Weight loss put simply is burning more calories than you eat. This forces your body to use up some of that pesky fat sitting on your love handles, man boobies or bingo wings. And there are two obvious ways to do this
It sounds simple but we all know that that is often far from the case. First off starving yourself is just as unhealthy as overeating and often counterproductive. There's no point becoming a triathlete if you don't develop some healthy eating habits alongside. It's about a healthy balance, a phrase you have undoubtedly heard time and time again, that's because those ancient Chinese guys had it right and it's a wise place to start. So then a ying and yang of healthy eating and exercise is what we are looking for.
I know this. Many of you probably know this too, but stuff gets in the way and creating new habits is really tough. We have a few tips and we break down some of the basics to help you out.
You’ve probably all seen an illustration like this before. It’s a worthwhile image to keep in your head and when you compare it to something you’d find at a fast food restaurant, it makes it pretty clear where MacDonald’s is going wrong. In somewhere like MacDonald’s that brown patch at the top of the plate is extended all over to make a lovely meal of beige and it’s not even a whole grain beige but the over processed, over salted beige of French fries and burger buns. You stick to a plate like that and you miss out on all the exciting other colours the world of food has to offer.
Illustration of a healthy balanced plate – something like this
So we hear a lot of talk about fat, protein and carbs. Fat is bad, protein is good, carbs can be good or bad, right? It’s not always easy to follow and I think part of that is that fat, protein and carbs don’t really mean much to an everyday person. What exactly is fat or protein or carbs? Once you work this out it can make understanding how to decide what to eat a lot easier.
Protein is the major structural and functional component of all cells in your body. Plus proteins play a necessary role in many of the biological processes that allow you to live and function. 25 percent of your muscle mass is made up of protein—and the rest is made up of water and glycogen (your body’s stored form of carbohydrates).
The reason you need to eat so much protein is simple: unlike other nutrients, your body can not assemble protein by combining other nutrients, so enough must be consumed in your daily meals in order to achieve good health.
The pitfalls of under-doing protein far outweigh those of overdoing it. Eating protein will help you build lean body mass (important as muscle burns fat all the time even when you are just sitting) and will also help keep you full.
Carbohydrates do lots of things but their main role is to provide energy to the cells in your body. Carbohydrates are different to fat and protein because they are not considered essential. That’s because your body can make enough carbohydrates from non-carbohydrate. As a result, the other foods you eat (proteins and fats) can be converted into energy, meaning that you don’t have to depend on eating carbohydrates for survival.
Still, while carbohydrates technically are not essential, you do need them when living an active lifestyle. Not to mention, fruits and vegetables are two of the most important sources of carbohydrates, and both provide nutrient-rich calories that protect against disease.
I want to give fat some much needed attention. Fat has got itself a bad name and that’s due to the misconception that eating fat will make you fat.
First of all let’s work out what fat is and what it does. Fat is a major fuel source for your body and it’s essential for normal growth and development. Dietary fat also maintains hormone production, protects our organs, maintains cell membranes, and helps the body absorb and process nutrients. Like protein, certain fatty acids cannot be sufficiently produced by your body for survival, and thus you must fulfill your needs by eating fatty foods. Yep, opposite to what you have been told, you must eat fat. Although essential fatty acid deficiency is uncommon among adults in developed countries, the consumption omega-3 fatty acids is often too low for the purpose of optimizing health and preventing disease.
So we have to eat fat. Now let’s talk about how fat does not make you fat. Fat can actually help you burn fat and new research has shown “old” fat stored in the body’s peripheral tissues—around the belly, thighs, or butt - can’t be burned efficiently without “new” fat to help the process. There are some other properties of fat that can help you keep a healthy weight. Good fats help you build muscle, stabilize blood sugar levels, which will help you feel full for longer and omega-3 fatty acids can boost serotonin levels in the brain, helping to improve mood, increase motivation, and keep you from digging into a big mac.
So fat isn’t the evil villain we’ve made it out to be over the last few decades. Wait a second though, don’t go running to supermarket and buying every box of biscuits and frozen pizza you’ve denied yourself just yet. Not all fatty foods are created equal. We all know the main difference between an awesome ripped body and one plagued with obesity and disease comes down to the food we chose to eat. With fat it’s no difference, you got to pick the good fats. Most of the fat that you eat—especially if you want to lose weight—should come from unsaturated sources, both monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA). Besides removing LDL cholesterol from arteries and promoting a healthier heart, unsaturated fat can help you burn fat big time.
Finally let’s looks at the three different types of fat: unsaturated fatty acids, saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids.
Unsaturated fatty acids: Consisting of both monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), they are important for health. MUFAs are found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, olives, and avocadoes, while PUFAs are found in vegetable oils, fish, and seafood.
Saturated Fatty Acids: Found primarily in foods from animal sources such as meat and dairy products, like butter and cheese, they are usually solid at room temperature. Some vegetable oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oil also contain saturated fat. Eat limited amounts as part of a healthy diet – and always try to consume healthier sources such as lean meat rather than buttery popcorn.
Trans Fatty Acids: These are the bad guys. Chemically processed vegetable oils, they are semisolid at room temperature and are used in some margarines, fried foods, and processed foods to enhance flavor, texture, and shelf life. Avoid at all costs!
Sugars are carbohydrates. Sugar that we think of on the day to day basis when we talk of sugary foods and such are “simple” carbohydrates, opposed to the “complex” carbohydrates you find in legumes or grains. The sugar in our bodies, glucose, is a fundamental fuel for body and brain, however, sugar is one of those things we should be wary of and limit the most in our diet. Sugar is usually stored in your liver as glycogen. Your liver can only store about 90 to 100 grams of glycogen so if you end up with extra sugar it converts the excess to fat.
Other downsides to high sugar intake, include short term side effects such as crashes from sugar highs leaving you feeling lazy and possible long term effects such a Type II Diabetes.
Good vs Bad sugar, the researchers are still out on this one. People worry about the dangers of refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup but the evidence is inconclusive as to what whether one is really better than the other. The advantage of getting sugar in less refined forms is that you often add some nutrients or cut out some other bad things. Sugar from eating fruit will give you the benefits of vitamins and fiber in the fruit. Sugar from honey rather than an artificial sweetener or syrup made with high fructose corn syrup can cut out artificial chemicals which have may have adverse side effects.
The other negative of newer, manufactured sugars over the more natural ones like cane sugar is that they are really cheap. That doesn’t sound too bad, but sugar tastes good, really good and sweetened food often makes us overeat. The fast food companies have cottoned onto this so they fill their un-nutritious high calorie food with these sugars (as they are cheap) and we can’t get enough of them.
So long and short of it is that sugar is sugar and the more refined versus less refined argument won’t change this. Try and avoid getting to much of the stuff and when you do get through healthy nutrient rich food sources such as fruit.
Water is awesome, it is so important for your health. A normal person can go 40-70 days without food; you can only go several days without water. Water makes up 60% of your body and is a key ingredient in blood, muscles and sweat as well as every system in your body. Whether you’re worried about your weight or not you should drink at least 8-9 glasses a day to keep yourself healthy (more in hotter weather). In a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, participants who were dehydrated by more than 1 percent reported decreased mood, lower concentration, and headaches.
Water will help you keep trim in of three main ways. First it helps keep your muscles functioning at their full potential and as muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, it will help to keep your body fat percentage low by burning excess calories. Second drinking water will help you feel full before eating and therefore eat less at mealtimes. Lastly replacing sugary drinks or coffee with water will help cut out extra calories that you unwittingly consume through beverages every day. With the modern lifestyle we drink 100s of nutritionless, high sugar calories without even thinking about it, switching them out for 0 calorie water has lots of benefits.
This seems to be what weight loss is all about, the dreaded calorie count. So pop quiz, as the Americans would say, what is a calorie? Not sure, OK I’ll tell you (I had to look this up) that a calorie is:
“a unit of energy-producing potential supplied by food and released upon oxidation by the body, equal to the amount of energy required to raise the temperature if 1kg of water by 1®C at one atmosphere of pressure”
So that makes sense? Not really. It all seems a very complicated way of working out how much food you should be eating based on how much water your body could be heating (or ice caps you could be melting) by eating a Snickers bar in the Arctic Circle while being chased by a polar bear… yes I’m lost too and somehow an integral part of the global warming problem. So maybe we should find a different way to think about it.
We’ve all kind of got hung up on calories and that’s because it’s the simplest way to boil down weight loss into an exact formula. Consume less calories than you burn. But we also already acknowledged that it’s not quite that simple. While keeping an eye on calories is not unwise and can be a helpful tool, I find it easier to think about food in terms of; things that are good for your body, things that your body needs, how much your body needs (portion control) and finally things that taste good!
So you know how to eat healthily but you just end up… not. Or you’re eating healthily for a few days here and there or a month at time and then you stop. Why is it so hard? I know how to eat healthily, lots of vegetables, lean meats, not too many starchy carbs, sugar or processed food. I understand portion control and I even really like healthy food but… I still find it really difficult sometimes.
Sound familiar? This is me and more importantly this is me when I am tired, or bored, or stressed out about work. Not eating healthily is not always about knowing how to eat healthy, it’s also a reflection of how we feel. Sometimes you are going to have a bad day, it’s bound to happen and its totally fine, but when it turns into a bad week or a bad month then the weight can gradually creep on, and you’ll have a lot more hard work ahead of you.
Eating food feels good, it’s an instant pick me up solution to a number of problems. Feeling a little down and you can get a good hit of happy hormones from a bar of chocolate, feeling tired and a quick burst of sugar feels like it would do the trick. Start to recognize your trigger points. Below we have broken down 4 common trigger points of bad eating habits and given you some ideas to work them out.
You got a long weekend coming up and you’re just going to be hanging at home doing nothing much. While you’re bored and while you are watching TV and you look for something to do with your hands so you sit and munch your way through a bag of crisps or bowl of ice cream. You’re not even thinking about the food you are putting in your mouth or how much and before you know it you’ve eaten a tub of ice cream rather than a bowl. I have definitely been there and done that and I like to use food to fill in the gap from the boredom.
So make a plan. If you are feeling proactive; go out and meet friends, go walk around a museum or get some exercise. If all you really want to do is relax (and we all need this) and watch all 8 seasons of LOST then have something for your hands to do. Have a pad and paper nearby and doodle, or have a couple of magazines to hand to flick through during the ads or a puzzle to put together. Just make sure to have some healthy snack options on hand. The less busy your brain is the more likely it is to wander to food, so prepare for that.
Life can be tiring - whether you’re working full time for the first time in your life, struggling through a tough exam term trying to work out the depths of synthetic pathways or just had a couple of good nights out. Totally normal and totally human, but when you get tired like this living healthy becomes an effort. Getting take out is much more appealing than cooking dinner and all day you crave a quick fix of sugar from a fizzy drink or chocolate bar.
Your body is craving energy. In the short run a coke or Kit-Kat may help but you’ll crash again pretty quick. Exercise can give you the buzz you need, even though this may sound oxymoronic. A short 20min run or weight session can give you some of those endorphins that will give you the pick me up you need. Also consider looking at some of our quick energy boosting recipes or even a simple energy full snack like a banana, chocolate milk or porridge with honey. When you are feeling lazy make it easy for yourself, have healthy food and snack around.
Long term you should focus on getting enough sleep. Studies have shown that those who regularly get enough sleep are less likely to be obese and this is partly credited to their ability to control obesity causing eating behaviors.
It’s been 3 weeks, you have been trying your hardest and nothing much seems to have changed. So what’s the point of not eating one of those Krispy Kremes that’s been sitting in the common room. Lack of results is just one of the many reasons for losing motivation, maybe you had planned to drops some weight before hitting the beach but you can no longer get away. Maybe you just never really had strong motivation or will power in the first place. If you’re not motivated to do something it’s pretty hard to get it done.
First step is to work out why you want to lose weight, without having a reason it’s going to be difficult to stay on track and keep motivated. Take a piece of paper out and just write down all the reasons you think you would be better off if you lost a couple of kg, health, looking good, gaining some confidence. Whatever it is take the time to actually write it down and put it somewhere you will see the bathroom mirror or the fridge. It will serve as a reminder that your hard work is for a purpose and if it goes next to a picture or Channing Tatum’s or Mylie Cyrus’s abs it wouldn’t hurt.
Next set some goals (attainable ones). This acts as both motivation and reward, you have something to aim towards and are not just endlessly ambling towards an unknown end goal of being a skinnier happier you in some mythical form but are positively working for a whole week of eating healthy or losing 4kg in two weeks. Its more manageable but it also means you get to see your hard work paying off as a reward. Partner this with keeping track of what you’re eating, use our food diary to help monitor what you eat daily, once its written down it’s a lot easier to see where you are going wrong, look for patterns of bad eating habits and there’s proof each time you fail. It sounds tough, but I for one hate every time I have a major slip up day and I have to write it down on paper that I ate 2 slices of cake and a bowl of ice cream, I embarrass myself into trying harder tomorrow.
Finally finding motivation for doing something you really don’t enjoy is close to impossible and takes a will of steel. So try and make it fun. Try new foods. I couldn’t stress this enough. Go into the supermarket and pick out some healthy food that you have never eaten before (check out our list for some inspiration). If you hate vegetables, pick a vegetable you have never tried before and give it a go, work out how to cook, have fun with it. You may find a new healthy alternative to add to meals, or it may be gross, but the whole trying something new lightens the experience and makes it more interesting. Even better if you can find a buddy to do it with you, share recipe ideas and support or challenge each other to use a certain healthy ingredient.
It’s featured in every sitcom out there, they newly heartbroken girl working her way to the bottom of the giant tub of ice cream. Emotional eating is a real problem. Food can make you feel good, even when you don’t and can serve as a distraction from the problems in your life. We turn to food to suppress or soothe negative emotions and soon eating becomes a habit tied to our emotions and an unhealthy pattern develops. Obesity and depression are linked: studies show obese people are about 25 percent more likely to experience a mood disorder and no one sure which causes which.
So what can we do about it? Emotional eating is a tough cookie to crack partly as it works in such a cycle. However, the first step is to recognize that your eating is being triggered by your emotions; awareness is a great tool in your battle. If you need a day to wallow, go ahead but then start to plan to pick yourself up. Tell a friend or family member that you are going through a rough patch and that you are worried you’ll slip in your weight loss plan. Having an ally in the battle will help you stay on track and help you feel a little less lonely. Take up something new and find a distraction other than food. Keep up with things like your food journal so that you don’t just eat subconsciously but are conscious of what you are consuming.