Why a Healthy Mind Is Key to Successful Weight Loss

Why a Healthy Mind Is Key to Successful Weight Loss

If you think you struggle to lose weight because you’re a foodie, I’m afraid you’re just giving yourself excuses. Having to lose weight means you indulged yourself a bit too much in the past. It means the calorie intake was offset, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have eaten any of what you love. It may come across as a bit of a shock to some of you, but it is possible to love food AND keep a healthy weight at the same time! You just need to work on your mindset first.

Life is always going to throw challenges at you

Most people accept the idea of gaining weight during the Christmas period, with the idea of being “good” in January to compensate. It happens every year at the same time so at least you can rely on a community spirit to make temporary good resolutions. But what about other occasions throughout the year (birthdays, parties, etc) or unexpected moments when food is used for comfort (lockdown…)? You get it, temptation is around every corner and constantly threatens your weight loss journey.

How to deal with temptation

If it tastes great, it’s probably because it’s bad for you. Not fair, I know. And if it’s bad for you, then you feel guilty for eating it. You enter a negative loop: eat more of what you love, feel even more guilty, put on weight, let yourself go, feel even worse, etc. Unhealthy food can be like a powerful drug, extremely addictive. But is there a solution to this first world problem?

1. Embrace your cravings

There is only one caveat: moderation. It’s fine to crave for unhealthy food sometimes. After all, no one has ever desperately craved for some lettuce. We all have at least one guilty pleasure when it comes to food. If it’s not chocolate (which is probably the most common), it could be sweets, biscuits, pizza, cheese… No matter what rocks your boat, remember they’re not your real enemy.

2. Healthy mind = Healthy body

If you’re planning to use your guilty pleasure as a reward once you’ve reached your weight goals, it probably means your relationship with food is not healthy. This could be a warning sign that you’re going to put your weight back on very quickly when your diet is over. The key to losing weight in a healthy way is to avoid the word “diet” because it has a negative connotation, which is counter-productive.

Good news is you don’t have to suffer to lose weight! Restricting yourself too much is only going to make you lose motivation, and even make you question if it’s really worth it. So instead of forbidding yourself to eat that chocolate cake you really crave for, simply include it within your calorie budget.

3. Don’t ban the food you love

At the end of the day, you just need to find the right balance between what your body “needs” and what your mind “wants”. If you only listen to your head, you’ll have a healthier body but you’ll feel very frustrated. If you only listen to your heart, your bad decisions will eventually impact your self-esteem in a negative way. Every choice you make has consequences, whether you’re trying to lose weight or not. To find the right mix between health and pleasure, simply aim to limit your cravings to 20% of your total food consumption. You’re all good as long as the big majority of your diet includes what your body really needs.

I did it myself recently

My birthday was 10 days ago… I usually go to a restaurant but they’re all currently closed in London. So I had my first (and hopefully last) lockdown birthday! As a result I was desperate for some treats, I wanted to satisfy my sweet tooth. And you know what? I did receive plenty of brownies to celebrate my special day. All vegan and gluten-free, but just as “bad”.

At no point did I feel guilty though, I simply included them in my healthy eating habits. I limited myself to 2 bites a day (each bite contains more than 100 calories!), ate each piece mindfully and looked forward to the next day to treat myself again. I don’t think brownies ever tasted that good. What’s the point overeating what you love if you don’t fully appreciate it? Result: it didn’t affect my weight loss. I now only have about 3 more kilos to lose before I reach my objective of 60 kg. Was it worth it? Yes, 100%.

So tell me… What’s your guilty pleasure(s)?

Big Girl x

Weight Loss Journey: How I Overcame the Dreaded Plateau

weight loss plateau

My weight loss journey started in August this year, I was at 85 kg which was unhealthy for my 165 cm height. My BMI was over 31 which is in the “obese” category (BMI above 30). That term is quite scary because even if I didn’t look obese, it was telling me that my body really needed to lose some fat if I didn’t want to run the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. So I started to reduce my calorie intake in order to lose weight, aiming to be at a much healthier range within months.

Counting calories is not always enough

2 months later I lost the first 7 kg, I was at 78 kg, which means a BMI at 28.7 and a downgrade from “obese” to simply “overweight” category. Good effort but still far off the healthy range between 50 kg and 68 kg for me. This is why weight loss is a long journey, it takes time to lose fat and it’s important to enjoy the ride if you want to stay motivated all along! I was enjoying my new routine and ready to keep it up that way but something happened: I plateaued… How do you break a weight loss plateau?

Find a method you can easily turn into a healthy habit

If you search for the solution online, you’ll see a lot of articles telling you to exercise more and eat less, because the only way to keep losing weight is to reduce further your calorie intake or increase even more the calories you spend at the gym. Personally, I found it pretty depressing and not really helping.

Thanks to Huel (a plant-based and completely nutritious meal), I already have only 400 calories for either lunch or dinner with all nutrients I need, and I keep the other meal of the day at 500-600 calories max with fresh food I cook myself. I don’t want to exhaust myself at the gym and I don’t want to eat less. I already know I don’t need breakfast in the morning as my body is not fully awake until noon. The solution for me was obvious: Intermittent Fasting.

intermittent fasting how does it work

What is intermittent fasting and how does it work?

There are several types of intermittent fasting methods, but the 16/8 method seemed like the obvious choice for breakfast skippers like me. It consists of fasting for 16 hours and eat within a window of 8 hours. I started this way 2 weeks ago and this is how I broke my weight loss plateau. My weight loss of approximately 1 kg a week resumed…

What my day looks like

  • 8.00am: I have a big glass of water to rehydrate my body and then a cup of tea (with no sugar, no honey, no milk)
  • 12.00pm: This is when I start to be hungry so I have a Huel shake for lunch (400 calories)
  • 4.00pm: I have a small snack involving nuts, fruits and/or some dark chocolate (200 calories)
  • 7.00pm: Dinner time, I stick to circa 500-600 calories per meal
  • 7.30pm: If I’m still hungry, I will have some fruit (berries are very low in calories for example)

I consider my 8-hour window being between 12.00pm and 8.00pm but sometimes I actually fast for longer as this is quite easy for me. Needless to say I drink plenty of water during the day. I can totally see this eating habits staying in my routine in the long term, even after I reach my weight goal of 60 kg. It also makes me want to document myself a lot more on the various health benefits attributed to intermittent fasting so it’s very likely I’ll come back with a post about it in the near future!

Did you (or anyone you know) also come across a plateau in your weight loss journey? How did you overcome it?

Big Girl x

My Weight Loss Journey: Past Failures & Current Plan

My weight loss journey

If 2020 will not be the best year of my life, it will be the year I decided to lose my extra kilos and become healthier, for good. To me, it’s a lot more difficult to keep the weight off than losing it. I guess I’m disciplined enough to stick to a diet and motivated enough to not give up until I reach my target. But it’s just not sustainable in the long term, the extra kilos come back easily afterwards. The word “diet” is the word to ban here, I’m now aiming for new healthy habits designed to stay.

Past attempts / Why it failed

I always struggled to maintain a healthy weight. My lowest in my adult life was around 58 kg and my highest around 85, with a lot of variation in between. I’m 165 cm tall so a normal BMI indicates I should be between 50 and 68 kg.

The yo-yo effect

10 years ago, I lost approximately 10 kg with the help of a nutritionist. But it was hard, I had to control my portions and force myself to eat foods I didn’t really like. So a year later, I quickly put them back on. Then I lost them again by practising “mindfulness eating” this time. I had regular telephone appointments with a dietician and I was going to the gym a lot. But again, I didn’t manage to keep the weight off for long. It then took me until 2017 to do something about it. I lost 20 kg in 7 months on my own, simply with a lot of daily exercise (and a fitbit to keep me on track). I didn’t change anything in my eating habits. And as you would suspect, I put them back on again within the following year…

The common mistake

Did you notice a pattern? The reason why I never managed to keep the weight off is that I never really focused on nutrition. I saw weight loss as a frustrating period when I had to restrict myself “temporarily”. I was never trying to change my lifestyle for good. Now I realise I simply needed to adopt better and healthier habits from the start!

Current plan / Progress so far

I started to stay on top of my calorie intake in August 2020, my weight was 85 kg back then, the heaviest I’ve ever been. 2 months after I started this journey, I lost 7 kg as I am today at 78 kg. There is still a lot to be done, this is why I’m happy to share updates with you to help me feel accountable and maybe even motivate those of you who have a similar journey ahead. I have heard about various weight loss programs and as I’m a fussy eater, I prefer a calorie counting diet. I just need to make sure I stick to my calorie budget: between 500 and 1,000 less calories than what I would need to maintain my weight (around 2,000).

If you’re clueless about how many calories you need each day, use this calculator. Eat 500 calories less every day for a week and you’ll lose 500g. Eat 1,000 calories less every day for a week and you’ll lose 1kg. The latter could be a bit difficult sometimes so I tend to stay in between.

Put yourself first in your to do list

My dos and don’ts

  • I’m doing this on my own but I use an app to help me count calories by logging everything I eat every day. I really like MyNetDiary but there are plenty of apps available for free. It helps you stay on target, gives you some tips and motivates you with a forecast.
  • I don’t drink any alcohol (ever) or any sugary drinks (I only drink diet soda or tea, if not water). This is a personal choice, it’s relatively easy for me as I don’t like beer anyway and wine gives me headaches. It’s probably a quick win for most people to simply avoid sugary drinks as they contain a lot of empty calories. I start the day with a big glass of water.
  • I sleep at least 7 hours a day. A good sleep is very important because you’re less resistant to food temptation when you’re tired. It’s easier to maintain a good sleep balance when you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, whether it’s the weekend or not. I wear an Oura ring to help me analyse my sleep every day, but most fitness watches also offer that feature.
  • I don’t have breakfast. This one is controversial as I heard so many times breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Surely everyone is different because every time I have breakfast I feel hungrier during the day. I just don’t think my body is ready to receive food when I wake up. I don’t even have my voice back when I wake up! Fair to say I’m really not a morning person, it takes me a long time to be ready once I’ve left my bed. Tea with a spoon of honey, that’s all I need and I’m not hungry until 12.30pm.
  • I have Huel for either lunch or dinner. It makes it so easy to count calories and it also tastes great. It’s not a replacement meal as you can have it for as long as you want, it’s designed to give you all nutrients you need in a meal without having to cook anything. For someone like me who doesn’t eat a lot of green naturally, this is helping a lot. You can use it to help you lose fat, or in your day-to-day life, your choice!
  • I avoid processed food and cook fresh food every day. If I had Huel for lunch, I’ll have a nice home-made meal for dinner. I vary between fish, poultry, beef or lamb, with usually potatoes, rice or pasta (I could never do a low-carb diet!).
  • I replace all snacks and/or desserts with fruits, preferably seasonal. I’m such a sweet-tooth, this is probably the hardest part but I fortunately also love fruits.
  • I allow myself a meal out or takeaway once a week. I stay on top on calories (estimated as it’s always harder to calculate it properly when someone else cooks for you) but I try to eat whatever I fancy so I don’t end up frustrated.
  • No unnecessary calories such as sweets. Sugar is addictive and it doesn’t bring your body anything useful. Not to mention it’s bad for your teeth.

And if you haven’t watched it yet, I recommend the 3 episodes of Lose a stone in 21 days (with Michael Mosley) – available on demand on Channel 4 – they’re full of good advice! Do you need to lose weight too? Tell me about the program that works best for you!

Big Girl x