Dr Liz Isenring from LINC Nutrition is passionate about improving lives via evidence-based nutrition and wellness consulting. Dr Liz has over 20 year’s experience, is recognised as an international nutrition and wellness expert and published over 160 scientific papers and books.
A healthy body starts with healthy habits. With so many diets, pills, shakes, exercise gadgets and apps on the market today to help you shred the weight, it’s no wonder we might question what will actually work for us, and where we should be investing our time – and money! Here’s a great place to start…
Avoid fad diets
A fad diet is an ultra strict diet that works in the short term. One of its characteristics is that it makes unreasonable claims on how it can make you lose weight overnight. “Do these 3 things to melt body fat” or “drink this before bed for a flatter tummy” are some of the unsubstantiated claims. You’ve probably seen them advertised on Facebook and maybe even tried a few. Usually, they have no scientific backing because these recommendations don’t work or are unhealthy.
If you’re looking for fast results, you might end up getting hooked by the promises the diets make. Understandably so. And you’re not alone. Statistics show that the average person falls into fad dieting traps at least 126 times in their lifetime. That’s an average of two diets every year!! Science shows that this is the unhealthiest approach that you could ever take in your weight loss journey.
Here’s why…. according to UCLA researchers, you can lose up to 10% of your weight with dieting. However, you will end up gaining it all back and more within a year. Research shows that 95% of diets don’t work in the long term. With statistics like that, you’re not at fault, the problem is with the diet.
Aside from regaining weight, you will end up eliminating crucial nutrients that your body needs for proper functioning. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t lose excess weight. You should because if you don’t, you could end up developing chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, gout, or type II diabetes.
I’m advocating for healthy weight loss, which will be sustainable for the rest of your life. If you stumble upon any advice that tells you to avoid certain food groups, stay away from it.
Making simple lifestyle changes
Try trading unhealthy foods with healthier ones to ensure your body gets all the necessary vitamins, minerals, fibres and macros.
To get the biggest nutrition bangs for your buck, you can make some simple changes to see big results.
For example, cutting down by 2 pints of beer a day will result in 0.5kg (1 pound) of weight loss in a week. Plus you’ll have more energy, sleep better and wake up good to go the next day. What to drink instead? Well, you could try low alcohol beer (some are as good as the real thing and much improved over the years), or go alcohol free and try ginger beer or ginger ale (the no sugar versions are best). What about soda water with some cranberry juice or lime? More savoury options include tomato juice (great with a bit of chilli!), vegetable or chicken broth or a vegetable juice like V8. If you’re really adventurous there are some amazing gut healthy, low calorie options like kombucha and herbal teas. Try adding berries and herbs to jazz them up.
Here are some other examples of getting the biggest nutrition bang for your buck:
- Cut down on sugar – limit soft drinks (sodas) and have the no sugar option or drink water instead. You’ll be saving between 8-10 tsp of sugar per can and your mind and body will thank you for it. Try a little honey or stevia instead of sugar in teas and coffee
- Eat fruit, vegetables and nuts instead of unhealthy snacks like cookies and sweets in between meals. We eat way too much processed food. If you stick to foods you’d find in nature you’re going to get better results.
- Enjoy berries – berries are nature’s lollies. Healthy lollies too. Berries are naturally low in carbohydrates, calories and packed full of gut friendly fibre and vitamins and minerals.
- Incorporate vegetables into your meals. Vegies don’t need to be the grey, watery overcooked cabbage and Brussel sprouts your mum used to make. Buy packets of pre-shredded vegies or salad bases. Add a bit of protein like fish, meat, eggs or 4 bean mix and you’ve got a great lunch or dinner. Grated carrot, zucchini and lentils can be incorporated into just about any dish without altering the flavour much and dramatically improving the nutrition and cutting calories per serve.
- Use healthier oils like olive oil to prepare meals
- Include omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish and algae
- Drink no less than eight glasses of water every day
- Control your food portions at least half your plate should be filled with vegies
- Go for brown rice and whole-grain bread instead of their white alternatives. Try some of the low carb options like zoodles (zucchini noodles), cauliflower “rice” or legume pastas.
So, we’ve already established that fad diets are a no-no.
But what do we do if we want to improve our nutrition and lose a bit of weight?
Start by making small incremental changes. Slow and steady is what will help you win the race, otherwise, you end up shocking your body, and you’ll hate the outcome.
When you want fast results, your body won’t be able to adjust naturally, so your cravings will be a notch higher because your body is so used to that rhythm. But if you start introducing changes slowly, your body will naturally begin to get used to them. It becomes the new norm and a healthier baseline. In the end, your new habits will become your everyday routine, and you won’t feel like your body is straining to adapt.
Here are a few changes that you can start making …
- Start by decreasing your meal portions, especially the processed carbohydrates
- Buy healthier alternatives like light beer, no sugar soft drinks (sodas), soda water and vegetable juices.
- Have yummy fruit and veggie options in your house. E.g. frozen berries, packs of salad mixes in the fridge and 4 bean mixes in the pantry.
Whatever changes you decide to start making, consistency is vital. Once you fall off the wagon, it will be a quick plummet to the very same place you’re trying to get out of.
So, plan well.
That means ensuring that you schedule time for shopping and meal preparation during times that you’re sure you’ll be free.
If you work during the day, set time aside for meal preparation in the evenings or weekends.
Another thing – you might find that you crave unhealthy foods or drinks during this transition. Eat regularly (every few hours), have healthy snacks like fruit, vegies, nuts and good protein sources on hand e.g. hard boiled eggs. Drink heaps of water – a few litres a day is a good guide. Change the environment if it triggers a craving. For example if you crave a beer every time you sit down to watch T.V, go outside for a short walk, punch a boxing bag or listen to an audio book until the craving has passed. Substitutions work as well. So go for a light beer or chilli tomato juice instead of the hard stuff.
It’s normal to want to make changes to your health as you start to feel sluggish, tired, out of breath, or dehydrated. Just remember it’s not a race to the finish line, and that small steps really do pave the way to the destination.