Sunday, 8 June 2014

Five Rules for Healthy Eating

... or How I Lost Weight Without Actually Trying 

In autumn 2011 I resolved that I was going to eat more healthily (and exercise more, but that is another story). As a 50 year old mother of a five year old I realised that if I wanted to be fit and active when she is in her teens I needed to take some responsibility for looking after my health. I had read The Forever Young Diet and Lifestyle by James and Joan O'Keeffe while on holiday - I think I picked it up as a free or very cheap eBook - and the eating rules it recommended seemed sensible and manageable. The main changes I made were:

1. Eat more fruit and vegetables - initially I aimed for 7 portions a day, now I aim for 10.

2. Eat wholegrains rather than white bread, pasta, rice or potatoes - wholegrain bread, brown or wild rice, wholemeal pasta and so on.

3. Include protein with every meal (including breakfast).

3. Drink well - stick to water, tea or coffee (unsweetened). No fizzy or sweetened drinks.

5. Cut down on junk - highly processed and sugary foods.

Most of the time I did pretty well with this, I think because it was not too prescriptive. By eating more good food I found I was less tempted by the junk, but if I really wanted something I ate it anyway. Most days I ate a couple of squares of dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more) and drank a small glass of red wine daily - still do! - so I never felt deprived of treats. Much to my surprise I found that within four months I had gone down a clothes size, six months later I was two sizes smaller, and over the following year I dropped a third size. From wearing a UK size 16/18 I now wear size 10/12, which still astonishes me, all the more so because I have not counted calories or followed any other weight loss plan. Over time my tastes have changed, and now I get as much pleasure out of a good salad as I would out of a pizza. Eating well has become an ingrained habit that I cannot imagine changing. 

Is it really this easy? Well, yes ... and no! Once eating according to these rules becomes a habit it is simple. The hard part is making the changes that allow it to become a habit. Initially it takes thought to work out how to fit in all those extra fruits and veggies into your day; to make sure that enjoyable healthy snacks are always to hand so there is less temptation to grab a biscuit or a doughnut; to find breakfasts that fit into the morning routine and keep you going until lunchtime; to work out how to throw together a quick healthy packed lunch to take to work; to stick to the wholegrains when other family members refuse to be weaned off white bread and pasta. I think it helped that I love food, pretty much any food, so was able to find plenty of healthy stuff that I enjoy. I suspect it would be harder for a picky eater. I also don't have any food sensitivities, so never needed to restrict any particular food groups.

Writing this I realise I could sum up the changes I made to my diet in one overarching rule - eat less bad stuff, replace it with good stuff. This means being aware of what is good - good fats, good carbs, low GI foods that will leave you fuller longer, and so on. Once that awareness becomes second nature it becomes much easier to make good food choices. I am now so enthused about this subject I could go on, ond on, and on ... 


Frabjous Days said...

Thanks so much. Buying that book now :-)

Kathryn said...

I didn't follow everything in the book, but I found it quite good in terms of giving some detail of what a good, healthy diet looks like in practice without being over-prescriptive.

Karen Edmisten said...

I love the summary -- less bad stuff, more good stuff. :)
Love the new blog!