During the Christmas holidays, you might have thrown caution to the wind and did all you could to simply maintain (and not gain) weight. No worries – that was my plan, too! When faced with temptation and hurried schedules, we probably didn’t feel like we had the willpower or time to make healthier choices.
But now that January has arrived, it’s likely that dropping a few kilos has made it onto your list of resolutions. Just like last year. And the year before. And… you get the picture. But this year, let’s make it happen. Certainly, it takes some work and it takes some saying “no” to seconds and “yes” to salads, but it can be done. Here are some simple tips that don’t make weight loss feel like a full-time job.
1 Make healthy eating a habit.
Make it a point to eat healthy at almost every meal, and almost every day of the week. If you need to follow the 80/20 rule (healthy eating 80% of the time) or the “Sundays off rule” (healthy eating everyday but Sunday or whichever day you choose) then go for it – within limits! Just remember to get right back on that wagon rather than letting a few indulge meals derail weeks of hard work.
2 Measure out your meals and snacks.
To lose weight, it can be helpful to measure out your foods. You don’t need to do it all year long. But until you get a good idea of what the foods look like on your plate, in your bowls, and in your cup, tally your portions. You’ll need some gear to get started. Here are the tools I use every few weeks when I need to do a gut check, literally and figuratively:
- Scale. There are all types of scales on the market at all different price points. You can find one that even tells you the nutrients in your food or you could download an app.
- Measuring cups. Try and find a measuring cup that measures both dry and liquid ingredients. This means you can portion out your cereal, raisins, and milk using one device. Efficient! You could also use it to measure out fruits and veggies, but I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t lose weight because their intake of lettuce was excessive!
When watching portions, here’s a list of common recommended serving sizes (or check the food label for the serving size). Another tip to help with maintaining smaller portions–and a smaller waistline – is to use smaller plates when eating. Remember, no fair piling up the food!
- 1 serving of whole grains = 1 slice of whole wheat bread, 1 whole wheat tortilla, 1 small whole wheat bagel, ½ cup whole grain cereal, ½ cup whole grain rice.
- 1 serving of meat = 50-85 grams of meat (about the size of a deck of cards; or 2-3 medium slices of deli lunchmeat), or 1 Tbsp of peanut butter.
- 1 serving of fruit or vegetables = ½ cup canned (in its own juice or packed in water) or one small piece of whole fruit (whole apple, whole banana).
- 1 serving of dairy = 1 cup of milk, 170 grams of low-fat yogurt, 28 grams of cheese
3 Write it down.
Studies show that keeping a food diary will help you lose weight. But even if you’re not looking to shed kilos, recording details about what you eat – and the way you eat – can shed light on unhealthy eating habits that might be tripping up your running life. Plus, food journals can help you determine the optimal fuel for your peak performance. The best food journal is a thorough one that allows you to take a closer, in-depth look at your typical daily intake. To get a realistic picture of what you diet really looks like, try to write down (or track with an app) your intake for a week. Be honest with yourself when keeping a food journal; it is a tool that can help you but only if you record everything!
And don’t just write notes down and forget them. As you record what you are eating, review your journal every now and then so you get a picture of what may be missing in your diet or what you may be eating too much of. A food journal can also help you discover which food groups and nutrients you may be lacking.
4 Don’t completely deprive yourself and don’t stockpile your kilojoules for a binge.
Avoid fasting all day long to lose weight and then arrive home so ravenous that you eat everything and anything. Small high-protein and high-fibre meals throughout the day keep your metabolism going and your willpower strong.
5 Remain hydrated.
Often, our mind mistakes a thirst signal for a hunger signal. When this happens, we fill up on kilojoules from food when our body was really just asking for more water. Remember to drink enough water and kilojoule-free beverages throughout the day to meet your body’s needs.
Last but not least…
6 Make an appointment with yourself.
Most of us find it easier to stick with an exercise program that is scheduled, regimented, and set aside for us. Plan out your day in advance and pencil-in at least 30 minutes for physical activity time. Don’t have a 30-minute time block? Try slipping in 10 minutes of exercise at a time, three times a day. If you don’t have the time to exercise, consider reprioritising and delegating some of your other duties if at all possible. After all, your family and coworkers will likely agree that better health and fitness is an investment worth working towards.