Diets don’t work!
There, I said it.
In fact, Tony Robbins said it best when he said “the first three letters of diet spell ‘die’”.
Coincidence? I think not.
I mean, when I’ve eaten nothing but egg whites, cauliflower rice, and kale for three days, I feel like I’m going to die. That’s not living and it’s not healthy.
Diet culture has us totally conditioned to think that to lose weight and/or be our healthiest self we have to restrict calories, cut out food groups, or “detox” our bodies, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
All these crazy, fad diets may have short term results but long term won’t do anything to improve our health – or create sustainable weight loss.
Science has shown time and again that people who lose weight – and keep it off – don’t diet at all – but rather, make little healthy lifestyle changes that feel sustainable.
As you know, a recent health scare highlighted that I need to prioritize being fit and at a healthy weight (you can read my story here). So, I’m pulling out all of my knowledge from my former life as a personal trainer and nutritional therapist to help with that goal.
BUT I’m determined that I will never go back to restriction, dieting, counting calories, and trying to live on rabbit food because I know for sure that it doesn’t work.
So, I’ve created a comprehensive bumper list of my favorite healthy habits – all scientifically proven to aid healthy weight loss or weight stabilization.
There’s no crazy weirdo diet rule that says you have to stop eating at 5 pm or restrict food. You get to live the life you love and still be your healthiest, fittest self.
Now all this to say: you don’t have to go all out and try and do All the Things at once! Just try and implement one or two things at a time, stick with them for a week, and then add something else.
#1: DRINK 2 LITERS OF WATER EVERY DAY
Did you know that hunger can easily be confused for thirst? True story.
Water is vital for many body processes, including transporting nutrients, maintaining brain function, and helping us work out harder at the gym. Studies have shown that drinking a glass of water before your meal can aid with weight loss, and it can also boost your metabolism.
It also helps keep your poos regular, improves your mood, and makes your skin all glowy and youthful.
But resist the urge to skull it all in one hit – it could be harmful. Space out your water consumption throughout the day and pay attention to how your body feels.
A good tip to know you’re drinking the right amount is to check your pee – it should be a pale strawy color.
If it’s clear, you probably don’t need to drink any more water for a while. If it’s dark yellow, it’s a sign of dehydration.
#2: GET A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP
Not only do you wake up feeling refreshed and energized to work out after a good night’s sleep, but it has so many important weight maintenance (and health) benefits. A poor night’s sleep can increase your appetite and sugar cravings.
Lack of sleep dulls activity in the frontal lobe, which is responsible for self-control. What’s more, studies have shown that the little reward centers in your brain seem to respond more to food if you’re tired.
Sleep deprivation can also increase your cravings for fatty, sugary foods and decreases your resting metabolism. So grab this amazing list of tips for the best night’s sleep ever, treat yourself to an early night, and sleep your way to a healthy body.
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#3: CROWD OUT YOUR MEALS WITH NUTRIENTS
Rather than obsessing over all the things you’re going to take out of your diet, start to focus on wonderful things you can add in! Aim to add as much nutrition to each meal as you can.
Instead of thinking of all the yummy things you’re going to have to give up, flip the script! Get out pen and paper and jot down all your favorite fruit and veg, the yummiest healthy foods you can think of, all the healthy recipes you’ve tried in the past and loved – really go nuts!
Aim to fill as much of your plate with fruit and veg as you can and “crowd out” your meals with good nutrition.
#4: MOVE REGULARLY THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Sure, you go to the gym and workout, and that’s awesome, honey! But how often do you work out for –vs- how long do you sit down at your desk job all day?
Workouts are important, but they usually only comprise a 24th of our ENTIRE day (even less if you don’t work out a full hour). So, it’s important to keep moving regularly throughout the day.
Weight loss aside, our bodies were never designed to sit for long periods, they were designed to move and keep active.
Staying sedentary all day is just so unnatural and unhealthy for our bodies, but this is the modern-day and most of us are in office jobs. We just have to do the best we can to make life a little more active.
See your boss about a standing desk, or bring in an anti-burst stability ball to sit on. Park a little further from the building, or get off one stop before your regular stop, and walk to work.
Set a timer on your desk reminding you to get up, stretch, and walk around at least once an hour (time gets away). Go for a walk at lunchtime and see the sights around your workplace (if it’s safe to do so – you could even start an office walking group).
Always take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to your colleague’s desk rather than send an email, and do a set of 15 squats after each time you use the bathroom. Every little bit helps.
#5: CUT BACK ON ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
Who doesn’t love happy hour at the end of a hard day? In all fairness, some studies have shown that moderate amounts of alcohol can be good for our health.
But these results are mixed and inconclusive – many studies show moderate alcohol consumption can harm our health.
My best advice? Keep your alcohol consumption irregular, and when you do imbibe, do so moderately (a.k.a. at one drink).
One is medicine, two is poison.
For the most part, stick to alternatives like flavored sparkling water, kombucha, or a yummy mocktail instead.
#6: SHOP MAINLY AT YOUR LOCAL FARMERS' MARKET, BUTCHER AND FISHMONGER
You’ll save loads of money, and your produce will be just the freshest. I’ll be the first to agree: eating healthy can be expensive and feel out of reach – but it doesn’t have to.
Research farmer’s markets in your area, pop down, and support your local butcher.
Then for everything else – this is my biggest secret of all – shop at ALDI. We save SO much money shopping there, and it might not always be grown in the organic volcanic ash of Mount Wannahokalugi or whatever, but it’s fresh, nutritious, and inexpensive.
Focus on consistency rather than perfection.
#7: WALK MORE
God, I love walking. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes (we’re talking Sketchers with memory foam soles) and walk or ride your bike to local haunts instead of driving. Aim for 6000 or more steps every day. Pace when you’re on the phone with a loved one, instead of sitting down. Suggest a scenic walk with your girlfriend instead of sitting in a coffee shop. Take it at a brisk pace – you can hold a conversation, but you shouldn’t be able to sing.
#8: DRINK GREEN TEA
Mmm green tea is my favorite! It’s love in a mug.
Recently I stepped up my green tea game and (finally) got into matcha. Like, how did it take me so long to find matcha? It’s bomb!
Anyway, green tea has some amazing health benefits. It’s so packed full of antioxidants, protects against cancer, lowers the risk of heart disease, improves brain function and yes, it can help with weight loss too.
It’s basically a magic potion.
#9: MANAGE YOUR STRESS LEVELS
Stress is no bueno, babe. It will fuck with your hormones, upset your digestion, increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer, increase your likelihood of overeating, and disrupt your appetite and eating patterns – as well as just making you feel awful, which is the worst.
Now, life can get unavoidably stressful. It’s kind of the other half of the bargain. However, we can all actively take steps to manage daily stress with some form of relaxation practice.
I can’t tell you what that looks like, because everyone’s different. Some like to meditate, some like to practice daily mindfulness, some like to hang out with friends, some like to do yoga or find exercise to be a good way to relieve stress, others like to absorb themselves in an enjoyable hobby, and others still just like to curl up with good fiction or a good Disney movie.
You do you, just make sure you make time regularly to decompress and unwind.
#10: EAT MINDFULLY
When you eat mindlessly, you eat faster, without pausing to consider hunger and fullness cues. More importantly, you’re not enjoying the process of eating and being present with the taste and texture of what you’re consuming.
Studies have shown that mindful eating can help you lose weight and it can also help with anxiety around food. Slowing down the pace and paying attention to your food makes eating more enjoyable, and you’ll notice those satiety cues much faster.
#11: MAKE HEALTHY SWAPS
Ordering a deli sandwich? Ask for multigrain/wholemeal instead of white bread.
Getting Friday night pizza? Ask for half cheese or extra veggie topping. Buying mayonnaise? Choose the lite variety or vegenaise.
You don’t have to do this with everything: sometimes, you want the fluffy white bread or the extra creamy mayo, and that’s fine.
There are no good and bad foods. Eat it, enjoy it, and move on (more about this in my next point).
But if the option is there, and it doesn’t feel like any skin off your nose, why not take the healthier route? All these little micro-decisions really do add up in the long run.
#12: SAY YES TO CRAVINGS
Okay, so a little contrary to my last point – if you’ve got a REAL craving for a particular food, just EAT IT. Food is just FOOD. It’s not good or bad.
Some foods will help you with your fitness goals and some won’t. So if you’re craving pizza, don’t try and do weird shit to satisfy that craving like – I don’t know – chewing a basil leaf or sucking on a garlic clove, and don’t even get me started on rice cake pizzas.
Because what ends up happening is – okay, better example, let’s use chocolate. Say you’re craving a Snickers bar.
But because you think a Snickers bar is “bad”, you eat an apple instead. Except an hour later, you’re still after that Snickers bar, so you eat some raw peanuts. No dice.
So you try some dark chocolate and – what do you know – you’re still really just craving that Snickers. So you finally cave and eat three Snickers bars to yourself.
We’ve all been there. You could have saved yourself a lot of heartache and calories by just eating the bar and moving on.
When you suppress a craving or label food as “bad”, you make the food and the craving bigger than you until it becomes an obsession, and now you need three times the amount to scratch the itch. Eat the Snickers, savor it, enjoy it, and feel good about moving onto your next, more nutritious meal.
#13: DON'T SKIP MEALS IF YOU'RE HUNGRY
I’ve tried intermittent fasting several times and I just can’t with it. I don’t feel good. I don’t feel better.
I get over hangry and eat 6,000 times more calories in my “window” when it’s finally time to eat.
Listen, you do you. There’s research to suggest that skipping breakfast can spike your glycaemic response and/or slow your metabolism, which leads to weight gain over time.
There’s also research to suggest skipping breakfast can help with weight loss, but this is where I think it’s important to listen to your body.
If you’re hungry in the morning, for God’s sake, EAT. If you’re not hungry – hold off until later, but just make sure you’ve got a robust healthy snack with you.
Personally, I find if I try to ignore my hunger cues or “skip” a meal to save calories, I just end up eating way more later on. Sometimes, when I wake up I’m honestly not at all hungry, and I’ll hold off until about “lunchtime” anyway.
Whenever you do break your fast though, make sure to load up on healthy protein like eggs, yogurt, and whole grains to keep you full and satisfied until lunch.
#14: RESEARCH MORE NUTRITION-DENSE VERSIONS OF YOUR FAVOURITE RECIPES
Having a rotation of delicious recipes based on your everyday favourites makes healthy eating a joy!
In your favorite muffin recipe, for example, you might swap out white pastry flour for wholemeal flour.
Another one of my favorite tips from mum is to halve the sugar in a baking recipe. You won’t even notice and your baking will be so much healthier.
Stuck for ideas? Search your favorite dish with “healthy” in front of it and get experimenting!
There are some incredibly delicious and nutritious versions of all your favourite comfort foods that are not just good for the soul, but good for the body too.
#15: MAKE LEAN PROTEIN AND FRESH PRODUCE THE STARS OF THE SHOW
When in doubt, opt for lots of lean protein and lots of veggies. If you give them top billing in every meal, eating healthily and losing weight will be a breeze.
From there, you can introduce the supporting cast: whole grains and healthy fats. It’s a great rule of thumb to take everywhere with you – when you’re eating out and you feel like something nutritious, look for a dish on the menu featuring lean protein (fish, chicken, legumes, eggs, tofu) and/or lots of vegetables.
#16: EAT A FIBER FILLED BREAKFAST
Every morning after my workout I down a bowl of oatmeal, berries, Greek yogurt, and psyllium husk. The dish has about 6 g of fiber in it (about 25% of my recommended fiber intake).
Studies have shown that whole grain cereals can benefit weight loss because they reduce appetite and stabilize blood sugar. More importantly, it’s great for your gut health and keeps you regular, which is so important for your overall health.
If you don’t like cereal, that’s okay! There are other ways to enjoy a fibre filled breakfast like:
A berry smoothie with fresh mixed berries, psyllium husk and oats
Whole grain rye toast with avocado and sliced tomato
A baked bean toasted sandwich on whole grain rye toast
#17: CONSIDER COLD BREW TEA BAGS INSTEAD OF SODA
I’m happy to sip on plain water throughout the day, but when I’m sitting down for my meals I like to jazz my beverage up a bit.
This is dangerous though, because I end up drinking my calories with a glass of Coke, or lemonade. I honestly love soda!
There’s no pretending it’s not delicious and refreshing.
A glass of Coke is just fine to enjoy from time to time, it’s just not a great habit to get into for health purposes.
I’ve just recently discovered cold brew tea bags and they’re SO good. They’re a healthy way to spruce up your plain old water and make it taste delicious.
Obsessed with the pink lemonade flavor!
#18: YOU PROBABLY DON'T NEED TO COOK WITH THAT MUCH OIL
Listen, I don’t care how sophisticated it looks on Masterchef, or how sticky your pan is, you’re probably overdoing it on the cooking oil.
A small amount of fragrant oil will do the same job flavour wise as a lot - but a larger amount will cost you in calories (not that I believe in counting them) and fat.
In fact, just 2 tablespoons of olive oil contains almost the same amount of calories and fat as a McDonalds cheeseburger (though the cheeseburger is high in trans fats and olive oil is high in good, healthy, heart protective fats but hey, that’s a conversation for another day).
Whilst the health risks vs benefits of the two are chalk and cheese, my point is to understand how heavy in fat and calories even 2 tablespoons of oil can be.
And whilst it’s important to add heart healthy oils to your everyday diet, it’s also important to be smart about it and consume oils mindfully, especially if weight loss is your goal.
When you’re cooking, aim to use as minimal an amount of oil as possible and save the lavish amounts of olive oil to make your salads taste amazing.
You won’t notice the difference in flavour or taste by cooking with less oil, but you definitely WILL reap the benefits.
I don’t really like cooking with hydrolyzed plant oil sprays like sunflower spray or canola spray, but a good coconut oil cooking spray does the job. It has a high smoking point, so it’s safe to cook with even at high temperatures.
You just spray the tiniest mist and it stops your food from sticking and adds a lovely subtle flavor to your food without the giant amounts of fat and calories.
#19: CUT RESTAURANT PORTIONS IN HALF
Restaurant portions are GINORMOUS! Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating the whole schmole if you’re hungry. But sometimes, when you’re enjoying the company and the atmosphere it’s easy to overeat until suddenly you realize – you’re too full to move.
I like to halve the portion served, put a literal cut in it, and push half away to the furthest corner of my plate. Then I eat the half in front of me.
When I’ve finished that half, it’s a little visual reminder to put my knife and fork down and gently check in to see how I’m feeling.
Am I full or content? Would any more be encroaching on the all important dessert room? Or am I still hungry? If I’m hungry, you best believe I’m going for that second half, but if I’m content, I push my plate away, ask the waiter for a takeaway bag and booya - lunch for tomorrow is sorted. Meal prep for glamour girls!
#20: EAT EVERYTHING WITH A KNIFE AND FORK
My old dog Banjo used to eat so fast, his tummy would suck in, creating a vacuum so he could just inhale down his biscuits.
He took after his mother. I tend to eat fast and not pay attention – and this is especially true if I eat with my hands.
I look like a psycho eating everything – from burgers to pizza – with a knife and fork, but it really does encourage me to slooooow down, take smaller bites, and eat mindfully. Put your cutlery down against the plate with each bite, chew and swallow before picking up your cutlery again.
It gives you plenty of opportunities to check in with your body and pay attention to satiety cues.
Bonus tip: it helps keep your lipstick in place too. You’re welcome.
#21: USE A SMALLER PLATE AND BOWL
Sometimes less is more, but with portion sizes, more is more. Research has shown that people tend to eat less if their food is served on smaller plates.
Sounds like a no-brainer, but here’s my personal experience. My husband Greg cooks the most bomb spaghetti Bolognese in the known universe.
Seriously, I’ve eaten spaghetti Bolognese in fine Italian restaurants and I’ll still take Greg’s version any day of the week.
I mean, I love it so much I put it in our wedding vows. He ladles it out into these gigantic pasta bowls, puts a tonne of gooey cheese on top, and you just dive in and swim in all the spaghetti Bolognese goodness until it’s gone.
Lately, I’ve been putting my portion in a little cereal bowl instead. I eat it and check in with myself afterward.
If I’m still hungry, do I go for a second bowl? You bet I do!
But honestly, 9 times out of 10, the small bowl is just as satisfying, and I eat half the amount.
You can also do this with chips, or candy. Put it in a small container, eat it slowly, and pay attention to how you feel.
There’s no deprivation – if you want more, have it – but you’ll likely find that when the little container is empty, you’re just as satisfied.
#22: NEVER MISS TWO HEALTHY MEALS IN A ROW
Life is about balance! You want to be able to eat ice cream on the beach and popcorn at the movies and just live your damn life.
But if you did that all the time, you’d likely feel rotten, right?
One tip I’ve found helpful is to never miss two healthy meals in a row. That is, if you’ve had a chocolate freakshake sundae for lunch, enjoy something more nutritious when you get hungry again, like a nourish bowl or grilled fish and veggies.
You don’t have to do any weird shit like miss meals. Just come gently back to crowding out your next meal with nutrients.
#23: KEEP YOUR WEEKENDS ACTIVE
Many of us sit all day for our jobs, so on weekends it's important to get out and about and enjoy life! Go for a scenic bushwalk with your friends, take a dance class you always wanted to try, take a bike ride with your husband, play some beach football with the kids, or go swimming.
You could even have a big cleaning bee at home (it burns calories too). Keeping active on your weekends is a great way to get your body moving and discover ways to make exercise fun.
#24: GROW YOUR OWN FRESH VEGGIES AND HERBS
When I lived in the country, I had a beautiful little herb garden. When I went outside to water my plants in the afternoon and saw new ripe tomatoes, or strawberries, or luscious green herb leaves, I just had to pick some!
I’d come inside and use them to make a big fresh garden salad and they tasted way more delicious than any salad I’ve ever eaten before. Growing your own veggies and herbs really does encourage you to eat more green produce – it’s like a reward for your efforts!
#25: LOVE AND ACCEPT YOUR BODY AS IT IS RIGHT NOW
I know this can feel like a difficult thing to do, especially if you’re feeling frustrated with your body or discouraged with a lack of progress. Self love and self acceptance are so key in creating lasting changes to your body.
I have some great resources for helping you feel empowered and good in your body and accepting yourself just as you are right now.
The most powerful moment in my health journey was when I was able to say “even if my body never changes, I love it and accept it, and I will still take the very best care of it.”
#26: DON'T SHOP HUNGRY
First of all, I’m terribly forgetful when I’m hangry. But secondly, you’re more likely to make decisions at the supermarket that aren’t in line with your nutrition goals.
Science has proven that shopping while you’re hungry increases your likelihood of buying higher calorie foods. And then there’s the little candy “impulse buy” section at the checkout.
Speaking of impulse buying, when you shop on a full stomach, you’re more likely to stick to your list and less likely to impulse buy, so you won’t spend $1274 on groceries. It’s win-win.
#27: CHOOSE FOODS THAT WILL KEEP YOU FULL
A giant bowl of kale (oh God, why??), fruit salad, or steamed broccoli for dinner might be healthy and low in calories but it won’t keep you full, at least not for long.
Choose foods that will stabilize your blood sugar, digest slowly, and promote feelings of fullness. Think high protein foods, whole grains, and healthy fats.
#28: DRINK A GREEN SMOOTHIE EVERY DAY
A green smoothie a day keeps the doctor away! I love to drink a super nutritious smoothie to get my 2 and 5 first thing in the morning.
It’s like a nutritional insurance policy – even if the rest of the day doesn’t go so great, I’ve started my day with something incredibly nutritious and nourishing for my body.
Plus, you honestly feel like a goddess afterward, I promise. Down the hatch!
#29: NOTICE HOW CERTAIN FOODS MAKE YOU FEEL
Rather than restricting foods because some fitness influencer on Instagram does, listen to your own body! Take note of how your body feels after you eat certain foods.
Do you get bloated, sluggish, or upset in the tummy? Do you have trouble sleeping? Does it mess with your head?
If you notice a food doesn’t agree with you, try gently swapping it out for a few days and notice whether there’s a change in how you feel. (N.B.: If you have a medical allergy or intolerance to a food, don’t eat it.)
#30: PUT HEALTHY FOODS AT EYE LEVEL IN YOUR PANTRY AND FRIDGE
No dragging in the wheelie bin and throwing out all the unhealthy food for this PT. Sometimes, you just want a Pop-Tart, sue me.
BUT the more you see a food, the more you feel like eating it. Keep the not-so-nutritious food out of eye level in the fridge and pantry, and keep fresh whole foods in easy reach.
You’ll be more likely to reach for them when you get one of those urges to browse your fridge (in fact, I feel one of those coming on right now).
#31: STOP DEMONIZING FOOD
There are NO good or bad foods. Food is just food.
Cupcakes are not the devil. They’re just cupcakes.
They’re not worth more or less than any other food, and they don’t go out insulting people’s mamas or stealing everyone’s left sock. The more a food becomes a “forbidden fruit”, so to speak, the more you will crave it and put it on a pedestal.
#32: FIND A WAY TO EXERCISE YOU LOVE
Rather than trying to push yourself into doing a form of exercise you LOATHE because it apparently burns calories, find a way to exercise you love doing (preferably more than one). The more you enjoy exercising, the more you’ll want to show up for it, leading to better consistency in the long run.
Well, my loves, this could have easily become a book, but I think we’ll cap it off here tonight. I trust this list will help you kickstart your health and fitness journey without any crazy diets so that you can enjoy sustainable weight loss and still live your best life to the fullest.
Now I would love to hear from you. What are three tips from this list you’re going to try this week? Or, if you have a tip to share, I’d love to add it. Comment with your favorite non-diet weight loss tip in the comments below!
If you liked this article, you’ll find these useful too: The Importance of Beauty Sleep / How to Heal Your Relationship To Your Body / How to Track Your Fitness Progress Without Stepping on a Scale / Can You Love Your Body and Want to Lose Weight
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