How I dropped 5 kilos without trying

I met two undergrad students at work yesterday and they were upset that they had been gaining weight and experiencing breakouts ever since university started. If they were anything like me and ate out of a jar of Nutella during exam time to cope with stress…then yes I could see why that was happening.

I also used to eat Pizza Pizza with garlic dip a few times a week, Tim Horton’s banana nut muffins, Cheerios for breakfast, cold-cut sandwiches full of ketchup, and the occasional vending machine & fridge leftovers dinner (Snickers bar and boiled eggs anyone?)

During the first two years of university I tried out different things to lose weight like buying more low-fat yogurt, skim milk, hitting the gym, eating filling salads for lunch, the Atkins diet, 100-calorie treat packs and so on. I would see improvements here and there, but it wasn’t until my exchange term abroad in Singapore that I had the “aha” moment.

 Below are two photos of me taken two years apart. The one on the left was during frosh week (with makeup), and then one on the right was taken while travelling in Hong Kong (no makeup). I came back from exchange 5 kilos lighter, looking more vibrant and full of life than I ever had. I remember waking up some days in Singapore and looking down at an extremely flat stomach thinking, “WHAT THE— HOW? WHY? THIS IS SO COOL! THANK YOU LORD”.

Before and After

And it puzzled me. Could sunshine, less stress and just walking around really have done that? I think that part of the answer is, yes, it was definitely part of the equation. But there was something else too – I realized I had eaten little to absolutely no processed food. No granola bars, breakfast cereals, bagels, croissants, chips, cookies, pizza, pasta sauces, ketchup…you name it! Since fresh, homemade meals were so cheap in Singapore, I pretty much ate from the hawker stands and markets 90% of the time. My meals typically consisted of a small portion of rice, broth or soup, lots of vegetables and some seafood or meat.

Once I came back, I started to cut down on processed food and haven’t looked back. If there is one thing for your health that you can start doing today, it would be to slowly empty your cupboards of processed food (anything that comes in a box!) Here’s why:

Processed Foods

Processed food is full of sugar and most people don’t realize how much is in there.

I met a client last week and showed them what 1 Tbsp. of ketchup looked like. They told me they would typically have 5-6 Tbsp. with their rotisserie chicken dinner. 1 Tbsp. of ketchup has 4g of sugar so with 5-6 Tbsp. they were eating 20g-24g of sugar for dinner! That’s more than a Kit Kat bar, which has 21g of sugar. Here are some other common foods and their respective sugar content:

  • Activia vanilla yogurt (small bite-size packet) = 10g of sugar
  • Quaker Oats Chewy Granola Bar, chocolate chip = 7g of sugar
  • VH Sweet & Sour Cooking Sauce (per 2/5 cup) = 41g of sugar
  • Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice = 23g of sugar
  • Honey Nut Cheerios (1 cup) = 12g of sugar
  • Thinsations 100-calorie pack of Chips Ahoy = 7g of sugar
  • Special K Protein Shake = 18g of sugar (a weight loss drink with nearly the same amount of sugar as a Kit Kat bar…HOW DOES THAT EVEN MAKE SENSE? SO.MUCH.ANGER.)

Bottom line: refined sugar is associated with a host of chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, and even day-to-day issues like fatigue, low energy, weight gain, irritability and acne.

Processed food has no nutritional value, and is designed to increase cravings.  

You know why fresh fruits and vegetables are good for you? Because they’re full of micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and also enzymes to help you digest and absorb all that goodness. Processed food on the other hand, bares little resemblance to its original food source. The high level of processing and heat kills off the micronutrients and enzymes, and then the sweeteners, preservatives, flavourings and colour are added to make the mush taste and look good.

The body craves nutrients, so when it doesn’t get them it craves more food. Our cravings are then made even worse with added sugar, salt and fat to make us buy and eat more of that food.

Also, don’t be fooled by the “added” and “fortified” vitamins and minerals. They’re not doing you much good because: 1) Your body recognizes and likes to absorb vitamins through whole foods as opposed to absorbing poor quality, synthetic vitamins; 2) unless you’re having the food with a good fat, the fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K will not get absorbed e.g. breakfast cereal with no-fat milk; 3) the RDA% on the label is the bare minimum of that vitamin required to prevent a disease e.g. rickets, so if you’re getting 200% of the RDA for that vitamin, it’s not really a huge deal. Don’t go self high-fiving yourself. Take it back and go eat some fruit.

Bottom line: big processed food giants care more about their bottom line, not your health.

Chemicals, additives, and preservatives burden our liver.

The liver detoxifies our body on a daily basis from harmful toxins found in our food, the environment and our household products. However, if we keep overtaxing it with processed foods on a daily basis, it becomes sluggish and inefficient. That means it can’t do its job properly, which involves metabolizing the food we eat, detoxing, regulating our blood sugar and blood pressure, synthesizing protein…the list goes on!

I challenge you to read the labels on all your boxed food tonight, check the ingredients, the sugar per serving, and to throw a few out (gasp), bit by bit. And remember: real food doesn’t need advertising. Ever seen an ad for an apple?

About Alina

I'm a Holistic Nutritionist based in Toronto, Canada and my official title is Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP). I received my diploma in Applied Holistic Nutrition from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. I'm a coach and an educator. Follow Alina on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for all of the latest updates.
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