During my journey from fat, food addicted, food fearing, yo-yo dieter to a healthy weighted, food enjoying, former junkie, the following lessons have been the most helpful. I hope they will help you too.
1. Learn To Cook
I know, I would say that wouldn’t I. The thing is though, by learning to cook you will always be able to eat healthily. You are in complete control of what you take into your body. You are not handing over responsibility to the producers of ready meals, processed food (no matter how healthy they claim it to be), who, let’s face it, don’t have your health in mind, just their profit.
2. Keep Your Portions in Proportion
We’ve lost our way a bit when it comes to portion sizes and how they should be made up. It’s easy to do it. I did it. I used to cook enough every day for 4 to 6 people, when I was aiming for 2. It seems to be a combination of how we were brought up- I came from a family where most of the members did manual labour and so it was ok for them to fill up on carbs. And the fact that restaurant portions can be way out of control. The fact that food, in comparison to our income over the last 40 years or so has become relatively cheap. Even the average size of a dinner plate has increased by about 4 cm in diameter. So it’s no wonder we’ve gotten confused.
The last thing I want you to do is to get the digital scales out and start weighing everything, (eek! – right?), so I put together the above visual which I hope will help.
3. Plan Meals and Make Shopping Lists
I can feel you rolling your eyes at me. I know what you’re thinking “How do I know what I want to eat next Thursday?” “I don’t have time to spend making lists and planning meals.” “I want to be spontaneous.” “What about if I go out or if plans change?”. I’ve heard it all before from clients. I’m a planner, always have been, it’s in my nature, but I get it, not everybody is. As much as I like cooking, I hate shopping, so by planning it actually saves time and by thinking, just a little, I can easily be flexible enough to work around all the changes that can come up at the last minute. When I talk to clients about planning and they give me a deep sigh, I usually ask them how often they visit the supermarket each week, and the funny thing is these spontaneous, time constrained individuals usually go if not every day, at least 3 or 4 times. Me, I go once a week. All that extra time spent aimlessly browsing the shelves can work negatively, in that you are much more likely to give in to impulses and you are putting yourself in the position of having to face food stores much more often and so are putting temptation in your way. It takes up much more time, and let’s face it, life is just too short to spend it in the supermarket! Planning your food for the week will free up time for you in other areas.
4. No More Diets – Yeehaa!
If there is one thing that has been proven about diets it’s that they make you fatter. I mean, if all those diets worked, there’d be no more diet industry right? Instead the diet industry is worth millions and continues to grow. I should know, I dieted for more than 30 years of my life and all it did was get me to a weight of almost 120kgs. I understand, as a seasoned yo-yoer myself, that it is VERY difficult to kick the habit. You know logically that it’s not working long term, but it’s just too tempting. So, what I would suggest is if you want to be healthier and lose some weight, just try not dieting for a change. If it doesn’t work, then be my guest, reach for those meal replacements. Just imagine though being a healthy weight, not obsessing about food, not being continually hungry, being allowed to eat anything you want, not being irritable, not panicking about what to do when the diet is over, being able to keep a health weight, just imagine how that could be…….
5. Get Some Sleep
You know what it’s like, another short night of z’s and you’re craving that muffin/fatty latte/bar of chocolate/packet of biscuits/Chinese takeout. What ever it is, after a rough night, you just can’t stop thinking about it. It’s not just you, it’s been proven that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight than those who do. So, do yourself a favour and take your mum’s advice, get a good night’s sleep.
6. Think Before You Drink
When I first wrote about this, I was actually referring to alcohol, but actually it goes for any kind of liquid. I’ll start with alcohol first though, as it is a bit of a double whammy. Firstly, alcohol contains a lot of sugar, so, a lot of calories. A large glass of wine (250ml = 3 units of alcohol) can be about 220 calories, this is about half of the amount of calories you can expect to find in a healthy evening meal and about a 10th of you daily recommended calorie intake (woman). So, think about it before you order, is it really worth it? The other thing about alcohol is that it makes it much more difficult for us to make good food choices. How many times have you went home via the take away after a few glasses?
It’s not just alcohol, drinks can be a way that we take on extra calories without being aware. The worst culprits are those so called healthy smoothies or the luxury coffees. Even your morning cuppa tea or Joe, watch out for the sugar you’re adding. Of course I don’t have to tell you about sweet fizzy drinks, they are just loaded with sugar.
7. Spice up Your Life
Taking the words of wisdom from the Spice girls, this is a great way to add healthy flavour to your food. It can be difficult to wean yourself of all those tempting sweet, creamy flavours and textures. There’s a reason for that, we’re programmed to go for high fat, high sugar foods as they give us lots of energy, but nowadays, for most of us, it is just too much. So what do you do? You don’t want to be eating bland food, goodness me no! When I discovered spices (and herbs) it really opened my eyes, I realised that I could bring flavour to anything and make the meal satisfying and enjoyable. I know that it can seem daunting, what with all those celebrity chefs making such a big fuss about how complex and complicated working with spices is, but it doesn’t have to be. Start small, mix a few, get a little collection together and believe me, you’ll never look back. See my article on spices for beginners.
8. Take Time To Eat
When you eat, do just that, nothing else. No watching TV, checking emails, phones, whatever. It really does help to sit at the table and concentrate, enjoy on that one thing, your food. You love to eat, so why not enjoy it? There is a little bit of science behind this too. It takes about 20 minutes for the message from your stomach that it is full to reach your brain, so, you need to give it time to get there. The other thing is, we, as much as we like to think that our brains can multitask, actually we are not good at it. We can only really do one thing at a time effectively.
9. Eat Regularly
It sounds really basic, I know, three square meals a day, but it does help. It’s easy to get into habits about skipping meals (especially breakfast and lunch), we get busy, we get tired, so, we skip a meal. What does it matter, it might even help, we’re trying to lose weight after all? The thing is, you just can’t trick your body, it is so much smarter and powerful than you may give it credit. If you skip a meal, you will only crave the more unhealthy food the hungrier you get. You know how it is, you’ve missed lunch because you were just so busy at work, by 4 o’clock you’re like a mad woman firing coins into the vending machine muttering ‘come on, come on!’ to the twix bar that just won’t fall out of it’s little holder fast enough. Again, it’s been a busy/bad day at work, you’ve got so much to do at home, so you think, I’ll just do this/that/the other before I have dinner. It’s 10pm before you sit down to your meal, then you flop in bed. This type of eating doesn’t help your body to help you stay fit and healthy. You need to keep the fires burning, keep the metabolism ticking over and I’ve always found that they key is not to let myself get starving hungry, when I am, I just grab anything I can get my hands on – so watch out.
10. Beware the “Expert”
Before you say, it, I’m in no way trying to be an expert. I am just sharing stuff that has worked for me. Just to get that out of the way. What I mean by expert is the latest diet/healthy eating guru who has found that illusive silver bullet. It might be a restrictive diet, or a diet supplement, pill, powder or potion, an intensive unsustainable eating or exercise program, the latest superfood (just a marketing term by the way). Whatever the fad, trend or ‘expert’ advice, beware, because it will all change tomorrow.
If you’d like to know more about how I lost 35 kilos and kept it off, check out my book ‘Love Food, Live Healthy’ Visit Amazon to purchase it digitally or in paperback.