It seems a little weird to me that with all the information on weight-loss and dieting available these days there are still a lot of people (and I know some personally), who still thinks that eating little or strict dieting can help them lose weight. That may be, only for a short period of time, until we get off our diets and gain twice as much weight as we have lost. People still seek (and find!) ways to suppress their hunger no matter how longs it’s been since they’ve eaten their last ‘meal’. But why? Should we ever try and fight our hunger?
For a disclaimer I have to say that I am not advocating against all diets and fasting, there are some that can benefit when undertaken sensibly, but as for diets – instead of dieting there is a better thing to do – change your eating habits, not just temporarily, but forever.
But let’s start over and look at all the myths and options.
“Don’t let the hunger take over! You’re strong, you can fight it”. This is one of the inspirational speeches I still see on the Internet from time to time. And also the biggest nonsense. You can’t fight your hunger, the only way to cure it is to eat. Plus, no appetite suppressants will do you good if you eat few calories a day. 1200 calories a day is a must for your system and body to function properly. But there is a difference between 1200 calories from lean protein, fruit and vegs eaten throughout the day or just one BigMac meal with chips and Coke. Fullness doesn’t come from calories alone, so review your calorie intake.
So, to successfully lose weight we have to eat, and eat well! Eating well doesn’t mean eating big calorific meals; it means small and healthy meals. No dieting, just healthy eating. Most diets will make you lose your muscles as well as fat, but the fat will come back as soon as you’re back to your previous eating habits, but muscles will not. Some girls will say “The hell with it as long as I look thin”, but having no muscle is not healthy! It puts a lot of stress on bones and joints, causing a lot of problems you don’t want. If you want to lose weight and stay healthy there are only two ways of achieving it, and one cannot exist without the other. They are eating clean and exercising.
Rule No. 1 – Eat regularly.
I have some friends – oh, not just some friends, even my mom falls into this group – who eat a small breakfast (usually a ham & cheese sandwich, or less) before going to work, then have a sandwich and tea at lunch and then a proper meal at dinner, after work, which might be as late as 10 in the evening. And they wonder why they are the same weight or gain weight, if they eat so little. As said many times by me and everywhere else, slow metabolism is the one to blame. No, actually, there’s nothing and no one to blame, but themselves. By eating so little and so seldom, they put their organism into starvation mode, when it starts saving up every gram of fat it has and gets. To get rid of that fat, it is essential to eat at least five small meals, spaced no farther than 3 hours between each other.
If you eat little throughout the day, it will undoubtedly lead to a great hunger at night, when you will have no choice but to indulge yourself. And then you will go to bed, your metabolism will slow down and all the calories you’ve eaten will be stored as fat. Is that what you want? No. So,
- Have a good breakfast. Never ever try to skip it! Even if you don’t have time for it, have at least something. But ideally you should eat eggs or porridge, and they should fill you up.
- Eat your mid-morning snack. Fruit is a great way to snack healthily, especially in the first half of the day, when you need energy so much.
- Have a good lunch, too. It shouldn’t be just a quick sandwich, it has to be a meal of lean proteins, carbohydrates and some fresh vegetables. Use your fist as a guide to right portion sizes. Fist-sized portion of meat or fish, fist-sized portion of carbs (rice or pasta, potatoes) and a fist-sized portion of vegetables. Plus a drink – tea, coffee or water.
- Have your second snack before going home from work. By this time you should have eaten about 60% of your daily food intake.
- No matter how much you think you’ve eaten during the day, you must have a dinner, just keep it light and do not dine later than 2-3 hours before you go to bed.
It is important to learn the right portion sizes for you. Eat slowly and listen to yourself, so you don’t overeat. You’ll know you’re doing great if your hunger by the time you go to bed is low to moderate. If you feel like starving at night, you should increase your food intake during the day.
Rule No. 2 – Less calories, more food.
I am not telling you to start counting calories. Although it is useful sometimes, it is not necessary if you eat clean. Just try reading the labels on the products you buy and soon you will see that some food contains a lot of calories and is also high in fat. Most of the calories come from fat anyway. One gram of fat contains 9 calories, while protein and carbohydrates both contain 4 calories. Eating more lean proteins and vegetables will help you keep calories at lower rates, while you still won’t feel like limiting yourself in food. Ideally, you should aim for at least 3 portions of fresh veggies a day. Just remember that you need fat too, but make it healthier – eat oily fish that is high in Omega-3, avocados and olive oil.
Rule No. 3 – Holy Water.
No, you don’t need to drink the holy water, but if you want to shake off a few pounds, drinking a lot of still unsweetened water is a must. Sometimes we do not feel thirsty, but rather confuse the thirst with hunger and think that we need to eat, when indeed all our body needs is water. And when you actually feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. So drink lots of water to avoid dehydration and water retention. If you feel somewhat hungry and have a headache at the same time, try drinking water first. The problem may resolve without loading yourself with food and energy bars.
Soups are also a great solution to rules no. 2 and 3, because they contain a lot of fluid and are quite low in calories.
Rule No. 4 – Eat enough proteins.
Many people do not understand how important it is to pay attention to what they eat, especially to the daily intake of proteins. Eating less protein than your body needs can be harmful in many ways. You need at least 1-1.5 g of protein for every 1 kg of your weight. Great sources of protein are eggs, meat and poultry, fish, dairy, and beans. If you’re looking for alternatives to eating meat all day long, a glass of low-fat milk is a source of protein, or you can eat some curd cheese or cottage cheese with plain yogurt and fresh fruit.
If you feel hungry at night, you probably do not eat enough of proteins during the day, so try increasing your protein intake.
Rule No. 5 – Complex carbohydrates.
They are essential for keeping you full for longer. Load your menu with brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, grains, vegetables and berries. Decrease the amount of sugar you eat, as it’s likely to be simple carbs. Also remember that berries and fruit are high in sugar, so limit your portions to three a day.
Rule No. 6 – No room for stress.
I’ve said before, again, but stress is a catalyst for gaining weight, mainly for two reasons – cortisol and hunger. When we’re in stress, we get this sickish feeling in our stomachs that makes us want to eat. Unconsciously, we start chewing whatever is within our reach. Most of the time, it is a junk food, which you must rid yourself of. If you’re in stress and find yourself eating everything that there is in the fridge, go for a walk. It helps to clear your mind. If the urge to eat something is still there, try a sugar-free chewing gum.
Cortisol is another reason why we should keep ourselves away from stressful situations when possible. Cortisol is a hormone that releases when you’re in stress and it is responsible for storing fat in abdominal area – the very fat that is so hard to get rid of. So do yourself a favour and keep calm.
Rule No. 7 – Good night sleep.
This has been said before too, but I just can’t emphasise enough how important it is to get a good night sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to hormonal imbalance. It releases ghrelin, a hormone responsible for hunger. It also decreases the production of melatonin, which increases the risk of gaining weight up to 50%. Do we want this? No. What can we do about it? Sleep. We should get least 7 to 8 hours of continuous sleep, at night!
This is it for tonight. Off to sleep I go, not to mess up with my hormones 🙂 And yes, the Eating Clean challenge is still on and I am doing well! Are you?