There are loads of weight loss schemes out there - shake plans, weekly meetings, calorie counting, fasting and more. But what really works? Everyone will tell you something different but this is my personal experience.
I've been researching nutrition for a few years now. I've also been my own guinea pig. I've tried weight watchers, going vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, calorie counting and Atkins. They all work to a certain extent - usually until the starvation became too much and I gave up, hating myself for failing yet another diet.
I have found that the first step to reaching a healthy weight is to set healthy expectations of yourself.
I have spent my whole life wanting to be thinner and wishing I could afford surgery to fix my body.
When I look back on photos of myself over the years I can see that I have been a healthy weight all that time, in fact I have been very slim and never able to see it even though everyone would tell me I was fine.
This may not be the case for every person, some people are overweight, some are underweight, but what I think is common for people is seeing themselves in an unrealistic light.
So lose the mirror and the scales and start with nutrition. Your body is the only one you've got and if you treat it well it should serve you well.
For me getting back to basics has been a saviour for my health and my mind. I have found removing harmful foods such as grains, legumes and sugar (including artificial sweeteners) from my diet has been hugely beneficial to my health and my waist line. Ditch the bread, pasta and cakes!
So what do I eat?
Vegetables! This is a nutrient dense way of eating. Eat as many vegetables as you like, limiting white potatoes if you want to lose weight unless you're exercising regularly.
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Fruits are also an amazing thing to eat, just watch out for eating too many, especially if you're trying to lose weight or struggle with blood sugar problems. However if you're coming from a diet high in processed foods then this isn't much of a worry as you will still be consuming far less sugar and fruit can help ease the initial sugar cravings.
Meat. For me, meat is an important part of the human diet. Including unprocessed, preferably free range/organic meat from grass-fed animals in your diet is very beneficial, providing us with protein, good fat, vitamins, minerals and more. If you can't afford free range organic don't worry. In the UK our meat is better quality than in the US and generally has far less additives. Make sure you go for whole cuts rather than preformed and you will benefit. Often the butcher can advise on cheaper cuts and will save you money over going to the supermarket.
Fat. Yes, fat is your friend! Saturated fat! Leave the fat on your cuts of meat, cook in butter. Fat does not make you fat and does not increase your risk of heart disease. (this article breaks down the science http://authoritynutrition.com/saturated-fat-good-or-bad/). Fat is also extremely satisfying - it stays in the stomach longer than carbohydrate and protein keeping you full for longer - so while it is higher in calories than the others, you will actually consume less overall calories on a higher fat diet provided you cut out the processed carbs.
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By following a diet full of all the nutrients your body requires, you really can eat as often as you like while naturally managing your portion sizes and never going hungry.
This will feel odd to start with and you might worry you're eating too much because we've always been taught low fat, portion control is the only way to lose weight. But have a little faith. Soon the inches will melt away and you will feel stronger and healthier than you ever have. This is how we evolved to eat and nature knew what she was doing!