Eating the right foods is by far the hardest part of living a healthy lifestyle because food choices start from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed and that can be a lot of pressure on someone who has a million other decisions to make every day. In saying that, making small changes to your diet can increase energy levels, promote better sleep patterns, reduce fat around your organs and reduce the risk of chronic illness so it's totally worth it!
Now if you haven't read my other blogs about nutrition, I should let you know that I am not about cutting out food groups or depriving yourself. I am, however about the 80/20 rule which means you eat healthy, nourishing foods 80% of the time then splash out and 'treat 'yoself' the other 20% of the time. I really believe that the most important reason to eat well and exercise is to improve our health on the inside although weight loss and lean muscle mass are a nice side effect ;-)
We've heard it all; control your portion sizes, drink more water, don't buy 'naughty foods' and what to eat when you're out to dinner with friends. All of those are important points but the reality is that most of us know WHAT to do when it comes to diet, it's the DOING it part that is the hard bit so here are my 5 simple tips to improve your diet without cleaning out your pantry or starting from scratch...
1. Stop counting calories.
Calorie counting is unnecessary unless you're aiming to be the next Miss Australia Bikini Body. I see why people do it and it is good to have an idea of which foods are higher in calories than others (because some are very deceiving!) but every calorie is different so eating a low calorie diet does not always indicate 'healthy eating.' For example, an apple is 100 calories but a small chocolate bar is also 100 calories. Your body will process fruit differently than it will a Kitkat. FACT! If you focus on consuming whole, natural foods most of the time then there's no need to count your calories. Don't get me wrong, portion size is still something to think about but more so when you're eating foods that you know are better in smaller amounts.
2. Don't drink alcohol every day and be honest with yourself about how much you do drink.
Too much alcohol can cause weight gain and can also inhibit your ability to lose excess weight. You may be eating a cracking good diet but if you're necking a bottle of wine every night then you're not doing yourself any favours. It's not just about drinking vodka, lime and soda to reduce your calorie intake, it's about drinking LESS. I love wine too but I know that drinking it every night isn't good for my body and it can lead to poor food choices that day and usually the following day so it's not worth it to me (plus I hate feeling hungover!) If you drink less, you will feel better, eat better, sleep better and probably exercise more so sit down and decide which days will be your 'alcohol free days' each week and lock them into the diary.
3. Explore some variation of fasting.
This is not for everyone and do not try this if you are pregnant or breastfeeding but fasting has a lot of great benefits including:
- improved organ health,
- reduced bloating,
- decreased chronic inflammation,
- fat loss.
I practice intermittent fasting every day meaning that I eat within an 8-9 hour eating window depending on what time I have dinner. There is also the option of a 24 hour fast once or twice a week or the 5:2 diet where you fast on two separate days of the week. I don't recommend fasting for people that have a history of eating disorders because it can become obsessive but I do really believe in the health benefits of implementing some kind of fasting into your daily or weekly routine. If you're interested in learning more about fasting, Eat Stop Eat is a great book that explains the health benefits that occur in the human body when we aren't constantly in a 'fed' state.
4. Know your limits.
When I would sit in on meetings at my old workplace, there would always be a bowl of lollies in the centre of the table and if I ate one, I would lose control and end up eating the whole bowl and the thing is, the lollies weren't even that tasty! I'm not about depriving myself but it just wasn't worth it to me so I would bring my own snack to the meeting or go without and have a coffee instead. Know yourself and your limits. I'm not saying you can't eat a couple of lollies here and there, I'm saying that it's better if you can say no to something that will make you feel like crap later. Save your treats for something you will actually enjoy eating because that's totally worth the sugar coma later on!
5. Write it down and go from there.
Before I get my clients to make any changes to their diet, I ask them to write down everything they eat in a week (yes everything!) Seeing it written on a piece of paper is a good reality check because we are all guilty of mindless eating and drinking. You drank three bottles of wine and ate a chocolate bar every day this week? Well next week you might aim to eat a chocolate bar on only four days of the week and knock the wine down to two bottles instead of three. Gradual is best but it's hard to know what changes to make if you aren't seeing it written in front of you first #denial.
I meet a lot of people that are genuinely unhappy about feeling tired and crap every day but they aren't always realistic about the nutritional changes they need to make in order to improve their health and wellbeing. Some foods are addictive so it's not always easy to makes changes but improving your diet doesn't mean changing everything or never eating a bowl of chips ever again.
If you know that your food choices aren't serving you well, take these five tips and implement them today! You can wait until Spring or until next month or until next Monday but that's not necessarily the right time to get started. The right time to start making a change is when you're fed up with feeling like crap.
Still not sure where to start? Send me your food diary and I can help you make some small, manageable changes to get you on the right track.
Here's to a happy and healthy you,