You want to lose weight and be healthy, but…there’s always something making it difficult!
Holidays, social events, birthdays, meals out, Christmas and all the parties that entails…
It’s tough right?!
Life constantly presents us with temptations to have a few drinks, a scrumptious-looking piece of cake, a nice dinner with friends or family. Sometimes we just reeaally want to sit on the sofa and have some chocolate.
Is it possible to do those things and still lose weight?
To actually be successful with weight loss long term, it’s really important to be able to include the food and drink you love now and again, without feeling guilty or like you’ve messed up.
So many women are stuck in a cycle of dieting, losing a bit of weight, ‘falling off the wagon’, eating and drinking EVERYTHING, putting all the weight back on, feeling rubbish, and starting all over again.
To put it bluntly, this sucks.
Let’s face it. There will never be a time when it’s easy to avoid cake, wine, chocolate and meals out.
Sometimes, you WANT to just relax and have these things.
And SOMETIMES, you can.
The key of course is the word ‘sometimes’.
If you want to lose weight, be healthy and feel at your best, you can’t indulge every time you feel like it.
Everyone has to be disciplined at times, and everyone who is in great shape has built a habit of saying ‘no’ when sometimes they’d really like to say ‘oh go on then’.
But you can definitely fit one or two of your favourite indulgences in on an average week, and this should hopefully help you enjoy life without feeling overly restricted or deprived.
I’m a big fan of chocolate, puddings and the odd afternoon tea myself, and will show you here the best ways to find that balance, fit in what you love, and still be fit, healthy, and fit your favourite clothes in the process.
So how do we do this?
First off, we need to understand a bit about calories…
Calories are what make the difference above everything else when it comes to weight loss.
Sugar, fat, chocolate, bread, alcohol and anything else will NOT make you gain weight by themselves – it’s only if you consume too many TOTAL calories that this will happen.
You don’t need to count every calorie, but it will help you enormously to become more aware of them.
Here are a few tips on how to be more calorie-conscious:
- Check the label on what you’re buying, and compare to other similar or alternative options
- Check the label for what a ‘serving size’ of rice, pasta or cereal is, and measure it out (I guarantee it will be a lot less than you thought!)
- Download the ‘my fitness pal’ app on your phone, and use it to look up any foods you’re unsure of. The app has a very handy bar code scanning function using the camera of your phone that can instantly give you nutrition info of whatever you’re looking at.
- If you’re eating at a chain restaurant, have a look on their website or menu to see if they list calories for meals (places like Harvester, Costa, Starbucks and Pizza Express have nutrition charts on their website, while Nando’s and Zizzi’s have good online menus showing lower calorie options)
Just by becoming more aware, making a few swaps and adjusting portion sizes when necessary, you can save yourself a lot of unnecessary calories over time.
This will make your weight loss a lot easier, and enable you to be more relaxed with other choices when you want to be.
It has been proven time and time again that most of us consume far more than we think we do.
We underestimate portion sizes…snack without realising… eat some of our partners food… take the chocolate / biscuit / free food sample we are offered… finish off the kids dinner… taste-test when cooking… forget that most drinks contain calories… forget that oils, fats and dressing contain a LOT of calories… eat past the point of being full… the list goes on.
It’s so easy to over-consume in the abundant world we live in.
The more aware you become of this though, the more you can eat just what your body actually wants and needs.
A lot of our over-consumption is down to mindless eating – simply not paying attention to what we are putting in our mouths.
We eat while watching TV, or scrolling through facebook, or reading an article online, or trying to get just a little more work done.
We are all busy, but we can all take a few minutes to be fully present when we eat.
Have a rule that you’re not going to do anything else when eating a meal other than sit and enjoy your food (talking to family or friends is allowed too).
If you find yourself about to eat anything outside of meal times – stop and check that it’s because you’re actually hungry, not just because it’s habit, or because someone just offered it to you, or because you’re tired / stressed / thirsty etc.
‘Why did I do THAT?!’
Ever had one of those moments where you were tired or stressed, and ended up snacking on junk, inexplicably eating at McDonalds, or ordering a pizza when you were supposed to be having a healthy dinner?
Yep, we’ve all been there…
Planning can be your biggest help here – if you plan your meals and factor in one or two snacks, you don’t need to make any other decisions throughout the day. You just follow your eating plan. Any other foods that appear or get offered to you can be politely refused.
Often when we have so many decisions to make in a day, we get ‘decision-fatigue’ and make poor choices when it comes to food. Make your plan before-hand, follow it through, and you’ll find it much easier to stop little extras creeping in.
And you’ll be less likely to make a ‘bad’ meal choice too – if it’s planned and you’ve got what you need, you just eat that and crack on with your day.
How to look and feel AMAZING
Now we’ve snipped away at some of those extra calories creeping in, we want to make sure that what’s left is mostly the real good stuff – gorgeous healthy foods that nourish and support your body, and allow you to look, and perform at your best.
Healthy eating to fuel your awesome body means:
Protein – 2 – 4 servings each day. Lean meat, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu, tempeh, lentils, beans, pulses and whey protein powder are all good options.
Plenty of fruit and veg – throughout the day, especially vegetables. These contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that will support your body in processing the ‘naughty’ stuff.
Healthy fats – 1 – 3 servings each day. Eggs, avocado, oily fish, coconut oil, olive oil, flaxseed, nuts, seeds are all good options. Just be aware of portion sizes. If you get them in most days to ensure optimum health, fats can be reduced to save calories on the day you’re eating out.
Healthy carbs – 1 – 2 each day – these will give you slow release energy. Oats, potato (sweet or white), rice, quinoa, beans and pulses are all good choices here.
These are just guidelines to follow – you don’t need to follow them perfectly every day, just aim to be close most of the time. Other foods like bread, pasta, milk and cheese are fine too if your body has no problems with them. Anything is fine in moderation.
Many women don’t get enough protein, and avoid healthy fats for fear of gaining fat. This can often leave you low on energy, hungry and craving sugar instead.
A good way to flip the dieting mindset on it’s head is to focus on all the amazing foods you can ADD IN, rather than what you are taking away.
Get enough of the foods above, and they will leave your body nourished, energised, fuller for longer, and better able to deal with the odd indulgence too.
Here’s an example of a delicious healthy day from my client Caz.
How would you feel eating a day of food like this?
How to fit in the indulgences
Just to point this out first… Ideally, we want to be in a place where we really enjoy eating healthy foods, in the right amount for us, and don’t feel like we’re missing out. We don’t want to be indulging just for the hell of it, or counting down the days until we get to have pizza.
This should all fit in to a lifestyle that you enjoy and that leaves you looking and feeling at your best.
If most weeks all you want to keep you happy is a few glasses of wine or some chocolate, you can totally fit that in 2 or 3 nights a week.
Keep your meals healthy so you get your protein, plenty of veggies and some fruit. Try to get one good serving of healthy fats in there too, like a bit of salmon, a couple of eggs, or half an avocado.
Then you could allocate maybe 150-250 calories of chocolate or wine for the evening – this will be a standard individual size bar or about a quarter of a 100g bar of chocolate, or a couple of small glasses of wine.
If you wanted to make sure you have room for that, you could have one less snack earlier on, or just swap out your carbs at dinner for extra veggies. You don’t always need to do this, but if you think it balance your day out a bit better for calories, it’s a useful swap to make that still ensures your body gets all the nutrients it needs too.
Often if we’re out meeting friends, we might want a piece of cake. Depending on your choice here, you could easily end up eating 500-600 calories – about the same amount as having an extra meal. Every now and again of course this is ok, but you can do a few things to balance it out.
Cake is mainly carbs and fat, so reducing the amount of carbs and fats you eat in the rest of your day will help. Keep protein and veggies high, so your meals are just a bit ‘lighter’, but still healthy and filling. Yogurt with berries, tuna salad and a chicken or prawn stir fry are all good meal options here. It’s a good day to be active too – there’s not a lot better than cake with friends followed (or preceded by) a nice walk 🙂
Meals out and Takeaways
With higher calorie indulgences like restaurant meals and takeaways, it helps a lot to plan ahead again.
Have a look at the week coming up.
If there’s a social event that you’d like to splash out some calories on, you know that the rest of the time you’ll need to eat well and keep active to balance things out.
If there’s more than one or two potentially indulgent events, you’ll need to have a think about where you’re going to be healthy, and where you might want to relax a bit.
Or, if it’s a big meal out or takeaway where you want to just completely relax, and you know it’s A LOT of calories involved, you might just want to make that the one indulgence you have.
This was the enormous steak, shared bowl of chips and courgette / goats cheese sides (followed by chocolate brownie ice cream sundae!) that I had recently. A good example of splashing out the calories! The dinner was amazing. I made sure the rest of the week was pretty healthy and calorie-balanced, and made sure to really enjoy the meal on the night. Ate a bit lighter the next day (was still pretty full from all the protein anyway!), carried on keeping active, and all was well 🙂
The three Devils
This analogy comes from my friend and fellow coach Tara, and is a great way to enjoy some of what you fancy while still keeping yourself fairly on track.
The 3 devils are parts of your typical meal out or takeaway night in, that feel a bit ‘naughty’ and can add a lot of calories…
- Carbs – bread, chips, pasta, roast potatoes
Which of those do you really want to have?
For me, it’s always dessert! I love nothing more than a sticky toffee pudding or gooey chocolate brownie to finish off a meal… But what about you?
If you really fancy pizza, pasta, or a burger and chips, avoid alcohol and pudding (you’ll probably be full anyway…) or just go for a light fruit salad or sorbet to finish off the meal.
If you’d really love some wine or a pudding, skip the carbs and look for a main meal with protein and loads of veg.
Options here could be steak, fish, or chicken with salad or extra veggies (no chips).
Whichever devil you choose to have, savour it and enjoy every mouthful.
Focus on what you ARE having (and how much better you’ll feel tomorrow) rather than what you’re choosing NOT to have. And remember you have the choice.
You’re choosing to sacrifice a little bit of short term pleasure for the long term joy of a fit and healthy body that you’re proud of. That’s a powerful thing.
An example of a compromise in your takeaway –
Going for chicken tikka (dry), steamed rice, a vegetable dish, and just one or two poppadums
Essentially, keep mindful of what you’re eating. It all counts in your body, so just make sure it’s worth it, you enjoy it, and you don’t regret it after!
Eat light earlier on in the day
I’ve mentioned this earlier when discussing cake (something I often enjoy doing..!), and it helps even more so with big dinners.
Here’s a great example of this from my online client Nicola.
Nicola wanted a Chinese takeaway for dinner, so went for light, healthy, high-protein meals earlier in the day. Yogurt and fruit for breakfast. A salad with tuna (chicken is another good option) for lunch.
With the takeaway, Nicola picked the best options she was happy to choose. She avoided dishes with calorific sauces, and just had a couple of spring rolls to get a nice taste of them. It was still a big plate of yummy takeaway food and still very much enjoyed, without the greasy and stuffed feeling that often comes after having too much. That = win.
Be strategic with alcohol
If you really love a glass or two of your favourite tipple in the evening, you’re not alone!
As I mentioned, there are ways to fit it in, but swapping out a bit of nutritious food every day and replacing them with empty calories from alcohol isn’t a great long term solution for optimal health.
Most people prefer to drink at the weekends, so it could help to make it a habit that you don’t drink in the week. Save it for a nice wind down or meal out on Friday or Saturday night.
It’s also worth having an idea of how many calories you’re drinking, and seeing if there’s any swaps you could make.
Measurements and exact amounts will vary, but here’s an approximate idea of the calories in some popular alcohol choices:
1 medium glass wine = 150 calories
1 glass prosecco = 80 calories
1 G&T = 120 calories
1 slimline G&T = 60 calories
1 pint lager = 180 calories
1 pint 5% beer = 215 calories
So depending on what you currently have and enjoy, swapping to prosecco or slimline G&T could be a helpful move to make.
As mentioned earlier, alcohol can replace carbs in your evening meal if you really fancy a drink to go with dinner. It’s not advisable to swap food for wine every night, but if you were going to have pasta / potato / rice, you could leave them out, have more veggies instead, a good serving of protein and then a drink too.
Low-calorie sweet fixes
When you really fancy something sweet, and berries with yogurt just doesn’t cut it, there are a few alternatives that can be helpful.
These choices are low calorie (as long as you don’t have loads of them!), very tasty, and can sometimes give that bit of sweetness that you need to help stay on track.
Oppo ice cream – I always have a tub of the salted caramel version in my freezer. It’s delicious! 38 calories per scoop, and made from milk, coconut oil, stevia and natural sweetener, so it’s not full of artificial ingredients either.
Options / Cadbury highlights hot chocolate. Per serving, this is 38-40 calories, and a great alternative when you fancy a regular hot chocolate or just a soothing ‘sweet fix’.
Dark chocolate rice cakes – can be a satisfying snack to help keep chocolate cravings at bay
Dark chocolate – 1-2 squares, or a mini Green and Blacks bar. Just that little bit of what you fancy – it’s a small amount, so savour it – let it melt on your tongue, notice how delicious that taste is, and then carry on with your day knowing you can have a bit more tomorrow 🙂
Do activity you enjoy, and do it often
The more active you can be, the fitter, healthier and stronger you will be (most important!) AND the more calories your body will burn, meaning you’ll be able to eat or drink a bit more without gaining weight.
There are SO many ways you can be active, and it’s important that you choose activities you’re happy to keep doing. Signing up for the gym is a brilliant idea, but not if you know you’ve been there before, didn’t like the environment, and have to really force yourself to go every time.
Lifting weights is a brilliant activity to start doing, and will dramatically boost your metabolism over time, as well as improve bone density, confidence, muscle tone and more. I’ve written more about that HERE.
Any activity is good though – classes, dancing, hiking, cycling, whatever gets you moving and feeling good.
Walking 10,000 steps a day is a great place to start. I’d highly recommend a fitbit or similar gadget to keep track of your steps. As a rough guide, an hour of walking equates to around 6000 steps.
All the little bits you do in a normal day count, but unless you’re literally moving around all day, 30-60 minutes of deliberate walking would be a great idea to boost your total.
TO SUM UP…
Life is for living (not dieting, or stressing about your weight!). You absolutely CAN enjoy your favourite foods and drinks at times and have a healthy body you’re proud of. These are the key points to remember:
Have a knowledge of calories – you don’t need to count every single one, but be aware and check packages or look things up when you’re unsure
Make meal planning a habit – so you know what you’re having and make it much easier for yourself to keep on track
Practice mindful eating – so you get to consciously enjoy everything you eat, and don’t take in more than your body needs
Plan in your big indulgences – then enjoy nourishing your body with healthy foods the rest of the time
Keep looking at your day as a whole – rather than just focusing on individual meals. Remember you can always make adjustments elsewhere so that things balance out over the week.
Be active regularly in ways you enjoy – 10,000 steps is a great daily activity target.
Remember you always have the power to choose whatever you want. If most of the time you choose health, you can really enjoy the occasional ‘less healthy’ choice while still nourishing your body, losing weight, and feeling great.
And if you ever feel like you’ve gone overboard, don’t worry or feel you’ve screwed up so may as well start again on Monday. Just make your next choice a great one, and carry on from there.