Home > nutrition, weight loss > Secrets of weight loss #1

Secrets of weight loss #1

December 12th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Over the past year and a half, I’ve been losing weight. Hopefully, I’ve only lost fat, but I don’t think the loss has been so extreme as to worry about losing muscle mass. I don’t think that losing twenty to twenty-five pounds over a year is very drastic, but I suppose that keeping is off is pretty nice. Over the next little while I’ll share with you some things that worked for me, because I’ve lost fat by doing them, but also because I’ve gained a bit back by not doing them.

Case in point: Know the difference between staples and treats.

Mentally, we often view staples as forming the bulk of the meal, while we see the treats as the dessert: the “fun” part. I seem to recall that the staples were characterized as meaty and salty, while the treats were sweet. Many of us have taken our cues from restaurants that package their meal that way. For example, a fast food meal would include burger and fries as the staples, a coke as the drink (gotta hydrate!) and a sundae or fruity pie as dessert. There: a complete meal. For those of us who either grew up that way or came to survive that way post-secondary school, we may have come to believe that you package a meal that way.

Burgers and fries = staple.
Sundae = treat.

From a taste-bud perspective, considering that many of us grew up associating “sweet” with “treat”, it makes sense. However, for your consideration, may I present a different way to categorize “staple” and “treat”:

Healthy = staple.
Tasty, but not so healthy = treat.

In other words, a staple is something that keeps us healthy. The body needs it. It doesn’t hurt the body. We don’t need to compensate for eating it by working it off at the gym, nor do we need to insert something healthy into the meal to balance the guilt. Anything that a good nutritionist would recommend is a staple, in my opinion. We eat staples often, and often begin the composition of the meal with a staple. Treats, on the other hand, we eat for taste, not nutrition. We eat treats less often than staples, hopefully.

Here’s how it works: to get healthier, we change many of our former staples into treats. For example, a hamburger might have been a staple beforehand, but if we want to be healthy, it has to become a treat. Why? Because a) we like the taste, so it’s a treat b) it’s not very healthy, so it’s not a staple and c) we should eat less of it in order to get healthy. One result of this, in my situation, is that instead of grabbing a quick McDonald’s for dinner when I’m in a hurry (which could add up to three times a week) I now indulge in a Johnny’s hamburger maybe once every two weeks when I visit Scarborough. So now, a hamburger has become a treat.

(Note that a great situation would involve eating tasty staples (such as an apple as a treat), and a lot of the healthiest people live that way, where the treats taste good and are good for the body. It’s a process, though — one step at a time to help ensure the new habit sticks.)

As we make this change, we become more discerning, where more and more food items that previously were staples become treats. For example, we can “treatify” pancakes (once a breakfast staple), muffins, danishes, lattes, deli sandwiches, anything on white bread, butter, lasagna, pasta with cream sauce, anything with gravy and so on. Imagine how many restaurant meals are presented as staples (implicitly, where “main course” = staple) but are best approached as treats. Try that the next time you’re reading a menu. Of course, there can be a sliding scale to this, where the “stapleness” or “treatness” could be determined by the food’s (admittedly qualitative?) health value … or where it stands on the scale between “medicine” and “poison”. But more on that potentially incendiary topic later.

At any rate, besides the potential for weight loss, an upside of all this is that we would now place more responsibility on the hamburger to behave like a treat: it better be good. When it was a staple, it didn’t have so much pressure on it to satisfy our taste buds. This leads to the possibility that we might actually figure out what that burger really tastes like … and it might not be as good as we thought it was.

But not Johnny’s, of course. It still remains a tasty treat, for an old Scarborough boy, at least.

(But it ain’t no staple.)

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