Have you joined the ranks of those who vowed to shed a few pounds this year? Be it 5, 15, 20 lbs or more, we all want one thing – for it to come off and stay off. Naturally, we turn to one of the countless fad diets out there. After all, they do promise one thing. Results. Fast results. However, the weight always comes back post-diet. Chances are it’s happened to you or someone you know.
What if there is a more sustainable method out there?
Consider this: learn how to change your eating habits for good.
It’s not an earth shattering concept. In fact, you’ve all heard it before. The challenge is it takes some work on your part, which is a caveat that scares most people off. But don’t be fooled. This strategy is easier to adopt than it sounds. See for yourself with these 5 simple tips that help you get started.
Tip #1: Eat breakfast
Foregoing breakfast because you want to lose weight? It won’t help you. In fact, it’s counterproductive to your goal. Trimming inches from the body requires an efficient digestive system which needs to be kick started each morning after a night of hibernation. A healthy breakfast will end the overnight ‘fast’ and rev the stomach up to produce the juices required for digestion. As well, eating breakfast, especially one high in protein, increases a brain hormone called dopamine. This hormone is released when the body experiences pleasure, such as those associated with food consumption. When dopamine levels are low, which occurs when there is a large gap in between meals, our food cravings increase causing us to overindulge in food in order to satisfy the cravings (usually for refined carbs), leading to weight gain.
A protein-rich breakfast will not only help to stabilize your dopamine levels, it’ll also contribute to satiety. A bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit, some hard-boiled eggs, or a cup of organic plain yogurt with fresh fruit are examples of healthy, protein-dense choices that are quick and easy to make. That’s right, “I don’t have time”, is not an excuse for missing breakfast.
Tip #2: Don’t skip meals
Skipping meals might reduce the amount of calories you’re consuming, but does it reduce your body fat composition? No. When you deprive your body of food, it goes into starvation mode and starts to conserve body fat, burning instead tissue and muscle as fuel for energy. Skipping meals also lowers your metabolic rate which means you burn fewer calories. So now you have an increase in body fat conservation and a decrease in calories burned. Doesn’t sound like a formula for weight loss if you ask me.
Focus instead on eating 3 meals and 2 snacks per day, smaller portions, and choosing foods that are high in protein, low in refined carbohydrates, and low in fats. Protein is a key part of any healthy meal plan. It is the building block of muscles, and the goal is to achieve a higher muscle to fat ratio as muscles burn more calories. Choose lean meats like chicken or fish, and whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains for their high nutrient content that will aid in metabolic functions and contribute to your overall health. And remember, frequent meals will keep cravings and overindulgence at bay as dopamine levels will be more controlled.
Tip #3: Exercise
No weight management program is complete without an exercise regimen. Calories consumed must be expended, otherwise they are stored by the body as fat (triglycerides). The purpose here is to increase your physical activity so that you can burn calories and increase your lean muscle mass. Need motivation to get moving? Chew on this: one pound of muscle burns approximately 6.5 calories per hour. One pound of fat burns only 1.2 calories per hour. You do the math.
The best way to gain lean muscles and burn more calories is with strength training. Crossfit, kettlebell, and body pump classes are cleverly crafted to give you the cardio and strength training you need. If you’re not quite ready for that, Fitness Magazine has an easy-to-follow strength training routine for beginners. If your work and family life leaves you too pressed for time to get to the gym, invest in a mini trampoline (also referred to as a rebounder). They are inexpensive and just 10 minutes a day bouncing on it is equivalent to 30 minutes of running. Rebounding offers many health benefits, including reduction of body fat and strengthening of muscles (particularly the legs and abdominals).
Tip #4: Decrease the frequency of dining out
Restaurant meals taste great and are convenient, but they are also high in trans-fat, refined carbohydrates, preservatives and additives, and cooked in oil that are rancid. All of these factors contribute to weight gain, among other health concerns. Cut back on your dine out (and take-out) meals to twice a week, less if you can manage it, and you’ll notice your clothes fit better.
Home cooking can be just as quick and easy as grabbing take-out, with the added benefit that you’re feeding your family healthy, nutrient rich meals. Check out this video from nutritionist Theresa Albert, where she shows you how to get simple and delicious meals for a week with 2 whole chickens. Need more inspiration? Head over to Love and Lemons or this blog post 16 Weeks of Lightened Up Meals for more healthy recipes. Maximize your cooking time by doubling the recipes and pack the extras for lunch or freeze for speedy heat-up dinners during the week.
Tip #5: Watch your carbohydrates
I want to be clear that the idea here is not to remove carbohydrates completely from your diet. On the contrary. Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet as they provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy and used to support bodily functions and physical activity. The objective here then, is to ensure that we consume the healthy carbohydrates and eliminate the unhealthy ones.
It’ll come as no surprise to you that we regularly gravitate to, and over consume, the unhealthy sources of carbohydrates such as white sugar, refined white bread, French fries, pastries, pop, and other refined foods. Not only are these foods lacking in nutrients, they actually rob us of our stored nutrients during the metabolism process. And while you think that piece of pie or one more cookie can’t be harmful, know that any carbohydrates in excess of the body’s daily requirement is stored as body fat.
Turn your attention instead to healthy sources of carbohydrates like unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts or seeds. These foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of phytonutrients that promote optimal health.
Now it’s your turn
Start making a change to your eating habits today and be on your way to a slimmer, healthier you.
Remember, food doesn’t respond the same way in everyone, so you may require a more personal approach depending on your situation. If that’s the case, then work with your nutritionist and/or healthcare practitioner to develop a customized plan that meets your health goals.