I saw an advert on how to eat sensibly to lose weight the other day. I was hoping to find some good free material to share on our blog, but on following the links the supposedly free advice, turned out to be just another sales pitch in disguise. So in response to that, here is some layman advice for FREE. Please add your wisdom too. There is no great secret or mystery to being a healthy weight. Unless we have a medical condition complicating the issue, it’s simply about remembering how to apply our common sense to a subject about which our whole society is hysterical. So here are some common sense guidelines for us to follow:
1) Be steady and sensible. Set targets around eating that are achievable and sustainable indefinitely (long term). Avoid crash diets and drastic changes because in general what comes off quickly, goes back on quickly.
2) Eat a balanced diet which includes daily helpings of fruit and vegetables. We don’t need to cut out all the favourite calories, just to eat them in some degree of moderation and to eat plenty of healthy stuff too. There are some healthier versions of sugar fixes for those (like me) with a really sweet tooth, and ideally these would replace some (but not all if we don’t want them to!) of our processed sugar fixes. For example fruit salad with a bit of yoghurt. Eating slow release carbohydrates such as porridge helps avoid the ups and downs of sudden bursts of sugar from biscuits, coke etc. But if a sudden burst is needed then bananas are a great way to go.
3) What we eat early in the day, our bodies have all day to burn it off. So try to form the habit making breakfast (or if we don’t like a big breakfast, lunch) the main meal of the day. Supper is the meal to eat lightly if we can. Late night eating of anything is the worst idea.
4) Regular exercise is important. We don’t have to join expensive gyms if we don’t want to. We don’t need to free up a huge amount of extra time. We can start by simply taking whatever opportunities naturally arise. For example to walk or cycle where possible instead of driving, or to use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. On top of this, a couple of times a week breaking a sweat (aerobic) exercise would be ideal.
5) STOP eating in front of TV or whilst rushing, reading or working etc. Eat slowly and mindfully or not at all (to eat mindfully just keep returning your attention to the experience of eating). Leave a gap between helpings or courses (it takes a little time for the message to go from our stomachs to our brains saying ‘full’). When full stop eating! In fact a yogi once advised me to always leave ¼ of the stomach empty to help digestion.
6) When we overeat or eat the ‘wrong’ things, it is usually because we are compensating for being unhappy or stressed, and/ or because we are out of touch with our bodies. If we comfort eat, then not eating a certain kind of food may literally feel like taking the joy out of life. If we know we are not sleeping enough, unhappy or are highly stressed, then ‘dieting’ without addressing this is pointless. Even if we succeed in losing weight, we will only compensate in some other way instead (e.g. smoking). So it is important we address (including by seeking help if necessary) anything we are compensating for.
7) Before you chose what to eat, check in with your body what it wants. Our minds often desire food for other reasons than keeping the body healthy (e.g. to feel pleasure or to compensate for feeling bad), so our mind doesn’t always give the best directions to follow. The more we can ‘tune in’ to our bodies, the more they will guide us to naturally want what (and how much)is good for us. This might seem alien to start with, but if we keep consciously intending/trying to listen to our bodies, we will at some point actually start to do it. Listening requires being open to what is there rather than deciding (through what we want, don’t want, like, don’t like) what should be there.
8) Find in between meal snacks that are not full of processed sugar or fat (e.g. fruit or crackers etc.) and make sure that you have access to some. That way, if we’re hungry or munching out of boredom we are not piling on the pounds doing so. Even if nothing comes instantly to mind, if we investigate we will probably find something that will do the trick.
9) Rewarding ourselves for keeping to our programme is a great way of staying motivated. As is finding someone to collaborate with (report to or follow the diet with).
10) Cooking healthy food in bulk and freezing or putting some in the fridge is good time management. As is investigating healthy fast foods (things that are quick to make). Otherwise food preparation time can be an obstacle.
11) Don’t try and gage whether or not you need to lose weight by comparing yourself to skinny models on TV. Eat and live reasonably healthily, and the rest will take care of itself. Society is quite literally ‘mad’ in the way it is youth and ‘body beautiful’ obsessed. It is literally unbalanced, neurotic and unrealistic. The fashion, media, celebrity (and to some extent ‘health’) industries make huge amounts of money by perpetuating two lies. The first is that being attractive equals being happy. The second is that only young and skinny is beautiful. By doing this they ensure that we (or most of us) are constantly falling short. We are not slim enough to be happy. We can’t stop ourselves from aging. So we are suckers for all the products, fads, diets etc., that these industries can push our way. What’s more we idolise (buy products, magazines etc. in homage of) those glamorous celebrities who seem to have the perfect body and so the perfect life. But do they really? It doesn’t take too much pondering to realise that it’s just one big scam that we’ve all bought into. Not so long ago it was curves all over, not bones showing and child thin, that was considered sexy. There are plenty of models and celebrities whose fame, money and ‘beauty’ (or trying to keep them) hasn’t brought them any happiness at all. Chasing this ‘ideal’ from the position that there is something wrong with us just as we are, is a sure way to remain miserable (and of course susceptible to any salesperson who can touch on this vulnerability). With some models it’s not even possible to reach their size without becoming ill. What sort of happiness is that? What makes the farce a tragedy is that at this point most men would actually prefer ‘plumper’ women. We all have a ‘natural’ weight/size for us. There is no natural need to try and be ultra slim (just those driven by peer pressure, fads and insecurities). All body shapes and sizes can be beautiful, especially if the body radiates health and happiness.
To summarise: eat in a balanced way (neither extremely indulgent or severely restrictive), do regular exercise, learn to listen to what your body wants (instead of eating because of compensation or compulsion), and compassionately address any issues causing you to want to behave differently. You’ll not only become the healthy weight for you, you’ll be happier too.