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Authors: Jillian Michaels

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BOOK: Slim for Life

I don’t need to food-journal anymore, because I know exactly how much I’m eating. I’ve previously added it up.

Now, addressing point number two: if a new restaurant opens up in town and you add its pasta Florentine to your regular dinner lineup, I don’t need you to start writing all your food down again, but I do need you to take a stab at figuring out roughly how many calories are in this new addition to see if it makes a significant difference in your calorie intake. If the calorie count is not listed on the menu, ask the waitress what’s in it and how it’s prepared, which should point you in the right direction. Once you know, you can reconfigure what you’re eating overall if necessary to make sure you don’t overeat. Again, you’ll need to do it only once. I’m sure you’ll remember for the next time.

Last, if you’ve
plateaued, the very first thing you should do is start logging your daily food intake again—for three days, to be exact. Often people come to me, tearing their hair out, protesting “I’ve plateaued—the scale has completely screeched to a halt.” In a few rare occasions this is possible, and I’ll tell you how to manage it later on in the book, but weight loss stalls usually because people have been eating too much (or even too little) and just don’t realize it. By examining exactly
how much
food you’ve been eating for three days, you’ll be able to quickly get to the bottom of things.

If you’re wondering how to figure out the calories in a certain food or meal when it doesn’t have a label, there are plenty of apps,
pocket calorie-counting books, and websites that will allow you to do it easily. I know because I created one of each. If you aren’t a fan of
, my Slim-down Solution app, or my pocket calorie-counting book (hard to imagine, I know, but on the extreme off chance), there are plenty of others out there that will help you get the job done.


Never eat out of a big,
bag—it can lead to unadulterated, mindless eating and sometimes may add up to your entire daily calorie requirement. (Check out the calories in a bag of tortilla chips. A 7.5-ounce bag equals about 1,039 calories—without adding in the guacamole calories.) This said,
bagging it
be a good thing when it comes to snacking and
portion control. Simply dole out your allotted portion from a big bag into smaller snack-size Baggies so they’re calorie controlled, then grab and go. Plus, many companies now make snacking bags just the right size to hold 100–150 calorie
snacks. There are a lot of prepackaged items that measure 100 calories.


Consistent, daily calorie cutbacks are a positive and effective way to baby-step yourself into even bigger calorie savings over the long term. Try this: save 100 calories per day for a year. It’s easier than you might imagine.

What is 100 calories equal to?

14 potato or corn chips

1 (8.2-ounce) can of soda

4.3 ounces white wine

8 ounces beer

1½ tablespoons ranch salad dressing

2½ Oreo sandwich cookies

3 tablespoons of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

1.1 ounces McDonald’s french fries (kid’s portion)

These easy eliminations can remove 10 to 12 unwanted pounds in a year. Not bad, huh? For more ideas on how to do this when you’re eating out, see the quick and easy calorie cuts that I’ve sprinkled throughout this book.



High-protein/low-carbohydrate diets are a healthy way to lose weight.

Complex carbs are a necessary source of
essential vitamins and minerals that the body needs for normal hormonal balance, a healthy reproductive system, and good skin, nails, hair growth, and eyesight. In addition, eating fewer than 130 grams of
carbohydrates a day can lead to something called
ketosis, which is a buildup of ketones (partially broken-down fats) in your blood. Ketosis can cause your body to produce high levels of
uric acid, which is a risk factor for
gout (a painful swelling of the joints) and
kidney stones. Remember, fat comes from too many calories, not from too many carbs.

Don’t cut out major
food groups or
macronutrients like carbs, fats, meat, or grains. Every time someone wants to write a new diet book, they try to reinvent the wheel, and one of the key ways they do that is by playing with the macronutrient ratio of meals or cutting out a particular type of food. I know you know what I’m talking about, and I’m willing to bet you’ve experimented with at least one of these diet
fads, like low-carb,
fat-free, or paleo, to name just a few. Here’s the deal. Fats, carbs, and protein all play necessary roles in the way our bodies function. We need them—yes, fat too. And a
fat-free diet can increase your cravings. Fat is an essential element and should make up 20 to 30 percent of
daily food intake. You can choose fats that support your health and immune system, like salmon, coconut oil, avocados, and nuts.

The key is to eat
quality, more nutritious versions of the macronutrients and food groups. That will serve another purpose, too—to keep you full longer. Try
a high-protein, high-fiber grain like
quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) for white rice, which is nutrient empty; grab olive oil, which is a healthy fat, rather than hydrogenated trans fats. Reach for grass-fed, natural beef, not corn-fed meat laden with hormones and antibiotics.
I’ll get into this more later, but the point is to eat with common sense and balance. And you don’t need to make yourself miserable because a diet says you can never have a sandwich again. As long as you eat
quality food and make sure to get a good balance of healthy proteins, fats, and carbs every day, you’ll be fine. Here are some examples of what meals or
snacks might look like:


Oatmeal with crushed walnuts; or

Tomato, spinach, and mushroom omelet with whole-grain toast; or

Low-fat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit


Grilled fish tacos with a corn tortilla and side of brown rice; or

BBQ chicken breast with a side of quinoa; or

Grass-fed burger on a whole-grain bun with a mixed green salad


Order a naked salad without croutons.
(1 ounce = 20 croutons)


Celery sticks with almond butter; or

Hummus with veggie sticks; or

Organic low-fat cheese stick and apple slices


Chicken fajitas made with olive oil and a side of black beans; or

Pork chop with baked brussels sprouts and beet salad; or

Grilled skirt steak with tomato and mozzarella salad


As I briefly mentioned in my “Don’t discriminate” tip, you should aim to eat
quality, nutritionally dense food, which will nourish your body, boost your immunity, fight the aging process, and burn fat. Don’t be surprised—it can taste great, too. I don’t expect you to lead a life of treat abstinence, though. I get it if you have some sugar or, God forbid, some white flour from time to time. I just don’t want these foods to comprise the majority of your calorie intake. When you consume them occasionally as a smaller part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, they won’t do much harm.

Where I want you to be diligent is with fake food—frankenfood. Do your best to never,
consume food with
chemical additives—the unpronounceable crap that goes into heavily processed foods for a variety of reasons, most of which are related to cost.

Now, if you’re wondering what this has to do with being skinny, the answer is simple—many chemicals added to food can make you fat. In my line of work, we refer to these ingredients as
obesogens. They can make you sick, too, but for the specific purposes of this book, the metabolic damage is our primary concern. Your
metabolism is essentially your personal biochemistry that, among many other things, regulates your hormone balance
your body weight. Chemicals in our food disrupt the body’s biochemistry and throw off metabolic function. They literally incite a war in the body, activating it to make more fat cells, store more fat, and create cancer, heart disease, autoimmune problems, and a host of other issues of which we are just starting to become aware.


1. Trans fat, aka hydrogenated oils.
Trans fats, used to enhance and extend the shelf life of food products, are among the most dangerous
substances you can consume. They’re often found in deep-fried fast foods and certain processed foods made with margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Numerous studies show that trans fats increase
LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels while decreasing
HDL (“good”) cholesterol; they increase the risk of heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes; and they contribute to increased inflammation, diabetes, and other health problems.

Found in:
any vegetable oil that has been hydrogenated (hydrogenated soybean oil, hydrogenated safflower oil, etc.), margarine, chips and crackers, baked goods, and most fast foods.

2. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or corn sugar.
High-fructose corn syrup is a highly refined sweetener that many believe has become the number-one source of calories in America. It’s found in almost all processed foods. Based on current research, it’s a safe bet that HFCS packs on the pounds faster than any other ingredient, while it also increases LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, and contributes to the development of
obesity, diabetes, and tissue damage, among other harmful effects.

Found in:
soft drinks, most processed foods, breads, candy, flavored yogurts, salad dressings, canned vegetables, and cereals.

3. Artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin).
Pretty much any sweetener you find in a small blue, yellow, or pink packet should be avoided. These chemicals are known to be neurotoxins and carcinogens. They’re believed to account for more adverse reactions than all other foods and food additives combined. Studies have shown that these chemicals cause sugar cravings and can train your body to be unable to recognize true sugar calories, which can cause obesity. The two main ingredients of aspartame,
phenylalanine and
aspartic acid, stimulate the release of
insulin, a hormone that instructs your body to store fat. A large dose of phenylalanine can decrease
serotonin levels. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter
that tells you when you’re full. Low levels of serotonin can increase cravings, which can lead to weight gain.

Also known to erode intelligence and affect short-term memory, these artificial sweeteners may lead to a wide variety of ailments including brain tumors; diseases like lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue; emotional disorders like depression and anxiety attacks; dizziness, headaches, nausea, mental confusion, migraines, and seizures.

Found in:
most diet or sugar-free foods, including soda, desserts, sugar-free gum, beverage mixes, baking goods, sweeteners, cereals, breath mints, even chewable vitamins and toothpaste.

4. Artificial colors (Red no. 40, Yellow no. 6, Blue nos. 1 and 2).
Food coloring has been linked to everything from ADHD to chromosomal damage to thyroid cancer. Your thyroid is critical to your metabolic function, and anything that attacks the thyroid is extremely bad for your waistline and, obviously, your overall health. There are many natural ways to color foods: beets have been used for red, turmeric has been used for yellow, carrots have been used for orange, spinach for green, and purple cabbage for blue and purple to name a few.

Found in:
candy, beverages, cereal, cheese, bakery products, and ice cream.

5. Sodium nitrites and nitrates.
Both these food additives (which are fairly close cousins; the only difference is that nitrates have one more oxygen atom than nitrites) are used as preservatives and flavoring in bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, corned beef, smoked fish, and other processed meats. Nitrites are also used to color food. Both ingredients are highly carcinogenic once they enter the human digestive system. There they form nitrosamine compounds that enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc on the internal organs, the liver and pancreas in particular. Why should you care
about the pancreas? Because it’s directly responsible for
insulin production, a key hormone in successful weight management. (Right when you think I’m worried only about your health, I prove I can multitask and simultaneously worry about your waistline.) Sodium nitrite is widely regarded as a toxic ingredient, and the USDA actually tried to ban it in the 1970s, but food manufacturers vetoed it, complaining they had no alternative for preserving packaged meat products. Why does the industry still use this chemical? Simple: it turns meats bright red. It’s a color fixer, and it makes old, dead meats appear fresh and vibrant.

Found in:
hot dogs, bacon, ham, luncheon meat, cured meats, corned beef, smoked fish, and any other type of processed meat.

6. Growth hormones (rBST, rBGH).
Artificial hormones are given to conventionally raised dairy cows and cattle and put in their feed. This is done either to boost their milk production or to fatten them up for slaughter at an extremely accelerated pace. Studies have linked the human consumption of these hormones to both obesity and early puberty.

Found in:
nonorganic dairy products and meats.

7. Monosodium glutamate (MSG).
MSG is an amino acid used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and many restaurant foods. It’s a known
excitotoxin, a substance that overexcites brain cells in the
hypothalamus to the point of damage or death. The hypothalamus, located just above the brain stem, is responsible for certain metabolic processes as well as activities of the autonomic nervous system.

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