My Top 5 Tips for Healthy Eating

5 tips for healthy eatingIt’s been almost 7 years now that I transformed my M&M’s-for-dinner ways into a much healthier way of living and eating.

The catalyst for this change was discovering I had a genetic kidney disease.

I found out about this completely by chance. I had been travelling for 6 months with my husband on a dream trip around the world when I started feeling really, really tired. Tired in a way where doing even the smallest thing seemed to take superhuman effort.

We were in China at the time and as soon as we reached Shanghai, I went to a clinic.

It turned out to be nothing more exotic than Mononucleosis but it was affecting my liver and spleen and I wasn’t having much fun anymore anyway so we cut our trip short by 2 weeks and went home to Geneva.

In Geneva, the doctors decided to re-do all the ultrasounds, and that is how, completely by chance, I was told I had hundreds of cysts on my kidneys. I barely knew what kidneys did in the body and had never heard of Polycystic Kidney Disease even though it usually runs in families.

The doctors told me to just relax and live a normal life because there wasn’t anything I could really do to prevent this disease from potentially turning into full-blown kidney failure anyway.

This didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t grasp how doctors could tell me there was nothing I could do. Because when I was honest with myself and took a long, hard look at my life, I could see plenty of things I could be doing better.

Starting by not having M&M’s for dinner. By drinking more water instead of mostly sodas and coffees. By eating more vegetables. By educating myself on nutrition and actually discovering that I wasn’t eating enough HEALTHY fats. By experimenting with adding more protein to my diet as a way of curbing my sugar addiction.

And that is how I started making changes to my diet, and even ended up studying nutrition which had never interested me before (my initial degree is in Psychology).

In this blog post, I wanted to share what I have found to be the 5 most important steps to a healthier way of eating.

1. Find your motivating force

This is the first step to making any change. Our natural human tendency is to resist change because it implies the unknown so your motivating force is what will help pull you towards the outcome you want.

What matters to you about eating more healthy? If you were already eating healthy, what would you be DOING differently in your life? What impact would this have on your life?

Acroyoga In a strange way, I now consider myself lucky to have had such a strong motivation to change. Instead of just focusing on ‘not getting sick’ as a motivation, however, I now focus on wanting to fully enjoy my body and take care of it in the best way possible. This motivating force links to vitality and being able to get the most out of life. It goes beyond food and includes movement (like Acroyoga in this photo), self-care and emotional health – all of which are just as important as what we eat.

Linking your motivating force to an overarching goal or value for your life like self-care or vitality or living more fully can be a powerful motivation when change is hard – which it will be in the beginning – guaranteed.

Oh, and make sure your motivating force does not have a “SHOULD” in it. Because, really, there is no obligation to eat healthy. There is no food police. You are the only person here whose opinion matters and if this doesn’t matter enough to you right now, that’s OK. Be honest with yourself. Maybe it means being a lot less ambitious about what you are willing to do. Or maybe it’s about linking healthy eating to something that DOES matter to you like having the energy to play with your children.

2. Be realistic and start with really tiny steps

Which brings me to the next point. The biggest obstacle I see to making healthy change is actually being waaaay too ambitious. Like, expecting to overhaul your entire diet overnight or going from a pretty unhealthy way of eating to a 100% healthy way of eating.

Guess what? This never works in the long-term. Because guess what the only thing we hate more than other people telling us what to do? Telling ourselves what to do. When we use deprivation and excessive willpower, we simply end up rebelling against ourselves in the long-term.

So a better way to go about this is to start with really tiny steps. Decide to make one new healthy recipe per week. Try adding a vegetable-based smoothie to breakfast. Drink one more glass of water every day for a week and build up over the month. Make a batch of quinoa and try using it in different recipes across the week. Just decide on one small step that feels do-able and start there. Then, once this becomes a habit, add the next most do-able step and keep building on this.

When I first started out, I decided to simply add a vegetable juice every day for the 40 days of Lent. That was it: Nothing more! Yet what happened from there was that I naturally started craving more healthy food, and began experimenting with healthier options.

And even if you start with just tiny steps, could you do yourself a favor and let go of the idea that change is linear? Change looks more like this chart – so start to embrace the up’s and down’s as simply a part of the process!

Source: BuzzFeed Life

Source: BuzzFeed Life

3. Experiment!

You know what I find fascinating about nutrition? How unscientific it is. One minute fats are bad, the next they are good. One minute coconut oil is the devil, now it is a panacea.

This used to drive me crazy. Until I realized I had a very powerful tool on hand: Curiosity and the ability to experiment and listen to my body.

Because one of the reasons nutrition is so inconclusive is that no one diet works for everyone.

So instead of only listening to external experts, experiment! Call on your curiosity and try out different ways of eating to find what works best for your body.

Experiment with times of day where it feels better to have bigger or smaller meals. With whether you need a snack or not. With different types of foods and proportions of macronutrients (fat/protein/carbs). The Breakfast Experiment

You could also start by experimenting with different breakfasts – my free online Breakfast Experiment can help you do that.

When you take on this approach you realize that you are never actually eating badly – it’s all part of the experiment called life. Now when I eat something that didn’t work for my body, I don’t beat myself up about it. I simply notice with curiosity that actually, I am better off not eating chocolate so late at night or that having too many fries doesn’t work for my body.

4. Forget perfection

When I first started making healthy changes, I got a little carried away and tried to eat ‘perfectly’. I actually became borderline orthorexic at some point – and this didn’t really work because I would then end up completely losing control and swinging to the other extreme. I call this Boot Camp vs Club Med mentality and I wrote about it here.Bootcamp-or-Club-Med

I also realized that eating healthy food does not necessarily mean having a healthy RELATIONSHIP around food. In fact, I would often eat too much in quantity of healthy food because I was feeling frustrated and deprived. So when I eased up on this and started allowing myself to eat a little less healthy, I was actually able to develop a healthier relationship to food – one that includes the occasional fries or fondue or dessert which I fully enjoy.

Remember that this is not a crash diet. It is your life. And you need to be able to keep eating healthy, which you will only be able to do if you enjoy it. So allow yourself to eat healthy food AND less healthy food. It’s all about balance. And you might notice that when the unhealthy stuff is no longer forbidden and you start really listening to your body, the less healthy stuff loses some of its allure.

5. Rely on habits and organization rather than willpower

This is probably the most important thing I wish I had known starting out.

Healthy eating is more about being organized than a matter of willpower.

When you have a headstart ingredient like a batch of quinoa or pre-chopped vegetables or cooked lentils in your fridge that you can quickly transform into a meal, eating healthy becomes the obvious choice.

This was something I learned after some trial and error and thinking that I was simply lacking in willpower. I was working at a fast-paced job and would come home quite late and didn’t have the courage to start cooking from scratch despite my best intentions. So I started putting aside an hour on Sundays to prepare some headstart ingredients for the week. I would listen to TED talks or good music and turn it into an enjoyable moment.

I have to point out that I am not a naturally organized person, but I knew that this was the only way that I would end up not just making pasta or having a ‘picnic’ dinner instead of an actual meal.

This is still the way I cook now, where I try to have at least one headstart ingredient on hand, to always have the basics in my kitchen and meals that I have frozen in my freezer. This approach truly makes it possible to eat healthy, even during busier periods.

This is the reason I created my step-by-step approach for creative meal planning as a 7 week online course, Healthy in a Hurry: I wanted to make healthy meal preparation accessible and fun by building simple habits, step by step.

Every week for 7 weeks, a new lesson will be released where you will have access to 2-3 short videos + PDFs you can download with guidelines, tips and recipes that will help you make healthy meal planning a reality. Each week’s module also has a simple worksheet you can fill out to help you plan for the week. You will also have access to all the material even after the course is finished so you can come back to it anytime. 

And there’s a free 45 minute Skype call with me plus unlimited access for any questions because accountability is key and I am committed to your success. Find out more here!

I would love to hear from you – what have you found most helpful in eating more healthy?

Healthy Eating Away from Home

Eating out and still eating healthy

It is summer and between travelling and going out, there seem to be more occasions to eat out, wouldn’t you say? Healthy eating away from home doesn’t have to be complicated, unhealthy or boring though. Below are my three main guidelines for eating in restaurants or while traveling and still eating healthy, plus a few additional tips.

Guideline 1: If it is a special occasion, enjoy it and enjoy the company

If you are eating well at least 80% of the time, you have room for indulgence – especially since being with people you love and having a great time is just as important for your health as what you eat. Remember that 80% is perfection.

So if it is your birthday or a special occasion, focus on enjoyment more than on eating healthy. There is no point in having a salad and feeling frustrated. Remember that this is a way of life, not a diet.

Guideline 2: If it is not a special occasion, always make the healthiest choice possible in the context you are in

Cultivate the habit of always choosing the most healthy (or least unhealthy) choice available. Don’t let yourself off the hook just because there isn’t anything you would classify as really ‘healthy’. There is always a ‘healthier’ option and this can actually end up making a big difference in the long run, especially if you eat out a lot.

I find this is especially important in places like airports where healthy choices are quite limited. Choosing nuts or a banana over chips or a chocolate bar is often an option though!

Guideline 3: Always choose the highest quality version of a food you can find and afford

When traveling, instead of obsessing about WHAT you eat, focus instead on eating the best quality possible, regardless of whether you are eating cake or bacon or bread.

This means reading labels, choosing organic and local whenever possible and above all, food that was grown or raised in the best conditions possible. A good question to ask yourself is: If this food could tell a story, what story would it tell?

This is actually a guideline I try to stick to whenever I choose food. As Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating states, “Eating quality food is perhaps the most powerful and foolproof nutritional strategy we can choose.”

If you stick to these three basic guidelines, you should be covered for most eating out occasions. Below are a few additional tips to help out:

Stop eating when you are full

We tend to associate an empty plate with being full, but if you listen to your body’s signals, you might actually feel full before that.

Be clear with your waiter if you need to avoid certain ingredients

Tell your waiter this is a serious food allergy so that you are taken seriously. You can provide a list of ingredients you need to avoid and this can even be translated into the local language.

When I was travelling in countries like China and Japan, I asked at the first hotel we stayed in for the staff to write for me “I don’t eat meat, fish or chicken” on a paper which I kept with me and showed at restaurants where the staff didn’t speak English. This always brought a few sniggers from the staff but at least I had a meal I could eat!

Research restaurants in advance

Most restaurants have their menus posted on their website. For vegetarian or healthier options which often also cater to food allergies, try www.happycow.com.

Pick the right type of cuisine

If you are avoiding gluten and dairy for example, Asian restaurants have more choice than Italian restaurants.

Construct your custom meal

Most restaurants are more flexible than we expect. Pick a few ingredients from the menu and construct your own dish. Don’t be afraid to ask for changes to an order – such as vegetables with steak instead of fries. You can always take inspiration from Meg Ryan ordering food in the movie When Harry Met Sally!

When traveling, bring some of your own food that you can snack on or eat when there aren’t a lot of options

Good choices include raw, unsalted nuts and seeds, fruit and healthier crackers.

If you need to, don’t hesitate to bring your own ingredients

For example, if you are intolerant to gluten, bring your own gluten-free crackers and have them with the hotel breakfast instead of bread.

Avoid sauces, dressings, and dips

They are usually laden with hidden sugars, unhealthy oils or preservatives. Ask for olive oil and lemon instead of dressing or ask for them on the side and add just a little instead of having a salad drowning in unhealthy sauce.

If you are eating at a friend’s or at a potluck, offer to bring something healthy that you can eat

Examples include humus with vegetable sticks, a lentil salad or my secret ingredient chocolate pie for dessert.

I would love to hear from you – how do you eat out and still eat healthy?

What If Lazy Doesn’t Exist?

What if Lazy Doesn't Exist

One of the most common reasons I hear for people not making the changes they would like to make, from eating more healthy to losing weight, is ‘Oh, it’s because I’m so LAZY.’

I always felt this excuse wasn’t the whole story, so when I came across this quote by personal trainer Jillian Michaels, it really spoke to me:

“Lazy doesn’t exist. Lazy is a symptom of something else…it’s usually a lack of self-worth or a feeling of helplessness.”

– Jillian Michaels

What if you are not actually lazy but there was something else going on instead, which leads to a lack of self-worth or feeling of helplessness?

Below are what I see as the most common reasons we fall into the ‘I’m so lazy’ trap with a question each time to help you out.

1. Being overly ambitious

Its great to have lofty ambitions in life, but when it comes to making healthy change, this can easily lead to overwhelm. And when we are overwhelmed, most of us tend to avoid taking action and simply feel helpless.

Question to ask yourself:
What is the first small step I need to take towards what I want to achieve? 

For example, if you want to start eating more healthy, you could break this down into a more manageable and tangible step such as cooking more healthy meals at home. From there, your first small step could be simply finding one recipe that inspires you and setting a goal to make that once a week. This will motivate you far more than deciding to completely revamp your diet and is a much more realistic goal you can then build on.

2. Thinking in black and white 

This goes something like this: Either I have been ‘good’ in my eating or I have been ‘bad’. Either I am on the wagon or I have fallen off.
This type of thinking tends to extremes that are not healthy or sustainable in the long-term.

Question to ask yourself: 
Would I keep eating or living this way long-term?

If the answer is no, then don’t do it because you won’t keep it up. Find a more moderate way you can live with.

For example, deciding to completely stop eating sugar is an unrealistic goal that you are unlikely to want to keep up for life. Deciding to reduce the amount of sugar you eat or making it only an occasional treat is a much more realistic way of approaching this.

Making healthy change is about a culmination of small choices and habits you do every day, not a grand diet or one-off effort. It has to fit into your life and be something that is pleasurable enough for you to want to keep doing in the long-term. There is no ‘end’ to being healthy once you achieve a goal so be gentle and kind to yourself.

3. Underestimating your own resistance to change

As humans we all tend to resist change until NOT changing becomes more painful than changing. This is thanks to our subconscious mind which acts as an overprotective friend who wants to keep us safe. And for the subconscious mind, change = unknown = unsafe.

So when we sabotage our own efforts, this is often our subconscious mind panicking and trying to keep us in our comfort zone.

Question to ask yourself:
What is the upside of NOT achieving what I want to achieve? 

For example, what would be the advantage of NOT losing weight? This can seem like a very strange question initially, but really be honest and try to examine where you might have some ambiguity about what you want to achieve. For example, you may desperately want to lose weight but on a deep subconscious level, you are also afraid of all the attention you might get if you lose weight. Or you might realise that the extra weight is actually a convenient excuse for not moving forward in life. Or that fixating on your weight is actually a convenient distraction to something else in your life you are not dealing with.

Once you have identified your blocks to change, you are much more able to work around them.

I would love to hear from you – do you recognize yourself in any of these points? What is one thing you could do to make change more smooth?

 

Just One Small Change at a Time

Forget new year's goalsThere’s something about the New Year. The dizzying potential of so much newness. The opportunity to let go of the past and simply start over.

And if you are anything like me, you tend to overestimate your capacity for change. We have this eternally optimistic attitude that THIS time it will be different. THIS time, we will stick to that diet or make that change we really really want to make.

Yet it was only when I let go of my lofty ideals that I was able to create real, sustainable healthy habits.

For example, instead of focusing on getting rid of my 3 cups of coffee a day drinking habit, I focused on drinking more herbal teas. I bought a bunch of herbal teas in interesting flavors and kept them in the office, deciding I would have at least one herbal tea first thing in the morning. Guess what? By focusing on adding in MORE herbal teas instead of obsessing about drinking LESS coffee, I naturally crowded out one coffee a day. I kept going until eventually I had replaced most of my office coffees with teas, and I started only drinking coffee when I really felt like having one.

I did the same thing with my diet. Rather than focusing on what I wanted to eat less of, I focused on what I wanted to eat more of.

The nutrition training I did calls this crowding out, and research shows that it is a more efficient and sustainable way of making healthy change because the new, healthy habits naturally take the place of the less healthy habits.

So as we start 2014, I urge you to focus on what you want to include more of in your life. Are you thinking of detoxing after the holidays? Winter is not the best time for the body to detox as we need fats and proteins to deal with the cold, but it’s a great time to make healthy change. Why not focus on eating more vegetables instead? Leave the detox for Spring – nature’s detox season – and start building the foundation for healthy habits that will last you a lifetime instead.

I would love to hear from you – what do you want to add MORE of in your life right now?

  Forget lofty resolutions – add in one healthy habit at a time instead! Click to Tweet!

 

Better Than New Year’s Resolutions: Find Your Word of the Year

Word of the Year

Instead of New Year’s resolutions, I now come up with a Word of the Year.

This is a simple way of focusing on something you want more of this year, based on the idea that what you focus on, grows.

More than New Year’s Resolutions, your Word of the Year can help inspire and guide you throughout the year.

In 2013, my word of the year was PASSION. I used PASSION to guide the way I lived my life and the choices I made in both my work (starting this blog, leaving an 8 year career in advertising to share my passion for healthy living as a Health Coach) and my private life (from going to Australia  with my husband to everyday activities like cooking, yoga or reading that I am passionate about).

For 2014, I decided my word would be LIGHTNESS.

I want to bring more lightness into my life, in the form of fun, taking things less seriously and enjoying life more.

I want to laugh more.

I want to lighten up my thinking and worry less.

I want to keep eating nourishing foods and moving in a way that allows me to feel physically light in my body.

I want to remember Eckhart Tolle’s quote that “Life isn’t as serious as the ego makes it out to be”.

I want to live lightly in every sense of the word.

So how do you go about finding your word of the year?

1. Connect to your desires. 

Take some time to yourself, and really think about what you WANT out of life in this moment.

You might want to try listing everything you can think of even if it seems frivolous. This can include anything from the new iPad to getting married to going to Thailand on holiday.

2. Identify the feelings behind what you want

Once you have your desire list, identify how getting what you have listed will make you feel. What is the feeling you are chasing? As Danielle LaPorte writes “You’re not chasing the goal itself, you’re actually chasing a feeling.”

For example, maybe you want an iPad because it will allow you to feel connected. Or going to Thailand will help you feel adventurous. And perhaps you want to get married because what you are really looking for is stability.

3. Choose the word that attracts you most

Now go back to your list and look at the feelings you have written. What comes across most clearly or really makes your heart sing? What word makes you feel expansive, inspired, turned on?

Play with the idea that this might be your word of the year for a few days before deciding on this. You can try writing several words out on post-its around your home to see which you feel most drawn to.

Once you have your word of the year, you can really own it by creating a collage of images that remind you of this, creating an affirmation around it (I desire to live lightly) or simply having it written out somewhere you can see it. You can even use it for email or social media passwords as a daily reminder (for example: livinglightly2014).

I would love to hear from you – what’s your Word of the Year?

   Better than New Year’s Resolutions – find your Word of the Year! Click to Tweet!

If you want to start the year off with the support you need to lose weight or simply make healthier life choices, why not book a free Health Chat to find out whether Health Coaching is right for you?

6 Books That Changed My Thinking in 2013

Top reads 2013I have always loved reading – a little like Roald Dahl’s character Mathilda pictured here!

Of all the books I read this year, six in particular stand out in having really changed the way I think. Here are my top reads for 2013.

I usually buy my books from Book Depository, a website I love because they do worldwide free delivery and have the lowest prices I have found anywhere (including amazon). I am such a fan that I am now an affiliate – so if you decide to buy any of these books or other books from this website, please do so by clicking on this link or directly on the book titles below so I can earn points to buy even more books (it won’t cost you anything more)!

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

The main idea of this book is that we all have an ‘Upper Limit’ – a set point or thermostat of happiness defined by what we were told growing up and the beliefs we’ve interiorized. When we surpass this limit, we start to sabotage ourselves because we are uncomfortable with so much happiness. This keeps us from making the ‘big leap’ into what Hendricks calls our Zone of Genius – a place where we are able to express our full potential.

I think we can all identify with self-sabotage to a certain extent. This can look like healthy eating and living for a few days and feeling really great…then pigging out on unhealthy foods for no apparent reason. Or it can be finally getting into an exercise routine you feel good about…then having an accident that prevents you from exercising for several weeks.

I read this book while travelling in Australia in October and it made me realize that the worries I often have while traveling is a form of Upper Limit thinking. Simply realizing this changed my travel experience.

How It Has Changed My Thinking:

Simply becoming aware of upper limiting behavior like worrying and self-sabotage behavior and focusing on cultivating a feeling of deservedness instead.

Find Out More: 

Watch this 5 minute interview with the author:

 

The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets and Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self by Charles Eisenstein

Having studied over 100 dietary theories as diverse as the Paleo Diet, veganism and Macrobiotics during my nutrition training, the approach taken by Charles Eisenstein is actually what makes most sense to me.

Rather than trusting some external doctrine on what we should or shouldn’t eat, this book helps you access a higher authority: Your own body.

The approach this book takes is what I have based my Health Coaching on, and even the name of my website: Healthwise. It is about connecting with your own inner wisdom to find the food and lifestyle habits that nourish YOU best because no one way of eating works for everyone.

How It Has Changed My Thinking:

Trusting my own body’s wisdom has helped me find true freedom with food. I also loved the unorthodox view of eating animals which you can read here.

What I have noticed with both myself and my clients is that when you start eating from a place of trust and intuition, this has a ripple effect and you start living your whole life more intuitively.

Find Out More: 

Read my blog post on Eisenstein’s definition of karma.

Watch this 3 minute video by the author

 

Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie

I read this book during Christmas 2012, then spent 2013 trying to put it into practice and watching videos on the Byron Katie website. I re-read it this December and it spoke to me even more.

For me, this book is based on 3 main ideas:

1. It is not what happens to us but our thoughts about what happens that cause suffering, especially not accepting the reality of what is. As Byron Katie says,  “When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time”. 

2. We do not need to attach to our thoughts – we can examine them using the 4 questions outlined in Byron Katie’s method, The Work.

3. For every thought that causes suffering, the opposite or a turn around can be just as true.

How It Has Changed My Thinking:

I constantly try to examine my own thinking and this has brought me much more peace. I have also integrated it into my Health Coaching practice as certain beliefs can often stop us from making the healthy change we want.

Find Out More:

You can find all the resources you need to do The Work yourself on Byron Katie’s excellent website here.

Watch this 10 minute summary of the book:

 

The Slow Down Diet by Marc David

Marc David is the founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. He focuses on applying psychology and nutrition in a way that is novel and exciting for me.

This books focuses not so much on WHAT we eat, but on how our attitude to food, the quality of what we eat, when we eat and how we eat affects our metabolism.

Marc David’s main idea is that it is only by slowing down, decreasing stress and truly taking pleasure in eating that we can sustainably change our relationship to food and increase our metabolism to lose weight.

How It Has Changed My Thinking:

A deeper understanding of the mind-body connection as related to emotional eating, weight loss, and digestion.

Find Out More: 

Read this blog post I wrote on how WHEN we eat impacts our metabolism, inspired by this book.

 

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

Brené Brown is a researcher and storyteller who has studied emotions such as vulnerability and shame. This book discusses how vulnerability is not about being weak or imperfect, but is essential to living wholeheartedly and truly connecting with people.

According to her research, if we are unable to be vulnerable, to take risks, to open up to people or make mistakes, we risk living a life that is lonely, detached and unfulfilled.

How It Has Changed My Thinking:

A realization that to live a truly connected life, I need to risk being vulnerable more, even if this means opening myself up to failure and rejection. It also made me realize that behind perfectionism is a fear of not being good enough.

Find Out More: 

A 3 minute animated film on empathy which summarizes Brené Brown’s approach incredibly well. :

You can also watch her TED talks on vulnerability and on shame.

 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This is the opening paragraph of the book:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Doesn’t it already have you hooked?

This book juggles themes such as pride, goodness, love, the human need we all have for magic and escape and enchantment and the lengths we are willing to go to follow our passion…or to prove a point. The structure of the book is also very unique, told from the point of view of different characters at different moments in time. Yet it somehow all comes together in a way that left me spellbound.

How It Has Changed My Thinking:

More than change my thinking, this book left me with a feeling: A lingering air of pure magic.

Find Out More: 

Watch the trailer for the book:

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.

HERE ARE SOME SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT DIETING:

♦  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!

 

Imperfectly perfect

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I wouldn’t consider myself a perfectionist in many things but when it comes to healthy habits, I had an ‘all or nothing’ approach. I would eat ‘perfectly’ for a few days, then give in to some cake at a friend’s house. After that, a little voice of sabotage would tell me – you’ve already had cake, why not also have some pizza and cookies, too, since today is clearly NOT a healthy day?

Ah, that little voice of sabotage! Constantly reminding me of how imperfect I am.

It used to win, until I came across this Chinese saying:

80% is perfection

What a radical shift in perspective! I discovered that when you release the need to be perfect, you can have that piece of cake if you really want to – and then go back to healthier eating. You can exercise a little less for a few days because you are busy, and then return to your usual routine. All of a sudden, you have space to be imperfect, and by creating this for yourself, healthy living becomes more enjoyable – and more achievable in the long-term.

♥ You move from perfectionism, which isn’t actually possible in the real world, to realism.

♥ You move from a deprivation mindset into an abundance mindset.

♥ You realize that it isn’t what you do occasionally that counts – it’s what you do most of the time.

♥ You learn to listen more to your body and honor it’s need to occasionally veer off the health track without judgement. Occasional lapses become an enjoyable treat rather than a guilty indulgence.

♥ Most importantly, by not listening to that little voice of sabotage in your head, you stop giving yourself excuses to give up on healthier habits.

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).