When it comes to weight loss, the first thing I always discuss is the main reason why the majority of people fail at shedding those kilos. When most people set out on their journey to lose weight, they fail at realizing that losing weight is not for the short-term, it is for life. Hence, most are not mentally prepared for that long-term commitment, and stop whatever they are doing to lose weight once they experience some weight loss. This consequently results in them gaining back those kilos (and more) when they revert back to their old habits. Losing weight healthily requires a lifestyle change, a proper plan and the ability to stay motivated.
Now, if you know that you're not the type of person that could stay motivated and disciplined for the long term, this does not mean that you will never be able to lose weight. All you need to find is a source of constant life-long motivation and encouragement. Joining weight loss support groups, mixing with the right people, taking up an exercise / activity that you have always wanted to do, going to the gym with friends, motivational posters on your bathroom / wall / fridge door or a subscription to your favorite health magazine are all great sources of motivation.
Once you're mentally prepared for this rewarding challenge, you can confidently set out on this journey to a healthier, fitter and better looking you. Remember, the first step is always the hardest! But continue to persist and it will get easier and easier till it comes almost naturally to you.
Step One: Know yourself and choose your foods
Knowledge of different types of food when changing your diet is extremely important as poor food choices can result in you feeling hungry, unsatisfied, bored or just plain unhappy. Hence, I have broken it down to categories of "What ifs" for my different readers that experience different circumstances.
What if … I get constantly hungry ?
I recommend eating more Low GI food. Low GI foods are great as the human body takes a longer time to process complex carbohydrates, fiber and healthy nutrients and oils. Hence, there is a gradual release of sugars into the bloodstream which would leave you feeling fuller and more satisfied for longer.
Foods that are NOT Low GI (unfortunately) include cakes, pastries, instant porridge, highly processed food, 5 minute noodles and pre-packaged foods.
Foods that are Low GI include vegetables, wholegrain cereals, low fat milk and yogurt, fruit, peanuts, home-made banana bread, freshly squeezed fruit juices.
Having an afternoon snack is also a good way of ensuring that you stay full throughout the day. They also prevent overeating during your next meal and helps in weight maintenance and weight loss. Some suggestions of healthy afternoon snacks include fruit smoothies, mixed nuts, low sugar high protein muesli bars and no-fat yogurt.
What if … I eat lots of fast food?
Fast food is the devil in any diet as they are full of salt, addictives and trans-fats.
Fast food restaurants (ie. McDonalds and KFC) cook their food with margarine and cooking oils (ie, peanut and vegetable oils). During the cooking process, trans-fats are created as a side effect of partially hydrogenating unsaturated plant fats which increases shelf life and decreases refrigeration requirements. The reason why trans-fats are so bad for you is because your body does not know how to break it up. The human lipase enzyme in the body only knows how to digest, transport and process normal fats and oils, it however is ineffective against the break-down of trans-fats which are consequently stored in your arteries. Consuming too much may lead to subsequent trans-fat plaque formation which contributes to obesity, ill health and coronary heart diseases.
If you cannot get rid of those burger cravings, my advice is that you make your own. Buy some lean meat from your super market, fresh leafy vegetables and tomatoes, cheese and sauces such as chutney and sweet chili. Light pan fry your meat and place everything in between a wholemeal bread roll. There is your much healthier alternative delicious tasting burger with your favorite sauce! (Note: Remember to go light on dressing and sauces as they may be high in sugar and calories. Just add enough sauce to give it the taste but be careful not to be too heavy handed with it!). You can take it to work or have it for dinner which would also save you money over time.
If you still cannot avoid and curb all of those fast food cravings, only have them sometimes as a treat and try to avoid them as much as you can.
What if … I don't have time to cook healthy meals?
There are a couple of little tricks to tackle this problem.
- Make healthy sandwiches and rolls
- Buy canned tuna, sardines, smoked salmon, tomatoes, sundried tomatoes salad mixes / ice berg lettuce, avocado, onions, capsicum and healthy spreads such as honey mustard. Sandwiches can be easily made in less than 10 mins and are a great tasting idea for a meal.
- When you DO have time to cook (ie. Sunday night), cook a large portion and portion it over a few days. So for example, cook some healthy fried rice with lots of vegetables such as carrots, peas and corn with lean meat and split it into a few containers. When you come home from work the next day and you're too bummed out to cook, just open your fridge, pop it into the microwave for a few mins and your healthy dinner is ready.
- Make salads.
- Similar to the healthy sandwiches and rolls, buy all your ingredients and in particular, low fat dressing. Salads take minutes to make as it really involves tossing all your different types of veggies and meats into a big bowl, dressing it and mixing it all up!
- Look for a caf / restaurant that makes healthy food and serves it in a right portion
- Instead of running to your nearest McDonalds, check out that little gourmet caf across the street. Look for healthy wraps and unfried food. The portion that they serve it in is also important too; Too big a portion and your weight loss goals could be looking pretty bleak as you're consuming too much calories for your body.
- Good take away ideas include: Wraps, sushi, baguettes, smoothies, grilled burgers and DIY sandwiches.
- In a restaurant, if possible, always choose the grilled option as opposed to the fried option. Grilled chicken for example, is lower in calories and fat than fried oily chicken.
What if … I have a sweet tooth?
I personally have this problem. I am possibly the worst 'sweet-tooth' person alive. So here are some ideas to keep those sweet cravings at bay.
- Frozen yogurt.
- These things are great as they are just as tasty as ice cream! Sprinkle them with some oats, muesli and a teaspoon of honey. Or cut some banana, strawberries and fresh fruits and use them as toppings. Mmmh … yum!
- Bake your own treats.
- Hunt around for some healthy low fat recipes. There are millions of them on the internet! Just be careful not to be fooled by the title and claims of the recipe. Take time to actually look at the ingredients you're using and make a judgment. If you see things such as whipped cream, syrups and a whole lot of sugar, it is probably not the healthiest recipe out there.
- Great ideas for healthy treats and recipes to look up include banana bread / cakes, oat bran breads, carrot cakes, honey oat cookies, muesli slices, flourless orange cake and fruit sorbets.
- Substitute sugar for honey, whipped cream and sour cream for yogurt and ice cream for frozen yogurt with (if you must) a small serve of naughty toppings such as chocolate chips or hundreds and thousands. You would barely notice the difference.
- Enjoy the occasional treat.
- So you have dutifully stuck to your diet and healthy routine, it is time to give yourself a treat! A few squares of chocolate or that tiramisu cake you haven't had in months would not hurt! Reward yourself, eat it slow and enjoy and savor your well earned favorite dessert.
Hopefully you should now be able to make better food choices to suit your needs. We can move on to the next step.
Step Two: Think about what you're going to eat each day … and be excited about it!
For many people (including myself), if they are feeling hungry or dissatisfied from their change of diet, they get into a cranky, grumpy, negative mood that makes it almost impossible for them to get through the day with a positive mindset. This makes eating that piece of chocolate cake, or giving up their diet 'for today' ever so tempting.
What you can do is choose to think every day at night when you're just about to go to sleep what you're going to eat tomorrow. So for example, think about what you're going to have for breakfast. Are you going to eat that vanilla yogurt that you just bought, or your favorite cereal, or maybe some multigrain toast with that organic low sugar low fat strawberry jam you bought from that new gourmet deli down the street? Or, how about mixing some of that vanilla yogurt with your oat-based cereal with a teaspoon of honey just to sweeten things up? Getting creative and thinking about what you're going to eat tomorrow gets you excited for your meal choices the next day and helps you stay motivated. This also allows you to make allowances for 'treats' and rewards and gives you reason to look forward to your next meal (ie. A few squares of dark chocolate for dessert after lunch / dinner).
The reason why this mindset really works is because many people naturally get excited when they think about food and it can help get those creative juices flowing so that you're not eating that same boring 'diet food' everyday!
Hence, thinking about what you're going to be eating each day helps you stick to your diet, realize the type of foods you're consuming, and hence, helps you plan better and healthier meals everyday that you're actually excited about!
Step 3: Ensure you're eating a balance diet, enough fruit and vegetables and consuming enough nutrients
If you haven't already, I strongly suggest you read up about having a balanced diet and the 2 & 5 rule. Consuming the right foods in the right amount of quantity is essential as it ensures your body is receiving the right amount of important vitamin and minerals.
However, as you're trying to lose weight and control your portion sizes, it may not be possible to consume the amount of food needed to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs. This is where supplements come in. A high quality supplement is a great complement to your healthy diet and "fills up the nutritional voids" that your body is experiencing a deficiency in. As some vitamins can encourage weight loss (ie. Vitamin C and Iodine), it is important to ensure that you have enough of these nutrients.
Another little trick I have learnt is that some health shakes are filled with nutrients and fiber, they taste great, are generally low in calories and they dokeep you feeling fuller for longer. They are great for a snack or even a meal replacement. However, please remember that supplements and products such as health shakes can never replace a healthy diet! They should be seen as a great essential complements to a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Step 4: Exercise
Before you jump off the chair and put on a pair of running shoes, please remember again that losing weight requires a lifestyle change. Changing your lifestyle rapidly can result in short-term success but long term failure as you lose your motivation or if it gets "too hard".
Start off with small changes like walking to the supermarket, or walking over to your friend's house once a week, or taking up a weekly dance class. Do something fun that you would enjoy and be creative! This will ensure that your new 'commitment' does not become an annoying 'obligation' and that you actually want to stick to it. The first step to having an active lifestyle may be hard, but soon you would be shedding kilos and feeling more energized than ever.
Step 5: Be patient and persistent
With a fresh new mindset, great food options, healthier food, fun exercises and more energy, the last thing you need to be is to be patient and persistent. You may not see those kilos come off in a week, but if you consistently live a healthier lifestyle, choose the right food, nourishment and exercise, you will see your weight drop and stay off.
As you diligently work towards your weight loss goals, I strongly recommend that you enjoy this life changing journey to a better and healthier looking you. Once you have turned your lifestyle around, you will be feeling and looking great and you will be able to continue living healthy and looking healthy. Be excited about the change, be excited to try new foods and be excited to discover new recipes and healthier treats. It will be a lifestyle change you will never regret.