The No-Nonsense, Common Sense Guide to Losing Weight and Keeping it Off

I usually don’t wade in to dangerous territory like eating patterns, body image, and the like; but over the past few months I’ve heard a lot of people talking about diets, and I’d like to add my thoughts to the discussion.

First up, I’m currently a size 8 (UK 8, US 4), but my weight has varied hugely my whole life. I’ve been everything from a size 6 to a 14 (pushing 16).  Stress, lack of sleep, difficult emotional issues, all manifest themselves in one way for me: I love to binge eat.  In my last job I was working full time and studying part time, and the pressure was crazy. I found myself getting up at 1am to try to get work done. Eating was my comfort, and a way of making myself feel good. Add to this the fact that I’m quite a sickly creature who seems to get every cold, stomach upset, migraine, and so on.  It was a sure sign that something needed to change.

Happily, my weight has been constant for some time now, and it’s because I didn’t want to feel sick and lethargic any more. The essence to weight loss and healthy eating are, for me, as follows:

1. Eat at least three hours before you go to bed: If you do this and nothing else, you will lose weight.  Give your body time to digest the food that you’ve eaten. If you eat, then go to bed an hour later, your food can’t digest, and you’ll put on weight. This goes for snacking late at night too – just say no.

2.”Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”: This is such an old-fashioned rule, but one that still holds true. Eat most of your food earlier in the day and give yourself time to burn it off. If you do it the other way around, you are doing yourself (and your waistline) no favours. Your body doesn’t have an opportunity to burn up the food you’ve eaten.

3.  Limit refined carbs: I actually started limiting my refined carb intake because I was having big problems with my energy levels. I worked out that every time I had, say, a sandwich and a muffin for lunch, I would feel like I needed to lie down for an hour. They made me so sleepy! Not only did I find I had more energy when I stopped eating refined carbs, but the weight really fell off my stomach and thighs, which is always a good thing.  I do eat refined carbs, but very rarely. The key to doing this properly is to eat enough so that you don’t feel hungy. If you cut out carbs, add more vegetables, protein etc so that you fill yourself up.

4.  Limit refined sugar: I really struggle with this one, but it’s one that is important to me. Not only is eating less refined sugar good for your waistline, but sugar breaks down collagen, so speeds up the slackening of skin as you age.

5. Always have healthy snack around to eat: Crucial for me because, as I said before, I’m a binge eater, so I need to be full most of the day.

6.  Eat full fat food and get enough protein: I need to get my energy from somewhere, and I don’t find that I put on weight eating full fat food like cheese, yoghurt etc.  It also makes meals taste must better. A salad, for instance, is a completely different experience when made with full fat mayonaise, brie, salami, and loads of fresh vegetables. And let’s face it, if it doesn’t taste good, I’m not going to eat it.

7. Exercise: I used to run for 30 minutes every morning. I can categorically state that it’s the best exercise you can do for stripping the fat from your body. But I can’t do it any more. Being the sickly thing I am I was always battling injuries, and the huge amount of calories I was burning made me really hungry, making the binging thing worse. These days, my exercise is to feed the sheep and walk four times around the paddock. Low impact, but still challenging enough to burn calories.

8.  Buy decent fruit and vegetables: Most of us are lucky to live near great farmers’ markets and shops that sell amazing fresh produce. Why not take advantage of it? Salads are boring only if you make them that way. Choose red capsicums, baby carrots, avocado, fresh spinach, and you’re well on your way to preparing great food for yourself.   Celery, whilst despised by many, takes more calories to digest than the celery acutally contains, so throw some of that into your basket too.  Add to that local fresh cheese (I’m currently obessed with Blue Cow) and gourmet meats, and you won’t feel deprived at all. By the same token, buy lovely fruit for yourself. Mandarins are just gorgeous at this time of year, but Fuji apples are usually a good winter fruit too (so sweet!). Take the time to find the best for yourself.

9. If you really want something, have it: As soon as you forbid yourself food, the day is lost. If you have an unavoidable craving for something, have it, but be smart about it. Don’t have a massive portion of cake at night, for example. Have a moderately-sized piece earlier in the day if you can manage it, so that your body has time to burn it off.  On a more regular basis, if you can’t live without a chocolate biscuit with your morning coffee every day, then have it. In the grand scheme of things, it won’t matter.

10. Get enough sleep: I don’t know about you, but when I’m tired, no chocolate biscuit is safe. It’s not always easy, but try to sleep as much as you can.

11.  Take the time to to this for yourself: Women give so much of themselves to others that they sometimes forget that they are important too. If you can spend your hard-earned money on the latest Dior eyeshadow quad, you can find the time to do this for yourself. You really are worth it.

So how does all this work in practice?

Well, this is what I ate today:

Breakfast: Porridge with honey

Morning tea: Fruit

Lunch: Salad. I included Margaret River Brie and salami, along with spinach, snow pea shoots, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, red capsicum, cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dukkah, and mayonnaise.

Afternoon tea: Yoghurt with a handful of dried fruit and nuts, and crushed whole grains.

Tea: (Forgot to take a pic!) Salad with beef and red wine casserole. I always have salad, but I pair it with anything from Shepherd’s Pie, to tuna bake, to fish fingers.  I limit my portion sizes to the size of my palm, and then fill up the rest with salad.

Drinks: Lots of water and lots of coffee. Yeah, I’m not giving up the caffeine thing.

 

Some final notes:

- Cut down on the junk in your diet *gradually*. Trying anything too extreme is setting yourself up for failure. Same with exercise – just move about more than you do. Don’t aim to run a marathon in a fortnight.

- Say no to those terrible juice detox diet things. Seriously. Living on nothing but juice for five days would make me a very, very angry person. Far more constructive to just adopt some healthy eating strategies.  Don’t give companies your money when they don’t deserve it.

- Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, which boosts the immune system. I put them into every salad I make, and since I’ve been eating them I haven’t had a single cold.

- The best thing about this pattern of eating is that I can do it long term and I never feel deprived.

The bottom line is: eat things that provide fuel and nutrition for your body, and cut out as much of the rubbish as you can. Eat smart and eat well.

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40 Responses to The No-Nonsense, Common Sense Guide to Losing Weight and Keeping it Off

  1. Georgiamae says:

    Great post. That salad looks amazing!!!! I love brieeee!!

  2. Dempeaux says:

    @GeorgiaMae Thankyou so much! It’s always risky writing a post like this, but I just wanted to contribute my thoughts. And yes I love brie too!! :)

  3. Gillian says:

    Great post Sarah!
    A little bit of logic goes a long way! I’ve found I’ve fallen back into some unwise eating habits lately but I am looking forward to getting back into some good routines :) That salad is to die for, yum!

  4. Dempeaux says:

    @Gillian Thankyou!! I can recommend the salad ;)

  5. Nat says:

    Such a great post Sarah. I truly believe there’s no ‘trick’ with weight loss apart from the simple formula of eating less (and perhaps better) and exercising more. No pills, no fads, nothing but the will power and the effort. I’m up and down the same as you, and probably the heaviest I’ve been at the moment. It’s driving me insane not fitting into clothes but until I start running again (like I used to) and stop eating crap, then it’s my own bloody fault!

  6. Dempeaux says:

    @Nat I can so relate to that! It’s really frustrating, particularly when you invest in a good wardrobe! I hope you can get back to your running :)

  7. Tara says:

    Sarah,

    This post would probably be one of my favorites from you.

    I am someone that has tried lite and easy, weight watchers twice and calorie counting. Through weight watchers i was very successful, i lost 15kg. But…….i put it all back on afterwards. It was because i had become lazy in eating and stopped exercising.
    I had no common sense when i made food choices.
    These tips actually seem very easy, for me especially. It’s about adjustment and small changes. I like how you also have said that being able to indulge is important. Many fad diets don’t allow for such splurges.
    The food photos you provided are excellent too. I’d love to see more food posts from you, maybe about healthy meals you recommend. That yoghurt looks delicious.
    Such a great post. Thanks for writing it.

  8. Dee says:

    I’ve been wanting to write about this sort of thing for ages but I’m hesitant because a) sometimes people talking about weight issues and health is insufferably boring, and b) it’s one of those topics where feelings are easily hurt and someone is guaranteed to take offence no matter how innocuous you think you’re being.

    Having said that, I’ve been going to a nutritionist lately, and although a lot of her ideas are really just commonsense when you break it down, I’ve taken them on board and I feel much better – I also feel like I’m eating tons! I have porridge in the morning with banana or berries, skim milk and chia seeds. Lunch is a salad with lots of colour and some lean chicken breast, along with a couple of slices of really heavy, grainy bread. Dinner is protein, starch and half the plate filled with at least three different coloured vegetables. I have two snacks – usually fruit and yoghurt or Vita-Weats with water-packed tuna. Every now and then I break out – if I want a sausage roll or a chocolate bar, I have one. But I find I want those things less and less, and I’ve completely lost the urge for butter, rich cheeses, alcohol, salt and of all things – bacon. Never thought that would happen!

    I find more than anything else I’m paying attention to the nutrients my body needs – what do I need to eat to get enough zinc, magnesium, Vitamin C, and so on. I have a general interest in food, nutrition, its manufacture and ethical eating, so I am finding it all really informative and educational.

    Wow, that was a ramble. In short, great post – really interesting, and delicious-looking photos. :-)

  9. ki. says:

    It sounded like you were writing about me – sickly, eats when upset or tired… I am guilty of all these things. Except of course, I’ve done nothing to fix it.

    But I really should take some of your tips and start eating better. Luckily Indian food is pretty balanced, so if I cut down on eating out/drinking Coke all the time, I should be good.

    Thanks for such a colourful and easy to read post. I usually hate posts like this since they are so preachy, but I think you put it across wonderfully!

  10. Aaah what a fascinating subject, I could talk about it for hours.
    I’m currently a size 10-12 UK I believe, which is perfect since I’m quite tall (5’9″ – 1m75) and curvy in a mad men way :) But I’ve been all kinds of weights in my life, from borderline obese to seriously underweight, because of various life circumstances that induced a lot of stress and mild eating disorders.
    Anyway right now I’m your normal girl who’d like to lose 3 pounds but can’t really complain about her figure, and more importantly, I have a healthy weight – which isn’t always easy to achieve when you have IBS and salads and cottage cheese are prohibited!

    I agree that the less processed stuff you eat, the better you feel. I also really agree that sleep is important, the more tired you are, the more you need to eat.
    I’m quite frustrated by all the contradictory information on the internet, I think the web contributes spreading tons of false information regarding healthy eating and weightloss plans. I am glad that I have a good friend who studied in that field and can always tell me where the truth is. For example, it’s never said that your brain is the only organ that functions only with glucose (=pure sugar) and that totally cutting off sugar from your diet is hence really unhealthy!! It’s revolting to read how some people make themselves function on protein and zero cal carb substitutes made of water and fibers – THAT IS NOT FOOD! Everything in moderation is key, in my opinion, and real food over processed stuff is my second big principle.

    Ok I must stop now or I’ll write you a whole book :)

  11. Dempeaux says:

    @Tara Thankyou!! I had the same experience with Weight Watchers, though I didn’t lose as much weight as you. As soon as I stopped counting, I put it all back on. Splurging is definitely important! I think moderation in all things is the key. If I come up with any other food ideas I’ll let you know :)

  12. Dempeaux says:

    @Dee I agree, and that’s why I was a little hesitant about writing this post. It must be quite fascinating going to a nutritionist! I’m going to steal quite a few of those food ideas ;) It’s true what you say about losing the taste for certain foods too. It’s amazing how the body adjusts to differences in diet. I’m finding I’m more interested in nutrients my body needs too, and making small changes (like having spinach instead of lettuce) can really help your body maximise the nutrients it takes in during every meal :)

  13. Dempeaux says:

    @Ki We are clearly on the same page then ;) Yes, Indian food is so wonderful in itself, and utilises lovely vegetables, meats, and spices already! I’m glad I didn’t come across as too preachy :)

  14. Dempeaux says:

    @MusingOnBeauty That’s so wonderful Marie Ella. It’s so great when you get to the stage where you’re just managing those few kilos. I agree entirely – I think there is a lot of misinformation around. Combine this with the fact that many people are so tired and stressed that they just want a ‘quick fix’, and it means that losing weight becomes harder than it needs to me (I should know!). Wonderful that you have a nutritionist as a friend, and it’s interesting what you say about the brain needing sugar! I’ll keep my honey on my porridge then ;) Yes, I’m appalled by those food substitute things too.

  15. Kathrine says:

    Great post, as usual. The key thing, I think, is portion control. I’m terrible at just grazing throughout the day without paying proper attention to not necessarily what I eat, because I usually make good choices, but the amount of it I stuff away!

    I love salads but can easily eat a large bowl or plate and then have more…and more…and more. I’d almost be better off with a regular-sized hamburger!

    Have I told you how much I want your sheep btw? I do. I love sheep.

  16. Dempeaux says:

    @Kathrine Thankyou! Yes, I think portion control is really important too. It’s so easy to just pick at things during the day. I’ll pass on your compliments to Lamington ;)

  17. Alex says:

    That salad looks delicious! I’m an AU size 16, and trying to get healthier. I started running 3 times a week about 2 months ago, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t lost any weight but that’s ok, I’m certainly feeling much fitter day to day. I cut out soft drink about two weeks ago but I still eat far too much other junk – but hey, baby steps right!

    I started running doing to Couch to 5k program which I have found really good. Week 1 I was doing 6 minutes of running and 15 minutes walking, and now I’m on week 9 and running 30 minutes at a time so I’m pretty proud of myself for accomplishing that :)

    Anyway, absolutely fantastic post, you write some amazingly helpful stuff on here and it’s much appreciated!

  18. Suzanne says:

    This is a really great post, which is now bookmarked, because I’ve hit a point where I’m’ REALLY struggling with my weight. I’m not the heaviest I’ve ever been (about 7 kilos lighter) but that heaviest point was more than a year ago, I’ve been seeing a dietician that whole time and while her advice is wonderful and it works, I have an uphill battle with myself, and sometimes I’m DEEPLY COMPELLED to eat three cupcakes. And a 600ml coke. And a mars bar. And then go home and feel completely godawfully dreadful about it. And whichever way I look at it, its been a year and I REALLY should have lost more than 7 kilos.

    Sigh. Now I’m depressed.

    Before I derailed, my point is that I really admire your resolution, and wish I had some of it. Going to re-read your post when I next feel a burning urge to go buy a family block of chocolate or something.

  19. Dempeaux says:

    @Alex Kudos to you for concentrating on strength and wellbeing rather than waist size! Great work! Those baby steps are such a healthy way to go. Your running time sounds amazing! It’s such a great feeling when you improve on your time, and 30 minutes is fantastic! Thanks for the compliment :)

  20. Dempeaux says:

    @Suzanne I can really relate to what you’re saying! When that urge to eat the delicious things strikes, it’s almost impossible to resist. That’s why I have to be full all the time, otherwise my eating will spiral out of control again. I suppose the good thing is that you can always turn your eating around at any point, and small changes are always easier to make than big ones. But you have to be ready to make that change. I think it also comes down to that ‘looking after yourself’ thing, which I didn’t really pay much credit to in the past. I lived on my own for years and just didn’t have the inclination to do anything particularly caring for myself. Far easier to buy a packet of biscuits and a vanilla slice on the way home from work and eat them in front of the tv. Instant satisfaction. What I’ve learnt now is that it’s worth the time and effort because I feel so much better and my weight is far more manageable :)

  21. Dain says:

    In Japan, where they’re not systematic about calories and where they come from (I suppose some are, but with Japanese food, it’s probably less of a concern, unless you binge constantly on omurice or donkatsu) or exercising, the girls simply eat till they’re 70% full. I’ve always thought that was the smartest and easiest way to approach to keeping your weight under control.

    Also, it helps a great deal to cook yourself. You know exactly what goes into the food, and in general, it’s more nutrients and less sodium/sugar.

  22. Dempeaux says:

    @Dain It’s wonderful that that kind of eating habit is a widespread, cultural phenomenon. And I agree – it does help to cook yourself. Adjusting food for your own tastes and nutritional needs is a much better way to take control of your diet :)

  23. Rin says:

    I wish I could apply all these points and STICK TO IT! I can never stick to eating well. I’ve given up trying, but even though I’ve been doing all the wrong things, I haven’t gained any weight so I guess that works for me. If I dieted I would focus on it too much! Awesome post, you’ve inspired me to have a salad for lunch (and a muffin hehe)!

  24. Dempeaux says:

    @Rin Even a salad for lunch is a meaningful and healthy change – and you never know what can grow from there! Good luck on your journey :)

  25. Olivia says:

    That salad looks REALLY good! I looove salads. *pets Lamington*

  26. Dempeaux says:

    @Olivia Thankyou! Salads are so yummy, and I love cruising the markets to see what awesome ingredients I can find to put in them. I’ll be sure to pat Lamington for you ;)

  27. Diana says:

    Following from what Dain said: it helps also to eat slowly and really savour your food while you eat, otherwise you’ll go past the “70% full” point before your digestive system has caught up with your mouth. :)

    You are the only other person I’ve ever met who drinks Robert Timms coffee bags by choice. I can be a real snob about coffee most of the time, but first thing in the morning, for rehydration purposes with a tiny dose of caffeine to wake me up, the coffee bags are perfect.

  28. Dempeaux says:

    @Diana That’s so true. I think that’s one of the benefits of eating a lot of raw food: you can’t help but eat it slowly because it takes more chewing. I love good coffee, but I live in a rural area and the nearest good coffee is about 200kms away! Robert Timms is my substitute. Now that my thesis is nearing completion I’m probably drinking it more than I should ;)

  29. Jane says:

    This post is just what I needed to read. Lately, I’ve been feeling tired, and sickly a lot! And I know why – My diet is pretty poor. Your post is something I’m going to take on board, and try to incorporate into my diet a little more.

  30. Dempeaux says:

    @Jane That’s great! I can relate to how you’ve been feeling. Small changes make such a big difference. Good luck! :)

  31. Jen W says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this when you did. I’m not big but recently have allowed myself to be really unhealthy and emotional eat. I don’t think I’ve touched a single green thing for weeks, and I can feel it.

    Your advice makes so much sense and I’m going to take it on board right away.

  32. Dempeaux says:

    @Jen Wow, thanks Jen! It’s amazing how you start to feel sluggish when you don’t eat right. I feel it after just a few days of indulgence! :) x

  33. Jade says:

    Excellent post, and so sensible, I generally follow the same rules myself. Apart from pregnancy where I completely let myself go and become a slob haha. I’m looking forward to shifting the weight I gained, hopefully it won’t take too long with a bit of exercise and healthy eating :)

  34. Dempeaux says:

    @Jade Such a great way to go. I’m sure you’ll get back to your normal body weight super quick Jade! :)

  35. Chloeblue2005 says:

    This is a great post lovely. After years of dieting successfully and then having periods of “normal” eating where I put that weight and more back on I came to a realisation – diets don’t work. So like you I am on a life-long healthy eating plan, I deny myself nothing and focus on fresh where I can (which has turned out to be quite easy).

    At the same time I have finally kicked drinking diet coke and now drink water all the time instead (with a coffee here and there). I cannot believe how much better I feel just from doing that alone. I hope that even people who are happy with their weight pick up some of these pointers because making these changes in my life has certainly affected everything from my concentration to my energy levels to my self esteem (because I am not constantly ‘screwing up’ with my eating).
    Jac x

  36. Dempeaux says:

    @Chloeblue2005 Sounds like me! ;) Yes, it’s amazing how these small changes can make a big difference to how you feel, and liberates you from the constant circle of ‘dieting’ :)

  37. I love this post. Definitely doable (someday) and inspirational for me to maintain healthy lifestyle. Bit tricky right now to do it all as how I want to, but I think incorporating it into my current diet to finally reach that level of balance that I would like it to be.

    Luckily I love fresh salads, yoghurt, mayonnaise, and cheeseeeee!!!

    x

  38. Dempeaux says:

    @DanaK Thankyou! Yes, I know what you mean – it’s sometimes hard to look after yourself when your busy or have other things going on in your life. Lucky you have a taste for healthy foods! ;)

  39. Hayley says:

    Fantastic advice, so glad you found balance. That is exactly what I aim for balance x

  40. Dempeaux says:

    @Hayley Thankyou!! It works for me :)

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