A Weight Loss Progress Report and Top 10 Changes

People have been asking us over the last few months how things are going, and what the “secret” to our diet is. As I have told everyone who’s asked about it, there really is no secret, and its not a diet — it’s a full blown lifestyle change. But for those of you interested in seeing how we’re approaching it, here’s a list of the “Top 10” changes we have made in persuing a healthier lifestyle. Take it away, Rachel:

The weight loss has been slowing down, but still in a downward trend. I think we need to exercise more; we’ve definitely been slacking off over the winter. But still, since we’ve started, Jason has lost 42 pounds Rachel has lost 35. I still can’t see it in the mirror or when looking at Jason, but clothes fit better and whenever we run into people we haven’t seen in a while, they comment on it. And, I noticed it when looking at a picture of us at a family affair from August.

Many people have asked (obviously those who don’t read OTB regularly) what’s our secret diet? We try to explain that we’re not following any one diet. No, not Weight Watchers or Zone or South Beach or Atkins, or whatever else. Frankly, we’re not even counting calories. I do break down portions of snacky things, even “healthy” snacks (like Soy Crisps or Baked Potato Chips) into about 100 calorie packages (usually a bit less than the package says is a serving). But, no, I don’t know exactly how many calories per day we’ve been consuming. It’s a heck of a lot less than we used to, that’s for sure.

So, no, there is no secret. And it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change. It evolves and is based on our research about diabetes, which is of primary concern for us. Here are our “Top 10” lifestyle changes:

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below to read our Top 10.

1. Eliminate all white carbohydrates (anything made from processed white flour, corn is also bad, white rice is basically sugar) and eat things made out of whole grains — brown rice, barley (hulled not pearled), quinoa, bulgur, kasha, oats. If you eat bread it has to be of the whole grain variety and has to be of the kind made with minimal sugar. Trader Joes has good whole grain bread, even a 100% rye bread. You cannot eliminate all carbohydrates or you will go crazy and your diet will fail. We buy all kinds of different whole grains and whole wheat pastas and eat usually about 1 cup at a sitting. That’s 4 oz for Rachel of grain and 5 oz for Jason, and about 2 oz of whole wheat pasta (dry weight) per meal.

2. Eliminate all sugar especially anything that contains High Fructose Corn Syrup which is pure poison and exists in virtually all the processed foods you buy in the supermarket. If you have to have chocolate occasionally it should be the very dark kind, like the 70-75 percent stuff used for pastry applications. You can’t eat too much of it anyway because it is very strong and it is bitter. You also want to stay away from foods that are high on the Glycemic Index (GI). Don’t drink fruit juices so much. Try to limit the use of artificial sweeteners. For an occasional sweet hit, a small amount of agave syrup is lower on the GI than honey, or dark maple syrup has some beneficial antioxidants. But these should be consumed in the context of a meal.

3. Eat a lot of protein. White meat chicken, ground turkey breast, fish and seafood, lean beef such as flank steak or London Broil (about once a week) as well as game meats like bison and ostrich. Jason has about 8-10 oz of the protein source per meal, Rachel about 4-6 oz. Also substitute and combine this with tofu, beans and lentils in order to minimize the cholesterol. Soups are an excellent way of adding pulses to your meal plan. I keep our freezer stocked with individual portions of a variety of soups, easy to heat up for lunch or if dinner just wasn’t filling enough. Most of the soups I make are vegetarian or vegan or can be by using water instead of stock. But the beans and lentils I use make them filling, and I usually eat them with a whole grain cracker, like Reduced Fat Triscuits.

4. Eat a lot of big salads and double or triple the portion of vegetables per meal. You can eat all the vegetables you want, especially green and/or cruciferous vegetables. Try to have one big salad meal per day, usually topped with some grilled chicken, boiled shrimp, canned salmon or tuna (try to limit canned tuna to once per week, due to mercury concerns).

5. Only use unsaturated fats like olive oil, sesame oil and spreads like Smart Balance butter substitute or Promise and avoid Trans-Fats. When you go out to eat tell them to cut the butter in half or try to order only things made with olive oil. Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side and measure out how much you’re allowing yourself. Add nuts to some of your meals, about ½ to 1 oz is a serving, depending on if there’s other fat in the meal. Nuts have a lot of protein, but eat them like they are a fat.

6. Introduce a lot of fiber into your diet. Our primary snack food is air popped popcorn, about 1 quart, popped, is a big serving, use a spray of Pam to help seasonings (Mrs. Dash, or cheese flavored powders) stick to the popcorn. Whole grain breads as toast in the morning, hot, whole grain cereals for breakfast (see below), Brown Rice and other Whole Grains as side dishes with other meals. Buy “hulled” barley rather than “pearled” barley (which is the white rice of barley). Whole wheat berries cook up nice and plump, and stay chewy when cold, so they are good to add to a salad. We also eat a lot of raw vegetable crudite.

7. Eat smaller meals more often. And You HAVE to eat breakfast. Jason usually has an omelet made from egg whites (or yolk free product, like Egg Beaters) and lots of vegetables, occasionally adding a vegan sausage substitute (like Gimme Lean or others from Trader Joes or Whole Foods), or a small amount of cheese (1/2 – 1 oz) for flavoring. Add some hot sauce. Have this along with one slice of whole grain bread (1 tsp Smart Balance if not having cheese in the omelet) and 4-6 oz fresh fruit. Rachel eats hot, whole grain, cereal for breakfast 3-4 times per week (steel cut oats or 7 Grain blend from Whole Foods bulk bins), and this gets cooked with dried fruit (apricots, raisins, cherries; about ½ oz per portion) and topped with freshly toasted nuts (1 oz almonds, pecans, walnuts or peanut butter), and 1 tsp of maple syrup.

8. Drink a lot of water. There’s some complicated way of figuring out how much to drink according to our trainer, and it turns out Jason is supposed to drink nearly 2 gallons per day, and Rachel 1 ½ gallons. Frankly, we never make it to that amount. If we get in our 8 glasses (including tea and diet soda or seltzer), plus all the vegetables and soup we eat, I consider that a great day, water-wise.

9. Exercise. Right now we’re mostly walking. We need to increase our weight bearing activity, that’s what we got the exercise equipment for.

10. Cheat occasionally. It keeps you sane. But try not to go overboard (1/4 cup of ice cream, not a whole pint; a taste of a real dessert at a restaurant, not the whole piece of cake), and get right back on the plan.

Well, I hope this helps those trying to emulate our lifestyle change. And even if you’re not, it gives you some good ideas for incorporating more healthy meals to balance a gourmand life.

30 Responses to A Weight Loss Progress Report and Top 10 Changes

  1. mdpirotte says:

    congrats on the weight loss! i hope things keep going well for you.

  2. Melissa says:

    This is wonderful and, as you live with this, it becomes more a part of your thinking .. after a while, less to think about and more reflexive to eat well and properly …

  3. A friend took me to a talk about the affect of certain food on the body and I decided it was time to change my eating habbits. I have been living along the lines that you suggest for the last month, and am loosing some weight and feeling a lot better.although loosing weight wasn’t my primary aim.
    My biggest problem is cutting down on milk products,I love cheese,and wonder whether cutting out these high fat products could have a negative influence on bone structure.
    I do encourage others to follow the path.

  4. Rachel Perlow says:

    What do you mean by the fat having an influence on bone structure? The common perception is that dairy is the best source of calcium and hence the cutting back on dairy could influence bone structure. But, there are many sources of calcium out there, such as tofu, beans, almonds, salmon, oranges and green vegetables. We’ve significantly cut back on dairy, but not completely eliminated it. Jason has some skim milk in his coffee, we have about 1 oz of cheese about 5 days a week. Plus, we eat tofu and beans frequently, and take a daily vitamin & mineral supplement.

  5. “You cannot eliminate all carbohydrates or you will go crazy and your diet will fail.”

    So true. Kudos to you for eschewing fads and gimmicks.

  6. e. nassar says:

    Thanks for sharing the ‘finer points’ with us and congrats on the success. How important is the cooking method would you say? Is fried (deep, shallow or stir) food very detrimental to your new lifestyle?

  7. Fiona Erna says:

    I see you made emphasize on “You HAVE to eat breakfast”. Well, I agree. But I found it difficult on eliminating all white carbohydrates. I keep feeling hungry if I don’t eat them.

    Furthermore, I usually found myself unmotivated because I can’t see my progress. I can’t buy any propriatery software, so I decided to use workout journal and fitness weight loss progress tracking. But it doesn’t quite work also, I wonder why :mrgreen: I guess there is no Magic Pill that will help you lose weight fast and keep it off. I think I should find an accountability buddy.

  8. Comrade GoGo says:

    Great progress, and thank you for sharing the tips!

  9. Rachel Perlow says:

    Fiona – have you tried whole grains? I used to not care for brown rice. The only kind that used to be available was a medium grain that cooked up rather mushy. Now, you can get all sorts of whole grains to cook, long grain brown rice, brown basmati, brown jasmine, whole oats, wheat berries, hulled barley, quinoa, kasha. I find them more filling than regular white rice. Perhaps you need to eat a larger portion and work your way down to a smaller portion size?

    If you don’t see results on a scale, and you’re working out, try taking your measurements and tracking that progress.

    Frankly, I frequently feel hungry — that’s supposed to be how you know it’s time to eat a meal. Since the food we eat is cleaner, it doesn’t fill you up the same way. So, at first, I interpreted that clean feeling shortly after eating as hunger, when it really was the lack of the stuffed bloated feeling I was used to. Now, I know the difference. Frankly, it is rather nice to actually be hungry before eating, when I used to eat without being hungry.

    Re: e. nassar’s question about cooking methods. I’ll be discussing this is more detail in a future post about products we like. But, to summarize, we mostly use a non-stick wok with a little bit of oil to stir fry, a non-stick skillet with a spray of oil for omelets, a grill pan with a light wipe of oil for grilling. We have been avoiding more oily fried foods, although a few have snuck in when out to dinner (getting a couple french fries from a dining companion’s plate, for example). Vegetable are usually stir fried or micro-steamed, occasionally blanched.

  10. Randi says:

    I think its only albacore tuna that has mercury. I think the dark tuna is ok to eat( but I refuse to eat that because it looks like cat food).

  11. Mark says:

    Congrats to both of you, this is a nearly perfect list of lifestyle changes…
    A word to Fiona…is it possible that you’re not drinking enough water? We completely eliminated white flour from our diet about 4 years ago and noticed that as long as we were properly hydrated, we weren’t hungry as frequently as we had been.

    And another whole grain suggestion: bulgur. We’ve completely replaced white rice in our diet, and have really come to prefer the taste and texture of bulgur in most dishes that used to be served with white rice (Indian food still needs basmati, unfortch)…

  12. Rachel Perlow says:

    Mark – Lundberg Farms produces brown basmati. Mmm. http://www.lundberg.com/products/rice/rice-brown.aspx

  13. OHbearly says:

    Jason.. .42 is wonderful! It’s hard to see it when you look at yourslef in the mirror every day. Keep up the good work. Tom

  14. […] insanity last year, and went on a mission to eat healthier and lose weight. Since October of 2007, I’ve already lost 45 pounds. I’ve still got a long ways to go, but I’m feeling much more sprightly and energetic for it, […]

  15. […] our Top 10 Lifestyle Changes list, we recommend adding beans and lentils (aka pulses to your diet. They are high in protein and […]

  16. Gastronomer says:

    very smart. i eat. i run. input. output. balance is key.

  17. […] when looking at Jason Perlow’s self-descriptions of his weight loss regime on Off the Broiler, it sounds like he’s not exactly starving himself. He’s following a […]

  18. I have written short book available at http://justeathalf.com that encapsulates many of Jason and Rachel’s tips. My weight management plan stresses portion control and uses a simple rule: just eat half! I read about Jason in the NY Times on Thursday, March 22, and decided to visit his blog. I advocate “eat smart, eat well, eat less”. I just didn’t want to give up things I liked eating.

  19. Hi, I must admit this is an interesting post and blog in general. I feel bad there are not more places like this around. We all need quality informations and knowledge in order to advance faster towards out fitness goals. Sasha

  20. Diet or Not says:

    Nice Post mate! Every one who is affected by over weight body is searching for different kinds of products and remedies that are out in the market which claims to loss their weigth. Hence diet or not, better to loss your weight now!

  21. Keira H says:

    Excellent post. I believe having proper diet and regular exercise will help to lose your weight. Even I have put on 5 kilograms weight a couple of months back. Then I cam back to my normal form after dieting and doing regular exercise.

  22. Thanks for the info mate. I’m gonna subscribe to your blog.

  23. Shalisha says:

    Congratulations on your weight loss! I love that you explain to people that it is a LIFESTYLE CHANGE. People don’t get that. I follow a similar food plan. I abstain from all of the foods you do and you know what, I lost 90 pounds and have kept it off for 10 years. I must admit though, I haven’t conquered my craving for sugar. I’m an all or nothing person. If I eat refined carbohydrates it creates a craving of more of the same. I end up eating the whole box or bag so I stay completely away from it. I miss it sometimes, but for the most part, I know it is a lifestyle and that is why I have been able to maintain my 90 pound weight loss for the last 10 years.

  24. White tea says:

    Its really nice to see that unline most people who want to lose weight you aren’t getting all paranoid and counting calories. I have noticed that simply cutting down your meals from 2 times a day to 5 smaller portions a day helps alot.

  25. Pearlene says:

    Just stopped by, nice blog!

  26. Nigel says:

    Thanks very much for your article about weight loss…..

    I have bookmarked this page for any future posts you might add about this topic again.


  27. i think step 8 is the most important. water does a lot more than people think

  28. lahgibbs says:

    I’m still trying to understand if fruits are good or bad for you when you’re trying to lose weight.

  29. Mineh says:

    I like the way you put it there is no secret but a lifestyle change. Many people are reluctant to change their lifestyles and hence endup looking for that magic power.

    If you are ready to loose the weight understand all about the weight and your body and if you focus on all that the rest will follow. Believe and work towards it. Change of life style must change though if weight loss is to occur.

    thanks for sharing this though.

  30. This is just a fantastic and on the dot list. For me, when I was losing weight, the biggest discovery was points one and two – eliminating all bad carbs and sugar completely. From doing those two things, all the exercises and fitness I was doing became so much more fruitful and I experienced much greater levels of success with my weight loss than I had ever before.

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