Shopping Plan for Weight Control

In my book ‘Prostate Recovery MAP’ I mention an eating plan that might prove useful to reduce visceral fat, abdominal girth and maybe even body weight. If you are looking for it, you are in the right place. The program is based on two simple elements of all foods – the density of energy (usually sugar based) and the density of fat. I first heard of this plan from Dr Michael Gillman a men’s health doctor in Brisbane Australia, but I don’t know if he is the originator.

Energy Density – the purpose of food is to provide materials to reconstruct your body (maintenance) and to provide an energy supply to fuel every cell in your body as it does it’s job. Each cell ultimately is powered by glucose (simple sugar) and this can be supplied by or facilitated by carbohydrate and fat in your diet. In western society we have these two ingredients in abundance. And if you consume more of them than you need to run and repair the machine, the excess may be stored for future use – as fat.  Of course, because we continue to eat these fat reserves are not called upon and become a comfortable companion that we carry around.
Much of our processed food is energy dense but nutrition poor. Meaning, it has high levels of sugars and fats but lower levels of vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc.  Also, the mix of ingredients is designed to maximise flavour, pleasant mouth feel and convenience of preparation. Not necessarily nutritional balance. Contrast this with natural foods (fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, fish) which is often complicated to prepare, messy, slower and may require some skills to turn it into enjoyable, edible food. Too bad. Do it anyway.

Shopping: Peripheral Bias. When shopping for food in a supermarket, do the external lanes first. The outside lanes contain fruit and veg, fish and meat, dairy and chilled/frozen goods,  The inner aisles contain processed food (cans, packets, boxes, bags, cups, etc). If you complete the outer rim first, filling your basket or trolley with the staples of life before being seduced by the processed foods, you will have a healthier pantry at home. If you don’t buy it, you won’t find it when you open the cupboard in the kitchen. You don’t have to go hungry to be lean and healthy.
There is a huge amount of useful nutritional information on packaged foods. Not on the front of the packet, this is the marketing hype, look for the panel on ‘Nutritional Information’.

Nutritional Information Panel.  This is where the real contents of processed foods and drinks are revealed – the presence and amounts of fats (saturated and total), protein, carbohydrate, salt, fibre and energy (usually sugar).  Yes energy in a packet! ‘Energy’ is food science talk for kilojoules or calories that are contained in the total ingredients. And while taking on board ‘energy’ sounds great, remember that all effective weight loss programs focus on reducing the excess energy in your food and drink. What is excess? Any energy you are not burning as fuel during your activities is excess and will likely be broken down and stored as fat for future use. Which again sounds fine until we realise this stored fuel will only be accessed if you stop taking in more energy in the form of food and drink.
Some food is energy dense (high kilojoule) per unit of consumption and some is energy poor.

Like many things, there is more information on this label than you need to make a sensible decision. I suspect the manufacturers are happy to put excess information to discourage us from sorting through to find what we need to know. Don’t let them win. These labels are your best mate when it comes to visceral fat control and losing girth (both of which will help your health factors such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and continence).
Get in the habit of reading these labels. If you don’t understand, look up the internet or ask around. But here is the simplified system – you can make pretty good decisions based on just two lines of the nutritional information. These are ‘Energy’ and ‘Total Fat’. These are always listed ‘per serving’  and here in Australia the hard work of calculating this as a percentage of the food weight or liquid volume has been done and is also listed. This second column of percentages per 100g or 100ml is the best guide to your decision making. If it is not listed, you will have to do the maths as the serving size is listed then the quantity per serving – so whatever it takes to convert the serving size to 100g or 100ml, multiply or divide the same number against the energy and fat quantity to get the percentage you need. Here is an example:

  • Corn Crackers – Serving Size 6.5 g
  • Energy per Serving = 121kJ
  • Multiply 6.5g by 15.4 to get 100g
  • So multiply 121kj by 15.4 to get the amount per 100g = 1863kj

This final number is the important one for weight control and reducing gut fat. It represents the energy density of the product.  Doing the same for the total fat will reveal the fat density for the product. These are the two critical numbers, the rest of the panel is just interesting. My experience suggests if you stay below a threshold of energy and fat density in all the foods and liquids you consume, you will reduce your body fat levels and your waist girth. That’s the only change you need to make: eat less dense food and drink and keep doing everything else you are currently up to. Of course, if you add increased activity or exercise the changes will be quicker, but it is harder to make two changes at the same time than just mastering one. So what are the thresholds for weight loss; here we go –

Energy Density
Food:  up to 1200kj per 100g is OK.
Liquid: up to 150kj per 100ml is OK

Fat Density
Food: up to 10g per 100g is OK
Liquid: up to 10g per 100ml is OK

This is very simple, just read the labels at the store and if either number is too high leave that product in the store. Simple, but frustrating. Be prepared for a lot of your favourite foods to exceed one or both of these thresholds. It will really test your will power and your capacity to adapt and be flexible as you search for substitutes. The lessons you learn in store and in your pantry must also be applied when you dine out. Some fast food outlets now list product energy density and maybe fat density, but most do not. Your discipline will be tested.
Once you achieve your target weight and/or girth, I am prepared to take the foot off the brakes a little and lift the thresholds to 1350kj and 200kj for energy density and 12g for fat density. But if you start to lose ground, back you go.

There may be some foods you just cannot find a satisfactory substitute that meets the guidelines. Fair enough, life goes on. You have two choices here,

  1. eat less of them, or
  2. eat less of them

Reducing the quantity will reduce the density of your consumption. However you may still be hungry as the servings are too light on. In this case you can supplement the coveted food by bulking it up with vegetables (if it is a savoury food) or fruit (if is is a sweet food). This will fill your plate, satisfy your eye and taste buds but keep you in the right density zone as vegetables and fruits are label free!  Mind you, the same cannot be said of any sauces, chutneys, custards or marinades you add to make them taste better, they are usually kilojoule dense, as is the wine you enjoy at the same time.

Simply put, if you make the right decisions at the store, the tempting and offending items won’t appear in your pantry or fridge. This is a shopping plan for weight control, if you are after an eating plan for weight control click here.

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