The Case for Home Cookin'
If you're looking for a weight loss solution that doesn't involve calorie counting, macro tracking, photo-taking, food logging, or any other methods of nutritional data entry, consider this:
You can lose weight simply by committing to cooking all your meals at home.
You read that right.
Simply by committing (and I do mean "committing," versus just "trying") to making 100% of what goes in your mouth at home, by hand - you can lose a lot of weight. And if, after a while, you continue to cook/eat even 80% of your meals at home - you can keep it off.
So why don't we see any "30-day make-your-own food" cleanses or "hey-just-cook-stuff-at-home" detox diets in mainstream weight loss media? Why isn't this amazing, safe, mental-health and budget-friendly weight loss option all over Instagram?
Because this approach doesn't sell books or programs; it's not glam; it doesn't come with a regimen of supplements to buy or gurus to follow or anything other than a simple admonition:
Shop for, prepare, and cook the food you eat. Every day; for every meal. And only eat that.
Sounds blissfully simple, eh? But when most of us really reflect on how often we rely on eating out, ordering in, or "assembling" meals from amassed convenience products (like soup from a can, pasta from a box, or sauces from a jar), it's actually quite profound.
One of the initial questions I ask on my intake form for new nutrition clients is, "how many times per week do you go out to eat or order meals in?" And the most common answer is 3-5 times, though I often wonder if clients assume "times" means "days." To clarify; 3-5 full "days" of eating out / ordering in could actually look like 9-15 meals worth of eating out. Extrapolating that, if you add up those per-meal calories - which some research estimates can "cost" about 1200 calories a pop - that's a potential 10,000+ calories of (assuredly) oil-and-sugar laden food eaten per week - often without even realising (or accounting for) it.
Consider that a "drizzle" of olive oil, which nearly all restaurants toss over salads and cooked proteins without a second thought, contains about 120 calories and 14g fat, which accounts to about 10% of total calories and 35% of total daily fat intake for a calorie-restricted female client - and that's just the drizzle, not the meal itself.
Worse news? Stir fried or deep fried food served in restaurants have often "passed through" oil twice (once during the marinating / par-cooking process and then again when fried to plate) - meaning you might not even see the full extent of calories/fats that have been packed into an innocent-looking piece of fish or floret of broccoli.
And let's be real here, folks - restaurant portions don't tend to cater to the calorie-conscious among us, either. The average-sized steak in an American restaurant is 14 ounces (about 400 grams), and the average restaurant Caesar salad has more saturated fat than a tub of buttered movie popcorn. My point? You can't expect restaurant food, which is designed to be hyperpalatable, visually pleasurable, and indulgent, to jive with your weight loss goals.
So let's return to the un-glam but very effective concept of home cookin', shall we?
When I suggest making all meals at home, with absolutely no other type of tracking or restriction, as a viable weight loss tactic - clients are shocked.
"But like, what if I wanna bake cookies," they ask. "Bake 'em," I say. "Ok but what if I, like, home-churn my own ice cream?" "Do it," I say. And you know why?
Because most of us, even those of us who absolutely love cooking and baking, just aren't going to have the time to bake cookies or churn ice cream every week, much less every single day - whereas eating store-bought versions of both could easily happen on an everyday basis.
Same goes for thin-slicing and frying one's own potato chips, or grinding one's own cacao beans and tempering them carefully into candy bars - the effort required to actually create these things rather than the zero-effort required to buy and devour their processed counterparts is a valuable distinction - and dissuasion - for folks trying to lose weight.
And let's be honest, on a related note: the most common reason I get for people NOT exercising is "not having time," so - for those that are "worried" that on this weight loss plan they'll find themselves baking dozens of brownies or slicing and frying potatoes into fries every day - I offer that if one has time for that level of culinary junk-food-creating prowess - perhaps one could also find time to, you know, lift a few weights or take a walk instead?
But let's leave it at this: when every single food needs to be created by you, from scratch (no "cheating" with convenience foods that are just eaten at home, like cup noodles or microwave nuggets, or using food additives to make things "from scratch," like a bag of chocolate chips in cookies, or factory-made pasta in a box, or covering a chicken breast in processed cheese), most people will find the paths of least resistance - and realise that simple, whole-food, homemade meals eaten mindfully actually make for an awesome, satisfying weight loss plan.
You can drop the data - as long as you're willing to pick up the pots and pans instead. ;)