By Kim Munson
Four practical ways you can improve your diet in just four weeks
Are you not seeing the results you want when it comes to weight loss? Are you exercising regularly but still having a hard time with your diet? Most people struggle with eating healthier for weight loss; it’s not uncommon for people to make the mistake of beginning a regular exercise program with the goal to lose weight, but then not trying to change their eating habits. If weight loss is your goal, not only do you need a regular fitness regime, but you need to adapt a way of eating that is conducive to that weight loss.
“Abs are made in the kitchen not in the gym”
While I don’t know if there is any scientific data to back those claims up, their message is valid. You have to dial in your nutrition and way of eating if you want to see weight loss with your fitness gains.
Here are four easy ways to help get your nutrition in line with your weight loss goals in just four weeks.
Change takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. New habits take time to become a way of life. Follow these actions, implementing one every week. Just one a week; start number one in week one, start number two in week two, etc. while still sticking with the habits already implemented. By the end of the month you will have changed your approach to eating and should be seeing results towards your weight loss goals. Remember, this is not an easy, do it once, temporary “diet”. This is a way to see real change. This is how to build a new lifestyle and approach to eating that will stick with you for the long term.
By making these small easy changes, you will gradually set yourself up for a new way of eating and thinking about food that will lead itself to the weight loss results you’ve been missing.
“Fat loss is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise”.
I’m giving you four actions to begin implementing today.
Action: Drink more water
This is perhaps the easiest thing you can do! Drinking water is great for weight loss for three key reasons:
- Your body needs to stay hydrated to function optimally
- By drinking water in place of other calorie ridden beverages, you end up cutting calories very easily without having to eat less
- Studies have found that most people mistake thirst for hunger; by drinking water instead of reaching for that snack, the calories you save really add up!
Goal: Drink at least eight 8oz cups (64oz) of water daily (more if you’re exercising).
How to implement: Swap water for your beverages throughout the day; Make drinking your water a priority over all other beverages until you reach your 64oz.
When you start to feel “peckish” and want a snack, make yourself drink a glass of water first. Most times you will find you were actually just thirsty and you no longer crave snacking.
You can substitute naturally unsweetened tea (but not diet tea), sparkling or carbonated water, or water flavored with slices of lemon, lime, cucumber or mint leaves to reach your goal of 64oz for the day.
Action: Substitute whole fruits for derivatives
This means cut out juice, artificially flavored yogurts, and fruit flavored processed foods like cereal bars, and replace with the real thing.
Goal: Replace all juice and fruit flavored processed foods with the real thing
How to implement:
- Rather than drinking orange juice, eat an orange
- Rather than eating strawberry flavored yogurt (laden with added sugars), have plain yogurt and add your own fresh berries
- Rather than processed “fruit” foods, like an apple cereal bar – have an apple and a handful of nuts, or a bowl of oatmeal with apple slices, etc.
By eating whole fruit and real foods instead of processed imitations, you get the additional vitamins, nutrients, fiber, water content, and satiety (which translate into feeling full longer so you actually consume less calories eating more food), without the high sugars and extra calories. Plus, cutting back on sugar dense processed foods will make your body happier in the long run. Many people find they feel more energized once they get rid of such sugar laden foods that cause blood sugar to spike and crash. Whole foods like pieces of fruit take longer to digest and raise blood sugar more slowly than artificially sweetened processed foods or pure fruit juices.
Action: Fill your plate with the right type of foods
Goal: Control your portions and eat a balanced diet
How to implement: Make sure your plate is filled with at least ½ “green stuff”, meaning veggies and a little fruit, and only ¼ of a healthy protein. The other ¼ should be a healthy starch.
By using a template like “Healthy Plate” from the Harvard School of Public Health, it’s easy to see where you need to change your portions. Most people find they have too much protein and white starches, not nearly enough fresh vegetables, and are lacking in whole grains and healthy starches.
I like the plate template because it’s very practical and easy to implement. It’s easy to serve yourself and fill your plate accordingly, and much less time consuming than trying to weigh and measure portions. It’s also great to keep in mind when going to dinner parties or social gatherings over the holidays when eating becomes a central focus of our get togethers.
Action: Choose whole grain foods over “white”processed varieties
Whole grain foods have been shown to reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Additionally, they are loaded with fiber and don’t cause blood sugar to spike as readily as “white” refined grains. This makes them great for weight loss.
“Compared to refined grains (white bread, white rice, white flour), whole grains pack more protein, fiber, vitamins (B vitamins and vitamin E), and minerals (magnesium and iron), as well as some antioxidants not found in other foods.”*
Types of Whole Grains *
Common types of whole grains include:
- Wild rice, which is actually a seed
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat
- Oatmeal and whole oats
- Whole rye
Less common types include: amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum and triticale (a hybrid of rye and wheat).
Goal: Substitute your “white” processed flour foods with whole grain equivalents.
How to implement: This is as simple as having a slice of whole grain toast in the morning instead of using white bread, using whole wheat pasta instead of regular, swapping brown rice for white rice, or eating oatmeal instead of refined cereal.
Read food labels and search for the words “whole” at the beginning of the ingredient list. For instance, look for the words “whole wheat” as the first ingredient of whole wheat bread. Don’t go by color or labels that say “multi grain” or “cracked wheat”. Many refined products are made to look healthy by just adding coloring. Make sure they list “whole” grains as the first or second ingredient.
You may be surprised that by swapping whole grains for their white refined counterparts, you will actually find yourself eating less and becoming fuller with fewer calories. This is because whole grains are higher in fiber and stomach satiating qualities that keep blood sugar levels more stable and prevent the crash and burn cycle of eating many refined carbs promote.
Get started today and reap the rewards in one month’s time
These are fairly easy ways to change your eating habits and improve your diet without having to drastically change the way you are eating or cutting back on food intake dramatically. Many people assume that to lose weight they must feel hungry all the time. That is not the case! You should not feel starved or extremely limited by your eating choices. By choosing smart substitutes, appropriate portions of how you fill your plate, eliminating the excess sugars and calories from beverages and processed snack foods by replacing them with water and their natural healthy alternatives, you can largely continue eating how you like to eat. Just eat smarter! Begin today; start with the first action item and implement it this week, adding a new action item the following week. By the end of the month you will have reformed your diet and approach to eating in an easy and gradual way. If you truly want to reach your weight loss goals and have yet to change your diet, now is the time to start!
All content in this article is personal opinion and not to be taken as medical advice. If you need nutritional advice talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian.
Kim Munson is a Fitness Coach and NASM Certified Personal Trainer specializing in outdoor, athletic based, functional fitness. She enjoys spending time outside and can be found running, biking or generally sweating at some location in the the south bay/San Jose area.
*Cited from blog post “Whole Grains are the Whole Package”, by Leanne Beattie