There’s something maddening and also exhilarating about bending your body to your will.
When you make an effort and get results, you feel great and in control. When you’re gaining weight or can’t lose what you want, you feel defeated.
There’s a new “fad” that people are finding that works, and it’s just a healthier way to eat. And, it’s been around forever.
It’s called clean eating, or high fiber, or Whole 30 or vegetarianism or macrobiotics or, or, or the list goes on. Of course, each way has its own pecularities, but they all have one goal in common-eat real, unprocessed food that is low in fat (generally).
Keep in mind, there are two main weight loss camps that work in the short run: low fat and low carbohydrate. However, your brain and body are fueled by carbohydrates.
If you limit them to lose weight, you’ll end up binging to feel full again. And, if you’re not prepared, you’ll binge on whatever junk carbs you have around.
Carbs have been heralded as the enemy, but the real problem are low fiber starches (read: white rice, white pasta, white bread) swimming in high fat sauces and butter (read: butter, margarine, oils, fatty sauces).
Imagine eating those starches without fats – much less appealing. If you want a new way of living that will satisfy you and be healthy, you should consider high carb, low fat.
This can be achieved a number of ways, with plants only or with meat. That’s up to you.
You are probably doing some things right. And, some things wrong. Go through this checklist and see where you can make some changes. Go slow and only change what you can sustain.
- Make sure you’re eating enough calories
For some people, this is a joke. They eat their entire Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) at the drive through in the morning. You know who you are. If that’s you, skip on down to Number 2.
The RDA is the recommended daily allowance or suggestions for how much you should eat each day. According to the RDA, the average woman (not pregnant or breastfeeding) needs 2000 calories with approximately 70 g of fat and the average man, 2500 with 95 grams of fat.
The fat is actually kind of high, especially if you aren’t eating meat or are eating lean meat. And, of course, these are just guidelines, varying from person to person. But let’s focus on the calories only for a moment.
Not eating enough calories is the number one reason people quit vegetarian and “whole food” diets. They are hungry! They quit thinking they could never get full on a plant based/high fiber diet.
Natural foods have a higher water content than fatty foods and lower calories (in general) A very large bowl of salad may have only 100 calories (minus fatty dressing).
Hint: you can’t physically eat enough salad or vegetables to get full. You need complex carbohydrates prepared in a low fat way will provide the calories. Examples would be most types of fruit, brown rice, and other whole grain carbohydrates.
- Lower your fat intake
Most diets, plant based or otherwise, are too high in fat. Most food, except fruit, tastes bad without some seasoning, oil or butter. Think popcorn, bread or pasta (even salads) with nothing on them for flavor.
You must monitor your fat in a consistent way. Have an objective goal of how much you want to intake daily (ie. 35 grams or less) and use a tool like a teaspoon to measure it. You don’t want to “eyeball” it.
- Find “cheats” that don’t throw you way off track (or compromise on a better way of eating overall)
Have something that feels like a cheat that won’t ruin all your hard work once a week. You won’t feel deprived this way. You’ll look forward to the cheat and happily get back on track with renewed vigor.
Need an example? Think of subbing frozen premade fries for homemade ones. Still fry them (aww feel the cheat!).
They give the taste you want and are a better option because they are unprocessed and have no preservatives. That’s a cheat you can feel better about!
Find a lesser set of evils to enjoy all the time! (Read swapping whites (white flour, white bread, white pasta, white rice) for whole grain options. This may be a compromise, but you may not feel the need to cheat at all!
- Make a confession…
Not with the priest, on paper! Keep yourself accountable with a food diary.
A food diary is the perfect companion to dietary changes. You either ate the cookie or you didn’t…And now, you have to write it down! Just having to admit a dietary sin might help you avoid committing it!
Food diaries can be as detailed or as simple as you like. Track what you’re eating and how many calories or the total fat. Cookies don’t sound so bad, until you have to say how much fat or calories they have. Remember, calories are not created equally. Some low fat calories (like fruits and veggies) are unlimited and others are restricted. Fat is the enemy here.
- Set measurable short, medium and long term goals
Nothing like needing to lose those last 50 (or 20 or 10) pounds. It can seem like an eternity. If you have a lot to lose, the pounds may seem to melt off in the beginning, then you hit a plateau or slow WAY down.
If you have a short term goal to keep you going, you can stay focused without feeling discouraged. Think 2 pounds weekly and 8 pounds a month instead of focusing on your entire goal.
- Make it a lifestyle change not a fad
This last one sounds so cliche, right? Well, it’s true. You can do almost any drastic diet for at least a day or two. But what about when you lose willpower (get hungry) and cave back into your bad habits? Don’t do that to yourself any more.
Make small changes you can stick with. The weight will come off slowly but you’ll keep your sanity and your results.
Choose a healthier lifestyle that is moderate for you. Don’t go from fast food everyday to lettuce only salads and expect it to stick.
There are some strong individuals who can leap from night to day, but most of us have to adopt small changes over time.
If all you can do is stop eating 2 Large Big Mac meals and move to one Big Mac meal, you’ve made progress. What you do consistently is what your body will reflect. If you cheat once a week (in a controlled way), it won’t trip you up.
You’ve got the other 26 days of the month of consistent effort to back you up. Besides, after eating clean consistently for a long time, you may find that you just don’t crave the crap as much anymore.
So what’s the moral of this story? Find a middle ground way to reach your goals. Measure your food and keep track of it. Do things in a way that YOU can sustain and enjoy! Couple enjoyable meals with noticeable, measurable progress and you’ll have the motivation to GO ALL THE WAY!