I've struggled with my weight since fourth grade. It's a familiar story, but I tried every diet. I even enrolled in a supervised weight-loss program when I was in my 30s, only to be told that I was a slow loser. The counselor asked me if I was filling out the forms correctly because my numbers hardly moved!
I was humiliated, so I just gave up and stopped dieting altogether. Over the next 15 years, the pounds packed on. I got to a point where I could barely move. I would unload the dishwasher and get so tired that I'd have to sit down. Even walking for just 5 minutes wiped me out for hours.
At 45, I had high blood pressure, was pre-diabetic, and weighed 298 pounds. I told myself that if I didn't do something to lose the weight, I could end up in a wheelchair.
Then, last January, I discovered Prevention's new diet book, The Fat Cell Solution by David Ludwig, MD, PhD, a Harvard-trained endocrinologist. He described how the carbs and sugar we eat tell our bodies to store fat. This sends our insulin on a roller coaster ride, which ultimately causes us to feel constant hunger and gain weight like crazy. When I read this, I thought it described me to a "t."
When we eat the right combination of fat, protein, and carbohydrate, however, we signal our bodies to use the energy in our fat cells, not add to it. Eating lots of healthy fats—found in nuts, avocados, oils, and many sauces (hello, whole milk!)—and less protein and carbs actually retrains your fat cells to release excess calories.
I began to lose weight immediately, and my cravings started to subside after the second day. In my first year on the plan, I lost 77 pounds! Besides incorporating more healthy fats into my daily diet, here are 3 ways I slayed the weight-loss beast:
1. Eliminate as many obstacles as possible.
Since my new plan involved eating twice as much fat as carbohydrates, I cleared out my pantry of processed foods like white pasta, flour, and sugar. I started a daily journal that tracked my sleep and stress levels—two things that can impede weight loss.
Then I shopped for fresh vegetables, healthy animal protein like chicken and beef, and cooked healthy meals. If I keep my fridge and pantry full of these items on a weekly basis, I don't find myself reaching for treats.
My go-to recipe is this Shepherd's Pie with Cauliflower Topping:
Shepherd's Pie with Cauliflower Topping
MAKES: 6 servings
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 45 minutes
1 small to medium head cauliflower, cut into large pieces (about 4 to 6 cups)
1 large onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic
1 medium fennel bulb (or substitute 4 small carrots), cut into large pieces
1 tsp plus 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or butter
8 ounces sliced button or cremini mushrooms
1½ pounds 90% lean ground beef
1¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp plus ¼ tsp ground black pepper
6 ounces canned tomato paste
½ c water
Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
1¾ c cooked cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
1. PLACE the cauliflower in a pot and add water just to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
2. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F, while the cauliflower is cooking.
3. PLACE the onion, garlic, and fennel in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
4. HEAT 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion mixture, mushrooms, beef, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ⅛ teaspoon of the pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the beef is browned, 5 to 10 minutes.
5. STIR the tomato paste and water together in a small bowl and add the mixture to the skillet with the beef. Add the cayenne (if using) and turn off the heat.
6. DRAIN the cauliflower, return it to the pot, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, ¾ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and the white beans. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth.
7. TRANSFER the beef mixture to a 9 x 12 inch baking dish (or six individual 4 or 5 inch ramekins). Top with the cauliflower mixture. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling.
8. SERVE immediately. Cool and refrigerate or freeze extra portions. If you refrigerate assembled pies, then reheat in a preheated 375°F oven until warm throughout, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.
For a vegetarian version, substitute 1 recipe Crumbled Tempeh for the beef, increase water to 1 cup, and reduce salt by ½ teaspoon or to taste.
Substitute ground turkey or ground lamb for the beef.
NUTRITION (per serving): 400 cal, 32 g protein, 31 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, 17 g total fat
(You'll find 167 more flavorful, filling recipes that your whole family will love in Prevention's new weight loss book The Fat Cell Solution.)
2. Set short-term goals.
In my mind, I was going to need 3 years to lose all the weight—about 175 pounds. Instead of the half a pound a week weight loss I had expected, I ended up losing 2 to 3 pounds a week.
I knew I had a long way to go, though, so I set short-term, attainable goals that didn't revolve around the number on the scale.
For instance, I set a goal to ride a bike again—even if it was just around the block. By Memorial Day, I was back on a bike. By the fall, I could finish a 16-mile ride, no problem.
These short-term goals are most effective at keeping me active from day to day—something I had never been able to do before. Exercise is now something I want to do, not something I have to do.
And that's important, since even as little as 15 minutes of physical activity increases levels of feelings like enthusiasm, pride, happiness, and excitement, according to a study in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology. A number on a scale could never do that.
Next up: kayaking!
3. Cheat every once in a while.
By changing the way I eat, I don't think about food usually until I'm really hungry nowadays. The higher percentage of healthy fats in my diet fuel me for longer periods, so I'm not constantly reaching for snacks.
With this past holiday season, though, I found it harder to avoid sugar. So I let myself indulge a few times. The rationale is simple: If I don't deprive myself, I'll be less likely to binge later on.
Then, after the holidays, it was right back to my original plan of eating the right fat, protein, and carbohydrate ratios, and I was back on track in a day.
I continue to lose weight, and after a year, I'm down to 221 pounds. Even better, I've cut my blood pressure medication in half and I am no longer pre-diabetic.
I realize it may take me awhile to reach my goal weight of 125, but this change really works for me. I'm no longer focused on food. I now know how to pay attention to what my body is telling me. I'll be perfectly happy if I get to my goal in 3 years, but I have a feeling it will be sooner.
Break the cycle of hunger and lose the weight for good with The Fat Cell Solution from Prevention. It's backed by decades of research and hundreds of test success stories just like Candy.