The Saturday Skinny: Hard work pays off on the scale when trying to lose weight

By: Don Chaddock, Gold Country News Service
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On Saturday, I attended a black-tie fundraiser for a local community college. This was a very public debut of the “new me,” so to speak. Some of these people haven’t seen much of me in the last year. The most frequently asked question of the night? “How did you do it?”

That’s such a tough question to answer. This has been a long process, taking about 19 months to lose 105 pounds. The majority of the weight, probably 70 or 80 pounds, has come off since October 2011. That’s when I got serious.

To try to tackle the question, consider this a refresher. My journey started with me tipping the scale at a whopping 303 pounds. Today, I weigh 198. My current goal is to weigh 190 pounds.

So how did I get here? Hard work and determination (as The Biggest Loser trainer Dolvett Quince would say) while watching what I eat and getting regular exercise. There was no magic pill, no surgery, no special gym membership and no personal trainer. As a newspaper man, money is something of which I do not have in abundance. As the father of five children, ranging in ages from 19 months to 19 years old, my money usually goes to take care of basic needs such as shelter, food, clothing and doctor bills.

I would often use lack of funds as an excuse for being unable to afford to lose weight. After all, healthy foods aren’t cheap, or so I’d been told. Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t cost much more to buy fresh or frozen vegetables. I often buy fruits and veggies on sale, freezing the extras.

To get me started, I used The Fat Smash Diet (by Dr. Ian Smith). It was a common sense plan with no extra costs (beyond buying the book). It didn’t require me to count calories, eliminate entire food groups or doing anything weird. I also absorbed bits and pieces of information from TV shows such as The Biggest Loser, Celebrity Fit Club and Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. As a tracking tool, I used the Wii Fit Plus, which was also a great way to get in some exercise when the weather outside wasn’t cooperating.

For me, The Fat Smash Diet gave me building blocks of knowledge to make healthier food choices. What I will say is this particular diet is about making a lifestyle change and at first, I wasn’t ready to take that step. Once I realized my lifestyle had gotten me into this mess in the first place, I shed it like a snake sheds an old skin. It wasn’t easy and sometimes it was downright painful. Looking back, I know I made the right decision.

People often ask me when I’m going to return to a more “normal” diet. This is now the way I eat, I’m not going back to cheeseburgers, pizza and French fries. I can have those as occasional treats, but they will never again be staples of my eating habits.


Eat less (white foods, fat and sugar), move more. That’s it in a nutshell. I usually don’t eat bread, potatoes (except for sweet potatoes), white rice, bacon, candy, ice cream, potato chips, snack crackers, saltines crackers, whole milk, processed foods, whole-fat cottage cheese or yogurt, peanut butter, butter or pasta.

I limit my lean meat to 4 to 6 ounces each day (chicken breasts, fish, pork tenderloin) and try to avoid red meats altogether. If I am going to have red meat, I make sure it’s lean.

My preferred cooking method is grilling or baking. Treat your grill like an oven to keep your home cooler in the summer. The flavor from a grill (especially using charcoal), means less calorie-rich sauces. I do not use barbecue sauce. Let the natural flavor of the food come through, enhanced by the subtle smokiness of the grill.

Do not fry your foods or use excessive oils or butter. That only defeats the purpose. Sauces also add unnecessary calories. Spices, on the other hand, offer little in the way of calories and add excellent flavor.

Drink lots of water. As Bob Harper, another trainer from The Biggest Loser, says, “Don’t drink your calories.” Unless you’re having a large smoothie as a meal replacement (or a small smoothie as a snack), this is a good rule to follow. Fruit juices are packed with sugars and calories yet do nothing to curb my appetite. The same goes for alcohol. Beer, wine and cocktails are calorie bombs. If I really want a drink, I will mix a little wine with carbonated water. It’s satisfying and gives me the feeling of having a glass of wine without actually consuming all those calories.

Mushrooms and leafy greens are great foods for satisfying hunger with few calories, especially if they are raw.


I eat five to six times daily, filling my diet with plenty of raw vegetables and fresh fruit. The following is a sample of what I eat. Adapt as you see fit. Try to keep your body on a regular eating schedule.

Breakfast (choose one):
1. Two scrambled eggs, fresh fruit

2. Bowl of cereal with nonfat milk (Quaker Oatmeal Squares, Cheerios or other whole grain, low-sugar option), fresh fruit

3. Non-fat yogurt (1 cup), fresh fruit

4. Bowl of oatmeal, fresh fruit

Avoid pancakes, waffles, toast, pastries, donuts and bagels.

Mid-morning snack:
(Choose one): Banana, orange, apple, non-fat yogurt (1 cup), grapes (1 cup), baby carrots or other raw vegetable (bell peppers, broccoli, etc.)

Lunch (choose one):

1. Large salad (lettuce, kale, spinach leaves, black beans, fresh cracked pepper, sliced bell peppers, tomatoes, shredded carrots, sliced mushrooms) topped with light dressing (I use Bolthouse Farms Chunky Blue Cheese at 35 calories per serving). Add what you like to the salad as long as it’s healthy. Broccoli shavings are also good. You can also add 3-4 ounces of lean meat.

2. Four ounces of lean meat (chicken or fish), 1 cup black beans, roasted sweet potato wedges (recipe here) or a small salad, 1 cup brown rice or quinoa

3. Bowl of soup (low fat, low calorie), fresh fruit or raw vegetables

4. Wrap using a low-calorie, whole wheat tortilla (or a pita using a whole wheat version), spinach leaves, quinoa, black beans and a drizzle of salad dressing or salsa

5. Burrito using a low-calorie, whole wheat tortilla, no-fat refried black beans, shredded chicken breast, spinach leaves, salsa. If you’re really hungry, have two. Have a piece of fresh fruit as well.

Afternoon snack:

(Same options as mid-morning snack)


Same as lunch options or …

1. Thin crust meatless pizza (only two slices), fresh fruit and/or raw vegetables

2. Chili (use ground turkey or shredded chicken breast, black beans). Do not use bacon.

This should give you a base from which to start. Read, research and look into other diet plans to see what might work best for you. I’m not a fan of eating only one type of food in order to lose weight. As soon as those diets end, people often gain back the weight they worked so hard to lose.

Tip: Avoid sour cream and mayonnaise, replacing it with non-fat, plain yogurt.


Do at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, preferably in one block. If that’s not possible, do three 10-minute blocks. Walk up and down your street. Lift some light weights, walk around your chair or stretch but above all, get your body moving. I try to incorporate at least one day of more intense exercise every week, with daily exercises hovering around 30 to 45 minutes.


Faux mashed potatoes

I love mashed taters and always have so that is one thing I miss in my new lifestyle. That’s why this potato-free recipe is so wonderful for someone like me.

Cut up a medium-sized head of cauliflower and steam. This can be done in a microwave for five minutes, taking them out and stirring, then doing another five minutes in a partially covered microwave safe dish (with a little water added).

In a food processor, add 1 cup non-fat yogurt, 1 teaspoon crushed garlic (or more), salt and pepper (to taste). Blend until smooth and creamy. For added flavor, a small pat of melted butter is acceptable. Don’t go crazy. These make a great side dish. You can find variations of this recipe using a Google search for “fake mashed potatoes” or “faux mashed potatoes”. Some call for heavy whipping cream and sour cream. Substitute healthier alternatives as you see fit.

As always, consult your physician before beginning any weight loss program.

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