1. Eat REAL food - Throw out the "low fat" or "diet" foods. They are so over processed there is barely any nutritional value left in them so essentially, all you're doing is feeding your body cardboard. The more something is processed the less good it is going to do for your body. Know what this means? You've got it - start cooking. Go out, buy some vegetables, fruit, spices and start experimenting in the kitchen. This is going to be a big lifestyle change if you're not used to it so I won't overwhelm you with much else in this category except this: when we cook our foods we start the break down process before it even gets into our bodies. Some foods will even lose vital nutrients during the cooking process. As much as you can try to eat fruits and vegetables (specifically vegetables) raw. It takes some getting used to so you don't need to do this right away but keep it in mind for the future. When eating raw food it's also putting the responsibility of breaking it down completely on your body which means your body needs to do more work which results in burning more calories too! My favorite source of recipes online has to be OhSheGlows. She makes vegan meals but you can always use cows milk or real cheese instead of her substitutes or add meat into the meal.
2. Eat more often - A great rule of thumb for how often to eat is the 5 meals a day theory. Your meals should be breakfast, snack, lunch, snack and dinner. To make each of these a meal I want you to make sure you're having complex carbohydrates (vegetables and some grains/legumes), protein and fat. This seems to be a lot easier to do for breakfast, lunch and dinner but how do you do this for snacks you ask? How about a protein smoothy? Mixed berries, banana, spinach, coconut milk, chia seeds and protein powder tastes amazing! If you make too much you can also just throw it in the fridge for your second snack. You could also do cherry tomatoes, carrots and hummus. Or an apple cut up with nut butter. There are so many options. The reason it is so important to eat more often throughout the day is that your body goes into what's called "starvation mode" when it doesn't get nutrients after a certain amount of time. So let's say you eat breakfast at 6am but you don't eat anything else until 1pm. Your body has gone into starvation mode which means it thinks it's going to have another long period of time before eating so it's going to try to store as much of your 1pm meal as possible. To get around this start eating at 2-4 hour intervals.
3. Portion control - I blame this one on most restaurants. I went to Boston Pizza last week and my pasta dinner was about 3 servings of pasta. That is WAY TOO MUCH. Our body doesn't need all of that food in one sitting! The easy way to think of portions is to compare sizes to something common like the below chart.
4. Drink more water - This one is huge. Like BIG BIG BIG. I also find it one of the most difficult to a) track and b) improve on. According to the Mayo Clinic women need to drink about 2.2L of fluids and men about 3L of fluids a day to stay properly hydrated. For our purposes I'm going to substitute that with water instead of fluids. The reason is that water has zero calories and we're trying to lose weight. Please, please, please don't drink your calories away unless it's a daily smoothy. Just like "starvation mode", your body will hold on to more water if it's not getting enough per day. Want to lose that excess water? Drink more water then. Over time (days to a week) that will signal to your body that you will be giving it the amount of water it needs and it doesn't need to hold on to so much. Why else should you drink water? Good question! Water helps to lubricate your joints, regulates body temperature, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, helps prevent constipation, protects body organs and tissues and lessens the burden on your kidneys and liver by helping to flush out toxins (Source). And that's just the start.
Before we move on to my last tip (exercise) I want to really drive this point home by saying "drink as much water as you can possibly stand". The reason is that we will be exercising which means sweating so we will need even more than the guidelines above. Plus, it's very very rare that someone drinks too much water. So women, if you can get 3L a day, awesome! Men, if you can get 3.5L a day, wicked! Keep it up :)
5. Challenge your body - Our bodies aim to maintain what is called homeostasis. Wikipedia says homeostasis is the property of a system that regulates its internal environment and tends to maintain a stable, relatively constant condition of properties such as temperature or pH. Your body also does this when it comes to challenges placed upon it. When we were young our body adapted to being able to walk. Most of us walk during our day to day life and our body has become accustomed to this. Therefore walking will not challenge your body enough to force it to adapt. This is also what happens during a plateau. You start some new routine, get amazing results and then all of a sudden you get stuck. That's because your body has adapted to whatever it is your doing. To really challenge your body to make adaptations (burning fat included) we have to do something different that pushes us to our limits. If you're used to running on the treadmill try doing some hill runs outdoors. If you're used to going on the elliptical, try the stairmaster instead. Do something outside of your comfort zone and your body will be forced to adapt.
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Wow... this post took on a life of it's own! Lots of information here. Start with making one of the changes above. Once you're used to that one take on another. If you tackle a lot at once it's usually harder to keep it up over the long run. If you have any questions feel free to reach out in the comments section, on twitter or email me!