As we emerge out of the dark wintery months and into the lighter days of spring, we may find our focus is coming back to our diet and how we look and feel being at its optimum. It’s been a slightly challenging last year where many of us have found comfort in the arms of banana bread. We soothed our souls through comforting food and possibly drunk a lot more wine than we would have previously done. Anyone who has been involved in home schooling knows that the time to have a drink has got earlier and never felt more needed.
As a weight loss -coach I work with people to achieve their weight loss goals. You’ve likely landed here for the same reasons. Do you have a few pounds or a couple of dress sizes to shift?
The diet industry is vast and the type of diet you choose will vary from person to person. From Weight Watchers to the 5:2 fasting diet, each one bringing its own merits. But whichever diet you choose ( I can help you achieve weight loss though eating a balanced diet but more on that later) there are some useful pointers that will help you have a successful weight loss journey.
I’ve put together some useful tips to help you along the way:
When I embark on a diet, I like to spend a little time getting into the right mindset and preparing for the beginning of the start date. The week before you start, write a food diary or journal and record everything you eat and drink. It’ll help you identify where you need to make changes and act as a reminder of your habits as you go through your diet. Note the times, where you eat, your mood to highlight what you are eating when you are feeling fed up. Are you having TV dinners? Are you eating late at night? For the record we tend to munch down on high carb comfort food when we’re fed up or feeling low and we tend to eat quicker and snack more if we eat whilst watching TV. Eating late at night can increase your blood sugar levels and affect your sleep which can affect your memory and efficiency the next day.
It is a good idea to carry on your food journal as you progress with your diet to help
Keep you on track. Make it a mission and it will give you a real sense of achievement.
· Get rid of unhealthy foods – It’s time to sort out the cupboards! In the lead up to a diet it’s always good to get rid of temptation. Donate those cakes, biscuits and crisps to willing neighbours or dare I say it, throw it away. Then have your healthy foods at hand so they are easy to get to.
When on your diet
· Drink more water during your diet to keep you hydrated and to stay healthy. Aim for 8 glasses a day. Water is not only good for hydration it helps you to lose weight too. Water has 0 calories and helps you to feel full. So often when we’re getting hunger pangs it's our body telling us it's thirsty. By drinking a glass of water before a meal, you will feel fuller and eat less too.
Drinking water instead of sugary drinks or even sugar free drinks will retrain your body and tastebuds to enjoy less sugar, so you’ll crave fewer sweet treats and empty carbs. If you need help getting started drinking more water, try to drink a glass of water before each drink, each time you have a drink during the day. You could also try adding natural flavours to your water, like lemon juice, mint or fresh fruit slices.
· Practice good sleep patterns. Weight loss hacks are not just about food and calories. They are about rest too. Rest and sleep are just as important for how your body functions and what your body craves. When you sleep you have more energy during the day, so your body craves fewer empty carbs and sugar to give you more energy. Have you noticed that all you want is sweets and pastries when you're super tired?
Ways to improve your sleeping habits:
o Turn off the TV and any electronics at least an hour before going to bed.
o Have a relaxing bath, read a book, meditate, do yoga before going to bed to help you get a good night’s sleep
o Stop drinking caffeine after 6pm
o Start an exercise routine
The more regular and good sleep you get, the happier your body will be. Making it
Easier to get and stay healthy.
· Cook your own meals. A great way to kick start weight loss and healthy eating is to cook your own food. Cooking your food from scratch will give you full control over the quality of ingredients, portions and calories that you put in your body. It’s the first step to taking control of your food. Eating pre -packed foods that are made to be kept on the shelves don’t nourish your body.
· Meal Plan. This is hugely important when it comes to successful dieting. Setting out your meals for a week ahead of time not only means you won’t only have loads of tempting foods around, but it’ll also be kind to your pocket. You buy only what you need. It’ll help you stick to your plan and you get to be in control of the recipes and what you eat.
· Keep healthy foods close. If you’re going to snack, then make it healthy and have them close to hand. Snacks get a bad name in dieting because we often reach for overly processed, sugar high, salt high and fat high snacks. Lots of flavour but lots of calories too. Go for low sugar alternatives like nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruits, beef jerky, dark chocolate, high protein foods like cottage cheese and boiled eggs and full fat Greek yoghurt. Do be careful of portion size here though as foods like nuts contain fat, its beneficial fat but too much still racks up the calories.
· Learn portion control. Portion sizes are getting larger and larger despite the need to eat less. Restaurants and takeaway portions are way too big. One portion can easily exceed your calorie needs for an entire day. It’s all about understanding what you need and eating just that. Do the full test. If you eat slowly and mindfully learn to recognise when you are ‘full’. Although we have been raised to ‘finish your plate’ if we eat more than our body needs, the food will be stored as extra fat.
· Spice things up. If you want to make your new healthy lifestyle interesting and wanting you coming back for more then add some spice or flavour to your food. Many people on a diet produce bland and boring food. I know I won’t stick to a diet if my food doesn’t taste interesting. Add spices, homemade sauces and marinades to really spice things up. Add things like sea salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, dried herbs, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ground ginger and coconut sugar
· Learn to spot sugar. Identifying the sugar amount and sources in your food is essential to getting healthy. Contrary to what you may think sugar is not just found in desserts, soft drinks and sweet foods. Sugar is everywhere, in canned food, in junk food in bread and even in many snacks that are advertised as healthy. To identify the sugar, make sure you read the label on everything and stay away from anything that has added sugar. One way to recognise sugar in food labels is by the ‘ose’ suffix. Sucrose, maltose, fructose, galactose, high fructose corn syrup is sugar just under a different name.
To reduce sugar intake:
o Drink water instead of sugar filled drinks
o Homemade sauces instead of canned sauces with lots of sugar
o Identify the names of sugar
o Use healthier alternatives for sweeteners like coconut sugars and raw honey
o Avoid artificial sweeteners
Remember if you see brown sugar, fruit juice, malt syrup or organic cane juice they
are still refined sugar no matter how lovely they sound.
· Use your blender. One fantastic and simple way to get your vitamins and minerals in is to make juices or smoothies. Simply place your chosen ingredients into the machine and press start. It’s a great way to start the day and to really combine a lot of goodness that are low calorie, natural and tasty.
And finally….forgive yourself. If you slip off the diet wagon don’t give yourself a hard time. It’s usually a matter of not if but when. We’re human right. Forgive yourself, dust yourself off and go again.
Happy dieting folks