Apologies if you clicked on the link hoping to place an online order for your healthy diet to be delivered all pre-weighed and packaged, ready to cook or eat. Options like this are great as a kick start or if you are very rich but eventually most of us will need to work out how to create healthy meals for ourselves. What I am talking about here is bringing order to your life so it’s easier to have a healthy diet.
In my experience a bit of advanced planning is worth it’s weight in…. well weight loss or weight maintenance. I have seen people drive themselves to anxiety attacks, worrying about every morsel that passes their lips. I prefer to see people enjoying food, enjoying life and enjoying taking care of themselves and their families. So here are my top 5 tips for ordering your life to help you achieve a healthier diet:
- Visualise your destination
- Make your motivators tangible
- Shop and cook happy
- Be “perfectly portioned”
- Be sociably savvy
Visualise you destination
Everyone is aiming for something slightly different so first up you need to decide what you want to achieve. One of the biggest challenges I face is helping people set realistic goals. Research tell us that on average even people who can “stick with the programme” lose 6-8kg or about 12-16lbs over the course of a year and then there are the people who can’t stay the course who lose even less. So set a sensible goal and remember it’s healthiest to lose about 1-2 lb or 1/2 -1 kg per week. Think of your goal as a destination just like planning a holiday. A sunny place (or perhaps a snowy one) where the world looks brighter and more enjoyable. Imagine yourself there; what will you look like, what will you wear, what will you be able to do that you can’t do now, how will you feel? Consider starting a journal and recording all these things or a video diary if that’s easier for you.
Make your motivators tangible
Again everyone has different motivations. For some it’s about looking better, for others having more energy to enjoy life, some have clear health goals like managing their diabetes better or taking the weight off their joints. Whatever your motivators make them tangible; something you can see, feel or hear.
Some people get motivated using Apps to plot their progress – just make sure the data you are putting in is accurate – remember rubbish in = rubbish out. Research has shown that monitoring the process ie what you eat and drink is actually a better motivator for behaviour change than monitoring the outcome, so whether it’s a spreadsheet, App or simple pen and paper keeping a food record can be a great motivator.
In reality most people tend to focus on weighing themselves (ie the outcome) as a means of motivation. If that works for you then pick a day of the week and a time of day and weigh yourself under than same conditions, wearing similar clothes, using the same scales. But remember there are so many things that impact weight such as the actual weight of the food you ate (rather than the calorie content), when you last used the loo, fluid intake and for women our monthly cycle.
If scales are not your thing, think about having an outfit that’s too small for you hanging up somewhere visible – try it on once a week or once a fortnight and enjoy noticing it getting easier to squeeze into.
If you get demoralised by the scales or tight clothes and you tend to focus on your less than saintly food choices rather than the positive choices when you review your food intake then try asking friends and family to send encouraging texts, e-mails or cards when they notice your progress. Other people often spot our progress before we do, whether it’s our ability to make healthy choices or our actual weight or appearance. More on getting supported next time.
Shop and cook happy
Love it or hate it you have to shop for food in order to eat it – unless you have someone who does it for you or you’re self-sufficient. Even if you do leave the online or supermarket shop to someone else you will still need to make some choices. Making choices about food is best done when you are not hungry and when you are reasonably happy. However the advantage of online shopping is that you can always log back on and delete all those comfort foods you lobbed into the trolley after a battle with the kids or a bad day at work!
To really shop happy though you need to know what you plan to cook and eat. I have curated some of my favourite and my clients’ favourite recipes and analysed the calories, fat, carbohydrate, protein and salt content for you. I have also developed some recipes myself that I hope you will enjoy. This will help you “cook happy.” I love it when people cook from scratch but I also understand that you sometimes need an emergency ready meal. Just make sure you plan for this too if you think that you are likely to run out of time to cook on certain days of the week. See my post: “Losing weight: It’s all about mindfulness right?” for information about identifying your weak spots and making an advanced plan.
If there is a particular slot in the week or even month when you do have time to cook, try preparing healthy meals in bulk, portioning them up and storing them in the freezer. I know people who get together with friends to do this, sharing recipes and having a good laugh at the same time.
Be perfectly portioned
Portion distortion is a serious hazard especially in today’s super-sized world. The portion you routinely serve yourself may not be the “suggested” or “average” serving size you see on the side of packets or in Apps. I have put together a series of videos entitled “ Perfectly portioned: Bite-sized” to help you understand how to serve yourself the portion size that is right for you without needing to be a slave to the scales. Just visit my YouTube channel Eating Mindset. It’s all about finding something that’s routinely available to you that will help you measure out your food easily. It could be an empty yogurt pot (great for cereals), a particular serving spoon, or sometimes it’s just a matter of counting things out (great for things like pasta shapes.) I like to help people come up with a method that works for them individually so the videos are just a guide to get your imagination going, especially as a good portion for one person may not be right at all for another.
Be sociably savvy
Going into lock down when you’re trying to eat healthily might seem like a good idea as it’s a way of getting the most control over what you eat and when. However there are good reasons why food and people go together. Preparing food for and eating with others is a way of sharing feelings that are hard to put into words, standing with people who are going through a hard time and celebrating with people who have achieved important milestones. It creates family space for communication and allows us to get to know people better. Remember you are human and you need social as well as physical nourishment. It really does not make sense to me when people talk about food as mere fuel. We don’t just eat to fuel or even nourish our bodies we eat for enjoyment and social contact too.
If you’ve been invited to someone’s home for a meal and you don’t know them too well then really that’s a time to just eat what’s offered but simply try to manage your portions. If you know the person well then I think it’s great to get them onside and maybe offer to bring a healthy and delicious dish.
When it comes to restaurants the internet has given us a fantastic planning tool. Check out the menus in advance and call the restaurant if you need to check how something has been cooked. Decide what you are going to order at home after you have eaten a meal rather than at the restaurant when you will probably be feeling very hungry and everyone else may be drooling over the super-calorie charged options. If you are involved in selecting the restaurant pick somewhere with lots of healthier options. Remember to go for grilled or steamed options or other dishes where very little fat has been added in the cooking process. Avoid creamy sauces and go for tomato based sauces instead and try to avoid the bread basket at the beginning. If the restaurant is known for super-sizing consider having a starter as a main and remember you can always ask to share a pudding with a friend if you cannot resist the sweet stuff. Don’t be afraid to ask for a larger portion of vegetables and don’t feel you have to clean your plate. Take a breather half way through your meal, put your cutlery down and join in the conversation. After 5 minutes or so you may notice that actually you feel quite full and don’t need to eat anymore. You can always ask for a “doggy bag.” Alcohol can pile on the calories too, so if you like a tipple, try to stick to water or sugar free soft drink until you are actually eating and alternate wine with water during the meal so that you drink less. And finally don’t forget that those coffees can be packed with calories. The caffeine might well keep you awake anyway so consider having a herbal tea or a decaffeinated coffee with a dash of milk rather than a latte or cappuccino.
If you are going out for “drinks” try to eat first or at least make sure you are not starving hungry or you will be tempted by the crisps and nuts. Again if you drink alcohol alternate it with water and ask for sugar free mixers.
Creating a little order can really help you stick with a healthy diet and once you get into new habits it will not feel so onerous.