The thing that most people don’t tell you about dieting is that it is really hard. There are no lose weight fast miracle diets (except, perhaps, dysentery) and I am convinced that even the concept of “going on a diet” is setting us up for failure. I realized that if wanted to lose weight and keep it off, I’d have to change the way that that I ate. For good. In other words, its not about going on a diet, but making a lifestyle change. It wasn’t at all easy at first, but it has now become second nature and, since I was asked by Stephanie the other day, a typical week food-wise for me is goes more or less like this.
The most important thing is that it’s not just about what I eat, it’s how much. Portions in America are vast, particularly if you eat out. Even grabbing a salad at the deli can result in 1,000 calories. Basically, I found that I needed to halve the quantity of food on my plate.
I found that a good tactic at lunchtime was to eat half my meal, wait an hour and eat the rest. It feels weird and takes some discipline to consume only half a sandwich and have it sit on your desk temptingly for an hour. But works really well – I found I’d be far less hungry and eat much less than usual in the evening. Also it is good training to get those portions down because after a while, the half size becomes the norm.
Secondly, I find it is necessary to eat strategically. It is impossible to be good every single day. There’s the occasional lapse when temptation gets the better of you, or you find yourself travelling and eating crap at an airport. If this happens, I make up for it by having a low calorie meal with a lot of healthy things the first opportunity I get. I use the same principle to avoid double dipping. If I have carbs at lunch – say bread – then I don’t eat carbs at all in the evening.
I find it really helpful to start the day right. I hardly ever have bread, muffins or any other “bad” carbs breakfast. Instead I have granola, which I make in a huge batch that lasts 2-3 weeks (it's filling, healthy, and cheaper than buying breakfast on the way to the office), fruit and low fat or zero fat plain yoghurt. I take this to the office on weekdays.
Weekday lunches are typically 1) soup (a good way of upping the veggie intake) and half a sandwich (I sometimes buy a whole one but eat only half the bread and all the filling), 2) soup and a small salad, if I am atoning for a heavy meal the day before 3) a salad that involves filling but low calorie things like pulses, beans and grains and some chicken. Weekend lunches usually involve cheese (my secret vice), or eggs, bread and lots of lettuce and tomatoes.
I love to cook and making dinner is very relaxing for me. But basically it tends to be fish or meat with vegetables. I try to eat rice or potatoes no more than once a week. Two nights a week are likely to be totally vegetarian. Again, if I‘ve indulged (I adore burgers and French fries, Indian food, anything with chocolate), then I keep the next few meals as simple as can be.
I do believe that eating foods that are high in antioxidants - which is most vegetables, fruits, pulses and nuts - contributes to overall good health and better skin. And the more I eat these foods, the more I like them and find greasy, sugary, starchy things pretty unappetizing. It is possible to retrain your taste buds. The picture above was taken in my kitchen with whatever was around.
Eating like this is totally second nature and by self-regulating in this way I don’t feel deprived or as if on a permanent miserable diet. I more or less eat what I want, but have drastically controlled quantity and dramatically increased the amount of fruit and vegetables in my diet (the best result of which is that I no longer take high blood pressure medication).
Last tip: to get started, keep a food diary. To train myself to eat this way, I wrote down every morning what I had eaten the day before. This really helped me strategize how I should eat for the rest of the day. Sure, some days I would skip making the notes, but eventually I would and then make sure I played catch up. After a few months, I didn’t need to keep the diary any longer. That’s when I knew it was becoming a new way of life.