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I Gave Up Intermittent Fasting For Calorie Density and Finally Lost Weight

PopSugar Logo By Jenny Sugar of PopSugar | Slide 1 of 46: Before the pandemic started in March 2020, I was doing CrossFit four to five days a week and doing extreme forms of intermittent fasting to lose the last five pounds my body had been holding on to since my son was born eight years earlier. Spoiler alert: the restriction only made me overeat, which made losing weight impossible. During the pandemic, I was happily stress baking, but realized it only made me gain five more. But I was able to lose 11 pounds in two months without restricting when I ate and without tracking my calories; I ate a huge volume of food and never felt hungry. I used the principles of calorie density that I learned by reading Eat to Live and The Starch Solution, and by joining the Slim on Starch program.  By eating foods that are low in calorie density (have fewer calories per pound), you can fill your plate up without measuring your food, eat until you're full, and lose weight without even trying. I know it sounds like a gimmick, but it's really true! I've had such a long history of trying to lose weight since I was in high school, mostly by restricting when I ate. Now I eat whenever I want, which is at least four times a day, and I feel energized and happy! And the best part is that I can eat a large volume of these low-calorie-density foods, which makes me not even realize I'm eating in the slight calorie deficit I need to lose weight. And because these foods contain more water and fiber, they fill up my stomach so I feel satisfied for way longer than I did eating small servings of higher-calorie-density foods.  So which foods are low in calorie density? Veggies, fruits, legumes, and starches - all the good stuff! I mostly ate whole, plant-based, high-carb, low-fat foods, which I love anyway since I'm vegan. Animal products, sugar, flour, processed foods, and high-fat foods are high in calorie density, and those are the foods I limited.  Here's a basic breakdown shared by Craig McDougall, MD (son of John McDougall, MD, the author of The Starch Solution), in order from lowest to highest so you can get an overview of calorie density:  Food Calories per pound   Nonstarchy veggies (carrots, broccoli, greens, tomatoes) 100  Fruits (bananas, apples, grapes, oranges) 300  Starches (potatoes, winter squash, corn) 400  Whole grains (oats, rice, millet, quinoa) 500  Legumes (lentils, black beans, chickpeas, split peas) 600  Higher-fat foods (avocado, chicken, eggs) 700  Beef, tortilla, ice cream 1,000  Bread, dried fruit 1,200  Cheese, sugar 1,700  Cookies, chips, chocolate 2,000-2,300  Nuts, seeds 2,800  Butter 3,200  Oils 4,000  Since most of us don't necessarily measure our food in pounds, here's a list to compare the amounts of what approximately 200 calories would be for common foods.  Veggies Amount   Baby carrots 500 grams or about 81 baby carrots  Broccoli 6 2/3 cups or about 2 medium crowns  Cauliflower rice 6 cups  Cherry tomatoes 7.4 cups or just over 4 pints  Mixed greens or baby spinach 28 cups   Fruits Amount   Apples 2 medium apples  Bananas 2 medium bananas  Grapes 4 cups  Raisins 1/3 cup  Strawberries 4 1/4 cups   Starches Amount   Butternut squash 3 1/4 cups  Corn 1 1/4 cups  Pasta 1/2 cup uncooked or 1 1/2 cups cooked  Rolled oats 2/3 cup uncooked or 1 1/2 cups cooked  Short-grain brown rice 2/3 cup uncooked or 1 cup cooked  Sweet potato 1 7/8 medium sweet potatoes or 1 3/4 cups   Legumes Amount   Black beans (canned) 1 1/4 cups  Garbanzo beans (canned) 4/5 cup  Hummus 6.7 tablespoons  Tofu (extra firm) 5 ounces   Processed foods, animal products, sweets Amount   Bagel 3/4 bagel  Chocolate chips 2 1/4 tablespoons  Chocolate-chip cookie-dough ice cream 1/5 pint  Eggs 3 large eggs  Fruit and nut granola 2/5 cup  Flour tortilla  1 1/3 tortillas  Ground beef (85% lean) 3.3 ounces  Oreos 3 cookies  Pretzels 52 grams  Shredded mozzarella cheese 2/3 cup  Sliced wheat bread 2 slices  Tortilla chips 15 chips   Fats Amount   Almonds 30 nuts  Avocado 3/4 of a medium avocado  Butter 2 tablespoons  Olive oil 1 2/3 tablespoons  Peanut butter 2 tablespoons  Ranch salad dressing 3 tablespoons  Let's be clear: There are no "bad" foods and I'm not saying to never eat healthy, more calorie-dense foods like avocado, peanut butter, almonds, bread, and dried fruit, or not-as-healthy pizza, brownies, and ice cream. I'm just saying that these foods high in calorie density are easier to overeat, which is what I did, and that's why I was gaining weight.  Take a page from my weight-loss story: don't just eat the foods that are lowest in calorie density and think you'll lose weight faster. Only eating raw salads, baby carrots, and apples won't fill you up, and it'll kick your hunger into overdrive, leading to overeating. You need to balance the veggies and fruits with the starches and beans to feel satiated.  An easy way to use this information without weighing your food or counting calories is to use the 50/50 plate: half of your plate will be nonstarchy veggies like steamed broccoli, steamed kale, zucchini noodles, roasted cauliflower, or salad, and the other half will be a starch like brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, oil-free air-fried potatoes, or baked sweet potato. You can also add a small portion of beans to your plate, which aids in satiety. If you're hungry after that first plate, make yourself another 50/50 plate and eat until you are satisfied, but not stuffed. As far as fruits go, enjoy two to three a day. I like to eat them after lunch and dinner as a bookend to let my brain know I'm done eating for that meal.  If you keep reading, you can see photos of what plates of 200 calories look like, as well as example meals I ate to lose weight. These meals were so delicious and physically satisfying. Since I haven't been eating much sugar or processed food, these whole foods taste amazing! And I love that I have a healthy relationship with food now and that I'm modeling healthy habits for my daughter by eating such a nutrient-dense diet. I'm feeling more confident and energetic, I'm sleeping better, I have better mental clarity (thank you, carbs!), and I feel more vibrant. All this because of calorie density!

I Gave Up Intermittent Fasting For Calorie Density and Finally Lost Weight

Before the pandemic started in March 2020, I was doing CrossFit four to five days a week and doing extreme forms of intermittent fasting to lose the last five pounds my body had been holding on to since my son was born eight years earlier. Spoiler alert: the restriction only made me overeat, which made losing weight impossible. During the pandemic, I was happily stress baking, but realized it only made me gain five more. But I was able to lose 11 pounds in two months without restricting when I ate and without tracking my calories; I ate a huge volume of food and never felt hungry. I used the principles of calorie density that I learned by reading Eat to Live and The Starch Solution, and by joining the Slim on Starch program.

By eating foods that are low in calorie density (have fewer calories per pound), you can fill your plate up without measuring your food, eat until you're full, and lose weight without even trying. I know it sounds like a gimmick, but it's really true! I've had such a long history of trying to lose weight since I was in high school, mostly by restricting when I ate. Now I eat whenever I want, which is at least four times a day, and I feel energized and happy! And the best part is that I can eat a large volume of these low-calorie-density foods, which makes me not even realize I'm eating in the slight calorie deficit I need to lose weight. And because these foods contain more water and fiber, they fill up my stomach so I feel satisfied for way longer than I did eating small servings of higher-calorie-density foods.

So which foods are low in calorie density? Veggies, fruits, legumes, and starches - all the good stuff! I mostly ate whole, plant-based, high-carb, low-fat foods, which I love anyway since I'm vegan. Animal products, sugar, flour, processed foods, and high-fat foods are high in calorie density, and those are the foods I limited.

Here's a basic breakdown shared by Craig McDougall, MD (son of John McDougall, MD, the author of The Starch Solution), in order from lowest to highest so you can get an overview of calorie density:

Food Calories per pound Nonstarchy veggies (carrots, broccoli, greens, tomatoes) 100 Fruits (bananas, apples, grapes, oranges) 300 Starches (potatoes, winter squash, corn) 400 Whole grains (oats, rice, millet, quinoa) 500 Legumes (lentils, black beans, chickpeas, split peas) 600 Higher-fat foods (avocado, chicken, eggs) 700 Beef, tortilla, ice cream 1,000 Bread, dried fruit 1,200 Cheese, sugar 1,700 Cookies, chips, chocolate 2,000-2,300 Nuts, seeds 2,800 Butter 3,200 Oils 4,000

Since most of us don't necessarily measure our food in pounds, here's a list to compare the amounts of what approximately 200 calories would be for common foods.

Veggies Amount Baby carrots 500 grams or about 81 baby carrots Broccoli 6 2/3 cups or about 2 medium crowns Cauliflower rice 6 cups Cherry tomatoes 7.4 cups or just over 4 pints Mixed greens or baby spinach 28 cups Fruits Amount Apples 2 medium apples Bananas 2 medium bananas Grapes 4 cups Raisins 1/3 cup Strawberries 4 1/4 cups Starches Amount Butternut squash 3 1/4 cups Corn 1 1/4 cups Pasta 1/2 cup uncooked or 1 1/2 cups cooked Rolled oats 2/3 cup uncooked or 1 1/2 cups cooked Short-grain brown rice 2/3 cup uncooked or 1 cup cooked Sweet potato 1 7/8 medium sweet potatoes or 1 3/4 cups Legumes Amount Black beans (canned) 1 1/4 cups Garbanzo beans (canned) 4/5 cup Hummus 6.7 tablespoons Tofu (extra firm) 5 ounces Processed foods, animal products, sweets Amount Bagel 3/4 bagel Chocolate chips 2 1/4 tablespoons Chocolate-chip cookie-dough ice cream 1/5 pint Eggs 3 large eggs Fruit and nut granola 2/5 cup Flour tortilla 1 1/3 tortillas Ground beef (85% lean) 3.3 ounces Oreos 3 cookies Pretzels 52 grams Shredded mozzarella cheese 2/3 cup Sliced wheat bread 2 slices Tortilla chips 15 chips Fats Amount Almonds 30 nuts Avocado 3/4 of a medium avocado Butter 2 tablespoons Olive oil 1 2/3 tablespoons Peanut butter 2 tablespoons Ranch salad dressing 3 tablespoons

Let's be clear: There are no "bad" foods and I'm not saying to never eat healthy, more calorie-dense foods like avocado, peanut butter, almonds, bread, and dried fruit, or not-as-healthy pizza, brownies, and ice cream. I'm just saying that these foods high in calorie density are easier to overeat, which is what I did, and that's why I was gaining weight.

Take a page from my weight-loss story: don't just eat the foods that are lowest in calorie density and think you'll lose weight faster. Only eating raw salads, baby carrots, and apples won't fill you up, and it'll kick your hunger into overdrive, leading to overeating. You need to balance the veggies and fruits with the starches and beans to feel satiated.

An easy way to use this information without weighing your food or counting calories is to use the 50/50 plate: half of your plate will be nonstarchy veggies like steamed broccoli, steamed kale, zucchini noodles, roasted cauliflower, or salad, and the other half will be a starch like brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, oil-free air-fried potatoes, or baked sweet potato. You can also add a small portion of beans to your plate, which aids in satiety. If you're hungry after that first plate, make yourself another 50/50 plate and eat until you are satisfied, but not stuffed. As far as fruits go, enjoy two to three a day. I like to eat them after lunch and dinner as a bookend to let my brain know I'm done eating for that meal.

If you keep reading, you can see photos of what plates of 200 calories look like, as well as example meals I ate to lose weight. These meals were so delicious and physically satisfying. Since I haven't been eating much sugar or processed food, these whole foods taste amazing! And I love that I have a healthy relationship with food now and that I'm modeling healthy habits for my daughter by eating such a nutrient-dense diet. I'm feeling more confident and energetic, I'm sleeping better, I have better mental clarity (thank you, carbs!), and I feel more vibrant. All this because of calorie density!

© POPSUGAR Photography / Jenny Sugar

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