Going back a decade, I thought that if I simply exercised enough I could eat however I wanted. Interestingly enough, I worked out a whole lot more than I do now and I weighed a whole lot more than I do now.
My workouts often consisted of running on the treadmill for a whole hour and then doing the stair stepper for another little while and then—if I was feeling up to it—I would jump on the elliptical machine. Sometimes I would lift weights instead of the stair stepper and elliptical. With all this working out, I still held on to those twenty-five pounds. What was the deal?
Well, to own the truth, I ate horribly. Once I started completely avoiding certain types of foods and moderating my intake of others, the pounds literally melted off without any extra efforts from me. I do still exercise, (it’s still good for your body even if you don’t need to lose weight), but I honestly don’t do much more than 20 minutes three times a week—way less than what I used to do.
Here are seven foods to never eat if you’re trying to lose weight or get healthier. As you can guess, avoiding the first four was especially important for helping me get rid of extra pounds and inches. Avoiding the others will help you stay healthy.
1. Saturated Fats
My biggest personal food weakness was (and perhaps still is—let’s be honest) any food containing saturated fats. To be precise, I was in love with ice cream and donuts. As you can imagine, this was a big reason my weight stayed where it was—even when I was exercising so diligently.
While we’re on the subject, stay away from any Hydrogenated and Trans fats as well. Read labels carefully—especially on cooking oils and margarines. You’ve heard this before, but it’s worth repeating: use oils with healthy fats (mono- and polyunsaturated fats) such as olive oil for cooking.
You can still have a donut on the occasion. Really. Just don’t have it very often and make sure you keep saturated fats out of your diet in other areas. It’s all about balance. Right?
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup
This was the other source of my weight grief. I love sweet foods. I will put extra syrup on snow cones (if allowed). BUT, these were not the only sources of HFC I had to eradicate. Some of my breads, cereals, and even tomato-based foods (like pasta sauce) contained more sugar than I was taking in by candy and treats.
Again, read the labels. By law, these things have to be listed on the label so consumers can know how bad things are for them. Choose spaghetti sauces with all-natural ingredients and think of that chocolate chip bagel as a treat, not a healthy snack.
3. Beverages Containing Artificial Sweeteners
This group is just plain bad for you. Sure they cut calories, but they can do a lot more damage than good. Stay away from aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal), saccharin (Sweet ‘n’ Low), or sucralose (Splenda). I’m not even going to say “try to stay away from…” Do stay away. There is no “try.”
Just so you’re aware, artificial sweeteners (ironically) are highly correlated with obesity and can put you on the road to irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue. Let me assure you that none of these are at all pleasant.
You really are just best off with water. Add a little squirt of lemon to it for some zest, if you like. Drink it as much as possible and if you must have a beverage, make it a natural fruit juice.
4. White Breads and Pastas
Ok, so these aren’t quite as bad as the foods listed above. But, making the small change from white bread to wheat can eliminate some empty calories from your diet. That’s right. White bread does little more than add calories.
To make your bread white, much of the fiber and nutrients have been stripped away. You want to get rid of foods like that wherever possible.
I happen to think the switch from white bread to wheat is easier than easy. You don’t have to get the ultra-fiber cardboard variety of wheat bread to reap help benefits from the switch. Many wheat breads have a lovely texture and are not different enough from white bread to excuse your preference for white.
They say some salts are better than others and some have more chemicals than others, etc. And that’s all nice and true. But, the actual chemical make up of salt is sodium and sodium is a thing to avoid. So, whatever the salt you choose—refined, unrefined, or natural sea salt—keep in mind a little goes a long way.
Too much sodium can lead to hypertension, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. The salt you sprinkle on your food is actually probably not your biggest source of sodium. The processed foods you eat—freezer foods, restaurant fare, and such of the like are more likely to give you heart problems than the little bit you add to your vegetables.
Interestingly, once you get used to using a little less salt in your cooking and seasoning habits, your body gets used to the lower content and you begin to enjoy the other savory flavors in your food. Also, you will find that things you don’t eat as often (like potato chips) will taste more salty than they used to.
6. Degraded Carrageenan (Poligeenan)
This is not one I discovered for myself, but does cause a bit of alarm because Carrageenan is actually a fairly common food additive. It’s a gelatinous substance derived from seaweed and has many medical uses.
Degraded carrageenan (called poligeenan) is recognized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to be a “possible human carcinogen.”
In laboratory animal studies, poligeenan was shown to lead to colon cancer. For this reason, the Cornucopia Institute is calling on the USDA to remove carrageenan from the list of acceptable additives in organic foods.
Now, before you go completely off dairy or organic foods, be aware that these foods are tested for poligeenans and they must be below detection levels (so they must not be able to actually find any) in order for these foods to pass inspection.
So, there is a chance that you are ingesting tiny bits of poligeenans when you eat foods with carrageenan in them, but undetectable, trace amounts. Once again, read labels and be aware of what you’re eating.
Know that if you are consuming a lot of foods with carrageenan in them, you are increasing your chances of taking in some poligeenan.
7. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is a common food additive and although it is not designated in the “flavoring or spice” category by the FDA, it is often used to enhance the flavors of other foods. It is especially good with umami (meat) flavored foods.
This substance (also referred to as sodium glutamate) has been found to be safe in small amounts. So, steer clear as you can, but don’t panic if you’ve had some before. Labels saying “No MSG” and “No Added MSG” are a good thing to look for, but keep in mind that such foods might still contain naturally occurring and therefore unregulated free glutamates.
Once again, staying away from processed foods and meats will help you stay away from MSG. However, it can be used in (and is good with) vegetables too, so stick with fresh veggies from the produce department. This is a good idea anyway to make sure you get all the wonderful nutrients vegetables can provide.
Ok, now that I’ve given you plenty of great advice on eating well, here’s the kicker:
Now that you’re aware of some foods to avoid, be aware that there are foods you should include as often as possible. Fruits and vegetables (most especially vegetables) are high on the list of foods to include often.
Fruits and vegetables add vitamins and other important and essential nutrients to your diet. They provide much needed fiber. In addition, some of the foods we talked about may introduce toxins (or free radicals as they are often referred to) in your body. As you know, certain toxins can lead to cancerous cells.
It just so happens that many fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that fight free radicals and inhibit their ability to attack your cells (and cause cancer). Pretty cool huh? So, in a way, you are helping to prevent cancer just by eating well.
One Last Thing
Keep in mind that even if you replace the calories from the bad foods listed above with calories from good foods, you may not lose all (or any) of the weight you want. Simply eating too many calories for your body—even if they are from good sources (like fruit, for instance)—can still cause you to gain weight.
To really lose weight and get a flat belly you may have to lower your portion sizes as well. An easy way to lower your calories without feeling too hungry is to decrease your portions of meat and carbs but increase your portions of vegetables. It’s best to eat several small meals a day and stay away from becoming overly hungry. We (I know I’m not the only one out there) tend to overeat when we get too hungry.
One of the reasons for this is that it takes about fifteen minutes after your stomach is full for your brain to finally send the “all done” signal and make you stop eating. Also, I myself am much more likely when I’m really hungry to make the excuse that it’s been so long since I last ate that I deserve or need to eat more.
Smaller meals have also been shown to keep your metabolism running more efficiently. Your stomach does not become overly full and is able to continuously burn manageable amounts of food. This can make you more likely to be active throughout the day as well. When our metabolisms are more alert, we are more alert as well.
Eating smaller portions consistently will decrease the capacity of your stomach as well. So, when you do end up splurging a little and eating more (for a special occasion) you will find that you can’t eat nearly as much as you used to. This further decreases the chances that you will gain back any weight you’ve lost.
My personal favorite thing about eating several small meals is that I really do feel like I’m eating all day long. This helps me avoid doing things like eating out of boredom—which can lead to overeating.
Furthermore, eating sometimes becomes another task to be done rather than this exciting thing I hardly ever allow myself to do when I’m doing it frequently throughout the day. It really does become less fascinating.
I also find that I’m less apt to crave foods that are bad for me if I deal with my hunger right away. If I’m craving something sweet, I’ll stick in a piece of whole wheat toast with jam and grab a couple slices of apple to alleviate my hunger and get on with my busy day.
I also find that it’s ok to give in a little at snack time (especially if it helps to keep you from giving in a lot). If a little bit of chocolate at lunch will keep you from buying a whole chocolate pie on the way home from work that little bit of chocolate is actually a healthy thing to do.
Simply listening to your body and being aware of your own habits can do a lot to keep your weight down and your body healthy. Take a little extra time to read labels while you grocery shop and make good food choices.
Keep in mind that it’s worth it to spend a little extra money on natural, whole foods that will keep you healthy than buying cheaper processed (and downgraded) foods that cost a little less. You should get back the money you invest on good food from lower healthcare costs alone. Losing weight could even save you money!
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