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Can Eating Healthy Food Cause You To Gain Weight? YES, Under This One Circumstance

Health image

You Can Eat Healthy Food And Still Gain Weight

I got an email from a reader recently that was desperate.

She told me that she was doing everything right but wasn’t losing weight at all:

“I don’t get it… I eat all the right foods – lean meats, veggies, whole wheat bread – but I’m still gaining weight. I get a little bit of exercise, but my diet is literally perfect. What’s going on here?”

When I probed a bit further and asked specifically the kinds of foods she was eating, she dropped the bomb:

“Oh no, I go out to eat all of my meals. I have a traveling job so I don’t have the luxury of cooking my own food.”


As it turns out, even healthy food when you eat out (depending on where you eat) can be loaded with hidden calories. To prove it, I did a little experiment below:

So I Bought a Sandwich at Panera – Here’s What Happened Next…


Sandwich calories panera bread

Here’s What it Looked Like Opened:

Sandwich calories panera bread

Here’s How Many Calories it Had:

Bacon Turkey Bravo Nutrition Facts

And I Became Curious…

If I made this sandwich at home, what would it look like, how many calories would it have, and would it be any more/less filling?

The way a food is prepared (e.g. processing/sugar added) dramatically changes how filling it is, as well as how many calories it has.

So it’s entirely possible for a food to be MORE filling with LESS calories if it’s LESS processed. Catch my drift?

So I Grabbed the Same Amount of Bread (in weight):

Sandwich calories panera bread

And Then I Grabbed The Same Amount of Turkey…

Sandwich calories panera bread

Then I Added Some Cheese..

Sandwich calories panera bread

Since these two types of cheese are different (Panera used Gouda, I used cheddar) I measured them to have the same amount of calories.

Added Some Bacon…

Sandwich calories panera bread

Panera used two slices of bacon, so I did the same.

And Some Tomatoes…

Sandwich calories panera bread

And Some Lettuce…

Sandwich calories panera bread

And 90 Calories Worth of Mayo (Panera’s Sauce Was 90 Calories)

Sandwich calories panera bread

And My Own Sandwich Came To Life, With One Problem…

Sandwich calories panera bread

It Was TWICE The Size, But 150 Calories Less. What!?

Sandwich calories panera bread

Panera’s sandwich on the left. Total calories = 830
My sandwich on the right. Total calories = 700
But, there was something else pretty interesting…


The Surprising Facts

Let’s start with one observation: My sandwich was enormous. Much bigger Panera’s and presumably much more filling.

Total calories from Panera’s sandwich: 830

Total calories from my sandwich: 700.

So, let’s start with a few facts:


#1 It’s a Hell of a lot Easier to Overeat (Without Realizing it) When You Eat Out.

That’s not just because food is more “unhealthy” – it’s sometimes the amount it’s processed, how it’s cooked, and the sauces and marinades that are used.

For example, look at the calorie count from wings at Buffalo Wild wings. We all know wings aren’t exactly a health food, but if you were to prepare them at home, you’d literally eat 1/3 the calories. If you ate  ONE SERVING of ribs & chicken tenders at buffalo wild wings, that’s literally the recommended daily calorie intake for a 6′ 2″ 170 pound male. Or for a 5′ 7″ 150 pound female.

Buffalo Wild Wings

I’ve already showed something very similar in another health experiment called “Shocking (In Pictures) Why You’re Fat.”

I also have shown previously how we’re going up against a massive business (the food industry) and how they’re keeping us addicted: How Big Business Makes Food As Addictive As Cocaine.

The scary thing is that Panera is actually on the healthier side of the spectrum. If you’re really eating out and letting yourself indulge (especially if you do it twice a day) you could easily be eating your entire recommended daily amount of calories in two meals.


#2 There’s a Hell of a lot More Sodium Than if You Made the Food Yourself.


Check out the sodium facts from the CDC:

Sodium CDCThe tolerable upper limit is 2,300 mg/day.

Just in this sandwich there was almost 3,000 mg.

In the version that I made, it totaled less than 1/2 that: 1,300 mg.


#3 Your Health Is NOT Just About Calories

300 calories of broccoli and 300 calories of soda aren’t the same. At all.

So maybe you’re eating the right amounts of food, you’re not dramatically over eating, so you’re drinking soda and eating some junk but not gaining weight.

Think you’re in the clear?

Sorry, you aren’t.

Despite the fact that you may not be gaining weight, broccoli is loaded with nutrients, anti-cancer compounds, and other protective vitamins and minerals.

Soda contains high fructose corn syrup, which we know contributes to liver fat deposits and in high amounts (like the amounts we’re consuming) causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. There are children coming down with liver disease before they’re teenage because they were raised on soda. (Source 1, Source 2). Unfortunately, almost everything is packed with high fructose corn syrup now.

So yeah, you might not gain weight even though you’re drinking soda instead of eating broccoli. But inside it will show a different story.

In fact, skinny fat people are more likely to die from metabolic related diseases than overweight people.

So don’t envy your skinny little friend that eats crappy food at all. He/she is going to pay the price.


The Single BEST Thing You Can Do To Improve Your Health in 2013

You already know to just eat real food. That’s my mantra.

And you know to change your habits, instead of adopting another diet.

Those two things will change your life (and health) alone.

But there’s a third.

Something I want to help you achieve in 2013.

Cook your own food.

Cooking your own food is THE habit to develop to improve your health. We know food is the underlying poison/cure behind this obesity epidemic. And we know that most people simply aren’t treating it like that.

Leave a comment below and tell me if you cook – and why or why not. If not, why aren’t you?

One last awesome thing…

If you’re suffering from the #1 problem in switching to a healthier lifestyle – cravings – my program The Food Control Program is opening up again in a few weeks.

It’s a step-by-step video coaching program that will show you how to regain control.

The cool part? People who follow the program and change their habits to regain control over cravings also lose a solid amount of weight. And that’s simply because the same lifestyle and nutrition habits that cause cravings tend to cause weight gain. When you reverse the origin of cravings, you also reverse much of that weight gain.

So if you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic this is for you too.

Check it out here.

– Alex

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

Have You Read My New Book Yet?

  Read more about this in my book Master The Day. You’ll learn the nine daily success habits I learned interviewing people that lost 100+ pounds and kept it off in a healthy way – by changing their habits. Plus, you’ll get a free $100 bonus video course if you show me your receipt. You can get the audiobook here too.

11 comments… add one

  1. Alex, This is indeed one of the hardest things for me to come to grips with. Living NYC in a small apartment, I hate to shop and I don’t like to cook, and yet, I am coming to realize that preparing my own food is essential to continued weight loss (of which there needs to be a lot!) I am going to take your advice as a challenge and do it. (btw, I love it when you deconstruct food! It’s always interesting, and kind of funny too.)

    1. Hey Steven,

      I have many friends in NYC and I know how discouraging it can be. The other thing is that you could also pick 1-2 spots that are healthy (and since you’re in NYC, you’re lucky, restaurants are required to show calories too), and then eat at those places throughout the week.

      But cooking for yourself is definitely the way to go. Just try it 1 night per week. Or make an easy lunch.

  2. I used to eat fastfood every meal for 5 years! I was constantly hungry so id eat more, but hey it was cheap and I was in college.my weight got up to 200 lbs before I started trying to do anything about it. id even try and order the salads from mcds. I didn’t loose weight until I stopped eating out completely. I dropped 40 lbs in the first 3 months

    1. Kris –

      Awesome proof right here! It’s true right? You can eat a huge calorie-loaded meal when it’s fast food but still be full. Processing is amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Simply amazing! Yes, I do cook every day. Mostly, breakfast and dinner. I usually eat something raw and fermented(home made with whey) every day at lunch.

    Every since I got smart about nutrition and healthy eating life style, I wanted to cook what I eat so that I know what is in my food and where it came from. I only eat out about once a month and it is usually to a high end restaurant where I know they use fresh ingredients and made from scratch.

    I don’t try to be perfect so I practice the 90/10 rule in eating and it seems to work for me. With eating whole, real foods, you can’t go wrong weight and health wise.

  4. In an attempt to lose weight and be more healthy, my husband and I started following the Paleo diet approximately 85% of the time. With the emphasis on whole, natural foods we cook at home the majority of the time. On those occasions where we get fast food or something already prepared from the grocery store, I am usually disappointed. Cooking at home has really opened up the world of natural spices and flavors. I’m still amazed by how much salt and sugar is added to absolutely everything.

    1. Destiny,

      You’re absolutely right… even plain things like crackers have added salt or sugar to make them more tasty. It’s a scary world we live in! Cooking your own food really is the way out of this obesity epidemic.

      – Alex

  5. The same thing happens if you want to eat a salad out in town – you get so much salt in it and the dressings are so sneaky that you eat everything unaware of the fact that it will get you fat (because you think “Hey, it’s a salad!”). My guilty pleasure when eating out is pizza, so I have switched to making my own at home together with my parents. We experience the same thing you did with your sandwich: our homemade pizza is larger, healthier, and ends up having less calories in it than the one we would buy from a restaurant. Cooking your own meals is definitely the way to go if you want to create changes in your lifestyle and weight.

    1. EXACTLY! You hit the nail on the head. I love making home made pizza too :) It’s actually relatively healthy. If you make it yourself it can have tons of veggies, tomato sauce, a thin layer of bread, good meats, etc. Pizza isn’t inherently bad… it’s usually just bad when you go out and eat it ;)

  6. This a great article, its the side of healthy that most of us don’t even think about. Thanks for the insight!

    1. You’re welcome Degen :-)


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