5 Lifestyle changes for weight loss


In my last post, I looked into why diets don’t work. The obvious next question is, so what DOES actually help for weight loss? What lifestyle changes can we make for weight loss?

Based on all the research I have read and my own experience with weight loss, the most crucial thing is to completely ditch the whole idea of a diet and focus instead on making lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes are not just a temporary, short-term fix. Instead, they become a way of life you are willing to keep up over time.

They are not built on deprivation and restriction but focus instead on finding what nourishes you best.

Oh, and please forget about counting calories. Calories tell only a small part of the story. Focus instead on eating a healthy, balanced diet filled with real, unprocessed food. Think about nourishment, not calories.

Here are 5 lifestyle changes for weight loss:

1. Create a vision that goes beyond the number of kilos you want to lose.

WHY do you want to lose weight? What is truly going to motivate you to make changes to your lifestyle? ‘I want to lose 5 kilos’ is not motivating while ‘I am still young and want to actually look and feel my age’ or ‘I want to feel happy and confident in my body’ is. Your vision can then be used as a filter for making decisions: Will eating those cookies allow me to feel happy and confident in my body?

Action step: Create a vision that motivates you, that reminds you of the deeper reason you want to lose those 5 kilos. Keep asking ‘why’ to get to the root motivation.

2. Instead of focusing on what you CAN’T eat, focus on what you CAN eat. 

What do you want to include more of in your diet? Vegetables? Healthy fats? Protein? Superfoods? More regular meal times? More exercise? Studies show that focusing on positive change instead of deprivation actually leads to more sustainable weight loss. By adding healthy foods and habits instead of focusing on eliminating unhealthy ones, it is easier and more natural to create new habits as less healthy options are ‘crowded out’.

Action step: Identify the healthy habits you would like to add to your lifestyle, starting with just one habit each week. For example, week 1 could be adding more vegetables. Week 2 could focus on a commitment to always take the stairs. Start small and build up.

3. Bring a level of awareness to what you eat. 

Did you know that we make more than 200 food and beverage related decision EVERY DAY? Yet as Cornell University professor, Brian Wansink states,

So many food decisions are made on mindless autopilot.

Eating without really thinking often leads to eating too much or eating whatever is in front of us.

Action step: Keep a food journal: Writing down everything you eat and drink can bring a level of awareness and accountability that has been shown to help in weight loss.

4. Be realistic and gentle with yourself

Seeing the world as filled with ‘permitted’ or ‘forbidden’ foods will merely increase cravings for the ‘off limit’ foods. Strive instead for my 80% is perfection strategy where indulgence is permitted and nothing is off limits when consumed in moderation. Something I find helpful when it comes to indulgence is to decide beforehand how much you are allowing yourself to eat.

Action point: Allow pleasurable, mindful indulgences in your diet. Look into upgrading your indulgent food choices.

5. Acknowledge and accept your emotions

Perhaps because of my background in Psychology, I don’t think weight loss can be sustainable without taking into account the more emotional aspect of food and body image. We do not use food merely as fuel – it is loaded with meaning and emotion which needs to be taken into account. What do the extra kilos you are trying to get rid of signify? Protection? A way of avoiding a certain situation? A lack of self-worth? What do your cravings mean?

Action step: Identify the emotions you are bringing to the weight loss process. Journaling or working with someone can help bring more clarity to the process.

What about you, are there any changes you have made to your lifestyle that have helped you lose weight? What action points from this post would you like to experiment with?


Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct

Number of food choices study 

Food diary study

Diets are sad – and don’t work

Diets are sad

I often hear from people about their experience with diets or the fact that they need to go on one. Because of this, I thought I would write about why, based on all the research I have read, diets are not only sad – they also don’t work.


♦  About 41% of people end up gaining back MORE weight than they had lost from being on a diet, often leading to yo-yo dieting (source).

Explanation: When you take in too few calories, your body thinks it is starving and reacts by adjusting its metabolism to preserve energy to actively avoid rapid weight loss. This happens after about eight weeks of dieting and dates back to our cavemen days when less calories actually meant less chance of survival. Unfortunately, our bodies have not changed with modern life so when you start eating normally again, your metabolism has not readjusted and is still in ‘burn as few calories as possible’ mode.

♦ Most diets involve some form of restriction and/or deprivation. And while most dieters think this is the epitome of discipline, studies have shown that even just thinking about deprivation can actually lead to the opposite behavior. This might not be immediate: Most people manage to go through a phase of restriction or deprivation for a short period, but this is often followed by uncontrolled eating of the ‘forbidden’ food or bingeing later on. As Kelly McGonigal writes in her book, The Willpower Instinct:

From the very first forbidden fruit, prohibition has led to problems, and science is now confirming that restricting a food automatically increases your cravings for it…The more you try to avoid the food, the more your mind will be preoccupied by it.

♦ Dieting brings with it a slew of rigid rules that often lead to stress and guilt. Guilt or feeling bad about slipping up has been shown to lead to more eating in an effort to soothe oneself (source: Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct).

♦ Dieting implies an ‘all or nothing’ approach: You are either following the diet or you are not. Researchers have found that this leads to extremist decisions such as the ‘what-the-hell-effect': When dieters slip and eat a ‘forbidden’ food, they tend to think, ‘I already failed miserably at my diet by eating cake, I might as well polish the whole thing off!’ (source).

Superficial, time-limited change set diets up for failure from the beginning. Most dieters expect to have to ‘survive’ a period of restricted eating for a short while, lose weight, be fabulous, and then go back to their usual way of eating while staying fabulous. Unfortunately, when eating habits and awareness related to food haven’t actually changed, this is not going to be a long-term solution.

Above all, as stated in The Economist, dieting makes us ignore our body’s innate wisdom:

…dieting is harmful. People who diet deliberately ignore cues like hunger and satiety. As a consequence, over time, they seem to lose the ability to use them.

OK, so now that you know about what doesn’t work, next post will look into making lifestyle changes that can lead to healthy weight loss. In the meantime, eat real food but don’t diet!


Happy Easter & my love for yoga

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you had a wonderful day!

I thought these yoga bunnies were very cute and fitting for the season. They combine my love of cute looking animals and yoga. And speaking of yoga, I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it on this blog yet!

So here goes…I started yoga about 5 years ago, going to class once a week with my dear friend, Vanessa. But it was only when I started a more regular yoga practice 2 years ago that I really started feeling a difference in both the way I feel, my posture, and my ‘progress’ as a yogi. I now take 20-45 minutes several times a week to do some yoga at home. I found that using a website like yogaglo.com  makes me feel I have my own private yoga teacher without even needing to go to the studio. And even though yogaglo has a great varieties of classes and teachers you can choose from, I only ever do Elena Brower’s classes. She is that good! I still go to real life classes, as nothing beats being corrected by real teachers, and I found a center with some great teachers here in Geneva.

The styles of yoga I prefer are Anunsara/Hatha and Kundalini – two very different styles that I choose depending on how I am feeling. Anunsara/Hatha is similar to the bunny positions shown below, while Kundalini uses movement and the breath to work on energy in the body.

The beauty of yoga is that there are so many different styles, that I am sure it is possible for everyone to find a style they enjoy.

What about you, do you do yoga? What style do you prefer?


Embracing Spring


Spring is about birth and rebirth and the hope that comes with new possibilities. All around us, nature bursts into life again after ‘resting’ during the winter, reminding us we can always start over or bring newness into our lives.

A key aspect of welcoming the new is removing what no longer serves us and Spring is associated with ‘detoxing’ the body and ‘spring cleaning’ the home. As a key organ of detoxification, the liver is particularly associated with Spring and taking special care of it this season will help us feel lighter and more energetic.


During the Winter, we tend to eat sweeter, heavier and more fatty foods which can mean a more sluggish digestion and metabolism. This leads to toxins being ‘stored’ in fat reserves and results in more toxins being accumulated in Winter than any other season. And while our bodies are naturally able to detox, they sometimes need a little help, especially at the start of Spring.

Without doing a full detox, here are some ideas you could try this Spring to help support your body’s natural detox pathways:

♦ For at least 1 week, avoid dairy, fried and processed foods, alcohol and caffeine, white sugar and white flour. 

♦ Drink a glass of warm water with either 1/2 lemon squeezed in or 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning. This simple act helps stimulate the liver and kidneys while while flushing the digestive system. If you try nothing else, try this!

♦ Before breakfast, mix 1 tablespoon of psyllium seed husks, chia seeds or linseeds into a glass of water and drink, following by a second glass of water. These seeds act like brooms for your intestines, helping to ‘move things along’ and getting rid of old waste.

♦ Exfoliate your skin by dry brushing your body before you shower using either an exfoliating glove or a natural soft brush.

♦ Finish your shower with cold water to stimulate your lymphatic system which is involved in elimination/detoxing.

♦ Add movement into your life that allows you to sweat. Sweat is a great way for our bodies to release toxins.

♦ Get enough sleep and go to bed before midnight: The liver does its work of detoxing when you are sleeping, particularly between 1 and 3 AM.


The color of Spring is green – a color linked to healing and vitality, balance and renewal. Revitalize yourself after the long winter by being in nature as much as possible.

Food-wise, add cleansing foods into your diet, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables that are raw or steamed. Try in particular to include green vegetables like spinach, asparagus, artichoke and arugula. The bitterness of these foods helps support the liver.

As foods that hold the potential for new life, sprouts and seeds are also a great addition to your diet during this season.


New beginnings imply letting go of what no longer serves us. Take a look at your life: Are there any thoughts, people or activities that are holding you back?

How will you reinvent yourself this Spring?


Sara Avant Stover, “The Way of the Happy Woman”

Kitchen Organization: Tip #2

I think we are all influenced by this equation: The more easily accessible something is, the more likely we are to eat it.

Of course, this applies to the croissants your colleague brought in that are sitting around in your office, just calling out your name… or the biscuits your husband left lying on the kitchen counter…

So why not use our inherent human attitude of “I’ll eat what’s there” as an approach for healthier foods?

For me, this means mostly 2 things:

1. Putting nuts and seeds into old jars so that it is easier to add them to meals. It also makes it easy to see at a glance what I have available, as in the photos below.



2. Cutting up and washing vegetables and putting them in a Tupperware in the fridge on Sunday evening, ready for when I get home from work the following days and am too tired to cook from scratch. Having the veggies available makes it easy to simply add them to a soup or stir fry or smoothie or fresh juice.











Kitchen Organization: Tip #1

I am not the most organized person in real life, but when it comes to the kitchen, I have become freakishly organized.

I realized early on in my health journey that I will always have the same number of hours in a day and that it was up to me to use my time wisely and to give priority to what matters most. And while this may seem obvious to people who are naturally organized, planning things actually saves time in the long run!

Something simple to try is:

Cook once, eat several times.

There are several ways to do it:

Make more than planned of the entire dish and eat over the next few days.

For example, I made a huge pot of vegetable soup last night, and brought the leftovers to work to eat over the next two days.

When eating leftovers, make it a rule to always ‘jazz things up’ by adding in a new ingredient.

I often sprinkle seeds on top, add a new spice or chop up fresh herbs to add to the leftovers. Often I will also add avocado which seems to go well with everything!

Make more of only one part of the dish.

For example, when making a quinoa or brown rice stir-fry, make a larger amount of unseasoned quinoa or brown rice and store in the fridge for future use. This can then be reheated with milk, spices and raisins as a breakfast porridge or the quinoa can be ground to make healthier versions of brownies. That way, you get new dishes with less work.

Make more of the whole dish or part of the dish and freeze.

If you are making a time-consuming dish like lasagna, you can always double the quantities and freeze the dish. This will come in handy when you don’t feel like cooking and is a much healthier alternative to the frozen food you can buy in supermarkets. It also works well with ingredients like pumpkins – if you don’t want to use the whole pumpkin straight away, you can chop it up into cubes and put in the freezer to use in the coming weeks.

What about you, do you cook or prepare food once and eat several times?

Soft winter lips

I don’t know about you, but I often have dry, chapped lips in winter.

So I did a little research on how to exfoliate  lips to make them soft and smooth.

Here’s a super simple way:

a little honey

a little sugar

a little oil (I used coconut oil)

…all mixed together in a bowl, then scrubbed on the lips for a few seconds before washing the mixture off. I keep the leftover mixture in the fridge for use whenever I need it.

Let me know if you give this a try, the results are great!



Ash Wednesday

lentToday is the first day of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. Traditionally in my family, we would give up desserts and sugar for the 40 days. It was during this period that I first realized that sugar is addictive and that the less I ate it, the less I craved it.

Last year, I tried something different: in addition to the cutting sugar thing, I tried introducing a healthy habit: fresh vegetable juice every morning. And something strange happened there too: My body started craving this and it became a habit that stuck beyond the 40 days.

Right now in my life, I am in a good place where I am listening to my body’s needs and enjoying the relationship I have with food, even sugar. I don’t want deprivation to spoil this delicate balance, so I want to try working on something else that ‘feeds’ me, albeit in a different way: My internet and iPhone consumption.

I am always connected. I don’t actually ‘check’ email, my email is open all the time. When it isn’t email, I am on my phone, messaging away. And while it is important for me to be ‘connected’ both socially and professionally, this year I want to try switching off a little more. So my 40 day challenge this Lent is switching off first thing in the morning and last thing at night to give my mind a mini-fast as well. As Alain de Botton, a modern day philosopher writes:

The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible…The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.

What about you, will you use these 40 days to try something new?


My father was right about sleep…

When we were kids, my brothers and I used to tease our father who always insisted that getting enough sleep was the answer to everything.

And now, it looks like he was right and new studies are showing that not getting enough sleep is actually associated with a host of health concerns:

♦ Weight gain and overeating

♦ Feeling more hungry, especially craving simple carbs like sugary foods and bread

♦ Feeling more emotional and reactive

♦ Less efficient immune system

♦ Diabetes

♦ Cardiovascular disease

Sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night can make it more difficult to stick to healthy food choices which, in turn, lead to lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Here’s why:

♦ Disrupted cortisol secretion (stress hormone) which affects food choices

♦ Increased insulin resistance which makes us more likely to put on fat, particularly around the stomach area.

♦ Increased levels of the hormone ghrelin, which controls hunger

I know that I really need to make more effort to go to bed earlier on weekdays. What about you, how would you describe your sleep habits?

(The koala photo was taken on The Great Ocean Road in Australia by my hubby – like most of the photos on this blog).

Embracing Winter

Embracing WinterWinter and I used to have a very unpleasant relationship. I would start dreading its arrival in autumn and when it did finally arrive, it was just a season to get through as painlessly as possible.

Then four years ago, my husband and I took a six month sabbatical and travelled in the south hemisphere during the winter months in Europe. And something unexpected happened: Living a life of endless summery weather finally made me appreciate the importance of colder weather. Without winter, spring doesn’t feel miraculous. And without ever being cold, you don’t appreciate feeling warm. We understand our world through contrasting experiences.

Here are some of the ways I have found most helpful to embrace Winter, inspired by Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a holistic approach which originated in India and is about creating balance within the mind and the body by following the patterns of nature.


One of the core principles in Ayurveda is that Like increases like and opposites balance. This means that cold food or drinks on cold days make you feel colder and that hot food and drinks will actually help you feel less cold. This seems obvious but can be very powerful when really applied. I eat a lot less salads and raw fruits and vegetables in winter as they are very cooling. On days when I feel cold, I try to eat a warm breakfast such as whole grain porridges and use spices and ginger very generously in my cooking or in smoothies as they are warming. I also drink more herbal teas or ginger infusions than cold water and more foods like soups, stews and grilled vegetables. I sometimes even sip on warm water alone instead of drinking cold water.

Another core principle of Ayurveda is to eat seasonally. Winter vegetables used to scare me since I had no idea how to prepare them. Then I started buying one new winter vegetable each week and now I’ve discovered an array of winter vegetables that I actually enjoy eating. The easiest way to prepare any winter vegetable is to roast them, as outlined in my step-by-step recipe here.

In winter, we need more healthy fats and proteins such as nuts, seeds, coconut, eggs and other animal products – you can read more about healthy sources of fats here.


Winter in nature is a time of rest. Respect the natural slowing down that happens during this season by planning less activity and going out less. Winter provides us with the opportunity to go within.

Get as much daylight as possible – aim for at least 15 minutes every day. It is surprisingly easy not to see daylight at all when you are working in an office all day!

The kidneys and bladder are especially vulnerable in winter. Using a kidney warmer like this to keep your kidneys warm can help if you know this is a weakness for you.


Cultivate gratitude: Here’s my list of things to be grateful for in winter: Going to the mountains with friends, drinking a warm herbal tea, the coziness of being wrapped up in a blanket on the sofa, the brave birds that are still around, the dramatic beauty of snow and the stark beauty of bare trees, all the spices that make this season so tasty…When you decide to notice the beauty around you, you do.

What about you, how do you embrace winter?

Root veggies

Keep breathing…

Breathing. It’s something we do without really thinking. Yet most of the time, I know my breathing is way too shallow, and that when I am stressed, I tend to hold my breath.

One of the reasons I love yoga is the feeling of having opened a window and aired my body due to the focus on deep, abdominal breathing.

It’s actually surprising the difference something so seemingly insignificant and easy to incorporate can have!

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, the 4-7-8 breath demonstrated here can be used as a tool to deal with the following:

  • Controlling a reaction to something upsetting.
  • Dealing with anxiety or tension.
  • Helping you fall asleep.
  • And even to deal with food cravings.

“Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.”
Andrew Weil, M.D.”

Another method is breathwalking. The 4 minute video below explains how you can consciously match the steps you take while walking with your breath. I have started integrating this into my life and am loving it!

As a first step, I would start by becoming aware of the way you breathe. Are you breathing deeply, from the abdomen? What situations make you hold your breath or breathe in a more shallow way?

Then I would try integrating the two breathing exercises above – the 4-7-8 technique as a means of dealing with specific stressful situations and breathwalking simply as a way of being more aware of your breathing on a daily basis.

What about you, are there any breathing techniques that you find useful?


Cooking Style Revelations

I just read an interesting article (in French) about what your cooking style says about you.

Apparently, if you always cook the same dishes, you tend to be more traditional and conservative, perhaps even a little wary of change. On the other hand, if you are always experimenting and trying out new recipes you are more open to newness and are less afraid of failure. People who make sure the presentation of their food is appealing tend to be perfectionists, while those who clean up straight away are more control freaks.

All a little simplistic, but I can definitely see myself in some of it: When I am feeling adventurous and open to life, I prefer trying out new recipes, and I tend to stick to what I know when I am feeling tired or not very daring. Also, I love cooking, but I don’t like planning menus or recipes. I prefer to buy a bunch of stuff and figure out what to make with it later. I guess this means I don’t like being told what to do, or having to really commit to things and prefer to just improvise or wing things!

What about you, what does your cooking style say about you?

Slow is the new healthy

It’s strange, this time of year.

The end of year holidays have passed, leaving a whiff of stale Christmas decoration and at the same time, there’s the crisp freshness of a new year.

We are surrounded by rampant consumerism thanks to the post-Christmas sales. The same things that were bought just a couple of weeks ago are now going at half the price. This puts us in a frenzy of buying, often without questioning whether we really need something.

And of course, there’s all the hope. The hope of a better year. The hope that comes with every New Year’s Resolution uttered. The hope of a fitter self that comes with the increase in sales of gym subscriptions and fitness equipment at this time of year.

In the same way that research shows we tend to start off our mornings healthy and progressively become less healthy as the day progresses, we start off the year full of good intentions. The difficulty lies in showing up, day after day, month after month.

So maybe this year when it comes to health don’t make it about the lofty resolutions and grand declarations but about the small, slow, one at a time changes, that lead to a gradual shift in lifestyle.