There’s a saying that says “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.” If you want to lose weight and lower your body fat, making wise food choices is the first step. But that’s not as simple as it sounds. We know certain foods are unhealthy for us, yet we still consume them. If it were as easy as just picking a salad over a bag of chips, why are so many struggling? What we choose to eat often has nothing to do with hunger. If you’re frustrated and feel you just can’t make good choices, there are steps you can take to empower your ability to make better choices.
1. Seek Sunlight
It’s been proven that low vitamin D levels and depression. If you find that you look to food when you’re feeling blue, taking a walk in the sunlight could help you curb the emotional need to eat. People who experience depression also tend to stay indoors more and exercise less, which can lead to vitamin D deficiencies creating an unhealthy cycle. Make an effort to get outdoors during the day and receive that solar energy. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
2. Keep Moving and Cross Train
Your endorphins get a boost from physical activity. Whether you’re running, lifting weights, or walking the dog, those feel-good brain chemicals flow; so don’t limit yourself to one kind of exercise. Different people find certain types of exercise to be more enjoyable than others. Do what makes YOU feel good. When feeling the need to eat, but you know it’s not hunger, take a walk outside, do 100 jumping jacks, jump on a treadmill, or do some yoga. Trade the urge for activity.
3. Grow Your Own Food
Hard for me to do in the urban Glasgow, but fresh fruits and vegetables not only taste better, but because they go from your garden to your table, they also don’t lose nutritional value from shipping and sitting. If space is a concern, container gardening could be the way to go. Gardening has been shown to help reduce stress, and there’s something so rewarding about growing the food you’re feeding yourself and your family.
4. Prioritise Sleep
If you’re up in the middle of the night, you’re likely to head for the kitchen. If sleeping the recommended 6 to 8 hours seems to elude you, take note of your sleep environment. When it’s bed time, remove distractions like computers and phones. Smelling scents like lavender and sipping chamomile tea can be calming and relaxing. Keep water by your bedside if you get thirsty and make the kitchen off-limits after 10pm. It’s also a good idea to have a ‘wind down’ time and a ‘bed time’ each night and try to stick to it if you can.
5. Replace a Habit
Often our unhealthy snacking is just a habit. Whenever we watch a film we want buttery popcorn, or when we work at our computer we munch on chocolate’s. Whatever it is, replace one habit for another. Try unbuttered, unsalted popcorn with a sprinkle of cinnamon; carrot sticks for crunch; and your protein drink poured over frozen blueberries for a sweet treat. Don’t just eat for the sake of it. Eat because you are hungry or because you need food, and don’t eat too much!
6. Choose Quality Calories
Apparently the idea that a calorie is a calorie isn’t quite the case. Different types of diets affect your body in different ways. After choosing poor quality food with little nutritional value, soon your body will let you know it’s not getting what it needs. Sugar addiction is real, and consuming sugar is said to have similar effects on the brain as some drugs.
Eat more water-based, protein and fibrous foods. You will stay fuller for a longer period of time. It will also help you eat more while eating fewer calories. Look at my top 10 nutritional tips for a guide on what to eat.
7. Find Your Zen
Meditation increases your sense of well-being. Even 5 minutes can increase your sense of peace and cause you to slow down enough to be in the present and think through your decisions. Mindless eating is just what the name implies. You aren’t really in the now with the action and the consequence. By slowing the pace and breathing, you allow yourself to think through that decision and decide if it’s healthy for you or not. I’ll do a bit more about mediatation soon.
8. Be Accountable
Accountability partners can help you in your moments of weakness. Even better, be a partner for someone who’s trying to make healthy choices too. The relationship should be free of judgment and guilt and full of honesty and authenticity. Choose someone who would tell you there’s spinach in your teeth, not who’s going to tell you want to hear. It could be an online partner or offline; what matters is that you’re a positive support for each other and want to see each other at your best.
By keeping our mood balanced, we make choices that are less dependent on emotion and more dependent on thought. We can be in control of our eating and drinking choices and not let the choices control us. Ultimately, we are the creators of the outcome and our own happiness.
9. Hunger or appetite?
Along the same lines as ‘mindful eating’, consider WHY you are eating. Is it appetite? Are you only eating because you WANT to (or because it’s habit to eat at a particular time), but perhaps you don’t NEED to? Or is it hunger? Where you need to eat to keep yourself going? Stop eating when you’re full. You don’t need to finish off everything on your plate!
I like to eat small meals regularly, usually eating snacks / meals every 2-3 hours. I find it keeps me from being hungry and keeps my metabolism high so I almost always have enough energy to keep me going. It’s never a good idea to go for a meal or go food shopping hungry, so I tend to maybe eat a small healthy snack beforehand to make sure I don’t gorge at the meal or buy food I don’t need on the shopping trip.
10. Keep Hydrated
Hunger can sometimes be confused with dehydration. It’s important to keep topped up on water throughout the day and recognise when it’s thirst you have instead of hunger.
Here are some more posts I’ve done along the same lines: