A few weeks ago I wrote this article about how to make keeping your new year’s resolutions easy and achievable. Hopefully now it’s February, you have been following the (great) advice and are starting to see some positive changes! If you’ve not, then click the link and start making small, easy changes to your everyday life and start watching the weight fall off.
You’ve given up the fizzy drinks, you’ve been walking and you’ve got more energy. But what next? Things are going pretty good, but now you want to step things up another level. We talked about how drinks can add an unexpectedly large amount of hidden calories to your day, but what about the obvious calories – food?
There are some good guidelines to follow that will help your weight loss and I’ll outline them here. Like in the last article, there is nothing too extreme, nothing hard to stick to and it is all sustainable. Things like the cabbage soup diet are awful – nobody can maintain that long term. Fine, you might lose weight for the party or the holiday or whatever your goal is, but as sure as the sun will rise, you’ll put it all back on again.
With fad diets you deprive your body of what it needs in quite a drastic way. All this does is ensure that when you start eating food again, your body holds onto extra energy in case you try and kill yourself once more. Oh, and it holds onto that extra energy as fat. Not what you want.
A steady approach is a better way to tackle weight loss. With starvation diets you metabolise everything, muscle and fat. With a more sensible, long-term approach you are able to hold onto more muscle, and muscle is the stuff that makes you look good! So how do we do it?
The more you cook, the better you look! It’s so tempting, and easy, to just order in. I know, I know, we’ve all been there. I hate cooking but I love to eat, so if I can suck it up and turn the oven on, so can you. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or overly “healthy”, but making it yourself is always the better alternative to ordering in.
Protein has a bad rap at the moment and I’m not sure why.
From accusations that it causes high blood pressure to kidney failure, protein has come under a lot of unfair scrutiny – all of which has been debunked. Think of protein as building blocks, it gets broken down by your gut and turned into new cells, or used to repair injuries or helping to heal yourself after exercise.
Protein is great – it heals, but it also makes you feel more full for longer. If you have a protein-rich meal, like a large steak, how do you feel? Hot, for a start, but also full. This means less snacking between meals, leaving more on your plate and a satisfying way to eat less.
However, so many people seem to treat protein as though it’s poison. You’ll see people eating a nice large salad and that’s their entire meal. No wonder diets don’t last! As nice as salad is, it isn’t filling and there’s only so exciting you can make lettuce, cucumber and carrot. Throw in some chicken or steak or even nuts and you’re on to a winner. Eat to get and stay full and suddenly this whole “being on a diet” thing gets a lot easier.
Make sleep a priority
If this isn’t a popular one, then I don’t know what will be! Now, this isn’t an excuse to lie in bed all day I’m afraid. (Although if you can, why not?) It’s more a call to get to bed earlier. If you have to choose between “just one more show” and hitting the hay, then hit the hay.
So why sleep more? Surely all the weight loss happens when you’re active and exercising? Well….no. It happens because of the exercise, but not whilst you exercise. Exercise is a stressor and stress puts an immediate halt to metabolism. How do you get rid of stress and get your body burning fat as fuel again? You rest. Sleep, meditation and relaxing will help get your stress levels down after exercise, which means that your body can start processing food again.
Fasting, made popular by Jesus, Buddha and Martin Berkhan. Martin is the eccentric, but incredibly lean, nutritionist over at Leangains. Berkhan’s modern day take on fasting has less to do with spending 40 days and nights in a dessert, and more to do with eating whatever you like (within reason) whilst losing weight.
The principle is simple, if you fast for a set period of time, you can eat whatever you like without getting fat. This is due to your body becoming more insulin sensitive. Insulin is the hormone that decides where calories go within your body. Do they get stored in muscles as glycogen for emergencies? Do they get transported into muscles to help them get bigger and stronger? Or do those calories sit around your stomach as fat and wait to be used sometime in the future? The more insulin sensitive you are, the more likely calories are to go somewhere useful, and having not eaten for 16 hours makes you very insulin sensitive!
How do you do it then? There are two options, one is to not eat for 16 hours a day, every day, and hen cram in all your calories into that remaining 8 hours. If you start your fast just before bed, then that’s half of your fasting time spent asleep, which is suddenly less daunting. During your 8 hour eating window, eat whatever you like, but that 16 hour fast is sacred.
The other way of doing it was made popular in the 5:2 Diet Book. The advice here is to completely abstain from food for 24 hours, twice a week. So the choice is yours – shorter fasts more frequently, or longer fasts less frequently.
Eat more fat
Woah! Hold the phone! We’re supposed to be losing fat, not eating it! Are you trying to give us a heart attack? No, I’m not. Fat, like protein, makes you feel much more full for far longer, so a bit of fat in your diet will go a long way. I’m not talking margarine, which is basically a plastic that even insects won’t eat. I mean things like olive oil, butter, coconut oil. These are good, healthy fats that will keep you from snacking or feeling hungry and miserable.
There is the connotation between the fat you eat and the fat on your body. These are not the same thing! There is tonnes of research that shows how fat is healthy and will help with things like epilepsy, dementia, ADHD, diabetes, cholesterol levels, heart disease and lots of other chronic diseases. It can be argued that the lack of fat in our modern day diets is one of the main reasons we suffer from so many chronic diseases. Stop being scared of butter and start being scared of the low fat alternatives. If it has no fat, it will taste like cardboard – unless it’s crammed full of sugar! Sugar, by the way, now kills more people a year than guns…
So there you have it, lots of ways to improve the way you eat and even some ways to not eat! There are thousands of diets and eating plans and experts out there, some are good and some are bad just like in all walks of life. It’s up to you to try them out and see which fits best for you, these are just some good ideas that I’ve had some great experience with. Let me know how you’re getting on and follow me on Facebook.