Losing weight is challenging enough, but attempting to maintain a desirable weight is even more so. Many women with weight loss and maintenance goals are failing because they’re either rebound dieters, or under-eaters.
Rebound dieters are those who repeatedly resort to short-term deprivation diets that yield quick but unsustainable results. Women who fall prey to rebound dieting are typically willing to endure temporary discomfort, but not necessarily committed to making permanent lifestyle changes. Consequently, their efforts reap only temporary success, since normal eating patterns usually resume soon after the desirable goal has been achieved.
Under-eaters, on the other hand, habitually consume too few calories. There seems to be a common misconception among under-eaters that an ideal daily caloric intake should be less than 1200 calories. While a caloric deficit is necessary to achieve fat loss, a too-extreme deficit (especially over a long period of time) causes the body to make drastic modifications in order to maintain homeostatic balance; such modifications generally produce negative health effects and conversely, an increase in weight.
To make matters worse, knowing how and what to eat – in a way that keeps the body fit and healthy (and the mind happy) – has become way too confusing. With various health and nutrition groups all advocating different beliefs, food decisions have become complicated and stressful.
The only thing we can all be certain of is that we will never get it 100% right. That doesn’t mean however that we can’t reduce or eliminate stress surrounding difficult food choices. The following is a list of habits that are a routine way of life for me, and what I also believe to be a fairly simple and non-restrictive approach to eating mindfully, healthfully and happily:
1. I never skip meals; the only exceptions are if circumstances prevent me from doing so or if I am legitimately not hungry.
On the topic of meal-skipping, I’ve noticed that many of my former clients tended to skip breakfast and lunch meals if they had some special event to attend later in the day. They preferred to “save their appetites” for the event, so as not to exceed their daily caloric allowance. But almost always, they complained of overindulging anyway. Going to an event half-starved is never a good idea; It’s better to eat as usual throughout the day and enjoy the feeling of later being in control (and eating/drinking in moderation whatever is on offer).
2. Like everyone else, I have some major slip ups from time to time. But I’m able to get myself back on track because I don’t diet. Whenever I go a little overboard, I just get right back to my usual habit of eating regular and well-balanced meals. Since most, if not all of my meals, contain all of the macronutrients (a lean protein, a dense carbohydrate, some vegetables and/or fruit, and a small serve of a healthy fat), my blood sugar levels remain relatively stable. But more important, any fat loss that occurs is more likely to be long-lasting, since my body won’t try to fight for it’s return (as it would if it were deprived of energy and nutrients).
3. There is nothing I cannot eat or drink. I don’t have any food or beverage restrictions, but I tend to stick to an 80/20 (sometimes 90/10) approach, where at least 80% of my diet comes from nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and what I consider my “treats,” make up the remaining 20%. I recommend developing a mindset that focuses on adding foods versus eliminating them; as you begin to add a greater variety of healthy foods to your diet you’ll hopefully begin to also lose the desire for less nutrient-dense foods.
4. I eat mostly foods that I prepare myself, and I include fresh produce daily. That means that I am in the kitchen a lot, but I’m a big believer that people find time for the things they value the most.
5. I make it a habit to eat different foods every week. It’s very easy to fall into the habit of eating the same meals day in and day out (which by the way, can be initially helpful to anyone attempting to lose weight by calorie counting), but repeatedly eating the same foods limits the nutritional value of your diet and often leads to bouts of binge-eating.
6. My food choices are heavily influenced by my mindset, versus emotion. In other words, I choose to eat foods that nourish my body and not weigh or slow me down. I am happiest when I have a lot of energy to move and be active, and anything that interferes with that is fixed in my mind as something I need to persevere against. Carrying an extra 20kg for example will obviously slow me down, so a question I might ask myself if I felt my clothes getting tighter is this: “Would I intentionally put on – and walk around all day with – a jacket that weighed 20kg?”
7. I eat meat, grains, dairy, seafood, and soy (pretty much everything we’re told NOT to eat) – but in differing quantities, and according to my taste preferences and stomach sensitivities. I also eat a wide range of seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds, legumes, and healthy fats. The only foods I try not to eat are those that come with an ingredient list a mile long!
In summary, I don’t DIET! The way I eat has become a fixed part of my lifestyle that never changes; the foods I eat change all the time, but how I eat does not. The satisfaction that comes from knowing how to manage my weight is liberating, but even greater is the joy that comes from not being physically or emotionally bound by confusing and restrictive “food rules.”