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Nonfood No-No's

You eat plenty of substances that haven't the faintest resemblance to food. Sometimes you eat them because they are hidden in foods, especially processed foods. Sometimes you eat them because you think they will help you lose weight. Some of them are good for weight loss; some are bad; and some are neutral.

Additives and artificial ingredients are typically added to foods in very small amounts, but the average American consumes an estimated five pounds of additives each year. Wow! That's a lot of chemicals. The sections that follow have the rundown on such substances.


As best as you can, eat unrefined and unprocessed foods, such as meats, vegetables, and fruits. Your body knows how to digest these. As dietary staples, they are the key to life-long weight maintenance.

Preservatives, Flavorings, and Food Dyes

These substances are man-made, engineered to preserve the grocery shelf life of processed foods, to enhance flavor, or to give coloring. Most of the time, they are the unpronounceable words on the food label. They aren't nutritive; in other words, your body won't use them for energy or health. In fact, while some of them are considered safe by FDA standards, they might not be good for you or your weight-loss program.

Try to eliminate or cut back on processed foods in your diet. We realize this isn't always easy. Because of our busy lives, we have grown accustomed to eating prepared foods that are ready to be popped into the microwave. However, your overall nutrition will improve, as will your weight loss, if you orient your diet to natural foods—protein, carbs, and fats—and eliminate these additives.

One of our clients, Anita, loves ice cream. As part of her program to manage her eating and her weight, she went grocery shopping to buy natural ice cream. Brand after brand contained unnatural mystery ingredients. She said her hands got quite cold before she finally found a carton that contained pure food ingredients, such as cream, eggs, sugar, and milk. But it sure tasted good, and it was better for her family.

This brings us to another reason for turning up your nose at these artificial ingredients, which we not-so-affectionately refer to as “mystery” ingredients. These include such chemicals as sodium nitrite, BHA, sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite, calcium disodium EDTA, polysorbate 60, calcium propionate, potassium sorbate, ammonium sulfate, sodium propionate, and disodium inosinate. Also included are colors with numbers, such as yellow 5 or 6. The body doesn't know what to make of these chemicals.

We all hope or assume that our bodies will simply excrete them and let them pass on through without doing us any bodily harm, but experts now think that the body treats such foreign substances as toxins. The ones that aren't excreted are stored in body fat. Recent studies suggest that a person's body might create even more body fat so that it has more room to store the onslaught of toxins. This means that some of your weight gain could be intentional—you body needs more fat in order to store all the toxins you eat.

A smart strategy is to “just say no” to artificial anything in your food as best as you can.

Weighty Warning

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received reports of aspartame being linked to seizures, visual impairment, pancreas inflammation, and high blood pressure, among other disorders. These artificial sweeteners, as well as mono-sodium glutamate (MSG), are called “excitotoxins” because they affect the brain negatively.

Artificial Sweeteners

Pass on artificial sweeteners, too. Try to eliminate aspartame, sucralose, and saccharine from your diet. They are nonnutritive. Ask yourself how many pounds you have lost since you started drinking diet sodas. Are they working? Most likely not. Here's why.

Recent studies suggest that artificial sweeteners boost your insulin levels by fooling the body into reacting to them as it does to sugar. This is bad for weight loss and maintenance. The more insulin in your bloodstream, the more fat your body stores. If you are hooked on either aspartame or saccharine, it not only can be detrimental to your health, it also can stall and thwart your weight-loss progress. Give up artificial sweeteners.

Another sugar substitute is called sucralose, with the brand name of Splenda. We don't recommend it because it's manufactured by adding chlorine molecules to regular sugar. One of the reasons we recommend drinking purified water is to avoid drinking the chlorine. So to consume sucralose and put unnecessary chlorine back in the body makes no sense. Sucralose contains high-glycemic starches as a filler, and no one needs them either.

Other beverages you can substitute for diet sodas and other beverages sweetened with aspartame, sucralose, or saccharin are herbal teas, decaffeinated coffee, or purified water. Try flavoring purified water with lemon or lime juice and using natural sugar substitutes instead.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Healthy Weight Loss © 2005 by Lucy Beale and Sandy G. Couvillon. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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