I believe the best way for sustained weight loss is to make very small achievable goals to slowly change your habits over time. This ensures that the change is manageable and it gives you enough time to get used to it before starting the next small goal. Having said that, I am going to break down the 6 ways to immediately start losing weight into two posts with three goals in each. It is more digestible this way and even if you just focus on one goal at a time, instead of the three, then that is progress. Continue to put one foot in front of the other, no matter what the pace and celebrate the small victories.
1. Cut out/reduce sugary beverages and/or your alcohol consumption.
If you are someone who has pop, juice, beer, wine or a cocktail everyday or almost everyday, you can easily drop weight without having to do anything else if you start limiting these beverages to 1 - 2 a week or cutting them out all together.
Pop and juice are full of sugar, which is pure energy for the body. If you don’t use this energy right away, then it will be stored as fat. If you skip pop or juice for water, then the body will rely on the other food you've eaten for energy, or, best case scenario, your body will rely on it’s already present fat stores for energy. These beverages consist of more sugar than you should be eating in an entire day, according to the American Heart Association, which suggests eating no more than 25 g of added sugar per day. For more information about sugar check out these blogs, Should I eat fruit if I am trying to lose weight and reduce my sugar intake?, Guidelines for Curbing your Sugar Consumption, The Do's and Don'ts of Eating for a Healthier Gut.
Alcohol doesn’t fit into either the carb, protein or fat category and our body cannot store alcohol as energy for later. This means that the body burns alcohol off as soon as it is consumed. If we are having a beverage or two with dinner, than our body uses the alcohol for energy first leaving the calories consumed from the rest of the meal to be burned second. So, think about a night out where you have a few drinks plus a meal that is more than you may usually eat or you have some bar food like a big poutine or greasy slice of pizza, your body will burn the alcohol first and store most of the calories from the meal as fat.
Action: If you have a strong desire for these beverages then I would suggest starting with reducing your weekly consumption. Try to cut it in half, allow yourself a few weeks to adjust, then reduce it by half again. If you don’t have as strong desire, but end up consuming more that you think you should, then limit your consumption to 1 - 2 per week. Some of you are the all or nothing type, for which I would suggest cutting it out completely.
2. Reduce your processed food consumption and replace them with whole foods.
I think it’s finally starting to catch on that processed carbs and not necessarily our fat intake are to blame for many of our chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, certain cancers, atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative diseases and obesity. Carbs have one purpose in the body and that is to provide energy, so if you don’t use up that energy, then it will be stored as energy for later in the form of fat. This was once a very important survival mechanism, however, with food always available at the fingertips of most, it becomes difficult to override this biological instinct without plenty of effort. Don’t beat yourself up for struggling to not give in to this instinct, instead, become aware and put a plan in place for when it happens (see #3).
Processed carbs have less nutritional value compared to whole foods, which are foods in their natural state. It can be tough to get the recommended amount of each vitamin and mineral each day, especially when you consume foods that have minimal nutritional value to them. Instead, focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetable, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy products and meat, which are all packed full of vitamins and minerals.
Action: Attempting a total diet overhaul can be very difficult and isn’t likely to end in success for most people. Instead, try focusing on how to consistently replace that one processed food you know you eat too much of. For some that’s white bread, cereal, cookies, pastries, pasta, or sugary treats like candy. Just choose one food and think of how you can consistently replace it in your diet.
- For people who love white bread try eating whole grain bread instead.
- For people who love cereal, try a granola based cereal with less than 10 g of sugar per serving instead. Or try making your own Maple Granola
- If you love cookies and pastries, try making your own baked goods that have natural sweeteners, like honey and maple syrup, and add nuts and seeds for added fibre and nutrients. Try these recipes - Banana Chocolate Chunk Muffins, Dark Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Muffins, Super Healthy Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Oat Energy Squares, Chocolate Avocado Pudding, Bounty Balls, Flourless Oatmeal Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Cookies, or Chewy Dark Chocolate Brownies.
- If you love pasta, try spiralized veggies, spaghetti squash, quinoa or brown rice instead.
- If you love sugary treats, try making your own healthier versions, like my Classic Peanut Butter Cups, Cashew Cookie Dough Balls, Pumpkin Pie Nice Cream with a Cinnamon Oat Crunch, or Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Oat Energy Squares.
Focus on replacing one food in your diet at a time and understand that it can take a couple weeks to develop a taste for this new version, but I promise you can adjust and will likely end up preferring the healthier version since, and it is my guess that you don’t feel great after consuming these highly processed carbs.
3. Plan your Meals.
I can’t stress enough how important planning your meals is for eating healthier, losing or gaining weight or adapting to a new diet. It can be particularly important if you are a parent or a shift worker. When we plan our meals, it ensures we have bought the right ingredients to make healthy meals and it prevents us from getting extra hungry, which can lead to impulsive meals out or grabbing something on-the-go.
Action: It can be overwhelming to plan an entire week of meals, so if this sounds like too much for you, then I would start with concentrating on planning that one meal of the day you struggle most with for a week or at least 5 days at a time. Try to write it down before the work week starts, get all the groceries you need to be successful, post your plan in your kitchen for easy access and try meal prepping a few meals at once or try to do some prep the day before. You know yourself best so try to do as much prepping as you need to do to ensure you are successful.
Start by addressing at least one of these tips to start losing weight and eat healthier. Remember to go as slow as you need to in order to be successful. Try not to compare yourself to others and always keep moving one foot in front of the other. You may have set backs but always remember that tomorrow is a new day to start fresh and that’s all that matters.