Lose weight 103: Diet plan replacing Coke, pizza, burgers and other popular items

Let’s open with a shocker – taste is impossible to replace. There, I said it. While Coca Cola company proudly advertises that Coke Zero tastes EXACTLY the same like original Coke… we all know it’s a lie. White lie, but lie non the less.

So, for the moment we need to come back to mindset as a building block. We again need to reiterate your decision to stop idolizing certain foods. Taste is acquired. You don’t need to slave to decisions of yesterday. The same way you’ve built up habit of enjoying bad things, you can build up habit of enjoying good things.

Diet plan core

Weight loss is all about calories you take in. Take for example professor of human nutrition who lost 27 pounds (~13 kgs) in 2 months on a Twinkie diet. Yeah, you read that right – someone lost lots of weight while eating junk and sweets. Even more surprising: his bad cholesterol dropped 20 percent, good cholesterol went up 20 percent.

That shows it’s all about defining a diet in which you can maintain caloric intake. The easiest way to reduce caloric intake is to take a look at high-calorie, high-risk foods. Then you can either take those out of your diet or replace them. Let’s take a look at a list of popular items that are bad for you

Soft drinks

Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, 7up, Ginger Ale. Or any sugary drink. Apple juice may sound better than Coke, but it’s actually same amount of sugar. Orange juice in the morning has been breakfast favorite in many households. While antioxidants and vitamin C are great, the sugar in orange juice outweighs benefits.

  • If you are consuming lots of soft drinks, losing weight should be easy for you. Just stop drinking these. Or, if you can’t completely stop, replace them. Here is how:
    The biggest problem is for those who don’t want to give up taste. For this group of people I would recommend trying brand name replacements. So, if you are Coke drinker, try Diet or Coke Zero. If you are Pepsi drinker, try Diet Pepsi. Now, be warned – lots of these drinks have artificial sweeteners that are bad for you. So, 0 calories do come with some downsides.
  • If you are willing to compromise on taste, then there are more options available for you. My personal favorite is Zevia, soft drinks that are sweetened with Stevia (natural sweetener). They have bunch of different tastes – Cola, Ginger Ale, Root Beer… you name it. Obviously you’ll need some time to get used to the taste. But once you do, you’ll be able to enjoy 0 calorie Cola with no downsides.
  • You are able to completely give up taste. The best drink is pure water. It always was, always will be. If you can, drink just water and don’t think too much about other choices. Because almost all choices come with a twist. For example, sparkling or mineral water is OK choice, but you need to be aware of sodium content and pH levels. Or water flavorings that are flooding market right now. Infusing water with fruits is interesting choice, but requires prep time, cleaning pitcher, etc.

In the end, the more water you can drink – the better off you’ll be. But if you want to spice up your fluid intake, look through options I gave and find 0 calorie option you can enjoy.


As some other dishes, the problem with pizza is how it’s made. Prepare super thin crust pizza with tomato sauce, no-fat cheese and bunch of veggies… and you’ll have a healthy meal. But when we say pizza, we don’t mean that, right? Pizza means solid crust, lots of juicy meat and finally – high fat pull cheese money shot.

Your diet plan is better without pizza pull cheese money shot. Good on eyes, bad on stomach...

Pizza pull cheese money shot. It hurts, I know…

As with soft drinks, giving up pizza is the best choice. Especially because you can’t replace pizza the way you replace soft drink taste. Sure: you can go with thin crust, no-fat cheese or healthier toppings. But it’s nowhere near replacing Coke with Diet or Zevia Coke. It ends up being completely different meal. Meaning, if you enjoy eating certain pizza – just eat it less. Don’t eat it once a week, eat it once a month. Try finding another meal you’ll enjoy as much. And the most important thing: avoid temptation of idolizing what you decided to leave.


As with pizza, great burger’s taste is irreplaceable. But, unlike pizza with burger you are in somewhat better position. If you skip buns and don’t drown your burger in condiments, you can actually eat a burger every day. Take McDonalds Big Mac as an illustration: 563 calories, 33g of fat. But, take out buns, cheese and half of the sauce and suddenly you have manageable meal. One patty is 90 calories and 7g of fat, so at most you are now looking at 230-240 calories depending on amount of sauce. Easily something you can consume whenever you want.

Now, again, I know what I am suggesting is not same as original. But you need to find the way to ditch extras. Take out whatever you don’t need. In ideal diet you won’t be eating BigMac. But if you do eat it, for whatever reason – ditch unnecessary stuff.


Another historic meal. Considering wheat production, it’s understandable our ancestors had bread as cornerstone of diet. But today, there is not a single reason to eat bread with every meal. Especially if we are talking about white bread. Well made whole wheat breads can be good for you. But you don’t need that with every meal either. Sure, make a sandwich. Enjoy a slice of whole wheat bread for breakfast. But if you already have 700 calorie meal in front of you, the last thing you need is a slice of bread to clean plate with.

I’ve found that most people don’t even enjoy the taste of bread. They eat it out of habit. So, ditch the habit. Uncover your sandwich or toss away extra bread. And only consume true whole wheat bread. White bread is terrible.

Chocolates and sweets

New products in this category rock. As a kid I adored Snickers, Mars, Milky Way and other bars. Nowadays I don’t even think about them because of Pure Protein bars I consume daily. It because easy to stay in shape when your “desert” is 180 calories with 3g of sugar and 21g of protein. I love the choice Pure Protein offers with their bars considering they have like 8 flavors.

Now, I am not advising Pure Protein only. They may not be your preferred choice for many reasons (taste, artificial sweeteners, etc). What you should do is try different “healthy” bars and find your favorite. In general you are looking for something that has less than 10g of sugar. If it’s protein bar 180 calories is OK; for “regular” bars you should be aiming for 150 calories or less.

Be aware that there are no “free” calories. 150 calories for desert is still a lot. But at least you are getting some micro-nutrients in those 150 calories vs pure sugar in regular bars. Also, one warning about artificial sweeteners used in most of healthy bars. Sugar alcohol tastes great, but beware of laxative effect ;). Here is my personal favorite review of sugar-free gummy bears.

Best sugar-free gummy bear Amazon review ever!

Sugar-free is not always guilt-free

Ultimate replacement – work it out before eating

You can use this method to illustrate how bad certain foods are for you. It also works great in developing rejection of certain foods. I’ve loved mayonnaise until I’ve started trying to work it out before eating. 2 tbsp of mayonnaise (~27 grams) is 188 calories. That approximates to running 1.5 miles in 15 minutes. The problem quickly becomes obvious. Anyone can save 188 calories by not eating 2 tbsp of mayonnaise. But less than 10% of people in the world can actually run 1.5 miles (~2.4 km) in 15 minutes.

Don’t dig a hole for yourself by overeating and then saying – I’ll work it out. You probably won’t, because it’s impossible. Burning 150-200 calories during 30 minute workout is pretty good. If you are at that level, congrats to you. But if you are not, don’t beat yourself. You are not bad, lazy or incompetent. You are simply focusing on the wrong thing. For start focus diet and caloric intake.

To conclude…

In future parts of this guide I’ll present my own nutrition plan and talk more about workouts. Both are important for maintaining ideal weight or losing weight. But – to repeat yet again – mindset is the king. Focusing on your goals and process is what matters. Workouts and nutrition are just tools. Powerful tools, but tools nonetheless. Thus, before proceeding to next chapter in this guide, I invite you to re-read 1st part: Mindset. As I said in that part: Eating right is not about food. It’s all about mindset.

Lose weight 102: Shifting your mindset and crafting a plan

With all the choices available today you would think enjoying healthy diet is easy. But, unfortunately there are too many bad choices from the past present on the dinner tables of today. Entrées of mainstream dining establishments are completely out of touch with nutritional needs. Any fast-food “meal” is a caricature illustrating the point: TONS of carbs and fat with little else.

And it’s not too hard to figure out why restaurants keep serving same, bad food – people buy it. Fries and Coke sell. What else can you serve that costs less than $1 that people will gladly pay as a “compliment” to main item? Steamed broccoli? Or go with not up-selling customer and tell him to have water with their burger? Yeah, dream on…

But, just because something is convenient for restaurant and their marketing department – it doesn’t mean it should be convenient for you. That’s the biggest problem with most people’s diets. It’s not that 600 calorie pizza slice that’ll kill you. It’s that extra can of Coke you can’t eat pizza without.

As I talked in part 1, mindset is really the biggest thing when it comes to losing weight and eating right. It’s about taking time to finally look into all habits built with help of marketing departments and your sugar enjoying taste buds. Only when you shift mindset can you proceed with planning proper diet.

Figuring out how to eat right is pretty easy. Here is the flow:

  1. Calculating daily caloric intake. Your body needs certain amount of calories each day to maintain weight. I like Bodybuilding.com Caloric Intake calculator. Visit link, you put height, age and sex and get your value.
  2. Macronutrients – carbs, proteins and fats. Here you can use different splits for different results. For example, 40/30/30 means that your calories will come be 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fats. For losing weight lowering carbs intake is beneficial, and you can go with 25/45/30. Here is great calculator that allows shows you breakdown of carbs, proteins and fats. Just input daily caloric intake we got in step 1 and select split.
  3. Micronutrients – most of us never spare a single thought on how much DHA, vitamins and minerals we need. Consuming various micronutrients is paramount to your health. It’s easy to overlook this part of diet – it’s daunting task. Preparing and consuming diet that satisfies all micronutritional demands is practically impossible for most of us. Let’s look at an example in which we completely forget vitamins and minerals. Let’s just look at Omega 3 DHA. To meet this micronutrient need, you should be eating fish 3 times a week for the rest of your life. Unless you are living in a culture where fish is standard part of diet (like Japan) there is no way you’ll be able to do this without significant effort. And we are not even talking about costs – being able to buy enough salmon and find time to cook it is another issue.
  4. Water – now here is one step that never ceases to amaze me. Lots of people can induce significant weight loss just by drinking more water. If you are over 5’3” (160cm) it’s likely you need at least 6 x 500ml bottles of water a day. Whenever I bring this up almost everyone tells me – no way I can drink that much water. Well, your body actually needs that much water. If you are not consuming 3 liters of water every day, it’s no wonder you feel “hungry” or are easy target for soft / hard drinks.

Reading previous list may have left you with impression that iron will is prerequisite for eating right. Well, not really. To lose weight or maintain ideal weight you don’t need much. Considering offers on the market today eating healthy nutritional diet is 5-minute work – IF you don’t mind gulping down meal replacement shakes. Take a look at:

  1. Vega – my go-to brand. Their flagship product is plant based meal replacement smoothie. 12 oz (350ml) drink contains 170 calories, 20g of protein, 6 servings of greens, 25% of daily fiber, 50% of vitamins&minerals, antioxidants, probiotics… and so on and so forth. This drink is actually TOO nutritious for meager calorie content. If you are to consume 10 of these shakes to get near 2000 daily calories, you would poison yourself. Too much vitamins is as bad as no vitamins. Vega has great presence on Amazon and I order using Subscribe&Save.
  2. Soylent – startup with interesting concept. Focus on building healthy, convenient, and finally – affordable food. I like how they present cost per calories. Currently they are at around $2 per 500 calories… eating healthy diet for $8 a day sounds great. What’s great is that price is same regardless of whether you order from Amazon or Soylent website. For people who are on Subscribe&Save ordering from Amazon can actually be cheaper.
  3. Ambronite – another interesting food startup. Their focus is on quality of their meal replacement drink. They are definitely not the cheapest alternative. I’m talking about 4x cost of Soylent. You can order Ambronite from Amazon or their own website.
  4. True Nutrition – All companies I’ve presented here basically do the same thing: grind certain foods and dehydrate them. True Nutrition is unique in allowing you to customize your powder. You decide composition of your meal replacement – macro and micro nutrient composition. Take a look at their website or order premixed powders they offer from Amazon.

I remember first time I saw these products. I was stunned that something like this is available. The prospect of being able to drink my diet in form of 5 daily shakes was mind blowing. It was like future from movies arrived and I had no idea it’s already here.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting you completely switch to this. I am just saying you can do it – and if you did it you would eat “healthier” than 90% of people. I am still sticking with “standard” meal or two a day; not because of foods, but because I enjoy chewing.

But meal replacement shakes allowed me to simplify my daily eating. They hit all items from the list – calories, macronutrients, micronutrients and water. Add 2 meal replacement shakes to your routine and you have lot less calories to plan and break down.

Final thing I wanted to touch upon before closing this part are supplements. It’s easy to overlook many nutrients because we are not feeling impact. Iron deficiency is probably the best example. Most people never think about iron in their diet until their head starts hurting or their heart starts pounding. The problem is that deficiency of lots of other nutrients are not as easy to diagnose. Your insomnia could be related to magnesium deficiency. Your brain fog may be present because you haven’t consumed Omega 3 DHA in years. And so on…

Labdoor.com is great for identifying supplements to incorporate in your daily routine. So, invest a bit time to look through that website and figure out supplements you may need.

I understand this part covered lots of information and maybe sounded like too big of a shift. But give it a time. Read what I wrote once more and re-analyize products. And most importantly, keep open mind and think about what I suggested. If you read this far, I am pretty sure weight loss won’t be a problem for you. As I said, to lose weight is not hard. As long as you have will, figuring out battle plan is easy.

In next part we will take a detailed look at popular food items and what we can replace them with. Also, I will present my own eating schedule along with supplements and meal-replacement shakes.

Part 3 of this guide is up – Losing weight 103: Diet plan replacing Coke, pizza, burgers and other popular items

Home Offer, negotiation tips for house purchase

You’ve visited several properties, debated whether or not something is good with your significant other, and you are finally at the point of thinking to give offer for certain house. How to know whether or not house is really good? How much should you offer? What comes after that? Let’s continue with our journey and find answers to those questions.

In first part of this series, I’ve urged you to go through your list of reasons why want to be a home owner. This is a good place to remind you of that consideration. If you are not truly excited about a property – do NOT buy it! Decision to own a real estate is a big one. When you are renting you are in so much better position on number of fronts. Problems with local economy? Property is due for big maintenance – AC, water heater, kitchen needs replacement? Ratings of local schools are going down? Your new neighbors seem like they’ve came straight from hell? If you are renting, all these and many other problems are, ultimately, resolvable by simply moving away.

But, for sake of continuing this article let’s say you’ve decided – yes, you want to own that particular property. And yes, you’ll learn how maintain stuff around the house, figure out a way to live peacefully with your neighbors and even take that seat on board of local school if need be. How to get from giving an offer for property to moving in?

How to give a good Home Offer?

This is where your agent should shine. Really good real estate agents are sharks when it comes to price negotiation – they’ll latch onto whatever is weakness of other side and try to magnify significance just to get better deal. However, one thing is important here – realtors work on commission, so regardless on whether they are representing seller or buyer, they both benefit on higher prices. Meaning, don’t expect your agent to be fully on your side. If he sees that you like the property and won’t mind moving in, even if the thinks it’s a bad purchase, more often than not your agent won’t raise additional doubts. Why induce doubt with saying that crime rate in area is rising? Or that local schools are getting worse? It could be temporary blip long term… and why bring that up when $10000 commission is waiting?

Another constraint is time. Whether acting as seller’s or buyer’s agent, realtor tries to minimize time spent on client. You’ll rarely see your agent object too much on house purchase because if you think about buying a property and he talks you out of it – he is losing both money and time. Now he needs to find you another property you’ll like. In case you buy, worst case scenario is that you are completely unsatisfied with how he lead you through the process. Considering that average person doesn’t buy house every 5 years, it’s easy to understand why in 80% of cases your agent will go with the flow.

I’ve said all this so that you understand how time is probably the biggest leverage you have over both your (buyer’s) and seller’s agent. I mean, you can see it yourself on real estate market all the time – after failing to sell certain property, what is it that seller’s agents do? They work harder to find prospective buyers? Advertise more? Figure out why property is not selling and target the problem? Of course not, in 80% of cases, all they do is just talk owner into lowering the price. Job done, right?

So, when deciding to give the offer, first thing I would look at is how long property is on the market. Rule of thumb, for every month on the market you should aim at taking down 2% of the initial price off. Obviously this is not applicable on foreclosures. New constructions are also somewhat resistant to such aggressive price degradation.

Another thing related to time that influences the price is the season. Is it winter? If it is, you’ll most likely get better deal, since market is way slower than in summer. Most families simply can’t afford the luxury of moving in winter when kids are in school. If you are without kids or are not constrained by it, you may save quite some money by making home purchase in winter. Again, rule of thumb – you are probably looking at 3% discount if you are making your purchase in winter outside of hectic, spring/summer break cycle.

Another showcase of how Internet and free data destroy competitive advantage is ability of anyone to see price history for any property on the market. I mean, good luck trying to buy low, do few simple renovations and sell high to anyone who knows how to type in www.redfin.com in their browser. I can’t vouch for correctness of data on Trulia and Zillow, but after my experience with house purchase, I think that data on Redfin is pretty spot on. I had some doubts during purchase process since my agent came with different values. But in the end I found that agent’s data was incorrect.

Finally, last, but not least important are results of home inspection. We’ll talk more about it in section that follows, but regardless of price you agreed, keep in mind that you’ll probably need to sink in at least $5000-$10000 on small repairs once you move into house. You know those houses that are advertised as “in top condition, you just need to move in”? They would be better off advertised as “you’ll probably need to spend just $1000-$2000”. I am yet to see a house in which you don’t need to do anything.

Whether or not you want to pay that price out of your pocket, or get seller to pay it – it’s up to you. The issue is that home inspections are not that cheap nowadays, you are probably looking at paying $400 per property. Will seller be willing to give you $300 to paint a wall that’s not perfect? Probably not. And you also don’t want to get to nitpicking. It’s bad for your karma and you don’t to be haggling before your offer is accepted, especially if by then you’ve already lowered the price by using advice I’ve gave previously.

Regarding price in Home Offer, again, be confident that what you are giving is fair. If in doubt and you have nowhere to turn, feel free to leave comments, I’m obviously not real estate professional, but am willing to help and give you unbiased opinion.

Preparing Home Offer

Giving Home Offer is the place where tricky lawyery stuff starts. Also known as “here are some documents, they are all good, you only need to sign them” point. As I’ve said in previous parts, don’t allow to be intimidated by your lack of knowledge and coerced into signing stuff. Chances are that after reading all 20 pages of documents you still don’t know whether you are protected in case things go south or not. That’s completely normal. As a matter of fact majority of legal documents are purposely so long and written in terrible fashion in order to demotivate people from reading them. This is why I recommend that you hire a lawyer before signing anything. Then focus on things that matter and leave form and formalities to lawyer, hoping he’ll do his job.

Regarding Home Offer, you want to be protected against two things:
1. Home Inspection discovering non functional parts of house
2. Failure to come to terms with your lender, i.e. being unable to close the loan

As long as those things are in offer and you are allowed to withdraw your offer without any consequence – you are good. From standpoint of buyer the important parts of Home Offer are:
1. Home Offer will contain the price your agent and seller’s agent have reached through informal negotiation
2. By giving formal Home Offer, if accepted you are required to post certain deposit (earnest money)
3. Deadline by which you need to close the loan, and deadline by which you need to close house purchase

We’ve already discussed price in detail. Once price is in the Home Offer it’s harder to change, but not impossible. Especially if Home Inspection uncovers potential problems with the home. For example, you probably won’t get buyer to lower the price if inspector figures out that dryer in the unit is old. But, if inspection uncovers high levels of Radon, you can be pretty sure that price of home will need to go down to accommodate cost of Radon System installation. I’ll talk more specifically about Radon mitigation systems in separate post, but if you do get high levels of Radon ask that you are given a minimum of $2500 credit. Take charge of Radon system installation since if you leave it to seller, he’ll go with cheapest, easiest solution. This means that you can end up with Radon pipes in places you don’t want them (going through closets or bedroom ceilings).

Rule of thumb – anything that seller is legally obliged to disclose, and was not disclosed before giving Home Offer can easily bring the offering price down. Radon levels are good example, if seller truly never tested for Radon and he didn’t knew the levels, he doesn’t need to disclose it. Once he is informed by potential buyer, and purchase falls through, for every future potential buyer he legally obliged to either fix the problem or disclose it. Same goes for ceiling leaks, basement flooding, toxic materials, and so on. Take a look at this article that gives pretty good overview of the subject – what defects need to be disclosed when selling a home.

Now, onto earnest money. Basically, if your offer is accepted you need to deposit certain amount of money showing good faith – i.e. that you are serious about offer and will work toward closing the purchase by the time specified in the offer. Traditionally, following rules apply when there is earnest money:
1. If deal falls through because of a condition present in the offer, buyer gets back his deposit, seller gets nothing
2. If deal falls through because of buyer, for example he simply drops the purchase or refuses to proceed, seller keeps the money
3. If deal falls through because of seller, for example he got better offer, seller is obliged to give the buyer twice the money he deposited

Now, again, these are traditional rules. Your Home Offer could be completely different – all depends on the wording of the contract. But, if you are a buyer and are confident that you are getting a great price on the property, do this:
1. Make sure that twice the money back condition is enforced in the Home Offer that’s accepted
2. Double check that you are comfortable with conditions under which you can withdraw the offer
2. Agree on deposit amount which’ll prevent seller from looking elsewhere

So, with those conditions present, if you as a buyer deposit $5000, someone needs to outbid your price by at least $5000 for seller to even consider going with the alternative offer. Increase deposit to $15000, and it’s that less likely you’ll lose the property in price bidding war in month or so it’ll take you to close the loan and other details.

Of course, if you are seller, you’ll try to nudge things into your favor. You’ll try to keep conditions under which offer can be withdrawn to a minimum. If you are confident you are getting good deal of course that you’ll ask for bigger deposit. On the other hand if you are not satisfied with price, you’ll try to keep deposit to the minimum and explore the market in the meantime while buyer is dealing with financing.