I did personalised calorie & protein calculations for a young lady recently. She started using MyFitnessPal, and despite hitting her fat loss eating targets she's struggling to know where to start in terms of building a healthier, more sustainable overall diet instead of eating crap within her allowances. Both will make you lose weight, but of course it's better to focus on good quality nutrition to keep your body healthy and mind sharp. Now I know it's much more media attractive to promote a simple unsustainable shitty juice diet than make BALANCE an attractive idea. If you've done several diets in the past, you're used to being given specific rules on how to eat for a short period of time. Unfortunately, this is very rarely sustainable and the cold truth is that if you want to lose weight and keep it off for good, you have to work on finding your own balance with nutrition. A professional can help you build up good basics, but you must do the hard work of integrating the new habits into your lifestyle yourself.
Here's my top 5 tips on how to make the process as painless as possible:
- Eat only when you're hungry. Wait for it, and then really enjoy your food. Always have a healthy snack handy though (fruit/nuts/natural yoghurt/even just a glass of water), because the time when you're most likely to make bad choices with nutrition is towards the end of the day when you're tired and hungry. Kill off the biggest hunger whilst you're making a quick healthy meal.
- Focus on colours. The more colours you have in your diet, the more vitamins your body gets from the food you eat. Now obviously this doesn't include artificial colourings. Stock up on different coloured veg to get up to a great start, or have a side salad with your meal. If you're not a huge fan on veg, just chop it up small to hide it in great traditional dishes like spaghetti bolognese or various oven bakes. I tend to throw in onion, garlic, peppers, grated carrots and even celery for a great tasting, authentic spag bol.
- Eat from a small plate. This has all to do with your brain - research shows that if you eat the same amount of food from a small plate versus a larger plate, you'll be full sooner eating from the smaller plate. This is because your brain will perceive that you've had more food when you've finished off a full plate. If you're genuinely still hungry after finishing it, feel free to top up. Another related tip that can work wonders is to eat with a smaller fork, or even just a teaspoon.
- Focus on the positives. There are no foods you can't have if you're trying to lose weight. Your brain is very bad at processing negatives - if you tell yourself you "can't have chocolate", all your brain hears is "have chocolate". Traditional dieting - where you're only allowed certain types of foods - and not allowed others, is based on a deprivation mindset. This won't help you build long lasting habits. To build a sustainable healthy diet, you are in fact allowed anything you want, but you should learn to not want a lot of it. Just think about the reasons of why you want to eat it. To successfully maintain your dream weight, your diet should consist 80-90% of real foods and 10-20% of treats (this can be readily processed foods, chocolate, alcohol... whatever you fancy). When your overall diet is based on real, nutritious food, you'll feel fantastic and full of energy... So why would you want to ruin it with tons of junk? Remember, the first bite of your favourite foods/treats is always lovely.... And the experience doesn't increase on the 10th mouthful. You can learn to just have a bite of chocolate, not the whole bar at once.
- Balance out your macros. Try to find a balance with having all three types of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) in good proportion with every meal. Fats are highest in calories, so although you need fats to be healthy, you also want to be careful not to over consume them. For portion control, take a handful (not more) of carbs with each meal (that's pasta/rice/potatoes...) and limit added fats to a minimum. You'll get enough fats pretty much with any diet, so focus on foods that contain great quality fats like avocado or salmon. Also, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil a day has great health benefits, so you can make sure to top your side salad with that every day. Processed fats (transfats) are the worst and super unhealthy, as these are produced in factories just to make your processed food palatable. Most importantly, try to make sure to have protein (meat, dairy, eggs...) with every single meal of the day and you're off to a great start - it's also the macronutrient with the highest satiety factor, i.e. it'll make you feel full for the longest.
I hope these tips will help you build a healthier, sustainable diet that'll get you the body you deserve. Maybe you can share it with a friend to help them out too.
Peace out, love yourselves.