There is an unfortunate stigma that comes with the phrases ‘eating healthy’ and ‘losing weight. Uncomfortable conversations and explanations, misconceptions about tasteless food, and exhausting exercise routines come to mind.
In reality, there are numerous ways to eat healthily and lose weight without tumbling into a downward spiral of negativity and self-dissolution.
Many diets and harsh exercise plans culminate in the quick loss of a lot of weight. Losing weight fast is neither healthy nor sustainable for the human body.
To put this into context, the quicker you lose weight, the faster you are likely to put that weight back on. However, when you lose weight slowly, you are more likely to maintain your lost weight (granted, you sustain a healthy diet and lifestyle).
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Here are some subtle changes you can make to your lifestyle to sustain a healthy diet for long term weight loss.
1. Plan your meals and track your eating
Planning out a weekly meal schedule is a great way to monitor what you eat. Plan out your main meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as snacks to last you through the day.
The benefits of meal planning are numerous, and if you do it well, you won’t only lose weight, but you will also save money, time and reduce your food wastage.
It’s a good idea to keep a food diary to track what you eat. However, be careful not to obsess over your calorie count and food consumption too much! Meal planning is an efficient way to manage the quantities and types of food you consume.
Even better, following a routine that works for you is a great way to manage stress and anxiety. Your daily routine even influences the amount and quality of rest you get, which can positively affect your mental well-being and emotional health.
2. Don’t skip meals
Although eating less altogether might sound like a quick way to lose weight, it certainly isn’t a healthy thing to do. Generally, when one misses a meal, one craves even more food for their next meal. In addition to this, your blood levels might swing, and you will have fewer calories in your body, causing a reduction in energy levels.
Skipping meals causes your metabolic system to slow down and burn fewer calories. In this sense, skipping meals is directly related to gaining weight.
There’s also the risk of developing unhealthy food cravings, leading to binge eating of unhealthy foods.
3. Make small swaps for healthy alternatives
One of the simplest ways to slowly but surely change your eating habits is to swap out any unhealthy foods in your pantry for healthier alternatives (some of which you won’t even taste the difference):
10 healthy food swaps you won’t notice:
- Swap white pasta for whole wheat pasta.
- Swap jacket potatoes for sweet potatoes.
- Avoid store-bought salad dressings and make your own.
- Swap white rice for brown rice or cauliflower rice.
- Avoid low-fat dairy and opt for plant-based milk or Greek yogurts. Low-fat products usually contain a bunch of preservatives, flavorings, and sugars.
- Swap potato crisps for popcorn.
- Swap white bread for whole wheat or rye.
- Swap fruit juice for whole fruit.
- Boil or poach your eggs instead of frying them.
- Avoid all pre-packaged, ready-to-eat meals.
4. Make vegetables the star of your meals
Perhaps the most challenging yet most effective way to lose weight is to change the food that you eat. There are many misconceptions about the taste and texture of healthy foods, when in fact, there are plenty of delicious menu options to choose from.
Consider eating leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables as the base of your meals. Greens such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, and lettuces have a low calorie and carbohydrate content and contain a lot of fibre. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and cabbages and are very high in fibre and protein.
These greens are great fillers and are also high in nutritional value. They contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants necessary to feed your body with enough energy to burn calories. Leafy greens are exceptionally high in calcium, which is proven to help with weight loss.
If your body requires a certain amount of meat consumption, try to opt for leaner cuts of meat. Lean beef and chicken breast, tuna, and salmon are high protein, low-calorie meat, and fish options.
5. Avoid processed foods and instant meals
While undeniably convenient on a busy day, ready-made meals are packed with unhealthy preservatives and added salts and sugars. Typically, frozen meals are the least healthy because freezing food tends to impair the taste. To resolve this, even more flavourants, salts, and sugars are added to make up for the loss in taste.
For example, the majority of sodium in the average American diet comes from pre-packaged and processed foods. Many pre-made foods are also high in added sugars such as fructose. This type of sugar comes from corn, and too much of it can cause diabetes, heart problems, obesity, and tooth issues.
Even more disheartening is the fact that a lot of processed foods contain trans fats, which are added to lengthen the shelf life of the product. Consuming too much trans fats puts one at risk of stroke, heart disease, and high cholesterol and should be avoided as much as possible.
Processed foods to look out for:
- Frozen pizza
- Any frozen or microwaveable meals
- Crisps and sweets
- Cheeses and crackers
- Packaged bread
- Processed meats such as salami
- Ready-made soups
6. Reduce your portion sizes
The portions you serve on your plate are often a significant factor in your weight management. Typically, you should make sure at least half of your serving is vegetables, which are high in fibre, water, and low in calories, as well as containing essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for your body to function correctly.
Aside from what you put on your plate, you should decrease the size of your servings altogether. More often than expected, people eat more than one’s body needs just because the food is in front of them. The saying ‘my eyes were bigger than my tummy’ paints this picture well.
A simple way to be mindful of how much you serve yourself each meal is to use smaller plates and cutlery, forcing yourself to eat less and slower, digesting your food properly before going in for a second helping.
7. Stay hydrated with water
Another simple way to speed up your weight loss journey is to drink a lot of water. Water is free from calories and can act as a natural appetite suppressant. Even more so, when cold water is consumed, your body will burn calories warming up the water for digestion.
The recommended drinking amount of water depends on your age, weight, health status, and climatic surroundings; however, it is recommended that women drink 2700ml of water per day while men drink 3700ml of water each day.
Why staying hydrated is so important:
- Water lubricates your body and helps remove unwanted waste from the gut. Dehydration can lead to constipation.
- It helps the body to burn calories and therefore reduces fat.
- Water lubricates joints, muscles, and connective tissues, allowing your body to function correctly and recover from injury quickly.
- Water gives one energy to do exercise and physical activity.
An easy way to ensure you are drinking enough water is to keep a bottle with you throughout the day. In addition to this, try to swap out caffeinated teas and coffee for herbal teas.
8. Sleep more hours
It’s essential to ensure your body is getting the right amount of quality rest. Depending on how active you are during the day, each body has personal sleep requirements; however, generally, one should sleep at least 7 hours per day to make sure you conserve and regenerate energy for the following day.
When one functions on limited sleep, your brain doesn’t work as well as it should and could lead to cravings and unhealthy food choices. Think of sleep as a mineral for the brain – it helps start up your metabolism and urges your body to digest and absorb food properly.
9. Take up a new activity for exercise
Exercise and diet fit hand in hand when trying to lose weight. It can be daunting and unpleasant to engage in physical activity sometimes. An excellent way to overcome exercise dread is to engage in an activity that makes you happy and satisfied.
Whether pilates on the balcony, swimming in the ocean or lifting weights in your garage, there is a desired form of exercise waiting for everyone.
In addition to finding the correct type of workout for your body, you should try changing your mindset about exercise. Adjust your focus and make sure that you have the necessary energy to engage in the activity before giving it a go. This will make it much more enjoyable for you. Set aside some time in your day for yourself and turn your workout into a part of your self-love routine.
10. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture
Losing weight can be both a mental and physical stress on your body. When things get tough, it’s important always to take yourself back to the bigger picture of your weight loss journey. Remind yourself to celebrate the small wins you have made and push yourself to strive for more.
The bigger picture of your healthy eating and weight loss plan should be to feel fulfilled, happy, and accomplished. Don’t obsess over the numbers on your scale, and remember to eat healthily for yourself. Trying to look a certain way for someone other than yourself is a losing battle that will only make you feel worse.