As some of you may be aware, I'm a fitness instructor in real life. (In fact, as I mentioned it in my last post, I'll be a bit upset if you don't - lol!) As such, whenever I read, hear, see things about diets, I cringe. I HATE that word, indeed the whole concept of dieting so much!
The basic idea of going on a diet means that you'll be restricting your calories, probably to an extent that it will be unsustainable and you'll feel like you've failed and feel bad about yourself. And when you decide to come off the diet, you'll eat the way you ate before. Now, forgive me for being blunt, but the way you ate before is the reason you went on a diet in the first place.
The physiology of our wonderful bodies goes back to cavemen times, when food was abundant for months and then scarce for long periods.
Lots of food = lots of eating = lots of podgy cavemen!
Winter = no food = starvation mode = bodies restrict how many calories they need by slowing their metabolic rate and reducing the amount of muscle they hold (using the muscle as a dense energy source) = cavemen living until the next crop of food, albeit a bit skinnier now.
These days, we don't have this feast/famine cycle, but we mimic it by going on drastic diets.
So, I have some top tips:
1) Although you need to be aware of the calories you're eating, counting every single one smacks of being on a diet, and I don't want you to think you are. Instead, start by making simple changes. If you always have three pieces of toast and jam for breakfast, have two. Maybe consider swapping the jam for a 100% fruit spread (sharper taste, possibly acquired). If you eat cereal, consider weighing out the size portion suggested on the box for a couple of days (people always over-estimate a cereal portion!) Try to do this with every meal. And add vegetables to everything. Try for 5 portions of veg a day and 2 portions of fruit.
2) There's nothing evil about snacking. But if you snack on Snickers and cake, the calories mount up. Good snacks, for both morning and afternoon, could be yoghurt, fruit, a couple of spoons of cottage cheese, nuts.
3) On the subject of nuts, they are not a bad food. Although they are high in fat, the fat is the good monosaturated sort. They are also high in protein. Between the fat and the protein, nuts will keep you full-up for longer.
4) And on the subject of protein filling you up, try to have some at every meal: yoghurt, cottage cheese, meat, fish, nuts and seeds, pulses (tinned are easy to use, but try to avoid ones packed in salted water).
5) Fat is not the enemy: sugar is. Fat fills you up: sugar makes you crave more. Avoid low fat food. (My particular bug-bear is low fat yoghurt. Youghurt is not a high fat food, but they still make a low fat version, and to maintain the taste and bulk of the original, they fill it with sugar! No, this is very wrong!) Some of the Weight Watchers cakes are up to 50% sugar!
5) Enjoy your food. More than that, really, really ENJOY your food. Focus on every mouthful, eat slowly, consider the taste, the feel, the smell. And listen to your body when it tells you it's full.
6) Increase your activity levels. (This is where I'm going to repeat all the advice you instinctively know.) Walk to the local shops (carrying the bags home sort of counts as weight-training... ish), take a brisk walk at lunch time, use the stairs, dance around the kitchen while waiting for the kettle to boil (oh... just me?), take the kids to the park and join in - swing, slide, playing frisbee and football, have a race on the balance beams.
7) To increase fitness rather than just increase calorie expenditure, you need to raise your heart-rate, you need to get warm and sweaty, and not be able to hold a full conversation - cycling, jogging, brisk walking up steep hills, workout videos or classes, joining a gym. But that's a whole other topic!
So that's my very brief and not-at-all comprehensive way to make small changes that will hopefully help to break the dieting habit. I don't suppose I've written anything that's not available (and better articulated) elsewhere, but it's my first try at non-fiction writing, so if I try it again I'll have something to improve on.
Thanks for reading. Comments appreciated on both the style and the content. Advice available if I've struck a chord!