How To… motivate yourself.

I get it: you don’t want to. I don’t even know what you want to do yet and I know you don’t want to. I can feel the intensity of not-want from here. But you really want the results. And sadly, when you want results you have to work for them. So here are a few pointers to get you on track.

1: Make it a surprise or do it together.

If your plans involve someone else, then it’s all or nothing. Either they are doing this with you, or it’s better not to tell them.

It has been scientifically proven that talking about your goals casually gives you the same positive energy boost as achieving them. Being acknowledged and listened to matters more than losing weight, quitting smoking or finishing that novel.

Besides that, it is also proven that people who aren’t improving themselves will try and sabotage those who are. Make your plans secret from such people.

If your friend or partner are all in, then that’s a different matter. But otherwise, make your self improvement a secret.

2: Visualize less, plan more.

Visualizing is a trap. The more you imagine yourself to be the perfect person you want to be, the less likely you are to actually strive for it, the less prepared you are for setbacks and the less likely you are to accept improvement over perfection. People who visualize and daydream more tend to be less likely than average to achieve their dream.

Throw away that perfect inspirational picture, stop imagining fame and glory, leave behind your dream job and focus on planning our the steps towards actually improving, one ladder rung at a time.

3: Plan less, do more.

In the same vein, the more time you spend planning, the less time you spend doing.

Give some serious thought to a rough plan you will be able to follow. Write yourself a schedule with a bit of flexibility. Then stop planning and start doing.

Too many plans take up your time and energy and can leave you falling into the visualization trap. Besides that, like fad diets, when your goal is 90% planning and only 10% practice, you are wasting time and energy on something other than results.

Move towards your results instead.

4: Give yourself a pep talk.

Sometimes you just need a coach behind you to tell you you’re doing great, to push you a bit further, to remind you of where you are heading. But if you’re working this hard path alone or you just happen to be alone when the desire to give up hits you, you need to give yourself that pep talk.

Remind yourself of your goal, of what you have done right, of what you have done wrong and of what your plans are. Don’t be too kind or forgiving, but don’t talk down to yourself either. Direct yourself to the right path.

5: Look at how far you’ve come and reward yourself.

Gamification is a recent concept in psychology that shows how turning your progress into a “game” can help you make more progress.

Rather than just looking at the start point and the end goal, measure your success in stages, like levels to a game, and reward yourself appropriately at each stage. The same mechanism that makes you hooked on a silly online game can hook you on self improvement!

And those are just some ways you can productively motivate yourself!

What do you do for motivation?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.
Advertisements

How To… know when you’re full.

In the vein of this week’s post on getting your family to eat healthier, this post is on how to tell when you’re full.

In the West we have an abundance of food. We rarely if ever feel true hunger. Generally we feel peckish and eat, or eat at set times. And as we don’t feel hunger often or at all, we are almost certainly eating when we don’t need food. We have lost track of the usual signals that tell us we’ve had enough. But with a little focus we can recognize and reintegrate these signals.

I am trying to put them in the order they generally happen in.

Signal 1: The Taste Change.

Your body preempts the foods it will be eating based on cravings, sight and smell. The foods that seem most pleasant are the foods your body is primed for. But after that urge is satisfied, the perceived taste of the food changes slightly. Whether it’s pure grease, pure sugar or a pizza, everything has a taste change once your craving is satisfied, however early or late it is. Because many of the foods we eat are so palatable the taste change is less obvious, but by looking for it you’ll notice it.

Signal 2: Body Heat.

As digestion progresses, your body heats up to help in the breaking down of food. When your body starts feeling warm you know that the stomach is starting to reach its digestion capacity. Not full, just the most food you can optimally digest. Any more and you may get sweats or break into the following fullness signals.

Signal 3: Thirst.

Again, as digestion progresses, your stomach acid intensifies. And once your digestion capacity is almost there, the combined body heat and extra acid will make you thirsty. Don’t drink during your meal and when you get thirsty, drink plain water or tea until your thirst is satisfied. Your hunger will be also.

Signal 4: Boredom.

Definitely into the danger zone here. This is like the mega-evolution of the taste change. You have eaten so much that even the primitive part of your brain no longer enjoys the flavour. Even a different tasting food leaves you wondering why you’re still eating and you’re pushing to finish the plate just so you don’t leave any. It is just eating for the sake of eating.

Signal 5: Stomach stretch.

The slight to intense pain caused by your stomach reaching its full capacity. This is definitely too much food. It can be anywhere from uncomfortable to painful, you probably feel very thirsty but don’t have room even for water.

Signal 6: Gurgling.

Gurgling is the sound of your stomach emptying and gas bubbles being forced through the intestine. It happens when you haven’t eaten for a while and your stomach is discarding old, unused, neutralized acid. It also happens when you have had a meal and the digested food is passing through. If your stomach gurgles during a meal, then the contents have been digested and are on their way out. Adding more food on top of it can lead to inefficient digestion and is almost certainly more than you need anyway.

Signal 7: Sickness.

Definitely gone too far. You have consumed so much that your stomach can’t digest it fast enough to pass it through to the intestine and is trying to force it out the way it came. Abort mission meal.

And those are the seven signals your body gives you that it is full. More or less in the order they occur, though sometimes a step will be missed, ignored or happen early or simultaneously with another.

So if you start feeling the tastes change, know your body is almost done with that food. When you feel thirsty and warm, the meal is over. Keeping on going after that is pure greed.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How do you control your food intake? Do you find you have a good or a bad appetite signal? What methods do you rely on to pace your meal? Do share!

5 Diet Myths You Probably Believe.

I think everyone has a few ideas on diet they cling onto for no reason at all. I know fruit is no worse (or should I say no better?) for me than potatoes, but I still love potatoes and neglect fruit. I probably believe or do some things that are completely nonsensical because I picked them up and never let them go.

But some of these myths are held by so many people that sometimes we have to complain. And that’s what I’m going to do. Here are five diet myths that are demonstrably false which you probably actually do believe.

1. X/Y/Z Is Bad For You.

Yes, we all use it as an expression. But we also genuinely believe it about certain things. You may think meat is bad for you, carbs are bad for you, sugar is bad for you, salt is bad for you, alcohol is bad for you, etc. And we incorporate this into our daily diets and the diet advice we dole out. And to a degree, it’s true. Alcohol does your liver some harm in any amount. Junk food messes with your metabolism. Sugar strains your pancreas. But there is an implicit falsehood in it.

You’ve probably already heard “everything in moderation”, the argument that nothing is inherently “Bad”, just that it can be consumed in too high a quantity. But there is another side to that argument: nothing is actually inherently “Good” for you either. Everything we consume has necessary nutrients, every nutrient is necessary. Everything puts some strain on the body or has some toxic products or byproducts. Avoiding one or two specific things is as meaningless as eating one or two specific things. Teetotalism makes you no more a saint of health than eating Goji berries does. It’s better to work out how your body, on an individual basis, processes all sorts of foods and to balance the right amount of everything.

And, mentioning toxins…

2. Detox.

Detoxes are a joke. Think about this rationally. If you drink enough alcohol that your liver can’t eliminate the toxins, you die. If you eat an apple pip, you body processes the cyanide, if you eat cyanide crystals, your body detoxes too slowly and you die. So, if your body wasn’t detoxing, you’d not be here.

And what about progressive buildup? Well, that’s a whole other can of worms. For the sake of simplicity: if you are keeping your body consistently just below the mark for poisoning, do you really think fasting, drinking green smoothies or some magic shake is going to undo all that damage and filter all that out? And do you really think a detox is a better option than not poisoning yourself to begin with? Seriously?

3. Dietary Variety.

Now, what isn’t a myth is that dietary variety benefits you. But the two main benefits of dietary variety are that you’re less likely to be poisoned and guaranteed nutritional variety. However most people throughout the world avoided poisoning and nutritional deficiencies on a fairly plain diet at some point in history or another. And with modern sanitation we can keep our food clean and with modern nutritional data we can assess our food’s nutritional quality. So there is no longer any actual need for dietary variety. Hell, teenagers can survive on chicken nuggets and you can meet your requirements for every nutrient on a diet of potatoes, bananas, liver, sardines, eggs and sunflower seeds.

Now, your health may be improved if you add some variety and the need to meticulously weigh every serving of food goes away. But the sheer amount of variety some people think we need is not only historically impossible, but is also not at all required for life and general fitness.

4. Going All Out On Cheat Days.

Not so much a rule or belief as an action that has just as negative an effect. When we diet strictly or diet at all, when we’re trying to lose weight or get fit or get healthy, we have cravings for foods we’re not allowed. You could go on an “only my 5 favourite foods” diet and eventually get sick of them and crave something you never thought was all that great. So, we allow cheat days. And the general idea of a cheat day is to go all out, eat and drink everything you can’t eat or drink the rest of the time. And we somehow think this is healthy.

After 150 days. And that’s still not doing his organs any favours. Mull that over.

But overwhelming your body isn’t healthy. Let’s use the pancreas as an example. It secretes insulin in response to sugar, enzymes in response to fat, protein or alcohol and triggers hormonal regulation that affects youth thyroid and adrenal glands, among other things. If you eat low carb, no junk food, moderate fat, just the right amount of protein and no alcohol for six days and then on the seventh day you eat four pizzas, a steak and chips, a tub of ice-cream and a bottle of vodka, you are throwing a week’s worth of work onto your pancreas in one go. Your body just isn’t designed to deal with that. That is why alcoholics get liver disease but some people get severe acute pancreatitis from two beers.

In short, either restrict your cheats to a single meal or follow the 80/20 rule, unless you want to overwhelm your body and make yourself ill.

5. I’ll Just Work It Off.

Surely eating too much or eating junk or drinking too much doesn’t matter, because you can burn it off at the end of the day? Well, we only believe that because we conflate being slim with being healthy. In reality, plenty of thin people have metabolic disorder, heart attacks, liver disease and colon cancer. So working off the calories in your food will not fix you or make you less prone to illness.

In reality, whilst nothing is inherently just “Bad” or “Good” for you, if you do overconsume something that wears your body down, the calories aren’t the only thing impacting your health. And you just can’t “work off” insulin resistance, liver scars, diverticulae or thyroid imbalances. You can only prevent these things from happening by eating a healthy, balanced diet.

And those are five diet myths you probably believed. Do you know any other diet myths that are demonstrably false? What advice would you give to anyone struggling with the issues here? How do you keep fit and healthy? Please share in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

FitFriday, FatFriday. 6 Things About Eating Disorders.

So, in the USA and UK it’s currently National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. In the spirit of that, rather than my usual ranting about body struggles, feeling fat/thin, laziness and food, here is my experience with disordered eating and 6 thoughts about eating disorders. Unlike similar posts I’ve done, I haven’t managed to keep this post very short, so this time I would really like you to go through it well and, if you or someone you know is affected by disordered eating or a clinical eating disorder, think about how these things affect you or them.

I don’t usually do trigger warnings, but if you’re still in the early stages of recovering from an eating disorder, either give this a miss or put on a brave face and be prepared to see words relating to eating disorders. There will be no images.

My story.

Like pretty much every human in the Western world, I have often had access to too much food. Like around 9/10 of us, I have had to actively control my food intake to look after my weight and health. Like 20-35% of dieters, I went from just exercising a little bit of control over what I ate into proper disordered eating. To this day I’m not sure whether at the time I was meeting the requirements for an early stage eating disorder or just a normal teenager eating in a disordered manner under the mistaken impression it was good for me. Currently I meet the criteria for ED mentality, even if I am keeping healthy.

I have been unhealthily underweight and overweight in my life. At a couple of points I have had visible ribs even when bent over, some visible spine and heavily protruding hipbones. Likewise, at 5’4″ I have weighed around 80kg and possibly up to 90kg when I was not weighing myself.

Both these situations came about from disordered eating and a pretty shoddy perception of my own body. Most people experience slight fluctuations in our perception of the world. For some of us it’s a little more extreme. Some days I will think I look big, or tall, or broad, or short, or skinny. But at the time I started eating in a disordered manner, even when I felt I looked skinny it wasn’t enough. Not only was I not seeing things properly, when I was seeing them properly I wanted to see more. I was absolutely fascinated with bones and leanness. I somehow knew that I was a little broader than the typical Mediterranean girls I lived around, but it entranced me to see how broad and large my ribs, hips, collarbones, etc were compared to theirs.

Ultimately, the only way to push back was to ignore it. When I say I don’t know how I got fat, I seriously don’t know. I know I ate too much. But I can’t remember much of it. Just looking in the mirror one day and saying “Hey, I’m actually fat now. Not just tubby or deluded. I’m actually fat.” I made sure to keep covered up. I didn’t like the way I looked but I didn’t want to undereat again.

I did eventually get my weight and health under control, but I do still deal with distortions close to BDD, confusion about my actual appearance some days and the odd cycle of wanting to overeat, to starve or to purge. Just because I resist these thoughts and drives doesn’t mean they’re not there. It just means I don’t really need help any more.

So, with that said, here are 6 things about eating disorders and disordered eating that you might not be aware of.

1: There’s An Eating Disorder, Then There’s Disordered Eating.

Eating disorders and disordered eating are two separate things, though often disordered eating will become an eating disorder and most people with eating disorders eat in a disordered manner. If that makes any sense.

Disordered eating is probably the norm in the West. Pathological dieting, overeating, binge eating, comfort eating… These are all disordered from the natural state. Sure, overeating one day and fasting the next is natural to your body and natural in the wild. And eating when you’re hungry and not eating when you’re full is also natural. But when we live in a state of permanent abundance with all sorts of unnatural foods around us, very few will eat naturally.

An eating disorder is something different. There’s an element of compulsion, of a mental state to it. At the extreme end, it can take five or six healthy nurses to force-feed a 40kg teenage girl because she’s that afraid of food. At the mild end you see people eating kilos of leafy salad to keep full, or rewarding themselves with candy and food. The line between a habit and pathology is very fine and we don’t really have much of an idea what a healthy human eats like because we aren’t living in a natural state. Giving in and eating what we want isn’t natural any more. Even trying to copy the diets of healthy hunter-gatherers can become pathological.

2: There Isn’t A Reason.

Everyone has their own reason. Some people get depressed and forget to eat, leading to a habit that becomes impossible to break. Some people fast to be thin. Some people binge eat to be huge. Some people binge and purge because they love food and love being thin. Some people don’t realize what size they are. Some people think they’re being healthy.

Mentally, there is no one reason for being a certain weight or for having an eating disorder. Not everyone is a delusional teen brainwashed by the media into seeing themselves as 400lbs when they look in the mirror.

3: It’s As Much Habit As Desire.

A desire to recover is the first step, but never enough.

Often, an eating disorder born of self-punishment, fear, mental health issues or confusion can persist even after the root cause is gone. The reason for this is, as far as I’ve experienced and seen, twofold.

Firstly, habits that form are very hard to break. When you eat something that makes you sick, next time you smell it you may feel sick. Likewise, someone who associates eating with purging may automatically feel the urge to purge or even do so when they eat. Someone who has got in the habit of turning down food may feel awkward accepting meals, or even forget to. Someone used to binging may not think twice at a buffet until they see the five plates in front of them. Even when you’re not thinking about it, your habits can creep back in.

Secondly, giving in or not giving in to the habits can cause a mental relapse. It can depend on the person, the day, anything. One moment you’re having dinner at your parents, the next you feel a bit sick and thoughts of inadequacy start rushing back. Or you’re just eating a little less to lose your Winter pouch and your depression kicks in hard.

So not everyone with an eating disorder wants to have it or is currently battling every aspect of it. Someone may want to recover and just be trying to get out of the habit of having an eating disorder.

4: BDD Is Probably More Common Than You Think.

Again, when most people picture BDD they tend to think of the skin-and-bones teenage girl looking in the mirror and seeing a 400lb version of herself. In reality, it’s more subtle and less specific than that.

The two sides to BDD are:

1: Excessive worry or shame about your appearance despite being seen as normal by others and

2: excessive preoccupation with improving your appearance, hiding your flaws and trying to look “as you should”.

So, obviously someone who is very underweight or overweight, disfigured or similar, whilst suffering poor confidence about their state isn’t healthy, wouldn’t qualify as having BDD. But these same people becoming obsessed with a trivial mark on their skin, or a particular piece of their fat or bones? Or someone who at a healthy weight thinks her arms look too fat, even though nobody else can see it? Or someone who is convinced they’d look better at a certain weight, maybe a weight they’ve never been at before? These people are likely to have BDD.

It more often manifests as obsession with little details about yourself rather than all round loathing your body. It’s more a visual distortion than schizophrenia. A sufferer isn’t looking in the mirror and thinking they’re 400lbs. More likely, they’re looking in the mirror and choosing to look at that tiny pocket of fat on their thigh than at their visible ribs. The ribs are fine. Or too thin, even. But they want to keep losing weight until that tiny bit of fat is gone.

Again, everyone’s experience will differ. But I’m sure how you can see that BDD is not actually as extreme or, probably, as uncommon as many people would like it to be.

5: Everyone Needs Help.

Here’s my bit of tough love. Ignore all the nonsense about skinny shaming or fat shaming. If someone is all skin and bones and scared of food, they need help. If someone eats 2000kcal a meal and then rushes to be sick, or exercise, or fast, or take a laxative to “compensate”, they need help. If someone is 400lbs with a goal weight of 800lbs, they need help. If someone is convinced they eat enough and are bony and malnourished, they need help. If someone is convinced they don’t eat and morbidly obese, they need help. If someone lives off lettuce and spinach thinking it’s a recipe for longevity, they need help.

You can’t recover from an eating disorder without realizing you have one. And sometimes, often in fact, people will not know. It isn’t kind to let someone starve or eat themselves to death because you don’t want to offend them. It’s cruel. I’m not saying you should approach anyone who’s over or underweight and tell them. Just that if you have a friend or relative who is eating in a disordered manner, obviously not healthy and not dealing with their size or diet, they are suffering. And they don’t need to be ignored or left to sort it out. They need a friendly nudge or twenty in the right direction.

6: Good Diet Education Helps.

Now, you can’t exactly play the part of diet counselor, therapist or nutritionist in anyone’s life. But being well educated about diet, health, energy, fitness, etc can help you and anyone around you. Firstly because you will understand whether someone’s habits are actually problematic or whether you’re making a rash judgement.

Secondly, because people with eating disorders often seek a sense of control and stability. That stability isn’t found in a disordered eating habit, but in actually understanding your body. How many calories it really needs, what sorts of foods make you energized and happy, what sort of foods make you lethargic, etc. Learning about healthy diet was something that helped me regain control over my eating and start eating to properly feed my body, rather than as a reward, for the sake of it or as a punishment.

And I haven’t any more of vital importance to say.

I’m happy to answer any questions or hear about your experiences in the comments.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

10 No-Brainer Ways to Lose Weight

Everyone could do with a little diet advice now and then. As of writing this, I have gained a few kgs of fat due to stress and tiredness, well more due to the overeating that follows. And, being someone who is generally quite in tune with her body, when this is scheduled to publish in a couple of weeks, I should have lost them already.

But how do I do it? Well, a huge part of it is years of experience with diets, of reading and applying advice, of getting to know my body. But another part of it is that along the way I picked up some “cheat codes”. Now, before you go crazy, these are not effortless. You will feel hungry or tired, they will take time and you will not instantly drop from 100 to 45 kilos. But they are also very simple things you can do, without spending much or any money, wasting your time or overthinking, to help yourself lose weight. There are many reasons to choose a simple weightloss option over a complicated one. Each of these “cheats” is:

-Cheaper than pills, a specialist diet or a dietician.

-Safer than a crazy fad or supplement.

-Flexible enough for you to go slow and steady or weightloss crazy.

-Easy enough for you to track your progress and stop when you’re comfortable.

-Simple enough that you can just apply it and not worry about calculating points or weighing stuff.

-Useful enough that you can use it alongside another plan.

Basically, this advice could save you a lot of time and effort and money. And the worst that can happen is that you stay the same.

1. Eat less of exactly the same.

A new spin on an old favourite. Calorie counting certainly works, but it can also be a lot of bother. Especially if you just want to pick up a banana or have a biscuit at a friend’s house and out comes the calculator.

The other, darker side to it is the excuses. When you insist the banana was small, so it must have had around half the calories. Or that you walked a lot, so that must be enough calories for a treat.

Eating less is basically the same thing: cutting your calories. Except a little easier. You just eat whatever you would eat anyway, but less. No “cheat days”, no exceptions, no “treat myself”.

If your weight has been stable you may only want to cut back a little bit to lose weight. Basically, instead of two sandwiches for lunch, have one and a piece of fruit, or put about 2/3 the filing in.

If your weight is increasing, cut the food back to half and see what happens. Instead of two sandwiches for lunch, have one.

If you’re not losing weight or not losing it fast enough, make your portions smaller again until you find you are losing weight. If you are losing weight, but too quickly, add in something calorific as a snack. Maybe add a banana or a biscuit or something, just to slow the weightloss.

But, simply put, eat exactly what you were going to eat, just eat less. Eventually you’ll be eating little enough to lose weight.

2. Do heavy lifting.

Another way to lose weight is to gain muscle. Not just tone or strength: actual mass.

Your body burns energy just to stay alive. And muscle burns a lot more energy than fat, bone, skin or most other tissues. So the more muscle you have, the more energy you use up.

You only need to lift very heavy twice a week or so or do HIIT daily to start gaining muscle. If you aren’t gaining muscle, then lift something heavier. The idea is to lift something your body can only just manage, to encourage it to grow more muscle.

And remember to bias your diet towards proteins, but generally don’t increase your calories. If you just start growing muscle and keep your diet the same, your body will start working on the excess you’re already eating and the excess you’re wearing.

3. Keep active.

The other side of the coin to muscle gain is to just keep moving. We are far too sedentary nowadays. In our past we wouldn’t just sit around and then go running or lifting for the sake of it. We’d either have huge bursts of intense activity as we went hunting or ran from a predator or we’d be continually very slightly active as we built houses, made clothes, gathered fruit or dug trenches.

So, if you’re not going to imitate the hunters, try and imitate the gatherers. Make a point of getting up, walking around and doing bodyweight exercise and yoga whenever you can. Doing a phonecall? Walk around as you do it. Getting up and got five minutes? Do some pushups and situps. Collecting some shopping? Walk it. Changing after work? Do some yoga. Going on a family picnic? Run around with the children and pets.

Just do anything to be on your feet 90% of the time you can realistically be on your feet.

4. Eliminate junk food.

Trust me, it’s a lot easier when you try it. There are many reasons to cut out junk food for weightloss. Let’s look at the three big ones.

Firstly is that it isn’t really all that satisfying, calorie for calorie. A burger may have 500 calories, but you can eat it and still want another 500 calories in the form of medium chips and a medium drink. You may even want a pudding afterwards, or a snack before three hours have passed. So you broke into 1000 calories (which may be your daily limit, if that’s where you start to lose weight!) and you’re still hungry, basically. Compare that to a plain vegetable salad which you can have a kilo of for around 200 calories. To boot, it will keep you full for longer as it’s slow digesting and if you’re hungry two hours later, you still have plenty of room for more eating. I’m not saying you should live on leafy salads. What I am saying is that is it worth it to eat half to all your daily calorie requirement in one meal if you’re just going to be hungry in an hour?

Secondly junk food is often fast release energy. This contributes to problem one, but it also causes a problem of its own. Fast release sugars cause insulin spikes and drops. This insulin helps your body store fat, which means you’re actually eating something that is encouraging your body to store it. Not good.

Finally, junk food is very cheap for calories. A surefire way of reducing your dietary intake is buying something that is expensive for the calories. Junk food can give you 500 calories for £2. If you stick to your current budget but only buy things that cost, for example, £5 for 500 calories, you will be eating less. Spend more on low calorie things and you will have to eat fewer calories. Cruel, but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

5. Reset your sugar.

As mentioned above, insulin spikes can encourage your body to store fat. Basically, insulin is the little guy running around pushing energy places. If you’re working out, insulin sees that the energy is needed and pushes it to the muscles. If you’re not, insulin sees the energy isn’t being used and puts it into your fat cells.

If your insulin is too high, it will tell you to store energy too quickly. When this happens your blood sugar drops too low, making you feel hungry again, because all your energy has been stored away. If your insulin doesn’t drop again, your body can find it hard to burn that stored energy. So this creates a cycle of hunger, insulin spikes, stored energy and more hunger, which obviously can lead to weight gain.

Therefore, having some control over your insulin can help you avoid those intense hunger pangs you feel when dieting and encourage your body to keep its blood sugar even and use its fat reserves for fuel.

The simplest way to reset your sugar is by using the Glycemic Index. You don’t need to learn the GI of all foods, these three tricks are all you need.

One is avoiding sweet tasting foods. As a general rule, the sweeter it tastes, the more simple sugars. Simple sugars cause the highest insulin spikes.

Two is combining carby foods like pasta, potatoes or apples with fatty or proteiny foods, like nuts, eggs or meat. This should make the sugar release much slower.

Three is not eating frequently. Every time you eat your blood sugar goes up. Every time your blood sugar goes up, your insulin goes up. Eating infrequently and avoiding snacks will give you better appetite control.

6. Choose carbs or fats.

Following the same vein of the last two “cheats”, you can do an either-or diet as well.

Basically, there are two components to the difficulty of losing weight. Your hunger and the calorie density of your food. Therefore, addressing one can often help you.

As explained in the section on controlling your sugar, if you keep blood sugar spikes low and infrequent, you can address your hunger. However, if you want to make this a major component of weight loss, you should combine very low carb with moderate to high fat. Low carbs means smaller, less frequent insulin spikes, which means you’re less likely to quickly store the fat you’re eating. Also, not only does lower insulin mean less hunger, but the slow digestion of fat can also contribute to satiety.

On the flip side, you can also try eating high carb and very low fat. This is best for those who can eat a lot of fat easily. Basically you’re letting your blood sugar spike, but instead of eating something fatty and dense in calories, you’re eating carbs, which have fewer calories to the gram.

Whether you choose high fat and low carb or high carb and low fat, try and avoid overt sources of the one you’re not eating much of and continue to avoid snacking for best results.

7. Eat more fibrous plants.

And while we’re talking about satiety, let’s have a look at the easiest way to feel full and satisfied without eating many calories.

As mentioned in the fast food section, a kilo of leafy salad without dressing is only around 200 calories. But it’s still a kilo of food sitting in your stomach, then in your intestine, slowly releasing that energy. With a little mustard-honey-vinegar dressing, it would taste amazing and still be very low in calories.

Roasted low calorie plants like courgettes or carrots and vegetable soups and stews are also good ways to feel fuller for longer. You could always eliminate all fatty or carby side dishes in favour of greens, make two of your daily meals all vegetables or do as I do and keep a plain salad in the fridge to use for meals or snacks. When I have the salad, I won’t snack on anything else and at least one daily meal will be salad. You need to make vegetables easy.

An added benefit of fibrous vegetables is that they feed your gut bacteria. It has been found that a fecal transplant from an obese person into a thin one can promote weight gain, so resetting your gut bacteria by feeding them lots of veggies could help you avoid gaining weight too easily.

8. Kill water retention.

A big reason for minor weight gain is actually fluid retention, not fat. Think about it logically. If you eat 3kg of food and water over a day and after, erm, eliminating the excess the next morning, you’re 5kg heavier, then that isn’t going to be fat. For starters, few foods are all used up by your body, so some waste will have come out. Second you used some of those calories just by existing. Third, nothing will make you gain 2kg of air. The only possible answer, if you weighed your food properly, is that the weight has come from something else you put in: water.

But it’s not like you can just not drink as much water. That’s not really healthy. But neither is inflating yourself full of water your body isn’t using. So what can we do to reduce water retention?

Two things in your diet make you hold onto more water than you need. One is sugar and the other is salt. Without consuming too much sugar or too much salt, drinking excess water would just result in eliminating excess water. So if you find you put on water weight suddenly and easily, you’re probably overdoing one or the other, if not both.

You can also try and get more sleep, take cold showers and reduce stress, all of which would encourage your body to drop retained water.

9. Eat more protein.

This is more if you have an absolutely crazy appetite. Protein is your best friend. It will trigger a hormonal response that makes you feel full, it has as few calories per gram as carbs and it won’t spike your insulin like carbs do. Thanks to all this, it takes fewer calories of protein to feel full and you’re more likely to actually use them than to store them.

Protein is also a building block for your body, so if you’re active protein calories could end up as muscle rather than being stored or wasted. Protein can also be harder for your body to store. If you need energy desperately, your body will turn protein to ketones. But if you need energy you are unlikely to store anything. Protein is hard for your body to store because it can’t just turn protein to fat or put proteins into your fat cells. Often an excess of protein will be eliminated through your urine rather than stored.

10. Fast.

Saving the best for last, there are countless reasons to fast when you’re on a diet.

Firstly, as noted on insulin, keeping your blood sugar low and steady can sometimes make you feel less hungry than eating a big meal does.

Secondly, the longer you go without food, the more your body shuts down your digestive system and starts burning fat. Once this switch has happened, you can go longer without feeling hungry.

Thirdly, the break your digestive system gets will help it reset, just not quite in the same way that eating greens does.

Fourthly, as long as you eat moderately after a fast, a meal missed is calories missed.

Fifthly, focusing on drinking water and avoiding food will allow you to lose a lot of water weight.

Sixthly, once your appetite has been reset from fasting, you could find yourself craving vitamin and mineral rich foods instead of highly calorific ones.

Seventhly, it’s natural to go without eating for a while. All animals do it all the time.

Eighthly, the longer your stomach is empty, the more of your body fat you burn.

I could keep going, but I’m sure you get the general idea.

So that’s my ten “cheats” to help you lose weight without worrying about going on a specific diet, counting calories or taking supplements. You could try them alongside your diet, on their own or all together, if you like.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

How about you? How do you manage your weight? Does your diet interfere with other aspects of your life? Is it easy, cheap and simple? Are there any other basic diet tips you would give to someone trying to lose weight? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

FitFriday XVIII and FatFriday V.

Fit.

Been working on losing a little weight. Gone very low carb: no starches, no fruit, no sugar. Closest I’m coming to carbs is honey here and there, small servings of peas and pumpkin. Feeling more alert and flatter stomach already. Making sure to eat plenty of vegetables and portioning meat, because I can find it very easy to go over calories and over budget when I go very low carb.

Back to working out in the afternoons and doing yoga in the mornings. Loving being more active and can’t wait for my arms and legs to start growing again.

My plans for next week are more low carb, more weight lifting and more long walks.

Fat.

At the moment I’m largely just eating salads, veggie stir fries and roast pork. The tastiest thing was a dressing I made: 200ml vinegar, 50ml olive oil, 2tsp mustard, 2tsp honey, 1tsp onion granules and 1tsp smoked paprika. Tastes great, you don’t need much for flavour, makes even plain tomatoes a meal and helps keep me on low calories. The whole thing makes at least six servings for a huge bowl of salad.

The naughtiest thing I ate was some cola when I had a dry throat, but at least it was just a few mouthfuls of the reduced calorie stevia version. Everything else has been home-prepared whole foods with nothing pre-made.

I have been lazy by spending a lot of time writing without taking a break for a stretch or some exercises, but generally I’ve been good.

Next week I’m keeping at it and avoiding the cola bottle.