Wednesday, August 14, 2013

9 Diet Rules To Help You Lose Weight

photo credit: shahin ghaffari via photopin cc
After years of trying to "go on a diet" and never managing to stick with it for more than a couple of weeks I stopped trying to find a diet and decided to figure out how to eat right. A diet is a short term proposition. Eating right is a life style. Over the years I've discovered what works for me. This is not a comprehensive list of everything that should be considered. It's a list of a few of the rules that help me to eat right and make good decisions about food on a daily basis.

Eat real food. I define "real food" as food that has little or no processing and as close to original form as possible. It means things that grow out of the ground, things picked from trees and things that walk, fly or swim. It means choosing an orange over orange juice. It means whole grains over white flour. It means looking at the list of ingredients and not choosing products with lists of chemicals, HFCS and partially hydrogenated oils. Better yet it means mostly choosing foods that don't require an ingredients list in the first place.

Learn to cook. You think you don't have the skills, the time, the energy, the patience or [enter excuse here]? Get over it! The only way to really know what you're eating and have control over your diet is to make it yourself. I'm not saying that you should never go out to eat. I'm saying that most of the time you should be making your own meals with ingredients that are real food (see previous paragraph). I know some people think "cooking" means you have to be following some complicated recipe or that your efforts should resemble something on the food network. Not true. Cooking just means that you make the food yourself from real ingredients. It can be as simple as putting together a salad or a bowl of oatmeal and berries. You see? You're a cook and you didn't even know it. :)

Get rid of the junk. Get rid of the food that doesn't qualify as "real food". Just get rid of it. Don't feel like you have to finish the package of cookies, bag of chips, use that brownie mix or whatever. Just toss it and don't bring any more of it into the house. Life is much easier when you don't have junk food in the house. 

Make your own junk food. Sometimes you really want something decadent and maybe not so healthy. The way I deal with this is that if I want it, I have to make it from scratch. It's a good rule for a couple of reasons. First, whatever you make, you use real ingredients. It will not be filled with all those nasty chemicals like the restaurant or store bought version. Second, it's more work and usually more expensive to make it yourself. This means that if you're going to have that junk food it's a commitment. You have to really want it. This approach forces you to be more conscious about your choice.

Measure and weigh your food. I know a lot of people really hate the idea of doing this. I don't advocate weighing and measuring everything you  eat or doing it all the time. However, I think it's worth it in some cases. In particular, this applies to things like grains, nuts and oils. Even if it's whole wheat pasta or brown rice, grains are high in carbs. When it comes to nuts and oils, they can be healthy fats, but fat is packed with calories. Measuring and weighing can help you to stay on track. Try measuring other foods from time to time as well. It helps you learn what a serving size looks like. Despite our good intentions, it can be way too easy to misjudge portion size

Load up on green vegetables. Green vegetables are your friends! Eat them raw or prepare with minimal cooking. Eat them plain or with spices and add fat sparingly (a little avocado or olive oil) and you can pretty much eat as much kale, spinach, broccoli, collard greens, etc. as you want. They're loaded with vitamins and minerals, fiber and anti-oxidants and they're low in calories. 

Be aware of calories, but don't obsess. Do the research and get a general idea of how many calories you should be consuming on a daily basis. Consider logging your food at least periodically. Initially this will tell you how many calories you're typically consuming so you can get a base line and decide if you need to make adjustments. Later it will help you stay on track to check in from time to time. When you're not getting the results you think you should from a diet and exercise routine food logging can help you see where your diet might not be as good as you thought.

Minimize or eliminate artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are one of those things that can fall below the radar since they're considered a good dieter's alternative to sugar. However, they are chemicals, not real food. There are a lot of questions about their safety as well as plenty of studies out that show their negative impact on weight loss. Trying to trick the body with fake sugar ultimately doesn't work. Focus instead on retraining your taste buds. Once your stop adding sweeteners to your food you start to notice how sweet real food (fruit in particular) can be.

Watch the sodium. This is something that I started doing because I was noticing how sodium negatively impacts the way I feel. Not to mention that too much salt makes the body retain water. One of the biggest changes I've made around this is that I rarely eat canned foods anymore. I even started making my own soups. This recipe black bean soup recipe is one of my favorites. The good news is that for the most part, if you're eating real food, the salt in your diet will tend to go down automatically.

Following these rules can help make your diet decisions easier and turn eating right into something  you can sustain long term. When you really understand how to eat right you have the control you need to lose weight  and then maintain your weight loss.

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