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ATB BB Series: My 10 JERF food rules

I will complete five years (or six?) this September since I first decided to go on a low-carb diet.

I lost the weight I needed to in about 15 months, and since then have maintained my weight loss (touchwood). In the meantime, I have experimented and cycled through a number of diet variations to now arrive at what are my food rules through trial & error. I say trial & error because while there is a lot of information online on "How to lose weight", there isn't enough on "Maintainance". In addition, there are those random websites (who me? lol) who keep adding to the confusion with misinformation because just they want to make a few quick bucks.

This is quite honestly the rules I follow currently. These may or may not work for you. The important thing is to educate yourself about research on nutrition.

I am assuming if you have come this far in reading this post, you have an interest in weight loss. If you are unhappy with your weight & health, you can do something about it. Don't go down that "Fat Acceptance" rabbit hole (that's a whole another post).

I initially started with my weight loss on Atkins Phase I diet / Keto plan, basically a very low carb diet plan. This lasted for about eight months, during which I cut out dairy, potatoes, grains, sugar & legumes. After that, I slightly raised the fat & carb content of my diet and was basically doing paleo for a while, and then I reintroduced milk. I am still doing a version of paleo, but with slight modifications. I call this way of eating: JERF

This is from my Instagram account :)
JERF = Just Eat Real Food

Losing weight & keeping it off involves a balance of making the right food choices & certain behavioral changes. 

In this post, I will talk about the kind of food I eat. Behaviors will follow-up in the next post.

And these are the rules of my food selection:




1. Avoid processed food: If it is made in a factory, (unless its frozen raw veggies only - like peas) don't buy it. That means buying raw single ingredients like vegetables and meat and making your own food rather than the "Heat & Eat" bowl. Instead of drowning your salad in EVOO, add a few real olives. I try to adhere to this 90% of the time. I generally buy processed condiments like Dijon mustard because the amount I eat weekly (barely a spoon) isn't worth the effort it will take me to make it from a batch of seeds. But other than that, my basket is mostly single ingredients.

2. No sugar: Whenever I am expecting the kind of guests who will want chai, I have to check if there is sugar at home. Because there is none. I have a small jar of honey that I use in my face packs. But that's it. I don't use sugar in my cooking and I don't eat it in food outside. Again I adhere to this 90% of the time. I also don't have any artificial sweeteners nor fancy things like agave or stevia (though I have the plant growing in my balcony). I believe it keeps the tastebuds used to sugar and the cravings alive. If I want something sweet, I make sure it is made with real sugar. No HFCS.

3. No grains: Other than rice & quinoa and corn (very occasionally, it comes in my frozen veg mix as one of the five veggies) I don't eat any other grains like wheat, oats, millets etc. I believe this rule along with "no sugar" keeps my carbs low & me away from temptations such as cakes, pizza when outside, and helps me make a healthy choice like grilled meat with veggies etc.

4. No legumes too: The only exceptions I make here are peas, peanuts. chickpeas & black beans (rajma) but not everyday. Again, skipping yellow dal keeps my carbs in control. Besides, I am a non-vegetarian, so I don't need to rely on them for protein.

5. Half your plate should be veggies: Whenever I sit down for a meal, I make sure that half my plate is filled with veggies. I even add veggies to my chicken curries to up my intake. I alternate between salads & grilled dishes, but I make sure to eat enough raw veggies. And no, fries & ketchup don't count as vegetables. I do eat starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes & beetroots. Vegetables are my sources of carbohydrates.

6. Calories do matter: There is no scientific proof behind the commonly heard "starvation mode" and "lowered metabolism". Studies also show that people vastly underestimate their caloric intake even after being scientifically trained to count calories. (Look for a show called "Secret Eaters" on YouTube). Having said that, I also think focusing on the "quality" of calories pays off for health in the long term. You can lose weight while eating processed food if you eat at a deficit. Just like a car will run if you feed it petrol that has impurities. But you won't get the best performance out of your car & it will also break down sooner thanks to the damage caused by inferior fuel. Our body is the car & food is our fuel. Eat the best you can afford. Have butter instead of vegetable oil.

7. 5:2 rule: For five days of the week all my meals have been prepared at home, by me. On the weekends I eat one meal outside, but the rest again at home. That way I use the freshest ingredients & can balance out my meals. Generally, I prefer takeaway if I am eating alone. For the reason in point 8.

8. Serving sizes when eating outside are way larger than they should be: Here in Australia, I find serving sizes are really generous. So generous that they actually compose two meals for me. If you come from a childhood where wastage was frowned upon, you end up eating a lot more than you need. So if I am eating alone, I generally prefer takeaway so I can split the food into two meals for myself. Or I share my plate with my food partners. And this includes dessert. It is very easy to overeat when there is more food on your plate and get mislead about the correct serving sizes. Just take a look at this article

9. I eat animal protein & fat at every meal: They both have a satiating effect far more potent than carbohydrates for me. I have eaten "low-fat" in the past and found that it was the vilest diet I went on. Food tasted like sawdust and it was impossible to adhere to for me.  Just rice & beans in a meal, and I'm hungry in three hours, but on eggs & veggies I can go a lot longer.

10. Exercise: Stay active through the day. Make sure you get 30 minutes of exercise every day at the least. I have had the "advantage" of not knowing how to drive, yet, so I rely a lot on public transport to get around. That means walking & standing on my feet and I can't get away with snacking in the train, unlike the car. But you can't outrun a bad diet. It is easier to eat less than to run longer for me.

My next post will talk about behavioral changes that I believe complement these food rules.   

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