Let’s face it, fancy diets with their own name rarely work at helping you to both lose weight and keep it off. The number of people who have succeeded on a specific diet is far outweighed by those who have crashed and burned.
Either the diet forces you to be too restrictive, so you just can’t stick it for long enough to lose the weight you want, or you manage to lose weight but then the wheels fall off once you go back to being off the diet.
This ONness and OFFness is the issue. Most of us just don’t know how to live, eat what we want and not put on weight. It’s not surprising that we are confused about what a normal healthy diet is though, since the media bombards us with often conflicting advice day in day out.
To tap into our obsession with health, every food/supplement company feels the need to spout some perceived health benefit in their advertising. I once saw a big poster for Chupa Chup lollies that said “0% FAT!!”, like that makes them a healthy choice! Fucking Chupa Chups!
Why we are all so grumpy
These “This is good, but That is bad” messages are confusing. What you were told was wonderful last week, so you stocked up on it, is suddenly the WORST THING EVER this week, you wingnut, how could you even eat that stuff?!
But WE are also to blame for having such high expectations of the results of “being good”. We want an immediate reward when we say No to dessert a couple of times or stick with a diet for a week. “I’ve been good, now where’s my bloody fat loss pay off?”. If we don’t get that reward then off we stomp, throwing our toys out of the pram, looking for the pizza delivery menu.
This is clearly a bad state of affairs, everyone walking around grumpy, confused, overweight yet still somehow very conversant in what we all need to do to lose weight.
<drum roll>…. The Framework (oooh!)
I don’t want to add to the confusion by presenting my own trademarked “Awesome FatBlast-Tastic Bellymelting Plan“, with lots of rules and Evil Foods.
I DO want to help cut through a lot of the crap though. So here are the main 6 bits of advice I give clients who want to lose body fat. It’s not a diet plan, it puts you in charge of what you eat. It’s more of ummm…a Framework to work into your life. Framework is such an underwhelming word isn’t it? Nobody wants to boast to their mates on Facebook about this cool Framework they’re working with, but just trust me and go with it maaaan:
Drink lots of it, flavoured with some squash to jazz it up if necessary. Almost everyone is walking around all day dehydrated, holding onto water as a result, skewing their real weight, causing bad skin, taking ages to digest food cos it’s not getting through their system fast enough. You should be peeing more than you currently do. That funky neon yellow stuff in the loo when you’re finished? Not great chum…
2. Splitting up meals
It really doesn’t matter whether it’s 2, 3 or 20 meals a day, fat loss/gain comes down to how much you’re taking in daily and on an ongoing basis. So you’ve several workable options such as:
- 3 square meals a day, based on protein, veg, fruit, some fats and a couple of fistfuls of carbs in total. This is a bog standard, simple way to lose weight that seems to get ignored now in favour of something else new and shiny. Only eat at mealtimes, no ‘supper’ or snacks.
- A ‘Lean Gains’ approach to intermittent fasting, eating only during an 6-8 hour window, fasting the other 16-18 hours other than non-cal fluids, means probably skipping breakfast but getting to have a bigger lunch/dinner as a result. Same focus on proper food and lower carbs applies. Works well for people who aren’t hungry in the mornings and like a big feed.
- For people with Food A.D.D. a 3 meals + 3 snacks approach would mean 3 small meals plus 3 snacks of about 100-200kcals a day – again as long as total kcals are under what your body burns, you’ll lose fat. It’s my idea of hell though – 6 opportunities to eat too much!
One thing you absolutely need to get into your head though is that to lose weight you need fewer calories than your body burns – that means you need to be able to be hungry sometimes and not go running to the toaster, fearing you’ll collapse if hunger lasts more than 10 seconds. Hunger is ok – suck it up sometimes if you want to encourage your body to use body fat for fuel, i.e. lose weight!
3. Protein is your best friend
This needs to be your first thought at each mealtime – “Where’s the protein”. It’s the building block for muscles, bones, skin, and blood. So y’know, mildly important stuff… But protein is also very filling and will stop you having cravings at weird times of the day.
Good protein sources are meat, fish and eggs. Legumes, lentils, etc are decent sources too but not great. So breakfast could be eggs and some fruit, or bacon and tomatoes. Lunch could be a big salad with fish or chicken or boiled egg. Dinner could be a big palm-sized piece of meat or fish plus a half plate of veg and a fistful or carbs. Job done.
4. Carbs are earned
Carbohydrates like bread, rice, pasta, spuds, etc should be seen as energy food. Sports people and athletes need plenty of carbs as they are training so much. Your average Joe/Josephine who sits down at work all day and maybe exercises a few times a week has no need for many carbs.
Carbs aren’t evil, but they are very easy to overdo. I can polish off a 700 kcal bag of crisps in 10 minutes while watching Take Me Out on a Saturday without feeling remotely full. If I tried to eat 700 kcal of eggs or chicken, I might struggle.
And with rice and pasta – who actually knows how much to make at mealtimes?! Everyone wings it but feels the need to finish it all off so as not to waste it. Wingnuts – we are all wingnuts when it comes to carbs. I’m not saying we can’t have cakes, biscuits and crisps though because ooh look, here comes point 5….
5. Balancing Health with Indulgence
The 80/20 thing is true for nutrition. To avoid that ON a diet/OFF the diet thing I mentioned before, we need to feel like we are now eating to look after our health through food choices most of the time, like 80% of the time, making all the right choices. Then you indulge your inner treat-hungry child the other 20% of the time.
For example you could see Sunday to Friday as days when you focus on eating a light, healthy, high protein diet, then Saturday is as filthy as you like.
Or you can commit to eating well every day and allow yourself a 200 kcal treat every day. Neither of those things will undo all your other good work, but will stop you feeling like you’re constantly saying NO to all the stuff you crave.
And to be honest, that’s just how you should live your life to stay slim – eat proper food most of the time in not massive portions and don’t feel guilty when you DO indulge. Who wants to go out for a nice dinner and either order the wee girly salad but actually want the big f-off steak, or worse to actually order what you want and sit there feeling guilty?
You earn your slap up meals and buckets of booze by looking after your health most of the time – then you can fill your face and drink yourself into oblivion guilt-free. I should be a doctor with advice like this y’know…
6. Eat Proper Grub
The more of your food shopping you can do in the fruit, veg and chilled sections the better. So the less your diet revolves around stuff from cans, boxes and packets the better job you’re doing of eating the right stuff and giving yourself the best chance of losing weight.
I would stay away from low fat versions of foods, because
- They never taste as nice,
- They include a ton of ingredients I’ve never heard of in order to make the food taste ok, and
- They tend to be higher in sugar and less filling than the full-fat versions.
Butter is lovely – why would you want to live a life without butter? Just don’t eat a brick of it at a time.
Is that it?
Umm… yeah basically. Yes we could argue all day about the minutiae of veg choices, types of protein, whether wholewheat rice is better (it is mingin I can tell you that), fascinating quinoa recipes (quin wha?) blah blah blah.
But if you get your nutrition organised in the way I’ve just outlined then those are all minor details, things you can tweak. If you’re several stone overweight let’s just start with eating for your health and having less in general before we get into arguments about asparagus vs broccoli!
Happy to chat about all of the above in Comments below or email!