This is not another blog about what diet is best for weight loss and how long to diet for. That’s because any diet will work. As long as it puts you in a calorie deficit, then you will lose weight. The super duper important caveat here though is, that you have to stick to it for a reasonable amount of time for it to work.
Which begs the question, just how easy is it to follow your choice of diet so that you can stick to it indefinitely? That’s why I don’t talk about specially about dieting, I talk about healthy food habits and eating behaviours instead.
Examples of the type of diets I'm referring to are Weight Watchers, Slimming World, calorie counting, if it fits your macros, low carb, low fat, Paleo, grapefruit diet, alkaline diet, and detox diets to name but a few.
[Read more about what I think about detox diets here.]
While following (or at least trying to follow) the above type of diets, ask yourself the following:
Do you actually enjoy eating this way so it doesn't feel like a monumental effort for you?
Does it leave you feeling good and energized and not lethargic and drained or constipated?
Does it allow you to enjoy fun food from time to time so you don't feel starved or deprived?
Can you maintain this way of eating forever and turn it into a lifestyle (to be cliché about it)?
If you answered no to any of these, then you may want to rethink your choice of diet.
The commonality between most diets is calorie restriction. Eat fewer calories than you expending, et voila, weight loss. The more drastic the restriction, the quicker you will lose the weight, but the more unsustainable it will be.
Read that again.
The more drastic the restriction, the quicker you will lose the weight, but the more unsustainable it will be.
Restrictive type diets only work for the short time that you are following it. As soon as you resume your normal eating behaviours then you will more than likely regain the lost weight.
It’s a perpetual cycle of yo yo dieting, one which can leave you with a feeling of despair, guilt, and diminished self-worth.
Succeeding with your diet takes a truck load more than following a list of 'rules'. Instead we need to change our behaviours around food, our attitude towards food, and ultimately build a healthy relationship with all food.
With that said, here are my top tips for long lasting, sustainable, and (dare I say) enjoyable weight loss loss:
1. Zone into Your Zen
Become more mindful about how and why you eat, and use positive reinforcement to drive your food choices instead of the negative. Repeat after me:
I give up fear of failing my diet, I will accept when I have over indulged and then move on
I give up punishing myself over my food choices, I will be kind to myself regardless
I give up sabotaging my diet when I am upset, angry, or bored, I will confront my emotions instead of burying them in food
I give up exercising to burn off the Mars bar I just ate, I will exercise to get fit and strong
I give up striving for the perfect diet, I will have patience and strive for progress instead
2. Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water is important to help our bodies work at its best. A rough guideline to begin with is 3 litres for men and 2.5 litres for women. Nobody ever drinks enough water, so get it into you. Start by adding a glass of water first thing in the morning, and then adding in another glass before each meal. Invest in a fancy water bottle and carry it with you to remind you to drink more water. Add a fresh slice of lemon, lime, or cucumber for a twist. This simple change alone carries so many positives, so do not underestimate the power of hydration.
3. Ditch the Diet (Foods)
Lay off on “diet” and low calorie foods, meal replacement bars, shakes, and drinks, which are far less nutritious than you are led to believe. Instead go for regular ole food instead, bearing in mind that pre-packaged and frozen foods are handy too. Think vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, nuts, seeds, natural oils, dairy and whole-grains, most of the time.
4. Fuel up on Micronutrient Power
Try and include some vegetables (or fruit) with each meal. They are a pillar of health, high in fibre and low in calories. Eat the rainbow, the more colour variety the better to cover your vitamin and mineral needs.
5. Include More Protein
Eat protein not just to survive but to thrive. When eaten with other foods, protein plays a big role in appetite control and helps us to feel more satisfied, stabilise blood sugars and offset feelings of "hangry". Protein is also essential for maintaining lean muscle mass during a dieting phase (along with strength training) for that "toned" look.
6. Don't Fear the Fats
Healthy fats are necessary for your brain, eyes, hormones, and pretty much every other body part to work properly. They also help with satiety, balancing blood sugars, and stabilising mood and energy levels. Try to get most of your fats from foods such as nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocados and coconut.
7. Embrace the Carbs
If you are an active person then a very low carb diet is simply not sustainable. Feel free to eat and enjoy starchy carbs at each meal, and if you need to, then increase portions on higher intensity exercise days so you can better fuel and recover from your training. If including carbs in your diet helps you to enjoy your diet more then you are more likely to stick to it in the long run. If you can stick to your diet in the long run then the more maintainable your results will be.
8. Listen to Your Body
Practice the art of mindful eating. Honour your hunger, eat mostly when you are hungry and feel free to put the fork down when you have had enough or are satisfied. Get to know your hunger cues and know the difference between hunger and eating out of boredom or due to cravings, stress, and emotional upset. In addition, keep the "hangry" monsters at bay by eating every 3-4 hours to prevent you from making poor food choices because you are fit to eat a horse.
9. Treat Yo-self!
Allow yourself some dietary freedom and indulge in fun food from time to time. Literally give yourself permission to eat and enjoy fun food. Give yourself the choice and feel the mental struggle disappear. This way, there’s no deprivation, no starvation, and no food is “off limits”. This is ultimately what makes any nutrition plan maintainable, sustainable, and enjoyable.
[Read more in my blog post about how the enjoyment factor relates to our mental health here.]
10. Rest and Revive
Sleep is probably the most forgotten ingredient for weight loss. Rest is critical to becoming healthier and leaner, helping to regulate the crazy and sozzled hormones flying around the body, so it’s crucial to get enough shut-eye.
So there you have it, my Top 10 Tips to help you become and healthier and happier you. Of course, there is a tonne more involved in breaking dieting habits of a lifetime, but it is a pretty decent start.
Thanks for reading,
PS If you enjoyed what you read and cherish the idea of more dietary freedom in your life then you will absolutely love my online nutrition program, Ignition Nutrition. A one of a kind, 12 week online nutrition program, with your own personal nutrition coach, to help you reach your health goals once and for all, so you can be a healthier and happier you!