Recipe for Better Health: Food, Water and Weight Change
Updated: Nov 25, 2022
There are not enough letters in the alphabet to list all the helpful tips that assist in developing a healthy eating regime! That’s right ‘regime’, not diet. While the word diet can describe the kinds of food a person or community habitually eats, it has also come to mean something quite different. ‘Diet’ can also refer to a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons. There are so many gurus promoting various fad diets which at best give false hope, and at worst can lead to further health issues.
Rapid and radical changes in eating are not the right solution. Your goal should be to commit to a plan, be consistent, and make small adjustments in a stepwise (or incremental) and sustainable manner.
Below is an A-to-Z list of helpful tips that you can implement over time to assist you on the journey of establishing healthy eating habits.
Act: The biggest issue I find with healthy eating is people lacking a willingness to act. Change will not happen unless you act. Complaining about your health is surrendering. It is saying ‘I am unhappy with my health; I am a victim, and I cannot change my circumstances’. If you believe you can or you can’t, then you are right! Belief is the key to action. Don’t set your goals high. Just take small steps towards improving your eating habits. Often the first step is as simple as booking an appointment to seek professional help.
Behaviour: Behaviour is the key to change. You are master of your fate. Once you know what to do, you just have to implement it. Start by reflecting on your behaviour. Where do you shop? What do you buy? Do you plan your weekly meals? How much junk food and takeaway do you buy? How much salt, sugar and so on, is in the foods you eat? Do you stock readily available healthy food choices in the home? The list is endless. Planning and preparation is important.
Commit, change (incremental), consistency and a Counselling Psychologist: If you really want to achieve weight loss then commit, change and be consistent! Change takes time.
It helps to engage a Counselling Psychologist to support you through your journey. A counselling psychologist can provide a supportive, non-judgmental environment where you can explore your feelings and thoughts and strategies to change your habits. A counselling psychologist can also address any underlying mental health issues. A counselling psychologist can support you through those times when you feel like giving up, and problem solve when you are not achieving the outcomes you expect. Psychologists specialise in behavioural change, and it is much easier to achieve your goals when you have the support of an empathic professional with a background in science and evidence-based treatments.
Colour: Healthy food is generally colourful. No, not lollies! I am not referring to foods with artificial colours. Avoid the beige and brown diets as that usually means you are consuming carbohydrates in the form of bread, pastries, pizza dough, chips, and deep-fried food. Refined, processed, and revolting! Healthy food is cheerful food!
Doctor: Visit your doctor and have a chat about your health concerns. Ask your doctor to screen for any possible underlying health conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, and so on. Your doctor will also check other aspects of your health including your cholesterol and blood pressure. Ask your doctor for dietary advice and check if they recommend any specific dietary changes.
Exercise: Don’t exercise to lose weight, exercise just to maintain your physical health and feel good. While exercise is important, it is not an ideal weight loss strategy as eating a single muffin can offset one hour of moderate exercise. Exercise is important, however, to maintain muscle tone, body functioning and is good for mood and mental health.
Engage in an activity, or activities, you enjoy. Establish a regular routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or walk up the escalator instead of standing still, when shopping. Changing small habits can make a big difference over time. Park further away from your destination when you go out so that you must walk and carry your groceries further.
Flow: Engaging in your flow activities is the best way to achieve a hyper-focus in an activity you enjoy and avoid boredom. This prevents eating from boredom. Flow activities also improve mood and reduce stress which also helps prevent comfort eating. Learn more about flow at iflow psychology.
Grocery shopping: This is the most strategic point in your healthy eating plan. Do not shop when hungry and avoid impulse buying. Write a list of healthy foods prior to grocery shopping. Avoid temptation. You might even avoid the soft drink, candy, and snack aisles in the supermarket altogether! Buy raw fresh unprocessed ingredients where possible, especially vegetables including plenty of greens. Limit fruit to a maximum of two pieces a day. If you find your fruit goes off, then try buying frozen fruit. See Judging food below.
Homeostasis: Our bodies are physiological systems that have evolved to maintain a balance. If you have a lot of salty foods, for instance, you will crave fluids. Sometimes when we crave specific foods our body is trying to fulfill a need. Ensuring we drink enough water and eat a balanced healthy diet means we can satisfy our bodies needs and address hunger. A balanced diet can help prevent cravings and hunger.
Hydration: Always stay well hydrated. Don't confuse thirst with hunger. Water is also important for helping your body remove toxins from your system. See more information on hydration in the iflow psychology blog: Why hydrate? The secret health benefits of water.
Information Technology: We use our smart phones for everything, so why not try a food tracking app? I use MyNetDiary. The free version allows you enter your height and weight, set a target weight, record your fluid intake, track your daily calorie consumption, and even monitor your intake of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. After three weeks of using the free version, I paid the monthly fee so I could also track my daily intake of vitamins and minerals. You will also find great recipes, and plenty of handy hints. If you pair it with a smart watch, you will also be able to track your steps and energy expenditure. After making many of the other adjustment suggested in this list, using an app to track food consumption is the most objective way to gain insight into your energy consumption. Maintaining an energy deficit will allow your body to burn energy reserves.
Judge: Limit processed foods that have sugar, fats, salts, and other unnecessary ingredients. Have you ever noticed the star ratings on food products? The star ratings can be a great way of choosing healthier options. I generally only buy food with a star rating of at least four but always aim for the highest star rating possible. This also encourages the food industry to provide healthier food options.
Kilojoules: OK! I admit, I prefer to work with calories, but I needed a K for the list, OK, I confess! To achieve weight loss, you need to consume less energy (kilojoules or calories) than your body will burn. For example, if an individual needs 8,700 kilojoules per day to maintain weight, reducing daily intake to 6,600 kilojoules (assuming exercise stays the same), should provide around 500g per week weight loss. The best way to track your energy consumption is to use a well-designed app. See IT (above) for more information.
Liquify: Did you know food should be broken down mechanically by chewing into a liquid before swallowing? When food is crushed and ground by the teeth, it increases the surface area of the food being swallowed which allows the food to be broken down more efficiently by enzymes. Not chewing your food properly could lead to weight gain and gastrointestinal issues. The same quantity of food will not satisfy you for as long as it would if it had been properly chewed. So, masticate!
Microbes: Did you know your lower bowel has various bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms? It is now believed the health of your gut environment can influence your overall well-being by modulating metabolism, immune function, and mental health. Your gut health is important in processing the food you eat. Gut microbes influence energy metabolism by regulating glucose metabolism, appetite, and fat storage. Changes in the composition and function of gut microorganisms have been found to be associated with obesity and diabetes. In simple terms, stop eating for your taste buds and eat for your gut bacteria. Eat foods that promote growth and diversity in gut bacteria. Foods that are high in starch resistant fibre are particularly helpful as they act as prebiotics (food for the probiotics in your gut). Vegetables are particularly important, especially green vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, and lettuce. See the CSIRO dietary information for more information.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is critical for weight management for many reasons. Firstly, through engaging in mindfulness you will learn to be more relaxed. This will help avoid eating due to stress and anxiety. Secondly, mindfulness will allow you to observe your thoughts, feelings, cravings, and behaviour, and you will gain more insight into what triggers you to eat. Thirdly, engaging in mindfulness before eating allows you to slow down and enjoy the food more. Slowing down and chewing your food properly also means the stomach needs to do less work and you will delay hunger for longer. Lastly, eating slowly allows satiation signals to alert your brain you have consumed enough food and helps prevent overindulging thus reducing calorie intake. If you would like to learn mindfulness iflow psychology can help.
Nutrition: Ensure you have a balanced diet. If you have special dietary needs, or have concerns about your health or diet, then consult your treating doctor, or an appropriately trained dietician or nutritionist. The CSIRO diet can assist in learning what a balanced diet looks like. If you are limiting animal products in your diet, just be sure to substitute foods that can provide important vitamins and minerals like protein, and iron. Consider adding a multivitamin to your daily regime. Speak to your doctor about whether your diet is providing sufficient iron, vitamin B, Vitamin D and so on.
Obsess! No! Don't. Becoming too obsessed with food can be a dangerous path. Being too controlling about food can lead to increased anxiety and overly rigid approaches to dietary change and management. Food should be enjoyable, colourful, nutritious, and tasty and not a source of anxiety. If you eat the right foods and the right quantities each day you can enjoy your food without stress.
Plant-based: There are plenty of diets you can consider. Before starting a diet, however, research the pros and cons. Also consult your treating doctor before making any significant changes. While any effective weight loss program should aim to ensure you are not consuming too many calories, it is also important to ensure a balanced diet.
A diet based on plenty of whole, minimally processed plant-based foods is beneficial for overall health. Plant foods like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are low in saturated fat, contain heart-healthy fats and are a great source of fibre. Plant-based diets can lower body weight, improve insulin function, and increase the regulation of blood sugar, which can assist manage type 2 diabetes.
Poo: Let’s talk shit. Ever heard of the Bristol Stool Chart? Not something you want to post on your kitchen wall but very useful. The Bristol Stool Chart is a medical aid designed to classify faeces (poop!) into seven groups from constipation to diarrhoea. The form of your poop can help you gain insight into whether your diet is appropriate. Ideally you want to be able to hold on, pass a bowel motion within one minute of sitting down, without pain or needing to strain, and completely empty your bowel without having to return. Your poop should be like a sausage, not lumpy or runny.
Protein: Protein is the single most important nutrient for weight loss and serves an important role in managing hunger. Ensuring a good intake of protein can: boost your metabolism, reduce appetite, and change several weight-regulating hormones. Ensuring you consume enough protein in your meals will help prevent hunger.
Quantity: Now just because a food is natural and generally healthy it does not mean you can eat as much as you want. Always consider the energy in foods and practice portion management. Using an app to monitor calorie intake can greatly assist. Alternatively, the CSIRO established units which can be used to better manage food portions. Serve your portion and sit down at the table and eat it. Don’t eat straight from the pack as there is always ‘just one more’ that you can eat! You know what I am talking about sister!
Realistic: Your weight loss goals should be realistic. The first goal should be just to implement simple, sustainable changes. To start respecting your body and eating healthier. Avoiding increased weight gain should be the second goal. Developing good habits takes time. Don’t focus on the weight loss. Focus on achieving a healthier lifestyle. When I lost 5.5kgs my partner was upset as she had started eating healthier and had not lost weight. Then after a few weeks her weight started falling. Just be persistent and patient.
Routine: The body likes routine and regular patterns of behaviour can be easier to maintain. Remain flexible, though. Don’t become too rigid. You still want to enjoy yourself. Continue making healthy food choices but if you want to stray a little from your normal regime that is alright. Give yourself permission to vary your eating habits occasionally.
Reward: Acknowledge and celebrate success, but do not do it with food! When you save money by buying GST free healthy foods, saving on red meat, feeling like you have more energy or losing weight, celebrate! Share your achievement with a friend, treat yourself to a new article of clothing or just reflect on what you have changed and the benefits.
Sugars and carbohydrates: It is very easy to consume sugars without realising. Substitute water, soda water, or kabocha for sugary drinks, including fruit juices. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime to your water, or even throw in some fresh mint leaves. Limit fruit to a maximum of two pieces a day. Avoid foods with added sugar. Try frozen fruit instead of ice cream. Also avoid smoothies that contain fruits with sugars.
Snake oil: Save money and disappointment by not buying miracle weight loss programs. At best, many of these products are scams, and at worst, they can lead to adverse health issues. Always discuss any miracle cures with your doctor before wasting your money. Natural weight loss is the best and most economical way to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Don’t let marketers’ prey on your vulnerability. There is no magic pill. Sorry!
Sustainable: Ensure new eating habits are sustainable. Avoid fad diets. Short-term strategy will fail if you return to poor eating habits. That’s why it is important to take your time and build a new eating regime over time on a solid foundation.
Timely: Change takes time! Don’t rush. Slow and steady wins the race. Every little change you make is another brick in the wall. If you set an unrealistic timeframe for your weight loss you will set yourself up for failure. Don’t be tempted to engage in more radical changes that are not sustainable at best, and potentially harmful at worst. Every journey starts with a step in the right direction. Take one step at a time.
Unlearn! Yep! You might need to unlearn associations with food. Start by only eating at the dinner table or in the staff room. Avoid eating at your desk or in front of the television. Break the learned associations between these environments and food! Also avoid eating out of boredom or comfort eating when you are stressed. If you would like to learn healthy coping strategies book an appointment with iflow psychology.
Variety: Variety is the spice of life. If you get bored with your food, you might revert to high incentive snacks, make sure you continue to try various healthy options and alter the way you prepare and cook food. Use spices to enhance the taste of food and to limit the use of salt and sugar.
Waist size: The way your clothes fit is a better indicator than weight. When your pants start falling down in the middle of the grocery shop, like mine did, that is when you know you are succeeding! Don’t jump up and down with joy though, as you might be arrested when you are spotted standing in public with your pants around your feet!
Wholemeal and wholegrains: Grains are naturally high in fibre, helping you feel full and satisfied, which makes it easier to maintain a healthy body weight. Whole grains are linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and other health problems.
Xperiment: Don’t be afraid to try new things. Like spelling experiment without the ‘E’ to fulfill you’re a to Z list. When you start eating healthier you realise that there are foods you have never tried. When I started eating more leafy greens, I realised I had been missing out on some wonderful green Italian, Middle Eastern and Asian salads. If you start looking at vegan options on menus you will find there are some truly wonderful, nutritious, and tasty choices. Last night for instance, I enjoyed a Mexican cauliflower dish with an agave sauce followed by a fried bean and avocado taco. Delicious!
You: This is about how YOU feel, YOUR health and YOUR goals, not about how others appear! We are all different. Some people are blessed with an ideal height, weight, or figure but we are all different and that is beautiful. Aiming to look like 13-year-old model who has been photoshopped when you are 40 years of age is unrealistic and you are doomed to fail and live in misery. Focus on feeling good and just become the best you. Remind yourself, you are beautiful and love the hand you were dealt. Treat your body as you would your best friend. Care for it and love it.
Zzzzzz – sleep: Did you know you lose weight when you sleep? That’s right, not only are you not awake and tempted to engage in the midnight munchies, but your body will burn energy and expel it as carbon in your breath.
Sleep can also be used as part of an intermittent fasting regime. Intermittent fasting involves confining eating within set periods each day. Commonly, people restrict their eating to a 10 to 12-hour period of the day and fast the remainder of the time. For example, some people follow a 14:10 schedule, in which they only eat during a ten-hour period, such as from 8 am to 6 pm, and fast the remaining 14 hours of the day. This practice encourages your body to go into ‘fasting mode’. In fasting mode your body starts converting fat reserves into energy, which can lead to weight loss. When your digestive system rests, your body can focus on cellular repair and restoration.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing difficulty with weight management, support is available. If you need further assistance please contact iflow psychology or book an appointment. You can book an appointments online, or by calling my friendly admin staff on 02 6061 1144.
iflow psychology offers in-person (face-to-face), telehealth and telephone counselling. We are registered psychologists. We also offer Medicare Rebates when you have a doctors referral and Mental Health Plan. We would love to be part of your journey to a healthier lifestyle.
Location Details: iflow psychology is located in Leichhardt Inner West Sydney NSW Australia
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article are suggestions only. It is always advisable to speak with your treating doctor and health professionals before making changes. This is particularly important if you have health concerns or have existing medical conditions.
(c) 2021 Dean Harrison.