I've never been able to stick to a diet plan before, too restrictive, too boring, too expensive.. my main problem has always been how often I eat out; I don't want to be the person in the restaurant asking if their soup has double or single cream in it.
So, I have devised my own plan, taking bits of well-known advice, some less well-known (respected) advice, and a few things I'm doing because they suit me. Hey, maybe it will be the key to weight loss and I'll end up writing a diet book. You heard it here first.
- Your weight is mostly determined by how many calories you eat. Exercise helps, but unless you have time to spend three hours a day exercising, you are going to have to watch what you eat. Some people may disagree with this, but from personal experience, my body shape stays pretty much the same irrespective of the gym
- Caffeine is not necessarily bad for you. A few cups of tea or coffee, or cans of diet coke, a day are not going to kill you. They might help you control your appetite and caffeine can have a fat burning effect. So just don't overdo it
- Fruit is only good for you when consumed with something less sweet. Apples, oranges, berries.. they all make my blood sugar spike and rapidly fall, leaving me hungrier than before. I find apples are the worst. Fruit is touted as healthy when actually, it is full of sugar and acid that erodes the enamel on your teeth. Far better to have more vegetables and have fruit as a healthy dessert
- Snacking between meals is also bad. For someone like me, it's easier to completely forgo the snacks and just deal with the hunger. Have a cup of tea. Drink a glass of water. Chew some gum. The snacks will likely make you hungrier
- Wine is not all bad. Some days I really want a drink with dinner. Most diets cut out alcohol entirely but I think this is unnecessary. Instead, have a glass with dinner, but have at least a couple of days a week with no alcohol
- Allow yourself a small, low calorie treat a day. This could be a few squares of chocolate, a nibble of cake (if you have the willpower to keep it to a nibble!), or for me, Shapers chocolate or caramel yoghurts. They're around 120 calories but super sweet. Mini Milks are also a good option and only 30 calories each
- Know when to make sacrifices. If you know you are going for a big dinner, try and skip lunch to save on the calories. This is easier on the weekend when you can also breakfast later. Initially skipping meals may not sound sensible but emerging advice about the benefits of short-term fasting suggest this may not be completely crazy
- Don't overdo it on the weekend. It's easy to be strict and ordered during the week when you're at work, only to blow it all on the weekend. Don't adopt an 'all or nothing' approach at the weekend, try and keep your diet healthy for at least two out of the three meals a day, and know when to cut back (see above)
Now, I'm not saying this is the perfect diet and that you should follow it. I'm only just testing it myself. I've listed some standard week day meal options below. On the weekends, I tend to eat whatever I fancy, but in smaller portions.
- Greek yoghurt with mixed berries, a small handful of nuts and a squeeze of honey (Greek yoghurt is thicker than natural yoghurt and has more protein, so helps keep you feel fuller for longer. Nuts are also good for protein. Berries provide one of your five a day and make this feel like more of a treat. Honey is good for warding off colds and takes the edge off the berries)
- Healthy carrot cake muffins (I'll try and get round to posting the recipe at some point. But basically, they're made with whole wheat flour, dessicated coconut and yoghurt. Whole wheat flour keeps your blood sugar levels more stable than white flour, the dessicated coconut adds sweetness and fat and the yoghurt provides moisture and fat. There is still some butter and oil in this recipe but less than in traditional carrot cakes)
- Microwave scrambled eggs (super quick and easy, crack two eggs into a bowl, add a splash of milk and whisk with a fork. Season with salt and pepper, and add some seasoning if you like. I usually go for paprika or cayenne pepper. Stick in the microwave and zap on high for about a minute and a half, pausing halfway to give them a quick stir with your fork)
- Low carb salad (basically, any fresh vegetables you have lying around the kitchen and some protein. I usually include some kind of lettuce, chicken / prawns / chorizo [please note: higher fat than other options] / tuna, along with cucumber, peppers, onion, spring onion, shredded carrots, avocado, quartered tomatoes... Also experiment with adding fruit for a sweet touch, such as grapefruit, pears, apples, mango. To dress, either use lemon juice, mustard, red/white wine / balsamic vinegar. Steer clear of shop bought dressings and anything using oil. That includes mayonnaise)
- Omelette (two egg omelette, jazzed up with a filling such as chorizo, mushrooms, peppers or onions. Serve with a large green salad and balsamic vinegar)
- Grilled fish / meat with salsa (try to get used to eating your regular meals but without the serving of carbs. For me, that means a piece of grilled fish wish a bit of garlic and chilli, along with a simple salsa made from quartered cherry tomatoes, avocado, spring onions and sweet corn. I would usually have rice with this, but instead make more salsa or have a green salad)
- Soup (soup can be quite high in carbs however as this is primarily about eating lower calorie foods, I think soup fits the bill perfectly. I usually have it with some carrot sticks and low fat hummus on the side)
- 'Spaghetti' Bolognaise (this doesn't have to be really high in calories. I use finely sliced courgette for the pasta, boiled briefly in salted water. Make sure you drain it well. For the bolognaise, use extra lean mince and tip out the fat as you brown it. Bulk up the sauce with lots of vegetables, such as fresh tomatoes, small pieces of pepper, celery, carrot)
So, that's a brief look at what I eat during the week. Weekends are far more varied - last weekend included pancakes, croissants and lobster. It's all about knowing when to make sacrifices, food-wise, to make up for calorie consumption later that day.
Anyway, if all goes to plan you will be seeing pictures of a newly svelte me... I'll keep you posted.