5 Tips To Simplify Your Diet
Getting in shape is not easy (as evidenced by the 10,000+ word post we did on it), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some simple changes you can make that will have a dramatic impact on your weight and health. First and foremost, remember that there is some separation between weightloss and health insofar as weightloss is primarily calorie driven (consume less calories than you burn = weightloss) but that does NOT mean you’ll feel healthy or in any way good about your weight loss. Health will come from good food choices and emphasizing raw, natural ingredients. Many well-intentioned dieters will cut back on their eating, feel starved, then splurge on snacks and end up eating proportionately MORE junk food than they had before!
We learned from our previous article looking at diets that the primary factors that influence weight loss include:
Take a look at our weight loss guide for more in-depth information on these, but suffice to say sleep, exercise, and manageable changes are going to be your best way forward. As for our top 5 nutrition tips, without further ado:
1. Drink More
This can reduce your appetite as Ghrelin (your short term hunger signal hormone) can be reduced by the sensation of fullness in the stomach. This is a hugely neglected strategy for cutting calories, as many recent weight loss articles have pushed the idea that calories don’t matter and we should all eat whatever we want and will still lose weight. Given that an average meal will run anything from 300-800+ calories, this is a big win!
Bonus Point: This is not the panacea it sounds. While it is a useful strategy, studies have shown that the reduction in Ghrelin is shortlived and that ultimate reduction in Ghrelin levels is due to the “caloric load” of the food/drink consumed. What this really means is that will power is still needed, and you won’t just be able to have a drink every time you feel hungry. It’s still useful, though, as long as there are minimal calories in the drink. To find out more, take a look at our green tea diet plan! Also, take a look at our collection of delicious teas here!
2. Eye Ball Your Calories
Ok, so counting calories was all the rage for a while, until someone decided that calories weren’t important and all that mattered was eating kale. Suddenly, it became apparent that there were flaws with this model, and that reducing calories was still somewhat (read: very) important. But it’s still a pain in the ass.
This is where an iterative diet comes in handy (though it does require you being consistent with your diet). Cut something from your diet and after a couple of days check your weight. If it’s budged a little then remove one more thing from your daily eating and that’s your caloric intake level (which will also be your maintenance caloric intake when the weightloss slows). Continue with this and see where it leads. Generally speaking, you’re looking for a tipping point. The point at which, between exercise and diet, you see gradual but steady weight loss. This will usually last for a week or two, your body will adjust, and then you can change things up a little.
Bonus Point: Fat heavy foods will generally be calorie heavy (fats have more calories per gram). This doesn’t mean fats are bad, but it does mean that you don’t have room for empty, crap fats in your diet. Try and keep your fat intake from raw oils, butter, avocado, fish (organic if possible), nuts (minimize the peanut intake though), and cheese (raw if possible).
3. Make your life easy
If at all possible, try to bulk prep food. This means picking a dish/snack that can keep for a couple of days in the fridge (or can be kept in the freezer), and making multiple portions. Obvious examples are things like protein bar snacks (to replace sugar filled crap snacks), but you can also be a little more exotic and make things like fan tuan (kind of like a triangular sushi rice wrap), or make extra of a healthy dinner and store portions as healthy lunches. Basically, get to know 3-4 dishes well and go from there. Try to have 1 snack, 1 lunch, and 1-2 dinners (that can be used as lunches).
Bonus Note: While this sounds like a pain in the ass (prepping lots of food is not always fun), it saves a lot of time over the course of a week and saves money too. The only drawback is you end up repeating some of the same meals.
4. Question your eating
Emotional/stress eating can be a major problem with diets, as it can amount to hundreds of extra calories each day. What’s worse, is that there actually IS a short term “high” after eating snack food (aka crap) that can be addictive. This is, unfortunately, followed by another crash that perpetuates the cycle. Try to ask yourself why you’re eating something before it passes your lips. If it’s just cause “you feel like something sweet”, then that’s not a good enough reason.
Bonus Note: IF you are very good and question yourself about your eating habits, you’ll find that a lot of your snacking is stress related (or due to poor sleep, which can lead to sugar cravings). Regardless, if you’re successful in monitoring your stress eating, you’re still left with the stress! So, before you decide to start cutting out your go-to stress foods, make a plan of something you can do instead to alleviate the stress.
5. Don’t agonize over foods you can’t have – SUBSTITUTE
In reality, a healthy metabolism won’t explode after a square of chocolate. The trick is to know how to eat sweet, and again, get some bang for your buck. Things like chocolate protein bars are easy AND you’ll feel like you’re eating something sweet. You want chocolate, use cacao. You want sweet, use honey. You want satiety, use peanut/almond butter (sparingly). The best thing you can do is to invest an hour or two into finding 1 healthy(ish) alternative to something you’re craving. Once it’s easy to make, that’s 1 thing checked off your list and progress made. A week or two later, go again with something else until you build up an arsenal of (ok, well 3-4) healthy dishes!
Putting this together
Ok, so the above 5 tips, while wonderful, aren’t as revolutionary as you’d hoped. Everyone knows nut butter’s a great way to keep your snacking at bay, and I.F. is riddled with people telling you to replace meals with liquid. Well… how about a 5 part diet to go with your 5 tips.
Tomorrow on your way home from work, buy cacao powder, honey, green tea leaves, almond butter, bananas, flour of choice (almond, coconut, rice, etc.) and salad ingredients, and one glass clip top lunch box.
After dinner, make up one batch of chocolate protein bars (recipe here and here), one loaf of banana bread (recipe here), put together your salad (add some homemade dressing, or pesto, or mayonnaise) and pop it in your lunch box.
While the banana bread is in the oven, brew up 2 litres of green tea (you’ll need about 25-30 grams of leaves). Strain out the leaves and add honey to taste. When it has cooled, pour it into an old (clean) water bottle and put it in the fridge. This should keep for 2-3 days.
All of this, when you get the hang of it, should take about an hour (and maybe a few minutes for taking things out of the oven and putting them in the washing machine etc.), which isn’t a huge investment for 2-3 days worth of tea, banana bread, and protein bars (the salad you’ll have to make nightly, but it only takes 5 minutes).
This now means:
• breakfast is either eggs, grapefruit, green juice, or green tea (pick 1)
• sip your sweetened green tea throughout the morning (instead of snacking)
• lunch is a salad with some banana bread
• late afternoon snack is a chocolate protein bar
• dinner as usual and if you’re peckish in the evening have another protein bar
If you want to try this using the iterative method mentioned in point 2, keep your daily eating habits the same and start by changing your breakfast (the first bullet point) and after 3-4 days see how you feel. You can weigh yourself if you like, though we recommend using a weekly photo diary.
Then add in the next bullet point (green tea throughout the morning) and, again, after 3-4 days see how you feel. When you’ve reached changing up dinner, you should have a good idea of how to think in satiety as opposed to calories, which makes life MUCH simpler!
Now for the terrifying truth… if you ate cereal for breakfast (e.g. corn-like flakes with milk), and ate out for lunch (sandwich/bagel + coffee), and had a snack in the afternoon (chocolate bar)… you’ve now cut about 500-600 calories out of your day by switching to the above menu. Many people won’t need this much of a reduction, but it make it clear how simple and effective something like this can be! It’s not too painful, it’s very simple, it’s very healthy, it’s not going to cause your body to go into shock, and it’s highly adjustable. It’s hard to argue with that.