Has the silly season left its mark on your waistline? Try this healthy-eating lifestyle plan, designed to help you lose weight right now and acquire healthy habits to last a life time.
1. Make your goals visible
Start off on the right foot by writing down exactly what you hope to achieve with this plan. Keep your expectations reasonable: 300–900g per week is considered a normal, healthy rate of weight loss. Write down what you weigh now, and update this once a week, but not more often.
Obsessing over daily weight fluctuations is pointless, says dietitian Ria Buys, because our bodies are composed largely of water. “How much water you drink, your hormone levels, and your body’s electrolyte balance will all affect your weight, and you can expect daily fluctuations of up to one, and sometimes even two kilograms.” Buys recommends weighing yourself only once a week — or even once every two weeks — for an accurate reflection of weight lost.
2. Keep a food diary
Write down every bite you eat — it’s the only way to keep track of how you’re really doing. Also write down what time you ate; how hungry you were on a scale of 1—10; and how you were feeling at that moment (excited, stressed, nervous etc). This will help you learn to differentiate between eating for emotional reasons and eating because you’re hungry.
3. Change your tableware
Eating from a smaller plate or bowl will trick your mind into thinking you’re eating more than you really are. A study at Cornell University in the US found that doubling the size of the bowl increased how much people ate by 31 percent. Another great trick is to eat with chopsticks, which will slow down your eating and allow you to concentrate on your food. You’ll feel satisfied with less because your brain will have time to register that your stomach is full.
4. Move it!
Don’t expect to reach your weight-loss goals without exercise. Active, strong bodies at rest burn more kilojoules than soft bodies do, so exercise daily to boost your metabolism and increase muscle strength. If you’re not sure where to start, go to www.shapemag.co.za for a collection of workouts to suit your specific needs.
5. Send trigger foods to a safe house
Dietitian Pat Vasconcellos recommends figuring out which foods bring on your urge to binge (common culprits include chips, biscuits, and ice cream) and getting rid of them entirely. Instead of throwing away perfectly edible junk food, why not purge your pantry of the most sinful snacks, put them in a box, and drop off at your nearest homeless shelter?
6. Re-stock the right way
Never leave your cupboards bare; instead stock up on healthy staples. But, before you buy tofu in bulk, remember: “If you don’t love it, don’t eat it,” says dietitian Evelyn Tribole, co-author of Intuitive Eating (St Martin’s Press). Don’t make the mistake of buying what you think you “should” eat; rather purchase healthy versions of foods you enjoy. If you like burgers, use ostrich mince for less fattening patties, and pile your favourite veggies on top.
7. Close your kitchen
Turn off the lights and put a chair in front of the doorway to your kitchen three hours before you go to bed. This serves as a visual reminder that you shouldn’t be snacking all evening.
8. Don’t skip meals — ever!
Meal skippers are more prone to weight problems — because once they do eat, they find it very difficult to stop, and so consume far more kilojoules than people who eat more frequently. Researchers monitoring people who have successfully maintained a weight loss of more than 15kg for at least one year, report that spacing food evenly throughout the day is key to weight-loss success.
9. Don’t be fooled
Many diet products and pills claim to produce quick and easy weight-loss results. Don’t waste your time or money on them. The tried-and-true formula is still “kilojoules in, kilojoules out.” Be particularly wary of anything labelled easy, effortless, guaranteed, miraculous, magical, or mysterious — remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
10. No weekends off
Research shows that successful weight losers don’t allow themselves “cheat days”
11. Mirror, mirror on the dining room wall
Instead of obsessing about your body in front of the mirror in your bedroom, try eating in front of one. “Anything that increases mindfulness when it comes to eating is going to be a plus,” says nutritionist Johnny Bowden, author of Living the Low Carb Life (Sterling).
12. (wo)man cannot live by fruit alone
A few fad diets involve eating fruit for specific meals and not much else. Don’t bother, advise nutritionists. Make sure to pair fruit with protein (such as peanut butter, a handful of almonds, or a piece of low-fat cheese) or you’ll be hungry again soon.
13. Break your fast
Just in case you’re still skipping breakfast — stop that! A US study of 4000 adults who’d lost an average of 15kg and kept it off for at least a year showed that those who successfully lose weight always eat breakfast.
14. Get milk
Aim for three servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products per day. It’s not as hard as you may think: enjoy a cup of fat-free milk with your morning cereal, have a low-fat yoghurt at lunch and get in more fat-free milk with your afternoon latté. Recent studies have shown that people who consume more low-fat dairy products have a lower percentage of body fat.
15. Don’t undereat
Try to keep your diet balanced, which means that every food group should be represented. Schedule a snack between meals; that way you’re not cutting your kilojoules back so far that you’re over-eating at the next meal. There’s also a psychological benefit to building snacks into your diet. You’re telling yourself, “I can eat; I’m not depriving myself; I’m just making healthier choices.”
16. Stick with snacks that satisfy
Sure they’re convenient, but most so-called “diet” or “energy” bars are actually low in fibre and high in sugars, so if you eat one, you may feel hungry again soon. Either pair your energy bar with some carrots or celery for fibre — or, for the same number of kilojoules, you may feel more satiated snacking on a handful of almonds or half a pita with hummus and an apple.
17. Fight flab with fibre
Fibre helps to control blood sugar levels as it slows down glucose entry into the bloodstream. It thus helps to reduce the glycaemic index of certain foods, and the added benefit is that it promotes feelings of fullness and helps to keep appetite regulated. Aim for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
18. Lose liquid kilojoules
You can drastically reduce kJ by eliminating sugary beverages that don’t provide much nutrition. Cut out fizzy drinks (they average around 800kJ), juice blends and sweetened teas, which are all high in sugar. Not sure what to drink instead? Try unsweetened iced green tea. Make your own and chill in the fridge — not only is it refreshing, but a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also suggests that some components of green tea may have a metabolism-boosting effect.
19. Focus on good choices
Instead of fretting over kilojoules and fat grams, which aren’t disclosed on most restaurant menus, ask yourself, “What can I order here that’s going to be high in nutrients?” Go for wholegrains, vegetables and lean protein such as grilled fish or chicken.
20. Beware the bar
Limit your alcohol intake and drink only with dinner, not before, because alcohol lowers your inhibitions — so you’re more likely to have another drink (or two) and eat more than you’d planned to. One 180ml glass of red wine, which also provides some health benefits with its 520 kilojoules, is a better choice than a margarita which has 1400kJ and is loaded with alcohol and sugar.
21. Talk yourself out of temptation
You’re invited to a birthday party and there is an entire dessert table waiting to greet you. What to do? Tribole suggests asking yourself these questions: “Do I really want to eat this? Is it going to make me feel good?” If you slip up, don’t despair. “I see a lot of smart women who say, ‘I blew it, so I might as well eat the whole thing’,” Tribole observes. Be flexible. Know that one meal or one snack is not going to make or break your goals.
22. Split it
Just because you’re trying to lose a bit of weight doesn’t mean you have to be anti-social. When dining out, you can easily cut kilojoules by ordering starter portions as your main meal or splitting a main course. “Seafood is a good option to go for when you’re dining out — but ask for your fish grilled without lemon butter and then flavour with fresh lemon juice instead,” says Buys. “Alternatively, go for the smaller portion grilled steak, without sauce, and avoid anything crumbed or deep fried.”
23. Veg out
“To meet your minimum five portions of fruit and veg a day, you’re going to have to have more than just a side salad for dinner,” Buys says. Most vegetables (think broccoli, spinach, peppers) are high in fibre and nutrients, but have just trace amounts of fat and less than 160kJ per cup. They’re the perfect foods to bulk up your meals and help keep you full while trimming your energy intake.
24. Sleep it off
Think of it as skinny sleep. A University of Chicago study found lack of sleep lowers levels of the hormone that tells you you’re full and raises levels of the hormone that tells you you’re hungry. Another study observed that people who sleep four hours or less were 73 percent more likely to be obese than those who sleep seven to nine hours each night.
25. Mind mindless eating
Don’t eat anywhere but at a table and off a plate with cutlery. No more eating in front of the TV, your computer, or even with the radio on. Banish all distractions and focus on the meal.
26. Have a plan
It’s not rocket science, observes Tribole, but many people are thrown off track simply by forgetting to plan dinner. If you find yourself stuck at a loose end, survey your take-away menus for healthy options (think steamed brown rice, salads with grilled chicken, and soups). Better yet, keep frozen fish and vegetables in the freezer for a low-kilojoule last-minute meal.
27. Savvy cooking tips
“When grilling fish, meat or chicken, reduce the amount of oil and replace with white wine or lemon juice,” recommends Buys. “If you’re roasting vegetables, try using a little low-oil salad dressing instead of oil. It’s lower in kJ and adds a delicious flavour to the veggies.” Minimise salt in your meals by flavouring food with fresh herbs, spices, garlic, and lemon juice.
28. Beat bloating
Cutting back on sodium is one good way to avoid fluid retention. “Sodium causes the body to hold onto water, and almost anything that comes in a package with a bar code is loaded with it,” Bowden warns, so be sure to check labels. Drinking lots of water throughout the day will also help relieve bloating as well as enable things to move through the digestive tract more smoothly.
29. Watch portion sizes
How much you’re eating is just as important as what you’re eating. There is no doubt that there is a link between increased portion sizes and weight gain. Use these guidelines to measure one portion. Cereal = the size of a fist Rice, pasta, potato = half a tennis ball Salad = two cupped hands Fruit = the size of a fist Protein = the size and thickness of your palm Cheese = no bigger than a matchbox Nuts = the size of a golf ball Oil = the size of your thumb tip.
30. Get out your calculator
Weight loss boils down to one simple rule: you need to burn more kJ than you consume. To figure out exactly how to do this, calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) with the Harris-Benedict Equation:
BMR = 655 + (9,6 x weight in kg) + (1,85 x height in cm) – (4,7 x age in years)
> If you’re sedentary, multiply your BMR by 1,2
> If you do light exercise 1—3 times a week, multiply your BMR by 1,375
> If you work out 3—5 times a week, multiply your BMR by 1,55
> If you train hard and often, multiply your BMR by 1,9
Example: A moderately active 34-year-old woman, who is 1,72m tall and weighs 65kg:
|BMR||= 655 + (9,6 x 65) + (1,85 x 172) – (4,7 x 34)|
|= 655 + 624 + 318 – 160|
|= 1437 BMR x 1,375|
|= 1975 x 4,18 (for kJ)|
The answer provides you with the minimum kJ your body requires per day. To lose 1kg of fat, you need to burn about 30000kJ more than you consumed. So, if you burn 2000 more kJ than you eat every day, you could theoretically lose 500g per week.