So the government has launched a new obesity strategy (Read here) as a direct result of the coronavirus.
This blog is not about the link between Covid 19 and metabolic disease of which obesity is a major driver of, but basic practical steps on how to start making a change to your diet and lifestyle. Previously I written about my lifestyle bible which you can read here. In this article I really wanted to provide some good general advice on a starting point for changing your food choices.
What is your goal?
Why do you want to change your food choices? Is it for general health, is it to loose weight, is for better movement, is it for fitness? What is your goal or what is the most pressing task at the moment?
Once you have worked that out, you can start to put together a couple of goals to move you towards your long term aim. Remember there are very few people that stick to a radical change to their lifestyle. Plans geared around 30 days or the like, have very low long term effectiveness. When we talk about creating habits, they need to be formed slowly and embedded into your daily life. Most radical plans are too hard work and too prescriptive to give the follower understanding and sustainability. It is however true that, the greater the change the greater the benefit, but if you want to stick to it, my advice is slowly does it.
When you’re considering what to put into your goals, I would advice strongly against goals that include calories, weight or inches. This is simply because it focuses you on the wrong objective. If you are making better choices you will reduce weight and inches. Calories is a contentious point and one for a different article. Suffice as to say ‘all calories are not equal’. Instead I would recommend your goals include your weaknesses or things that are absent from your food choices.
Here’s a list of typical changes people like to work on;
- reducing or limiting sugary drinks,
- reducing/limiting high sugar/high processed fat intake
- reducing/limiting processed meat consumption
- increasing fibre sources from wholegrain, fruits and vegetables
- working nuts and seeds into your diet
- Increasing good quality water consumption
- Ensuring protein with every meal
- Being mindful of the quality and quantity of carbohydrate intake
- replacing sandwiches for lunch with alternatives 2 or 3 times a week (as a starter),
- replacing high carbohydrates snacks with healthier options,
- limiting alcohol intake to weekends only or so many times a week (depending on where you’re starting from),
- introducing a vegetarian or vegan option,
- ensuring you have at least 3 different colours of vegetables on your plate etc
- adding in some good quality omega 3 sources – easiest source is fish, alternative chia and flaxseed or a good quality supplement
- educating yourself on what a healthy diet looks like
- seeking professional advise to guide and motivate you
Don’t get hung up on any one goal, be realistic, what is right for you?. If your diet is what is known as a typical western diet, then moving from a sandwich, bag of crisps and chocolate bar to a chicken salad, vegetables and berries or similar every day of the week is quite a big ask, especially if that’s what you’ve been doing for 20 years or so. Be kind to yourself and give yourself a break.
Your goals will be different to the next persons and should be based on you and not a prescribed diet plan. You may look at the list above and think ‘I need to do all of that’. Maybe you do, only pick a few and focus on those, success will follow and you can incorporate others as you go.
Cooking from fresh.
Cooking from fresh is the best place to start. If you live off packaged prepared food, start by setting your goal at cooking from fresh twice a week. Don’t panic about making fancy dishes, basic non nonsense meals are perfectly healthy. Start with family favourites and research easy recipes or invest in some cook books. You can increase the number of times you cook from fresh as you build confidence and form the cooking habit. Home cooking ultimately means that you will use a greater amount of whole foods. Wholefoods are those that resemble their true form and ideally are organic. Wholefoods are nutrient dense, whereas processed foods have a much lower nutrient density (less nutrients in them) and in terms of meat, tend to be from poorer quality parts of the animal.
Real food is antioxidant, vitamin, mineral, phytonutrient, fibre dense, high in good fats and low in salt.
Is there a specific ‘diet’ that is the best?
In short No, everyone is different. There are lots of different ‘diets’ around and lots of well known Dr’s who promote their diets and create a great deal of media attention around them. ‘Diets’ are not the answer, a ‘diet’ is a short term solution what you need is a new way of eating which you enjoy and is stress free and sustainable for you to manage day in day. As mentioned earlier, many radical changes to diet can not be sustained long term and results in sending your body into a state of flux. The body interpret flux as stress, and this is where the yo yo dieter comes from.