How a (Future) Dietitian Does a Diet Part 1

Want to see how a pro loses weight? Many of you may be wondering why a real “pro” even needs to lose weight. Good question. You may have read my “About Me” and saw that I lift weights. Although I don’t consider myself as a bodybuilder or powerlifter, I’m still interested in gaining muscle, being lean, and lifting more weight (being stronger) at a lower body weight. For this reason, I go through cycles where I gain weight (usually about .5 lbs per week or less) with the goal of gaining muscle and then I lose weight with the goal of losing fat and keeping the muscle that I gained in the previous cycle. Before you quit reading because you think this doesn’t apply to you, please hear me out – I think most people will learn some things while following my weight loss journey that can help you out regardless of if you ever plan to gain or lose weight in cycles like I do. Many of you are probably thinking “I thought lifting weights meant gaining muscle all of the time. Can’t you just lose weight and gain muscle at the same time.” Not exactly. When losing weight, your body is in a catabolic state which basically means you’re your body is breaking down tissue (fat and muscle) for energy to fuel your body because you aren’t giving it enough energy from food. Because building muscle takes a lot of energy from the body, muscle building gets put on the back burner of your body’s priority list. In fact, for someone like me that has been lifting for some time, some muscle loss will likely occur even if I continue to lift and eat correctly. However, you may be luckier than me. There are four types of people that can lose fat while gaining muscle:

  1. Beginners to weight lifting (if you haven’t been lifting properly, this may apply to you too)
  2. Obese (BMI>30) people
  3. People who have “muscle memory” from lifting weights in the past, but quit lifting for an extended period of time
  4. People taking steroids

I, unfortunately, don’t fit in to one of those categories so I must do my muscle gaining and fat loss in separate cycles. Currently (2/24/14), I’m at the end of almost a 2 year long weight gaining cycle that started in May of 2012. I’m 6’2” tall. I started at about 165 lbs (likely 10% bodyfat) and ended at 207.6 lbs (likely 19% bodyfat). A 40 lb gain in about 21 months with about half of it being muscle – exactly the pace I was shooting for. However, even when doing most things right, I have packed on both fat and muscle and it’s time for the fat to come off.

The diet started on 2/24/14 and has been successful so far. Stats at the beginning of the diet:

Age: 22

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 207.6 lbs

Estimated Body Fat Percentage By Sight: ~19%

Lean Body Weight (Muscle+Everything That’s Not Fat): 168,2 lbs

Fat Weight: 39.4 lbs


Photo Courtesy of Bahrain Personal Fitness

Not only will the fat be coming off, it will be coming off fast. My girlfriend, who is also in school to become a dietitian, has been working at a weight loss clinic for the past couple months and has got me thinking about a scientific approach to rapid fat loss while maintaining muscle and being as healthy as possible. Over the next couple weeks, I will be sharing my experience with losing weight quickly and then for several weeks after that I will show you a more moderate and flexible approach to weight loss. My future posts on this will break it down into my 5 Steps of Weight Loss, give you bits and pieces of my experience, and then show you the real results! Stay tuned 🙂

Step 1: Motivation

Step 2: Education

Step 3: Preparation

Step 4: Initiation

Step 5: Evaluation and Perfection

Daily Tip 9: Greek Yogurt as a Sweet Treat

Greek yogurt can be a high Calorie, sugar-laden diet breaker disguised as a healthy treat or a high protein, high calcium fat burner depending on what kind you choose. Have you ever read the food label of Greek Yogurt? You probably knew that Greek yogurt is packed with protein, but do you pay attention to the fat or sugar? One small container (5.3 oz) of plain Greek yogurts has about 7 g of sugar, which come naturally from the sugar in milk. An 8 oz serving of plain Greek yogurt should have about 9 g of sugar. No need to try to avoid this natural sugar, but you should choose Greek yogurt with less sugar added to it.

I recommend always reading the food label and choosing non-fat Greek yogurt with as little added sugar as possible if you choose flavored Greek yogurts (it is the most Nutrient Dense this way). Or better yet, buy the plain, non-fat Greek yogurt and flavor it yourself! Plain Greek yogurt is more versatile too!  At the end of this article, I will give you some ideas for a tasty flavored Greek yogurt without the added sugars!

You can see how much added sugar is in your individual container of Greek yogurt by taking the grams of sugar in your Greek yogurt subtracted by the seven grams of naturally occurring sugar. For example:

Chobani Vanilla Greek Yogurt vs Plain Greek Yogurt (individual containers)

16 g sugar – 7 g sugar = 9 grams of added sugar

You also have to be aware of the fat content of the yogurt. Some of the higher-fat Greek yogurts can really pack in the Calories so be careful. Non-Fat Greek yogurt still has a really creamy and thick texture, so choosing the non-fat version still tastes great.Who knew something that can be used to replace sour cream or be made in to a healthy ranch dip could make a sweet treat too!

Ways to Flavor Non-fat, Plain Greek Yogurt

  • Lemon juice and Splenda
  • Fresh fruit
  • Put sliced strawberries in a pan on medium heat, add couple packets of Splenda, and cook until it’s like a yummy strawberry “sauce.” Then put it in the fridge and use it as a topping.
  • PB2 or peanut flour with a little Splenda/Salt to taste
  • A dash of almond or vanilla extract with Splenda
  • Try any combination of these

greek yogurt

Daily Tip 8: A Tool to Motivate You to Get Fit

No, I’m not talking about that one loud meathead at your local gym. He is too busy rolling up his sleeves and posing in front of the mirror. I’m talking about Fitocracy. Fitocracy is a great website for tracking your workouts and seeing your progress. You get “points” for exercising and gain levels as you go. It’s awesome to look back at your workouts from a year ago and see how much you have improved! If that doesn’t appeal to you, it’s also a great place to find a supportive community that will encourage you to better yourself. You can join What Matters Nutrition Fitocracy group and we can create our own community. If you read my article Weight Loss Step 1: Motivation, then you know how important motivation and social support are to reaching your goals.

Feel free to follow me on Fitocracy (my profile is linked above) – I’ll be sure to follow you back!can

Photo Courtesy of HomespotHQ

Daily Tip 7: Are You Picking Smart Condiments and Extras?

You only use a few spoonfuls at a time, so can condiments really be doing a lot of harm to your weight loss efforts? Condiments can bring a lot of flavor to your food, but if you were to read the food label you would see that many of them could be contributing to that number on the scale.  Let me tell you what condiments may be doing you damage.

  1. Oils (120 Calories/tbsp.)
  2. Butter (100 Calories/tbsp.)
  3. Mayonnaise (90-100 Calories/tbsp.)
  4. Creamy Salad Dressings (60-80 Calories/tbsp.)
  5. Italian and Low-fat Creamy Dressings, Low-fat Mayo (35-50 Calories/tbsp.)
  6. Cheeses (80-120 Calories/oz)
  7. Jelly (50-60 Calories/tbsp.)
  8. Sour cream (20-30 Calories/tbsp.)
  9. BBQ (20-30 Calories/tbsp.)
  10. Ketchup (20 Calories/tbsp.)

As you can see, these condiments can add a lot of Calories to your foods. These are the calories per tablespoon  and  most of us don’t stop at one tablespoon! Most of these condiments do this without filling you up or contributing a lot of substance.  The bottom three on that list really are fine in moderation*, but you may not be doing moderation. As a ketchup fiend, I used to use five or more tablespoons in one meal and pile up 100 or so extra Calories. This is definitely enough to make a difference over time. Better choices** include:

  1. Soy Sauce (15 Calories/tbsp)
  2. Sugar Free Jelly (10 Calories/tbsp)
  3. Plain Greek Yogurt (<10 Calories/tbsp)
  4. Mustard (<10 Calories/tbsp)
  5. Hot Sauce (<10 Calories/tbsp)
  6. Walden Farms Salad Dressings/Ketchup (<10 Calories/tbsp)
  7. Horseradish (<10 Calories/tbsp)
  8. Pickles (<10 Calories/tbsp)
  9. Lemon Juice (<10 Calories/tbsp)
  10. Vinegar (<10 Calories/tbsp)
  11. Salsa (<10 Calories/tbsp)
  12. Cooking Sprays (<10 Calories for a quick spray)
  13. Most Seasonings (Garlic, Onion Powder, Pepper, Cumin, ect)

If you are trying to lose weight, I would suggest choosing mostly condiments and extras from the bottom list and small portions of the last three from the top list. You can also make a healthy ranch dressing with Greek yogurt or use Greek yogurt as a replacement for sour cream.

*Really anything is fine in moderation, but if the goal is weight loss, you will have to limit the higher Calories options even more than usual!

**These lower Calorie options may still be high in sodium, but sometimes you must pick the lesser of two evils (sodium over excessive Calories).


Photo Courtesy of Steve Korevec


Daily Tip 6: Watching the Scale Could Be the Reason You Don’t See that Number Go Down

Do you step on the scale every morning with the hope of results that never seem to come fast enough? Do you get frustrated? I bet it ruined your day when you gained weight even when you did almost everything right. You probably know it’s wrong to let this affect your mood so much, but you can’t help it. You worked so hard and still went in the wrong direction. It’s probably just water weight, but it still hurts. I’ve been there.

This can be so discouraging! But there is a simple solution to this problem that you have probably already thought of while you were reading this – you need to step off the scale! Now this doesn’t mean you never weigh in again. You should still weigh in every week or two to make sure you are on the right track and see if adjustments need to be made to your plan. Mark your calendar and hide your scale away until the next scheduled weigh in to keep the temptation away! Usually a week or two is enough time to see a difference in the scale and motivate you to keep going. The day to day just varies too much and you will be on an emotional roller coaster.


Photo Courtesy of Bahrain Personal Fitness

If you are truly in this for the long haul then you should focus on what’s on your plate and expect a downward weight trend over weeks and months instead of checking on the day to day.

How many of you will need to hide your scale?

Daily Tip 5: Can Water Increase Your Metabolism?

Do you drink enough H2O? About 60-70% of our bodies are made up of water, so don’t you think it’s important that you do? But does it really give you an advantage when working towards a smaller waistline?

It does! Water plays many roles in the body, helps you control your hunger and prevent overeating, increases your metabolism. Dehydration may also cause migraines/headaches, decrease cognitive ability, affect your mood, and decrease your strength. Basically, dehydration can make you feel like crap – you probably won’t feel like exercising either. Drinking before meals is a great way to stave off dehydration while filling you up and preventing you from overeating. It also gives you a small boost in metabolism! That being said, here are my recommendations for water:

  • Drink an extra 6 cups* of water per day above what you usually do
  • Drink two cups of cold water immediately after you wake up. A cup is about the size of your fist.
  • Drink two cups of cold water before every meal (if you eat 3-4 meals).
  • Drink enough water to keep your urine a very light yellow for most of the day.
  • Drink water while you exercise and two cups of cold water for every pound that you lose while exercising to replace sweat lost.

*Drinking about 6.25 cups of extra cold water  burns about 50 Calories per day and can result in a 5 lb weight loss in one year.

If you can’t get yourself to drink this much water or don’t like the taste of water,  try adding lemon juice to your water. The few Calories added from the lemon juice may negate the increase in metabolism, but at least you will be hydrated and less likely to overeat during your meal. In my opinion, even artificially sweetened beverages like flavored water, Crystal light, diet pop (may want to go with the caffeine free late at night), or zero-calorie sports drinks can be okay for this purpose if you aren’t ridiculous.


Photo Courtesy of Maher Dalal

Daily Tip 4: Substitute Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream

MMMmmmm baked potatoes, tacos, burritos, and chili – Some of many foods that just don’t taste right without sour cream. Unfortunately, sour cream is high in saturated fat and Calories so it’s probably something that you have to cut back on if you want to lose a few pounds.

Fat-free plain Greek yogurt is an awesome alternative that’s packed with protein and calcium! You get all the taste and filling protein without all the saturated fats and Calories. In fact, 2 tbsp of Greek Yogurt only has about 15 Calories – about 3 times fewer Calories than sour cream. Greek yogurt is amazing, and I’ve been on a bit of a kick lately. It can be used in equal amounts to replace sour cream on foods and in recipes because of its similar consistency and taste. You can also make ranch out of it, see here.

greek yogurt

Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Towle