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Six weeks to washboard abs!
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We’re sure you’ve seen headlines like these all over social media, on search engines, and in your inbox. In a world of quick fixes and diet hacks, it might seem impossible to find lasting strategies and solutions to your weight issues.
Short-term fat loss programs are the sexy, dramatic results offered by many coaches in the fitness industry, and long-term, sustainable plans are harder to sell.
In a world of instant gratification, why can’t your weight loss efforts be the same?
Sustainable Weight Loss: The Truth
Short-term weight loss programs are so enticing because they offer instant results. Our internet is fast; we can order groceries to our door in a matter of hours. We don’t need to cook to have dinner.
It plays to our nature to want things now. And if you don’t need to work for it? Fantastic!
But in the real world, weight loss takes a measured approach, continued support, and adherence to a new way of life.
Does that sound overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be. We’ll take you through 5 actionable tips for sustainable weight loss results and how to implement them for long-term success.
#1: The Right Diet for You
There are many diets out there that will work. But the one that works for you will be the one you can adhere to. It might surprise you to know that every diet follows the same basic principle: creating a calorie deficit.
What does that mean?
A calorie is a unit of energy, and all foods contain a certain amount of calories.
You can think of most foods in two ways:
Some foods are less energy-dense; vegetables and fruit are low-calorie and nutrient-dense.
Highly processed foods that mix fats with sugar, like ice cream, are high-calorie and therefore energy-dense but less nutrient-dense.
Reading that, which foods do you think should make up most of your diet?
You guessed it.
In its simplest form, a weight loss diet should lean towards meals full of nutrients and easy on the higher-calorie foods.
That’s why we talk a lot about the 80/20 principle. If your diet comprises primarily healthy foods (80%) and leaves room for the enjoyment of a pizza or dessert here and there (20%), you’re on to a winner.
Cutting out whole food groups might work in the short term, but it’s often an unsustainable pursuit that will leave you miserable.
The middle ground isn’t sexy and doesn’t promise fast results, but it’s in the middle ground that you’ll find a life-long approach to the enjoyment of healthy eating.
Creating a Calorie Deficit
There are a couple of different ways to create a calorie deficit. You could use a calorie calculator to determine how many calories you need to consume to maintain or lose weight. But they don’t work for everyone.
Other ways include:
- Eating until you’re 80% full at every meal
- Sticking to three portion-controlled meals per day.
- Intermittent fasting
- Working with a coach
What jumps out at you?
Write down the foods you love and wouldn’t like to give up.
Then keep a food diary for three days without changing what you eat. Can you pinpoint which foods you might be overeating? Or certain times in the day, different situations where you reach for higher-calorie foods?
Awareness is the beginning of change.
#2: Protein for Breakfast
It’s widely agreed that eating more protein is essential when considering losing weight. Protein fills you up and preserves muscle when you’re in a calorie deficit.
One simple change to make is having a source of protein in your breakfast or first meal of the day. Many breakfast staples like toast and cereals don’t contain protein, which leaves you feeling hungry by mid-morning. Imagine trying to lose weight and feeling hungry all the time? It wouldn’t help.
According to this study, eating a quality source of protein (in this case, eggs) for breakfast can help you eat fewer calories throughout the day.
Protein has a host of other benefits outside of weight loss.
Pick three protein sources you can see yourself eating for breakfast and start to incorporate them. The only change you need to make for the next two weeks is including protein in your breakfast. Once it becomes a habit, you can start thinking about adding a protein source to every meal.
#3: Eat Slowly
Ah, the most straightforward instruction, but hard to implement.
Eating slowly is the practice of being mindful when you’re eating a meal rather than wolfing it down and feeling bloated and overly full. When you eat slowly, you digest better and feel satisfied. You might even leave food on the plate (and that’s OK).
Many of us eat poorly because we don’t take time to notice how food tastes, what eating well feels like, or how our bodies respond to different food choices.
Imagine over-eating, but slowly. Do you think you would enjoy the food as much if you’re aware that you’re over-eating?
Eating slowly is a food skill that allows you to eat smaller portions without trying. It’s more important than what you eat, when you eat, where you eat, and even who you eat with.
You will enjoy your food more, you’ll be able to tell when you’re full, and eating will be a more enjoyable experience.
Choose one meal a day and try eating slowly by:
- Putting your fork down between bites
- Chewing each mouthful for longer than you usually would
- Check-in with yourself after half of the meal. Are you still hungry? Are you satisfied?
#4: Pause Before Snacking
Pausing before snacking is so simple but can be highly effective. Often, we reach for food when we’re tired, stressed, bored, or out of habit. We associate eating with certain behaviours. Sitting down to watch your favourite Netflix show? Grab the popcorn (even if you’ve just had a meal)!
If you can build awareness (there’s that word again), you can start to set new neural pathways. Are you hungry or bored? Are you hungry or stressed? The next time you reach for a snack, you can try taking a pause.
Deciding to take a five or ten-minute pause before eating a snack can be a powerful tool. You’ll know if you genuinely want the food or if it’s an emotional response to a feeling.
It’s important not to demonise snacking. Many people see weight loss success by eating three balanced meals and a couple of snacks. The difference is, it’s not mindless snacking.
If you’re skipping meals and snacking instead, you might end up eating more calories than you would be having a meal. And therein lies the problem. Overindulgence in high-fat, sugary foods is commonplace in stressed, busy people who think they don’t have time to eat well or grab food on the go. So what’s the solution?
Pause. Take a breath. Are you hungry or filling an emotional void? These are scary but necessary questions for sustainable weight loss, and pausing is a life-long skill to add to your arsenal.
Before eating a snack, try this:
- Set a timer for five minutes
- Ask yourself: Am I starving, or is it something else?
That’s it. If you still want the snack, eat it. There are no rules here, and the only suggestion would be to eat slowly and enjoy it. You could even try portion control. See how all of these tips are coming together?
#5: Ditch the Cheat Meal
You’ve been ‘good’ all week, so you deserve a cheat meal, right?
Cheat meals often turn into cheat days or even weekends and can derail any progress you’ve made over the week.
It’s like living for the weekend when you don’t like your job.
A different approach would be to make room for the foods you love in everyday life, instead of cutting them out or only allowing them in a cheat meal.
When we use words like cheating, we think we’re breaking some kind of rule. But you aren’t good or bad depending on what you eat. There are no food rules, only skills and behaviours determined by our values.
Permit yourself to eat anything you want for one day.
You might panic reading that, thinking you’ll stuff your face with anything and everything. But with a bit of thought, pausing before snacking, using portion control, eating slowly, and bringing awareness to your day, you’ll probably find that you’ll learn and gain valuable insight into your behaviours.
Pulling it all Together
The five tips above are guidelines and an introduction to eating skills. We’re not saying they’re easy to implement, and if you think a certain way or don’t know where to start, pick one skill and try it. Sustainable weight loss is possible with a slightly different approach than you’re used to.
Success is a shared endeavour, and at Next Step Nutrition Ltd, we revel in the success of our clients. Short on time? That’s OK. Don’t want to cook from scratch? That’s fine. Rather than taking you away from your values, we pair health and fitness with them to create a sustainable plan and support you every step of the way.