The general consensus among dieters is that weight management is difficult. Yes, figuring out what to eat or not eat can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. If you compare all the healthy eating plans, you’ll notice that about 80% of the foods they recommend are the same: There’s an emphasis on lean protein (eggs, fish, and chicken) and plant-based carbs. These food charts for the Mediterranean, Paleo and Keto diets make my point. You’ll also notice there are no boxed cereals, crisps, sausage rolls, pastries, sodas, meat products, and Lean Cuisines on them. They all agree that sugary and processed foods have to go.
1. Focus on nutrition
Once you get rid of the crap from your diet, you can focus on nutrition. Here’s how that differs from dieting.
When your goal is to lose 10, 20, 100 pounds, losing that set number of pounds IS your focus. But when the focus is on nutrition, you learn to buy tasty uncooked foods and ingredients. Food prepping becomes your convenience-food option. You no longer complain about what you have to give up because you start seeing how much more you get in return. When you make your own meals and eat nutritiously, you lose food cravings, you protect your health, you save money, you learn kitchen skills, and above all, you make it easier to control your weight. Sure, from time to time, some “expert” will come out against grains and kale may be trending this week, but pretty much, a healthy diet is consistent. New eating plan (the healthy ones) don’t change all that much.
Eat like this…
- 20% healthy naturally-sourced fats like the fats you get from extra virgin olive oil, avocado, salmon, and eggs.
- 40% lean proteins, including proteins from non-animal sources.
- 40% healthy carbs mainly plant-based, with just a few grains, nuts, and seeds.
Work in these helpful nutrition tips:
- Spice up your meals with fresh herbs, ethnic seasonings, and other chef-inspired tricks.
- Keep processed foods out of your kitchen. Out of sight out of mind.
- Always have several healthy treats like almond butter handy.
- Follow nutritionists and healthy people on social media for meal ideas and inspiration.
2. Get your life in order
What’s going on in our lives drives many of our eating habits. Loneliness, stress, and skipping meals derails diets and leads to bad food decisions. We have to take care of our emotions and ourselves. Untreated conditions such as hypothyroidism and sleep disorders make it difficult to focus on nutrition and stick to a plan. A very avoidable lifestyle habit is skipping meals. It makes us hangry and leads to bad choices. We can fix that by eating at regular intervals.
How to time your meals right
Your body has an internal clock and when you work with it, everything, including your metabolism works better. Exactly what time you should eat isn’t clear (or I believe that important) but this is what we know:
- Studies have shown that people who eat lunch after 3 p.m. found it harder to lose weight.
- They’ve found that people who don’t eat breakfast experience more food cravings.
- A longer overnight fast increases fat loss because the body has had time to reach a state of ketosis.
- Eating at regular intervals and at the same time, keeps your metabolism sharp and blood sugar levels in range.
Even though it’s not important when we choose to have breakfast or lunch, we know that if we wait too long to eat, we’re going to overeat. Eating at regular intervals keep our blood sugar levels in range, minimizes cravings and helps us make good choices. What does that look like? It’s having lunch between 12 and 1 pm or 11 and noon. It’s not eating at different times every day —one day at noon, another day at 4 pm, and some days not at all.
3. Move more (at least 3 miles a day)
The third habit is to move more. Department of Health and Human Services used to recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week but thanks to our ultra-convenient lifestyle, that’s no longer enough. The new recommendation is at least 3 miles a day.
When it comes to exercise, one new habit everyone should master is just moving more! Walking is the easiest way for nearly everyone to do that and get in the exercise we need. An app, Fitbit or another tracker will track how many steps you take per day and whether you’re walking a minimum of 3 miles.
Walking habits to get you into the routine
- Walk after meals, especially lunch and dinner. This aids digestion too.
- When you can, park further away from your destination.
- Shop in stores more often. Do less online shopping or keep to when you really need it.
- Work it in at work. Go to see a co-worker instead of sending an email, take the stairs when you’re doing 1-3 flights, book the walking desk for an hour a week and make more opportunities to walk.
- Aim to do all three of these weight loss habits, but focus on perfecting only one a time.
- Start with the easiest or most foundational habit. In this case, it would be timing your meals right.
- Next, work on the habit that’s easier for you to master. So, if you’ve failed at diets a lot, make exercise your next focus.
- Consider coaching.
Now that you have a more simplified plan, I hope you feel more confident that you can do this. Of course, you can! You can definitely learn to eat nutritiously, time your meals right and move more.
Can coaching help you?
Getting to know ourselves is a big part of the change process and it’s why most people (not all), do better with coaching. Coaching is having someone from the outside helping you to see what you may be too close to see. If your life is stressful, if you don’t have supportive people around you, and if your food budget is modest, I know this will be more challenging for you. Something we know is that there are way around most of our challenges. For example, meditation is excellent for stress, online communities are good for support, and making some smart choices at the supermarket can help a little with your budget.
Most people would benefit from this simplified guide and can work it themselves, but if you need help and support, a community can help you. And if you’re able to afford one, a coach may be the way to go.
Losing weight is, on the face of it, an exterior goal but it usually leads to an internal transformation too. The trick is for you to be aware so you can spot the signs.
Take care of yourself.
To eat nutritiously, you have to give up processed foods and start making most of what you eat. That’s a mental shift that’s difficult for a lot of people to make.