One Small Change
Are You Eating Enough Fiber?
When I started this experiment on February 1, I weighed 179.5 pounds—the heaviest I’ve been since college. Since I don’t believe in diets and a particularly snowy winter was limiting my efforts at exercising more, I opted for what seemed an incredibly easy solution: eating an additional 14 grams of fiber every day.
According to the National Fiber Council, by doubling my daily fiber intake I could expect to ingest 100 fewer calories per day. (Fiber’s bulk naturally fills you up, so you eat less.) This equates to one pound lost every 35 days or 10 pounds dropped per year, assuming everything else remains constant. Not as fast as you might desire for summer Speedo season, but impressive nonetheless since no other changes are required—no extra sweat and no dieting.
My advisor for the month—Danielle LaFata, RD, CSSD, CPT, an Athletes’ Performance nutritionist—also endorsed it. “I believe you’ll be successful,” she predicted. “You’ll feel fuller, be more satiated, and maybe even have some additional energy because things will be moving through your system easier.”
Without burdening you with all the travails of my entrails in the last 28 days, here’s a synopsis of what happened:
I nearly didn’t survive the first week. Doubling my fiber intake produced some serious gastric unrest that challenged everything from my marriage to the sanctity of my yoga class. Although I toughed it out for the sake of this experiment, it’s smarter to increase your fiber intake by 20% per week and spread the gnoshing out in 3-gram increments throughout the day.
I rarely got hungry. Whether I was just eating a bowl of steel-cut oats in the morning or snacking on fiber-rich foods throughout the day, I never got the urge to go elbow-deep in a bag of Bickel’s or squat in a corner with Ben & Jerry. For once, I was in control of food, and it felt empowering.
I didn’t bonk. I usually exercise around midday. Whether I was playing basketball, swimming or just walking the dogs, a fiber-rich breakfast provided a solid energy base. Even when I worked out hard, there still seemed to be an ample reserve. I’m convinced there is no better game-day breakfast.
I learned to respect this stuff. I’ve been writing about health-and-fitness for more than two decades, but I never gave fiber the attention it deserved. I thought it was for old people, and my eyes scanned right past it on nutrition labels. But I learned it has the potential to affect performance and health more than any other foodstuff by providing extra energy, facilitating weight loss, lowering cholesterol, dropping blood pressure, stabilizing glucose levels, and keeping us regular. If you desire a body like a Greek god, then fiber is your Zeus.
And finally—drum roll, please—I lost 3 pounds. When all was said and done, and I had ingested nearly a pound of extra roughage, my scale read 176.5. Part of me realized this was great—triple what the experts had promised and sure to compound if I continued eating this way. But a bigger part of me was disappointed. Like many people nowadays, I want immediate, dramatic results, just like the magazine covers promise.
And therein lies the verdict. If you can be disciplined and patient, I believe there is no smarter way to lose weight and keep it off while improving your overall health. But if you know that seeing just a pound or two difference after a month of serious chewing won’t be fulfilling, then you should probably look elsewhere. But realize you may forever be looking. A slew of studies show that successful, sustainable weight loss comes slowly. It’s a lifestyle change, not something you do three weeks prior to an Aruba vacation.
Just like the oatmeal that's been accumulating on my bowels, this is One Small Change I’ll be sticking with.
About The Author
Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.