5@5 - How to lose 40 pounds without giving up delicious food
July 25th, 2012
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Editor's Note: Peter Kaminsky is the author of Culinary Intelligence: The Art Of Eating Healthy ( And Really Well)

Six years ago if you had wanted to pick a prime target for obesity it would have been me. And I was co-operating by staying right in the cross hairs. As a food critic and cookbook writer my job entailed a lot of eating. In ten years I went from 172 to 205. The doctor told me I had two choices: lose weight or get ready to meet my Maker.

Nothing against God, but I wasn’t ready for a rendezvous yet. I had to change my diet, but I could not and would not give up delicious food. Guess what? By eating the right stuff and avoiding the wrong stuff, I took off 40 pounds and kept them off.

It’s doable and it’s delicious. It just requires some not very difficult steps, so simple that although people keep telling us what they are we keep looking for magic diets. Forget about magic and use your noggin. Common sense will do the trick. My problem wasn’t unique, nearly 40 percent of Americans have the same issue and 100 percent of them can take the same simple actions I did.

Five ways to maximize your FPC (Flavor Per Calorie): Peter Kaminsky

1. Buy the best most flavorful ingredients you can afford
Second rate ingredients need to be rescued with gobs of cheese, loads of bacon, piles of salt and sugar, but fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables are already maxed out on flavor. It’s a no brainer this time of year to eat the right stuff and cheaper too!

No diss to bacon or cheese. They are good ingredients, just not cure alls for lousy food.

2. Not just vegetables, either
Same goes for meat, fish, poultry. Buy the best. The free-range, organic stuff costs more but I will bet you that you will be more satisfied with less of the full-flavored stuff.

Don't take my word for it. Try some side by side tastings yourself. More FPC means quicker satisfaction with less food. As for people who tell you this is elitist - hey, it’s the way they ate in the Bible, or when they wrote the Constitution. Natural ingredients are, well...natural.

3. Salads, not seconds
You really don’t need to go back for seconds. It’s just force of habit. If you must, then fill up on salad. Lots of flavor, lots of volume, less calories.

4. Cook, or live with someone who does
Restaurants are a great pleasure. Take out food a great convenience, but you ain’t gonna lose weight eating off a menu.

Cooking isn’t hard (look how many people have been doing it for thousands of years). It’s the best way to bring out all the FPC in ingredients - from the crust on a steak, to the creaminess of an eggplant, to the richness of a roasted chicken.

5. Keep an eye on the sugar
Avoid potatoes, white flour, white rice, more than two beers or two glasses or wine. In other words stay away from the stuff that turns to sugar in your bloodstream faster than you can say “turns to sugar in your bloodstream.” Next thing that happens the sugar turns to fat.

I’m not the first guy to say this. I’m also not the first guy to say “eat your vegetables.” But if you do, you will lose weight and keep it off. Sure thing.

Have you been able to lose - and keep off - a significant amount of weight while still eating well? Share your secrets in the comments before and we might feature them in an upcoming story.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Diet Tools • Diets • Eating Habits • Health News • Think

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. SoYummy

    He's right about full flavor and cooking for yourself. I used to love eating out, and when I curtailed that in favor of cooking at home, I thought I had to go fat free / reduced calorie to lose weight. The only problem was I was never satisfied. A huge salad of romaine lettuce, cucumber, red pepper and radishes, with a light vinegarette dressing, partnered with a flavorful baked chicken breast or white fish filet and a glass of wine is more filling than ten Big Macs and a gallon of cola.

    July 28, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  2. ohsnap

    I used to shop for a weeks worth of food. Then I'd make enough to have left overs. So I constantly had food in the fridge. I changed that by doing several things...buying enough food for 3 days at maximum. No left overs (or spoiled food). I shop at a local food co-op...the choices are more limited but local and/or organic. I shop by bike, that is, I only buy what I can carry on my bike. Accomplishes several things...I have to bike to the store and back (exercise). And I don't buy as much but buy better. I have lost 30 lbs, slowly but they have stayed off.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  3. GiGi Eats Celebrities

    THIS is VERY true. Seriously couldn't have said it better myself. I like the whole FPC approach. I definitely do just that. Bring on the same. Grill up some vegetables (to enhance their flavor), olives are always a delicious touch too. Healthy foods can be incredibly healthy, people just have to try and do # 4 more often!

    July 26, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  4. MMR

    He's right–especially about #5! I also found that healthy grains–even brown rice or barley–turn into sugar faster in your body if they're overcooked. I added such items to soups and let them cook forever since it thickened the soup. It was thickening my belly! I changed the way I made soup–by cooking and storing cooked beans and grains separately, then adding them when serving. I lost 20 pounds. The glycemic index works!

    July 26, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  5. Adam

    Good points all (especially #5), but what has worked for me (and several of my friends) is (a) figuring out how many calories I really need each day, and (b) keeping a food diary to ensure that I don't go over that number.

    Before I did that, each day was like walking into a store where nothing had a price tag on it. And, even worse, I didn't really have any good idea how much money I had to spend anyway. It's almost impossible to stay within a budget that way.

    Sure, you hear advice like "stay away from refined foods," "don't eat a lot of carbs," and that kind of thing - but it's hard to really understand in a way that you can act on until you see how it applies to your own diet.

    So I set up an account on one of the websites that lets you track your food (it counts the calories for you based on what you enter) and your exercise, and started tracking what I ate every day. I was astonished to see where most of my calories were coming from, and really had to make only a few small adjustments in what I was eating. By looking at what I wanted to eat and how many calories it was going to "cost" me, I was able to do things like trade off a few small pretzels for a much more filling large salad.

    What's even nicer is that I haven't had to completely eliminate anything from my diet. Some of my favorite things like chicken fried steak and Mexican food are okay occasionally, as long as I figure out how to fit them into my budget.

    By keeping a food journal and managing my calorie budget, I've managed to lose 15 pounds in two months.

    Even if you can't commit to keeping track of everything you eat for that long, the simple act of rigorously tracking what you eat for one week is sure to be an eye opening experience that can help you make food choices for the rest of your life.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • GiGi Eats Celebrities

      Congrats on losing weight, that's an awesome feat and I certainly hope you continue on your weight loss journey until you reach your goal. Keeping a food journal is a terrific way to monitor calories and has obviously served you quite well, but the choice to keep a food journal for some may not be a good one. Some people may take it too far and get overly obsessed leading them to cut out a lot of food groups, which will eventually hinder their health just as much as being overweight would. There is a happy medium, and it sounds like you're in a good place. Just be sure to catch yourself if you feel as though you're going too far! :)

      July 26, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  6. Eeesh

    How would I lose 40 pounds by wearing my ugly glasses upside down?

    July 26, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • peter kaminsky

      this is a question for philosophers.

      July 26, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
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