Over the weekend I presented at the Fitness and Health Expo (www.fitnessexpo.com.au) down in Melbourne on my top tips for long term weight success. I thought you all might be interested in these as well.
Planning is the key to dietary success
Nutrition may seem complicated and indeed, some of the biochemistry and applied physiology is technical but the basics are simple – eat less rubbish, eat more fresh, natural foods. The issue for many of us is that within busy lives we find ourselves caught without the healthy foods on hand we need to eat well. It is for this reason that the simple act of planning is the key to dietary success – taking a few minutes each day and each week to make sure you have a supply of the food you need on hand to eat well no matter where you are. It means taking time out to shop each week and to cook a couple of meals to have on hand when you arrive home starving late in the evening. It means not being caught out and being forced to eat high calorie, high fat foods on the run, no matter where you are. The simple act of planning will keep your food on track 90% of the time.
Watch those liquid calories
Whether it is the milk in coffee; juice in smoothies or alcohol, liquid calories are of no help when it comes to weight control. The body does not compensate for calories consumed as liquids overly well, which means if you drink 200-300 calories in a coffee or smoothie, you do not eat 200-300 calories less. This means we have to be strict – water, plain black coffee or tea and remember that milk based drinks have as many calories as a snack if not a small meal.
Eat more vegetables
The Number 1 thing we can all do for weight control and health long term. We need at least 2-3 cups at both lunch and dinner which means most of us could do with eating a whole lot more of them. This means adding vege juice to your breakie or tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach to your eggs; a whole salad or soup with your lunch and at least ½ a plate of vegetables and salad at dinner. Your weight is likely to drop if you just do this.
Chances are you need a snack a lot less than you do. Keep in mind that the body needs at least 2-3 hours in between meals to allow the digestive hormones to return to baseline levels. For many of us this means breakfast, an early lunch, mid afternoon snack and dinner – that is it. And if you do need to snack more often, make sure your snack does not become a mini meal – just 100-200 calories is a snack or a small coffee, cheese and crackers, nut bar or a piece of fruit with a small handful of nuts.
Take lunch seriously
One observation I have is that we eat lunch too late and do not make it a substantial enough meal to keep us going for another 3-4 hours. Lunch should be consumed by 1pm at the latest to help manage sugar cravings later in the day, and a salad or sushi roll does not cut it. Aim for a substantial 350-400 calorie lunch of leftovers, stir fry, salad and a wrap or soup and crackers and notice how much more satisfied and in control of your cravings you are mid-afternoon.
Go light at night
It makes sense. The later we eat, the smaller our dinner needs to be. A light grill with salad, small piece of meat or fish and vegetables or an entrée sized serve of pasta or rice. The aim is to wake up hungry and if you do not, chances are your dinner is too large so try and eat it earlier or choose lighter meal options.
Move and exercise
You may make it to the gym or fit in a walk but if you spend the rest of your time sitting, you will most likely be gaining weight. Ideally we need plenty of steps as well as some sort of cardio at last every 2nd day so invest in a pedometer and get moving.
Don’t waste calories
Hot chips, the biscuits at work, cheap wine at a drink party or rice crackers before dinner are all mindless calories we barely register we have had; that offer little nutritionally but can pack on the kilos. Every time we eat, really consider if it is good use of your calories so that when it does come time to enjoy special meals and celebrations with family and friends we do not need to worry as much and can enjoy richer food freely.
Say no to weight gain
Successful weight loss requires focus, energy and dedication that we sometimes cannot find within busy lives. A good option for many of us is to simply commit to not gaining weight. Weigh yourself regularly to ensure it does not creep up over time as we all know it is much easier to prevent weight gain than to try and get it off once it is there
Develop your own food rules
Human beings make more than 200 food decisions each day and it is no wonder that at time we get overwhelmed with the sheer number of choices and start to make poor decisions. Make it easier to self-regulate your own food intake by developing some clear food rules. Examples include not drinking alcohol during the week, or only eating chocolate once a week but once you have a few it becomes much easier to say no when tempting treats cross your path that you know deep down it is better to say no to.