Denying the food that one loves is a guarantee of failure in the war against kilos. When my 35-year-old friend and two children came to see me, I was a little over 20 kilos overweight. He had fought this problem all his life, despite having followed hundreds of diets since he was 20 years old. The only thing he had achieved was continually going up and down in weight.
The problem with the previous attempts was that all the diets she had undergone wholly discarded the tasty and fattening foods that she loved and that her children always ate. In the middle of the afternoon, when she felt physically and emotionally exhausted, she could not help but “bang” forbidden things, usually her children’s treats, such as sweet or salty cookies, or candy, and then feeling that she had already ruined the One day, from a few bites of what he considered “bad food”, he would go into a real binge, of course, he would solemnly vow to start the diet again the next day, this cycle-deprivation, cheating, binge eating-continued for several days, even weeks, until the woman ultimately gave up.
What happened to my friend is very common. According to a study that conducted recently, only one in four people who go on a diet manage to maintain their weight afterward. I have met thousands of individuals who recover it, and again and again, I see the same pattern in their failed efforts: they try to lose weight with a regime radically different from what they usually do in their daily lives.
These people are perfect candidates for what I call the 90/10 weight reduction plan.
I conceived this plan around the principles, consecrated by time, of a healthy and long-term weight loss: the control of the portions and the satisfaction of the cravings. The idea is that between 80 and 90 percent of the daily calories that ingested come from nutritious foods, and between 10 and 20 percent, from delicious whims. Since the foods that you crave and enjoy included in the plan along with the nutritious food, you will feel satisfied both physically and emotionally. Even after achieving your ideal weight you can easily incorporate the 90/10 plan into your daily life because everything your body needs and wants is part of the program. Start by choosing one of two caloric levels to lose weight: the 1,400 calories or the 1,600 calorie daily. (See the box on this page to find out what is the best plan for you.)
I’m going to help you by giving you guidelines on how much you can eat (see box), but you have to decide what “fun” foods to gratify: up to 250 calories of sweet cookies, chips, cake, wine, nuts. The best part is that you can satisfy your cravings at any time of the day.
It is not about exact mathematics here. The plan is a strategy for weight management that can last a lifetime. If you convinced that it is possible for you to indulge your tastes even if you are on a diet, you would surely succeed. No food is forbidden; instead, you learn to include them all in your regime and to consume the correct portions.
According to the plan and the goodies that you choose, the diet can be from 80 percent healthy and 20 percent fun, up to 100 percent healthy.
For my friend, the plan organized as follows: she chose the 1,600-calorie level. Given her history of binge eating, I was worried that this smaller amount of calories would leave her unsatisfied and at risk of falling into the usual excesses. She decided to eat her candy in the middle of the afternoon because at that time her children used to have a snack and she thought it was tasty. By feeling satisfied, you could overcome the barrier of bingeing and end the day with a healthy dinner. I advised him that if he exceeded a meal, he did not give the day for lost, but just suppressed his mid-afternoon treat.
My friend and I also talked about the importance of gymnastics. Studies show that people who exercise are more likely not to gain weight again. I advise my patients to do between 20 and 60 minutes of aerobic exercise three to five times a week. Since I had little or no free time to go to a gym, I suggested that I buy several exercise videos and use them in the living room.
Other times he could take his youngest son to walk in his stroller and walk briskly, while the eldest was in school. With the 90/10 plan, my friend could lose more than three kilos in just 14 days. After two and a half months I weighed nine kilos less, and it looked and felt very good. Two years away, he already managed to eliminate all the excess weight he had, plus an additional kilo. And, even better, he no longer classifies foods as “good” or “bad”: he still chooses healthy eating 90 percent of the time, while always satisfying his need for variety and delicacy the rest of the time. A diet that you can follow long term.
Let’s see now how the 90/10 plan benefited a friend of my brother, a 50-year-old executive named Esteban. Esteban was nine kilos overweight and felt heavy, slow, unattractive and uncomfortable in his clothes. But he assured me that no diet fit his “accelerated” lifestyle, and I asked him to write down in a notebook everything he ate for five days and take that information to our first consultation. Coffee with cream, sweetened with sugar At lunch, she ate a corn cake or a bagel that she had smeared cream cheese and orange juice in. It is not surprising that in the afternoons she felt a headache and fatigue.
Several nights a week, Esteban ate a delicious dinner in a restaurant. After eating practically nothing satisfying or nutritious all day, at dinner time I was hungry and satisfied with bread and butter, three alcoholic beverages, a large steak, a baked potato with sour cream and butter, spinach with cream and a slice of pudding. Based on his size and lifestyle, the 1,600-calorie plan seemed the most reasonable to him. Together we plan a substantial, nutritious and balanced breakfast, and delicious and straightforward lunches at the same time.
Eating fruit and yogurt, and eating soup and a salad, or a salad and a sandwich – for example, of turkey with lettuce, tomato and two slices of cheese, on whole wheat bread – could maintain a high level of energy and eliminate your afternoon headaches.
In order to not feel so hungry at dinner time, Esteban ate something healthy and low in the afternoon, and then, at dinner, gratified himself with some of the “fun” foods that he liked the most: strawberries with a little whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, or a small piece of cake, or a couple of extra slices of bread.
He could also choose to drink two glasses of wine during dinner. As an entree, I could eat a medium-sized steak, although I suggested that I alternate it with a piece of chicken or grilled fish to lower its cholesterol concentration, which was a bit high. Esteban replaced his usual baked potato full of fat and spinach with cream for a salad and many steamed vegetables. And, of course, skim milk for your coffee, instead of the cream and sugar you used to make it with.
I convinced him to go up and down the stairs at work and park the car about 800 meters from the building where his office was, to be forced to do a little physical activity every day. (Excellent method for someone who swore he did not have time to exercise.) What most surprised Esteban was that, despite all the filling foods he could choose from, he was only eating 1,600 calories per day, which guaranteed I was going to lose weight. And, in effect, Esteban dropped 4.5 kilos in just 14 days and continued to lose weight during the weeks that followed. His cholesterol levels normalized and his blood pressure, which had been high, was reduced enough that he stopped taking medication. Four years after being put on a diet, he has not gained weight again.
Esteban is an excellent example of people whose eating habits were so ingrained, and for a long time, they seemed impossible to change. The 90/10 plan convinced him, with significant evidence, that losing weight and giving small tastes are compatible things.