First of all, I think it is important to tell you that I am not a qualified nutritionist. The following information is based off of my own research and experiences with weight loss. I went from a size 10/12 to a size 6 over the space of 12 months. I have gone through spells of having poor nutrition due to undereating (before I was vegan) and as a result; I have been underweight at certain points. I can tell you now that I have tried every fad diet out there. I once attempted a diet which supposedly makes you lose one stone in a week – I made it to day 4. None of these quick-fix diets are a sustainable way of achieving and maintaining weight loss.
It would be very easy for me to sit behind a computer screen and tell you to accept your body in its weight and form, no matter what way you look. If you have the confidence to accept yourself in any shape or form, congratulations! I wish that I had that body confidence!
The truth for most of us though is that we are always trying to improve our bodies, especially when we are carrying an excess amount of fat. Before I lost weight (over 2 stone), I acted as if I loved my body – yet I still cried In changing rooms and became enraged when old clothes wouldn’t fit me.
I completely understand the want to improve your physique, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your physical appearance(to an extent), especially when doing so improves your health too! Just because you want to improve your bodily shape, does not mean that you self-hate.
This guide is here to help you to achieve this goal sustainably. Everyone knows that your daily calorie intake must be less than your daily calorie output to achieve weight loss results. I have restricted my calorie intake in the past with the use of a calorie tracking app, and believe me – it takes its toll on you – mentally and physically! By following the guidelines I have listed, you will automatically consume less calories anyway, while increasing your nutrient dense foods, and enjoying delicious meals!
I do not track calories, my current diet allows me to retain my physique with ease. Tracking calories forced me into an extremely unhealthy relationship with food in which I grew to resent food and its ability to change my weight on the scales. I eat an extremely nourishing array of whole, plant-based foods – and I never feel guilty for the foods that I eat. If you have an eating addiction, a calorie tracker may be useful – but there is always the danger of over-estimating your calories and eating way below your required amount each day. There is an easier way – eating foods which are truly good for you!
Sustainably attained weight loss is the only weight loss which you will be able to maintain over a long period of time. Do not cut carbs, or fats or whole food groups – this is an extremely unhealthy way of losing weight, and this could damage your well-being and health over a sustained period of time. You need to accept the fact that if you want to lose weight – it is going to take time and patience. I have listed some suggestions which, if applied to your own lifestyle, may result in weight loss. I have found that my weight no longer massively fluctuates from one end of the year to the next. It stays relatively the same through my use of these guidelines. Of course, not all of these options are possible for everyone – but my emphasis here is on; eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet to improve overall healthy while also benefitting from weight loss as a result.
Here are my tips:
- Change your attitude; Do not look at your adoption of healthier eating habits as a ‘diet’. It is not a ‘diet’, it is a way of life which will benefit you in the long run. Treating this change as a ‘diet’ will only make you resent it and look to it as a chore. It will become something you hate if you label it in this way.
- Look at weight loss as a way of achieving a healthier version of yourself. Sure, you could restrict your calories and eat all the same foods as previous, just in lesser amounts – but is this creating a healthier version of yourself? Probably not. Is this improving your overall health including your gut health, skin health and mental health? More than likely not.
- Begin everyday with between 250ml-500ml of water. After a night of sleeping, your body is dehydrated in the morning. This dehydration can be mistaken for hunger. This ‘false hunger’ can often result in over-eating at breakfast time. Hydrating your cells in the morning is pivotal for optimum bodily function throughout the day. Water will wake you up, and kick start your digestive system – leaving you less sluggish as a result.
- Remove caffeinated drinks from your diet. Sure, coffee is said to increase your metabolism – However; do you drink your coffee black? More than likely not. Added milk, sugar, and various liquid sweeteners and flavourings – dramatically increase the saturated fat and calorie content of your beverage. Your quick coffee stop between meals could result in a high-fat, 300 calorie addition to your day. What about green tea and herbal teas? I am not a fan. Green tea has become somewhat of a craze in recent years. I too was in on it at one stage, it was the only hot drink I consumed for months! It is knows as a ‘detoxifying’ beverage. One cup may do no harm, but if you are already eating a plant-full diet (plant-foods are natural detox agents), you do not need such tea. Also, it is said to rid your body of toxins. How can green tea decipher the difference between toxins and non-toxins? I personally just think that it flushes your body (of both positive and negative inputs), and if you are eating a primarily natural, plant-based diet – there is no need for this ‘de-toxification’. If you drink a lot of regular tea, aim to cut down to no more than two cups per day (with nut mylk). Fizzy drinks are laden with empty calories. Remove them from the diet and replace with sparkling water infused with fresh lemon or lime juice. Diet drinks contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. Sure, they’re calorie free – but they will not inspire you to live within the healthiest version of yourself. Get rid of them completely, or phase them out of your diet gradually. Drink water or fermented drinks such as Kombucha instead.
- Eat a primarily whole-foods, plant-based diet. If you are not a vegan; lessen your meat intake. Perhaps eat vegan just 3/7 days a week. Lowering your saturated fat intake through the absence of meat is an effective way of losing weight. Replace your meat options with naturally lower-in-fat options such as; beans, legumes or tofu. Eating a whole-foods diet means that you will be diminishing any convenience meals such as pot-noodles, ready-made lasagne or frozen pizza’s etc. from your diet. You should eat foods in their purest forms. Buy fresh veg, tinned beans/lentils, dried wholemeal pasta’s and rice. Buy tomato passata and herbs to create your own sauces, as well as a variety of nuts. You do not need to over-complicate your meals – but cook using basic ingredients.
- Cut all oils out of your diet. I know that this may appear to be radical, and may be greeted with some controversy, however; there are no actual health benefits to oils (due to their refined nature as a result of being highly processed). Saturated fat oils include: palm oil and coconut oil. Monounsaturated fat oils include: olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil and sesame oil. Polyunsaturated fat oils include: corn oil, sunflower oil and avocado oil. These refined oils all equally contain 120 calories per tablespoon. In my opinion – none of these options are better than one another!
Sure, good fats are needed in the diet – but these healthy fats are available to us in their whole form – therefore we do not need their refined versions. Eat avocado’s, nuts, seeds and olives (in small amounts – I usually include 1 tbsp of milled seeds, ¼ avocado, and 1-2 tbsp of nut butter in my diet everyday) instead. Saturated fats typically derive from animal-based products such as meat, butter, milk and cheese. I recommend completely omitting these from your diet to achieve sustainable weight loss results, as well as attaining a healthier and cholesterol-free diet.
- Omit refined sugars from your diet, and replace them with natural sugar sources such as fruit and plant-based derived sweeteners like agave, maple syrup or rice syrup. Removing refined sugars from your diet results in a lack of consumption of sugary snacks such as bars, biscuits, cakes etc. Cutting refined sugar includes omitting breakfast cereals with added sugar from your lifestyle. Eat vegan treats on occasion – but always opt for the most naturally produced options. Reducing your sugar intake reduces your calorie intake, while also preventing tooth-decay, sickness and disease.
- When you wake in the morning, layout a rough idea in your mind of what you will eat for the day. Look at what you have available to you and base your meals around your resources. Having an outline will ensure that you are less likely to go off course and eat unhealthy option.
- Follow the system of a large breakfast, a small – medium sized lunch, and a large dinner (Never skip out on a breakfast – you will only end up wanting more snacks throughout the day). This works for me, but may need some adjusting to suit yourself and your own schedule. I begin my day with a huge breakfast of oats each morning which keeps me satiated until about 2/3pm every day. Oats are pivotal in achieving weight loss successfully in my opinion. They’re low in fat and extremely filling considering their low calorie count per serving. I increase the recommended serving size to half a cup of oats per serving to ensure that my meal will fulfil my energy needs right up until lunch time. Add one banana to your oats when they are cooking, top with berries and nut butter and you have got the most fulfilling porridge to fuel your day. For lunch; keep it light. I usually have a large smoothie with a slice of toast OR else a nice cream bowl OR a sandwich. Eating a small lunch will ensure your appetite for dinner, however – if you are feeling really hungry; eat a larger lunch to avoid snacking on calorific substances. Eat a large, well balanced dinner including a protein source (beans/legumes), a starchy carbohydrate source (potatoes/rice/whole-wheat pasta), a healthy fat source (Avocado/nuts/seeds) and of course LOTS of veggies! Pile your vegetables high (specifically your dark-leafy green veg). Vegetables tend to be very low In calories despite their highly voluminous nature – therefore, they are a great way to fill your tummy, without the excess calories.
- Cut the snacks. If you are fully satisfied from your meals (which you should be), you will not desire snacks throughout the day. Up your fibre content in your breakfast, lunch and dinner if you find yourself becoming hungry between meals. When snacking, many people are often inclined to opt for highly calorific protein bars or chocolate treats. Fight the cravings if you are really hungry and opt for high-water content fruits such as melons. If I snack, I stick to medjool dates or smoothies for a quick dose of natural sugar. Make sure to keep drinking plenty of water also!
- Cut out/lessen your consumption of store-baught dips, sauces, dressings and spreads etc. Many of these contain high volumes of milk, oil, fat and sugar. As a result; they tend to be extremely calorific (e.g. pesto!). This comes as a surprise to many people. Always read the label! Make your own oil-free sauces and dressings.
- Cut down on alcohol consumption. Alcohol is typically extremely calorific. I recommend consuming alcohol at most; once every fortnight. If you are drinking alcohol; opt for the most low-calorie options such as vodka, sparkling water and fresh lime. STAY AWAY from cocktails – they’re extremely high in sugar, and as a result; extremely calorific (many cocktails also contain egg white – and are not vegan friendly).
- Eat SLOWLY. Chew each bite of food completely – I cannot stress this enough. Eating slowly and chewing your food well aids in digestion, and lessens bloating. Chewing your food well basically means that you have broken down most of your food before it even enters into your stomach. This means that your body has less work to do! As a result, this food will pass through your system much faster, and lessen bloating. This also stops that ‘sicky’ feeling that is often felt after large meals. Eating slowly also allows you to realize when you are full. Doing so allows your body to monitor the food which has entered the stomach as you are eating it – if you become too full, you will know when to stop – before eating more un-needed food! Ideally, you should allot 30-50 minutes for each meal. Sit down, eat and enjoy your food! Just; take your time! (I often chew my food so much that my jaw hurts by the end of each meal).
- Keep eating out to a minimum (once a week max.). Restaurants often laden their foods with oil, salt and refined sugars. This is fine for a treat, however – regular consumption will affect your weight-loss progress. Eating out may also throw you off-track for the upcoming week – I do recommend eating out every now and then however (doing so irregularly will make you really appreciate the social experience). Do not cancel dinner plans with your friends/family or partner etc. while enjoying this healthy lifestyle. Simply eat before dinner, or choose the healthiest option on the menu– do not let this healthy lifestyle sacrifice your social life. You can always request that your food is made with minimum oil too!
- LISTEN to your body (to an extent)! I cannot stress this enough. I do not agree with meal plans for this reason. If you feel like you are not satisfied after a meal – your body is telling you to eat MORE. This works both ways though. If you are not hungry enough for dinner, don’t go and cook a huge meal and force yourself to eat it. Prepare something small, and easily digestible.
I often get sweet cravings, I am human! After some time though, your body begins craving fruit sugars instead of artificial sugars. This takes time. Listening to your body and eating intuitively does not mean that as soon as you get a chocolate craving that you should go and eat a chocolate bar! When we crave chocolate (this goes for women mostly), we are often actually craving the magnesium within the chocolate. You could be lacking magnesium on this certain day – eat nuts, seeds or banana instead. (try a banana with a spoonful of peanut butter spread over it!). You could also add raw cacao powder to smoothies, oats or baking to enjoy the familiar chocolate flavour without the sugar!
- Get enough sleep. 7-9 hours a night preferably. Your body needs this rest. The energy that a good night sleep provides will support your digestive system and ensure that your bodily systems work at an optimum rate. A tired body will remain sluggish, and you will more than likely be unmotivated for the day ahead if you do not get enough sleep.
- Do not weigh yourself regularly! When you are trying to lose excess weight, weighing yourself once every fortnight is definitely useful. Weighing yourself every-day is going to challenge your mental health! Your weight will fluctuate – due to; water retention, types of food you have eaten on a certain day and – for women; what stage of your cycle you are at etc. Watching your weight fluctuate daily may turn you against your end goal. Do not allow this to happen! Sometimes, the best way to notice your bodily changes is by seeing the change in the way your clothing fits you.
- Aim to achieve between 40 to 90 minutes of moderate exercise every day. This does not mean that you have to go to the gym and run on the treadmill for an hour, or lift weights for an hour! This exercise can be in any form. Sometimes for me it could be; cleaning around the house for an hour, followed by a walk. Other times it could be a 40 minute run and a 30 minute weight session. Any form of exercise is better than nothing. You just NEED to move your body, and build up any bit of a sweat. Going to the gym every day for two hours is not sustainable, and forcing yourself to go everyday will make you resent it.
I usually walk my dog 4/5 days a week and remain relatively active throughout the day also (be-it cleaning/cooking/shopping etc.). When I go to the gym (3 times a week), I usually do a 10 minute jog on the treadmill to warm up – followed by a 30-40 minute weight session. I only lift light weight, and focus on the entire body instead of singling out certain sections each day. I work-out to stay toned, not to grow large muscles, so this is what works for me. I superset each exercise so that the muscle group I am working on gets a good burn! I do a relatively intense workout so that I can get my sweat on, but I always keep it below 40 minutes. I use free weights, and never work from the machines – I just prefer doing my own thing and going at my own pace. You need to explore different ways of working out to discover what is the best option for you. A sedentary lifestyle will have a major effect on your ability to lose weight.