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How to go on a diet when you love food!

Are you a foodie?

According to Wikipedia ” A  foodie is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger.”

If you are like most foodies I know, and like me then you love food, you live for it, your day revolves around food and eating! The thought of not being able to eat what you want when you want aka a diet might be necessary, but it just goes against your very nature. This is when I wish I was one of these people who eats to live, not the other way around!

If you appreciate good food, but also like a trim waistline you have a dilemma!

As the saying goes “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” In other words sometimes you have to make a choice between two options that can’t be reconciled. The Russians have a saying “you can’t sit on two chairs” or the German version is “you can’t dance at two weddings”. You have to choose.

So the choice is interesting food or a skinny bum; Well that clearly sucks!  I don’t know about you, but I can’t do that for more than a few days, let alone a month or three months, the time they say it takes to make a new habit.

So what to do?……….hmmmm

Diets require you to change what you eat and when you eat it. Take for instance intermittent fasting (eg 5:2 diet) This means that you “fast” ie. restrict calorie intake for 2 out of every 7 days or keep all your eating to an 8 hour window, thereby extending your overnight “fast” to 16 hours. Some people can do this great, but they are either not foodies, or are very determined!

The other problem with being a foodie is that you are also in all likelihood an individual who seeks out different experiences and hates to conform and be the same as everyone else (aka the mainstream). So while the currently popular and contraversial “Paleo diet” offers a gourmet take on healthy eating (with gourmet price tag), and an overwhelming array of taste tempting recipes on-line (that are crap free), many of us wont to go down that “trendy” path. Don’t even get me started on Isogenix, no self-respecting foodie would go anywhere near it! (or Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers or Light &Easy, we can do better than that, we can cook!)

We are all different

I believe in biochemical individuality; that we are all unique individuals with different health needs. We share a foodie lifestyle in common, but that’s probably where the similarities end. What works for one person isn’t necessarily going to work for another.

I like to think I have a few clues about healthy eating and do so most of the time. But I get a lot of pleasure from food, and I don’t want to dampen my foodie flair!. No doubt you’ve tried a diet or two in the past, most of which revolve around deprivation or starvation.  Diets don’t work, it is better to switch to a healthy eating lifestyle, but how does a foodie sustain that?  I’m not going to tell you about eating right 80% of the time or moderation, losing weight requires a determined and consistent effort, and no cheating. Better to work out your stumbling blocks and come up with a plan of attack, so that you can stick to the plan and not stuff up your good intentions for the millionth time!

My stumbling blocks go something like this, mindless eating, snacking after dinner, and to a lesser extent not being able to restrain myself at social gatherings. Yours could be something like, not being able to have a hot drink without an accompanying bikkie, Nibbling before dinner, fundraiser chocolates, justifying snacking which are “healthy’ and/or “gluten free” and/or “whole foods” (almost all snacking is the enemy of weight loss), and using food as a reward, you deserve it!.

Success plan

When faced with one of these situations you need to know in advance how you are going to navigate it successfully. Here are a few ideas,

Mindless eating – Leftover birthday cake siting on the bench? Get that bad boy out of sight! Serve the others then put it away. It’s not for you. But damn it, why shouldn’t you be able to have some? It’s just one little piece. Yeah, but one piece becomes another piece, maybe not right away but the next day, before you know it you’ve scoffed the lot!  If no one else is going to eat it, get rid of it (it’s not a waste, the waste is what you’ve done to your self-esteem and hips by finishing it off). If others are going to eat it then you must tell yourself “it’s not for you, its poison”, well it is because you are going to feel bad if you eat it. The short term deliciousness will turn into long term disgust. Be strong, step away from the cake! Don’t reward yourself with food.

Speaking of which, it’s been a long day. You deserve a drink or some chocolate.  Before you know it you’ve drank that glass and are reaching for another! One glass of red is ok, it’s even good for you, but not every day and not more than one, especially if you are a bit overweight, have a jiggly belly or oestrogen dominance. The issue here is feeling like you deserve a reward at the end of the day, and what better treat than the sensory delight of something yummy. Sister, if you are trying to lose weight then YOU need a different treat! That treat is going to be different for each of us. Can I suggest a massage at the end of a week of being good. How about a bunch of flowers or a new book.

If you slip up, and you will, don’t stress, just pick yourself up and do better tomorrow. To slip up once is an accident, to slip up twice in a row means you are out of control, and that’s not a good feeling. You must acknowledge this and vow to do better. The making of a man (woman) is not whether he falls, its how he gets back up again.

If you’re nibbling before dinner then you need to identify if it is true hunger or habit. If it is hunger you need to look at your breakfast and lunch. Either or both of these meals has not been balanced. You need protein, good fats, vegetables and minimal or no starches/sugars (depending on how much weight you have to lose or how quickly you want to lose it) in each meal. If the gap between lunch and dinner is more than 4-5 hours then you need something sensible to tide you over. If you go longer than this without sustenance, you may be able to hold out for a little while, but hunger will get the better of you and you’ll grab the closest naughty food and probably overeat it.  A sensible choice would be to have a mini meal half way between lunch and dinner (protein, good fat and veg (fibre) – eg nuts and cheese, or crudités and a healthy non-starchy dip like guacamole, or one of my flaxseed carrot muffins). Don’t concern yourself with counting calories, the only thing you really need to keep track of is how many grams of carbohydrate (minus grams of fibre) you are eating and keep it under 50 for the day (or 20 if you have more than 10kgs to lose).

If your nibbling is habit, then you need to find a NEW HABIT, or at least keep your hands busy. Do a crossword, knit, go for a walk, or anything that either engages your concentration or gets you out of the house (kitchen). Don’t sit on the computer, scroll Facebook or watch TV, these activities lend themselves to mindless nibbling, and as we know sitting is bad for you!

After dinner “close” the kitchen and brush your teeth, if you are struggling to stay away from the pantry try a glass of water or a cup of tea and set a mental timer for 20 minutes (or set a timer on your phone or oven). It’s been scientifically proven that most cravings only last about 20 minutes.  If you are still craving, think about what you are craving, it might indicate an actual deficiency or a blood sugar issue, in which case seek some professional guidance. Have another glass of water and set that timer again. I’ll be surprised if you can still be bothered getting the food after that!

My best tips for social gatherings and restaurant meals are – don’t arrive hungry (have a small sensible meal (protein and fibre or good fats, before you go). Usually these occasions are scheduled, so have this pre- meal meal planed and organized. Don’t skip an earlier meal so you can justify eating what you want at dinner, it will backfire because by the time the food arrives you’ll be so hungry you might go crazy! Pass on the bread basket (garlic pizza etc). Start with a whole glass of water, decide in advance that you will have one course or two, you don’t need three. If you love dessert then have it, but know this in advance and skip the cream laden pasta dish or fried entrée. If you eat out all the time you have a problem. You really will have to have the salad!

None of this is rocket science, and I don’t profess to know the answers, but it IS about making a conscious decision to not fall prey to the lure of food, and taking control of your destiny.

What’s your stumbling block, and what is your plan for the next time it presents itself?

Take the Foodie pledge to have your cake and eat it too. Use your brain, eat smarter, and if you succumb, vow to do better next time.

“If you focus on results you won’t change, if you focus on change, you’ll get results”.

Try my guilt free cake recipe: Carrot Flaxseed Muffins (hover your mouse here and click)