Pledging to a weight-loss plan isn’t the easiest thing to do — but it’s made even harder when the plan doesn’t work.
Trendy diets promoted by celebrities may seem like a good solution, but experts warn that those diets are difficult to sustain (not to mention we’re not privy to all the extra training and meal planning that their charmed lives afford).
“You have to start with a mind shift that eating healthy and daily motion is non-negotiable,” says Kathleen Trotter, Toronto-based fitness expert and author of Finding Your Fit.
Part of that shift also involves having the correct information about weight loss and fitness.
“For starters, weight loss is 90 per cent diet and 10 per cent activity,” says Calgary-based registered dietitian Jessica Tong. “You can’t outrun your plate. What you put into your body is what counts.”
The experts share some of their top tips for weight loss that will produce actual results and are actually sustainable.
1. Be mindful
Mindful eating is half the battle, Trotter says. And not just because you could be unaware of how much junk food you’re eating in a day — it applies to healthy foods too.
“Almonds are healthy, but if you’re eating 10 handfuls every day, that’s going to lead to weight gain,” she says. That’s why she advises against noshing while you’re cooking or keeping a jar of snacks on your desk.
But the real first line of defence is keeping a food journal.
“Until you know what you’re doing wrong and what you’re eating, you can’t fix it. But when you do know, you can make tweaks that will give you results.”
2. Eat breakfast
It’s a cliché as old as time: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But it’s true.
“Breakfast sets the foundation for the rest of the day. It helps to control your hunger hormones and curbs cravings,” Tong says.
“People who skip breakfast will set themselves up for hunger that will build throughout the day and culminate in making poor food decisions later on. Then you fall into a cycle of saying, ‘Well, there’s no point in eating healthy today, I’ll just start tomorrow.’”
3. Eat more protein — wisely
Adequate amounts of protein are important, but so are the right types.
“Cheese and almonds contain protein, but the percentage isn’t that high and you’re getting other things like fats and lots of calories,” Tong says.
Egg whites, lean meats and fish are protein-dense foods that aren’t high in fat.
While Tong recognizes the importance of natural sources of fat in your diet, she says that consuming a lot of it (like on plans like the Paleo diet) can lead to negative repercussions like high cholesterol levels.
4. Don’t cut out carbs
Ever since the Atkins diet swept North America, we’ve been vilifying carbohydrates, and now it has extended to all foods containing gluten.
“It’s not carbs or gluten that are the problem, it’s the excess consumption of them,” Tong says.
She says that disrupts the macronutrient balance we should be striving for — that balance differs for everyone, but if you’re striving for weight loss, aim for 40 per cent carbs, and 30 per cent of both protein and fat — and leads to weight gain. It’s not the carbs themselves.
Look for healthy sources like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and beans and legumes.
5. Speaking of vegetables…
“Eat more of them,” Trotter says. And drink more water.
“These are obvious things that when you say them to people, they always respond, ‘Oh, I know,’ but they don’t do it. Drink more water and eat more vegetables at every single meal.”
It doesn’t have to be a kale salad, either. Tong says if you’re drawn to the starchier vegetables, like butternut squash, carrots or peas, incorporate them in your diet.
This will create a habit around eating vegetables on a regular basis. Even if you never graduate to eating kale, you’ll be inclined to branch out and incorporate a wider variety of vegetables.