The Second Step Toward Losing Weight Quickly
If there is a second thing that you can do today to start on the road to losing weight quickly—and do the most good for your physical and mental health—it is to control not just your sugar intake, but your refined carb intake as well. Read along and discover why avoiding the wrong carbs and focusing on the right carbs can make all the difference in the world when dieting.
[With a new focus on how to lose weight during 2021, future Emaxhealth articles will follow the exploits of the intrepid Dr. Boyer as he reviews and re-evaluates past weight loss health articles and puts what he has learned into actual practice in a personal weight loss experiment to help others discover what works and does not work while trying to lose weight.]
The First 15 Pounds in 30 Days
As discussed earlier, my first month of dieting was to cut out as much sugar as I possibly could that included the biggest offenders of all: sodas, commercially sweetened fruit juices, Starbucks Coffee as well as non-beverage food products such as pies, cookies and “Sugar Powered” breakfast cereals.
The second big change I made to my diet was to cut out carbs as much as I could reasonably stand. Not an easy task because not only am I big on panini sandwiches stuffed with lot of meat, pickled condiments, cheese and veggies, but I also have a serious love affair with bagels and pizza, and sometimes when I am feeling especially conflicted food-wise—pizza bagels.
When most of us hear about carb reduction, the first thought is usually about trying out a ketogenic diet in which carb reduction is its foundation. In my case, however, I decided to do what I refer to as going “nearly-keto” so as to avoid some of the initial unpleasantness of the early stages of a true ketogenic diet.
By going “nearly-keto” I did what makes common sense—cutting out refined white bread of all types such as the aforementioned panini sandwiches, bagels and packaged snacks. And why is this so important? Because refined carbs come second only to eating table sugar directly off of a spoon as the biggest cause of insulin spikes and diabetes.
For more about why going nearly-keto was my first choice rather than going all the way, here is an informative article about test driving a Keto Diet.
Refined Bread Basics
So, what do I mean by “refined bread carbs”? Basically I am referring to any bread-based foods that begin in nature as healthy and nutritious crops such as wheat and other grains, but with commercial processing by the food industry has its most beneficial components stripped away.
Natural grains consist of bran, germ and endosperm. The brain is the tough outer layer that contains not only needed fiber, but also many essential minerals and antioxidants. The endosperm is the starchy middle layer of a grain that possesses most of the carbohydrate and some protein. The germ is the powerhouse of nutrition which is nutrient dense—along with some carbs—but provides much more in healthy fats, proteins, vitamins and important phytocompounds beneficial to our health.
During processing of natural grains, the bran and germ components are lost, leaving behind the less-nutritious carb-heavy endosperm that is made into bread. To compensate for the loss of nutrients, some food producers add nutrients to the refined flour, but nutritionally it’s a far cry from what the original grain had to offer before modern processing.
All of this in turn has led to an American diet that is high in refined carbs and low in fiber which together are strongly associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and many digestive health issues.
What Happened When I Cut Out White Bread
Cutting out white bread played a big role in losing those first 15 pounds. In large part because it released my body from carb-induced body bloating due to water retention. Remember, a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. And, the first week of seriously cutting out sugar and carbs led to some frequent urination as my body coped with the change in diet.
When you go into a low carb diet your body will naturally not be releasing nearly as much insulin as it does during an insulin spike shortly after eating some white bread. Not only does released insulin tell fat cells to start storing even more fat, but it also signals your kidneys to start retaining sodium. In turn, with more sodium retained, your body will also begin holding onto more water and turning you into a human sponge and feeling pretty bloated.
On the opposite side of this, on a low carb diet you could also become low on sodium which is a necessary electrolyte for good health. In fact, low carb diets such as the keto diet can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, lightheadedness, headaches and constipation due to lower sodium levels. But because I was shooting for going nearly-keto, I pretty much avoided these unpleasantries. Plus, I was on some rich soups during this time, which we will discuss later.
After the initial week of bloat relief, by the second week I began to observe the actual loss of some body fat as per my recommendation of replacing my bathroom scales with a more reliable dieting hack.
To get to this state in my diet, I did not go into the minutia of carb counting, but I did make it a point to check the carb content of several foods to have an idea of how some foods compared relative to others when it came to carb content. In other words, I chose lower carb foods in place of higher carb foods keeping my carb count to around 30 grams daily.
So how did it feel? For the most part not too bad, but there were days when my body felt fatigued and a little off. I suspect that on some days I had gone too carb low, because at the worst of it I found that a quick pick-me-up allowing myself a ¼ cup of raisin bran cereal seemed to make everything right again almost immediately. This was a good lesson toward learning how to listen to my body while dieting. I did not need to count carbs, only to have a relative sense of it and listen to when my body said that I’ve gone low enough.
Today, I am still remaining low carb, but allow myself ¼ to ½ cup of cereal every other morning and small pieces of a variety of foods on the days in between.
The Best Carbs to Eat
The best carbs to eat are those closest to natural state as possible such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, wheat, and oats. However, when you are a habitual carb fiend like I used to be, you have to find compromises that will work for you toward retaining your sanity while dieting. For this, I highly recommend looking at some keto recipes that include lower-carb keto flour options as well as some non-flour work arounds.
My favorite is making a pizza crust using cauliflower. Essentially this takes a cup or two of cauliflower crumbs or cauliflower rice, 2 eggs, a little water, some seasoning, and shredded cheese as a binder to make a dough-like mixture that can be flattened and pre-baked into a crust capable of holding your pizza fixings like tomato sauce, veggies, meats and mozzarella cheese. I like to pre-bake the dough on a pizza stone coated with olive oil. The result? I do not really notice that I am eating a non-flour pizza crust. It’s just that good, and it curbs my worst of carb cravings.
Carbs To Avoid
If you have never tried going low-carb before, basically you should start off by avoiding the following foods for the first 2 weeks:
• Corn or corn based products like grits
• Flour (you may use quinoa, almond or coconut flour in small amounts later)
• Fruit – after Induction you may begin to reintroduce nuts and fruit into your diet (any kind of berry – approx. 1/2 cup) AFTER the first 2 weeks. Berries are high in anti-oxidants and low in natural sugar.)
After, giving it a try for a couple of weeks, if you feel a change in your body and your health and want to take it to the next level, here is some past advice from Emaxhealth writer Sussana Sisson who has a Simple Plan to Follow a Low Carb Diet for Those Who Don't Know How To Get Started that is highly recommended reading.
The Experiment Continues
I am into my second month of dieting right now and am continuing to limit my refined sugar and carb intake as much as I possibly can according to how my body is responding day to day. As I’ve shared before, there is much more going on diet-wise that I accredit to my weight loss, so stay tuned to future articles.
The take-away message I have is that ridding yourself of your dependence on sugar including refined carb foods such as pasta, white bread and junk food snacks is a necessary and big part of losing weight quickly. Furthermore, by following these critical first two steps of my dieting experiment, you will begin to experience changes that will tell you whether you have gone too far or not far enough. In other words, you will be raising your awareness about how to listen to your body that will aid your dieting efforts and doing what works for you.
Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with an eye on the latest news, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on what you need to know for healthier living. For continual updates about health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.
Image Source: Courtesy of Image by Skica911 from Pixabay