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

Surprising Things I Discovered After Going Vegan for a Month

Every year since 2014, some people commit to Veganuary by adopting a vegan diet for a month – in January. I would have never considered it in the past but this year I was intrigued… We all have preconceived ideas about the unknown, so why not try and see if they’re actually valid? And if it’s the most effective way to save the planet, it’s probably worth keeping an open mind. But not at all costs! Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life, I want to keep enjoying it. Sticking to what you know is always easier… So let me tell you the main 3 things I learnt after trying it myself for a month:

1. It’s actually quite easy to eat vegan every day

If your main reason for going vegan is the environment and/or the animals, then it’s not difficult to stick to it. First of all, many popular foods are already vegan (potatoes, rice, pasta, fruits…). Treats and things that are not especially good for you (like biscuits, sweets, etc) are easy to fit in a vegan diet too, if you read the labels properly. Secondly, more and more companies diversify their range to offer vegan options. Meat alternatives are everywhere nowadays (especially in big cities like London) so it’s really not difficult to avoid animal products. They’re not always the healthiest as some of them are highly processed, but they are a great way to help you while you’re transitioning. You won’t have to eat fries everyday to have a clear conscience.

Basically, if your health is not the main reason, the switch will be relatively easy. It’s when you want to have a healthy and balanced diet (as you should) that things can get a bit more complicated… Especially if you’re a fussy eater like me. But even that turned out to be a lot easier that I anticipated.

2. A vegan diet is very varied and not boring at all

If you asked me several months ago what I thought about a vegan diet, I would have said I wasn’t interested in eating lettuce everyday. I didn’t understand how you could enjoy life with “boring” food. I thought it was a sacrifice not worth doing. It was made worse by the fact I’ve always disliked vegetables (especially the green ones…).

Now I wish I did it sooner

Take it from someone who had a lot of negative opinions about veganism not so long ago. Someone who would never willingly put vegetables on their plate… I realise how ignorant I was to have never tried most of the foods available! Don’t get me wrong, it seems daunting to remove from your diet all products derived from animals. Because they’re literally everywhere. But I can honestly tell you I eat a lot more varied now than I ever have in my entire life.

I’m always looking forward to my next meal

I now feel I have almost too much choice when I prepare the food plan for the week. Before it was a lot easier to plan our meals, it was always the same thing (roast chicken, beef burger or salmon, with either rice, fries or pasta). Now I feel like I should do a food plan for the entire month, just so I can fit in everything I fancy. And my cupboards have never been so full of varied things!

In fact, I added so many things in my diet by going vegan. Things I didn’t even know existed. Things I’m now willing to try because I realised I don’t even know what it tastes like. It also forces me to play more with spices and sauces, giving amazing flavours to every meal.

3. Eating cruelty-free makes food more enjoyable

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that no animals have been killed to feed me… But something makes the whole eating experience very rewarding. You know when you feel guilty after eating too much for example? It’s usually because you know it’s not good for your body to overeat. But I wonder if it could also be because most of the time food industries control what you eat, not you. By cooking with plants I don’t experience that guilt anymore. And eating used to make me feel a bit lethargic after each meal… Like I would need all of my body’s energy just to digest it. That feeling is gone too.

Eating vegan also makes cooking more enjoyable, because I don’t have to deal with what used to put me off before: blood from a steak, nerves from chicken, fat from bacon, etc. When I cook with raw ingredients only involving plants, the smell in the kitchen feels a lot more “natural”. I eat more for less calories and feel full for longer, without any sluggish feeling afterwards. It means I have more energy and feel “lighter” at the same time. It’s a win in all aspects!

Other things I discovered:

  • Because I eat a lot more fibre than I used to, my digestive system has improved a lot (my guts are happier)
  • I haven’t missed meat at all, not once…
  • Cooking with tofu is actually quite fun, it’s such a versatile ingredient and an excellent source of proteins
  • I would pick a plant-based burger over a beef burger without hesitation
  • Cauliflower can be an amazing snack
  • Cashews are used a lot in vegan meals to give a cheesy flavour
  • We can “learn” to appreciate healthy food and even thrive for it
  • I get to be more creative with my cooking skills and it makes me feel proud when my partner enjoys a home-cooked meal – I can’t wait to invite friends & family to try
  • There is so much more to vegan food than simply tofu, cauliflower and cashews… These are my personal favourites for now, but I still have so much more to experience and discover (a month is far from being enough!)

Going forward

I considered Veganuary like a test and I passed it. So I’ve decided, I’m not going back to my previous diet! Why would I even consider eating meat again with all the benefits I discovered from a plant-based diet? Long term, the only thing I may find hard to never eat again is salmon. It’s difficult because it’s an obvious source of omega-3 and also it tastes great (I especially love salmon sushi). It’s still an animal product though! And if we don’t do anything, our oceans will be empty in the next few decades. It’s as simple as that. Making the wrong choice would be a way to contribute to this huge killing machine that is destroying our planet.

Would you not consider changing your eating habits if it meant saving the planet, the animals and yourself at the same time?

Big Girl x

Honey: Health Benefits vs Negative Impact on Our Eco-System

Honey: Health Benefits vs Negative Impact on Our Eco-System

I absolutely love honey, it’s something I’ve always considered “natural” and healthy (if consumed with moderation, of course… like most things). Many years ago, I met a vegan guy who told me that honey was a no-go in their diet. I thought it made no sense… Bees produce honey anyway, right? It’s a very natural thing for them to do, so we might as well include it in our diet. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to explain to me the reasons why they didn’t consider it ethical. It’s only now that I’m wondering how I have stayed in the dark for so long. Information is key, so I finally tried to find out more on the matter. What are the health benefits and what impact does it have on the planet? Does it compensate? Shouldn’t we care?

Honey has health benefits

On top of its appealing golden texture and delicious taste, honey is good for many things. You would have to get a high-quality one to get the most of it though, as in not mixed with syrup – just be careful and read the label properly before buying it. Honey is rich in antioxidants and is a great alternative to sugar, or is “less bad” for diabetics. It can help reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure but also help to lower cholesterol. Honey can help with your throat when you catch a cold too (in your tea, as a form of a sweet you can find in the pharmacy, etc).

Note that the health benefits of honey are counterbalanced by the fact it’s very high in calories and sugar, so moderation is always key! Otherwise, it is known that honey is a good antibacterial and can treat burns, wounds and other conditions when applied directly to the skin.

Why honey is not vegan

People would often assume honey is vegan-friendly, but it’s not. I used to think it was purely because this product came from bees (insects do matter too, you know) and in my opinion, it was pushing the will to “defend nature” a bit too far and at the time I simply discarded the idea, shrugging my shoulders at it. I was convinced bees would produce honey for us anyway so what was the issue?

Today, I know that was a common misconception that couldn’t be further away from the truth… Honey is something bees produce for themselves as a source of energy to survive during winter months, not for humans. But as the health benefits of honey are becoming common knowledge, the whole industry needs to meet increasing demands. It means that beekeepers, like any other businesses, will aim to increase their revenue and decrease their costs to maximise profit. How do they do that?

  • They specifically breed honey bees to increase productivity. This selective breeding narrows the population gene pool and increases susceptibility to disease. So, if you thought honey production was good for the environment, the diseases spread to the thousands of other pollinators we rely on would show otherwise.
  • When they remove honey from a hive, they replace it with a sugar substitute for the bees, who don’t even get the essential micro-nutrients of honey they produce for their survival.
  • They clip the wings of the Queen bees so they can’t leave the hive and produce a new colony elsewhere, as it would reduce their profit.
  • Post-harvest, it’s common to cull the hives to keep the costs down.

We’re basically using bees as our slaves to produce food that is not even meant for us. We’re disrupting our eco-system by artificially increasing production so we can steal away something that is not ours (and not even in a nice way). Veganism doesn’t just seek to exclude cruelty but also exploitation. Good news is there are several good alternatives to honey that are plant-based: date syrup, maple syrup, agave syrup, golden syrup, butterscotch syrup, etc.

Why bees are so important

We actually owe many thanks to these hard-working and under-appreciated insects! Some plants can rely only on the wind to pollinate but the big majority of them have to rely on animal pollinators such as bees, but also bats, moths, butterflies, hummingbirds, ants, and beetles. They need their help to produce fruits and seeds. If bees were to disappear, our food options would look much different. Do you want to know what would be missing? Foods that rely on bees include: apples, avocados, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green onions, honeydew, kale, leeks, lemons, limes, mangos, onions, watermelons and zucchini (just to name a few!). At least a third of our food supply would no longer be available… In short, bees are easily amongst the most important insects to humans on Earth, and if they’re in danger, we have a big problem.

Further reading & Useful resources

So… Should we eat honey?

Whether you’ve decided to go vegan or not, honey stays a debatable topic that raises ethical questions. On my end, I’ve decided to finish the big pot of honey left in my cupboard and then replace it with maple syrup in the future. The rule is quite simple for me: if it’s an easy swap, then it’s definitely worth doing. What matters the most is to ask yourself the right questions, so you can be in a position to say that you know exactly WHY you’re choosing to consume this product – or not. Just remember that everything you buy is a vote for the industry which made it.

Would you replace honey with a vegan alternative?

Big Girl x

Veganuary: A Great Way to Start the Year

Veganuary, A Good Way to Start the Year

Veganism is on the rise… Could it be because of 2020 events, leading many people to realise the effects of climate change and/or the importance of being healthy? I don’t know about you but that was definitely the trigger for me. I started doing more research about our impact on the environment and how we could save the planet. David Attenborough contributed a lot in people’s awareness with his movie “A life on our planet” where he advised everyone to adopt a more sustainable diet based on plants. Veganuary (Vegan + January) aims at educating non-vegans about veganism by creating a community of people who will share their feedback, tips and recipes throughout the month. Veganism is actually way more than just a diet but I’m going to focus only on food & nutrition in this post.

Why is it a good idea to take part in Veganuary?

It gives you the opportunity to try something new

If you eat a lot of meat and dairy (like I used to), it seems daunting to stop consuming any products derived from animals. You’re probably thinking: “It includes too many foods I love, how can I be happy eating lettuce every day? I want to keep enjoying food and have a normal social life! It’s not worth such a huge sacrifice”. Veganuary is here to give you the opportunity to be open-minded and try a vegan diet just for a month, with the help of people who have done it before. How many times have you had a strong opinion on something before even trying, then changed your mind after you finally tried?

It’s the right time to do it

There are 3 possible reasons why someone would decide to become vegan (even for a month): for the environment, for the animals, and/or for their own health. I think it’s extremely important to know and remember why you’re doing it. To me, it would be all of these reasons. Not everyone would find this diet suitable (and that’s fair enough), but at the very least everyone should open their eyes on what it’s really about. Switching to a diet powered only by plants is like re-learning everything you thought you knew about food & nutrition. It’s quite difficult in a non-vegan and extremely industrialised world where meat and dairy are everywhere. My main concern is how it will impact my social life when eating out. But we are being locked down anyway (at least in England…) so it’s actually the perfect time to do it!

There is a huge community online here to help

This month, more than 500,000 people committed online to do Veganuary and we can expect even more people doing it by themselves without signing up. It breaks the record of 400,000 people who registered in January 2020, across 192 countries. It means the food industry has to follow the trend and offer more interesting no-meat options, more restaurants will offer additional vegan meals, etc. There are tonnes of vegan recipes online and advice on where to start, but what’s better than a community of open-minded non-vegans who share their own tips & feedback on their findings? It’s not always that obvious what’s vegan or not, so there are also some mobile apps and tools online to help you check if you have any doubts: isitvegan.net, doublecheckvegan.com or barnivore.com (for alcoholic drinks).

The impact it had over the past 7 years is powerful

Since Veganuary was created in 2014, this is the impact the previous one million participants had on the planet:

  • 103,840 tonnes of CO2eq saved – which is equivalent to driving around the world almost 15,000 times
  • 405 tonnes of PO43-eq (eutrophication) saved – which is the same as 1,645 tonnes of sewage
  • 6.2 million litres of water saved – which is the same as flushing the toilet almost half a million times
  • more than 3.4 million animals were saved

Even if you’re not prepared to make such a drastic change in your life, think about how much positive impact it would already have to do it just for a month! And who knows, you might feel healthier too.

vegan food platter

Becoming aware takes a lot of intellectual humility

There are many preconceived ideas when it comes to veganism. I would know because I was among the ones who thought they would never be converted… ever. And yet today I’m writing about veganuary and why you should do it too. Everything changed in my head after I did my own research and found out I was wrong. Until then, I made the mistake to automatically discount any information that was conflicting my own beliefs, even if it was objectively more credible. So I wanted to share 3 important facts:

You don’t need to eat meat to get enough proteins

“Where do you find your proteins?” is a very common question, because we’ve been told our whole life that proteins only come from animal products. Now I know it upsets vegetarians & vegans and I finally understand why. Plants do have all the essential amino acids we need in our daily protein requirements. Think about it this way: if all creatures need protein to live, then where are the plant-eating animals (such as cows, bulls or oxen to name just a few) getting their protein from? The answer is simple: plants.

You don’t need to drink dairy milk to get enough calcium

Most of us were encouraged to drink milk to get strong bones, because it’s a great source of calcium. It was definitely a big part of my childhood, until I realised I didn’t digest it very well. Not surprising, given the fact that 70% of the global population is indeed lactose intolerant. It strikes the question: do we really need dairy milk? I don’t think so, especially if we look at the many alternatives we have available that are way healthier and at least as rich in calcium than dairy. I compared 4 vegan milks in this post if you’re wondering which one you should go for.

Vegan food is actually very varied

The main reason I always discarded a vegetarian, or even worse, vegan diet, is that I’ve always been a fussy eater. I dislike most vegetables like mushrooms, broccolis or any sort of green leaves, which I don’t think I’ll ever like. But by going through all ingredients that could be part of a very healthy vegan meal, I have to admit I haven’t tried half of them yet. For the ones I’ve never been forced to eat when I was a kid, there is a chance I will actually learn how to appreciate them as an adult. I’m actually excited to learn many new recipes and find new flavours I like! So far, I have loved every vegan meal I’ve had!

Somehow it seems to make me feel fuller without the heavy, sluggish feeling I used to have after eating meat. I also feel happier and proud to make a positive contribution to all living beings, as well as my own health. But doing it at home is easy. I will use the extra time in lockdown to become knowledgeable enough to keep doing it in social life (the hardest part), among meat lover friends, colleagues and family. I even considered opting for a flexitarian diet for that reason, but making exceptions whenever suits me is probably not the right way to fully commit to it. Plus I don’t really have any excuse, I live in London, the most vegan-friendly city in the world. If others can do it, I also can!

colourful fruit bowl vegan

Educate yourself before making your mind up

Doing your research is the only way to understand why some people would give up on all animal products. Are they crazy? I will let you be the judge of that. Below are some useful resources so you can make up your own mind with a much better knowledge.

Documentaries:

Books:

Blogs:

Hopefully this is useful to the curious minds among you! But if you’ve adopted a plant-based / vegan diet already and have any more advice or recommendations to give from personal experience, please feel free to do so in the comments below!

Big Girl x

Which Plant-Based Milk Is the Best for You and the Environment?

It is particularly difficult to be dairy-free these days, because dairy milk is literally everywhere. We’ve all been told to drink milk to have strong bones and up until a few years ago, I didn’t suspect it could actually harm my body. I did a food intolerance test to confirm what I suspected and dairy was at the top of my list. Did you know that almost 70% of the population in the world is lactose intolerant? Some people probably are and don’t even know about it. So here it is, even Santa will get a glass of plant-based milk this year.

I can’t tell you how much better I feel since I stopped drinking milk and avoiding dairy products. As a cheese lover, this is not always easy but my guts have been thanking me and I decided it was my priority. When you think about it, why would we even drink something that is naturally designed as a growth hormone for baby cows, not fully grown humans? Also, dairy milk production has a huge negative impact on the planet, on top of being cruel to cows. There are many reasons why I think every adult should choose to consume plant-based milk instead, it’s definitely worth considering and at least trying (more research needs to be done for children though). From all options you can find in most supermarkets, the main ones are: soy milk (the original plant-based alternative), almond milk, rice milk and oat milk. Let’s go through a quick comparison:

What alternative is best for me?

Soy Milk

Pros: high in protein, fortified in calcium and potassium, source of vitamins B2, B12 and D, available unsweetened or flavoured (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla), contains all the essential amino acids, easy to find in supermarkets.
Cons: soy is one of the most common allergens, and not everyone likes the taste.
Best for: baking, cooking

Almond Milk

Pros: contains more calcium than dairy milk, high in vitamins A, D and E, high in monounsaturated fatty acids (considered helpful in weight loss and weight management), low in calories, has a popular nutty taste.
Cons: low in protein compared to other plant-based milk, nuts are also a common allergen.
Best for: cereals

Rice Milk

Pros: contains as much calcium as dairy milk, has a naturally sweet taste, non-allergenic so it’s a good option for people with dairy, soy and nut allergies.
Cons: low in nutrients, rich in sugar, high in carbohydrates.
Best for: smoothies

Oat Milk

Pros: good nutrition and includes more calcium than dairy milk, good source of soluble fibre (which supports heart and digestive health), fortified with vitamins A, D, B2 and B12.
Cons: high in calories (as much as dairy milk) and unsweetened options can be hard to find, not suitable for gluten-free diets (unless specifically labelled as such).
Best for: coffee, tea

What alternative is best for the planet?

Now let’s have a look at the impact it has on the environment. The production of a plant-based milk cuts the water use by at least half compared to dairy milk, the emissions by at least two thirds, and significantly decreases the land use too :

From the article: “Climate change: Which vegan milk is best?” – BBC UK

It’s time to make the switch!

From what I gathered, soy milk and oat milk seem to be the best alternatives by far. But no matter what plant-based milk you pick, it will always be a much better option than dairy milk, for the planet but also for yourself as an adult. What’s your favourite milk alternative and why?

Big Girl x