Good evening! Here we are, back again with another blog. No negativity, deep thinking or dwelling on the meaning of life (I’ve done that enough recently!). Just a simple, informative, descriptive blog about our favourite topic; FOOD.
A human need, a guaranteed energy supply and sensation pleaser. It sounds so simple. So why is it that so many of us have a difficult relationship with food? A Love-hate tendency and an overactive mind that judges every mouthful, leaving us feeling in control and satisfied, or tremendously guilty. We label foods as good or bad. Healthy or unhealthy. Allowed or not allowed. The list goes on. Clean eating, paleo, high carb-low fat, high fat-low carb, high protein, vegetarian, vegan. Just to name a few! Each diet has books on the topic, lists of food to eat and avoid, rules, regulations, hashtags, trends, weight loss stories, weight gain stories. You name it, it’s out there.
No wonder we fight so hard against our own brains to decide what and how to eat. We’re bombarded with choice and most of our family or friends are following some sort of regime. It’s easy to get sucked in. We choose to match our beliefs to the opinions of those we value most. And so before we realise it, we’re taking nutritional advice from people who have no health or nutrition qualifications and very little education and understanding on the topic. It’s easy to see athletes eating a slice of melon for dessert and concluding that if you’re an athlete, dessert is out of bounds. In the same way, you see celebs avoiding ‘carbs’ at all costs and looking super lean in heavily edited social media posts. Maybe I’ll not reach for that extra slice of toast at breakfast…
Anyway, fear not! Let’s bring the simplicity back to food and debunk some common misconceptions surrounding the topic.
- Losing weight
Uh. Where do we start? First of all, it’s not a bad thing to want to lose weight. A common misconception is that we should all embrace our bodies, no matter what shape or size and carry on eating a fry up for breakfast every day followed by copious amounts of more food, because it ‘makes us happy’. And whilst I agree that we should love our bodies and celebrate the fact that we’re all different shapes and sizes, I think an important way to love our bodies is to treat them with respect. And by this I mean, nourish our bodies with a variety of fuel that will allow us to be the best we can be. You only have to google the risks associated with obesity and you’ll find a million and one articles on the diseases, medical conditions and complications associated with excess weight. I’m not here to scare anyone, but if you want to prolong your life and be healthy and happy for many years to come, diet is one of the few things we can control and take responsibility of to ensure this.
Would you fill up your car with lard and expect it to drive no problem? Probably not. So why would we fill up our bodies with crap and expect it to perform without significantly putting our health at risk?
If you feel uncomfortable in your own skin and your BMI suggests you’re sitting in the overweight category, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose a few extra pounds, think of it as gaining a bit more life. Additionally, if you’re a healthy weight but would like to reduce your body fat, this is not a problem either and it shouldn’t be shamed on. It’s your body and you can change it according to your goals, both health and aesthetic related.
The only thing that is not healthy, is losing weight to become underweight, losing weight if you’re already underweight or losing weight very fast/via crash diets and restrictive eating. If in doubt about your weight, consult your doctor. BMI’s are useful to an extent but each individual has their own range of healthy and unhealthy weights. For example, if you’re a female and lose weight to a point that your periods stop or become irregular, you’re not at a weight that is healthy for your body. Respect mother nature and she will respect you back. The same goes, if you feel lethargic, sluggish and sloppy despite having a ‘healthy’ BMI, losing a couple of pounds could bring the bounce back to your step and get you on the straight and narrow again. If in doubt, experiment and find a weight that your mind and body are both satisfied with.
So now the disclaimers are out of the way, let’s move on to the real deal. Weight loss in a nutshell; energy deficit. THAT IS ALL. Consume less energy than you expend on a daily basis and as if by magic, you will, over time, lose weight. It really is that simple. There’s no specific diet. There’s no magic ingredients. There’s no spoonful of foul smelling green powder. It just takes a LOT of discipline and a little manipulation of the amount you’re currently eating. To find out how much energy approximately you should be consuming, there are numerous websites whereby you can fill out your height, weight, age, activity and lifestyle in order to get a free calculation of how much you need to eat to lose weight, maintain weight and gain weight based upon your measurements.
Can you still eat chocolate? Yes, as long as in the day you do not consume more than you expend.
Can you eat out? Yes, as long as in the day you do not consume more than you expend.
Can you still drink alcohol? Yes, as long as in the day you do not consume more than you expend.
Can you still eat takeaways? Yes, as long as in the day you do not consume more than you expend.
Can you still eat pizza? Yes, as long as in the day you do not consume more than you expend.
Hopefully, this is starting to make more sense. You do not need to cut out or restrict any specific food groups. You just need to consume less energy than you expend. You do not need to go to bed starving, you do not need to cancel all of your social plans and quit drinking in order to lose weight. I mean, you can do all of the above if you want to, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Here’s where it gets complex. There are certain things that could potentially help you lose weight more easily. However, IT IS NOT ESSENTIAL. If I haven’t mentioned it enough times already, to lose weight, you need to consume less food than you expend in a day.
But, a diet higher in protein can help to keep you feeling full for longer. This means, you are less likely to feel starving or hungry, which could help you stave off snacking or over consuming food. I’d suggest having a breakfast high in protein such as eggs, smoked salmon, greek yogurt as well as a carb source and a fat source. Then incorporating fresh fish/meat and beans/pulses into your main meals. It takes a reasonable level of discipline to reduce your food intake and so helping to stave of hunger can help you along the way.
Secondly, exercise. Exercise burns calories ie increases the energy you expend. Therefore, by incorporating exercise into your day or week, you can afford to eat more than if you stay sedentary all day. Not only does exercise help to boost and improve your mood, it has many health benefits and can speed up the weight loss process. I would suggest finding a sport of activity that you enjoy! Some people get up and run 10miles a day, but I appreciate, this is most peoples’ idea of hell. You don’t have to be that person, you can do yoga, dance, tennis, football, netball, rounders, circuits, head to the gym, walk more, the list is ENDLESS. If you’re struggling for motivation, invite your friends or family along too. Take your partner for an evening walk. Borrow your neighbours dog. Take your friends kids to the park. Exercise doesn’t have to be an inconvenience.
Cutting carbs. Essentially, reducing the amount of carbohydrates you eat, could help you lose weight. There’s science behind it, trust me, or read some journals on the topic. However, this does not require completely ridding all forms of carb from your diet. I would just reduce the portion size and increase the protein. For example, maybe have one slice of toast with your breakfast, rather than two. Or have a lighter salad for your lunch or dinner with fresh vegetables and protein as oppose to a big portion of pasta or a sandwich. Reducing your carb isn’t necessary for weight loss. But it can help shift those extra pounds. If you’re staying active and exercising, carbs are still very important so don’t neglect them entirely, but make wise decisions about which carbs you do consume. Wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, brown bread and pasta all have a high fibre content, keeping you fuller for longer.
Counting calories. This is not essential to lose weight, and can be a time consuming tedious method. However, sometimes, it can be useful to count calories for at least the first few days to get you on track and to adapt and learn about the energy content of different foods. If you’ve never dieted before or your diet is a little bit ad hoc currently, counting calories can be a good way to take control and make a change. There are many apps out there such as My Fitness Pal, which allow you to track and control your calories throughout the day. Try not to get obsessed by counting calories and only do it until you’re confident enough to control your own intake. It’s not healthy to religiously weigh every single item of food and log it to the decimal place.
Finally, what should you eat? OR how do you structure your eating?
I would recommend 3 main meals a day and 2-3 snacks to tie you over in between meals. Incorporate a balance of carbs, fats and proteins into each meal and include the occasional treat to keep you sane. Steer away from ready meals and processed food and just eat real food. Fresh vegetables, fresh meat/fish, eggs, pulses, grains. Focus on changing your lifestyle as opposed to ‘going on a diet’. Patience, persistence and discipline are your three most important factors.
But what does this popular word even mean? Most will have their opinions and beliefs surrounding the word.
Does it mean an apple in one hand and a cake in the other?
Does it mean incorporating carbs, protein and fat into each meal?
Or does it mean eating the specific amount of food that results in an energy balance of equilibrium?
To an extent, I’d say there are aspects of the above statements that each contribute to a balanced diet. One thing I will stress slightly more is that balance does not necessarily incorporate restriction.
My view on a balanced diet is eating an adequate amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to allow the human body to function and carry out daily tasks including exercise and rest. In order to fulfil nutrient and vitamin requirements, I suggest eating a variety of all carbs, proteins and fat. That means starches and sugars for carbs, animal and plant protein and unsaturated and a lil bit of saturated fat. All in all, a balanced, varied diet = a happy, healthy mind and body (ok, maybe it’s not THAT simple, but you get the gist).
Listen to your body and respond to any cravings or desires in a conscious way. If you really want some chocolate, buy your favourite chocolate bar and ENJOY eating it. Food is there for enjoyment as well as a necessity for human life. Try not to go overboard and eat an entire bag of sharing chocolate. We’ve all done it, admittedly so. But moderation is important and all part of maintaining a balanced diet.
The clue is in the name; breaking the fast. The majority of us tend to sleep for approximately 7-9hours each night. Unless you get the midnight munchies or are able to eat in your sleep, that’s at least 7-9hours without food. Hence, we usually wake in a ‘fasted’ state. Skipping breakfast was once a trend, as was eating breakfast ‘boosts metabolism’. Contradicting opinions already, surprise, surprise. So what is right?
Personally, I’d say do what works for you (haha – generic, I know!). But seriously, if you’re hungry on waking, then eat, if you’re still stuffed from the day before, maybe just have something light or wait a few hours until hunger kicks in. Aim to have a balance of carbs, protein and fat at breakfast and never skimp on the caffeine. Needs must at the end of the day! I would recommend something along the lines of;
- Toast with smashed avocado and poached eggs
- Toast with nut butter and banana
- Toast with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon
- Cereal with milk and banana/berries
- Greek yogurt with granola and berries
The list could go on, but essentially try and choose a balanced breakfast incorporating at least 1-2 of your 5-a-day.
- Veganism and vegetarianism
If it works for you, keep doing what you’re doing. I have nothing against these kind of diets and I know the positive effects it can have not only for the environment but animal welfare as well. Personally (and yes, this is my opinion) I find vegan and vegetarian diets too restrictive and so I will continue to eat meat and dairy. However, I think there’s a lot that everyone can learn from vegan and vegetarian diets and I will usually opt for meat free recipes a few times a week. If I could summarise my diet, I would say most of my meals are plant based with added protein in the form of meat/fish/eggs. Plant based diets are a great way to incorporate your 5 a day too.
Even participating in #meatfreemonday to reduce the amount of meat you and your household consume can help to make a difference to an extent. Whilst most vegans and vegetarians believe in the all or nothing rules of their diet, I think many of us can still make an impact by slightly reducing our meat and dairy consumption or opting for dairy alternatives now and again. If it’s not for you, then keep doing what you’re doing. I am not the vegan police. I will, however, make a more informative and detailed post on this topic as I’m literally glazing over the surface.
One thing I will say on this topic is; be mindful of where the meat you consume is sourced from. Use local butchers and opt for free range eggs. Supermarket meat is often expensive and poor quality compared to what you can get from the butcher.
What milk do I drink? Skimmed, semi skimmed, whole milk, oat milk, almond milk. EVERY SORT. I tend to drink oat milk in my coffee and on my cereal as I like the taste and OATLY B is AMAAAZE. However, I will drink literally everything. Why? It’s one of the only foods that contain carbs, protein AND fat. Amazing huh. A lecturer in Nutrition at my university once said if he could only consume one food for the rest of his life, he would consume milk. Due to the balanced nature of its macros. Milk isn’t bad for you, it won’t make you fat and it won’t cause you digestive issues, unless you’re intolerant. In which case, don’t drink it. Simples.
Milk is also a grand source of Calcium.
Strong bones = less stress fractures.
Chocolate milk? Bottoms up.
- Vitamins, supplements and powders.
Unless prescribed by a doctor for a specific deficiency or medical condition. The vast majority of essential vitamins and minerals can be obtained through good, proper food in a balanced diet. If you’re susceptible to anaemia, take iron supplements. Similarly, Vitamin D can be a good idea, given that the sun barely shines in this country. However, the rest are mostly excreted in your wee. If you’re dying for some Vitamin C, have a glass or orange juice, it probably tastes better than a bland tablet anyway!
- The timing of eating
Most common misconceptions;
Eating late at night makes you fat. False.
Eating little and often boost metabolism. False.
Eating all of your daily calories in one sitting makes you put on weight. False.
First of all, if this topic excites you, do some reading. There are so many journals and research papers surrounding this topic, it can be really interesting to delve into some reading and learn something new.
But in summary, the time of day that you eat doesn’t not effect your weight. The only factor that largely has an effect on weight loss or gain is energy intake. If you’ve got this far reading, you won’t mind referring back to point 1, whereby I stressed the fact that energy balance is the determinant for weight loss/maintenance/gain.
Thus the time of day, the carbs you eat after 7pm and the amount you eat in one sitting are not independently going to effect your weight. Only if your energy balance is in deficit or surplus will you lose or gain weight.
MORAL of the story;
Eat good, proper food.
Eat your carbs.
And don’t let the boys be mean to you (joking!).
Peace, love and lotsa learning!