something that has worked for me. Here is something that I do at home all the time- I take a two dollar bag of frozen organic spinach and a one dollar can of organic black beans. I throw it in a frying pan and heat it up. Maybe a touch of olive oil, throw some garlic in there, maybe some curry spice for flavor. Serve it with some rice. Fast, easy, cheap. I eat it, my husband eats it, my kids eat it. In fact, my husband cooks this so often that our daughter refers to them as "daddy beans". And for guys, the volume aspect is particularly important, if you are familiar with what I call "insane man hunger." I am using this as an example of how to think about the volume aspect of it.
Maybe you are out at the Cheesecake Factory for example. They serve HUGE portions of foods. But they also serve huge salads. Make that work for you. Order the salad, as for dressing on the side. Better yet, ask for 4 lemon wedges. Maybe get some steak or chicken on top of the salad. There are all sorts of options. (Their menu is like a book). Squeeze the lemon wedges on the salad, maybe some pepper (try to avoid the salt), a tiny tiny amount of whatever dressing they have. And wham- you have something that fills you up and will help you lose weight.
And make sure to keep the cheese and butter out of it. Cheese and butter are diet killers because of the hidden calories. Restaurants for some reason put cheese and butter in everything. Get in the habit of asking for butter and cheese free dishes. Interestingly some of the higher end restaurant chains in the US have removed butter from the menu. Seasons 52, a very good restaurant chain in the Southeast US have no butter in their dishes. Each dish is designed to be less than 500 calories as well. So this seems to be a trend.
5. Rethink Your Notion Of Hunger. One thing that Dr. Fuhrman teaches, and I just saw this talked about in the PEERtrainer community, is the idea of "true hunger". What this simply means is that real hunger is something you feel in your throat and mouth. It is not a panicky feeling, it is your mouth watering. If you are between meals and feel like you have to snack on something, reach for a piece of fruit, or a Lara bar or Kind bar. Nut bars are great diet tools. Very practical things you can keep with you.
Overall, this idea of "Diet Fusion" is really finding what works for you, and making it a practical habit. Diets fail when we feel hungry, they fail when we don't correctly control our portions, and they fail when we feel like we can't do them. How often have you felt that "losing weight is just not possible", or that "gaining weight is just something that happens when we get older." It truly does not have to be this way.
So instead of simply restricting calories, focus on a gradual transition to more plant based stuff. And this does not mean that you be a vegetarian- although some people do that for many reasons. I don't. But I keep reading more and more research that indicates that you don't want more than 10% of your diet to be animal based. Again, this is very general and there is a lot of conflicting information out there. You have to find what works for you.
The hardest part of all of this is developing these good habits in the face of overwhelming societal pressure. Maybe you are a mom struggling to feed healthy foods to your kids. Then the grandparents come to town and their version of love is force feeding them cheeseburgers. Maybe you are a guy who works in a stressful environment, job and the only choices seem to be sweets in the vending machine. Or you go to a restaurant and want to make some good habits, only to feel subtle but strong pressure from the waiter or waitress. One thing we focus on in our intensive coaching/training program is literally training you, ingraining in you a set of habits that help you get what you want. We do this with the help of a trained psychotherapist, because it is that hard!!
I will close this note with a simple idea- everyone talks about the importance of a "balanced diet". But what if you body is out of balance? Hitting the salads hard, and keeping the fat out of them, might be a great way to get back into balance.
Update: People have loved this basic concept over the years, and have found it "liberating." One thing people have said though is "ok, I get the basic idea. Now tell me exactly what to do." People wanted an eating plan to help put this advice into practice. So we developed a very simple to follow list of foods to focus on and foods to move away from. We call this the "Cheat System." It works incredibly well. It is free to download from this page.
This is probably THE best place for realistic, practical advice--not just cheerleading to lose weight. Thank you so much.
Posted by: Celeste | April 01, 2011 at 12:11 AM
this is something I'm already doing albeit intuitively: was on dr bernsteins' diet...but it's too low cal (900ish/day) but i do like how you watch the type of protein, fruits, veggies and grains you eat and how much....it is similar to the 'biggest loser diet' and 'eat for life' but these two are more healthy and balanced due to higher calories and emphasis on working out...despite bernstein saying any activity can be accomodated on his diet, yeah right ,whatever...for more active people you'll be given an extra protein portion (so 3 instead of 2)...no thanks...i call it the 'couch potato diet' if just by itself...but I do like certain things about it as referenced.
Posted by: canali | August 11, 2010 at 12:45 AM
I feel that what works depends on the stage which you are in. I started in the active weight loss stage, and what worked for me then was the traditional low fat (below 15%) high carb diet (70%) with high impact cardio and circuit workouts. I lost my post-pregnancy weight and maintained, but after about a year of it I was famished and started binging on low fat yogurts and crave carbs like crazy, because workouts burned them all.
So, after a few months when hunger was so bad, that the only reason I didn't dig out that sweet smelling orange peel from the trash can to devour it was because there was no orange peel in the trash can, I switched to the whole food diet with higher proportion of protein (30%) and fat (30%) and changed my workouts to low impact combined with heavy weight lifting to maintain the loss and get rid of the last stubborn fat (cut down from about 19% BF to under 15% BF).
For me it's easier to manage hunger with higher proteins and fats, and I binge less.
I also had to restructure my meals throughout the day, so 3 of them are eaten while I am in the office (7, 11 and between 1 and 2 pm), because I find the hunger the most debilitating when I work, rather than when I can relax or get outside at home. Yes, that requires a 3 hour period between me getting up (4 am) and eating my breakfast (7 am), but if I ate the first thing at 4 am, whatever I ate just flashed through me. So, I drink a big glass of water instead, go about my pre-work chores, then have breakfast at work, then eat every 3 or 4 hours as recommended, trying to stay within my calorie range for the day (700 calories before coming home and 500-600 calories at home in two meals).
I always tried to cut down the food I am eating between 5 and 7 pm (eating period at home), but it's far too difficult, because I feed husband and a 4 y.o. child, so I am trying to toll with the punches and leave myself enough calories to participate in a family fruit plate or a bag of popcorn or grabbing a nut or two...
I find that vegetarian diet is subpar in terms of satiation, as fish, eggs and chicken are the most long lasting foods in my system. Beans are the only plant product that is anywhere near that on calorie per calorie basis, but my digestion limits my intake of beans.
From milk products I drink home-made kefir and quark made from kefir to avoid commercially processed yogurts and cottage cheese. It tastes so much better to my palate as well, since that's the products from my childhood.
I sweeten with honey and fruit & eat tons of boiled and fresh vegetables. My favorite fresh vegetables are cucumbers, radishes and baby carrots, while I consume broccoli, cauliflower and zuccinis in blanched version.
I also eat a far wider variery of grains than people normally do, alternating millet, buckwheat, brown rice, barley, quinoia and cracked wheat. But I don't touch breads and pastas, as they seem to cause hunger spells in me. From time to time I allow myself a boiled and then broiled potato/sweet potato.
So, all and all, that's my own version of a diet. yes, it's very regimented, but a step away from it, and I start packing weight back on like crazy (literally by a pound or two a night!).
I am hopping to turn one of my daily low impact cardio session into high impact on a weekly basis and monitor my appetite increase. But my emphasis is on maintaing the weight-lifting regimen, because boy, it's a thing of beauty!!! The only thing that grows pretty muscules on me!!!
Posted by: Leida Sotto | June 29, 2010 at 09:54 AM
Great email! I think I'll try your spinach/black bean recipie. It sounds like something my vegetarian 12-year-old daughter would like as well.
Posted by: twoanes | June 15, 2010 at 10:40 AM
Hii! I am very appreciative of the emails and your website is great! I really like your idea of Dietfusion, I can relate to it. I have always been a vegetarian but used to eat lots of carbs, but ever since I have decided to lose weight-for the last one year ( I have lost 20 kilos in 14 months with exercise and healthy eating), I have become totally vegan-and am feeling so healthy now. I am exercising at least 4 days a week for an hour each session,
I seem to eat tons of vegetables, I also eat lot of fruits and get my protein from legumes, beans and tofu ( I eat 3 to 4 serves of protein in a day-all portion sizes measured).
I still want to lose the fat over my abdomen, so I am hoping to lose another 5 more kilos at least.
My question is, should I cut down on the legumes/beans and tofu-and just eat 2 serves a day? Should I restrict the portion size for vegetables as well? I seem to be eating a lot more serves of vegetables (-microwaved, with lots of herbs and spices and very little oil on them) --can eating more vegetables make one fat? Should I restrict fruit serves as well? I seem to be drawn to eating large portions of rockmelon and watermelon-can that be slowing my weight loss?
thanks a lot
Posted by: Nayana | December 02, 2009 at 06:45 PM
Jessica...I always offer to bring something and then save points (or calories) for the day. This weekend we are going to a friends house. They are having pasta and I get to bring the salad. I plan on eating a LOT of salad and a small portion of pasta plus remembering to watch what I eat during the day to make up for any incidentals. Drink lots of water with dinner too, then you will feel more full.
Posted by: TeacherMelanie | December 02, 2009 at 11:27 AM
I don't have problems at restaurants or at parties, but I do have a problem when you go to someone's house for dinner. It feels rude to not eat what they serve you, even if it's not as healthy as what you would eat at home? What do you do?
Posted by: Jessica | October 27, 2009 at 08:06 AM
I have done a almost vegan cleanse before and what i have found that works great in everyday life (when you're not on a cleanse/diet) is having brown rice always in the cooker or in the fridge. then you cook some veggies, warm up the rice and you have a decent filling meal. i even eat rice for breakfast now, apparently they do it all the time in Asia.
Posted by: Adrienne Chezik | October 25, 2009 at 04:04 PM
I have been on so many diets and have even had gastric bypass. I still an struggling. I can not really make a decision on which diet to do. I want to get started so if anyone can help please do. By the way I have tried every diet out there I think.
Posted by: debbie | August 08, 2009 at 08:45 AM
I like the idea of Diet Fusion. I think it is very practical to mix similar diets. I've been mixing Eat to Live with a Mediterranean type diet (minus the oil and bread..but including some fish) and it works great for me.
Posted by: Queen T | July 02, 2009 at 02:43 AM
I have ordered the Fat Smash book from the library, when I did a little more research because of this email! :o) Can't wait to see what I learn tomorrow. I even went to the gym this evening! Keep em' coming!
Posted by: Janel | May 18, 2009 at 10:04 PM
Please keep the emails coming! I learn something new every time a new email comes flying in!
Posted by: Esther | April 21, 2009 at 08:06 PM
THIS IS MY FIRST WEEK AS WELL AND I LOVE THE DAILY EMAILS. I AM LEARNING A LOT PLUS IT HELPS KEEP ME POSITIVE AND FOCUSED. I AM TRYING TO CHANGE SLOWLY AND GRADUALLY WITH BABY STEPS. I AM ALSO TRYING TO DRINK A LOT OF WATER AND EAT A LOT MORE FRUITS AND VEGGIES. AND THE BEST PART IS THAT THIS HELPFUL "SERVICE" IS FREE!!
Posted by: HEATHER | April 17, 2009 at 11:36 AM
THIS IS THE SECOND DAY I HAVE READ PEER TRAINING AND I HAVE TO SAY I AM LEARNING ALOT. I DEFINITELY FEEL THAT WRITING DOWN WHAT I EAT AND THE POINTS REALLY HELPS. THIS WAY I CAN LOOK AT IT AND IF SOMETHING CHANGES WHERE I AM NOT GOING TO BE HOME TO EAT WHAT I PLANNED I KNOW THE AMOUNT OF POINTS HAVE CONSUMED AS WELL AS THE AMOUNT OF POINTS I HAVE LEFT. THANK YOU AND I LOOK FORWARD TO TOMORROW.
Posted by: RONNIE ADELMAN | February 28, 2009 at 07:39 AM