Here’s how processed food is sabotaging your weight loss.

Let’s first define processed food.  Processed food is anything that is changed from it’s original state.  Technically, if you take a banana and strawberries and blend them to smithereens with your VitaMix, that is now a processed food.

But wait, you say, isn’t that a little extreme?  Well, yes, but for our purposes here, and for yours going forward, let’s just think of processed food that way…as anything that’s been changed from it’s original state.  An apple…not a processed food, while apple juice is a processed food.  Cooking a potato is processing a food.  Steaming broccoli is processing food.

Okay, now we’re straight on that, let’s examine why consuming processed food is likely sabotaging any plans you may have to lose weight:

  1. Processed food is full of sodium -unless you’re the Sherlock Holmes of label reading, standing in the canned food aisle with a magnifying glass and a silly hat, you likely have no idea how much added sodium is in processed food.  Take canned black beans, as an example.  I dare you to find one that doesn’t have at least 500 mg of sodium per serving. It’s tough to do.  How about bread?  Good luck finding one with no added salt. Most pasta is also full of salt. Why?  Because adding salt provides two very distinct benefits for food companies that want to sell more food – it is a preservative and it makes food taste good (which makes people buy more of said food). You can easily verify this by taste testing a reduced salt vegetable soup.  I can guarantee it won’t taste very good.

Sodium, while a big benefit to food companies and their bottom line, is not quite as kind to your body.  Excess sodium results in inflammation, water retention and can even be an appetite stimulant. What? Oh great, so in addition to making me feel bloated and puffy, it can also make me want to eat more?  Wait, won’t that make it REALLY DIFFICULT TO LOSE WEIGHT?

Your body does need sodium, which it can get easily from unprocessed foods. Unfortunately, the average person takes in north of 3400 mg of sodium per day, while the recommended amount is 1500 mg or less.  So where are those nearly 2000 additional milligrams coming from?  Since nearly everyone I know claims they don’t salt their food, then it must be coming from, you guessed it, highly processed foods.

If you think you’re safe because you eat no processed foods but you eat out all the time, think again.  Restaurants are notorious for cooking with salt, both to enhance flavor but also to keep up with the “average” consumer, who is taking in 3400 mg of sodium a day. Restaurant fare is designed to appeal to the masses, so salt, sugar and fat are used seemingly without restriction.  For this reason and a million others, I hate eating out.

Guess what doesn’t have added sodium?  Well, not much, but you’re pretty safe with raw, fresh fruit and vegetables.  You know, the unprocessed stuff.  They also don’t have a label, so you can get rid of that silly hat and magnifying glass.  Oh, and even better, eating fruits and vegetables is not an appetite stimulant.  Actually, because they’re so high in fiber and water, they actually suppress your appetite. As any real food should, right?

2. Processed food is calorically dense – processing food, by changing its form, either by cooking or blending or juicing, will make it more calorically dense.  When trying to lose weight, calorically dense food is not your friend.  Unless you enjoy feeling like you’re starving.  Highly processed foods like olive oil are super calorically dense.  It takes up very little room in your stomach.  It doesn’t make you feel full, despite being very high in both fat and calories.  Eating rich foods that aren’t satiating is not the recipe for success you need if you’re looking to lose weight.

Blending and juicing foods is a form of processing.  It also makes it super easy to overindulge.  Imagine sitting down to eat 8 bananas.  It sounds nearly impossible.  But if you blend those 8 bananas with water, you can easily drink down that smoothie quicker and easier than you can possibly eat all those bananas.  So leave smoothies and juices for once-in-a-while situations and just eat the fruit or veggies you planned on blending instead. It’s just too easy to ignore your natural satiation signals when you blend and juice food.  For more on satiation signals and how highly processed foods completely bypass those, read the awesome book The Pleasure Trap.

Cooking food is also a form of processing.  Cooking, whether baking, steaming or frying (please no), removes water from the food and changes it’s structure and resulting nutrient content.  It also makes it more calorically dense and thus harder for your body to signal satiation.

3. Processed food dehydrates you – the more processed a food is, the lower the water content.  Think of high water content, unprocessed foods –  like watermelon, oranges and lettuce.  They all have north of 90% water content.  Now think of highly processed foods like crackers, bread and those ridiculously good Girl Scout Cookies.  All have very low water content.  When you eat these highly processed foods, your body has to pull water from somewhere in order to digest them, resulting in dehydration.

Dehydration is often mistaken for hunger pangs, which can lead to eating when you’re really not hungry…which by the way, CAN MAKE IT REALLY HARD TO LOSE WEIGHT.  So the solution isn’t to eat those processed foods and drink more water.  The solution is to not eat those foods, drink water when you’re thirsty, and eat high water content fresh fruits and vegetables.  You might actually find, as I did, that you don’t need to drink nearly as much water if you’re avoiding processed foods and eating fresh, whole, ripe produce.  Always try and get your water from your food first, then from drinking fresh, filtered water (from your own reusable container, of course).

If weight loss is your goal, or even if you just wish to make the healthiest choices possible, eliminating processed foods from your diet will turbo charge your progress.  At the very least, choose the least processed option with the least amount of ingredients.

You’ll know you’ve made progress when you reach the point where the majority of the food you eat doesn’t even have a label.

Good Luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

 

All raw vegan 2016: Fail!

It’s official, I’ve failed in going all Raw Vegan for 2016.  In addition to the handful of times I’ve failed to go all raw in the past, I’ve now been spectacularly unsuccessful in 2016.

It was the blessed baked potato that brought me down.  That and some hummus.

Far from being upset about my failure, I’m looking forward to potentially failing again.  Wait, what?

Okay, maybe looking forward to failing isn’t correct.  But I am back at it again, eating mostly fruit and some leafy greens.  Certainly, the possibility of failing again is there.  After all, only 8% of New Year’s Resolutions are successful, and heck, if it’s a resolution to go all raw vegan than it might even be lower than 8%.

So what’s the difference for me this time?  What makes me think I’ll be successful this time when I haven’t in the past?

I’m getting a coach – that’s right…it’s a bold move for me but one I feel confident about.  I’m hiring a successful fruitarian to guide me through this process.  I’m planning on a once a week meeting for 30 minutes.  This will provide accountability, something I’ve been lacking in every single previous attempt.

The problem with adopting a fruitarian diet is the same problem a lot of people have when they go vegan.  They don’t know any vegans.  They have no support.  If they cave and eat a cheeseburger, there probably isn’t anyone around that can provide a much-needed gut check. Do you really want to do that?  Why don’t you just eat a Garden Burger instead?

This is what I’m looking for.  Support.  Encouragement.  Accountability.  That’s it.  Not much, but it’s something I really don’t have right now.  Though I know of a handful of fruitarians, I have none that I can call on when I need any of those.  Hiring a coach will solve that.

I’m okay with failing, so follow my progress as I begin anew with eating what I believe to be is the healthiest possible diet.  Though I don’t enjoy failing, I do believe that failing at something a few times is no reason to throw in the towel.

I know, it’s a bit of a cliche now to fail more.  Many books and blog posts abound that we need to fail our way to success.  This book  by Dilbert creator Scott Adams is particularly good at demonstrating the writer’s personal connection between success and failing often.

I’m guilty of not failing enough.  I’m impatient.  I want success RIGHT NOW.  When I fail, I tend to question everything.  No matter how solid the plan appears to be, I’ll punch giant holes in it.  Then I’ll quit.

However, this time is different. Giving up on eating all raw vegan for 2016 after a bit of a stumble makes about as much a sense as a Sarah Palin endorsement.

While I can’t report success with my original plan, I can adapt a different goal and continue on with that.

What’s different this time is that I remain steadfast in my conviction that eating this way is optimal.  Though many will disagree, including friends and family, along with respected physicians like Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Michael Greger and Dr. McDougall, I still feel my absolute best when eating fruit.

Fruitarianism is called impractical, illogical and impossible for people to adhere to on a long-term basis.

I’m willing to find out for myself.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

Here’s why convincing people to go vegan is so hard.

convince people to go vegan

Trying to convince people to go vegan is a bit like convincing someone who has never been in a car accident to buy car insurance.  It seems unnecessary and wasteful, given an accident-free person’s situation.  Why buy insurance when nothing has happened that seems to require it?

When people spend their entire lives eating unhealthy animal derived-foods like meat, milk and eggs, without any serious health consequences, why would they care about eating healthy or going vegan?  After all, if you don’t actually drop dead on the spot from eating a BigMac and large fries, then it must be okay, right?

But it’s not okay.  Heart disease, cancer and obesity can and do take years to manifest themselves.  Arteries don’t get clogged overnight.  Weight gain, though it might feel like it, doesn’t happen quickly.  But stack days and weeks and months of eating unhealthy on top of each other and you are plotting a course directly to disease and assorted other dire health consequences.

Therein lies the conundrum:  How does one get people to care about their health and change their eating habits (go vegan) when the consequences of not doing so are so far down the road?

My solution is to lead by example…if there is a shining example of what veganism can do, I’m it. I eat a healthy diet.  I went vegan over 12 years ago and now follow a fruit-based raw diet.  I don’t drink coffee.  I don’t drink alcohol.  I buy and eat organic, fresh, whole fruit and drink filtered water.  I love the way I eat and cannot imagine it any other way.  I have no health issues and I look forward to a life free of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and obesity.

I’m vegan for a number of reason, but prime amongst them, and the reason for my initial foray into shedding animal products, was health.  I watched a number of family members and friends struggle with their weight and their health.  My dad struggled with being overweight most of his life and ended up passing away as a result of complications from bypass surgery.

I certainly didn’t want any part of that experience for myself, or for my friends and family.  So I did the research.  I read a lot of books.  I realized I’d been compromising my health with a crappy diet and heading straight towards the same heart surgery that claimed by dad.

It’s been said that the hardest part about being vegan is watching your friends and family become sick and unhealthy by eating animal-derived foods.  This couldn’t be more true.

I recently spent the weekend with my in-laws, whom I adore.  Unfortunately, they are about as far from being vegan as the Atkins diet is from being healthy.  Every meal contains some form of meat, eggs or dairy.  Chicken is considered a health food.  Since I’ve known them, I’ve been spectacularly unsuccessful at getting them to reduce the amount of meat and dairy they consume.

In fairness, I haven’t exactly launched a campaign to get them to eat vegan.  I understand that food is a very emotional subject for all of us, particularly for them,  as they are going on 65+ years of eating what they’ve always eaten.  Animal products, and lots of them.

So I’ve never pressed.  Or ridiculed.  Or even really brought it up directly.  I’ve only tried to be a patient vegan (not easy), and served as an example of someone that thrives eating fruits and vegetables.  Also, someone that doesn’t drop dead from a lack of protein.

I occasionally send amazing videos and suggest some documentaries that are compelling and entertaining but also get the point across.

But so far, nothing seems to work.

The hard part is that these are people I care deeply about.  I’m interested in their well-being.  I don’t want to see them suffer in their later years with disease and obesity.  My desire to change their eating habits comes from a good place.

But all of that doesn’t matter.  Changing eating habits isn’t easy.  Etiquette says not to discuss politics or religion, but people are just as attached to their food choices and certainly as sensitive about it.

I guess when it comes right down to it, who am I to tell people how to eat?  Should people be able to eat what they want?  Is it like telling people what religion they can be, or how many children they can have?

But wait.  Food is different, right?  I mean, what if their choices harm themselves, result in defenseless animals forced to live and die in horrific conditions, and contribute to an impending environmental disaster?

For now, I don’t have the answers to these questions.  I struggle daily to come up with them, especially every time I’m with non-vegans and it’s time to eat.  I can’t exactly go live in a hole in the ground, or create my own vegan utopia where everyone eats plants, just plants, and animals are free to live their lives without becoming a steak, a sandwich or a kabob.

I’ll continue to be a good example, and answer questions and give advice when asked.  Truthfully, I don’t know any other way to be, and making people feel bad, about anything, even their choice to eat animals, doesn’t sit well with me.

In the meantime, I will also hold out hope that people can change.  That eventually, the enormous implications of every single thing you eat will become evident, just as it did for me.

EatPlantsLiveWell!