It’s not difficult to find a diet to follow. The sheer volume of weight loss plans is overwhelming. How do you choose? How do you know which ones are valid, and which are scams? Why does weight loss have to be like a puzzle to solve, one in which the majority of Americans still haven’t found the secret to?
And why are so many of them so expensive?
I have a secret for you that the diet industry does not want you to understand, because it would ruin their whole tactic. The fact is that the vast majority of diet plans on the market, when followed, actually work.
I bet that’s NOT what you thought I was going to say, huh?
By “work” I mean that they do what they claim to do – they make you lose weight. Does that mean that they are all necessarily healthy and sustainable? No, most definitely not. Take the cabbage soup diet or juice cleanses: not nutritionally balanced, and most certainly not sustainable. But yeah, you will most certainly lose a bunch of weight if you do what they say.
I’m not here to demonize dieting, as there are some very healthy, balanced, and sustainable “lifestyle” plans out there that teach us how to eat healthier while also guiding us in losing weight (such as the ketogenic diet).
The point I am trying to make is that weight loss does not need to be as complicated as the diet industry wants us to think it is. If they desire to stay profitable they won’t be coming out any time soon to say, “Hey everyone! It’s simple – eat less and exercise more, drink some water. You don’t need this monthly membership, meal replacement shakes, and cookbooks!”
Many of the better plans include their own versions of these 5 core basics with the addition of extra “fluff” that allows them to differentiate themselves from the rest of the plans on the market – to make it seem like they’re “really on to something”. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it’s just business as usual. As consumers however, it is very beneficial for us to understand this when it comes to our own health as well as mental well being.
Because a lifetime spent diet hopping can be extremely disheartening and mentally exhausting. Where in this life does the enjoyment of food come in? Where in this life is there allowance for making memories around delicious meals that aren’t fogged over with regret?
Maybe it’s time for us to take it back to the basics. It’s a much more fulfilling way of existing with food. I’ve been through every type of relationship with food somebody can have – trust me, this way is so much better.
1. EAT SLOWER AND ACTUALLY ENJOY THE FOOD YOU ARE EATING.
Ain’t nobody got time for that, yeah?
This is a practice that I myself have had to train myself to do, and it has made a profound difference in how I relate to food. Our society doesn’t exactly create the ideal environment to foster a healthy respect for what we are eating at any given time. Often we’re eating on the run, in our cars, or at our desks. This creates a problem because when we don’t allow our whole mind and body to experience the sensation of eating by savoring every bite, we tend to overeat and end the meal feeling unsatisfied.
It takes twenty minutes for our endocrine system (our hormones) to send messages to our brain to tell it that we have had enough food. If you eat your entire meal in twenty minutes or less, you would never know if you would have actually been satisfied at half or three quarters of the portion you served yourself.
Practice putting your fork (or hands, in cases of breakfast burritos and other such things) down in between bites. Chew slowly and deliberately, taking care not to swallow until the food is completely broken down. There are enzymes in our saliva that are intended to be part of the first step in our digestion. By swallowing food too early we are denying our body that capability and hindering our digestion process. Poor digestion causes all kinds of un-fun things such as bloating, weight gain, and constipation.
2. FOLLOW THE 20/20 RULE
This is a guideline to use when we are portioning out food for ourselves to eat. When dishing out your meal, aim for 20% more vegetables than you would normally grab, and 20% less than what you think you want to eat of everything else.
Vegetables contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals that aide in weight loss and overall wellness of the body. They also contain higher amounts than other foods of dietary fiber, which is essentially a calorie-free source of bulk in food.
In following this rule you are inherently replacing 20% of higher calorie, potentially lower micronutrient-dense foods with vitamin and fiber packed vegetables, reducing overall caloric intake of the meal by a substantial amount without sacrificing fullness.
3. GIVE IN TO CRAVINGS THE SMART WAY.
The reason people tend to gain weight after ending a diet plan is that they overindulge in all of their favorite foods that they had been denying themselves during the course of their diet.
It is undeniable that in order to be healthy we can’t indulge in our favorite “sometimes” foods for every meal. Things get weird for us mentally and physically when too much of our calories come from fast food, chocolate, bread, and alcohol.
But if you LOVE red wine and chocolate, by all means, enjoy those things from time to time (that combo is particularly close to my heart, and I will never again allow a food plan to deny me of such a luxury). A slice or two of pizza once a week as part of an otherwise balanced diet is not going to make you gain weight. If your once a month girls’ nights would become awkward without enjoying a cocktail then go for it. The trick here is portions – eat 2 slices of pizza instead of 5, share the dessert with a friend. Savor and enjoy every bite. Live and love your life.
I’m passionate about this point because I’m a foodie, and I don’t believe that one needs to deny themselves the beautiful variety in food for the sake of health. You can have both, and you should have both. Denying this only leads to overindulgence later and feelings of guilt.
Trust me on this one, I’ve come a long way to get to this point.
4. DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES.
Sugary beverages are probably the one exception I have to my “give in to cravings sometimes” mentality. As a general rule high calorie beverages are the devil for health and weight loss.
Soda, energy drinks, and other beverages are so difficult for people to quit because they contain dangerously – yes, dangerously – high amounts of sugar. Sugar is insanely addictive. So addictive in fact, that the same areas of the brain that respond to cocaine fire up in the presence of refined sugar. Oh, and the real kicker? Sugar actually causes more bodily damage, on a dose-by-dose basis, than cocaine.
No, I’m not saying to replace sugar in your diet with cocaine (although the weight loss would be incredible! Sorry…I couldn’t help myself…), nor am I suggesting that cocaine is somehow healthy. What I am saying is that sugar is food crack. And it’s making you fat.
A standard 12 oz. soda contains 35 grams of sugar, 10 grams over the recommendation for an entire day. A grande Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks contains 420 calories and 66 grams of sugar. That’s more like a dessert, for 2, NOT a way to start the day for a caffeine buzz. (A homemade bullet-proof mocha or yerba mate latte would be a much healthier option.) You don’t even get to chew it, it’s just a beverage.
See how insane it is to drink your calories? Quitting these drinks can be very difficult at first, but the longer you go without giving in, the less you crave them. They even eventually stop, I swear. If these drinks are a part of your current lifestyle quitting could be all it takes for you to quickly drop weight.
Not to mention, your risk of developing chronic disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer will drop down significantly. Refined sugars are the leading cause of inflammation in the body, which is the leading cause of ALL DISEASE.
Quit your liquid food crack. Lose weight. Live longer.
5. HYDRATE FREQUENTLY.
Going into the winter months, it can be harder to remember to hydrate because it’s just not so damn hot all the time.
But the body still needs regular and frequent hydration. I’ve heard recommendations from 8 cups a day (64 0z) to half of your body weight in fluid ounces (150 lbs / 2 = 75 oz. water a day). Both of these recommendations are good places to start.
A dehydrated body works similarly to a rusty machine. The digestion system is devoid of enough liquid to pass waste efficiently, causing constipation and bloating. The skin (the largest organ of the body) dries out and ineffectively releases toxins, causing premature aging. Our kidneys are put under unnecessary strain and our muscles become fatigued. The metabolism suffers as well as the immune system, making us susceptible to illness.
Not to mention, feelings of dehydration are often confused for hunger, causing us to eat more when in fact our body is just really thirsty.
When the body gets used to drinking more water you may notice that you become thirsty more often, making it easier to stay on track once you get going. Buying a large, easy to clean and BPA-free water bottle (at least 20 oz) makes it easy to reach your daily goal without constantly having to refill.
Just please don’t buy plastic, single use water bottles. I mean, why would you? Save yourself some money in the long run and do a solid for Mother Earth. She needs us right now.
If this post has resonated with a part of you that has been waiting for some meaningful clarification, please comment below!
How have you guys found ways to live with food in a healthy way? What tricks do you have for staying on track?