Pat Benetar sang in 1983 that “Love Is A Battlefield”.
Yes it is Pat – it still to this day.
But do you know what else is a battlefield Pat? Do you?
Trying to stick with a regimented diet when you’ve a house and/or kids to take care of and a job to hold down.
Sing about that Pat…
Because this is what throws a major spanner in the works when it comes to following the latest diet-with-a-name (Paleo, South Beach, Atkins, Dukan, or whatever). For someone in their 30s/40s/50s trying to lose weight while keeping the job and family plates spinning too, this is our battlefield.
Why most diets don’t work
Let’s face it, any diet that ensures we are normally taking on fewer calories than we burn on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, will lead to weight loss in theory.
But if the ‘rules’ of the diet stipulate that we do things that we just can’t stick to, because, y’know we have lives and all, then we will ‘fail’ on that diet.
If you need to constantly:
- source foods that are hard to come by;
- eat foods you don’t like;
- eat too frequently or not frequently enough for your lifestyle/preferences,
then that diet won’t work for you.
Regardless of all the cheery testimonials about a diet, with the obligatory shot of someone wearing their old fat-person jeans, if you can’t stick with it longer term, you won’t lose the weight you want, and you will feel like you have failed, when in actual fact the specific approach to getting you into a calorie deficit to lose weight just wasn’t right for you.
The Simple Solution to all of this
The 80s reference to Pat Benatar above is intentional, because the 80s is also the last time we can probably all remember eating being less stressful and complicated. We all got by on normal foods – eggs, spuds, bit of meat, rice, pasta, bread, veg, fruit, and also the random processed stuff like Crispy Pancakes, Potato Waffles, Fish Fingers etc. As kids we also ran around a bit hungry sometimes between mealtimes when we were out and about with friends, and that was OK.
So I’m advocating getting back to all the good things about 80s eating – normal food, not massive portions, wee bit of junk, being OK with hunger, and obviously ditching the Crispy Pancakes (mostly for health and safety purposes, that filling was f-cking boiling!!). So let’s sum this approach up:
3 meals per day. Normal, unprocessed food. Be OK with being a bit hungry.
So you only have breakfast, lunch and dinner. If it’s not a mealtime you don’t eat. If you’re hungry between meals, hard luck, suck it up. You’ve probably missed a meal at times at work by being busy – I bet you didn’t end up in hospital or fall asleep at your desk did you? Being a bit hungry is fine when trying to lose weight.
Sticking with 3 meals per day of normal foods rather than superfoods and weird ‘healthy’ recipes is what takes the stress out of dieting in this way…
- What could be easier than a diet where you eat the foods that are freely available everywhere?
- Isn’t it simple to think of all the natural foods you genuinely do like eating and just stick with those most of the time?
- Wouldn’t getting to eat 3 times a day mean minimal meal preparation and eating in a way that suits your family life too?
*high fives all round*
Most diet books would now list every meal you need to eat for the next week, involving new fancy recipes, a lengthy shopping list for you, and a long list of rules.
Not so with our new busy-person-friendly, simple way of eating. Here in a nutshell, is how to use traditional foods on a daily basis to stay healthy and lose weight:
A couple of eggs and a piece of toast
OR medium portion of porridge
Maybe a bit of fruit if you want.
No fruit juice, just water, milk or coffee
Biiiig Salad with some veg you like
& some protein from boiled eggs, meat or fish
OR an overfilled sandwich with plenty of meat and salad.
Plus a large glass of water.
Look, we’ve covered this already…
1/3 plate meat/fish/eggs,
1/3 plate veg (stir fry/salad/roast veg/whatever),
1/3 plate carbs (white rice, potatoes, whatever).
Plus a large glass of water.
I know what you’re thinking – you already kind of eat this way a few times a week at least, right?
The problem is it’s not how you eat 5-6 days per week.
- Maybe you often have sugary snacks between meals.
- Maybe you have ‘supper’ in front of the TV most evenings.
- Maybe you have too many dinners that are convenience foods or take-aways.
- Maybe you go out for lunch at work too often
- And I’m willing to bet hunger doesn’t happen much without being acted upon ASAP.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of all this
I’m recommending we get back to a simpler way of eating, but possibly it looks TOO simple to you?
We’ve been so conditioned to expect a ‘diet’ to have a list of rules and Evil Foods, that something this simple seems too good to be true.
Let’s look at WHY things can be so simple and still ‘work’ for you, to put your mind at ease!
- Breakfast is low sugar. Ditching the fruit juice and sugary cereals, and replacing with slower digested eggs and lower GI oatmeal means you will stay fuller for longer throughout the morning, as energy from the meal is released more slowly. This means less of an energy dip and no hunger pang mid-morning which would normally have you searching for a muffin at 10am!
- Water throughout the day means everything is efficiently digested, you feel less run-down, and you can concentrate at work. Coffee is fine, but it can’t be your main source of water!
- No snacks – we need to learn to be hungry and not act, to slowly chip away at the excess body fat we are carrying.
- ‘Proper Dinner’ – this is often the crappest part of a diet, when you don’t get to sit down with your family and have a proper, filling meal like the rest of them. Any of your go-to dinners can be adapted to this Thirds split – making sure you are getting plenty of vegetables and protein, and not being scared of carbohydrates.
That makes perfect sense right? Do you think you could start eating like this most days?
Being prepared for eating this way
Knowing in advance some of the challenges of following any new way of doing things means we can prepare accordingly and not be knocked off track.
- You will feel hungry at first, and will no doubt focus on it as you know you can’t do anything about it. You are just hyper-sensitive to it when teaching the body to get used to a new flow of meals.
- After a week or so you’ll notice hunger less, and may even find concentration and energy improve during the days as your body isn’t constantly side tracked with digesting food every few hours!
- For most of us breakfast and dinners are more controllable as you’re at home, but lunches can be tricky if you’re at work or out and about. So you’ll need to figure out how to handle lunches – can you take a lunch with you to work or get what you need in/around your workplace or wherever you’ll be at lunchtimes?
A bit of advance planning, including adapting your grocery shopping accordingly, will go a long way to ensuring you don’t continually find yourself unable to eat lunch according to plan!
Can you start eating like this?
I know you can start getting back to basics and eating this way, because you’ve done it before – it was just a couple of decades ago when you were a kid, when you got told to give your parents’ heads peace when you asked for a snack between meals! We’ve all fallen into bad habits in the meantime, and convinced ourselves we ‘deserve’ certain things more regularly than is actually healthy.
Nothing is off limits now, but obviously overdoing it with certain foods or certain portion sizes is counter productive.
For the most part we’re not adding extra stress around foods and learning new weird recipes – we are removing the stress around food by going back to the natural foods we grew up with, before the sheer volume of media coverage of diets confused us all.
We are learning that a bit of hunger between meals is OK and actually beneficial for controlling our weight.
You know that eating this way make sense even if it doesn’t sound exciting and new. You’ve possibly hopped from diet to diet for years, decades even, intermittently trying to lose weight with crazy schemes and foods.
Aren’t you tired of that crap by now? How did that all that flip-flopping work out for you?
So grab a pen and paper and start planning your next grocery shopping trip to include simple, natural foods you grew up with, and stop stressing about what and how to eat for optimal health and losing weight!