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.