Taking control of a healthy way of eating

I met up with a good friend of mine at the weekend.  She told me that she was on the ‘Slimming World’ diet and that just about everything she at had a ‘syn’ value (which quite honestly stunned me).   It wasn’t the fact that she was on a diet, it was the fact that she was allowed only 15 ‘syns’ a day (plus limitless fruit and veg and other foods).  (Also the fact that they called any type of food which wasn’t free a syn… which I thought was actually spelled sin the way my friend was talking…)

‘Syns are Slimming World’s alternative to calorie or fat counting, designed to make sure you can enjoy your favourite treats every day, from chocolate and cake to ice cream and alcohol. All food that isn’t Free has a Syn value – you simply choose how to spend your Syn allowance each day.’

I hate the thought of putting a negative light on food and limiting your intake to 15 whatevers of that particular food. In my mind, you should be thinking, what can I eat, what should I eat, not preventing yourself from eating because you’ve already eaten foods that day which you should be limiting.

I mentioned that I have porridge in the morning and right away that was 5 syns for her so she couldn’t eat that. Grrr.  Porridge is one of the best breakfasts around, but she didn’t want to eat it as it would just leave her with 10 syns left for the rest of the day.

Slimming World promotes that you’ll ‘never go hungry again’, ‘Eat as much as you want’, ‘No food is banned’.  But I could tell by what my friend was saying about ‘syns’ that she was restricting her diet based on the syn values of the food.

It didn’t seem right to me.  I hate diets and I hate the thought that people/companies are making money off something which doesn’t need a manual or complicated calorie counting or syn counting… it’s just healthy eating and being responsible for what you eat.  I think put simply, diets don’t work.

To lose weight you don’t just change things for the duration of your diet… you have to change your eating habits (and if you want, your exercise levels) for your lifetime (see more here: Changing your lifestyle to aid weight loss… )

I read somewhere that we should eat as if we are poor, that way we won’t over indulge and we won’t put on extra pounds as a result.  It’s pretty hard to do in today’s society, but the next few points from my head might help.

Here are some of my rules for eating healthily and which, in the last 3 years have helped me (along with regular exercise) to shift almost 2 stone in weight.

Note down what you eat for a week

To start off with, it’s good to check what your diet is like every now and again and see if you can make any improvements. Be honest, and write down everything that you eat for a week. You’ll tend to find that you eat the same things week in week out or even day in day out.

Take a look at what you eat day in day out and consider if it really is the best and healthiest fuel you can be putting into your body.  If it isn’t then change things, change what you eat.

You can still have the odd treat, but the key is to have a healthy and varied diet.

Replace any unhealthy food options with healthy ones

Take a look at the kinds of foods that you eat and see if you can change them to more healthy options. I used to always eat a chocolate bar in the afternoon… mars bar, snickers or twix. I’d get an immediate sugar rush from it, then the inevitable crash would come and I’d crave more chocolate!

I changed what I have in the afternoons to an apple, followed by some dried fruit (raisins etc) or a banana. And if I’m still hungry come 4pm or I want an energy boost for if I’m exercising after work, I’ll have some cashew nuts.

Eat fruit and veg (5-8 portions a day)

You can replace unhealthy snack foods, ie chocolate, crisps, sweets, with more healthy fruit and veg options.

Fruits I like include: Pink Lady apples, bananas, dried fruit, Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice, Strawberries, Blackberries, Mango, Melon, Kiwi fruits.

Vegetables include: Peas, Sweetcorn, Carrots, Cucumber, Tomatoes (cherry or large ones), Avocado.

You can’t exactly snack on peas, but you can cut carrots and cucumbers up into snack size portions and you can snack on tomatoes (and get their high anti oxidant properties).

UK guidelines are to eat ‘5 a day’… but believe it or not, the ideal amount is 8 pieces of fruit or veg a day (not including potatoes). I read somewhere that the Government decided on 5 a day as a slogan rather than 8 a day, as there was no way the general population would get 8 bits of fruit and veg a day, so they opted for 5 a day as a more realistic goal!

You can fit 8 bits of fruit and veg in, and if you do, you’ll probably never feel hungry (and avoid eating crap too!)

Eat consiously

Sometimes we eat just because food is there. A bowl of nuts or sweets on a table, chocolates or cake that someone offers you at work. You’re not actually hungry but you are eating because you are bored, or to give you something to do.

Eat only when you’re hungry

This leads on from the previous point. When you eat, consiously think about if you actually need to eat (ie are you hungry), or if you are just eating because food is there or it’s a particular time of day? Which leads me onto my next point.

Don’t eat out of habit

At 8am I have my breakfast, at 10am I have a snack, at 12 I have my lunch, at 2pm I have a snack, at 4pm I have a snack… at 6pm I have my dinner. it’s all routine.

The question I should ask myself is… do I really need to eat at those times? Am I really hungry or am I just eating out of routine or habit?

Eat 5-6 small meals a day

As you can see from above… I eat pretty frequently. 5-6 small meals a day with snacks if I’m hungry. This keeps my metabolism high as I’m constantly asking my body to convert the food I’ve consumed into energy.

Don’t let yourself get starving

As a result of eating 5-6 small meals a day, I very rarely find myself starving. So I rarely tend to over eat because I’m starving!

If you do find yourself starving, eat something small to curb your appetite. It will prevent you from really over endulging and doing the ‘eyes are bigger than your belly’ thing (which I sometimes find myself doing!).

Ruin your appetite with a starter/soup/snack

I know you’re always told not to so this… but eat something before you go out for a big meal and you are sure to not eat as much when you’re out.

If you are going out for a meal, or you are starving and are tempted to eat a 3 or 4 course extravaganza – DON’T.  It takes about 20 minutes for your gut to register that you’ve eaten something, so by the time you are on your 4th course and stuffed… your brain might not have got the message that you are way too full!

A way to prevent eating lots at a meal out is to eat something before you go out. A small bowl of soup or cereal or a piece or fruit (or even a pint of water/fresh orange juice).

Studies have shown that if you go to a meal and you have curbed your appetite by eating something before hand, you will eat less!

Drink plenty of water

You should aim to drink 2-3 litres of water a day, and more if you are exercising a lot. It’s best if you can get into a habit of drinking water (not coke, diet coke, coffee or tea… water!)

Keep a bottle at your desk, and one in your fridge at work and alternate them.  If you don’t like water, make sure it’s chille

A lot of people confuse dehydration with being hungry. Ask yourself – are you actually hungry? Or do you think you are thirsty? You can also use water to stave off hunger pangs too if you are really keen to try and cut down what you eat.

Watch your portion sizes

One error I used to make was eating too much of things. I had a big bowl for cereal so I’d be eating 50-80g of cereal instead of 30-40g. Now I have a small bowl, so I eat smaller portions. It works with smaller plates too.

If you are tempted to eat a mars bar, eat a snack size one instead of a full sized one, or have a handful of nuts instead of a bagful. It all comes back to thinking about what you eat.

Are you really hungry enough to have that size of a portion – or will a smaller portion suffice?

Another thing which I do sometimes is weigh my food portions, not all the time, just sometimes to gauge what the right portion should be.  Take for example, a 30g serving of cornflakes (30g is the recommended portion size).  Have you ever weighed out 30g of cornflakes??  Do it and you’ll see just how small a portion it is…. even in a small bowl!!

I’m sure I usually pour at least double the size of the recommended portion out when I don’t weigh it.  Once you’ve done it a few times, you should be able to have an eye for the right portion sizes (for any type of food).

Weigh yourself weekly, but don’t record just your weight

To keep an eye on weight loss, it’s good to weigh yourself about once a week. Don’t get obsessed about losing weight and don’t get down if your weight increases slightly. When you weigh yourself you should keep the variables the same… for example, always weigh yourself on the same day, at the same time, with the same clothes on (preferably naked – or with shorts and t-shirt on).

Note down your weight, but also your body fat percentage and if you want your water percentage. You can get pretty cheap scales which measure body fat, and I would definately recommend you get a set. Salter or Tanita are good makes. Measuring your body fat as well as your weight will allow you to see your body composition change, not just your weight and can be a great motivator.

Not only have I lost almost 2 stones by increasing my activity levels and eating more healthily in the past 3 years, I have also lost 9% body fat!! :-O

By noting down changes in weight and body fat, you can pat yourself on the back when things go right, and take a look at things in your diet and lifestyle when things go the wrong way.

I hope some of these tips help you in how you can lose weight by having a healthy relationship with food, and by not going on diets and detoxes!!

I am by no means a saint… I binge sometimes and eat the ‘wrong things’ sometimes too… but I try to eat healthy and exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Maybe the points above will confirm what you already know, or help you to become more informed of how to lose weight and become healthier and happier.  🙂

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