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Loss Starts at the
The first step to achieving Picture-Perfect Weight Loss is to focus on the food you buy. After all, you are what you eat. And what you eat starts with the choices you make when you go to the market. This guide will help you make the lower-calorie choices that take off the weight and lead to a lifetime of healthy eating.
During the course of this book, I'll go shopping with you. As we walk up and down the aisles of beverages, dairy foods, canned soups, condiments, and so on, I'll provide some overall pointers on what to look for and what to avoid in each food category. I'll even recommend some brands that I know to be particularly well-suited to a lifetime of healthy eating without gaining weight.
Pretty soon, as you continue to concentrate on making deliberate choices in your shopping, buying the lower-calorie choice will become automatic. The information in this book will guide you on your way to routinely shopping and eating with awareness.
And awareness, as readers of my book Dr. Shapiro's Picture Perfect Weight Loss will remember, is the key to losing weight and keeping it off. Forever.
Food Awareness Training
The acronym FAT spells fat. But the concept that it stands for, Food Awareness Training, is your ticket to losing the weight you want to lose. It's not about adhering to a specific diet or eating regimen. You don't have to eat six small meals2 hours apart ... or eat one large meal in the middle of the day ... or avoid any food with sugar or fat ... or eat mostly protein with no carbohydrates ... or eat mostly carbohydrates with almost no protein. You won't need to constantly count your calories ... or stuff a scale in your briefcase so you can measure the number of grams in a portion ... or consult a sheet of paper reminding you to eat certain foods at certain times of the day or admonishing you not to combine certain foods. There's one basic problem with all such diets, treatments, and sets of rules and regulations: They don't work.
How could they? How could any single code of instructions work for everyone who wants to lose weight? We all lead different lives, follow different schedules, possess different body types, have different tastes. There are busy corporate execs who eat on the run and grab what they can when they can, calling it a meal. There are stay-at-home moms or, increasingly, telecommuters working in pajamas who find that being at home all day is an invitation to eat whatever is in the pantry and refrigerator. There are people who eat like birds and others who eat like vultures, people who love a huge breakfast and others who can stomach only a cup of tea in the morning, people-about-town who see stage shows 3 nights a week and follow them with rich restaurant meals at 11:00 P.M., folks whose idea of dinner is a pizza and a couple of beers.
If we put all these people on the same fad diet, what would happen? Assuming that they all stuck to it religiously, they would indeed lose weight at first: Any strictly adhered-to change in eating patterns is bound to cause an alteration in weight. But as anyone who has ever tried a diet knows perfectly well, the weight loss doesn't last. At the end of the diet, the weight comes back on. It stays there until the next fad diet comes along. Then there's the euphoria of another weight-loss success and the disappointment of the gain that follows. It's called yo-yo dieting, and it is emotionally unhealthy.
Rigidly uniform diets ultimately don't work simply because people aren't rigidly uniform. What's more, any food plan based on specific foods, portions, or times to eat is doomed to failure for the simple reason that it is based on deprivation. It aims to suppress your natural appetite—and, as with most things that are unnaturally suppressed, this only makes your craving more acute. When you do begin to eat again, you tend to do so ravenously.
The weight-loss program I've developed for my patients isn't a command to a robot. It isn't a regimen that tries to extinguish your natural appetite. Instead, it accepts the fact that you are an individual who cannot cancel every business lunch or refuse to partake of the family Thanksgiving meal because you are trying to lose weight. The program assumes that you have a life to live and an appetite that is part of who you are. The Picture-Perfect Weight Loss program asks you to be aware of what you're eating, focus on the foods you buy to eat, and make choices based on that awareness.
That's what Food Awareness Training is all about, and it is based on five core principles. Here they are.
First, any reason for eating is okay. When you want to eat, do so. Don't deprive yourself of food; it will just make you feel hungrier. Some diet regimens urge you to eat only when hungry. What does that mean? Do you have the time to analyze the early-infancy incident triggering the hunger of a certain moment? It doesn't matter what it is. If you feel that you want to eat, you really do want to eat. What you'll learn in this shopper's guide is to buy the lower-calorie, healthier choices that you like so that when you are hungry, you'll eat for weight loss—and be just as satisfied.
Second, there are no bad foods. Say it aloud to yourself.' "There are no bad foods." This also means that there is no such thing as cheating and, even more to the point, no reason for guilt. Sometimes—if you're shopping for a birthday party, for example—only the chocolate-fudge mocha ice cream will do. At other times, there may be lower-calorie alternatives that are just as satisfying. But no food is inherently bad.
Third, there are no correct portions. If you can't fill a craving with one low-calorie frozen fudge bar, have another. And another. Even another. Believe it or not, with this particular choice, you're still on track in your weight-loss plan because, as it happens, frozen fudge bars are pretty low in calories. So if it takes a whole box of frozen fudge bars to satisfy that elusive thing called hunger, that is your correct portion. Hunger, after all, varies from person to person. Further, it can vary from day to day, even hour to hour, within a single person—something I'm sure you've experienced yourself.
Fourth, an eating plan needs to suit your tastes and lifestyle. Do you entertain a lot? Are you on the road 3 days out of 7? Do you have an endless commute due to which you're up and about and grabbing breakfast on the run at 5:00 in the morning? Are you part of a family of four with four different schedules that dictate that the only time you can all come together is for a late supper? Certainly, you cannot completely control these aspects of your life: job, family, obligations. But you can control the food choices you make within the framework of your tastes and lifestyle. Shopping for food is the front line of food choices.
Fifth, you are not on a diet. Ever. Instead, with Food Awareness Training, you're participating in an ongoing process of learning to make satisfying food choices. You make those choices at every meal, in every eating situation, and—first and foremost—when you shop for food. If you fill up your refrigerator and pantry with wisely chosen foods, you're already on the road to weight loss.
What You Buy Is What You Eat
Awareness, to be sure, begins with seeing. That's why I call the program Picture-Perfect Weight Loss. It's all about the picture in front of your eyes, the food choices you see in front of you. The first place where you get that picture is the supermarket. Or it can be the deli, specialty shop, chain store, catering truck, or vending machine—anyplace where you buy food for your refrigerator, your pantry, your desk at work, or a weekend car trip on the road.
Whatever the purpose of your food shopping expedition, you will be confronted by numerous choices. In some of the megastores of today's world, in fact, the number of choices can be overwhelming. That variety is both bad news and good news for the weight-conscious: bad news because the variety can be confusing; good news because there are so many choices available that there are bound to be numerous lower-calorie choices. And it is the lower-calorie choices that are the key to weight loss.
Of course, the purveyors of fad diets would have us believe otherwise. They tout plans such as the high-protein diet, the low-protein diet, the drinking-person's diet, and the sugar-lover's diet. All these highly specialized approaches to losing weight simply obscure what every doctor and commonsensible layperson knows: that the only safe, effective, foolproof way to lose weight and keep it off for the long term is to eat a healthy, reduced-calorie diet and to exercise regularly.
Eat when you want, and eat as much as you want. But always try to eat the lower-calorie choice among food options. That is the Picture-Perfect Weight Loss program in a nutshell.
A Matter of Choice
You're about to find out that you can eat a lot more than you're now eating and still take in fewer calories. You're about to see with your own eyes that it's okay to eat, even when you're trying to lose weight.
The "Picture This" food comparisons that you'll see scattered throughout this shopper's guide make it clear. They will help you see the impact of making the lower-calorie choice when you shop and when you eat. They won't just show you the caloric equivalents of foods; they'll also inform you about the nutritional values of the choices.
For example, perhaps you've tried to lose weight by giving up foods with fat, yet for some reason, the move to fat-free foods seemed to have no effect on what showed up on the scale. Why not? Being fat-free, whether inherently or because the food contains a fat substitute, says nothing about the food's calorie content. Angel food cake, for example, is inherently fat-free, yet it's high in refined carbohydrates that can easily turn to body fat if the calories aren't burned by energetic activity.
On the other hand, a plate of 15 assorted olives that are lush in appearance and rich in taste contains only 60 calories. And its fat content—yes, olives do have fat—consists of the very good kind of fat, the monounsaturated fats that we need for heart health. So, at fewer calories than a fat-free pretzel and with far higher nutritional content, the olives make a much better choice. The lesson? When you're in the market for a snack food or appetizer, think olives, not pretzels.
The suggestions and recommendations I'll offer when we go shopping in chapter 4 will do the same thing as the "Picture This" comparisons: show you the choices that are lower in calories and higher in nutritional value—the better choices when you're buying food.
You're in Charge
In the end, it's all about your relationship with food. Awareness is the first step toward changing the relationship, and shopping for the food you eat is the first step toward lower-calorie, higher-nutrition choices.
It's in your hands. You're the one pushing the cart up and down the supermarket aisles. You're the one with the cash or credit card in your wallet. And you're the one with your very personal, specific eating habits and appetite.
Maybe you'll decide that when you shop you will avoid the high-calorie treats that you love, saving them instead for the occasional night out at a restaurant. Or perhaps you'll decide that it makes sense to buy a small amount of that high-calorie treat food to treat yourself occasionally.
Either way, you're not cheating on anybody. You're choosing for yourself. And the choices you take to the checkout register can lead to permanent Picture-Perfect Weight Loss.
Excerpted from Dr. Shapiro's Picture Perfect Weight Loss Shopper's Guide by Dr. Howard M. Shapiro. Copyright © 2001 by Dr. Howard M. Shapiro. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.