Mike and Rick are on the show today to talk about how Mike lost 50 pounds with simple diet. Not a fad diet like eating grapefruit or something like that.
Below is Mike's simple diet plan:
I’m not going to go very far into how tired and unhealthy I was, I know most people will just want to get into how I started to fix the problems and what is working for me. A lot has already been written and documented on the subject of ways we’re killing ourselves with poor food choices (some not entirely our fault). I’ll just start by referencing a blog and documentary that will help explain all of my choices.
The movie “Fed Up” now available on Netflix Streaming. Loads of good information, a lot of it scary and sad. Watch it. The 10 Day No Sugar Added Challenge
What I did
I eliminated sweeteners and starches from my diet. Done.
Sweeteners are anything sweet that nature didn’t put in my food. Sugar, corn syrup, honey, agave, sugar alcohols, syrups, and all artificial sweeteners. Also, any natural sugars where someone did the extracting for me -- juices -- with the exception of a squeeze of lemon in my water or tea.
Starches - or “white food”. Bananas, potatoes, bread, pasta, rice or complex carbohydrates, are better than sugars because the body still needs to break them down into sugars and so they are more slowly digested. I do occasionally eat starches which I’ll cover later, but by and large I avoid them because they are too close to being sugars for daily intake.
For me the key to success was the mantra, “Don’t fake it.” By that I mean that when I got away from sweeteners and starchy foods, I did not look for calorie free alternatives (diet soda, etc). Those crutches are weak and in some cases worse for you than sugar. I also did not try to eat weak facsimiles of “bad food”. I’ll say more on that later.
This also means no special shakes or other dietary aids. They can be expensive, also, imagine yourself on a long trip. Are you packing a couple weeks worth of shakes? Probably not. You’ll be working without that crutch and you may not know how to properly eat without it. My methods have left me prepared to eat properly no matter where I am.
A last word about artificial sweeteners. One of the problems we all face today is that super-sweet artificial sweeteners dull your ability to taste natural sugars. As you break the sugar habit you’ll learn that regaining your taste for natural sugar is important for staying sugar free and healthy. Food will taste different - better, because you’ll be able to taste the natural sugars within.
I did not break my sugar addiction all at once. Like dipping your toes into a cold pool and slowly getting in deeper and deeper as your body gets used to the cold, I did it in small steps before finally plunging all-in.
Remove all sugary drinks from your diet. Not just drinks with added sugar. No sugary drinks at all - this includes 100% fruit juice.
Things to drink
• Water (with a small squeeze of lemon if you like)
• Unsweetened Iced Tea (with a bit of lemon if you like)
• Coffee (with some cream if you like)
One side benefit to only drinking water is you’ll find that your food bills, especially restaurant tabs, will be reduced significantly. Restaurants charge $2 - $3 for the “free” refill soda they sell. Remember - don’t fake it. Diet “ANYTHING” isn’t good for you and the super sweet artificial sweeteners dull your ability to taste natural sugars.
Juice is essentially sugar water squeezed from a fruit. Even 100% natural juice. It’s water, sugar, and some nutrients. Other than some vitamin C, orange juice is just as bad as a glass of coke when it comes to taking in low volume high calorie foods.
Get in this habit first. I consider this one of the easiest adjustments to make. Get past this and enjoy the victory and extra cash in your pocket.
Start eating vegetables
Every meal, make sure you have a big pile of green, orange, and yellow vegetables. If you already like vegetables, great, eat more. At resturants tell them, “No potato, please double the vegetables”. It’s easy and they all do it without hesitation.
Things to eat
The list of things NOT to eat is too long. Obviously nothing with sugar (or sweetener crutches) in it. What I made is a list of what to eat. This list is remarkably easy to maintain. You only need to remember a few things. Eat a protein and at least twice the volume of protein in vegetables. (Green and yellow vegetables, not potatoes.)
My meals are simple. By that I mean, a protein sauteed in some olive oil with salt, pepper, and other herbs and spices. Vegetables steamed seasoned with some salt and pepper with a little butter. It’s easier to stay on track this way than it is to try and figure out what sauces and coatings are OK. Sauces are additional calories and are usually sugary/starchy.
Repeating myself -- go heavy on the vegetables. I don’t think you can eat too many of them. Eating a pork chop and three baby carrots isn’t balanced. Load up on those vegetables.
Your eating day
If you don’t eat breakfast, start! Seriously, it sets the stage for the rest of the day. I start every day with three scrambled eggs, a glass of water, maybe a cup of coffee with cream, and a fruit (usually an orange). This isn’t negotiable. If you have to wake up 15 minutes earlier, do it. Eating breakfast keeps you feeling great until lunch. If you’re starving at 10 AM, when you leave for lunch you’ll be more inclined to just go get the fastest easiest (shittiest) food available.
• Bacon (hickory smoked - no “maple” or such.)
• Sausage (Check ingredients they’ll sneak sugar into some sausage. Corn Syrup is like the 3rd ingredient in a hot dog)
• Replace any potatoes with fruit or tomatoes - most restaurants will do this, it’s more common than you think.
• Fruit (avoid bananas - they’re starchy)
Lunches and Dinners
• A protein
• A vegetable
◦ Any green vegetable
◦ Nuts (avoid flavored nuts… sugar abounds in anything “glazed”)
◦ No starchy vegetables like potatoes or corn
◦ Fruit (avoid bananas - starchy!)
◦ Unsweetened Greek yogurt with berries
Short list of things to avoid
• Flour of any kind
A typical day
• Three Scrambled eggs made with a tablespoon of olive oil. (Sometimes butter, it depends on my mood)
• Glass of ice water (a glass or two at every meal is important. Dehydration is often mistaken for hunger.)
• Sauteed seasoned chicken breast / pork chop / fish fillet
• Big portion of vegetables (Broccoli, Carrots, Peas, Spinach, etc) (2 cups or more)
• A couple of glasses of ice water.
• Nuts (nothing ‘glazed’)
• Fruit (I really love cherries, they’re a super food)
• Cup of plain greek yogurt with a cup of frozen berries (defrosted in the microwave)
• Cup of coffee with cream
• Glass of ice water.
• Sauteed seasoned chicken breast / pork chop / fish filet
• Big portion of vegetables (Broccoli, Carrots, Peas, Spinach, etc) (2 cups or more)
• A couple of glasses of ice water.
Don’t fake it.
Don’t eat sugar/starch free versions of sugary/starchy foods. You’re setting yourself up for failure.
Stop going to restaurants where you have to bend over backwards to avoid sugar and starches. Just divorce yourself from them. It makes things too difficult to stay on track. People will tell you that you can just order the burger without the bun and not get fries. Or order the big sandwich without the bread. They’ll wrap it in lettuce for you. Bluntly, this is dumb.
Your goal should be finding delicious and appealing sugar and starch free food. Not crappy versions of food that are ‘kind of like’ what you’re used to eating. Eating a great piece of fish with some nice vegetables and a great apple is satisfying. Using a fork and knife to eat a hamburger patty while watching your friend eat a burger normally is going to get really old - fast. Don’t go to fast food places of any kind. There’s nothing there for you.
This is meant to be a guide. I didn’t want to overload you so I kept it simple. But over time, read the ingredients and add things one at a time until you have a fuller list of things you can eat. Hot sauce normally doesn’t have any sugar in it. So if you want more flavor from hot sauce, go for it. Things like that.
There can be exceptions if you manage them well. I use salad dressing. There are many options that don’t have additional sugar, but when I started, I still used french dressing, which has sugar in it. However, I would order it on the side, and drizzle it onto the salad in very small strands. After putting the dressing on the salad, if you looked at the cup it came in, it looked like I didn’t use any at all. You’ll be given ¼ cup of dressing to use and you can really do fine using 1 or 2 teaspoons of it.
If I’m going to do some kind of long rigorous exercise like a long (30+ mile) bike ride. I will eat starches to build up my glycogen stores. I will be burning it all off so I’ll eat complex carbs like potatoes and pasta. In this case, I’m not interested in weight loss. Just being able to complete my long ride with all of the energy I need. Once I’m done with the ride, I fall right back into my normal day to day habits.
Making the final transition and stuff you’ll notice
After a few weeks of learning how to eat without sugar and starch, you’ll be ready to take the final plunge. No sugar. I’m not going to say it will be easy. You’ll be cranky for a couple of weeks. You may get headaches and suffer other withdrawal symptoms. When I was making the transition, I ate lot of fruit. It helped.
What I noticed was that after the first week, it was much easier. After a couple of weeks, I was fine. After four weeks, something remarkable happened. I was eating eggs for breakfast and I couldn’t believe how great they tasted. The... best... eggs... ever.
They weren’t special eggs. It was the fact that I was starting to taste the food more. My pallet that was blasted by ultra-sweetness for years made it impossible for me to notice the natural sugars in foods. I was starting to taste them again and it was good.
I found that plain greek yogurt, which was a little hard to eat at first, tasted different. I could taste the natural sweetness. I found that oranges started to taste VERY sweet. Like candy. Also, vegetables got tastier.
I didn’t miss sugar at all because there were so many other great tasting things.
I also found that I wasn’t hungry all of the time. I began losing weight, effortlessly. I did count calories at first to make sure I stayed on track (with My Fitness Pal) but I found that eating a piece or two of tilapia (which you can buy individually wrapped and frozen) and a pile of steamed broccoli was only a couple hundred calories. I could double the size of lunch and still be well below my allotted calories. Eliminating high calorie low benefit food makes calorie counting effortless.
I occasionally check in, but now I just eat normally and the weight continues to come off slowly but surely. (over 55 pounds lost in four months so far)
The other thing I noticed was watching the daily nutrition reports (Daily vitamins, fat, protein, etc) of my daily eating just balanced out by itself. In the past when only following calories I found that I’d fall short on vitamin A or something and have to supplement. When I started eating a protein, vegetables, and fruit, I was getting everything I needed.
You’ll notice that you’ll almost never go into the pantry any more. All of your food will come from the fridge. It’s just something I noticed. If I go into the pantry for something I know that it’s
probably not good.
I don’t know what to tell you here. I don’t drink much of the stuff typically. I drink with friends. Sometimes too much. I probably would have lost more weight by now*. But the things I do drink? Wine. Beer. That’s it. Mixed drinks are usually mixed with sugary stuff.
Over the past four months I probably averaged a bottle of wine per week. Depending on who you are, that may seem like a lot, but that equates to four glasses of wine.
I list this under exceptions. Also, as I write this, I’m only about five months in. I feel like in another couple of months I’ll be identifying other foods I can live without. Alcohol is on the short list of things to limit.
* This is a marathon, not a sprint. You can go a week or two without losing any weight, or even gaining a pound or two. If you stick with the good habits long term the weight will start coming off again.
A word about cost
Getting non-fast food at lunch every day means sitting down at a restaurant and that gets expensive. Right? It’s true you pay more at a sit down restaurant, however you need to look at the big picture. Your grocery bills will drop. You won't be so famished at lunch because you ate a good breakfast, so you’ll eat less. I assure you, over time, at the end of each day you won’t have spent any more money on food.
I buy large bags of frozen vegetables and frozen chicken and fish. Most meals I cook cost me $2 - $3 and they look better than most restaurant dishes.
There is nothing saying you have to go out for lunch each day when you’re working either. A pre-cooked chicken breast and frozen vegetables heated up in the microwave will only cost you a couple of dollars.
Occasionally, have some sugar.
There’s that word - occasion. Before we had super-factories cranking out tons of sugar, candy, cakes, etc, that are available everywhere at all times, treats were rare and they were saved for special occasions. Your birthday. Christmas day. Your anniversary. Special times. Have a nice dessert on those days. That won’t kill you. But you may need to raise your standards for what constitutes a special occasion. “I worked hard today” isn’t an occasion. If you’re having more than four special occasions a year, you’re celebrating too much stuff.
“But I’ve heard that a calorie is a calorie. Where weight loss is concerned, eating 200 calories of chocolate is the same as eating 200 calories of broccoli.”
Wrong. Period. For me, this is the best way to visualize the process.
For your body to process sugar to turn it into excess energy where it then turns it into fat, this is the process:
1: Sugar →
2: Fat. Done.
For your body to extract the sugars from broccoli (or an orange). It has to act like a sugar factory.
2 - 20: Your body does everything this sugar mill has to do to extract sugar.
Actual sugar mill. Look at all of the energy spent to extract sugar from super sweet sugarcane!
21: Fat Done.
How much of those 200 broccoli calories are going to end up as fat vs. the 200 calories of sugar?
If you eat only 1,200 calories a day made up of nothing but brownies and fudge, you’ll lose weight. You will feel like crap because you’re getting no nutrients. You’ll lose muscle and fat. You’ll have short spurts of energy followed by bouts of exhaustion. You will feel sore and sick. You’ll be hungry all of the time. You’ll feel sick, tired, hungry, depressed and if you’re like me you’ll try to feel better emotionally by eating ice cream.
This is the most sustainable thing I’ve done for myself. Call it paleo, atkins, whatever. Don’t screw yourself up with too many rules or things to think about. Eat a protein, a green vegetable, and drink some water or tea. Eat as much of those things as it takes to not be hungry. That’s it. Simple. It will be hard at first, but then it will become very easy. At least, it has for me.
Well written and a very sound plan to follow Mike. I'm eating almost dead on what you are. I have also found that prepping chicken breast and a veggie 2 to 3 days worth of little Tupperware lunches at a time makes it highly doable, affordable and easy. I also hard boil my eggs and peel one the night before to take with me to work each day. I never used to eat breakfast at all either and I completely get your point about taking the time to have a breakfast now. Congrats on your weight loss but more so on your overall health!