Sometimes in life we over complicate things.
Take weight loss and healthy eating, for example. With so much conflicting information out there, it can be hard to keep things simple.
Should we go gluten-free? Are we eating “clean” enough? Is dairy bad for us? Do we need a probiotic supplement? What about GMOs? Do we need to eat organic all the time? The list goes on …. and on …. and on. And every “guru” has a different opinion.
These may be good questions to ask, but I think it is best to simplify the question of weight loss and healthy eating with some commonsense recommendations to help you stay sleek naturally without having to think obsessively about the foods you put in your body.
First, before we take a look at my tips on getting thin naturally, I have put together the following short video to give you a sneak peek into my kitchen and my daily eating habits.
Now that you know how I eat, I’d like to provide you with some additional tips that I use on a daily basis to help me stay trim without having to count calories or deprive myself. My approach is balanced and simple. I hope you will adjust it to your own, individual needs, since no one knows and understand your own body and lifestyle like you do. Take small steps, day by day, and not only will you look better, you will feel better too.
1. Eat slowly and stop at 80% full.
This is first on the list because it is very important. Try to incorporate this into your daily life and you will start to notice significant changes.
One of the biggest reasons that we overeat is that we eat our food too fast. Communication between our brain and gut is slow, so when we eat quickly we tend to eat too much.
Ideally, try to give yourself 15-20 minutes to eat a meal and really savour your food, which leads me to my next recommendation…
2. Pay attention when you are eating
All of us have become pros at multi-tasking. Making phone calls, checking email messages, and posting social media updates are the norm now when we are “enjoying” a meal.
But honestly, when we are this distracted can we truly say we have tasted anything? Do our bodies even register that we have had a meal?
The best way to pay attention to what you are eating is to sit down, put away the phone, turn off the television, close the book and just eat. I know. This is easier said than done, but try it and see how it goes.
Make mealtime a daily ritual that you enjoy and focus on.
3. Try not to skip meals
There is a lot of controversy over how often we need to eat. I find the best advice is to follow our own hunger cues. Eating 3 main meals and 2 snacks is a good place to start, but listen to your body and don’t eat if you’re not hungry!
That being said, try not to let yourself get ravenously hungry either. That’s when we usually make the poorest food choices (i.e. convenience foods like donuts and fast food burgers).
Aim to go about 3-4 hours between meals, which will also keep you from “grazing” all day long.
4. “Eat your veggies”
We all heard this a thousand times growing up, but we shouldn’t ignore it as adults either. Vegetables contain micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as phytonutrients (plant chemicals) that are essential for the proper functioning of our bodies.
In addition, vegetables provide filling fibre and are low in calories (if they aren’t dripping with butter or olive oil of course). Aim to eat at leat a fist full with each meal.
And, feel free to use fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables. They all offer the same great nutrients. Just be sure to watch the sodium on canned vegetables and look for fruits packed in water or 100% juice (not syrup).
5. Eat some protein dense foods with each meal
Do not underestimate the importance of protein. Not only is it a critical building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood, it helps to fill you up and keep you feeling satiated.
Rich animal sources of protein include fish, meat, eggs, and dairy. Try to go for leaner cuts of meat and low-fat dairy when possible. And, if you can afford them, free-range and pasture-raised products are preferable, since they are more nourishing and taste better.
If you eat a plant-based vegetarian or vegan diet, like I do, don’t forget about legumes such as chickpeas, beans, lentils, peas and peanuts, which, in addition to protein, provide you with plenty of filling fiber, helping you to lose weight by keeping you feeling full longer. According to an article on the blog of Dr. Axe, a certified doctor of natural medicine, “One study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition followed 1,475 participants over a span of eight years. Researchers found that those who ate beans regularly had a lower body weight, smaller waist size and a 22 percent lower risk of obesity.”
Try to eat about a palm size serving of plant or animal protein with each meal.
6. Eat some carbohydrate dense foods with most meals, especially after exercise.
There is no need to fear carbohydrates. On the contrary. They are the body’s preferred energy source and help keep you satisfied. When you cut them from your diet you will feel deprived.
Try to choose minimally processed whole or sprouted grains (rice, oats, quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, legumes, beans, lentils, fruit, breads and pastas).
Although it is preferable to avoid refined flours and grains, try not to stress about it if you do eat them occasionally. A little white rice in your sushi every now and then is not going to pack on the pounds.
Aim to eat about 1 cupped handful with each meal.
7. Eat healthy, fat-dense foods with 1 to 2 meals
Just as you shouldn’t fear carbohydrates, you needn’t fear fats either.
I favour eating monosaturated (macadamias, pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, olives, olive oil, peanuts, peanut butter, avocado) and polyunstatured fats (fish oil, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, flax oils, chia seeds, and Brazil nuts) because I am vegetarian.
However, I do eat some saturated fat found in coconut oil, palm oil and dairy, and you may wish to add some saturated fat in the form of meat and eggs as well.
Pay particular attention to choosing products that are made from animals raised on pasture (these products are labelled as free-range or pasture-raised), since they are more nutritious and have a better fat profile.
Although you needn’t fear fat, please remember that fats contain 9 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates. For this reason, I tend to favour small amounts of foods that contain naturally occuring fat like avocados, seeds and nuts, rather than free oils and fats, such as butter, olive oil, coconut oil, etc., since it is easy to get carried away with the latter.
Eat approximately 1 thumb of fat-dense foods with 1 to 2 meals.
8. Drink approximately 2 litres (8 cups) of water a day
I like to recommend drinking approximately 2 litres (8 cups) of water per day, but this is only a guideline. Your hydration needs may vary significantly depending on the weather and your level of activity. Try to listen to your thirst.
I find that it is best to have 1-2 cups of water immediately upon rising in the morning before you eat or drink anything else. After a whole night without drinking, it is important to rehydrate your cells. If you find it difficult at first to drink this amount of water on an empty stomach, try sipping on it as you get ready for the day.
You will find that drinking straight away before breakfast will also help you eat less. Use this tip at lunch and dinner too. Drink one to two cups of water about 20 minutes before each meal, and see if you don’t eat less.
I’d like to offer a word of caution about drinking too much water. According to the website Healthline.com, “Overhydration can lead to water intoxication. This occurs when the amount of salt and other electrolytes in your body become too diluted. Hyponatremia is a condition in which sodium (salt) levels become dangerously low.”
To best judge whether you are hydrated enough, look at the colour of your urine. According to Healthline, “Pale yellow urine that looks like lemonade is a good goal. Darker urine means you need more water. Colorless urine means you are overhydrated.”
Once again, it is all about balance.
9. Limit alcohol, sugar, and artificial sweeteners as much as possible
I never use artificial sweeteners, which stimulate you to eat more and increase your taste for sweet things, but I do drink alcohol occasionally in moderation and also enjoy some sweet indulgences every now and then.
I feel it is important to not obsess over “clean” eating or feel guilty if I enjoy these things every so often in moderation (holidays, celebrations etc.). Life is too short to miss out on the pleasure of eating some of our favourite treats, and depriving yourself of them is likely to lead to bingeing.
For example, if you decide to enjoy a few square of high-quality dark chocolate, then skip the glass of wine. Or, if you are just dying for a cocktail with friends, then make sure to skip the dessert cart later. You can enjoy a bit of everything, just not all at the same time.
10. Understand weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise
If you are trying to slim down, place your focus first on what you are eating and then on how much you are exercising.
This may sound odd since I own a fitness business. However, I am not saying that exercise doesn’t count towards weight loss. It does. But, if we overeat it is really hard to exercise the excess calories away (unless we are scaling mountains on a daily basis – which I don’t recommend :)).
Whenever possible, find reasons to move more. Take a break every 30 to 40 minutes of computer work to stand up and stretch and perhaps do a few pliés. Park your car at a distance from where you are going so you can walk more. When you are talking on the phone, stay in motion by walking or climbing stairs. You’ll be surprised at how many more calories you will burn on a daily basis.
11. Control your portion size
Controlling your portion size is very effective for helping you to slim down. In our fast-food, supersize world, we have lost sight of what a proper serving is of most foods.
A simple but highly effective trick for eating less, is using smaller plates and cups. This really works! When your brain sees that full dish, you automatically feel like you are getting more.
Also, try not to clean your plate or bowl if you’re full. Instead, save leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.
12. Keep nourishing, nutrient-dense and simple-to-prepare food on hand
Prepping your food for the week can help immensely with eating healthily. Choose one or two days a week to put together some healthy meals and snacks. This doesn’t require loads of cooking and recipes. It can be as simple as steaming several cups of frozen vegetables, boiling 4 to 5 servings of quinoa or brown rice, baking a tray of sweet potatoes, baking several portions of chicken and fish or boiling several portions of chickpeas or black beans. Once everything is cooked, place the food into containers in the refrigerator. Now you have food that can be mixed and matched based on what you are hungry for that day and you can quickly grab something healthy to eat at any time.
Keeping your pantry, freezer and refrigerator stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and proteins will go a long way towards keeping you on track.
13. Be prepared for situations where you overeat or make poor food choices
If you know that there are certain situations that trigger you to overeat and/or make poor food choices, plan for them.
For example, if you are going out to a restaurant with friends or family to enjoy a meal and know you overeat in these situations, “spoil” your appetite by eating some soup, salad, a piece of fresh fruit or a yogurt before you go. If I know the portion is going to be particularly large, I usually ask the server to put half of my meal in a take-away container even before bringing it to the table.
If you know that it is difficult to resist when your co-workers order in lunch, try to choose a healthful option. For example, have a side salad alongside a slice of pizza, or if you are eating Chinese food, ask for them to steam your food and put the sauce in a container on the side.
Or forego the takeout food completely and bring a prepared lunch from home.
Think about those situations that make it most difficult for you to eat sensibly and healthily and come up with a plan to face them easily and cheerfully.
14. Be grateful you even have to worry about overeating
So often in industrialised countries we are so consumed with healthy eating that we forget how very fortunate we are to even have to worry about eating too much. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people on this planet are concerned with getting enough calories.
Rather than seeing food as our enemy let us try to remember that we are very fortunate to have it on our tables every day and give thanks for it.
15. Most importantly, enjoy your food!
Take a cue from the Italian and French cultures where eating high-quality, delicious food is truly an art form and obesity is much less a concern. Food should be a source of pleasure. When you view it in this way you will find it easy to eat sensibly.
Remember, if you are doing regular Sleek workouts, you are already treating your body to thoughtful, productive, effective exercise. Putting some thought into positive effective changes in your diet should be the next logical step to ensure you look and feel at your Sleek best!