A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Freaky Food is NOT Your Friend

Welcome to Day 12 of Minimize Yo’ Butt

I strongly believe we have really messed up our eating habits with “healthy” foods. Sugar-free, fat-free, carb-free, and taste-free creations are all over the shelves in our supermarkets. Have you ever looked at the nutritional labels on these “healthy” foods? It can be downright scary!

Sugar-Free Jello & Other Modern Miracles

Several months ago, our family decided to try going low-carb by following the Atkins diet. Cutting down on the hundreds of carbs consumed on a daily basis seemed like a good plan. However, the beginning stages of Atkins cuts carbs so drastically that even fresh fruit is banned because of its natural sugars and carbs.

We were determined to succeed so we stocked our kitchen with all types of allowed vegetables, diet sodas, sugar-free chocolates, sugar substitutes, and lots and LOTS of sugar-free jello. Sugar free jello has zero carbs and is therefore considered completely guilt free. Add a little Reddi-Whip in a can and you have yourself an indulgent 1 carb treat that any low-carb follower can be proud of.

As a family of 10, we were having this sugar-free jello with Reddi-whip every single night. Now, it takes FOUR boxes of jello for ten 1-cup servings so you can just imagine how much jello we were buying at the store. Take a moment and picture the face of the cashier at the grocery store ringing up that much jello. We get that look a lot actually.

We eventually caved in our pursuit of the low-carb Atkins diet. There is just something fundamentally wrong with NOT allowing a fresh Georgia peach from the local fruit stand but allowing unlimited amounts of peach-flavored jello. I’m not even sure what kind of substance jello is, but it’s certainly not natural!

Stick to Natural Choices

Our new plan is to choose more natural food choices. Unprocessed foods usually don’t need labels or packaging. It’s not always possible to have totally unprocessed food so in those cases, the less processed the better.  An article I read recently had the following tips on picking less processed food.

3 Simple Ways to Choose Foods with the Least Amount of Processing:

1. Look at the number of ingredients below a food’s nutrition label. The fewer ingredients in a food, the closer the food is to its natural state (the less processed it is). If you have a choice between two bags of chips, for instance, always choose the one with fewer ingredients.

2. Look at the order of ingredients on the nutrition label. A food’s ingredients are listed in order of importance. The higher up on the list the ingredient is, the more of it there is in a food. For instance, the first ingredient listed on the potato chips above is potatoes, which means potatoes are the basis of this recipe.

3. Look for keywords on your food’s packaging such as “low sugar,””low salt (sodium),” “no sugar added,” or “no salt added.” Foods with these keywords on the packaging generally have less processing and are healthier for you. You see this frequently on canned foods, such as canned beans or other vegetables. But be careful, some products that say low-fat or low-salt, may be very high in sugar. Be sure to look at all of the ingredients on the nutrition label!

This Week’s Progress

We are just short of the two week mark for Minimize Yo’ Butt and I feel great!

In the recent years, I have developed bad habits of a carb heavy diet, working late, sleeping little, and the only form of exercise I was doing was climbing the stairs or picking up my daughter.

I have finally decided that those days are behind me!

I have successfully been:

  • Breaking my carb habit
  • Changing over to a Paleo eating plan
  • Adding regular exercise into my routine

I have lost a total of 3.2 pounds. Granted, the weight is not flying off of me but I feel better about my eating habits than I have in years. Robert made me a nifty Minimize Yo Butt weight ticker for my sidebar. In case you’re interested in getting your own ticker, I’ll be posting the directions for adding it to your site on the Minimize Yo Butt page later today.

I am allowing one “splurge day” each week. I’m not going all out and binging but I’m reserving the right to indulge in some treats and not feel guilty about it.

On average, I’ve only been exercising three times a week but I plan to keep increasing the frequency as the challenge goes on.

How’s Your Progress?

I’d love to hear how you’re doing with the challenge. Feel free to share your successes and your struggles. Several of us check in daily on the Minimalist at Home Facebook page, but you can also comment here or even on Twitter using the hashtag #minimizeyobutt.

It’s never too late to get started making healthy life changes. We’d love to have you as part of the challenge.

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  1. nopinkhere says

    I wish I could convince my MIL of this! She’s developing blood sugar problems and she uses fake food to feel like she’s getting a treat.

    • Faith Janes says

      It’s an easy trap to fall into, but having already tried that route I really prefer things the more natural way.

  2. You are so right with this Faith! We did Atkins years ago and while it worked it is not sustainable. Hubs and I are gearing up. He goes back for lab results on Wednesday and we know they are going to be all over him! We are considering the paleo diet or at least a modified version of it. Do you have some specific resources/sites that you are using? Or am I getting ahead of you? =)

    • Faith Janes says

      My husband really likes Steve Kamb’s Nerd Fitness site. Steve has a couple ebooks available on fitness and he strongly believes how you eat makes a bigger difference than whatever exercise you choose. His stuff follows the Paleo diet and include 6 weeks of menus. So that’s what we’ve been following.

      I will be talking about more specifics of the Paleo diet coming up but it basically boils down to the question “Would a caveman have access to this food?” If not, it’s probably not the best (natural) choice. Cavemen didn’t have jello and mac-n-cheese, or Doritos. 🙂 There are some discrepancies on avoiding dairy completely even among the Paleos but we still keep a small amount of it in our diet mainly through cheese.

      I’m learning as I go, but I’ll be happy to help where I can if you have any further questions.

  3. Hey Faith,

    I’ve been really, really good this week (big pat on the back) and I feel like I’m back on track! Not being on vacation visiting my mom has helped a lot (mom’s home cooking and health plan don’t really go together well). End result is I’ve lost 8 pounds! Not in the last two weeks, but since I started my health kick around 5 weeks ago. I’m very excited because I’m now officially under the 200 pound mark. 🙂

    Thanks for all the inspiration! Like you, I’m doing a more natural approach to eating with lots of plant-based foods. It’s making a huge difference (most of those 8 pounds came off within the last three weeks, before that I kept yo-yoing the same 3 pounds). My belief is the food equation has to be there along with the exercise. Just exercise wasn’t cutting it for me!

    • Hi Tanja – not sure of the source of this – I’ll try and track it down, but pretty sure I read somewhere that weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise. I believe you are bang on with exercise alone not cutting it… I know for a fact that just cause “I run a bit” doesn’t mean “I can eat a lot”! Tried that… doesn’t work 🙂

      • Weight loss can be achieved without any exercise at all, but the reverse is next to impossible.

        Say you burn 250 calories in an hour by working out on the treadmill. You literally would’ve burned around 100 of those calories just sitting on the sofa and walking back and forth to the bathroom a couple of times. So you have a net calorie burn of 150.

        That means that if you do your treadmill workout 20 days in a row, you’ll have burned off one pound of fat from the exercise.

        See where this is going?

        This doesn’t mean you don’t exercise. It means that if you have a base calorie intake of 2000 calories/day and you cut that to 1550 *and* do that hour on the treadmill every day, you’ll have a net calorie burn of about 600 – which equates to a pound every five days.

        Exercise has other useful effects too. It can increase your endurance, build muscles, keep metabolism high when you’re cutting calories, etc. – but it’s definitely not the horse that pulls the cart when it comes to weight loss.

        Just keep in mind that “thin” doesn’t mean “healthy” – the goal is to get to “thin” while maintaining “healthy” – and that’s really the role of a good exercise program.

  4. Actually, you might be surprised to learn that gelatin (the “Jell” part of Jell-O) is a natural product. Anybody who’s ever made soup stock from browned bones has seen the thickening effect it has on the stock – it looks like gelatin, because it *is* gelatin. Fun, huh?

    The only un-natural part is once they toss in the artificial flavors and fake sugars. 🙂

    What I find interesting is when people quit Atkins to do South Beach, then quit South Beach to do Paleo – without realizing that all three diets are incredibly similar.

    They all shun starchy white carbs. They all suggest eating large amounts of vegetables. They’re all in favor of whole foods. I believe that all three even make distinctions between good fats and bad fats, and encourage you in increase the former and decrease the latter – I can speak for Atkins and South Beach on this one, not sure about Paleo. None of them have problems with you eating large amounts of meat – although they all suggest lean proteins (yes, even Atkins), and they would all prefer you to get organic or free-range meat if possible.

    Probably the biggest difference is that Atkins and South Beach try to make the diet appealing to people that still want to eat things like cake, donuts, chocolate bars, etc. by creating “Atkins-approved” or “South Beach approved” fake candy bars, baking mixes, etc. Paleo almost can’t do that without destroying the whole premise of the diet, so I think that distinction will remain in perpetuity. 😀

    But if you take Paleo, and look at the last phase of Atkins and South Beach, I’d bet you’d be shocked by how similar the nutritional composition of the three diets are.

    Just some thoughts. 🙂

    • Faith Janes says

      Actually getting to the last phases of Atkins is the tricky part. Why not just jump into the more normal food with Paleo? At least that’s my opinion. Having to focus on ONLY have 20 carbs a day when we’d start Atkins made me totally obsessed with carbs.

      And I’d definitely stay away from those funky Atkins baking mixes. I tried making Atkins “cookies” with them one time. I cooked those suckers for an hour and they never did turn brown. That’s just not right. 🙂

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