Can you really lose weight eating foods you love?
Is it possible to reach your weight loss goal and improve your relationship with food along the way?
Yes and Yes – I’ve helped many women do just that.
You can see their success here – client results.
Anyone can reach that goal, but everyone is different, and that’s why 1:1 coaching is so valuable.
But one key that we’re focusing on in this post:
The incredible benefits of planning your food
Why is this planning such a good thing to do?
Planning saves brain power.
You don’t need to decide what to eat throughout the day.
You also get to build the habit of keeping promises to yourself.
Every part of the plan that you stick to builds self trust.
Your brain starts to believe that you do what you say you will do.
This builds confidence in your eating habits, and often other areas of your life too.
This is why it’s so important to plan realistically.
Your Habit brain vs your Conscious brain
Don’t worry, we’re not getting into brain science in this post.
To keep things as simple as possible…
There are two main parts of your brain that handle food choices.
The habit brain (amygdala) is the old primitive part of our brain, and where many of our habits are stored.
The conscious brain (prefrontal cortex) is more recently evolved, and is the area we go to when we want to be our best self. Because it’s newer to the party, it’s easily overpowered by the amydala, especially if we become tired or emotional.
Your habit brain is irrational, and cares about pleasure in the moment.
Your conscious brain is logical, and cares about your goals, hopes and dreams.
When you don’t plan food, your conscious brain has to make decisions all day long.
By the end of the day, it’s worn out.
This is when your habit brain takes over and suggests a takeaway, chocolate, cookies, etc.
How to plan for health and weight loss
When you plan food, your conscious brain spends a few minutes writing that plan, and then it gets to spend way less energy over the course of the day.
It’s there if you need it, and you get to enjoy the feeling of doing what you said you would do.
Here are a few examples of what you could be planning.
From a nutrition perspective, we are looking for:
- protein in each meal (as often as possible)
- plenty of veg – half a plateful at dinner is good to aim for
- some fruit – at least 1 or 2 pieces daily
- natural carbs – see the balanced meal plate below
- healthy fats – see the balanced meal plate below
These infographics offer some ideas and structure. It’s a great idea to plan snacks as well as meals.
The more choices you can make ahead of time, the less you have to make decisions later.
For both meals and snacks, base the majority of what you eat on nutritious choices that makes you feel great. And then saving some calories to occasionally enjoy the best of whatever else you love.
Diet mentality – avoid!
When you plan food but you find you’re not sticking to it, this is usually because you’re making a common ‘diet mentality’ mistake.
You’re planning what you think you should be eating, rather than what you actually want to eat.
When you plan a ‘perfect diet’ day and it’s not realistic, your habit brain takes over.
You stray off plan, eat the foods you crave, and then feel guilty.
Then you don’t even want to make a plan because you don’t stick to it.
The other problem with this is that you strengthen the unhelpful connection your brain has with junk foods.
You increase the association of those junk foods with feeling relief, pleasure, and the joy of ‘numbing out’ in the moment.
You also strengthen the belief that you can’t control yourself around them.
Of course this is not helpful.
So we need to do it a different way – actually plan those foods in, so we can retrain the brain.
Planning to lose weight eating the foods you love
The funny thing is, when you plan the foods you think you shouldn’t be eating (but are), the experience is totally different.
Let’s say lately you’ve been ordering pizza when stressed, or eating toast late at night when not really hungry, or chilling out in the evening with a 100g bar of chocolate.
Write that into your plan.
When you do that, instead of seeing ‘a boring healthy meal I should be eating’, your brain sees what you’ve planned and will usually think:
‘Hang on a second… this won’t help me lose weight! And I’ll feel rubbish after. Why are we doing this?’
If you eat the food, that’s fine. Just do it consciously. That’s what we want – training your brain that no foods are off limits.
What tends to happen is that the excitement, guilty pleasure, or ‘zoned out’ feeling fades away.
You’ll find it easier to stop sooner, and the lure of these foods fades.
You’ll still want them, but you’ll be able to plan them in less frequently, and enjoy them more.
When they’re a conscious choice you get to notice each bite without guilt.
And you realise that some foods don’t feel as great as your habit brain thought they did.
To sum up how to lose weight eating foods you love
Planning food, and recording what you eat, brings it to your conscious attention.
Without doing this, you are likely to continue along the same path you probably know well. Doing great for a short time, then getting stuck, without any kind of record that you can use to learn from and make progress.
Often you’ll find you’re (consciously or unconsciously) eating behind your own back.
And although you might not be recording it, your body is.
Paradoxically, food freedom is created from the structure of making a plan.
You can enjoy the foods you love and still lose weight, if you eat when hungry and stop at satisfied.
Depending on what it is and how slowly and mindfully you eat it, satisfied is often a lot less food than we think.
And when you think about what you want – what would genuinely make you feel good – it’s not going to be junk the whole time. We all want to find a balance that makes us feel at our best.
Here are two great books to check out on amazon for understanding how to combine nutrition and mindful eating for weight loss: