I recently posted a list of the ten things you DON’T need to do for lasting weight loss. Here are the things you should try instead….
1. Eat your favourite food(s)
If you read my previous email/blog you’ll already know my thoughts on what happens when you try to completely cut out the things you love. You’ll feel deprived and resentful and when you give in to the inevitable craving you’re likely to feel guilty and unhappy.
Consider making room in your diet for your favourite food by cleaning up the stuff you don’t love so much. If you love a date night Chinese with your partner, or enjoy some me time with tea and a few biscuits, keep that thing in your life, but tidy up your eating elsewhere – lose the sweets you accept from a colleague in the office, switch to diet versions of drinks, don’t finish the food from your kids’ plates. Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect and it will be more sustainable if you don’t feel completely deprived.
2. Do some meal planning
If you’re going to cook healthy meals you need healthy ingredients in your house. So before you do a shop, put some thought into what you might cook over the coming days and make a list of the ingredients you’ll need. If you have the right ingredients to hand, you won’t be so tempted to call for a delivery or make something stodgy because stodge is all you’ve got in the house
3. Plan for eating when you’re out and about
One of the biggest challenges when you’re trying to eat well is finding healthy snacks when you’re out and about. You can of course prepare food and take it with you but it may not be practical (or appealing) to carry meals with you.
Consider carrying a couple of snacks with you, such as fruit or healthy snack bars, but also spend some time researching what’s on offer in chain sandwich shops and cafés, so you have a few “go to” options when you do have to buy lunch out. If you know what you want when you go in you won’t have to browse what’s on offer and you’ll be less likely to be tempted by the unhealthier options.
4. Keep a food diary – BEFORE you make any changes to your eating habits
Yes, BEFORE. Why? Well in my experience people often underestimate what they eat in a day, or “forget” the food they eat straight from the fridge, from other people’s plates or while preparing a meal.
If you keep an honest and complete food (and drink) diary for a couple of weeks you’ll have a clear picture of your unhealthier habits and your weaknesses. You can use that to identify the things you most need to change or reduce, or some quick wins. One of my clients was surprised to find that she regularly bought four milky coffees a day when she kept a food diary. That adds up to a lot of calories, but she hadn’t realised just how many she was drinking every day.
5. Cut down on processed foods
Processed foods generally have fewer nutrients than foods in their more natural form. They are also formulated to be as delicious as possible, making it harder to control the amount you eat.
6. Go off menu
Just because the menu says that something comes with a side portion of fries, you don’t have to eat them. But if they are delivered to your table you are quite likely to eat them. So when you place an order in a restaurant ask your server to substitute something healthier. You’re the customer and any decent restaurant or café will be happy to help you.
7. Be healthy 80-90% of the time
Sustainable healthy eating has to involve some treats. Aim to eat healthy meals 80-90% of the time, then have a few less healthy things to keep you on track and to avoid feeling deprived.
If you eat 3 meals a day that’s 21 meals per week – 85% of those meals is roughly 18, leaving 3 meals per week where you be a bit more indulgent.
8. Be patient
Lasting weight loss is not quick weight loss. If you lose weight quickly through deprivation and by putting your life on hold it won’t stay off, as you can’t live the rest of your life like it. Cut yourself a little slack, lose weight slowly and develop healthier, sustainable habits which you can maintain more easily.
9. Sit down to eat (or drink)
Many of my clients confess to eating on the go, or to drinking coffee as they walk to work. I always ask “and do you enjoy that?” and the answer is usually no, because they hardly notice what they are consuming. Now I don’t think it’s worth consuming anything if you’re hardly aware you’re doing it, so try not to eat when you don’t actually have the time to concentrate on what you are doing, and wait until you’re able to sit down (or at least stand still!) to enjoy it.
10. Don’t use exercise to punish yourself for eating
Please don’t try to burn off a bad diet with exercise. Yes, you burn some calories, but it makes exercise feel like a chore or a punishment when really it should be a celebration of feeling energetic and healthy. And if you tell yourself that you can burn off anything you eat by simply doing more exercise then you’re essentially giving yourself permission to continue to overeat and/or eat unhealthily. That’s not a recipe for long term weight loss or health.
I hope you found these tips useful. If you need help to develop a better way of eating for long term weight loss and a happier relationship with food, take a look at how I can help.
And if you missed my earlier post about the ten things you DON’T need to do, you can find it here.