Every day I speak to countless women who are feeling frustrated and confused by the latest health ‘research’ out there. They have tried every different diet and lifestyle there is but their weight doesn’t seem to budge. These are really intelligent women who just need honest and easy to digest information on how to live a healthier lifestyle!
This motivated me to create this checklist to see if you too might be making one or more of these mistakes and to provide you with some practical tips to start making better choices!
1. Counting calories
The Million Dollar question… are all calories created equal? So many women engage in weight loss programs that have some sort of calorie restrictions. If you work off more calories than you put in, you’ll lose weight! Right!? Well….I guess so (although not always) but this sort of weight loss method is not sustainable. You’re eventually going to get hungry again and then are quite (ok VERY) likely to put the weight back on again.
If you concentrate rather on filling your diet with good quality fats, fruit and veg, lean protein (like beans, quinoa, legumes etc) and whole grains you will discover you don’t have to worry about how many calories they contain. These foods are nutrient dense, leaving our body feeling full, satisfied and energised. When trying to lose weight, put the focus on crowding out the less healthy foods by including as many nutrient rich foods as possible. You might just find that you’re not hungry for that afternoon muffin because you’re body has been adequately nourished throughout the day!
Try starting your day with a delicious healthy porridge. How many calories does it contain? Who cares!
2. Drinking caffeine instead of snacking
I’ve had so many women tell me that they will drink a cup of coffee in the afternoon instead of reaching for a snack. What many women don’t realise is the snowball effect that this harmless cup of coffee will have on the rest of your day… oh and probably the day after that and the day after that.
This is what happens when we drink caffeine:
Blood sugar is increased. Insulin is produced to try and counteract that sugar high. Increased insulin and cortisol (another hormone that is stimulated by caffeine consumption) cause our body to STORE fat (particularly in the abdominal region)
So…that snack which calories you thought you had just avoided, would potentially have been the better option?
If you like the taste and ritual that comes with it, try switching to decaf or better yet, a delicious, antioxidant packed drink like a Golden Spice Drink.
3. Avoiding the sugar in fruit
I used to struggle to explain this one. I could never quite believe when people would tell me to reduce fruit intake because of the sugar content, but I couldn’t articulate why I knew this was baloney? I can now clearly explain the facts – “Only fructose from ADDED sugars appears to be associated with declining liver function, high blood pressure and weight gain. Consuming sugar in fruit form is not only harmless but helpful! This may be because the fibre in fruit has a gelling effect in your stomach and small intestine that slows the release of sugars” Dr Michael Greger “How not to die”.
One study suggests that even consuming fruit with your sugar might be the way to go. In the study they had participants eat a cupful of berries along with a glass of sugar water. Interestingly, they witnessed NO additional blood sugar spike from the berries and no hyperglycemic dip afterwards (preventing the body’s starvation mode and subsequent surge of fat into the blood).
So next time you reach for that pastry or biscuit at 3pm, try having a handful of berries or an apple at the same time! OR you could ditch the junk and just enjoy the sweet tasting fruit by itself (without worrying about the ‘sugar’ content)!
Check out this Berry Nice Cream I make for my family.
4. GOING low carb
The ‘health food’ industry has got us so confused with this one. Should we be low carb? High carb? GF? The effect of all the hype around this is that women tend to ditch carbs altogether and see them as the bad guy! Now we have an entire food group that is being avoided and the benefits of whole grains being missed. A 2015 analysis of a large Harvard study found that people who eat more whole grains tend to live significantly longer lives, independent of other dietary and lifestyle factors. If you weren’t already convinced, foods like wild rice, buckwheat, quinoa and millet appear to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and stroke!
What we SHOULD watch out for when eating or purchasing packaged grain products are the misleading labels like “multigrain, 100% wheat and stoneground”. These titles are usually just a fancy way of advertising refined grains! Always opt for carbohydrates or grains that are as close to their original form as possible! (oh and also the more colourful the better. ie wild rice or red quinoa)
Whole grains should absolutely NOT be avoided when trying to lose weight and should actually be included up to 3 times in your daily diet. The exception being of course if you are celiac or gluten sensitive in which case chose your grains carefully! Check out this Quinoa Bake recipe for an idea on how to include whole grains!
5. Not looking after yourself
I’m not talking here about ditching the gym or ‘letting yourself go’. I’m talking stressful deadlines, comparisonitis on social media, partying like it’s 1999! If we take a look at the risk factors for obesity, stress is up there with the best of them.
The hormonal response that is triggered in a stressful situation (ie cortisol release, subsequent blood sugar rise and unavoidable fat storage) has a snowball effect on our weight loss efforts. The other way in which our emotional state can affect our waist line is by what is commonly known as ‘emotional eating’. Living up to the fast paced demands of current society can often cause women to end up scouring the fridge (even when they don’t realise they’re doing it). This need to ‘fill ourselves up’ is often a subconscious response to a state of low level, chronic stress.
So how about relieving some of this stress with 5 minutes of meditation (try the Headspace app for a great guided meditation) or even use Dr Andrew Weils short breathing method to combat those adrenalin spikes!
6. Eating low fat or diet foods
This is a biggie! If you were around in the 1990’s you would have been most likely caught up in the low fat craze! Everything on the shelves was advertised as ‘low fat’ or ‘diet’ and these products were selling like (fatfree) hot cakes! If that was the health information that was supposed to free us from the Kg’s then why are we still battling with sky high obesity rates? The problem with foods that have the fat content taken out is that they are then filled with sugar so that they still taste good! Clever huh!
Fast forward to today and you are no doubt aware that sugar is the new demon which we are to avoid at all cost. This has subsequently lead to headlines like “Butter is back” urging us to retake up our old high fat habits! (There’s nothing like good news about our bad habits to get us excited!)
So here we are with another dilemma. Do we ditch the fat and put up with the highly toxic refined sugar or do we steer clear of the sweet stuff and pick up the bacon. I’m suggesting we do neither! The simplest advice I can offer is to fill your diet with unprocessed foods. Include good quality fat like nuts, seeds and avocado in all your meals to keep you feeling full, lower your cholesterol and optimise the absorption of nutrients!
I have a heavenly homemade cashew butter that you can use as a spread, in smoothies or as a dipping sauce for your apple slices!
7. Using willpower to make health decisions
What’s the quickest way to sabotage your weight loss plans? Make a ‘promise’ to yourself that you will eat healthy tomorrow, tomorrow comes and your ‘willpower’ isn’t strong enough so you have that takeaway for dinner or an afternoon slice of cake at the office. You then spend the rest of the day beating yourself up that you don’t have the WILLPOWER to do this whole healthy eating thing.
I’m going to suggest lovely lady that your will power isn’t the issue. There are a huge range of things that affect the food choices we make in the day and that have ZERO to do with how mentally strong you are as a person. Take that coffee you started your day with or that slice of raisin toast (wholemeal of course). Your body has already been through extreme blood sugar swings and it’s only 11am. The result of this being that by the time your willpower ‘fails you’, your energy is at an all time low and you desperately need something to bring back up your blood sugar to homeostasis.
Making healthy choices from the very beginning of your day with healthy breakfast options will positively affect the choices you make throughout the day! More importantly, if you make a bad choice, don’t beat yourself up and blame your lack willpower but rather have a glass of water, a piece of fresh fruit and go about your day!
8. Taking probiotics without prebiotics
I’m so glad that women are starting to take notice of their gut! (and I don’t mean comparing the size of their belly to someone elses) The public has started to understand the importance of healthy gut bacteria and the connection between our microbiome and our weight! Having a dysbiosis in the gut has been linked to unexpected weight gain, allergic reactions, IBS and even autism. Hello probiotics! I’ll be strapped not to find a bottle of these in the fridge of every health conscious woman!
HOWEVER, what we have been forgetting is the importance of coupling probiotics with prebiotics (the nondigestible food fibres that enable good bacteria to stick to the bowel wall and also helps to stimulate their growth). There is no use lining our gut with probiotic bacteria if we don’t couple this with the prebiotics that help maintain this healthy environment!
A whole food based diet is one which is strong in these prebiotics. Each day I aim to include in my diet, what’s called ‘the daily dozen’. A term coined by Dr Michale Greger, nutrition expert. A wide range of whole grains, lean proteins, good quality fats and fresh fruit and veg.
Have you been struggling with your weight? Do you think these tips have helped? Do you have any to add to the list? Please share in the comments below.
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