How to Eat Right and
Still Indulge Your Sweet Tooth!

Part of the You Can Learn Good Health series.
By Ken Brown
Editor, YouCanLearnSeries.com
Updated:
October 17, 2004

Most of us enjoy sweets and chocolates. But as we age, we find that the calories in the foods we love tend to sneak up on us year after year and eventually we notice that we are overweight. (Usually somebody else will notice it for you.)

I have found a way to eat my favorite candies and cookies, but reduce or even eliminate the excess pounds that come with the extra calories. I learned this secret two ways, one by watching my wife over 28 years and two, when my Doctor ordered me to lose ten pounds. What was my wife doing right? She was eating candy on a regular basis. I would give her the best candies in Chicago, from Fannie Maes. She enjoys eating chocolate mints, turtles, trinidads and many other delicious delectables. These candies are packed with chocolate, sugars and calories. But Mary doesn't gain weight. She stays a steady weight year after year. (No, I can't tell you what her weight is, that would be so unprofessional. HAHA!)

You gain weight a little at a time.

The truth is that you gain weight a little at a time. Most of us don't gain 50 pounds overnight. The excess weight we notice around our waist and on our rear ends took time to get there. We were probably gaining a quarter pound a week or maybe even a month. But over time it all produces the same result. More fat than you need.

When I am given a box of chocolates or a bag of candies or I find out that there are cookies in the house, I begin to crave them. I can go through a box of candies pretty fast (three days max.) When I was young, that wasn't a problem. I was involved in a mutitude of sports and was burning more calories than I could eat. But time finally caught up with me. I reached my forties and found my pants began to fit more snugly. I went from a 31 waist to a 34 waist. The pants with the 34 waist were screaming. I needed to go to the next size. There is vanity in us all, and there was no way I was going to the next size. All my fat accumulates around my waist so I look like Homer Simpson. I don't have the legs to fit into a bigger pair of pants. The larger size is okay for my waist, but I could put two more people into the legs.

The real kicker was when I went to see the Doctor. I had scheduled a time to give blood on January 2nd, 2004. One of the steps you take when you are at the blood bank is you are given a mini physical. The technicians check your blood to make sure the iron content is good, then they take your temperature and finally your blood pressure is checked. I did okay on the first two tests, but I flunked the final test on blood pressure. They wouldn't take my blood.

I was in disbelief

When I returned home I called my doctor and he told me to come on in to see him. Now I was already on blood pressure medication and I really thought my doctor would just increase the amount of blood pressure medication I was taking. But the doctor weighed me and looked at my fat content and said the unthinkable. "You need to lose 10 pounds." I was in disbelief. No one has ever told me to lose weight.

So now we come to the point where I am on January 2nd. Ten pounds need to come off of my body. I had never dieted before in my life. I am addicted to sugar and chocolate and I still have a lot of Christmas cookies in the house that had my name on them.

Two steps to losing weight

So what are the two steps to losing weight, but still giving you the ability to eat some goodies every once in a while. Here is the big secret. Number one first step is to determine where you are currently. Measure your weight. Then do an analysis of your eating habits. Try to calculate how many calories you are eating at each meal. Just knowing your current eating habits will help you make correct decisions later on. My strategy is not to go on a don't eat diet. I see nothing good coming from a diet where you refrain from eating.

I recommend a more balanced eating process. Where does that put you? First you gain more knowledge of yourself. Second, you know what needs to be done to reduce your weight. Now let's say that you have a big event that you want to go to and the event is only 4 weeks away. How do you lose 10 pounds in that short a time frame? My answer! YOU DON'T. Reframe the question. How do you lose ten pounds in a year? The same way you put 10 to 20 pounds on over the year. Just a few extra calories each week adds up to a pound here and a glob of fat there.

Let's say you have determined that you eat 4500 calories each day. We'll also assume that you feel you want to lose weight and you're willing to do what is necessary to take the pounds off. Here is what is necessary. It is real simple. You don't have to take your calories down to 1200 calories per day. It would be great if you could, but if you are just gonna binge your way back to your current weight, then what have you gained?

The first week see if you can eat only 3500 calories a day. You will have to realize at 3500 calories a day you are probably still gaining weight and gaining fat. But you have set a goal and you could possibly lose a pound. Especially if you could combine that with a little exercise. More of that in a moment.

Change what you eat

One of the ways I want you to lose weight and reduce your calorie intake is to change what you eat. Now this isn't the Atkins diet. I would rather call it the balanced diet. And you know a balanced diet should be a diet you enjoy. This is an eating regimen that includes vegetables, steak, chicken, fish and some candy or sweets.

If you truly analyzed your current eating habits, you probably found that most of the calories were coming from the strangest places. The chicken you were eating at lunch is okay, it is some of the other foods you eat during the day that is hurting you. So what foods should you reduce or cut out of your diet? Try to eliminate potato chips. Wait, eliminate is too harsh a word. Try to limit your intake of potato chips and french fries. Limit is such a nicer word than eliminate.

I will tell you in a moment a healthy eating regimen, But if you could change your eating habits to reduce potato chips and french fries each day, you might eliminate 1000 calories a day without trying. Cool! Now there are a couple of more foods I want you to reduce from your current eating habits. Reduce the amount of pop, soda and sweet juices you drink. You have to realize for every can of Pepsi or Coke you drink you are taking in 250 calories. That is like having a Reeses Peanut Butter cup. Ouch. People that abhor eating candy and complain how fattening it is, shoot down can after can of cola products.

But every time you remove something from your diet you need to replace it with something else. If you are not eating potato chips, what do you replace them with? The answer is to eat green vegetables. Eat green beans, broccoli, peas, asparagus and peapods. Simply by replacing french fries with beans you are on your way to a more healthy slimmer you. Replace your cola products with water or if you must have something with flavor, choose a flavored tea without caffiene. The flavored teas will give you something to look forward to, but will reduce your dependence on soda. Do not add sugar to your teas. That will defeat the purpose. You don't need honey or sugar. You will get used to it and be healthier and happier. And long term it is cheaper also.

What if I told you that now you can have a candy bar everyday. Would that make you happy? If you balance out the foods you eliminate with good foods, low in calories, then you can have a candy bar or a mint meltaway. Not two, not three, only one. But you are eating a balanced diet. Good foods, like chicken, ham, vegetables and an occassional candy bar. If you eat right, it all comes together.

Turn Your Life Around

Now the piece de resistance. Exercise. I don't want you to play basketball or run a marathon, just walk down the street and back. Now by down the street, I mean 2 to 4 miles. Start slow. Maybe you have bad knees. But just start. People might be mean, but go out with confidence that you are doing the things you need to do to turn your life around.

Here is what I did. The doctor told me to lose the weight. He gave me 3 months to lose 10 pounds. The first month, January, I started walking. Outside in Chicago Illinois. It was a mild winter, but I walked in weather as cold as 5 degrees with a windchill less than zero. Three days a week, four miles a day. Sometimes it was brutal, but I always felt good about myself when I was done.

I also changed my eating habits. I finished off the Christmas cookies, it took me another month. Then when all the sweets were gone, I began to eat a balanced diet. I cut out all sweets, pop, potato chips and french fries. But, this is the amazing part. I still went out to eat lunch twice a week with my friends from work. We ate at Wendy's, Pickerman's Deli and my favorite Portillos. Portillos was the only place where I would eat french fries. They have terrific cheese fries. The other places I would replace the fries with something else or only have chicken strips or a chicken sandwich. I asked for water at every place. In the office, instead of a couple of cans of pop in the afternoon, I would drink flavored teas.

I had lost 25 pounds

And you know what? The weight came off. I didn't lose ten pounds when I went to see the doctor in April. I had lost 25 pounds. I was losing a half a pound a day. I went from eating 3 candy bars at work a day to eating zero candy bars. But more importantly, I was eating a lot of food, vegetables mostly. I wasn't hungry, because I was eating right.

When you are walking 4 miles you are burning about 400 calories. So if you drop a candy bar and a can of pop and walk 4 miles, then you effectively have reduced your calorie intake by approximately 1000 calories. You don't think you would lose weight if you reduced your calorie intake by a thousand calories a day? Of course you would. It is easier than you think.

Plus the health benefits are unbelievable. The weight on your joints is reduced making it easier to walk and stand. Your blood pressure will be reduced, see your doctor to verify this occurs. Your cholesterol will be lower and you will feel better about yourself.

So there you have it. Two easy steps to lose weight and feel better about yourself. And if you are having a candy bar on occasion, then you don't mind sticking to a balanced diet. Eat lots of vegetables, mostly green. Reduce your dependence on soda pop, candy, cookies, potato chips and french fries. Then exercise, try walking. Proven effective. Some people will weightlift, which is also good and necessary as we age, but also include walking in your routine. I hope this helps you. Email me : webmaster [at] youcanlearnseries.com, and let me know how you are doing with this program.

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