We all want to eat freely without constraints and the worry of gaining weight. I believe that if you tackle one habit at a time and make small goals you can achieve this.
This is coming from the girl who would happily sit after school and consume half a loaf of toast with various toppings and the following day starve myself because I felt so guilty. My change has been gradual. I am not aware of it happening.
I want to share my Top 12 Tips for a Healthy 2018 to last you throughout the year and beyond.
Don’t starve yourself!
After the overindulgence of Christmas, it’s quite common for people to cut right back and really limit their calorie intake in January.
Don’t do it! I have been there, done that and it doesn’t work. The only result is MISERY and STARVATION!
If you deprive yourself, you will be hungry, low in energy, and your willpower will be non-existent. You are more likely to reach for fatty foods and bad carbs to satisfy yourself. This is the sad part, your body will get used to the low calories and will stop burning fat as your metabolism slows down. It will need to store fat for energy and you will not actually lose any weight. So not only have you denied yourself food, you will hold on to the body fat you wish to shed!
Your goal should be to eat as many calories as you can and still lose or maintain your weight. Should your weight plateau, it may be that you require less calories as your body gets smaller. If you are already at a very low intake there is no room for manoeuvre.
Your body is a clever machine, treat it well and give it the right amount of food!
Keep a food diary
Write down everything that you eat and drink. This may seem very simple and a bit retro, but recording everything that passes your lips will increase your awareness and accountability. It should help you eat fewer calories and therefore lose weight if that is your aim.
Your food diary will help identify areas where changes could be made in terms of food choices, eating times and portions.
If you are an emotional eater, record in your food diary how you were feeling and how hungry you were. You will start to see patterns emerging and this can be very beneficial to helping you change those behaviours. Use the findings from your food diary to set small goals each week.
Set Small Goals
Diets don’t work. If you have tried them in the past and you are looking this New Year to lose weight once more, you will know this to be the case. Prescriptive diets that come with a list of rules and forbidden foods are not fun! Quite often it is a complete change to your usual diet and behaviours. You can manage it for a few weeks, maybe a few months when motivation is high, but then it becomes boring, you start to crave forbidden foods and the weight gradually creeps back on and you are back to where you started.
Think of your journey like stepping stones. You can’t jump to the very last stone without falling and hurting yourself. You know you want to get there, but be patient and take small steps.
How do you do this?
Set yourself three small goals each week. By gradually changing old behaviours and bringing in the new it will quite quickly become your new habit. When you achieve this and it feels natural, move on to a new one. Once new habits have been in place for 6 months they are much more likely to last long term.
The view from the last step is beautiful!
Plan and Organise
Even if motivation and willpower are high, if you have failed to buy or prepare the right foods, you will not succeed in your quest for health.
- Have a look at recipes in magazines, cook books and online.
- Plan your meals.
- Write a shopping list.
- Batch cook in large portions and freeze the remainder in small freezer bags.
- Take a packed lunch and snacks to work.
- Have healthy snacks in the fridge and cupboard for emergencies.
I am a BIG fan of the batch cook. I make huge quantities and flat freeze everything. After a few weeks you have a great collection of food in the freezer so you don’t need to cook each night.
- Drink Water
Drink at least 2 litres per day. If you are not used to it, it can seem like a lot. Spread it out throughout the day. If you are drinking from a 500ml bottle, every time you fill it, put an elastic band to count how much you have had. Once you have 4 elastic bands you are done! The water that you drink during exercise does not count towards your daily total, you are merely replacing lost water.Water helps you burn calories as it increases your metabolism.Water boosts your energy levels and helps move nutrients around your body enabling you to have more effective workouts.Sometimes when we feel hungry we are actually just thirsty.Have a glass of water when you feel hunger to determine how hungry you actually are.
Reaching for a glass of water also stops you consuming sugary drinks with empty calories.
Read Food Labels
Start looking at food labels. The traffic light system of green for low, amber for moderate and red for high allows us to see at a glance the amount of calories, fat, sugar, and salt each product contains and helps us choose between two similar items.
Be aware of healthy slogans on the front of packaging to lure us in and lead us to believe it’s a healthy natural product. “30% less fat” “All Natural” “No added sugar”. Manufacturers want us to buy their product and they know our weak spots. Read the ingredients list and look at the nutritional composition to decide if it is indeed a healthy choice or just a marketing ploy.
The ingredients are listed in order or quantity. If the first, second or third ingredient is sugar, syrup, glucose or fructose it will be a high sugar product. We want to eat food as close to its natural state as possible. Food that has lots of chemicals and additives are not good for us. Be aware of how many E numbers and strange sounding ingredients your food contains.
When it states on the packaging ‘calories per serving’ check to see their suggested serving size. It can be alluring to see Double Chocolate Ice-Cream for only 95 calories per serving. When you check their serving size you see it’s only half a tablespoon and if you were aiming to eat half the tub, there could be a problem!
You don’t need to rush out and buy new gym gear, and sign up for a year’s gym membership. In fact I advise my clients against such a thing at the start. If you have made a commitment to make nutrition changes you will be spending more time planning meals and cooking. The added pressure of having to go to the gym can be too much.
Start moving more. Walking has such amazing benefits in terms of weight loss and general health and well-being. Take the stairs, walk during your lunch break or take your dog an extra-long walk every second day. Take things from the pile at the bottom of the stairs up one at a time rather than all together. Do a handstand if the notion takes you! It will all add up and make you feel good!
Don’t fear carbs
Carbohydrates should not be feared, we need them. When you cut them out you will be irritable, unable to concentrate, mad with hunger and very tired. You will crave the really bad carbs and if you smell fresh doughnuts you will probably need to eat them.
Choose wholegrain carbohydrates which have a lower glycaemic index (GI). This means they don’t spike your blood sugar and you will feel fuller for longer. Oats are a great way to start your day as they release energy slowly and stop mid-morning hunger pangs.
If you take part in high intensity activities your body needs carbohydrates. They are also essential for healthy brain function.
Eat more green vegetables
Green vegetables are high in antioxidants, minerals and contain excellent fibre which is lacking in a lot of diets. Fibre keeps you full and crowds out other more high calorie foods. With the exception of peas, green vegetables tend to be lower in calories which will help you achieve that calorie deficit.
There are countless health benefits too – improving immune system, healthy skin, bones and muscles, aids digestion and helps the absorption of calcium …the list goes on!
If you are not a fan of the green vegetables, add flavour rather than just boiling the life out of them. Try stir frying with garlic, ginger and chilli or making a honey and mustard dressing to pour over. There are many ways to enhance the flavour so plentiful green vegetables becomes a new daily habit.
Get a good night’s sleep
I know… easier said than done. Modern life, the housework, work, children, clubs, pressures of family life can prevent you getting the sleep that you need. I go to bed far later than I intend to most night so I can get some alone time after everything is done. I regret it most mornings!
Why does it help the battle of the bulge if I get more sleep?
Tiredness reduces our willpower. You are more likely to reach for something unhealthy to instantly gratify you and give you a quick energy boost. You are less likely prepare food from scratch and you may reach for a convenience food or takeaways. If you haven’t had enough sleep, you may still take part in exercise, but you will not be able to give it full commitment.
I need to take my own advice for this one…Go to bed earlier!
Don’t get stuck in a rut
Variety is the spice of life! Chicken breast, broccoli and sweet potato can get pretty tiresome night after night. Get creative and try something new. If you are excited about the food you are eating you are more likely to stay motivated.
There are so many delicious recipes and foods to try that are lean, healthy and keep you full. Challenge yourself to make one or two new recipes each week and store the rest in single and double portions in small freezer bags.
Learn How to cope with a Lapse
It’s what you do AFTER the sneaky bar of chocolate and not the actual chocolate bar that will shape your success. When you set yourself a really strict eating regime and you have a lapse, this can often lead to feelings of guilt and a sense of failure.
If food accidentally falls into your mouth, eat it, enjoy it and move on. It is NOT the reason for you to eat more nonsense! All you need to do is alter your choices for the rest of the day so you are balanced and within your limits.When you are able to eat something off plan, and then move on without the guilt and throwing the towel in you have learned something pretty special.
If you are looking for some extra support this year with setting goals and learning about nutrition. I offer a Personal Nutrition Service as well as Kitchen Bootcamps to learn new recipes.