Sensible eating for healthy weight loss: my best practices and desired habits

I have put on some extra weight and I want to take it off. I already eat a fairly healthy, mostly Paleo diet. I was thinking about the mindset and habits I want to cultivate. I’m looking at what’s worked for me in the past and some new best practices.

Twice since 2000, I’ve lost weight: the first time, I lost 35 pounds, of which 20 pounds crept back on for a few years, and then I lost the 20 pounds and kept it off for a few years. Those 20 pounds have crept back on over the past 7 years.

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How did that happen? In the past, inactivity and comfort eating after being injured helped me put on weight, as did eating whatever I wanted (and developing a leaky gut).

When I was doing more massage, I needed to be strong and have more energy, so I ate more. I’m doing more bodywork now, and it’s not as physically demanding, but I didn’t eat less. What can I say? I like food.

Plus, I’ve slacked off on some good habits that worked well for me in the past, although I did clear up my leaky gut.

This time, I’m pretty sure the weight gain has something to do with changes in my metabolism, which might be due to aging and genes. I don’t know. It’s complicated. Ever notice that older people tend to be heavier? Why is that?

When I was tested for micronutrient absorption (I wrote more about that here), one issue that became apparent was I have poor carbohydrate metabolism. The Spectracell testing showed that I was deficient in chromium, which optimizes insulin function. My glucose-insulin interaction, the key component in carbohydrate metabolism, was borderline. I was also borderline in Vitamin B12.

My doctor says that taking a methylated B-complex supplement will help with carbohydrate metabolism. I take a multi-mineral supplement and extra chromium to support that. So I’m aware of and working on metabolic reasons for weight gain, aiming to optimize how my body regulates glucose. I’ll be retested in the fall.

I have a target weight in mind that I want to see on the scale, but I’m more committed to losing extra fat and having more energy than to a number. 

When I was slimmer, I ate less than I do now. So, my new desired behavior is to eat as if I already weigh my target weight! That translates to eating smaller portions, eating just enough to stave off hunger (after I’ve felt hunger pangs once and let them pass).

I recall eating maybe 15 bites of nutrient-dense food just to see how long it would take for me to get hungry again. I learned that hunger pangs pass and they won’t kill you, at least not for weeks or months. I want my body to burn excess fat! I don’t need to stretch my stomach every time I eat.

I believe I can learn how much to eat so I’m optimally fueled.

The ketogenic diet has not worked for me. Sautéing greens in pasture-fed ghee with a poached egg on top, eating a couple of sardines in olive oil, smearing a tablespoon of chicken liver paté on a Diji’s Raw Cracker (from People’s Pharmacy in Austin), or making salmon salad-romaine rollups with avocado mayonnaise provides enough healthy fat (and I read labels, so I avoid unhealthy fats). I do not need to go out of my way to eat more fat. I may need to reconsider this when I get to my target weight, but for now, moderate fat is it.

When I was slimmer, I was more physically active, and I can bump that up again. Summer is great for swimming, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding. Dance and yoga are available year-round, as is aikido, which I fell away from when my teacher was away for a few months. I would like to resume an hour of physical activity 5 days a week.

I skip breakfast most of the time. I can make that all of the time, which if I keep my meals within an eight-hour window, also means I’m doing intermittent fasting seven days a week. Fortunately, I don’t have to work at this. A nice cup of matcha in the morning is all I need until mid-day.

My aim is to stay optimally hydrated all day, every day. I drink a big glass of water when I first wake up. The brain is the most sensitive organ to dehydration, and I want my brain to work well from the time I awaken. Also, by staying hydrated, I won’t mistake thirst for hunger. I plan to drink enough for my current weight, not my target weight, by taking a glass bottle of filtered water with me everywhere. I also consume matcha, bone broth, beet kvass, and hibiscus and other teas for a variety of pleasurable liquid tastes and nutrients.

In the past, I have measured how many ounces I drank each day until I got in the habit of drinking half my body weight in ounces, more if I sweat. I learned to notice dehydration from excessive thirst, darker urine, sluggish bowels. I am pretty good at staying hydrated these days, and I refill glass bottles with filtered water and take them with me everywhere. (See, I developed a habit that stuck! I can learn!)

By the way, did you know that each swallow is approximately an ounce? This is a useful guideline when you don’t know the container size.

However, I limit fluid consumption before, during, and after meals to a couple of ounces to avoid diluting my digestive fluids. I take digestive enzymes before and Betaine HCl after meals to optimize getting nutrients out of the food I eat.

I plan to continue eating nutrient-dense foods. I’ve seen a guideline for measuring portion sizes: eat a handful (fingers spread wide) of low-starch veggies and a palm-full of protein. I guess you could add a thumb or pinky size of healthy fat.

eat some healthy protein at every meal. It satisfies. Mostly wild salmon (fresh, frozen, or canned), sardines in olive oil, smoked oysters in olive oil, eggs, chicken liver paté, and when dining out, chicken, lamb, goat. I love healthy hummus that I make from dried chickpeas using olive oil, and I eat Brazil nuts (for the selenium) and sprouted seeds. I mostly avoid dairy.

I eat as many non-starchy vegetables as I like. I can fill up on cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, beet greens (I make kvass with the beets, which ferments the sugar and has health benefits), any kind of greens, peppers, tomatoes, okra, onions, etc. They are low in calories and high in nutrients and fiber. Roasted, steamed, sautéed, stir-fried, raw, juiced — it’s all good.

When I eat out, I ask for a to-go container and put half the food in the container to take home, eating only what’s on my plate. I stretch my dining out budget, have another meal I don’t have to cook, and eat for my target weight.

Other tips:

  • Use smaller plates and bowls. You were tired of your old dishes anyway, weren’t you? Get something smaller that you love.
  • Eat slowly. If you can drag your meals out to last 20 or 30 minutes, you are way more likely to feel the “I’m full” signal before you overeat. Put your fork or spoon down between bites. Nibble. Graze. Talk. Listen.
  • Chew thoroughly. This slows your eating down and your stomach acid and digestive enzymes don’t have to work so hard to extract nutrients. Digestion starts in your mouth.
  • Limit or stop drinking alcohol. Extra calories, little nutrition, and loss of discipline? No thanks! One thing I do is if have red wine with dinner, I brush my teeth as soon as possible after the meal. That stops me from drinking more or snacking. I drink water or a relaxing herbal tea before bedtime.
  • Know what your downfalls are and just don’t buy it or eat it, not even at a party. I like dark chocolate. It still has sugar in it, and it’s hard for me to stop at one small piece. I am not ashamed to say I also need to stay away from Talenti Sea Salt Caramel Gelato entirely. It is wicked tasty. Too tasty for me.
  • I’m going for a no-sugar diet. If I really need something sweet, I can add a dab of stevia to my tea. I’d like to retrain my taste buds to enjoy a lower amount of sweetness.
  • I limit fruit in weight-loss mode because even though it’s nutrient-dense, it contains sugar. A handful of blueberries or half a grapefruit once a day is my target. Also, I can eat 3 slices of avocado instead of a whole one. When I reach my target, I will definitely eat more fruit and avocados.
  • I’m also going for a 100% grain-free diet. That means no slipping a gluten-free pizza or a sourdough sandwich into my diet. Just because my gut can now tolerate grains better doesn’t negate their weight-gaining properties for my body! I can try making a cauliflower-crust pizza, and I am looking forward to that. Romaine roll-ups replace sandwiches.

Okay, my friends, I just got up from the sofa where I was writing this and moved my laptop to the kitchen counter. I am now standing while writing on my computer. I am burning more calories as I write. I can do more of that.

There are two things I haven’t tried yet that could be helpful. One is to track my movement, as with a FitBit. I haven’t investigated this but plan to. Will it work for kayaking (no steps)? Don’t know. What is your experience with these devices?

The other is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). I get the concept, that by going all out for short periods of time, recover, and repeat x times or for x minutes, you burn calories, raise your metabolic rate, lose fat, gain muscle, and generally train your body to work more efficiently.

I like that you can benefit from doing it just two or three times a week and that it takes less than 30 minutes. That could work on my busiest days.

I’m wondering if I can adapt this to my preferred forms of exercise, because I am not a gym rat. Can I kayak all out for 20 seconds, slow down for a minute, and repeat that 10 times? Or swim or dance in that pattern? I am easily bored with repetition. How can I make HIIT work for me?

If you have any comments, tips, advice, things to avoid, please share!


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