Starving yourself in the hopes of budging the scale and shifting a few pounds might seem like a good idea, but there’s a catch. The more you starve yourself, the more stubborn your fat stores actually become!
The reason for this can be traced back to our ancient ancestors, who, living without the convenience of drive-thru’s, often didn’t know when they would eat again. As a result, the human body evolved to hang on to fat reserves to prevent our energy stores running too low and boost survival. It’s all self-preservation, really.
The bad news is this evolutionary safety-switch is still in effect, which means a different approach for effective weight loss is in order. The main problem with starving yourself is not that you won’t lose weight, you will, it’s the fact it’s not sustainable (or healthy).
The good news is that the answer to this weight loss conundrum is simple – eating foods and following strategies that ignite your metabolism and leave you feeling full and satisfied. You CAN lose weight safely, and effectively without staging a standoff on calories or eating a single rice cake, just follow this simple advice.
#1. Don’t Skip Breakfast!
There’s a reason its called breakfast. While you’ve been sleeping, your body’s been fasting without food for 8 hours, your energy reserves are running on fumes and your fat-burning metabolism has slowed to a crawl. Now is the best time to kick-start your body into fat-burning mode.
Before we reveal the breakfast-table winners, here’s what to avoid: donuts, bagels, danish, muffins, waffles and buttered toast (white). Loaded with simple (refined) carbohydrates, these foods send blood sugar levels soaring before shortly crashing leaving you unfulfilled, irritable and ravenous.
Instead, keep your blood-sugar levels stable with foods like eggs on toast, a fruit salad topped with low-fat (Greek) yogurt, muesli or a bowl of oatmeal with assorted fruits and honey. Lack of time in the morning isn’t an excuse either. Here’s a set of no-mess, no-fuss options when you’re in a rush:
WHOLE-GRAIN CEREAL: Look for cereals (like All-Bran) with the words ‘wholegrain’ at the top of the ingredients. Stay away from cereals which contain the word ‘hydrogenated’. Second, look for high-fiber content (at least 3-6g per 30g serve).
SMOOTHIES: Not only do smoothie’s taste great, their thick, creamy texture takes up room in your stomach, keeping you full. Stock up on fresh/frozen berries, oats, peanut butter and some protein powder. Throw your favorites into a blender with some ice cubes and low-fat milk and voila!
#2. Eat ‘Low-GI Foods!
When it comes to noshing on the right foods for weight loss, to separate the winners from the losers stick to the GI scale (glycemic index). High-GI foods are broken down quickly by the body and deliver a short, sharp burst of energy.
Low-GI foods take longer to break down, keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Trade in your white bread, rice, pasta and rice-based crackers for Low-GI whole grain/wheat alternatives. Same goes for potatoes; swap white for sweet – just don’t eat too much! Alternatively, going low-carb is a sure-fire way to lose weight fast, just go slow to minimize cravings.
#3. Splurge (Occasionally!)
If you feel too restricted on your new eating plan, you’re not going to enjoy it, which is why it’s occasionally good to indulge (sensibly) in your favorite foods. Have the belief that losing weight means cutting out your favorite foods forever and you might fall of your new plan completely. The most important thing is have fun, so have that slice of pizza – just not the whole thing!
#4. Just Say ‘No’ to Soda!
Back away slowly from the soda and no one gets hurt. Loaded with sugar & empty calories, downing just one of these diet-destroying drinks can easily ruin an otherwise healthy day. This is no exaggeration, either. Just take a look at the image to the right. If that’s not enough to get you to re-think how you drink, consider the fact that sugar is the leading culprit for unwanted fat gain and can lead to diseases, including diabetes and heart disease – scary stuff!
Having a water bottle on hand at home or at work will give you something to sip on and keep your mind off the vending machine. Add in things like fresh lemon/lime juice and mint for extra flavor. Remember, thirst is often interpreted as hunger so stay hydrated; you’ll feel fuller without any sense of sacrifice. The same principle goes for alcohol – although the odd glass of wine or low-calorie beer won’t hurt.
#5. Survive a Snack-Attack!
In addition to 3 healthy, nutrient-dense meals you should have every day, you’ll also want to have an assortment of healthy snacks on standby when you’re feeling peckish. Pastries and cookies don’t make the grade here.
You want snacks that contain protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Nosh on healthy grab-and-go options like low-fat yogurts, fresh/dried fruit, a handful of mixed nuts, avocados, small tins of tuna/salmon or a couple of whole-grain crackers with cucumber and turkey slices. You’ll feel full, have energy to burn and control your hunger, making it easier to eat healthy when meal time rolls around.
#6. Move More, Eat More, Lose More!
OK, we know it’s not technically a food rule, but it’s important to realize how getting active can allow you to eat and enjoy more while still losing weight. A great way to understand weight loss is to think of your body as a bank.
Here your deposits represent food (energy in) and your withdrawals represent exercise (energy out). Weight loss begins as soon as you start expending more calories than you deposit, so the more you move, the more you lose! As a bonus, more exercise means a faster metabolic rate which means you enjoy the foods you love more often – guilt free! Here’s the best ways to get moving:
PUMP IT UP: Your muscles are your body’s natural fat burners so your goal should be to use and engage them as much as possible. Do this by performing large ‘multi-muscle’ moves such as chest presses, dips, squats & lunges. Pump classes are great too & offer the same benefits with a cardio boost.
BREAK A SWEAT: Swimming, skipping, jogging, aerobics, cycling are all great ways to set your heart racing and burn fat. To max your results & save time, crank up the intensity dial and decrease your total exercise time. The result: You’ll burn more calories both during and after your workout.
Remember, everyday you’re presented with hidden opportunities burn a few extra calories. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking away from work are all great ways to get moving and each contribute to your body-bank withdrawals. Be creative, think what you can do!