I sincerely believe that getting slim can be a very enjoyable experience. First and foremost, nothing feels better than finally looking the way you've always wanted to or shopping for the clothes you've always dreamed of wearing, but never had the guts to. In addition to the visual benefits of changing shapes, becoming healthier day by day is another benefit that, in many ways, overweighs all the other pro's.
Surprisingly (or not), achieving your goal weight is not about counting calories, skipping entire food groups or exercising for hours - none of these are natural, thus they never work long-term. So what does? Having worked with weight issues for years (over a decade, to be precise), I've develop a few simple rules that can help...
Here are my top 12...
Slim body is the well-nourished body, not the one that's been starved. Dieting can affect you in several ways. First of all, as soon as the idea of deprivation kicks in, your mind goes into "now-or-never" mode leading to yo-yo dieting and overeating. Physically, when the body is not getting the nutrients requires for maintaining its functions and energy levels, it can go into "starvation" mode, which results in lower metabolic rate and chemical reactions that cause fat storage, cravings and hormonal imbalances.
Rethink the way you eat and make healthy eating a life-long habit, learn to re-connect with your body, listen and understand its signals whether it comes to food choices, meal times and specific nutrients and flavours. Eat with your mind.
WATCH PORTION SIZES
This is one of the most important rules because even the healthiest foods should be consumed in certain quantities.
Your meal should fit into palms of your hands folded into a cup shape (this is roughly the size of your stomach). The serving of fish, poultry of meat is equal to the size of your palm, grains and pasta - a fist (60g dry weight), oils and butters - about a teaspoon, cheese - a small matchstick box (30-50g), a fruit - a size of a tennis ball (about 180g), while a potato - a size of a computer mouse (about 100g)
DON'T SKIP THE CARBS
Unlike what you often hear, eating grains can help you lose weight, just choose the wholegrain kind, stick with gluten-free options as much as possible (rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat) and watch the portion sizes.
Pure and natural wholegrain will supply your body with fiber as well as vitamins and minerals essential for energy production and healthy thyroid function. Visually, they help you achieve that beautiful lean, but strong look you are after. Aim for about 45% carbohydrates in your daily diet - from grains, vegetables and a couple of fruits.
FORGET THE LOW-FAT
Eating processed food made to be low-fat is never a good idea. First of all, the lack of fat will negatively affect production of hormones and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin D that is essential for successful weight loss. In addition, fat enhances the flavour, so you feel satisfied with a smaller quantity.
On a contrary, when the fat is removed, it is replaced by thickeners, flavour enhances and sugar or artificial sweeteners to trick your body into thinking you are eating the real thing, so it's worth mentioning a study published in Journal of behavioural Neuroscience in 2011, according to which moving from the low-fat diet to the regular one will not only cause weight gain, but also make it difficult to control the amount of fat you'll put on because fat substitutes may interfere with the body's natural ability to predict a content of a particular food based on texture, taste and smell.
As the rule of thumb, if we are talking about foods that exist in nature in their fat-free/low-fat form, such as egg white or chicken breast - eat them. If it's a fat-free yoghurt, low-fat cheese or reduced-fat butter - leave them for those who still believe in dieting.
AVOID SUGAR & PROCESSED FOODS
These are the worst things you can eat unless, of course, you absolutely hate your body and want it to suffer.
CHECK FOOD LABELS
I cannot stress enough how important it is to read food labels - do not trust "natural" or "free from" claims - check the label to see exactly what the product was made with. Some of the best examples - currently popular almond milk that is often made with added sugar, agave syrup (vs raw nectar) and carrageenan or gluten-free pasta that includes thickeners, maize and concoctions of additives. Spend time doing your "research" to find the foods and manufacturers you can trust - it won't take long.
Although drinking water for maintaining optimum health isn't something new, the results of the study first published in Journal of the Americal Dietetic Association in 2008 and then followed by a more detailed research presented during American Chemical Society in 2010, showed that adults who drunk a glass of water 20 minutes before each meal not only lost 44% more weight compared to "non-drinkers", but also managed to keep weight off the following year while the "thirsty" group gained about 2 pounds.
Have a glass of water before breakfast, lunch and dinner, carry some with you wherever you go and sip throughout the day. Yes, it's simple, but it is one of those things the body cannot live without.
Use this calculator to determine how much water you need to drink.
SIP GREEN TEA
The benefits of green tea are unquestionable. It may not be a panacea, but it certainly is one of the nature's most wonderful gifts.
Green tea is rich in catching including epigallocatechin gallate, one of the most active form of the polyphenols that can improve reduction of body weight and body fat in particular, especially around your waist. The positive changes can be further increased by moderate physical activity and foods high in vitamin E, C, omega-3 fats, resveratrol (think grapes, blueberries and raw cocoa) and lycopene (tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon) as they will support the liver's ability to metabolise fat, according to American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
ENJOY WHAT YOU EAT
It's simple - if you don't like what you eat, no matter how hard you try, you will not be able to stick to your diet for life. True, your taste buds will need about a month to get used to the new, and natural, flavours, but eating healthy and well is also about attitude, creativity and pleasure.
Some say it takes up to 20 trials before you begin to like a new food, so do not give up and keep reminding yourself why you are doing this (again - not to be slim or to be healthy, but because being healthy means... [add your reasons here])
This is why I suggest that people approach healthy eating step by step, through finding recipes and flavours they enjoy, then adding new ideas and foods as their diet improves.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Eat with your mind and learn to establish cues and signs, so you will only eat when you are actually hungry, not when you are stressed, upset, tired, bored or want a hug. Any craving is a sign that you are either not getting the nutrients your body needs or have an emotion-driven reason to overindulge and compensate for something.
It is very important to leave a room for special treats. All you need to do is to understand which foods are your daily necessities and which ones must be left for a special occasion. If you eat well most of the time, it's absolutely normal (and healthy for the mind!) to enjoy an ice-cream or a piece of cake. Do not ever feel guilty about it - enjoy, watch the quantity and find the best quality you can get (for example, a couple of scoops of organic ice-cream or home-made cake vs glucose-fructose syrup, carrageenan, colourings and additives filled concoction that does't even melt in the sun - true story, by the way)
STOP EATING AFTER 7PM
Ask any Russian girl what her diet secret is and they will all tell you about not eating after 7pm. We've done it for decades without really knowing why, but simply because it was the simplest and easiest way to maintain and even lose weight. Scientifically it can be explained as a form of intermittent fasting that, unlike trying not to eat anything during a day, doesn't cause overeating or low energy, and, best of all, requires any effort whatsoever. The rule is to leave about 12 hours between your dinner one day and your breakfast next morning, plus at least 2 hours before bed time.
Photo source: Christy Turlington & Linda Evangelista photographed by Patrick Demarchelier for Harper's Bazaar US May 1995