I’m aware of the good press that brown rice has got over the years. The nutritional advantage it has over its white counterpart, and all the other arguments favoring it over white rice. I even read about how switching to brown rice helps against global warming! For me, that is taking it too far when making a choice for something as personal as weight loss.
I wish to share my experience with how I experimented with both varieties of rice when I made it a part of my weight-loss diet regime last summer. I was aware that rice (whether brown or white) contains more calories than most other grain products. Yet, I was too fond of the fragrant stuff to give it up even for a short period of time. So, when it was time to shed my excess baggage – a total of 6 kgs (13 pounds) – I decided to switch to brown rice because of all the praise I had read about it in the media. It was the first time that I was trying it out and I believed that it will contribute in its own humble way towards my weight loss.
How I incorporated it
Obviously, switching to brown rice was not the only change I adopted in my lifestyle over the ensuing few weeks. I increased my protein intake, worked out regularly at the gym, drank plenty of water, consumed antioxidant fruits and drinks, and boosted the fibre in my diet by including raw fruit and vegetable with a generous sprinkling of wheatgerm. In short, I did all the right things that I knew would help, while consuming brown rice in moderation (a bowl a day) during mealtime. Since I was on a calorie-reduction program, I counted the calories in every morsel that passed my lips. And like every dieter who is eager to see quick results, I went on the bathroom scales every single day!
The downside of brown rice and how I coped
Since I had never tried brown rice prior to that experiment, I was totally unprepared for the following.
1. It took ages to cook. I began soaking it in water long before I was ready to cook it. Invariably on busy days, I forgot to soak so I went without rice on those days. Soon, I learnt the art of pressure cooking it in a few easy steps.
2. The time was summer, and I found that the brown rice will not stay long and often turned rancid very soon. I began putting away unfinished or precooked portions in the refrigerator. It made sense to precook and store like that, as I was the only one in the family consuming brown rice, and all I needed was a bowl of it everyday.
3. I suffered from flatulence and abdominal cramping for the first three days when I consumed it. I put up a brave face and with a never-say-die attitude, I kept on. My tummy soon got used to this foreign food, and started accepting it. From Day 4, no cramps, no flatulence.
4. This is the worst bit. It tasted terrible to my tastebuds! I flavored it with sauces to camouflage its weird taste. Again, I kept on. Remember my never-say-die attitude? By day 7, I found the courage to do away with the sauces and slowly began accepting its taste, but not liking it.
I weighed myself and re-evaluated my program
I let two more weeks pass by with the same diet regime and same fitness program. I lost slightly over 4 pounds at the end of week 3. Nothing astonishing, but at least the scales were showing a different reading than before!
Since I wasn’t particularly enjoying brown rice, I said to myself “so far so good. I’m happy with my progress. Now let me switch back to white rice for the next three weeks and see whether it will affect my progress”.
I had read that the nutrients in brown rice lower cholesterol and that it was good for type 2 diabetes. But those were not my concerns. My aim was to lose weight. So, were these nutrients in brown rice good for losing weight too? Maybe they were, but it is common knowledge that it is not a combination of nutrients but a whole lot of other factors working together that make you lose weight.
So, keeping all other variables (such as exercies, fibre intake, protein intake) the same, I continued with phase 2 of my weight-loss program. This time, a bowl of white rice replacing the brown rice on the table.
What happened next were 3 easier weeks that I sailed through with relief. Relief because I did not have to face the prospect of consuming that bowl of brown rice anymore. I could have eliminated it completely but I believed at that time that it was doing me good. So in phase 2, nothing changed except the type of rice on the dining table. At the end of another three weeks, I had lost 5 more pounds! Hurray! I was fast approaching my target and I was thrilled! But what really surprised me was that I had lost the same weight (if not slightly more) when I had replaced the brown rice with white rice.
About my choices
1. I think personally I must enjoy what I do. Anything punishing can have a demotivating influence. And for me, eating brown rice felt like a punishment.
2. I could have opted for fortified white rice, where nutrients that are stripped off by the process of dehulling are added back. But I chose not to do this. I was in no mood to experiment with any more variations of rice.
3. Despite all the praise from the press, brown rice has more fat content in it than white rice. So I would happily use this one reason to give brown rice a skip.
4. In the end, I realised that it wasn’t so much the color of my rice, but what I did in terms of suitable diet and exercise to complement that one ricebowl that mattered more.
My thumbs up for white rice!
To give brown rice a fair chance, I chose to include brown rice in the first phase of my program. I had intended to stick to it and I would have, had I taken a liking to it. I was aware that it is easier to lose the first 3-4 pounds when you go on a diet, but as you approach your target, things get tougher and you are meant to be more careful with what you eat. However, I took the risk and allowed white rice to do the hard work in the second phase, and it didn’t let me down!