My Health Journey

My Health Journey

My Journey: Discovering Protein for Weight Loss 

I am an active person. I love to be outdoors. Hiking, biking, canoeing, and gardening. But like most people I know, life threw me a curveball in my early forties. It was like I become a weight magnet adding a pound or two every couple of weeks even though I hadn’t changed my eating or exercise habits. 

I knew the health benefits of exercise and healthy eating. I ate the recommended daily portions of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. I preferred to eat lean meats like fish and chicken breast. And I avoided sugar-packed foods. (A few years previously, I challenged myself to go without sugar for a month. That experiment taught me how jittery, bloated, and sluggish sugar makes me feel.)   

For exercise, I continued to walk at least a mile each day along with twenty minutes of strength training. And three times a week I joined an hour-long deep-water aerobics class. 

So why was I gaining weight?  With the additional body fat, my pants seemed to be shrinking and a little muffin top was forming.  Ugh. I was sure my decreasing metabolism was to blame. 

I knew I had to burn more calories than I ate. However, with my aching joints, I knew increasing my exercise habits to burn more calories than I ate would be too painful to be sustainable.   

My orthopedic specialist told me, “The only way you’re going to see fat loss and lose weight is through diet.”  I didn’t diet. I wasn’t good at anything related to dieting. I especially was not good at calorie counting.  In my opinion, following a diet for weight loss was equivalent to starving. I’m not a pleasant person when I am starving. (Ask my children).

However, my pants were shrinking. I had to do something.  I sat down and figured out some priorities for my ‘diet.’ 

  • First, I prided myself on cooking real food for my family.  I would not eat a company’s product especially not a processed product. 
  • Second, I refused to cook two meals. Whatever I made and ate was what my family would eat, too.  (I wouldn’t do this alone). 
  • Third, I had very active children and teens, so the food had to be up to their calorie and nutritional needs. 
  • Fourth, I wouldn’t succeed without a detailed plan. 

With these priorities in mind, I started searching books, magazines, and the internet for a plan. I settled on following “The Reader’s Digest Diet” by Liz Vaccariello for twenty-one days. I did lose my muffin-top, and my pants have been very comfortable ever since. (We even discovered some new foods and recipes we all enjoy. Not all new foods and recipes were awesome though. We discovered broccolini rabe is not meant for human consumption). 

More important to me than losing weight was my new knowledge about nutrition and diet.  It turns out diet does not mean starving.  Let me share some of the major points that have helped me keep the weight off and continue to actively enjoy the outdoors. 

  • Watching the protein content of my food choices is very important, especially for breakfast. Many studies have shown the importance of protein.

Before following the Reader Digest Diet, I regularly made whole wheat waffles or pancakes for breakfast and then found myself searching for a mid-morning snack.  By increasing the amount of protein in my breakfast choices by eating an egg or a protein smoothie (see my smoothie recipe below), I fueled my entire morning activities while reducing my total daily calories. 

  • Protein-rich foods give the best thermic effect (TEF). TEF is measured as the percent of the consumed food’s energy that is required to digest its macronutrients. Kamal Patel did a study showing protein per pound requires the most energy to digest: 


Food calories/gram 

TEF (%) 








  • The power of dairy including whey protein powder helps me feel full and shed fat while providing all nine essential amino acids to support and build lean muscle mass. I found cottage cheese, cherry tomatoes, basil, and sunflower seeds more flavorful and satisfying as a snack than the crackers I used to eat. 
  • Dark leafy greens don’t taste too bad. By adding kale, spinach, or beet greens to my morning smoothie or my tuna sandwich at lunch, I can easily fill my fiber and micronutrient needs. 
  • I learned to listen to my body.  If I felt bloated and gassy, I had eaten something that I wasn’t digesting well. It was most likely I had had too many grains, nuts, or beans. I did best on a single serving of grain a day. 
  • A light snack with a small amount of high protein foods like nuts, peanut butter, or cheese combined with a fruit or a vegetable right before I started dinner prep, kept my hunger pains at bay. This small snack helps me maintain my nice face and keep my dinner portions under control. 
  • And lastly, I know I am keeping my food intake and physical output in check when I am slightly hungry around eight o’clock at night.  Slight hunger means I burned more calories than I’d consumed that day. I learned to change my mindset. Instead of thinking I was starving, I felt in control and on top of my choices. 

I still love participating in outdoor activities. I love to bike new paths, hike to enjoy waterfalls and vistas, canoe camp, and generally be active whether it is indoors or out.  But rather than thinking my activities will to control my weight, I now know a diet with plenty of grams of protein is a bigger part of keeping my weight under control.  With this new-found knowledge, my pants still fit comfortably. And I have more energy to do the things I love. 


Protein Breakfast Smoothie Recipe

  • ¾ cup fat-free plain yogurt (I use my whole milk homemade yogurt when making a smoothie for my teenage dancers.) 
  • Large handful of greens (kale, baby spinach, or beet greens – fresh or frozen) 
  • ½ small avocado or 2 tsp of almond or peanut butter 
  • Cup of fruit (banana, mixed berry, mango, clementine, pineapple, etc – fresh or frozen) 
  • 1 tbs ground chia or flax seeds 
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk 
  • ½ tsp vanilla 
  • ½ tsp liquid stevia or one small powder pack – or less depending on your taste 
  • ½ cup of ice 

Put everything except the ice in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add the ice and blend again. Enjoy! 


On their all-day dance days, my teenage dancers love this smoothie for breakfast.  It gives them the higher protein power they need without over-filling them. 


Article by Miss Jae


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