Hello friends! I thought I’d touch on diet today. And I mean the “change of diet” type diet, rather than the “going on a diet” type diet. I also want to emphasise that I this is completely based on personal experience and is therefore fully anecdotal. However, it may still be helpful to some, so I thought I’d share my thoughts! Feel free to follow my advice or ignore as appropriate.
I should start by saying that I’ve never particularly struggled with my weight. In fact, it’s stayed fairly consistent my entire life, and my BMI has never left the “healthy” range. However, like for most people it has been up and down within that, and I’ve come to notice certain patterns in eating. Everyone says not to go on fad diets, which I fully agree with – the solution is pretty simple: try to eat fresh, whole foods, avoid too many processed foods, and stop when you’re full. Below are just a few tips that I’ve found unequivocally helpful, and which don’t cut out entire food groups which we rely on (such as carbs or fat). As much as I don’t believe in cutting out actual food groups, I do think changing your diet is easier if you have set rules that you don’t have to think too much about. Below are my recommendations.
#1. Cut processed sugar.
This is the only “food group” I recommend cutting entirely. I’ve touched on sugar in the past, but essentially sugar is supposed to be one of the most addictive substances out there, and so the cravings we get from it don’t actually tend to be hunger related. I’ve found that if I stop eating sugar even for a few days, I stop craving it entirely. This is the only “food group” I think is literally completely unnecessary from anyone’s diet. If you decide you want that extra something something in your life, and it’s the occasional chocolate mousse, then fair enough, but just be aware that NOTHING GOOD COMES FROM SUGAR.
My solution to not cutting it out completely has been saying yes to the occasional fancy restaurant dessert, but no to “candy” i.e. chocolate bars, sweets, doughnuts, biscuits, etc. If it’s not top quality, what is even the point? I’ve also stopped with the chocolate advent calendars. They used to be great, until I noticed that starting the day with a “sugar hit” wasn’t doing wonders for my cravings…
If you’re really struggling you can try one of these sugar-free treats.
#2. Cut drinks.
This is a tough one for most people. Drinks are so ingrained in our culture – and I’m not just talking alcoholic beverages. I feel like it’s incredibly easy to consume an unholy number of calories without even noticing from drinks. The worst I think are soft drinks, which I have fortunately managed to avoid my whole life. I personally don’t get the appeal, as it literally looks like liquid sugar to me, but whatever floats your boat. There is however evidence that fizzy drinks in general (and yes, that includes champagne, sigh) make your stomach expand, thereby making more room for food, i.e. if you have a coke with your meal, you’re likely to eat even more than you would otherwise (on top of the calories from that coke).
If there was one other category I’d recommend cutting entirely, it’s fizzy drinks. I noticed I started gaining weight after a period of having quite a lot of gin and tonics, which I have subsequently stopped drinking. Again, if you limit fizzy drinks to champagne, you’re likely to have them less often (not least because of the price!)
#3. Drink full-fat milk.
Ok, ok, I know this seems to go directly against the previous category. But hear me out. There have been many articles about how the sugar industry made everyone think fat was making people fat (I think the name didn’t do it any favours…) In fact, eating things which are high in fat will just make you more full, so you’re likely to eat less. I outright refuse to eat low-fat anything – milk, cream cheese, cream.
The biggest difference I noticed with full-fat milk was when I used to get the train from London to Leeds every week. I’d have breakfast at King’s Cross (shoutout to Leon!) and a latte on the train ride up, getting in around lunchtime. I would normally be starving by the time I got in, which didn’t make sense to me as the breakfast was often quite filling and I’d had a latte on top of that. However, when I switched to full fat I wasn’t nearly as hungry, and I’d be able to have lunch significantly later without feeling uncomfortable. It also tastes so much better and creamier. I also recommend full fat milk in porridge and in tea. Try it and let me know what you think!
#4. Eat more chilli.
Chilli makes you feel more full, so eat more of it. It can also cause the body to burn off energy when we eat it. I recommend adding it to your pasta sauces, soups, and roast vegetables, and the occasional curry won’t go amiss.
#5. Cut snacks.
This is one I don’t quite understand. I’ll be honest – I centre my entire life around my meals. I spend all my time post-breakfast looking forward to lunch, and I spend the rest of my day planning my dinner. Especially if you cook something nice, which could easily take up to an hour, and then eat slowly while savouring your food, which again can take up to an hour (I don’t do the “food for fuel” thing), where is the time for snacks?? I actually don’t understand it. So my advice is, spend more energy on your meals and less on your snacks. I’ve found cutting snacks actually makes me crave them less as well, much like with sugar. And linking back to point #3, if you’re a coffee or tea drinker and you go with full fat milk, it’ll keep you full for longer in between meals and make you less likely to snack anyway.
Something else I’ve noticed in terms of snacks: people often have them not because they’re hungry, but because they associate food with rest (or taking a break from work), and they want an excuse to rest. I think the solution here is to change your relationship to rest. It’s ok to rest with nothing at all! If you really, really want a snack, my suggestion would actually be to have a bowl of soup – try it and let me know what you think!
#6. Love your food.
When on holiday, I’ll refuse to eat at all unless we’ve found the perfect restaurant. There’s a reason for this: you only get a certain number of meals, and unless each one is great, I feel like I’ve wasted that meal. The same applies at home. You only get one dinner each night, so make it count. Make something amazing, or order in or eat out if you must, but make it count all the same. As I mentioned in point #5, the more focus you put into your meals, the less you’ll want to eat in between them. You won’t want to spoil your appetite!
It’s ironic that I think focusing more on your food is less likely to make you gain weight, but I genuinely believe that gaining weight comes from a lack of thought rather than from enjoying food too much. It comes from “junk food”, processed meats, sugary snacks. If you eat hearty, good food cooked from scratch you’re likely to think about what you put in it, and as long as you steer clear of the above, I think you’ll be on the right track.
#7. Spend more on food.
I’m not saying everyone has enough money for a caviar breakfast every morning. I’m saying investing in good food is worth it. It’s your body after all – take care of it. Whatever your food budget is, double it. If you try to eat cheap, in today’s world you’ll almost certainly end up eating unhealthily. It’s no secret that obesity rates are closely correlated with poverty. Good food is both expensive and time-consuming. Additionally, most people are happy to spend extortionate amounts of money on fancy gym subscriptions, diet plans, nights out, etc. I’m just saying to shift the focus – use that money on ingredients instead. If you can at all afford it, make good food a priority.
Side note here: of course it’s possible to stay healthy and have a good diet without spending too much. However, personally I find that this tends to fit more into the “food as fuel” category, as it’s almost impossible to fit this together with point #6 above. Additionally, cutting the spending tends to go hand in hand with investing more time into your food. And given we all seem to be quite time-poor anyway, time appears to be worth more than money nowadays.
So there you have it, my top tips! I actually think these are pretty normal things you hear time and time again – it’s just that some of these things aren’t the easiest to cut, and so people resort to fad diets and the concept of “superfoods” (don’t even). We so badly want “easy fix” solutions that we sometimes forget to go back to basics – a balanced, home cooked diet with no junk food. Let me know what you think and whether or not you agree!