General Topic: > Weight Loss

Every now and again I see a bumper sticker that says, "Eat More Kale" (probably thanks to this guy). I'd like to say that I like kale as much as the next guy, but I don't. I don't like it at all. Come to think of it, that might be about as much as "the next guy." Maybe that's why someone needs to make shirts about it.

Horse eating carrots.

I'm a spinach man. Raw. I'd prefer to squeeze it from can into a perfect parabolic flight straight into my mouth, but Bluto is big enemy and Olive Oyl needs to put on some weight. I'm kidding, of course, but I replace the lettuce in my salad with spinach for an extra kick of vitamins.

I can't see being Popeye, but Bugs Bunny is a different story. I can chew on a carrot. I think we could all learn a little more from Bugs and incorporate more carrots in our diet.

Why Carrots?

I shouldn't have write about why it is good to eat vegetables. That's common sense right?

So why single out carrots? Three reasons:

Beta Carotene

That's what gives carrots its orange coloring. Besides carrots it is found mostly in pumpkins and sweet potatoes. It seems like a nutrient that most people probably don't get a lot of... simply because it is hard to find.

Low Glycemic Load

What's glycemic load? You wouldn't have to ask this question if I had published my article on the glycemic index and glycemic loads. However, I haven't gotten it ready to publish yet. Carrots have an extremely low glycemic load... even for vegetables in general. I'm not a doctor, but I've read that insulin levels are tied to glycemic loads of foods and probably linked to diabetes. If you are going on low-carb diet and I'm not saying you should, it may be the best carb to cheat with. (See how carefully I tread the water here.)

Cheap and Long Lasting

Carrots are extremely cheap. I can find 5 pounds of them for around $2 at my local store. At that price, your other options are typically limited to potatoes or rice. (Actually beans can be found cheaply and they are great, but that's a different article.)

The key to cheap carrots is to skip the baby carrots. Yes, baby carrots are ready to eat right away. However, they are usually quite a bit more money, maybe setting you back $6-7 for 5 pounds.

I know the baby carrots are tempting. They tempt me too. Hey go for them if you want. It's better than not eating carrots at all.

For those of you who aren't so lazy, did you know that you can peel 10 pounds of carrots in less than 2 minutes? Don't believe me? Watch this guy do it in a little more than a minute:

If you only have 5 pounds of carrots, you can do it in half the time. (Yes, I was a mathematics major for a couple of years in college.)

You may still want to chop the carrots into smaller pieces, but I bet you'll get real good at that as well. Or you can leave them unchopped. Just because baby carrots come chopped doesn't mean you have to eat them way. Plus if you don't chop them, you can act out your inner Bugs Bunny.

Tasty and Easy to Eat

I don't usually like to say one food is better tasting than another, but you could statistically measure which foods people report taste better. If you did, I bet you'd find that carrots rank better than most vegetables. A very unscientific study of my two sons show that they do indeed taste better than most healthy foods.

They are also very easy to eat. You don't need to cook them. They don't leave your fingers orange like Cheetos.

While most people refrigerate carrots so that they last longer, if you are going to eat them in a few days, there's really no need to.

The Secret to Eating More Carrots

It's easy for me to write, "Eat more carrots", but I already know you aren't going to do it. You are going to close this browser window and go back to watching cat videos.

You may go through the charade of buying carrots. However, you'll then put them in the drawer of death in the refrigerator... the one you never open until they are a big soggy mess.

Instead, I want you make a Sunday night checklist. For me that checklist has stocking the kids diapers in the changing table, making sure they are shower and bathed, have clothes picked out for the week, etc. I've added "Prepare Carrots" to the list. Yes it is one more thing to do, but it doesn't take long and pays dividends all week.

Once you make it a habit, it will become second nature. You are setting healthy eating on autopilot.

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Summary: Doing something as simple as keeping a food journal may not only help your diet succeed, but it change your life. (Tweet this!)
food journal

Amazing things can start with a food journal

On walks with my dog I'm currently listening to the audiobook, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. After all that snow, it's great to get some fresh Spring air, a little exercise, while learning some truly amazing stuff.

I hope to review the book, err tape, err audio file... at some point in the near future. Today, I'd like to write about one very brief study mentioned in the book. I'm not even going to look up the study source, because it makes common sense if you think about it.

The book mentioned that the study asked some people who diet to simply keep track of what they ate once a week in a food journal. They weren't asked to change their eating or exercise habits in any way. Just keeping a journal changed how they ate:

“It was hard at first [writing down everything one day per week]. The subjects forgot to carry their food journals, or would snack and not note it…Eventually, it became a habit. Then something unexpected happened. The participant started looking at their entries and finding patterns they didn’t know existed. Some noticed they always seemed to snack at about 10 a.m., so they began keeping an apple or banana on their desks for mid-morning munchies. Others started using their journals to plan future menus, and when dinner rolled around, they ate the healthy meal they had written down, rather than junk food from the fridge.”

What they found is that the people who kept a food journal lost weight. Those who recorded their food more lost more weight.

I've noticed a similar thing in personal finance. Those who track their net-worth tend to have higher net-worths.

The act of tracking forces you to be mindful about the activity. If you are on a diet, you aren't going to want to write down that you ate triple burger with super fries and a thick shake. You not only have that mindfulness, but as the book mentions, you can go back and optimize your weaknesses. In addition you have a level of accountability.

What's even more exciting is that they found that the healthy habit spread into other areas of their lives. Those who ate healthier tended to exercise more. They smoke less. They were in better control of their spending.

A professor explained it as good habits "spill over." I like to say that they snowball.

This snowball effect is a central idea behind this website. If you are having trouble with one aspect of your life, perhaps improving another area will spill over and make the difference. If you start exercising, you'll feel better and have more energy. That will make you more productive. Being more productive makes you more money. Exercising improves your health, which may save you costly medical bills in the future.

One small habit can snowball into many positive changes in your life. Imagine what can happen if you just start with a simple food journal today.

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Summary: Living chemical free is not a realistic goal, but some easy substitutions go a long way (Tweet This!)

Live Chemical Free

When my wife was pregnant with our two children she took health to a new level. She did everything possible to avoid chemicals. Artificial sweeteners were replaced with organic agave such as this. Full calorie soda was kicked to the curb due to high-fructose corn syrup. There was an occasional splurge on Mexican Coke, which is made with cane sugar.

Imagine making those changes with everything you eat. That's what she did for two, long 9-month stretches.

Finding something to drink at a restaurant turned into a very difficult process. Ever notice how alcohol and soda dominate a restaurant? Even if you find some kind of juice, it is mostly going to be high-fructose corn syrup and water... not particularly healthy.

All of this brings me to the question?

Can You Live Chemical Free?

Nope. No way, no how. You can't. It's like trying to pitch a perfect game and striking out all 27 batters on 3 pitches.

Chemicals are everywhere.

It's not just my opinion, but also the doctor's in this article.

There's a lot of talk about being "chemical-free" which is why I prominently put it in the title. I think it's a poor term that focuses on extremism rather than useful. As the saying goes, perfect is the enemy of good.

Don't go in with a goal of pitching that extreme perfect game, just do you best with what's in-front at the time and you'll be fine.

Chemicals Aren't Necessarily Bad...

Before we go too far, I want to make the point that chemicals aren't necessarily bad. Science has done a lot of tremendous stuff for us, including creating the technology to allow you to read this. It doesn't feel right to say, "Hey this branch of science is really good and useful and this other branch is always harmful."

Even in the most controversial cases, it seems like it is the public that is confused about the science. For example, this from Pew Research:

"A majority of the general public (57%) says that genetically modified (GM) foods are generally unsafe to eat, while 37% says such foods are safe; by contrast, 88% of AAAS scientists say GM foods are generally safe. The gap between citizens and scientists in seeing GM foods as safe is 51 percentage points. This is the largest opinion difference between the public and scientists."

It looks like it's a case where the public doesn't understand health studies, is caught up in misinformation from a few bad eggs trying to get in the spotlight, or simply is fearful of something they don't understand.

I feel like chemicals are often painted with the same broad brush.

Final Thoughts...

My philosophy on this is that it's good to eliminate most chemicals when we can, but don't go overboard. Many people are living healthy long lives and most all of them are not checking their food for chemicals.

I suggest you look to make changes when you can. For example, I don't buy tomato sauce in a jar any more. I make it with diced tomatoes, tomato sauce (in a can), and tomato paste. I buy them all organic as it is only a few cents more. I've eliminated high-fructose corn syrup from my diet.

Another thing to look out for is BBQ sauce. Most brands have high-fructose corn syrup, but a few don't. For example, Bulls-eye BBQ uses real sugar.

Finally, my friends at DIY Natural have more advice than I can ever give you. Not only do they cover food, but they cover toiletries and other items. Their DIY Natural Household Cleaners book is highly recommended with an average of 4.3 stars over 125 reviews.

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Summary: These tips will help you lose weight by tricking you into eating less (Tweet This!)

Most people would agree that one of the keys to losing weight is simply eatting less food. If you weren't reading carefully, you may have missed I slipped a word in there... simply. For most people, there's really nothing simple to weight loss. This is one of the cases where knowing what to do is only 20% of the battle. It's extremely tough to stay on the wagon.

With that in mind here are some tips to help you eat less to lose weight:

  • Volumetrics - I used to dismiss this phenomenon as another diet fad. However, one day I looked in my cupboard and saw some microwave popcorn next to a can of peanuts. I realized that I could either a bag of popcorn, a little less than the size of my head, and only consume 100 calories in 15 minutes... or I could go through the 2 ounces of peanuts in about 25 seconds and consume 330 calories. That's not to saw that the peanuts are a bad food choice. Instead, there is something to be said for opting to choose a bigger food that takes longer to eat, while still being fewer calories.
  • Drink Water - Like the volumetrics above, water takes up space in the stomach. I try to have a big glass of water before I even start a meal. This way I've already occupied some stomach space with zero calories.
  • Eat Slower - Studies show that it cons the brain 10 minutes to register that it is getting full. By eating slower, you give more time for these signals to be sent. In fact, there are even smart forks, designed to help you eat slowly. Going back to the bag of popcorn verses the already shelled peanuts, the popcorn takes longer to eat and thus makes me fuller.
  • Imagine Eating More - If you just think you are eating more, you may trick your body... at least according to this study.
  • Smaller Plates I - With smaller plates you aren't going to be able to physically pack as much food on them.
  • Smaller Plates II - Deja vu? Yep. Follow me for a minute on this one. Which one of the orange dots is bigger?

    mond vergleich illusion

    You may be familiar with the optical illusion and answered that they are both the same size. If so, score yourself a point. Now think of the gray circles as the size of the plate. See... same amount orange dot food. On a larger plate you think you're not getting enough, but on a smaller plate your mind believes it's getting more to eat than it is.

  • Meal Measure Portion Control Tool - This plastic mold fits to your plates (unless you are using small ones as recommended above) to help you measure your portions.

If you combine a few of the tips above, you might find that losing weight is a little bit easier.

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Summary: Want to lose weight? Is it really as simple as diet and exercise? Let's find out (Tweet This!)

A few days ago, I covered the golden rule of money. In case you missed it, it is Spend Less Than You Earn. Today's golden rule of weight loss is similar... but different:

Diet & Exercise

[Note: I'm always hesitant to use the word diet when I mean "eat less" as they are very different. After all, I could go on a Super Size Me diet. Alas, society tends to use "diet" as being synonymous with eating less. ]

Most health professionals know that a pound of body weight is 3,500 calories. Want to lose a pound? Simply eat 500 fewer calories every day for a week. Since most of the food in the United States comes with a calorie counter, this should be easy, right? Unfortunately, it is wrong. I don't know how many times that I've read that Americans could drop 15 pounds if they just switched from drinking one can of full calorie soda a day to diet soda. I know a number of people who gave up full calorie sodas and they didn't look like they lost any weight.

Eat Less, Exercise More

If only bathroom scales were this blunt with you.

Yesterday's lesson of spend less than you earn didn't seem to have this problem. I don't want to go all Paul McCartney on you, longing for yesterday, but money was such an easier game to play. The problem is the human body is pretty efficient. If you stop eating, your body will conserve calories making it more difficult to exercise. Exercising without eating can be physically dangerous.

Even if our bodies weren't against us, most of us would still have problems losing weight. We don't prioritize exercise. Everyone I know is going to spend tomorrow working (including commuting) for 9-10 hours. What happens to the rest of the day? Much of that is spent getting ready for work in the morning, making dinner at night, spending time and with the spouse and kids. Exercise is often the lowest priority.

Finally, the money's golden rule of "spending less than you earn" often fights against the goal of losing weight. Unless you are one of the few people who has never been to a McDonalds, you know that McDouble is a lot cheaper than a salad. Gym memberships and personal trainers are expensive. (Though I'll cover a lot of ways to lose weight on a budget.) These conflicting goals can make things difficult.

How You Can Eat Less

There are a lot of ways to trick yourself into eating less. You can use psychological tricks to make it look like you are eating more. You can drink more water to slow you down from overeating. You can make wise choices of foods that fill your stomach on fewer calories. (By "eating less", I mean calories, not volume of food.)

When you combine these together it gets easier. I won't sugarcoat it and say it's "easy" by any means.

The Key to Exercising More

I know a lot of people who don't like exercise. They find elliptical trainers boring. If you are one of those people, I'm with you. However, a lot of those people like activity sports like tennis. Even some of the newer video games can be fun and trick you into exercising more. Finally, there are motivational tricks such as setting SMART goals . I'll cover a lot more of these in greater detail over time.

You shouldn't give up losing weight just because it may be more difficult than saving money. If you think it's impossible, just watch The Biggest Loser. People on the show have a 100% success rate at losing weight over time (though they sometimes put some of it back on).

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