Category Archives for "Weight Loss"

Why Stress Could be Making Your Diet Fail

Stress and weight loss

Stress is a major problem today thanks to social media, long working hours, lack of physical activity and numerous other factors.  Did you know it’s estimated that between 75-90% of all visits to the GP are related, either directly or indirectly, to conditions caused by stress?

While stress causes a variety of health conditions, one of the most common, which many people are unaware of, is the impact stress has on our hormone levels and our ability to maintain a healthy weight and stress that goes on for a long time is a triple whammy for weight management – it increases our appetites, makes us hold on to fat we already have and reduces our willpower making it harder to implement a healthy lifestyle.

The reasons why stress leads to weight gain are complex but the four major ones are:

Our hormones – When your brain detects danger, whether that’s a sabre-toothed tiger on the hunt or a looming work deadline, your body releases a cascade of hormones, including adrenaline, CRH (Corticotropin-releasing hormone) and cortisol.  These help your body to feel alert, ready for action and able to deal with injury.   Fighting off the tiger would take a lot of energy but luckily cortisol (the stress hormone) hangs around after the danger and signals the body to start replenishing its energy supply.   Unfortunately sitting at your desk worrying about missing that deadline isn’t using quite as much energy as our ancestors would have used fighting the sabre-tooth but we’ve still got the same physiological system working to keep us safe so your brain is still going to tell you to get some food and fast as you can!

Belly Fat – back in the days when we had real and frequent threats from tigers and famine our bodies adapted to store energy for times of scarcity.  Unfortunately for us that means that when we’re chronically stressed by work/life demands we tend to get an extra layer of “visceral fat” in our bellies.  This fat is tricky to get rid of and releases chemicals that trigger inflammation in the body causing more stress in the system and increasing our risk of heart disease and diabetes.  Excess cortisol also slows down your metabolism to ensure there’s an adequate supply of glucose available when needed to deal with potential dangers.

Cravings and Fast Food – When we’re stressed we crave comfort foods and there are both biological and psychological reasons for this.  Stress plays havoc with our brain’s reward system by decreasing levels of the “happy hormones” such as serotonin so we crave foods that will give us the “reward” based experience such as highly processed, high-fat and high-sugar foods.

Poorer Sleep Habits – Research shows that worry is a major cause of insomnia.  When levels of cortisol and other stress hormones like adrenaline are abnormally elevated throughout the day it can be difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.  This lack of sleep impacts directly on weight maintenance as a lack of sleep affects the hormones leptin and ghrelin which dictate both appetite and feelings of satiety.  Also, lack of sleep will erode our willpower and ability to resist temptation.

So what’s a person to do?

There are a number of ways that you can try to minimise the impact your stress levels have on your weight.  These include:

Exercise – Exercise has been shown to reduce cortisol and trigger the release of chemicals that relieve pain and improve mood so it’s a good stress-buster.  Picking an activity that’s quite challenging and forces you to focus so you can’t think about whatever’s stressing you is particularly effective.  In addition, being active will help increase your metabolism so you burn off some of the extra calories that you may have “emotionally” overeaten.

Meditate/Mindfulness – More and more research is emerging to show the benefits of mindfulness or breathing practices for lowering stress levels.  This doesn’t necessarily mean sitting cross-legged in a darkened room with a candle and repeating “Ommmm”.  There are now some really good apps that make spending a few minutes being mindful very easy.  Getsomeheadspace.com and Calm.com are both worth checking out.  Even a few minutes a day can have a profound impact on your body’s stress levels.

Keep a Gratitude Journal – Writing can give you an insight into why you’re feeling so stressed and adding in a few things that you’re grateful for, however small a win they may be, switches your brain from focusing on the negatives to a more positive way of thinking.  This can help increase feelings of your ability to cope and reduce the emphasis on your problems.

So the take-home here is that even though your stress levels might be making it hard to lose weight, there are steps you can take which will help reduce your stress and those are important for your general health as well as your ability to lose weight.

If you’d like some more help with weight loss or finding a suitable exercise programme to help you reduce your stress levels then please get in touch with us.

4 Surprising Ways to Improve Your Portion Control Habits and Eat Less

lose weight with portion control

We live in a time of rising obesity rates and where weight loss is one of, if not the most, popular health-oriented goals in the country. While there are a multitude of methods to accomplish this goal ranging from diet to exercise to supplements or even medical procedures, one of the most overlooked yet simplest to implement is simply limiting our portions at each meal, also known as portion control.

The western diet tends to lead to meals that are far beyond our actual caloric needs, and while a feast may be a pleasant experience from time to time, it is not meant to be the case for every meal. Thus, in this blog post we will look at 4 potential methods that you may not have thought of to help you control your portions more effectively.

The first possible option comes from research on portion control with obese type 2 diabetes patients. The researchers used portion control plates to help regulate how much food could be eaten at each meal.

According to the report by Dr. Sue Pederson, “Patients in the intervention group lost significantly more weight than control subjects.” The research showed that simply downsizing the available plate sizes helped to control portion size and led to weight loss effects. The application is incredibly simple and the results proven; to improve your portion control habits, use smaller plates!

A second yet similar option published in the International Journal of Obesity found that another effective method to controlling portion size to therefore improve weight and diet control was to pre-portion foods prior to eating.

In their findings, “Another approach is to use “pre-portioned foods” (PPFs) to add structure to meals and minimize decisions about the amount of food to eat.” However, they also recommended in addition to pre-portioning foods ahead of time, to consume low energy density foods to decrease the corresponding need for energy and thus to eat more.

“A more effective strategy may be to encourage people to increase the proportion of foods low in energy density in their diets while limiting portions of high-energy-dense foods.”   This basically means eat more veg!

Thus, portion control is not necessarily just about the overall portion but finding the right portions of the right kinds of foods.

To that end, a separate report emphasized that primarily focusing on the main course in meals was an effective method of portion control rather than attempting to downsize everything. Since main courses make up the majority of the calories we take in during a meal, focusing on the size of that might be a good strategy.

The report in the Obesity Research Journal simply stated, “The results of this study indicate that consumption of a diet using portion-controlled entrees (main courses) enhances weight loss success.” This is good news and may be effective as a strategy to keep the portion control program simple and effective, which is often the best method to create a habit we can stick to, keep it simple and effective!

Finally, a new method that might work involved the use of text messaging as a daily reminder to control portion size and meal strategies throughout the day.

In the study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, participants were sent two to five text messages per day with various reminders on portion control and other effective dieting habits. At the end of the study, the results were great.

As noted in the study, “Intervention participants’ adjusted average weight loss was 2.88 kg (3.16%). At the end of the study, 22 of 24 (92%) intervention participants stated that they would recommend the intervention for weight control to friends and family.”

The takeaway here is that creating an effective habit requires lots of follow-ups and constant reinforcement to make it stick, and using text messaging from a service, friends or family, or even just setting reminders on your phone, may be a great method to improve your ability to control your meals, portions and diet.

In conclusion, there are a variety of different ways to improve portion control. Whether you are using smaller plates, pre-portioning your food, limiting your entrée size, or even using text messages as reminders, there is no wrong answer, only the one that works best for you!

Change the Way You Think About Exercise

For many people, exercise is nothing more than a way to lose weight or tone the body, but this is the wrong mentality to have. Everyone should be exercising for their physical and mental health and wellbeing. If you change the way you think about exercise, you’ll be more likely to commit to it long-term.

Exercise for Health

One way to switch your mindset about exercise is to remember how beneficial it is to your health. It is so easy to think about exercise as just a way to lose weight or tone up, but it is so much more than that. If you only exercise to lose weight then there’s a strong possibility you’ll see it as a punishment or something to endure and you’re just as likely to give it up if you don’t see quick results as if you actually hit your weight loss goals.

Instead, remove weight loss completely from your exercise. Think about it as a way to stay healthy, get fit, and live a longer, more enjoyable life. Exercise is wonderful for your physical and emotional health, from helping improve your cardiovascular health to reducing your stress and anxiety.  The weight loss will come as a side effect anyway.

Exercise for Energy

Exercise is also amazing for your energy levels, which is another way to think about it differently. It may seem counterintuitive, but for more people, exercising actually gives them more energy instead of making them more tired, which is what non-exercisers expect. The next time you are deciding if it is worth it to put in a workout when you aren’t really feeling motivated, switch your mindset and remember it will boost your energy and make you more productive.

Exercise for Mental Wellbeing

Don’t forget about your mental health! As we mentioned, exercise is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. It can feel hard to actually get up and move your body when you are stressed or having a bad mental health day, but it is so worth it. Something as simple as dancing in your living room, going for a walk, or lifting weights will completely transform your mood.

Exercise for the Social Aspects

You can also turn exercise into a social activity where you participate in it with friends or family members. Go for a weekend hike with friends, take a yoga class with your sister or mum, join a gym and meet new people who have the same health and fitness goals as you do. When you invite others along with you, your mentality about exercise completely changes.

Exercise should be a lifetime activity because as soon as you stop doing it the benefits begin to fade away.  Don’t think of it as a chore that you need to do in the short term but find an activity that you enjoy and do it regularly.

Protein: How much is enough?

You probably already know that protein is great for skin, hair, and nails; but it’s also critical for health. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to repair damage to your cells, digest food, fight infections, build muscle and bone, create hormones, and even think and have good moods. Higher protein diets can help fight high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Not to mention protein’s great benefits for metabolism boosting, satiety (feeling full after a meal), and weight management.

Protein is important, and this is a given.

There are a few factors to consider when calculating how much protein you need. I go through those calculations with you. Then I list the amount of protein in some common foods.

How much protein is enough

There isn’t a real rule that applies equally to everyone. There are a few factors to consider when figuring out how much protein you need.

The minimum recommendation is 0.8 g/kg (0.36 g/lb) per day and that’s a great place to start.

So, for a 68 kg (150 lb) healthy non-athlete adult, this is about 55 g protein/day.

Mind you, this is a minimum to prevent protein deficiency. It’s not optimal for good repair, digestion, immune function, muscle/bone building, hormones, thinking and great moods. It’s not enough for athletes, seniors or those recovering from an injury, either. If you fall into one of these camps, you may need to increase the minimum protein intake. Aim for closer to 1.3 g/kg (0.6 g/lb) per day.

Athletes need more protein for their energy and muscle mass. Seniors need more to help ward off muscle and bone loss that’s common in old age. And injured people need more for recovery and healing.

How much protein is too much?

As with any of the other macronutrients, fat and carbohydrates, eating too much protein can lead to weight gain. The calories from too much protein can be converted into sugar or fat in the body. The interesting thing about protein is that it costs more to use than the other macronutrients.  This is because it has a high “thermic effect.”  Meaning it requires a lot of energy to digest, absorb, transport and store. To digest protein, your body needs to spend more calories than when metabolizing fats or carbohydrates.

If you’re concerned that high protein intake harms healthy kidneys, don’t be. If your kidneys are healthy, they are more than capable of filtering out excess amino acids from the blood. The problem only occurs in people who already have kidney issues.

FUN FACT: Plant proteins are especially safe for kidney health.

How much protein is in food?

  • A 3.5 oz chicken breast has 31 g
  • A 3.5 oz can of salmon has 20 g
  • ½ cup cooked beans contain 6-9 g
  • A large egg contains 6 g
  • ¼ cup nuts contains 4-7 g
  • 1 medium baked potato contains 3 g

Conclusion

Protein is an essential nutrient we should all get enough of. “Enough” is about 0.8 – 1.3 g/kg (0.36 – 0.6 g/lb) per day. If you’re a healthy non-athlete adult, you can aim for the lower level. If you’re an athlete, senior, or injured person, aim for the higher level.

Too much of any of the macronutrients can lead to weight gain so make sure what you eat of each fits into your daily calorie goals.

References:
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-protein
http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/do-you-eat-enough-protein
https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-protein-per-day/

How Much Sugar is Too Much?

reducing sugar for health

Everyone’s talking about how bad sugar is for you. There are even entire documentaries on the topic such as “That Sugar Film”.

Obviously sugar is not a health food. And “added sugars” (ones that are not naturally found in whole foods like fruit) are particularly bad. They’re not only bad for diabetes; but, also for your waistline, mood, and energy levels.

Organizations and governments are (finally) declaring a maximum amount of daily sugar intake although many of them don’t actually agree on what that maximum number should be.

The problem is that sugar is everywhere. It’s naturally occurring. It’s also added to just about every processed food there is. And this “added sugar” is a factor in many chronic diseases we see today. Sugar is inflammatory. Too much is associated with weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cavities. Too much sugar is a huge health risk, no matter how you look at it.

Let’s discuss the difference between “added” sugar and “naturally occurring” sugar.

Fruit and other healthy whole foods contain sugar. They also contain water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals. They are good for you. Eating fruits and vegetables is a well-proven way to reduce your risks of many chronic diseases.

“Added sugars,” on the other hand, are concerning. In 2013, the American Heart Association calculated that about 25,000 deaths per year were due to sweetened beverages. “Added sugars” are also in baked goods, sweets, soups, sauces and other processed foods. You can find sugar on the ingredient list as many names, often ending in “-ose.” These include glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.

So, “Total sugars” = “Naturally occurring sugars” + “Added sugars.”

Tips to reduce your sugar intake

For one thing, ditch as much processed food as possible, regardless of their sugar content. There are a ton of studies that show that processed foods are bad for your health. Period.

Here are some of my most popular recommendations to reduce your sugar intake, so you don’t get too much:

  • Reduce (or eliminate) sugar-sweetened beverages; this includes fizzy drinks, sweetened coffee/tea, sports drinks, etc. Instead, have fruit-infused water. Or try drinking your coffee/tea “black” or with a touch of cinnamon or vanilla instead.
  • Reduce (or eliminate) your desserts and baked goods and bake your own instead. You can easily reduce the sugar in a recipe by half.
  • Instead of a granola bar (or other sugary snacks), try fruit, a handful of nuts, or veggies with hummus. These are easy grab-and-go snacks if you prepare them in a “to-go” container the night before.

References:

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-labelling-changes.html?_ga=2.256456139.1337838755.1500915116-364691916.1498677123
https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm#images
http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/reduce-sugar
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Added-Sugars_UCM_305858_Article.jsp#.WXYtbYjys2w
https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-sugar-per-day/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/truth-about-sugar
http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-break-the-sugar-habit-and-help-your-health-in-the-process
http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-spot-and-avoid-added-sugar
http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/eating-too-much-added-sugar-increases-the-risk-of-dying-with-heart-disease-201402067021

Why am I always hungry?

overeating emotional eating weight loss

If you always seem to feel hungry, you are not alone!

There are many reasons to feel hungry. Of course, the most obvious one is that you are actually physically hungry. Perhaps your stomach is empty, your blood sugar has dropped, and your hunger hormones are having a party.

But other times, the hunger may not be physical hunger. It may be a craving or an emotional trigger. These are common reasons why some people eat too much. It could be brought on by a certain type of diet, stress, boredom or a myriad of other things going on in your life.

It’s easy to mistake “psychological” hunger for “physical” hunger.

Let’s talk about the difference between both of these types of hunger, and give you some tips on how to figure out which is which.

Physical hunger vs. psychological hunger

Your “physical” hunger is regulated by the body through your hunger hormones to ensure your survival. You don’t want to be completely drained of fuel and nutrients for a long time because you might get so weak that you’re unable to go hunting (yep, your physiology still thinks you hunt Wildebeast!) So, you’re programmed to seek food when your body physically needs it. This can be triggered by your stomach being empty or your blood sugar dropping too low.

“Psychological” or “emotional” hunger is eating to overcome boredom, sadness, stress, etc. It’s based on a thought or feeling. It’s what happens when you see a great food commercial or smell a bakery. It’s not from your empty stomach or low blood sugar.

So, here’s how to tell which is which.

Six steps to figure out if you’re physically hungry or not

1 – The first thing you need to do is stop!  Take a pause to evaluate. Scarfing down that protein bar at the first sign of hunger isn’t necessarily going to help you.

2 – Now that you’ve stopped. Pay attention to where this hunger is coming from. Can you actually feel or hear your stomach growling? Did you skip a meal, and haven’t eaten in hours? Or are you seeing and smelling something divinely delicious? Perhaps you’re bored, sad, or stressed? Are you using food as a diversion from a task you don’t want to do?  Take a peek into all these areas and really pay attention.

3 – Have a big glass of water. Wait 5 minutes and see if you still think you’re hungry?

4 – Now observe your hunger feeling for at least a minute. If your feelings are the source of the hunger then you may be using food to avoid an uncomfortable feeling, admitting that you’re sad or lonely isn’t a great feeling but being uncomfortable doesn’t hurt you, covering those feelings in chocolate and ice-cream just might!

Sit with the uncomfortable feeling for a minute, acknowledge it and let it pass.  It will, I promise.  Try some deep breathing or go for a walk and think about the emotion.  The more you do this, the weaker that signal to swallow your emotions with food will get.

5 – If you’re sure it’s not emotion and your body really physically needs food then take the time to find something nutritious and healthy to eat.  If you’re craving something processed and full of sugar it’s a clue that it’s not physical hunger but back to those emotions again.

To fill you up the food you eat should be high in protein, fibre, and water. Eat slowly and mindfully. Chew well and savour every bite of it.

6 – Rinse and repeat at the next sign of hunger.

Conclusion

The feeling of hunger can manifest for many reasons. Of course, if you’re physically hungry and need the food and nutrients, then this is what it’s for!

But often, there can be an underlying psychological or emotional reason you might feel hungry.

Use this process over and over again to feed your body what it actually physically needs and you’ll find it easier to manage your weight and eat for good health.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/ghrelin/

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/dealing-with-mysterious-hunger

https://authoritynutrition.com/18-ways-reduce-hunger-appetite/

Food As Comfort: Stop Bad Eating Habits And Emotional Eating

emotional eating and tips to stop it

Even those people who follow a strict diet and understand the calorie content of everything they eat (who are these people!) can still have a bad day and slip with their nutrition.

In our society, emotional eating is such an ingrained and normalized behaviour that we even see it in popular films and tv programmes.  What does the leading female actor turn to when unhappy?  A tub of Ben and Jerrys!  Notice you don’t often see the leading male actor following this behaviour but that’s probably a subject for another article.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it. The human brain has evolved to reward behavior that increases our chance of survival. One of these things is eating.

The tough part is that our brains are wired to reward us for high calorie, high energy foods. Such foods were vital to sustaining our ancestors, but in today’s world where food is plentiful, this aspect of the brain ends up working against us.

What constitutes emotional eating?

In the journal Appetite there is an article, Relations between negative affect, coping, and emotional eating (catchy title huh?) that deals with this question point-blank. Their findings state that “emotional eating is related to reliance on emotion-oriented coping and avoidance distraction in eating-disordered women as well as in relatively healthy women.”

There are two things to take away from this. First, emotional eating doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.  Second, if you eat to cope with daily life and this is your chief way to cope, then it would be worth exploring other ways to cope that would serve you better.

How To Stop The Habit Of Emotional Eating

Try to identify your triggers. Some find it helpful to keep a food diary.  Record not only what and how much you ate but also how you felt. This may bring to light a pattern in your eating.  Is it stress, boredom, loneliness, prevarication, anxiety, or some other emotion that’s triggering you to eat?

Recognizing a pattern allows you to develop a strategy to break it. Patterns such as eating after a hard day at work, during high-stress times, after a heartbreak, or when lonely or bored are signs of emotional eating. Yoga, meditation, and regular exercise can help reduce stress levels. Talking about your feelings is a much healthier coping mechanism than eating. Food is sustenance, it shouldn’t be used for comfort.

Distract yourself. The best distractions from emotional eating are things that take only about five minutes—just long enough to help you switch gears. Not only can this help stop the behavior but it can help change your mood, hopefully taking away the feeling of needing to eat.  This could be as simple as a cup of tea, a few exercises, a quick breathing drill, or reading a few pages of your latest book.  Try to come up with your strategy.

Make it easier on yourself and take away the temptation. Clean out your fridge and cupboards of all unhealthy foods that you typically indulge in.  

Get support. Those who lack a quality support system tend to emotionally eat more often.  Talk to a friend about what triggers your emotional eating and what you want to try and do about it.  You’ll probably be surprised when you open up to them that their response may be very similar.

Mindfulness… Without the WooWoo!

meditate for weight loss

When we talk about mindfulness and meditation people often think it’s something a bit “new-age” and not for down-to-earth, practical, “normal” people but there’s a real buzz about it nowadays and that appears to be well deserved.

Because…yes, it really does work. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.

Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”

“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.

Practising “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. Let’s talk about a few of them below.

The link between mindfulness and health = stress reduction

Did you know that 75-90% of doctors visits are due to the effects of stress? Isn’t that staggering?

And, doesn’t it make a ton of sense to practise something that’s free, can reduce your stress levels and reduce health issues too.

Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.

Let’s briefly go over the research in three main areas: mood, weight, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of mindfulness is branching into many other exciting new areas too.

Mindfulness for mood

The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.

In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.

Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.

While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.

Mindfulness for weight

Studies show that people who use mind-body practices, including mindfulness, have lower BMIs (Body Mass Indices).

How can this be?

One way mindfulness is linked with lower weight is due to stress-reduction. Mindfulness can reduce stress-related and emotional overeating. It can also help reduce cravings and binge eating.

Another way it can work for weight is due to “mindful eating.” Mindful eating is a “non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating.” It’s the practice of being more aware of food and the eating process. It’s listening more deeply to how hungry and full you actually are. It’s not allowing yourself to be distracted with other things while you’re eating, like what’s on TV or your smartphone.

People with higher mindfulness scores also reported smaller serving sizes of energy-dense foods. So, it seems that more mindful eating = less junk.

Mindfulness about food and eating can have some great benefits for your weight.

Mindfulness for gut health

Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria that help your digestion).In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut’s microbes.

Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.

The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.

Conclusion

Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For moods, weight, gut health, and more.

Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?  After all, it’s free, just takes a few minutes a day, needs no equipment and you can do it pretty much anywhere.

Let me know in the comments below.

5 Appetite Suppressing Foods To Help You Eat Less

appetite suppressing foods to help curb your appetite

It seems almost inevitable these days that we all eventually end up on a mission to improve our health. Whether it be to lose weight, gain muscle, or just stay fit and not have to worry about common health issues that can crop up. A fortune is spent advertising supplements, diet programmes, fitness equipment and the “latest new, best method” to be healthier.

There are plenty of people looking for the easy route, the quick fix. Some pill or shake that will give them the results they desire. But getting healthy and staying healthy is hard work and takes time and commitment. Achieving your health goal is more of a matter of adopting an alternative lifestyle as opposed to something that you do for a month, then your good to go.

Managing to stay a healthy weight is a key factor in living that healthier life.

Processed and junk food is doing us so much harm. Between the modern lifestyle, which is mostly sedentary, and junk food, we have dug quite a hole for ourselves. Poor eating habits have left many of us completely out of tune with our satiety signals.

Lucky for us there are a few things we can eat or drink that will help to curb our appetite and potentially reduce the amount of food we’re consuming. Most of it is nothing fancy, and I’m sure you have most of these things at home. Here are five to get you started:

1. Coffee: Now, most people have probably experienced this or at least heard about its appetite-suppressing effect. For a long time, people thought it was the caffeine that was causing this effect. Interestingly enough, it is not, decaf has the same effect because of the satiety hormone PPY.

A clinical trial (Coffee, hunger, and peptide YY; Greenberg JA, et al) reports that “our randomized human trial showed that decaffeinated coffee can acutely decrease hunger and increase the satiety hormone PYY.” When this clinical trial was finished, the researchers were surprised at the results, but they also noted that more studies need to be conducted to figure out the exact mechanism.

Remember, not all of us do well with coffee and drinking coffee after lunchtime can affect your sleep so don’t over do this one!

2. Chicken and fish: Add more protein to your diet. Recently studies were completed at Purdue to show the effect of a high protein diet. They sought to show the satisfying nature of lean protein. What they found was that participants who took in about 30% of their calories from lean protein felt fuller for longer. The trick is choosing the right protein source. A few recommendations would be lean poultry, eggs, and legumes which are beans and lentils.

3. Whole grains and fibre rich foods: Try and get enough fibre in your diet. A randomized study called Dietary fiber and weight regulation found that when participants ate an extra 14 grams of fiber daily, they decreased their calorie intake by up to 10%. The reason for this is fibre stretches the stomach causing it to release fullness hormones.

Aside from keeping you feeling fuller longer, opting for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds promotes your overall health. Many of these foods also contain beneficial nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

4. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water: Having a large glass of water before your meal will make you feel fuller sooner, so you end up eating less. For this tip to work, try to drink the water as close to the meal as possible. Plus, the added hydration is always beneficial since many people don’t stay adequately hydrated during the day.

Another way to achieve this effect is by starting your meal with soup. In a paper published back in 2007 by the journal, Appetite researchers were able to show that eating a bowl of soup immediately before a meal decreased hunger and reduced total calorie intake. On average, it was about 100 calories per meal.

5. Spices: If you can tolerate it try adding some more spice to your meal. A recent meta-analysis by Purdue University examined the effects of capsaicin, found in hot peppers, and capsiate, found in sweet peppers. It found these compounds may help decrease hunger and increase feelings of fullness. Although this meta-analysis only included a few studies, it’s still something to consider.

Healthy Eating Shouldn’t Be Boring

Deciding to change your diet and improve your nutrition is an admirable step, but it can be difficult to stick to a new eating plan if you find healthy food “boring.” You’ll soon begin to lose interest in eating meals loaded with fruits and vegetables while limiting the foods you used to crave.

The good news is, there are plenty of ways that you can keep your new diet interesting and enjoyable, so you’ll be more likely to continue the diet long-term.

Here are a few ways that you can keep a balanced diet interesting and prevent yourself from becoming bored.

Drinking Shakes or Juices

The thought of adding fruits and especially vegetables to every meal might make you shudder, but there are simple ways to get your vitamins and minerals. The easiest and best way to get all those important nutrients is by making shakes and smoothies that are loaded with all the vitamins and minerals you need to live a healthy life.

We’re not talking shop-bought ones here, they’re usually loaded with more fruit than veggies and are super-sized, loading you up on calories more than nutrients!

What’s great about making your own shakes and smoothies is the serving size. Rather than having to eat several cups of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, you can get the same amount of nutrients in an 8 or 16-ounce beverage.

You also have full control over the ingredients you’re using and the nutrients you’re taking in. That means you can try out new recipes with your favourite fruits and vegetables without getting bored of the same old thing every day.

Focus on Variety

A monotonous diet is bleugh! One of the most common reasons that people give up on their diets is because of the monotony of it all. Though there are certain foods and beverages that’ll help to improve your health and nutritional intake, it can be incredibly boring to eat and drink the same few items every day.

That’s why variety is so important! There’s no shortage of healthy foods and beverages and there are practically unlimited recipes to keep you interested in your diet and health, all at the same time.

The best way to implement variety into your diet is by doing your own research and compiling a comprehensive list of healthy recipes. In addition to learning about new foods that you didn’t even know you liked, you’ll always have something new to look forward to on your diet!

Leave Some Room for Fun

Starting a new, healthy diet usually means leaving your favourite foods in the past, especially if they were full of salt, fat, or sugar. While you know it’s for your own good, it’s completely normal to crave these foods every once in a while, even if you’re on a strict diet.

Your body requires food and beverages to stay alive, but as humans, we also get an enormous amount of enjoyment in what we’re eating and drinking. So allow yourself a little indulgence occasionally. A new diet doesn’t always mean you have to eat healthy 100% of the time.

Though you should do so in moderation, you should leave some room for fun when it comes to your new diet. That means allowing yourself to eat some of your favourite foods, as long as you’re not doing so every day or seriously setting your goal back.

Final Thoughts

When you think about nutrition, you probably think about swapping out your entire current diet and replacing it with nutrient-dense foods. Though doing so will undoubtedly improve your health, it can be a bit boring and negatively impact your relationship with food. That’s why it’s so important to keep your new diet interesting and something you can stick to.

If you want some pointers to get you started then we can help you out at Inspire Fitness.  If you just want some ideas then we’ve got recipe packs which consist of healthy, nutritious but delicious recipes.  You can even subscribe and get a new recipe pack each month with 15 super, healthy recipes including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options.  Every recipe has the macronutrient breakdown, simple instructions and MyFitnessPal barcodes if you’re tracking your intake.

If you’d like a bit more help, then perhaps our 21-day transformation is for you?  3 weeks of meal plans, grocery lists, coaching, and daily check-in to provide accountability.  Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

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