I don’t make it a habit to look into other people’s carts at the grocery store but the other day I was standing there daydreaming, waiting for the checker, and my eyes wandered to the contents of the grocery buggy just in front of me. It was stacked high with boxes of Lean Cuisine. There must have been 50 of them. Along with the Lean Cuisines meals there were three 12 packs of Coke, two of Mug Root Beer, potato chips and a few boxes of Mac and Cheese. The cart belonged to a couple who were significantly overweight. Standing there, contemplating their purchases, I started thinking about the subject of nutrition, specifically about how people can eat what they think are diet foods all the time and still not lose unwanted pounds.
Have you ever run into those people who sit down to lunch with you, tell you they’re on a diet and that they’re just going to have a salad? Then they proceed to order a salad that’s fully loaded. I mean it has chicken, corn, beans, egg, maybe nuts and a whole bunch of thick, high calorie dressing. Somewhere under the pile might be a few pieces of no-color iceberg lettuce. There’s nothing wrong with eating a salad like that unless you’re laboring under the misconception that it’s automatically low-calorie just because it’s salad. You’re not going to lose weight that way.
If you get Lean Cuisine for your meals but eat three of them instead of one because a single doesn’t fill you up, you’re not going to lose weight. If you’re eating a single Lean Cuisine but drinking Coke along with it and having ice cream for dessert, you’re not going to lose weight. If you have all low-fat foods in your house but you eat a ton of them, you’re not going to lose weight.
The only real way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in over a period of time. It seems simple but many, many people misunderstand how it works. They try to eat things they think are better alternatives than their normal fare but they eat too much of them or don’t take into account that something they deem “healthy” might be a high calorie food. When they don’t see results, they give up and blame their excessive weight on genes (everybody in my family is big-boned)…never mind that bones can only be so big….. or a medical condition (It’s my thyroid).
You have to burn more calories than you take in over time. In addition to that, I think there is another element that needs to be taken into account. The quality of the food people eat matters. I don’t have any scientific proof for my theory but I honestly think that 350 calories from a doughnut reacts differently in your body than 350 calories of chicken breast or avocado or spinach. I think there is something particularly damaging in highly processed foods especially those containing things like partially hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup and chemicals you can’t pronounce. I think that human bodies may have almost an allergic type of reaction to those foods which contributes to excessive fat storage and the terribly high number of obese people walking around. I know for sure when I see them that they’re eating too many calories but I’ll bet they’re also eating the wrong kinds of foods.. In my opinion it’s a double whammy and probably a significant contributing factor in the prodigious amount of extra weight they carry around.
The only way for people to enjoy success is to run a calorie deficit and eat good, nutritious foods. I don’t blame the people who load up on Lean Cuisine, Coke and chips. They just don’t know what to do to get the results they want. Last time I looked, Lean Cuisine was full of unsavory, suspect ingredients (to be fair it’s been a while since I read one of those labels). A good rule of thumb is to put whatever it is back on the shelf if it contains more than 5 ingredients or additives you don’t recognize.
I wish I could have told that couple that what it looked like they were doing wasn’t going to work. If they could just eat the equivalent number of calories from good sources they’d have better luck and if they coupled that with a reduction in calories they’d be surprised at the positive results!