The Rules

First and foremost, let me preface that I am not medically trained and am in no way qualified to tell you what is best for your health and your body. I can only tell you what I've learned and what works, through experience consulting a nutritionist, in order to lose weight. As with any weight loss regimen, you should consult your doctor before you begin.

disclaimer translation: if you fall out in the street because you were following my rules;
so not my fault.

With that said, let me give you a little insight as to what you're getting yourself into... nutritional boot camp. There is no other way to put it. Some of the rules are non negotiable and those were the ones I found most challenging. For example, no snacking. Umm, what?? Isn't that supposed to be the new way of eating? Grazing? 5-6 small meals a day? I've heard that religion over and over, but this particular regimen isn't having it.

Prior to my meeting with Don Roberto, I'd gotten my hands on his rule booklet. I obviously can't reprint it here (no time for lawsuits), but after a once over, my heart started to sink. This looked completely boring and totally limited. Immediately, I saw myself eating the same boring breakfast, discontent over my tasteless lunch, and envious at what my dinner date was ordering at the new hot bistro one can't hide from in NYC. I suppose that was why it was so hard to follow in the first place.

At my first consultation, the Don put me at ease. I asked him about rules #2 and #6. "Can I use one of the eggs raw, one of the bread slices as breadcrumbs, mix with scallions, parsley, and salmon, brown it up and have a salmon croquette?"

"Of course."

I also took a few tips from that ancient book published in the 90s called The Zone. Remember that one? The one Jennifer Aniston swore by, the one that prompted her to eat a Cobb Salad every single day on the set of Friends for however many years? It has some pretty good points and, to be honest, Jennifer doesn't look half bad. The ratio thing is what taught me the most because it made the most sense. The ratio was roughly 30/30/40. 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% carbs. To me it meant that if you balance your daily intake of fat, carbohydrates, and protein, no matter the amount of calories you consume, the overall effect is beneficial. That your body would have enough of each component to function at a productive rate. The trick is getting the most bang for your calorie while decreasing total daily caloric intake in order for your body to burn off more than it consumes. All the while taking into account personal tastes and preferences. That is the only challenge.

The Zone is fabulous overall ratio and balance, but there are other components to what we consume that aid or inhibit us from reaching our desired goal. Number one is sodium intake. It's absolutely amazing how bloated we all are. Salt might be the single most effective way to flavour a dish, however, one sprinkle from your salt shaker is enough sodium for the entire day. How do we get around this? Getting our sodium straight from the food instead of our shaker, counteracting natural sodium intake with natural diuretics, and using more herbs and spices. Salt is an easy way out. Talk to me about cayenne, cumin, chilies and cilantro.

We all know candy is the worst and the calories are totally useless, but sugar is in so many things not typically expected. There are, like, 12 grams of sugar in skim milk. Seriously? It's just everywhere and all it does is turn into fat. Ice cream for dessert every night? Say goodbye to your bikini. Fruit clearly has a lot of natural sugar, but aren't we all supposed to get a little fresh fruit into our diet? Absolumont, rock out on strawberries when they're in season. It's awesome for your hair. Keep the fruit intake to a minimum and when integrating into your diet, have it in the morning. That way, you have all day to work it off.

Eat everything in its entirety. Basically, throw out your peeler. Every flower is innately perfect. So is every leaf, root, and fruit. All nutrients that a zucchini has to give is in the meat and in the skin. Every green carrot top has something to offer. The skin of the apple is the core of its gift. You get it.

Fiber is one that has always eluded me... I am quite honestly still trying to work out how to incorporate it into my daily routine without drinking some freaky shake. I do favour black beans and limas, so perhaps you'll see a few recipes now and again.

I've created recipes (in accordance to Don Roberto's rules) that are "Zone compliant", easy on the sodium/sugar intake, and as whole as possible. As far as what you might want to accomplish on your own, see my recommendations below:

1. Take a multivitamin daily
2. Add a co-enzyme Q10 to that as well.. start with 50mg, one capsule per day.
3. Restrict fruit consumption to breakfast and lunch.
4. Animal protein should be as far from the mammal makeup as possible. First choice: fish; second: chicken and turkey; third: red meat.
5. Ease up on the bread... pita is underrated and has a lot more to offer. Keep this intake equal to one sandwich per day. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, I don't care, but just one serving (2 slices per day). This includes croutons, tortillas, and everything that could remotely be associated to bread products. Use your judgement as per portion, but do not exceed the equivalent of 2 slices.
6. An omelet a day if you want, but I would use those eggs in other dishes as well. Omelets are for brunch anyway. 2 eggs a day is your limit. Use at your discretion.
7. Pasta or Rice three times weekly. That's liberal.
8. No chinese food
9. No soy sauce (I cheat sometimes, admittedly, then berate myself after, so try to stay away)
10. No soda, diet soda, fruit "drinks" or anything of the sort
11. Limited alcohol consumption (limited to me, is a glass of vino with lunch and dinner, thank you)

Know your limits and react accordingly. I am not telling you to restrict completely, I'm just advising you to be mindful of what you ultimately choose. If you have a dense lunch, ease up on dinner. You have a breakfast sandwich, have a salad for lunch. Balance out your cravings and make them work for you.

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