Imagine it is the first week of September. Our Summer has passed us by and the kids are back in school. Summertime can often translate into weight gain for many of us. Perhaps you have weighed yourself recently and you were surprised by how much weight you have gained over the last couple of months. As a mother of 3 kids, I always struggle to maintain my weight during the summer, so I totally understand. But hey, I can’t blame my kids! When we take the foot off the pedal and relax into the summer, routine often goes out the window, along with our healthy eating plans and routine exercise. So OK, enough is enough! Forget about the past, it is done and dusted! Stay calm and read on for my tips to help you get back on track and in control of your diet. I can help you to start eating healthy again to improve those energy levels, get you off sugar and lose the extra weight.
1. Pay attention to your portions.
Most Irish people eat more than twice the serving size of foods. It doesn’t help that restaurants often serve massive portions, which can train your mind to think that’s the amount of food your body needs. To get a handle on proper serving sizes, check nutrition labels. Become familiar with how a portion looks. A cupped hand is a portion of nuts, a full fist a portion of rice or vegetables, a finger tip is a teaspoon of butter or mayonnaise and your palm would generally equate to 3 ounces of meat or poultry. A good rule of thumb is half fill your plate with a variety of different coloured vegetables, quarter fill with protein and the final quarter with a slow releasing carbohydrate. And don’t forget the healthy fats.
2. Put your fork down between bites.
It helps you eat more slowly, which is a simple tactic to cut back on calories. When you take your time instead of inhaling your food, your body can actually register the feeling of fullness, which can take up to 20 minutes to hit your brain.
3. Guzzle water 24/7.
Even though your body is generally a pretty brilliant machine, it can be prone to slip-ups. Sometimes what you think is a hunger pang is caused by thirst. That “hunger” can cause you to snack when all your body wants is some hydration. If you still struggle at drinking water start slowly. Buy yourself a good water bottle. Put it somewhere very visible. I leave mine on the work top in the kitchen and every time I pass I take a swig. At work keep it near by. Add some herbs or fruit for flavour. I love sliced fresh lemon and grated ginger. Keep these in your freezer.
4. Bring your own lunch to work
Not only will making your own lunch can help you save money, it’ll ensure you know exactly what you’re putting into your body and that you’re getting the right nutrients. You’re also less likely to skip lunch on busy days when you can just walk to the fridge instead of having to go out and buy food. Although it seems like skipping those calories could help boost weight loss, depriving your body of regular meals just makes you more likely to overdo it later.
5. Don’t do other things while you’re eating.
It can be tough to focus on eating when there’s work to do and Instagram and Facebook to check, but eating when you’re distracted can lead to accidentally taking in more than you need. Distracted eating doesn’t just lead to more consumption in the moment, it can even compel you to eat more than necessary later on in the day, according to a systematic review of 24 studies in the February 2013 edition of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Look up intuitive eating for more ideas.
6. Make breakfast a priority.
The golden rule is always eat a breakfast and always within one hour of rising. Eating a breakfast full of lean protein and fiber will keep you satisfied, which helps you make better food choices throughout the day. To maximize the power of breakfast avoid high carb choices, like bagels, cold cereal, and muffins which cause the blood sugar rush and cravings. Rather than starting the day with a cup of coffee/tea try the warm water with lemon or apple cider vinegar to gently waken your digestive system.
7. Be a smart snacker.
Snack sensibly. To avoid over eating when hungry, well timed snacks can keep the hunger at bay. Try and eat something every 3 to 4 hours even if it is only a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit. Include protein food as snacks and avoid overeating the sweeter fruits that are high in fructose. Be organised and don’t get caught somewhere hungry and faced with poor choices. Keep non-perishable snacks in the car, in your handbag, at home, at your workplace.
8. Clock enough hours of sleep every night.
Getting enough rest is an easy way to encourage weight loss. Sleep helps keep the appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin in check. Ghrelin is our hunger hormone and leptin the hormone that tells us we are full. Without an adequate amount of sleep, those hormones become unbalanced and can lead not only to an increased appetite the following day, but we tend to crave the foods higher in fat and sugar. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should aim for between seven and nine hours a night.
9. Stick to healthy eating even on the weekends.
When you’re obsessed with eating well Monday through Friday but consider weekends a food free-for-all, you may not see the weight loss you expect. If you add it up, eating poorly and not exercising Friday to Sunday comes out to 12 days ‘off’ a month! Instead of letting the days of the week influence your habits, focus on creating a healthy lifestyle—with the occasional indulgence—that’s sustainable all month long.
10. Rely on smaller plates.
If you look at the same amount of food on a little plate vs. a large one, you might think there is more food on the smaller dish. This illusion which shows that surrounding something in a lot of white space can make it look smaller. Even if you’re not eating much, cutting back on the amount of plate space around your food can trick your brain into thinking it’s a bigger portion than it really is, whereas doing the opposite may mean you still feel hungry by making you think you only ate a bit. A 9 inch salad plate is best1
11. Avoid placing serving dishes of food in the centre of the table.
When you dine with serving dishes full of extra helpings right in front of you, you can slip into mindlessly refilling your plate even if you’re not still hungry. Instead, whenever possible, limit the food on the table to what you’re actually eating. That’s not to say seconds are forbidden—just that you should check in to see if you’re still hungry before getting up to grab some more.
12. Always include a protein food and healthy snack which each meal and snack
Unlike carbohydrate foods, protein and fats do not trigger an insulin release into the blood stream. The balance our meals with need to combine carbs with foods high in protein or fat to avoid a huge surge of insulin causing subsequent sugar cravings and hunger. So have your sliced apple with peanut butter, your brown bread with egg and/or avocado and your wholemeal pasta with chick peas.
13. Pile your plate high with vegetables.
One of the best ways to get into the healthy-eating habit is by adding things to your diet instead of removing them. Refusing to eat any of your favourite treats can backfire in a binge, whereas slowly increasing your vegetable intake can only bring good results. Not only are vegetables filled with important nutrients that keep your body healthy and energized, they contain fiber, which helps you feel satiated. To avoid vegetable burnout starting small: add a cup of vegetables to at least one meal a day for a week, then start incorporating them into more meals as you get used to them.
14. Keep a food journal.
If you’re doing all of the above but still not seeing any noticeable weight loss, dropping pounds can feel like a mysterious equation you just can’t crack. In that case, I suggest keeping a food journal so you have a detailed yet overarching view of your habits. It can help you find the areas specific to you and your lifestyle that could use some small tweaking. Do your best to track your food and beverage intake for a week, then look back to see if you’re unwittingly taking in a few extra calories you could cut out in order to get the results you’re after. Here is a link to my recent post on benefits of keeping a food diary/journal.
A Free Gift from me to you…
So if you are struggling to get back on track, have put on a few extra pounds over the summer and would like a new approach to weight loss and healthy eating please accept my FREE GIFT to you.
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Nutrition and health coach