Do you constantly feel that you are either on or off a diet? Do you lose weight and then realise that you pile the weight back on very quickly when you stop dieting, and you end up weighing even more that you did at the start?
What if there was a way to cheat positively on a diet, to lose weight and keep it off for good whilst boosting energy levels and still enjoying the food you love? Yes, believe me, there truly is a way to enjoy food and not worry about weight loss – for good! Here are my top tips to switch off the dieting mode:
Firstly: switch off the traditional mind-set that we must go on a diet. Why?
Practice this: Tell yourself that you can’t have dessert, or a glass of wine, or potatoes, or bread……..so what do you want right now? No doubt your mind will really see those things that you want and you will find it so difficult to resist them. It becomes a permanent obsession.
Here’s the pattern – we embark ‘on a diet’, usually on a Monday, so we have time at the weekend to get all those ‘forbidden’ foods eaten before the big day! Then Monday comes and we impose our strict rules for a few days, then by the following weekend temptation gets in the way, maybe someone offers us chocolate or we have a few too many wines on a friend’s birthday, we overdo it and then feel super guilty. And guess what happens? Blood sugar goes haywire, we lose control and tell ourselves we have failed, with the subsequent feelings of being bad or feeling guilty until Monday arrives and we are back on the diet again, feeling demoralised and sick that we gave up in the first place. And so the cycle continues….
Change this cycle and STOP imposing strict rules on yourself in the first place! Accept that your new healthy eating regime is just that – it’s not a diet or deprivation – in fact get that ‘diet’ word out of your vocabulary RIGHT AWAY! Instead look at your food choices differently adopting positivity, joy and delight at being able to CHOOSE delicious food and drinks that nurture you, making you feel and look better. Work on getting rid of the emotions of guilt, anger and fear of failure, as they are only standing in your way - accept that this won't happen overnight but practice is key, remember there are neural pathways in the brain that need working on to change - Practice from today! Only then will you be able to change the habits of a lifetime. No pressure allowed!
So how do you cheat positively while on a diet? Here are my basic principles for having your cake and eating it!
If you accept that losing weight healthily and successfully is naturally a slow process - it's not a straight line but rather a journey with a few bumps and plateaus along the way! Allow a long term focus on choosing tasty, healthy food, and plan to allow a 'cheat' food, meal or drink a couple of times a week. This isn't going to spoil your progress in any way! And just ensure it's the best quality treat! I like to view it as 'allowing' – notice how that changes how you feel? And if you feel good, you will stay on track longer. Accepting that it’s your choice takes away the naughtiness and therefore the guilt.
So here’s some tips to help you:
Throw out all the plastic food in the form of sweets, fizzy drinks, cakes and biscuits so you are not tempted when making the initial changes and within a few days, you’ll have mastered your cravings. Often we eat sugary foods when we see them! It doesn't mean that we can't have natural sweetness in our lives still (like lovely fruits and smoothies)!
Make a meal plan and stock up on healthy foods so you have food ready when cravings hit.
Make sure that you have a firm foundation to manage blood sugar by eating small, regular meals every 3 hours with protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats. This foundation makes it easier to resist fatty sweet foods. If this stage is difficult, you may need a top up of certain blood sugar nutrients.
Make a smoothie every day with yoghurt, milk or non-dairy milks like coconut or almond milk and chia seeds for good fats and protein powder, so that you have a healthy alternative when a craving hits – sometimes you want the sweet flavour so you can add a handful of berries - and the protein helps to even out the highs and lows. Try stewed apple with cinnamon (good for digestion and blood sugar balance) or 6 nuts dipped in dark chocolate.
For 80% of the time eat according to your plan. 20% is left for the rest.
When you get a craving, work out the main cause – is it emotional? Do you use food as a reward? Practice these solutions: how about rewarding yourself with a massage, a good book or a movie; is it anger?: take a deep breath for a count of 5 in and out; is it stress?: practice meditation. Look on good food as pleasurable and helping you de-stress by providing the right nutrients to keep your stress system calm, balanced and energized. Work with specialists, such as nutritionists, coaches and, if need be, counsellors, to help you get to the route of the craving and come up with solutions. Cravings are like waves – very strong at the beginning but wait a while and they get less and less.
Now for the treats? Have a think about what you really enjoy. Plan to have that 1-2 times a week. Decide if you are going to cheat, then cheat well! Choose the best form of treat and portion it up i.e. 2 squares of 90% dark chocolate; a piece of cake, a glass of red wine or champagne. You might find that this new ‘allowing’ behaviour removes the desire to have it in the first place, especially once your cravings have gone.
Adopt mindfulness in having your treat, so bite off small pieces, sip wine slowly making it last and accompany each alcoholic drink with a glass of water; have a small portion of a healthy cake or treat (homemade even better!), or practise leaving some on the plate. That way you’ll be relaxed about your decisions. I love the power of 'one' (meaning one portion - savour it!)
When you go on holiday, decide if you will maintain your weight progress – sure you can relax a bit – you may not lose weight, however it’s not about totally giving up and putting on weight, which usually happens. Balance is key! And aim to walk and attend a yoga class or have a run on the beach.
Finally, always remember to have fun and enjoy every minute of the journey to reaching your end goal! I know this seems ridiculous at the beginning, but I witness so many people actually relish it, once the sugar gene is switched off! Good luck!
If you want to find out more about my rejuvenation programmes watch Debbie and Mike's videos on my 'welcome' and 'weight loss' pages.
Here are some treats to choose to help you cheat positively when on a diet:
A great tasty snack post exercise to replenish glycogen and protein and fulfils the need for a sweet treat:
Small pot of natural yoghurt or 300ml almond, or coconut milk
½ banana and handful of berries
1 tbsp. chia seeds or a tbsp. protein powder
Blueberry Tea Bread
There is no added sugar in this loaf which gets its sweetness from the naturally sweet banana and blueberries. If you want to make it sweeter, add a handful of dried mixed peel or serve it with pure fruit jam. This tea bread is ideal for an afternoon snack that won't send your blood sugar rocketing.
225g plain wholemeal flour
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 ripe, medium sized bananas, mashed
2 medium free-range or organic eggs, lightly beaten
100ml mild olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g chopped walnuts
3 tsp cinnamon
1. Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F.
2. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda together into a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir together to form a thick batter.
3. Pour into a lined loaf tin and bake for around an hour and 15 minutes, or until the top feels fairly hard and the mixture doesn't wobble when the tin is shaken. Leave to cool on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container.
(suitable for freezing)
These nut recipes are from Patrick Holford’s Low GL Cookbook
Chocolate covered Nuts (a sweet treat!)
This is a sweet treat that’s good for you! Choose 85% cocoa as it will have less sugar even than 75%.
15g good quality dark chocolate broken into pieces
25g shelled mixed nuts (such as almonds, macademia nuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts or cashews)
1. Line a baking tray with non-stick paper
2. Gently melt the chocolate and tip the nuts into the melted chocolate and stir to coat.
3. Place the nuts on the baking tray, making sure that they are not touching –otherwise they will stick together when they harden
4. Place the tray in the fridge to let the chocolate harden completely.
Tamari Nuts (savoury treat!)
These are a tasty treat to serve as nibbles at a party or for a snack when you fancy a savoury treat.
50g mixed nuts and seeds (brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds or sunflower seeds)
1 tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
1. Preheat the oven to 200C
2. Put the nuts and seeds in a baking tray, tip the tamari or soy sauce over them and shake around to coat thoroughly.
3. Roast for around 5 minutes, shaking the tray half way through.