Twelve years ago I went from 72kg to 58kg. I did this through research and pure determination. Although exercise played a big part in my success, exercise is futile if you don't eat right. In this article I have laid out a few important things about food and eating that I learned along the way. Whether you incorporate them into your lifestyle or not is up to you, but I struggled for years to get rid of excess body fat, until I implemented these guidelines into my lifestyle.
Me at 72kg
Me at 58kg
Plan your meals and track what you eat
I can't express enough how important meal planning and keeping track of your calories, as well as your macros, is to the success of achieving your results. Sure it sounds like a lot of hard work but trust me, it's worth it and it gets easier the more you do it. There are plenty of apps out there that help you to do both. Menu planning is pretty straight forward, each day plan out what you're going to eat the next day and when. Make it realistic and achievable though, otherwise you won't stick to it. Keeping track of your calories means intake and output (food v exercise), while your macros are just simply your carbs/protein/fat intake. I use the My Fitness Pal website and app because it's easy, free and will help you track calories, macros and exercise.
Don't Skip Breakfast
I understand that some people don't like to eat first thing in the morning and some people even believe that skipping breakfast is a great way to eliminate calories from their diet. But the truth is that you need breakfast to kick-start your metabolism. If you don't think you can stomach a full breakfast in the morning then you can start with something as simple as a protein drink and a banana. Think of your metabolism as a furnace, you need to get that furnace burning adequately by fueling it. Feeding it first thing in the morning gets it started.
Eat at regular intervals
Another important aspect of running an efficient furnace is feeding it on a regular basis. If you lump coal into a furnace and fill it right up so its full, how is that coal going to burn? It's going to burn slowly and the energy output is going to be sluggish. However if you throw small amounts of coal into the furnace regularly instead, then it burns that fuel more efficiently and the energy is expelled quicker. The same can be said for our bodies, think of each meal as an energy spike for your metabolism. I eat five to six small meals a day, with an emphasis on 'small,' I aim for roughly 300 - 400 calories per meal.
Eliminate Simple Carbohydrates
This includes cane sugar, corn syrup and honey. Basically you need to do away with sweets, chocolate and cake! There, I said it. As painful as this sounds you have to remember that you have a goal in mind and you will never achieve it as long as you are partaking in these 'goodies'. So what's wrong with refined sugars? There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Sugar is as simple as they come. Carbohydrates make your body produce insulin. The primary role of insulin is to store glucose from your bloodstream for energy. Simple carbohydrates burn quicker, which means a rapid release of insulin and faster absorption into your system. Not only does this mean your body doesn't get a chance to use the food for any other benefit, but your body will also store any fats consumed in the same sitting. In addition to that, your body will also stop burning fat as part of this process.
Chips should be avoided as well. Even though potatoes are a complex carbohydrate, the deep-frying of chips negates their nutritional value and packs them full of bad fats!
Eat Complex Carbohydrates
Low carb diets are misleading. You need complex carbohydrates for energy and brain function. There are two types of complex carbohydrate foods - starchy and fibrous. Starchy carbohydrates are best left for breakfast and around exercise time because they are calorie dense and they spike your blood sugar level. Whereas fibrous carbohydrates can be eaten abundantly! That's great because they help to keep you feeling full for longer and are chock full of vitamins and minerals. Fibrous carbohydrates include non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, carrot, cauliflower etc) and fruit (except for bananas and their relatives). A lot of people will tell you to stay away from fruit because fructose is a sugar. However I believe that the benefits you get from the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in fruit outweigh their sugar consideration. Just try not to have them with fatty items and avoid fruit juice as it is missing the fibre that whole fruit has. Having said that, I do cut fruit from my diet when I want to cut fat. You could restrict all fruit to breakfast and workout times as well if you want, your choice regarding fruit will depend on your goals and how much excess fat you want to lose.
Eat good fats, avoid saturated ones and steer clear of trans fats!
Your body needs fat and fat plays a very important role in keeping your body healthy. Good fats help your body to transport vitamins and minerals around the body, as well as absorb them. They also help to reduce the risk of heart disease and aid in lowering cholesterol levels. While protecting your organs, keeping you warm and assisting with hormone production.
Carbohydrates and fats are not to be feared!
When choosing an energy supply your body has three choices: carbohydrates; fat; and protein. It uses them in that order too because carbohydrates are easier to burn than protein, which is easier to burn than fat. What this means for your fat loss goals is that as long as you are supplying your body with plenty of glucose, it will not use your body fat. Instead your excess body fat will just sit there until it is needed and it will not be needed until you take away that sugar supply! But please keep in mind that your body needs both carbohydrates and fats to survive. Just eat good carbohydrates and fats, and eat them at the right times.
Indulgence @ The Green Edge on junk food day
Give yourself a junk food day or meal!
Here is the good news! And it is just as important as the rest. You need to give yourself one day, or one meal a week, where you can just eat whatever you want. It is important for keeping you on your path because no matter how hard it all gets you can tell yourself that if you just hold on till Saturday, or Monday, or whatever day you have chosen, then you can have whatever it is you think you're craving. One day or meal won't hurt your efforts as long as the next day, or meal, you jump right back on the wagon. You will find too that eventually your junk food cravings will start to die off and as you get into this journey further, you will find yourself craving healthy food instead!
'Fad' diets don't work
It is often tempting to try different 'fads' to help you in your fight against your excess body fat, but really the best way to lose excess body fat is through exercise and eating clean. The basics I have outlined here are just a guide to help you utilise that clean eating better. Although once you have mastered the basics and are seeing some results, you might start to feel a little complacent or bored with your meals. That's when you can branch out and try other 'ideas' and advanced fitness and eating plans. However be aware of conflicting information, of which there is much in the weight loss industry. Don't just blindly believe anything and everything you hear or read. Go ahead, investigate and try out different ideas if that's what you need to keep you interested or give you a sense of control over your journey. But just remember the number one rule:
Thank-you for this article Beatrice. Good advice!
I try to be so careful in how much I eat and what I eat. I drink a lot of water through out the day. I drink warm water first thing in the morning before breakfast.