Over my years of training people and helping them to lose countless kilos of excess body fat, I have come to the conclusion that most strict diets do not work long-term.
For a diet plan to be maintained over a long period it must be simple, realistic, manageable and flexible. No-one wants to be counting calories, weighing out portions, avoiding all fats or eating like a rabbit every day for the rest of their lives. This is why most people slip back into their old eating habits within 12 weeks of beginning a diet.
Instead, think about introducing longterm changes that will benefit your health and keep that extra body fat off for good.
Here are a few basic diet guidelines that will help shed extra body fat, keep it off and improve your overall health.
1. Eat protein with most meals and snacks. Add protein to lower the GI of foods, e.g. add nuts and seeds to cereal or add cottage cheese to just about anything.
2. Replace grains with greens. Try using lettuce or red cabbage as the bread of sandwiches and burgers. Substitute crackers with slices of cucumbers with your favorite toppings. Place poached eggs on spinach instead of toast.
3. Drink plenty of water. Water can and does affect weight loss. Drinking plenty of water is essential to ensure good kidney function. Without enough water the kidneys dump part of their workload on the liver. The liver is the body’s main fat-processing plant; if it is doing some of the kidney’s work it will metabolise less fat and weight loss will stall.
4. Plan ahead with food and snacks. This is the best defence against making poor food choices. Plan ahead for the week’s meals and take good quality snacks with you from home like raw nuts and seeds, boiled eggs, fruit or carrot sticks with hummus.
5. Do 90% of your shopping in the outside isles of the supermarket. Supermarkets are set out so most of the natural and whole foods are around the outside and the processed foods are in the middle isles. Do most of your shopping around the outside asprocessed foods should be avoided. It is also a good idea to try to eat in technicolor, by which I mean eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables in order to get a wide range of nutrients.
6. Eat most of your food earlier in the day. Eat the majority of your food in the morning and early afternoon. Food is our fuel; therefore it makes sense to have it before we do activity. Eating a huge meal in the evening is a waste of energy as most people simply relax or watch television, then go to bed. Consider eating less in the evening and adding it throughout the morning.
7. Be good 90% of the time. Eat natural whole foods 90% of the time. Allow the other 10% for meals out or having pizza or other processed foods. If you allow the 10% indulgence you will not feel trapped in a healthy food plan and are much more likely to continue eating well in the long term.
8. Don’t go hungry! Consider 4-6 smaller meals. A good option is to eat 4-6 smaller meals throughout the day. This may seem like a real inconvenience but it is worth it, and with a little planning becomes easy.
Over the years the human race has gone through cycles of famine and plenty. Because of this the body has a storage system similar to water retention. If you miss a meal or go for a prolonged period without eating the body moves swiftly into ‘survival storage mode’. This means that the next thing you eat will be stored as fat for later use and is due to the huge amount of insulin released. Eating at regular intervals will keep this survival mechanism in check.
9. Good fats are friends. Good fats are found in natural substances such as fish (Omega-3) especially salmon and sardines. These good fats are found in most varieties of nuts and seeds (almonds, flax seeds, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds etc) plus avocado and olive oil. These fats are essential for our good health and actually help you lose weight but remember they are also very high in calories so eat in moderation.
10. Eliminate starch totally from 3-4 dinners per week. This means no pasta, rice, breads or potatoes. Consuming the high amount of sugars in these foods at night is a bad move. At night we generally do very little activity, which means those carbohydrates will have to be stored as body fat.
11. Cut down on starchy and high GI food. A good way to do this is to avoid anything made from flour like muffins, baked goods and bread. Go for lower GI options such as brown rice instead of white and buy bread that is dense, with soy and linseed. Replace crackers with cucumber and avoid sweet drinks, especially energy drinks. Remember that it is important to keep your blood sugar levels constant and stable.
12. Do not eat anything sweet after dinner. When high sugar foods are eaten close to bed-time, insulin levels shoot up and you will gain fat during sleep. Also, do not eat anything three hours before going to bed.
13. Eat plenty of fibre. Fibre is essential in weight loss through its cleansing effects and bowel function properties. Good sources of fibre are found in fruit (kiwifruit), green salad and vegetables, All Bran cereal, and of course fibre supplements like psyllium husk(you can add psyllium husk to a lot of recipes). A great idea is to have a glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon first thing in the morning to get the bowels moving.
Eating to lose weight and be healthy does not have to rule your life. If you make these easy changes you will see great improvements in your health and your waistline. Eat natural and whole unprocessed foods most of the time, exercise most days and you will be amazed at what you can achieve. Remember that true outer beauty is a reflection of inner health.