Matt Schiffman has worked out for as long as he can remember. A 36-year-old resident of Miami and vice president of Brand Management for RSP Nutrition, Schiffman says sports always played an integral part in his life. But despite playing multiple team sports during childhood and staying active throughout his life, Schiffman gained weight steadily. The pounds kept piling on until he finally found a way to stop the gain and turn it around—thanks to the keto diet.
At the start of high school Schiffman weighed 210 pounds; by the senior year he topped out at 240. Freshman year in college brought him another 30-pound gain. Though weight can be a benefit when you’re an offensive lineman, he struggled with how the extra weight made him feel. “I graduated college in 2005 at 300 pounds, and everything hurt. I was 21, and my ankles, knees, and back were in constant pain.”
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After college, he had less time for working out, and he spent most of the next decade yo-yo dieting. “I was eating the typical American diet and believed, like most people, that losing weight is about will power. I thought if I ate less and moved more, I’d lose—but that didn’t work.” Schiffman says he would crash diet before special events and trips, which led to a cycle of losing and regaining the same 50 pounds. It wasn’t until New Years Day, 2013, that something shifted. At the time, he was working as an investment banker and living in New York. Schiffman spent the day looking at photos of himself from a party the night before. “I was fat, sweaty, and had a double chin. I didn’t want to live like that anymore. That was the breaking point for me. I began educating myself about exercise and nutritional science.” After reading a book about the keto diet—a plan that focuses on low-carbohydrate, high-fat, moderate-protein foods—Schiffman decided to give it a try. “It was the first time I ever considered that it wasn’t about the quantity of food we eat, but the quality.”
Matt Schiffman/Reader’s Digest
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Schiffman found that his body really responded to the shift that keto required. “The key to my weight loss has been consistency. I consistently eat a low-carb diet. Small daily victories are massively important. Decisions snowball—today you skip a soda, and tomorrow you’ll skip the soda and the chips you would normally eat. Celebrate those victories.”
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At first, he focused on following a keto eating plan; then he shifted to focus on eating clean—all organic whole foods. It’s been a journey of tweaking and changing his diet to fit his individual needs, he says, and his efforts have paid off: Schiffman’s managed to shed 100 pounds. Two years ago, he and his wife moved to Miami, where he began working for a nutrition company—and that’s just one example of the kinds of changes his weight loss has made in his life. What’s more: “I’m no longer in pain. I feel better at 36 than I did at 21. I look and feel better. I feel mentally sharper, too, which is something I never expected.”
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Schiffman continues to work out regularly, though he cautions others from counting on exercise alone to lose weight. “It’s 90 percent diet. I was at my heaviest when I was working out the most. At the end of the day, if you are eating whole foods, you’re almost there.” Schiffman says YouTube is where he learned to cook healthy meals. “I didn’t know how to cut an onion when I graduated from college—it was that bad,” he recalls. His favorite keto-friendly foods are nuts and protein powder, both are nutrient dense and readily available at most markets. His words of advice for those hoping to follow in his footsteps? “Read labels and learn what’s in your food. Bring your own food to work, so you don’t set yourself up for failure. Surround yourself with supportive people. Technology makes it easier than ever to find like-minded people to hold you accountable.”
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Both coconut milk and oil can turn a dish into a calorie bomb. One cup of canned coconut milk contains a whopping 445 calories and 48 grams of fat, which is 74 percent of your daily recommended amount of total fat. Add a few cups to your soup and you jack up the calories and fat. So what about coconut oil? According to the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, coconut oil is categorized as a solid fat with high amounts of saturated fat and should be eaten sparingly.
When using: Choose light coconut milk, and use coconut oil in very small amounts.
Banana bread tastes so much better with walnuts, and who doesn’t like a nice mixture of nuts in trail mix? Think I’m nuts? Check out the calories. One ounce (or 14 halves) of walnuts contains 185 calories and 18 grams of fat. Add several ounces of crushed walnuts to your brownie batter — or grab a few handfuls to munch on — and you’re talking several hundred calories.
When using: Keep servings to 1/4 cup or less, depending on the recipe.
Dark Chocolate Chips
To make dishes healthier, many folks swap milk chocolate chips for dark chocolate chips. A heavy hand even of dark chocolate chips, however, can sabotage muffins, pancakes, waffles, and any other delicious treat, breakfast or snack you make with them.
When using: Use about 1/4 cup per batch for baking. If you want to up the chocolate, add unsweetened cocoa powder in addition to a small amount of dark chocolate chips.
This natural sugar contains a small amount of minerals, which makes it a better choice than other artificial sweeteners. Added sugar, however, is added sugar. The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than 10 percent of calories come from added sugar, which is 200 calories in a 2,000-calorie diet. One tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories and 74 grams of sugar. It doesn’t take more than several tablespoons of honey to reach that added-sugar maximum.
When using: Opt for 1 to 2 teaspoons per serving.
Traditional granola includes oats, oil, a sweetener, and flakes or crisps. Add-ins like dried fruit, coconut and nuts are now becoming more popular. On average, 1/4 cup of granola without nuts contains 100 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and 17 grams of carbohydrates. Pour 1/2 to 3/4 cup of granola over your oatmeal or Greek yogurt and you can be downing 200 to 300 calories from only granola.
When using: Get a delicious crunch by using 2 to 4 tablespoons per serving. If you need more volume, supplement with whole-grain cereal, which tends to have fewer calories per serving.
Add 1/4 cup of half-and-half to your morning cup of joe for an extra 79 calories and 7 grams of fat. That may not seem like a lot, but if you like a few cups of coffee throughout the day, the few extra calories start to become hundreds in one day. Now think about how many hundreds (or even thousands) of extra calories that is during one entire week.
When using: Add low-fat or nonfat milk to coffee throughout the day. Save the half-and-half for that all-important morning cup.
A bed of greens topped with vegetables is super-healthy — you can’t argue with that. Toss it in 1 cup of balsamic vinaigrette, though, and you add an additional 800 calories and 80 grams of fat! Even if the salad is made for four people, that’s still substantial: Each serving contains an additional 200 calories and 20 grams of fat.
When using: Vinaigrettes are made from healthy oils, but pour on a maximum of 2 tablespoons per person.