Are you trying to lose some excess weight? Have you been trying for a while and just not seeming to get anywhere? This is something so many people struggle with, and it’s not fun. We are also all different with unique bio needs, so there isn’t one formula that works for everyone. That said, in my personal experience, by reframing my mind and shifting focus from losing weight to being healthier, has worked wonders. Here are some suggestions that have worked for me in the past, and that may help you reach your ideal weight naturally. I hope they inspire you on your journey to finding and maintaining your own feel-good healthy weight!
Please note: I am not a medical professional, so please, if you have more serious conditions, allergies, or intolerances, please consult your doctor before making any drastic changes.
1. Stop judging and start loving yourself
2. Focus on health, not weight loss
3. Start cutting out processed foods
4. Drink more water
5. Eat a good breakfast
6. Eat more vegetables
7. Eat lower sugar fruits
8. Reduce refined added sugars
9. Reduce alcohol consumption
10. Eat whole grains instead of refined grains
11. Manage your stress
12. Get enough sleep
13. Move your body
14. Manage your portions
During high school and my first years out of school, I had a lot of issues around weight and self-confidence. And, after some time, it was only when I decided to let go of all the diet pills, obsessive behaviours, and self-criticism that my excess weight started to fall off and I found more balance.
It was actually pretty amazing to experience what simply loving yourself and your body can do.
When it comes to weight, it’s about restoring balance in your body. And to find that balance, you need to work with your body and not against it. That means, being kind to and accepting of yourself, loving and nourishing yourself, and seeing healthy choices as acts self-love.
Self-love is an important part of the journey to finding and maintaining your ideal healthy weight. It’s a healthy foundation to build off.
The modern-day dieting mindset, one of weight loss and restriction, is not sustainable.
Many of the fad diets out there also focus on quick-fixes with unrealistic restrictions. People doing them start them feeling motivated, giving up a whole bunch of foods because the diet says they must. And then, after some time, most people eventually fall off the wagon. I mean… there is only so long you can do the Cabbage Soup Diet for 🙂
And so, people try these diets, restricting their food intake, and then, when they fall off the wagon, they usually pick up all the weight again. This can be taxing on the system, and definitely doesn’t help in finding long-term balance in the body.
Sure, there are certainly many dietary theories that you can learn a lot from. But it’s unrealistic to think that one diet can work in totality for everyone who does it, or that one way of eating will work for your body forever.
Instead, forget about dieting & losing weight and put your focus on being healthy.
I challenge you to throw restrictive dieting out of the window. Instead of focusing on what you ‘mustn’t eat’, look at all the wonderfully nutritious foods you can start incorporating into your life.
Forget about CUTTING OUT foods, and instead focus on ADDING IN more nutritious whole foods to your diet.
Slowly, as your body adjusts, you’ll find the healthy foods start to crowd out the unhealthy processed foods. And without processed foods, and all the sugar and other nasty ingredients they come with, you’ll get healthier, your body will find balance, and you’ll likely start shedding some excess weight.
Given half the chance, your body will heal itself.
By doing this, you’ll start to realise that healthy weight loss is actually more of a by-product of good health, and not the starting point.
If you want to get a bit serious about losing excess weight, start cutting out processed foods.
Processed foods, aka Convenience foods, are defined as:
Convenience food, or tertiary processed food, is food that is commercially prepared to optimise ease of consumption. Such food is usually ready to eat without further preparation. It may also be easily portable, have a long shelf life, or offer a combination of such convenient traits. wikipedia
There are varying degrees of processed foods, some more processed than others. Some examples of processed foods include breakfast cereals, chips, sausage rolls, pies, readymade meals, and biscuits.
A simple way to look at is, the less natural the food is, the more processed it is. Like a readymade meal or a box of Frosties cereal.
The problem with highly processed foods is that they usually contain additives, like sugars, to add flavour and prolong shelf life.
When you’re next at the grocery store, in case you don’t already, check out the labels of some packaged foods. Read the ingredient list to see if there are added sugars, and other nasty chemical ingredients added. And then opt for the ones with the least ingredients, and ones you can actually pronounce.
Apart from all the crazy chemical ingredients in packaged foods, sugar is a big culprit. Hiding in many of these foods is a ridiculous amount of added sugars, which is a big part of weight gain. And, you’ll be surprised by how much sugar even some of the ‘healthiest’ foods contain, like muesli and health bars.
When you eat less processed and more natural foods, you automatically get healthier. Your body gets more of the good stuff, nutrients to feed it what it needs, and this help it find its way back to a healthier balance and weight.
Water has been a big game-changer for me.
I generally don’t drink enough water and have to work really hard at getting enough every day.
I’ve noticed how, there have been days where I’ve felt ‘hungry’ all the time, and have gotten into a horrible snacking pattern, where I just couldn’t stop eating! And even when I was full, I still felt hungry!
When I really started to push my water drinking habit, I noticed a big change. I realised that a lot of the time I was just thirsty and just wasn’t realising it.
Now, whenever I go into the kitchen for a snack, I down a glass of water and see how I feel. Often I’m instantly not as hungry anymore.
Drinking more water can help you curb empty cravings, encourage better eating habits and restore balance in your body.
If you’re like me and struggle to build the habit, here are some suggestions that may help.
Keep a bottle of water next to your bed. When I started doing this, I found myself reaching for water during the night and first thing in the morning, getting in at least a full glass in the process.
Have a jug of water and glass ready on your kitchen counter. Having water visible and ready has encouraged my habit a lot. Every time I go into the kitchen I see the jug and often have a quick glass.
Add fresh lemon juice to your morning water. This adds some zingy flavour to your glass and offers extra health benefits – Lemon water is great in the morning and can help kickstart your metabolism.
Drink lots of herbal teas.types of teas If you’re a tea drinker, get some new and delicious herbal teas, and enjoy a big pot of tea every afternoon. There are so many to try, like Chai, Fennel, Green, Rooibos, Cinnamon, and tons more.
>> Further reading: 6 Ways Water can Help you Lose Weight.
As mentioned above, finding and maintaining a healthy weight is a lot about finding balance in your body. And to do that, you need to start building healthier eating habits that support your body.
Breakfast is your first meal of the day, and it can set the tone for the way you eat for the rest of it.
When you skip breakfast, in my personal experience, you can cause bad habits to form. For a while, I struggled with breakfast and just didn’t feel like it or felt I didn’t have time for it. Often, I’d not eat until early afternoon, and then suddenly felt hunger like no other! I would grab for the first thing I could find, like a giant sandwich or a pie and a coke. Anything!
When I look back at those times, I see how not eating breakfast caused a cycle of unhealthy habits and how my body was pretty out of balance. I had much more irregular eating habits, ate more junk food, and had a lot more sugar cravings.
Keeping it simple.
This doesn’t mean that we all have to now sit down and eat a healthy breakfast every single day. We’re all unique, and life happens too. I get that.
It’s just that, when you eat a healthy nutritious breakfast in the morning, it can set the tone for the rest of your day. A good breakfast can energise your entire body and mind as it kicks off the often-busiest part of the day, and leave you feeling full and satisfied right until lunchtime without any unnecessary cravings.
And you don’t need to make it complicated.
Simple breakfast ideas: A bowl of oats with bananas and cinnamon on top. A boiled egg on wholegrain toast. Fresh fruit with plain yogurt and nuts.
These sorts of breakfasts nourish your body and leave you feeling completely satisfied for hours afterwards.
Side note: Recently I experimented with different kinds of grains in the morning, to see they made me feel. After a bowl of oats, I felt completely satisfied for about 4-5 hours, compared to a breakfast of sweet pastries that left me feeling hungry in less in than 2 hours. I also got a strange sugar low after the pastries. Experiment with your foods and see how they make you feel. Then, find a balance as you incorporate more healthy filling breakfasts into your days.
When wanting to lose weight, restriction is so often the first approach. Don’t eat this, don’t eat that… and definitely, don’t eat that!
There is a lot of don’t. And it can be pretty darn depressing.
Instead, focus on adding more of the good stuff to your diet. Like vegetables. By doing that, you’ll feed your body with what it truly needs, and you’ll start to crowd out cravings for the less healthy options.
Start buying more vegetables and thinking of different ways to enjoy them.
Pick vegetables you like, try new recipes, and just have some fun with it.
If you’re on a budget, focus on cheaper options like carrots and onions. You may also find veggies are cheaper at a local market instead of in-store where you’re often paying for the packaging and transport costs too. Be creative, because eating healthily doesn’t need to be expensive. Here are some other cheap healthy foods to keep in your kitchen.
Dish up more veggies! When you dish up your meal, enjoy a bid serving of veggies, as much as half your plate! Filling up on veggies is a great way to lose weight, as they are generally low in calories and sugars compared to other foods. And… they are jam-packed with essential nutrients to help support your body.
Snack on vegetables instead of fruits, which are higher in sugar. A great example is carrot and celery sticks with homemade hummus. Lately, I just snack on any raw veggies we have in the house – cucumbers, mushrooms, spinach leaves, radishes, yum!
When in doubt, steam it! If you want to make cooking veggies easy and nutritious, get yourself a stove-top or electric steamer. It’s a great way to cook veggies, preserving the nutrients and easy to do.
Make all your veggies taste delicious with a simple dressing of Fresh Lemon Juice, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Salt. This is what we dress all our vegetable sides with and it’s incredible what it does. This is what made me fall in love with broccoli. Trust me… besides all the added nutrients, it really does bring the veggies to life! 🙂
Fruit is a sneaky culprit when it comes to weight loss.
While whole fruits are super nutritious, with lots of essential nutrients, they can be high in sugar.
If you want to lose some excess weight, start eating more of the low sugar fruits.
Fruits with higher sugar content include mangoes and bananas. While fruits with lower sugar content include berries and papaya. Check out this list of low med and high sugar fruits to get a better idea.
This doesn’t mean you should now never eat bananas again (that would break my heart) because bananas are wonderfully nutritious fruits. It’s just to be aware that, choosing fruits that are lower in sugar can help you lose some of that excess weight.
And, at the same time, you start to explore and try different kinds of fruits, adding more variety and nutrient profiles to your diet. Who knows, you might find a few new favourites along the way!
Refined added sugar is one of the biggest culprits of all.
Refined sugars (with many different names) are added to processed foods primarily to add flavour and keep us coming back for more. And it’s not just added to ‘unhealthy’ foods, but also to ‘healthy’ foods. As mentioned above, muesli is a big culprit. Next time you’re at the shops have a look at the sugar content of a regular packet of muesli vs a more natural one. You will be amazed!
Sugar is in the news all the time, and said to be more addictive than cocaine. Eesh! Sugar has many negative effects on the body, and can also cause bad eating habits that do nothing to support maintaining a healthy weight.
Now… at the end of the day, sugar is sugar, whether it comes from fresh whole fruits or a packet of sweets. But it’s complex that that, and it’s important to understand.
Consider the food as a whole – A whole fruit may contain natural sugars, but it also comes with fibre and many other essential nutrients. A whole food’s nutrient profile enables it to get digested slower and doesn’t cause unhealthy sugar spikes in the body that lead to cravings and other negative effects.
A packet of processed sweets, on the other hand, contains little to no nutrients and gets absorbed very quickly into the system causing big sugar spikes that can wreak havoc on the body.
Reduce sweetened processed foods and notice the difference.
When I did the 30-day Whole 30 Challenge a few years ago, and quit added sugars, the transformation was incredible. I cut out things like chocolates, soft drinks, biscuits, and cereal.
Through this challenge, I realised how much sugar was added and hiding in the foods we eat, and by removing them from my life, my health transformed. My excess weight fell off and I felt so much healthier and full of life energy. My taste buds also changed, and after the challenge, gobbling up a Snickers chocolate bar was not as enjoyable and felt like an overdose of fake-tasting sugar!
I encourage you to start looking at the ingredient lists of the processed foods you buy. This is not to be obsessive, but instead to start being more aware of the foods you’re putting into your body.
Start cutting out those highly processed foods with added sugars and other chemicals, and opt for more natural foods that will help you find and maintain a healthy weight.
This is a pretty obvious one.
Sugar, carbohydrates and calories vary depending on the type of alcohol you drink. So, if you’re serious about losing some weight, read up on the different types of alcohol and start adjusting your choices.
The sugar content in alcohol can be a big reason for excess weight.
I don’t drink much alcohol in general, but when I did cut it out completely for 30 days, I noticed a big difference!
This doesn’t mean that you can’t drink alcohol ever again for the rest of your life. It’s just about making healthier choices and finding balance.
Drink less. If you’re drinking every single night, try to decrease that to a couple of times a week.
Choose different drinks. Look into options with lower sugar and calories. Instead of Vodka and Redbull, opt for vodka, lemon and soda. Here is an article with somelow sugar alcohol suggestions.
Do a month detox. If you’re really serious about losing excess weight, quit alcohol for 30 days. You may think it’s difficult, but it’s actually not. You just need to think about your end goal and commit to it. Perhaps, to help you out, think of other fun things you can do with your friends instead of meeting at the bar – Plan a fun day out together that includes activities other than drinking. This can help you not feel like you are depriving yourself.
The word ‘carbs’ has gotten such a bad wrap over the years.
Most people looking to lose weight focus on cutting out carbs and lump them all together into one box.
Carbohydrates are defined as:
Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. Though often maligned in trendy diets, carbohydrates — one of the basic food groups — are important to a healthy life.
Simple vs Complex Carbs:
Many people are scared of carbs because they associate them with gaining weight. But, when you do your research, you’ll discover that it’s more important to focus on WHICH TYPE of carbs you’re eating, not how many.
Without getting into too much detail, when looking at ‘good carbs vs. bad carbs‘, LiveScience explains it pretty well:
Carbohydrates are found in foods you know are good for you (vegetables) and ones you know are not (doughnuts). This has led to the idea that some carbs are “good” and some are “bad.”
Carbs commonly considered bad include pastries, sodas, highly processed foods, white rice, white bread and other white-flour foods. These are foods with simple carbs. Bad carbs rarely have any nutritional value.
Carbs usually considered good are complex carbs, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes. These are not only processed more slowly, but they also contain a bounty of other nutrients.
Whole Grains vs Refined Grains:
When wanting to lose weight, people put a focus on the grains, cutting out things like bread, pasta and rice.
While this will certainly help, you really should instead focus on cutting out the refined grains, which is basically the white grains like white rice, pasta and bread. You can actually still enjoy quality whole grains, like brown rice, wholewheat pasta and bread, as they can actually help you regulate your digestion and weight.
Whole Grains vs Refined Grains:
Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples of whole grains include whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice. Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. … Fiber is not added back to enriched grains – Source: Choose my plate
Whole grains are a whole food and a good example of a ‘good carb’ – They are highly nutritious, good for digestion, keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer, and an important part of a balanced diet. Good sources include brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal.⠀
Refined grains are processed, with most of their nutrients stripped away. These ‘bad carbs’ are far less nutritious (if at all!), and are broken down quicker in the body causing cause sugar spikes which can cause many negative effects in the body. Examples include white bread, white pasta (using white flour), and white rice.⠀
Try to slowly replace some of your Simple Carbs with Complex Carbs, and see how you feel. For example: Replace white rice with brown rice, white bread with whole wheat bread, or cereal with oatmeal.
Whole grains will fill you up and keep you feeling full for longer. They will also help regulate your digestion, prevent excessive snacking between meals, and won’t cause dips in energy that can lead to binge eating.
Carbs and Grains can be complicated to explain. Let me know if this has helped shed some light on the topic, and if you have more questions, let me know in the comments.
The effect of stress is underrated.
Stress is defined as:
a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances
That feeling of being under pressure can manifest in many different ways, without us even realising it.
Stress can often be an instigator of bad eating habits. Think about the times you’re super stressed, and how it starts to impact your eating habits.
Do you skip meals because you’re working and feel like there just isn’t time to eat? Do you skip meals or just forget to eat because you’re just not thinking about it, and then binge eat later on? When you’re under pressure at work, do you find yourself eating more junk food? Perhaps stress makes you drink more alcohol, or smoke more cigarettes?
Whatever it is, it’s good to become aware of how stress impacts your eating habits and health, as it can cause destructive behaviours that can result in an imbalance and loss of control.
Stress is a catalyst.
You need to nourish yourself beyond food. So, if you’re feeling anxious or stressed or tense, look at what’s causing it and take steps to make it better. Realise that, in order to be your best self and do your best work, you need to keep yourself strong and healthy. Take the time to nourish yourself, and you’ll be able to do what you need to do, without the stress and cycle of bad eating habits it can lead to.
Sleep does a similar thing to stress, don’t you find?
I remember times when I haven’t slept much, and almost always eventually end up eating badly. It’s a weird thing how, the more sleep deprived I get, the most I start craving junk food.
When you sleep too little, your body gets out of balance and this impacts your eating habits. This can lead to more cravings for junk food, sugar, and caffeine.
It can really mess up with your body, and its ability to maintain a sense of control and balance.
Notice how sleep affects your eating behaviours – If you don’t currently sleep enough, look at ways to sleep better and notice if it helps. You may find that by getting more regular quality sleep, you’re able to curb your cravings and maintain more regular eating patterns.
Sure, exercise is important, there’s no doubt about that. It keeps your body supple, strong, and toned. Who doesn’t want that?
But, remember, as Mark Hyman so cleverly says:
You can’t exercise your weight out of a bad diet.
You got to eat well if you’re going to see results and make that exercise worth the sweat.
But exercise is so much more than losing weight and toning up… Moving your body gets everything going inside – awakening stiff muscles, unblocking, rebalancing, and reigniting. That movement turns you back on and prevents your body from getting stale and old. 🙂
Often when I do yoga I think about this – Many of us live the typical modern lifestyle where we hold a lot of stress and tension in our bodies, even if we don’t realise it. This builds up. That’s why I make a point of moving my body every day, whether it’s for 15min or a whole hour, to release this stress and tension.
Time out to exercise also gives you time to connect with our physical body and get out of our mind.
There’s another thing linked to exercise and that’s self-confidence. When I exercise regularly, I feel more empowered, more confidence, and that helps carry me through the rest of the day. It gives me the mental motivation to make more healthier choices in other areas.
Find an exercise that you enjoy and go and enjoy that time for you and your body to move and shake a bit.
>> Here are some ways to get moving and live a more active lifestyle.
Most of us eat too much.
It’s not to say that we all need to now cut our portions in half and start that whole restrictive mindset again. No way!
This is just about finding a sense of control and listening to your body. When you eat, eat slower and more mindfully. By allowing your body the time to chew and taste and absorb the food you eat, you will notice when you’re getting full. Sometimes I’d eat a huge meal so quickly that I’d only realise I was full when it was too late. Now, by taking my time to eat, I realise when I’m getting full and can stop at a good time.
Experiment with eating slightly smaller portions and you may start to notice your body adjusting accordingly.
Another tip is to have a glass of water before you eat, as this will give you a better sense of how hungry you really are.
Ready to find your own balance?
I hope that this post has given you some useful tips that you can start applying to your life, to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. Overall though, the main message here is that by focusing on your health, rather than losing weight you’ll get there a lot quicker!
Let me know more about your experiences with finding your ideal weight in the comments below, and if you have extra tips please share them.