Losing weight can be a really overwhelming journey to be on. There’s so much noise out there about what to eat, what not to eat, calorie counting, fad diets, calorie restriction etc. that it’s easy to get caught up in it all.
In fact, a lot of that noise doesn’t really work for the majority of the population which then leads to the restrict-binge cycle as well as yo-yo dieting where weight fluctuates up and down. If you’re looking to lose a few lbs, then losing weight doesn’t have to be about restrictive dieting and it definitely shouldn't lead to stress, anxiety and confusion. It’s about understanding your body, listening to your hunger and fullness cues and making a few lifestyle changes that will help you along your journey.
A lot of the time we mistake dehydration for hunger and therefore end up eating more than what our bodies require. One of the most common causes of cravings is also dehydration so making sure that we are getting enough good quality water into our system is so important. Try to aim for 2-3 litres of water a day and remember to take into account if it’s a hot day, if you’ve been exercising or if you’ve been sweating more – all of those factors may influence whether you need more or less.
Try drinking a tall glass of water half an hour before meals or if you’re craving a certain food as this is a good way to control you portion sizes and prevent overeating.
Refined carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta, bread etc. all spike blood sugar levels and leave us still feeling hungry after a meal. In fact, you may need to eat more refined carbs to feel full than if you were to eat whole grains. Replace the refined carbohydrates in your diet with complex carbohydrates as these will fill you up a lot quicker, keep you fuller for longer and therefore prevent you overeating either at meal times or in between meals. Eating whole grains means eating the grain in its whole form so switch to brown rice, pasta, bread, quinoa etc. Other great complex carbohydrates to add to your meals are sweet potato and other starchy vegetables like pumpkin, carrots and squash.
At meal times, aim for a fist full of whole grains and starchy carbohydrates.
When it comes to weight loss fibre is your friend! Fibre not only helps to keep you fuller for longer but it can also help move things along in your digestive system and keep your gut ticking along nicely. Fruits and vegetables are high in fibre which helps to slow down the digestion of these foods and promote stable blood sugar levels. That means you’ll be less likely to get sugar cravings throughout the day.
Adding vegetables to your meals, whole grains and snacking on fruit will also help to keep you fuller for longer and prevent you from overeating at meal times!
Not only do fruit and vegetables contain fibre which is essential for the inner workings of our body and gut, but they are also packed full of antioxidants which help reduce inflammation in the body! Great for weight loss.
Just be aware of how much you consume – aim for 2-3 portions a day of fruit and starchy veg and 5-7 of non-starchy vegetables. Try and aim to fill half your plate with leafy green vegetables at every meal (about 1-2 cups).
Even if you’re on a weight loss journey, it’s important to not fear fats! There’s a massive stigma attached around fats and weight loss, with many people avoiding ‘fat’ because they believe it will make them ‘fat’. That’s not the case at all. As with everything it’s about eating in moderation and not over-consuming a certain food or food group but fats are actually essential for our health and vitality.
A good serving size of monounsaturated fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts etc.) is about a thumb sized serving (remember this will include any fat you use during the cooking process of your food). Aim for 2 portions of oily fish a week.
Protein is also essential for our bodies to function optimally and lean protein is needed for cell growth and renewal, blood sugar stabilisation and energy production. We are made out of the amino acids that make up protein therefore we need to make sure we are getting all the essential amino acids our bodies need through our diet.
If you choose to have a plant based diet, making sure you’re eating a variety of foods and protein sources is important to make sure you’re consuming all the essential amino acids our bodies can’t produce. If you choose to eat animal protein, grass fed beef and free range chicken are healthier and more ethically sounds choices than feedlot meats.
A good portion size of lean protein is around the size of your palm.
Skipping breakfast can lead to cravings, overeating and blood sugar imbalances. Therefore, if you’re on a weight loss journey it’s important to eat a nutrient balanced breakfast to help reduce cravings and prevent blood sugar spikes later on in the day.
If you struggle to eat in the mornings then making a morning green smoothie with some healthy fat and protein might be a great option for you.
When aiming to lose weight, maintaining blood sugar levels is key. This decreases your chances of getting to hungry and overeating later on, binging on certain foods or craving sweeter foods throughout the day. Eating more frequently is a great way to maintain and balance your blood sugar levels and prevent them from dropping too low. It let’s your body know that food is available and that it’s ok to burn energy rather than store it as fat.
If you do choose to eat more regularly then make sure you alter your portion sizes and eat smaller quantities of food to avoid overeating throughout the day.
Exercising and moving your body is essential for your overall health and a great way to help boost your weight loss. Exercising regularly can help decrease your body weight, reduce your waist circumference (a measurement that’s associated with many health conditions), lowers your resting heart rate, improves your blood pressure and improves your mood!
Aim to walk 10,000 steps a day. If that seems too much for you to start off with then don’t overwhelm yourself – allow yourself to build up to that. As well as this, aim for 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week (150 minutes per week).
Another good way to increase your weight loss is to increase your incidental activity. This is the activity and movement you do throughout the day aside from the gym or working out such as playing with your kids, taking the dog for a walk, taking the stairs instead of the lift, riding a bike to work instead of taking the bus etc.
Having a lack of sleep disrupts your circadian rhythm and can lead to fatigue, low metabolism and an increased appetite. When you’re tired, your cortisol (a stress hormone) levels increase which then leads to increased hunger. This means you may experience more cravings or be more likely to overeat, binge and overindulge. That’s why getting a good night’s sleep is imperative for achieving your weight loss goal.
A lack of sleep can also lead to abnormal leptin and ghrelin levels (hormones that tell your body ‘I’m full, stop eating’) which means that we aren’t as connected to our hunger and fullness cues throughout the day. Again, this can lead to poorer food choices and impact your efforts of losing weight.
If you’re not already cooking your own meals, then it’s time to put on that apron and get familiar with your kitchen! Healthy cooking doesn’t have to be time consuming, expensive or overwhelming and I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to spend ages slaving away at the stove. It’s time to get creative in the kitchen and start enjoying cooking and preparing your own meals and snacks.
By cooking your own meals, you’ll be able to control portion sizes a lot more, the ingredients that go into your food and the quality of your ingredients. You’ll be able to lower the salt, fat and calorie content of your food simply by cooking from scratch rather than eating out, buying ready meals, pre-packaged foods or ordering Deliveroo!
There are so many healthy ways of cooking your food which will really help your weight loss efforts by cutting calories, increasing nutrient content AND you can do all of that while still enjoying the taste of the food you’re eating! Remember, healthy food doesn’t mean it has to be boring!
Start to be a detective of what you eat and record what goes into your body. Opt for cleaner ingredients and avoid pre-packaged or processed foods that are high in salt, refined sugar, additives, preservative or trans fats. Keeping a food diary is also a great way of monitoring how much you eat, making sure you’re maintaining a balanced diet, keeping a track on portion control and beginning to learn how food affects your body. Ideally you want the food you’re eating to leave you feeling full but energised and light. Notice how you feel straight after eating and then how you feel 2-3 hours after. If you’re hungry, feel sluggish, bloated or irritable, then it might be time to reassess what you’re eating as it may not be serving you best. Ultimately you want your diet to be serving you in the best way possible so that your food choices are sustainable.