By Jane Kwiatkowski

News Staff Reporter

Restaurateur Ardwin Carducci, 57, loved almost everything about food.

He liked its taste, texture and smell. He really enjoyed cooking for his customers.

But within the past two years, Carducci has discovered a new way of eating food, and it has changed his life. As a result, Carducci has dropped so much weight that his waist size shrunk from size 58 to 36.

“One of the strangest psychological things is just putting your pants on in the morning, looking at them and saying it shouldn’t be right, but this is what fits now,” said Carducci, who owns La Galleria Banquets in Orchard Park and lives in Hamburg. “In a way, food usurps your life. Sometimes it’s nicest to have a standard food that’s good and healthy that you love the taste of.”

In Carducci’s case, it’s Greek yogurt – once each day, every day. Mixed with a handful of almonds, a sliced half-banana and blueberries to give it flavor, the parfait is Carducci’s lunch. He said it not only cut his craving for sugar, it helps him feel fuller longer.

Greek yogurt works for many people who want to lose weight because it minimizes the storage of fat, said Mary Jo Parker, a registered dietitian in Williamsville. It also contains whey, which helps build muscle mass. Carducci’s yogurt parfait, according to Parker, contains three elements – fiber, protein and fat – that help stabilize blood sugar and allow a person to feel satiated as the day wears on.

Yogurt played a huge role in Carducci’s 100-pound weight loss. So did the glycemic index, the effect that carbohydrates have on blood sugar. In making wise food choices, Carducci avoids sugar at all costs. His morning coffee, for instance, now contains Xylitol, a sugar substitute.

“You know a lot of foods become sugar in your bloodstream like flash paper,” he said. “Some take a long time to leach into your bloodstream. A lot of foods slow things down.”

Carducci, who declined to give his exact weight, said he has lost between 100 and 110 pounds. Cherrie, his wife of 30 years, and two daughters, age 17 and 22, don’t even know how much he weighs.

“I really don’t eat much now,” he said. “For breakfast? Water or green tea and a lovely cup of coffee. The key is getting protein. I try and eat dinner at 6 or 6:30 p.m. – salad and lean protein (chicken, fish) – and some kind of legume.”

Diminishing his intake of carbohydrates – like sweets and starches – minimizes craving, Parker said.

“The key is to maintain awareness when trying to make behavior changes or he will regress,” she said. “Sometimes though, you’ll just come across a person who has lousy eating habits, who may have grown up with that sort of lifestyle or have a genetic predisposition to holding weight. They need education and counseling. Maybe they need a buddy system or maybe some accountability.”

Healthy eating has led Carducci to shake up the menu at his restaurant. He uses no trans fats. He grows an herb garden, and he has added a healthy banquet menu called “Farm to Table.”

The benefits of his new physique make Carducci smile.

“It’s nice getting on planes,” he said. “I can sit between people and not feel like I’m causing anyone any problems. It’s nice to go to a regular clothes store. The path I was on was not good for my family or for myself. Now I feel like a young man. I don’t feel my age at all.”