I hate the word ‘diet’, don’t you? Dieting isn’t an action, it’s a state-of-mind where you purposely torture yourself. Right here and now, we are no longer “dieting.”
I have developed a habit over the past 10 years of making healthier choices when it comes to food, 70-80% of the time. To establish some credibility, I’ve been both overweight and lean in the past 10 years. I use to eat anything I wanted and the only reason I wasn’t huge was because I played a ton of sports. In college, I stopped playing sports and I gained the freshman 20. After my first fall semester at 18 years old, I changed my life for the better by watching what I ate and going to the gym 4-5 days a week. Since then, I’ve had moments where I stop following my rules and I gain weight every single time. So, I KNOW what habits lead to weight gain and which ones lead to weight loss & maintenance. I would like to share with you my plan for your healthiest, most sun-shiney self.
First, you must understand that we are all different. The same things that work for me might not work for you. However, like I’ve said in a past blog- there is a proven method to accomplishing almost anything! It’s best to learn the system first and then tweak it as necessary for the best results. The foundation for a healthier body starts with two things: your activity level and what you eat. Duh, right, like you haven’t heard that 200 times but I know it’s overwhelming with all the different diet and workout plans out there. For now, I want you to clear your mind of the clutter and allow me to lay a simple foundation for a healthier you.
Some simple pointers…
- A healthy life/body is 80% food and 20% exercise
- Whole, natural foods are the best choices
- Outside of natural food choices, choose minimally processed foods & snacks
- Learning to love healthy food will take time, don’t stress it and stay consistent
- Cut down on ALL added sugar to break the addiction (simple carbs too)
- Eat balanced meals to feel full longer: Protein, veggie, complex carb. Salad with chicken or steak. Fruit and oatmeal for breakfast. Experiment and have fun
- Find snack staples (recommendations below)
- Cook at home more than you go out
- Meal Prep for success
- Exercise at least 3 times per week
Some ground rules for grocery shopping…
The foods on the outside grocery aisles are typically the ones that are healthier for you than the foods located in the middle aisles. The outer edges of the store are going to have your whole foods like fruits, salads, veggies, meat, fish, cheese (if you aren’t lactose intolerant), milk, eggs, yogurt, etc. Most of what is located in the middle aisles are processed foods- even the healthier processed foods. My recommendation is to start from the outside and work your way in.
Tread carefully with all processed foods. Even the healthiest of us want quick snacks and alternatives to the junk we like. READ THE LABELS on everything you pick up. The front of the box/carton is going to sell you, the label is going to teach you. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, google it. Over time, you’ll discover the foods that bug your digestive system and ones that don’t. Even some foods that are considered healthy make me bloated and crappy feeling, like soy. Soy is located in tons of health foods so I have made a habit of reading labels and avoiding it. Generally speaking, tons of added ingredients you can’t pronounce are not good for your body, so read the labels and learn about what’s actually in what you’re eating. I also read the labels because I don’t eat foods with tons of added sugar…
Added sugar is BAD, this is undeniable. Many organic/healthier option foods include added organic cane sugar which has the same affect on your body as granulated ‘regular’ sugar= it raises blood sugar levels which can cause plenty of negative health issues plus weight gain. To spot the hidden added sugar on the nutrition label, look for words ending in “ose.” For a healthier life, you need to cut back on added sugars. Artificial sweeteners like Stevia and Swerve have no affect on blood sugar levels and have been proven safe by the FDA. Personally, I use Swerve in my baking and coconut sugar for the flavored Ninja coffees that I make on rare occasion. I LOVE my vanilla coffee creamer, so I’m currently working on making my own coffee creamer at home so I can control the amount of sugar in my coffee. I do like Natural Bliss coffee creamers. My main rule is this: ALL sugar should be eaten in extreme moderation. Sugar is addictive. To change for the better, you must break this addiction by limiting the amount of any type of added sugar. For sugar cravings, switch to sweet fruits and vegetables as a staple.
Choose complex Carbs vs. simple Carbs. Before you jump into the Carb chat with me, just know this is where I find that people differ the most. My basic diet is paleo which consists of whole, natural foods. I love Paleo because I feel great and it’s easy. I have such a busy life, I want my grocery shopping & cooking to be easy! It’s easy to spot paleo foods because they only include whole, real ingredients which makes my shopping tons easier. Plus, I love my complex carbs! Complex carbs are found in foods like sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole grains and veggies. Simple carbs are found in most processed foods, white rice, white potatoes, most breads, doughnuts, etc. The reason complex carbs are better for you is because it takes your body longer to turn them into sugar which gives you sustained energy and keeps you feeling full longer. Thus, complex carbs have a lower glycemic index. Simple carbs have the same basic affect eating sugar has on your body; quick energy spikes & full feeling only to feel hungry again in no time. My ultimate recommendation is to try to pair your complex carbs with a balanced meal: veggies and a small protein.
Now for your state of mind…
Seeing results may take some time. The important thing to remember is that you’re not going to turn into barbie over night. It is much harder to loose weight than the articles on Pinterest tell you. This is going to take time and consistency. I know motivation is low when you’ve made a change and it feels like nothing is happening but just know it is happening! Eating healthy and exercising is good for your mind and body; every function is improved with a healthier lifestyle. You’ll feel a change before you’ll see it. Continue to devote yourself to it and I promise, you will see a change!
Do not focus on the limitations, focus on the alternative. I’m going to share the simplest trick I learned that helped me a TON. Instead of saying to myself or others “I can’t have that, I’m on a diet” , I chose to say “I don’t eat that kind of stuff.” Each time I said it to myself or someone else, I felt stronger and more in control. Food does control us, right? Even the healthiest of us are kinda crazy for the things we crave. So, I continually try to focus on the healthiest alternative to the junk I like. For example, thin crust pizza over thick crust, Halo ice cream over regular, cookies made from home with healthy ingredients over store-bought.
If you’re use to eating sugar, cutting back is going to hurt. Okay, this one is huge. I’ve known people to not follow through with a lifestyle change because the day you cut back on sugar is the worst and it stays that way for several days. You feel very hungry, irritable, tired, etc etc etc. Yes, it sucks. I’ve been through it. I promise you it stops if you just stick to it! For me, it was about 5-7 days and I didn’t feel like that anymore. I urge you to meal prep. Dedicate time on Sunday to cooking lunches and/or dinners for the week so you are prepared to succeed.
Remember, this isn’t “a diet”, it’s YOUR diet. When I say “my diet”, I’m referring to the things I eat; my rules for what I choose. It isn’t so limited that I stress over it. Don’t cut yourself off of everything you love, that’s not what we’re doing and it most certainly will cause you to fail. What we are doing is looking for healthier options and cutting out things that need to be cut out and yes, Becky, the Oreos in your lunchbox gotta go. Switch those for a couple of pieces of minimally processed dark chocolate. Above all…If you want a doughnut, eat a doughnut! Just don’t eat 1 every morning for breakfast 4 times a week and 2 on Saturdays with a hamburger for lunch. Which brings me to…
Food is fuel. Humans have a weird relationship with food thanks to added sugars and processed foods. Our relationship with food should be this: Food is fuel. Food can fuel your mind and body to do amazing or not-so-amazing things, you choose. Of course, we want to enjoy what we eat, but remembering that foods’ most important function EVER is to fuel you could help you make better choices. Processed foods loaded with additives and sugar do absolutely nothing to fuel you. A McDonald’s cheeseburger does nothing to fuel you except make you feel full. While sugar is necessary for brain function, sugar can be found in healthy foods. Too much sugar is linked to decreased brain function. Reach for foods that fuel your body and mind!
My Snack Staples:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Babybel cheese
- Blueberries- great for boredom eating when you just want something to pick at
- Celery & almond butter/healthy peanut butter
- Grapes (1 snack baggie)
- Pineapple & Kiwi when I’m craving something sweet
*For dessert ideas, check out paleo books on Amazon or recipes on Pinterest. All is not lost; you CAN make desserts with healthier ingredients! Yay!
Now for exercise! Take heart, workout haters, it isn’t so bad. As with your eating habits- the fastest way to get through it is just to start now. Having been through it all, I can tell you from both sides of the spectrum that working out is absolutely necessary to feel great, loose/maintain weight, and improve overall bodily functions. I really hate the phrase “bodily functions” because it sounds super gross but I don’t know how else to say it. I’ve been a semi-gym rat since I was 19 and I’ve never felt or looked better. Working out improves brain function, speeds up metabolism, gives you more energy, puts you in a better mood (endorphins), plus much more. Not working out does the opposite. I would know, I quit the gym once because of school, etc. and the outcome was the above. Plus I just looked like I didn’t workout which I was unfamiliar with. I hated it.
My advice is to never skip too many days in a row. Do some form of heart-accelerating exercise at least 3-4 times a week. Don’t over-think it so much that you don’t go; you do not have to power through the perfect workout for it to matter. Even if you simply follow the motions and walk on the treadmill, you must stick to your routine to develop the habit. It takes 21 days of consistently doing something to develop the habit. Squash your excuses; gyms have daycare and you can find the time if it matters. If you can’t go to the gym, workout at home. My favorite at home workout is called Body Boss. Get a personal trainer, find workouts on Pinterest, get a buddy to go with you, either way- get that heart rate up.
As with eating right, working out for the first few days/ a week is going to hurt if you aren’t use to it. You’ll feel like a busted can of croissant rolls trying to do anything. This, too, shall pass. Stick with it and you’ll feel like a super hero, promise. To make the most of your workout, find a good prep and recover routine. This will depend on what time of day you workout. For example, I eat oatmeal or a hard boiled egg in the morning before my workout and I drink coffee on the way to the gym. I’ve found that I feel really weak after my workout, so I recover with an ICONIC or Simply Natural Boost Protein shake. Some peeps take a pre-workout for energy or what-have-you, this is totally up to you.
So that’s it! I tried to keep it simple and informative. The most important thing is to establish the foundation of choosing healthier foods and adding in a consistent exercise routine and then tweak things to fit what works best for you 🙂