How I Lost 25kg During Lockdown Without Hitting The Gym

drinking water for weight loss

I started this blog with a weight goal in mind and the determination to become the best version of myself. The pandemic opened my eyes to how important it was to respect my body and keep it healthy. Whilst many people understandably put on weight during lockdown, I decided to go against the flow and do the opposite. I didn’t just want to lose weight, I wanted to completely revisit my eating habits for good. I was willing to change whatever needed to change by playing the long game.

In the past, I lost weight by going to the gym every day, I didn’t pay much attention to my nutrition. I really liked the vibes of an intense session, with a trainer who made me sweat like crazy. But gyms were closed pretty much all year so it wasn’t possible to go to classes during lockdown. I could have kept active by simply following videos on YouTube but I need a “real” coach. And I’m not a runner either… So I decided to focus on what I put in my mouth instead! After all, it’s the very first thing you need to prioritise for a healthy and sustainable weight loss.

As good as exercise is for you, it won’t help much without dietary modifications. With this post, I’m not saying you don’t need to exercise to lose weight. I’m saying you can still lose weight even if you’re not really active. Because a good diet is key.

Throwback to beginning of August 2020

  • Weight: 85 kg
  • BMI: 31.2
  • Body fat: 37.90 %
  • Waist size: 94 cm (or 37 inches)

It pains me to share this but it’s necessary. Clinically speaking I was obese, at a high risk of developing type II diabetes or other health conditions. Worldwide, obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. This is due to an increased intake of energy-dense foods (high in fat and sugars) and a decrease in physical activity (sedentary lifestyle and changing modes of transportation). Being overweight or obese increases risks of developing diseases such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and even some cancers. In England, almost two thirds of adults are overweight (BMI between 25 and 30) or obese (BMI above 30). I didn’t want to be part of the majority anymore.

No action, no change

1. I started with a simple calorie counting approach

It’s not about becoming obsessed with the number of calories contained in each food you put in your mouth. But I do think it’s necessary to be aware of all hidden calories you consume without even realising. An extra spoon of oil when you cook, some more sauce added with your meal, one more glass of alcohol… It quickly accumulates and before you know it, you’re already above your calorie budget. The rule is simple (calories out must be greater than calories in) but you need to do the maths right with the correct information. If you haven’t followed my blog from the start, this post will give you more detail about My Weight Loss Journey: Past Failures & Current Plan. By just being more careful with meal portions and cutting out unnecessary snacks, I lost 7 kg within the first 2 months.

2. I then discovered intermittent fasting

It’s actually thanks to my blog, or should I say, thanks to one of my readers, that I first heard of intermittent fasting. I mentioned I didn’t need much for breakfast (just a cup of tea with some honey), so he suggested maybe I didn’t need it at all. Truth is I had “something” in the morning because I’ve been told all my life to never skip a meal. Now I realise I don’t need to eat 3 times a day. That’s the reason why adopting such a different habit was so easy for me! It felt right from the start and gave my weight loss a lot more consistency. Combining intermittent fasting with a healthy diet helped me lose another 10 kg in the next 3 months.

Read more about my experience with intermittent fasting and see if it could be right for you:
Weight Loss Journey: How I Overcame the Dreaded Plateau
Why I Decided to Adopt Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting or Why Skipping Breakfast Could Be a Good Idea
5 Effective Ways To Lose Weight With Intermittent Fasting

3. Finally, I decided to go vegan

This to me is the last piece of the puzzle. I wouldn’t say going vegan is what helped me lose the remaining 8 kg to reach my objective. But cutting out meat and dairy significantly helped reduce my calorie intake. Note: being vegan doesn’t mean being healthy. You can go vegan and have a terrible diet! What I wanted was to adopt a healthy plant-based diet and drastically increase my consumption of fruits and vegetables. It allows me to feel full for longer and naturally suppresses cravings. I also discovered many more delicious and healthy meals. Truth is I’ve never been more excited about food than since I made that decision!

Read more about veganism and see if it could be good for you too:
Veganuary: A Great Way to Start the Year
Surprising Things I Discovered After Going Vegan for a Month

To sum up what I’ve been doing since lockdown (and will keep doing from now on): keep a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables, replace meat and dairy with healthy alternatives for proteins and calcium, and no eating when not hungry. Intermittent fasting gave me more consistency throughout the day, I skip breakfast because I don’t need it and I stop eating after 7pm. This combination of things gave me the results below.

Current situation end of March 2021 (8 months later)

  • Weight: 60 kg | Result: -25 kg
  • BMI: 22 | Result: -9.2
  • Body fat: 24 % | Result: -13.90 %
  • Waist size: 70 cm (or 27.5 inches) | Result: -24 cm (or -9.5 inches)

I am now back to a healthy weight and reached my goal of 60 kg, no need to mention how good it makes me feel! You can accomplish anything if you’re willing to commit to it. No excuses, only results. But this is not over, it’s never going to be over. The part to focus on now is weight maintenance – Let’s keep the weight off! Learning from my mistakes, I am not going to go back to my previous unhealthy lifestyle. The changes I made in my routine are here to stay.

I usually don’t take many pictures of myself but I found a selfie from August last year that grabbed my attention… It was a selfie with our youngest cat Luna (she was a kitten by then) and I realised my face had a much rounder shape back then, compared to today. So I reproduced the same picture (obviously Luna has grown since!) and you can see the difference of my face before and after losing 25 kg:

weight loss - before
August 2020
weight loss - after
March 2021

Summary & Weight Loss Tips

What to keep in mind:

  • The more overweight you are, the easier it is to lose the first kilos! You just need to make a start.
  • Small changes can have big impacts in the long run: reducing alcohol consumption, skipping starters at restaurants, avoiding unnecessary snacks, etc
  • It’s almost certain you are going to face a weight loss plateau at some point. Do not use it as an excuse to give up!
  • It’s OK to ask for support to stay motivated, involve friends and family, or even social media if it helps keeping you accountable for progress.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution, you will have to test and see what works for you.
  • Remember all changes in your lifestyle need to be permanent, not temporary. Otherwise, your weight loss will not be sustainable…
  • Focus on healthy food you already like and limit your consumption of unhealthy food. It’s not about suppression, it’s about moderation.
  • Remember to stay hydrated and drink a lot of water!
  • Hit the pillow. A good sleep routine helps with weight loss, as you will be more prone to make bad decisions if you feel tired.
  • Your body is not replaceable, the food you give it is fuel. The better the fuel, the better it works (a bit like a car…).
  • Eating well is the best way to show your body the respect it deserves, it will give it back to you!

What NOT to do:

  • Don’t associate weight loss with frustration, or you will develop an unhealthy relationship with food. It’s OK to crave chocolate sometimes! As a general rule, try to stick to min. 80% healthy / max. 20% “pleasure” foods.
    Related post: Why a Healthy Mind Is Key to Successful Weight Loss
  • Don’t completely suppress your favourite foods from your diet. That would put them even more on a pedestal, so give in to temptation, just in smaller quantities.
  • Don’t have unrealistic expectations. Weight loss takes time and effort, it doesn’t happen overnight…
  • Don’t set a weight goal that is way too low for yourself. If your BMI is already close to 18, chances are you don’t need to lose much weight at all. Look at other metrics such as body fat % or waist size.
    Related post: Is BMI the Only Important Metric to Measure How Healthy You Are?
  • Never starve yourself. If you experience physical signs of hunger (stomach rumbling for example), it means your body needs fuel.
  • Don’t eat when you’re not hungry. In the same respect, do not use food for comfort.
    Related post: Bored? How to Soothe Yourself Without Food
  • Don’t ignore hidden calories! Do you realise how many calories an extra spoon of oil contains for example? Calories in drinks are also easy to overlook (sodas, alcohol…), so don’t forget to take them into account.

I also previously shared some tips about how to stay motivated during your weight loss, because the journey will be full of obstacles. Focus on WHY you’re doing it: you make choices, not rules. If you’re not satisfied with your weight, I hope my story will inspire you. And if you know people who would benefit from reading it, don’t hesitate to spread the word! Health is a serious topic and very much a global issue worth fighting for.

Big Girl x

5 Effective Ways To Lose Weight With Intermittent Fasting

intermittent fasting for weight loss

I’m sure you’ve heard about what recently became a health trend: Intermittent fasting. It’s claimed to cause weight loss, improve metabolic health, and perhaps even extend lifespan, among other things. But the only thing I can personally confirm is the fact that it does help with weight loss. For me, it also improved my relationship with food in many ways. It’s important to mention it’s not right for everyone though. If you’re underweight or have eating disorders like anorexia, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, if you’re under the age of 18: this post is not for you. And if you have a medical condition like diabetes, it’s best to talk to your doctor first. Otherwise, you have no excuse not to give it a try and see what happens!

1. Choose the most appropriate plan for you

First of all, consider choosing an intermittent fasting plan that best matches your lifestyle and can be maintained for the long-haul. For example, some plans will be more or less easy to sustain depending if you have a 9-to-5 office job, if you’re working on shifts, or working from home, etc. It needs to be a plan that doesn’t prevent you from having a social life either (especially when lockdown is finally lifted). Among the most popular plans:

The 16:8 method

  • Eat only during 8 hours a day
  • Fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day
  • You can define your own “feeding window” (you could for example skip breakfast everyday or eat dinner really early)

The 5/2 diet

  • Eat normally for 5 days a week (i.e. your recommended calorie intake)
  • Reduce your calorie intake to only 500-600 for the other 2 days
  • You can pick which days of the week you want to fast

Eat-Stop-Eat

  • Fast for 24 hours, once or twice a week
  • You can pick which day(s) of the week you want to fast

Alternate day fasting

  • Fast every other day
  • An easier version would be to reduce your calorie intake to 500 calories on fasting days

The warrior diet

  • Eat very little during 20 hours a day (mostly small portions of raw fruits and vegetables)
  • Then eat what you want but only during a 4-hour window, at night

2. Drink a lot of water when you fast

No matter what plan you choose to adopt, remember to drink lots of fluid when you fast! Keeping yourself hydrated is extremely important. Water is of course the best option but you can also drink tea or coffee if you like, as long as you don’t add milk or any form of sweetener in it. Some consider it’s also fine to have calorie-free flavoured drinks but I would still avoid them, to guarantee a clean fast.

3. Dissociate fasting and starvation

The idea of fasting can be scary for some, but I think it’s important to remember fasting does not mean starving. The main difference being: starving is not a choice, it’s an involuntary absence of food that can lead to death. By fasting, you choose to avoid food (whether it’s for spiritual, health, or other reasons). It’s about taking control and learning how it actually feels like to be “hungry”. You’re unlikely to faint because you’re simply hungry… And hunger usually passes like a wave, you just need to learn how to ride the hunger waves. Don’t you think food tastes so much better when you’re hungry anyway, rather than when it’s simply “time to eat”? If done correctly, fasting shouldn’t cause suffering or lead to frustration. If that’s the case, pick another method or reduce your fasting window.

colourful fruit bowl vegan

4. Make the calories count

When you eat, do it well! Intermittent fasting is known to focus on when you eat rather than what you eat… But combining the two is always ideal. Binge eating junk food during your “feeding window” is not going to do you any good. It will only teach your mind that your reward for depriving yourself is to comfort eat. That’s why it’s so important to stay in control of what you put in your body.

When it’s time for you to eat, treat yourself to foods you like, preferably the ones packed with nutrients. Be sure to eat a balanced diet comprising fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. Some foods will help you feel full for longer. Planning ahead will help you to achieve that: you’ll always make better choices if you’re well prepared. Remember to treat yourself too (not more than 10-20% of your total food intake) and you’ll be just fine!

5. Adopt your plan as a new way of life

Last but not least, the key to success is to adopt intermittent fasting as your healthy lifestyle, not for the short-term only. Personally I adopted the 16:8 method, which to me means I don’t have breakfast. I feel like I have more energy in the morning thanks to that, my body is not busy digesting a meal I don’t really need. I can focus more on my tasks, without feeling lethargic. Sometimes I extend the fasting period by a few hours (like 18:6 or 20:4 instead of 16:8) if I feel I can easily do it. Your body goes deeper into ketosis and focus on burning fat after 18 hours of fasting. I feel more in control, I have a better routine during the day and it prevents me from eating unnecessary evening snacks too.

Intermittent fasting gives me consistency and I’m now very close to reaching my weight goal! I’m sure it will help with weight maintenance too. If you find the idea too complicated, there is still the option of doing spontaneous meal skipping. The rule couldn’t be easier to follow: just skip a meal if you’re not hungry for example. I know you’ve heard all your life to never skip a meal but it’s just a myth! Simply listen to your body.

Big Girl x

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

Intermittent Fasting or Why Skipping Breakfast Could Be a Good Idea

Intermittent Fasting or Why Skipping Breakfast Could Be a Good Idea

As I get older, I realise some things I always thought were true are now being questioned, especially when it comes to health & nutrition. For example: “You need dairy to get enough calcium”, “You need to eat meat to get enough proteins”, “Never skip a meal” or even “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, etc. Really? I’m not so sure anymore… After all, some doctors used to recommend their patients to smoke cigarettes in the past! Wouldn’t it sound crazy nowadays?

With time, research keeps improving and we’re constantly changing our minds on various things, but in the meantime the end consumer is vulnerable to wrong information. Everyone has a different truth so maybe the only way to find out what works for you is to monitor your own health and not believe everything the food industry tries to put in your head so they can maximise their profit.

As a simple rule, don’t eat when you’re not hungry

That, to me, might be the only thing that should be universal. Having the ability to listen to your body and know when you need “fuel” is the best way to avoid putting on weight. The problem is we’re only human and it’s a very difficult skill to master. We’re all susceptible to use food for comfort, to compensate boredom, when we feel stressed or simply when we have food easily available (out of sight, out of mind!). But what if not eating when not hungry meant skipping breakfast? Not so easy, as everyone will encourage you to by telling you that “breakfast is too important to skip”. I love breakfast food but if I’m completely honest, I never feel hungry when I wake up. In fact, I only start feeling hungry 4-5 hours later. I’m not sure why but it has always been the case.

When I was a teenager, I remember I used to struggle to get out of bed in the morning and my grandma never understood it, she once said to me: “When I feel tired in the morning, I get up anyway, just because I know I’m going to have breakfast and that’s a good enough incentive to me! Why don’t you try this approach?”. Bless her. I miss her quite often, even though she used to believe everything the TV said. I just never felt that way about breakfast… Could it be because it is NOT necessarily the most important meal of the day for everyone? Who decided we needed at least 3 meals a day anyway? I’m pretty sure I don’t.

It doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself

When people hear the word “fasting”, they freak out, with or without the word “intermittent” beforehand. Understandably, because it sounds like a sacrifice or something people would only do as a religious practise for example. But what if it was a natural way to give more time for your body to digest better all the food it constantly has to process? What if we ate too much, too often? No one has ever died from starvation because they didn’t eat for more than 12 hours.

Actually, that’s what most of us naturally do every day (unless you wake up at night craving for food, but that’s not common). Maybe the reason why we eat so often without necessarily feeling hungry and why we struggle not to fill our plate too much comes from something that is hardwired in our genes: the fear of starving, leading our body to develop amazing survival mechanisms. Historically, our ancestors would have starved in times of scarcity, but let’s face it, we’re a lot less likely to experience this in the Western world nowadays. I guess what I’m trying to say is that doing intermittent fasting means forgetting about that anxious feeling of lacking food, as realistically, it’s not going to happen. We’re currently going through a worldwide pandemic and the main thing supermarkets have been running out of was toilet paper… Just saying.

Why Intermittent Fasting (IF) is the solution for me

Of course I can only talk about what I know, from my personal experience. It was a big revelation for me when I first heard about it and did some research. I found out more and more scientists agreed this eating pattern had many health benefits, including weight loss/maintenance. I wonder if forcing myself to eat breakfast when I was never hungry was the main reason why I always struggled to maintain a healthy weight. I’ll never know for certain but all I can say is IF seems to be working great for me.

I have 1 or 2 full glasses of water when I wake up, I eat at the same time every day (it gives me a lot more consistency) and I even enjoy going for a long walk just before breaking the fast, during the weekend. My fasting window is usually about 19 hours every day, but I would find it harder to push it to 20 hours. I started with the 16:8 method though, which means fasting for (only) 16 hours. I might have to go back to it after lockdown because it will be easier to maintain in the long term. Don’t forget you can be flexible and adapt your fasting schedule around your routine if need be. I encourage you to read my previous posts on this topic if you haven’t already:

What happens to your body when you fast

I think that imagining my body repairing itself when I give it the time to do so is also making me feel better mentally. I’ve been doing IF for almost 14 weeks now and I believe it has allowed me to be consistent with my weight loss (roughly 800-900g per week). I’ve been using a fasting tracker app that helped to start with and I still find it useful to make sure I drink enough water. It tells you about the steps your body goes through:

  • 0h-2h: Blood sugar rises
    • You feel pretty normal during the first hours of fasting because your body is going through the regular process of breaking down glycogen. Your blood sugar rises, your pancreas releases insulin to break down glucose for energy and stores the extra glucose for later.
  • 2h-5h: Blood sugar falls
    • As a result of the effects of insulin, your blood sugar decreases to near normal after spiking. And it typically doesn’t continue climbing because insulin is immediately delivered into your circulatory system after eating.
  • 5h-8h: Glycogen reserve drops
    • Your stomach is reminding you that it’s been a while since your last meal, however you’re not actually that hungry. You’re not going to starve to death, shrivel up and lose your muscle mass… Actually, your glycogen reserves will begin to fall and you might even lose a little body fat. You body will continue to digest your last food intake. It starts to use stored glucose for energy and continues to function as if you’ll eat again soon.
  • 8h-10h: Gluconeogenesis
    • 8 hours after your last meal, your liver will use up the last of its glucose reserves. Now your body goes into a state called gluconeogenesis, which indicates that your body has switched into the fasting mode.
  • 10h-12h: Little glycogen left
    • Your glycogen reserves are running out! As a result, you may become irritable or “hangry”: sign that your body is burning fat. With little glycogen left, fat cells (adipocyte) will release fat into your bloodstream. They also go straight into your liver and are converted into energy for your body. You’re basically cheating your body into burning fat in order to survive.
  • 12h-18h: Ketosis state
    • Now it’s the turn of fat to fuel your body. You’re in the metabolic state called ketosis. The glycogen is almost used up and your liver converts fat into ketone bodies – an alternative energy source for your body. Fat reserves are readily released and consumed. For this reason, ketosis is sometimes referred to as the body’s “fat-burning” mode. Ketosis produces fewer inflammatory by-products, so it provides health benefits to your heart, metabolism and brain.
  • 18h-24h: Burn fat
    • The longer you fast, the deeper into ketosis you’ll go. By 18 hours, your body has switched into fat burning mode. Research shows that after fasting for 12 to 24 hours, the energy supply from fat will increase by 60% and it has a significant increase after 18 hours.

I would just advise you not to be put off right away by the word “fasting” and try it for yourself, monitoring constantly any side effects you may (or may not) experience. You can read more about different types of intermittent fasting here. Note: you shouldn’t do intermittent fasting if you’re under 18, you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, you’re underweight, you have a history of eating disorders, you’re diabetic and/or need medication at regular intervals to be taken with food.

Have you ever experienced any type of fasting in your life? Is it something you would consider trying yourself to see the benefits?

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

How To Enjoy a Big Family Feast Without Compromising Your Healthy Lifestyle

The festive season can represent a big risk for anyone trying to lose or maintain their weight. How many times have you heard someone say: “I’ll wait until January to start a diet” or “I wanted to start eating healthy but I know I’ll eat a lot at Christmas so I’ll start afterwards”. If you wait for big festive events to be behind you before you start living healthier, then you might never start at all. I’m a strong believer you don’t need to wait for the new year to make good resolutions in life, the sooner the better. And if you’re already on the path to become a better version of yourself, you can still enjoy the festivities without letting them ruin your efforts.

When you think about it, why would people consciously overeat to celebrate? Surely you shouldn’t have to compromise your health to celebrate anything. I know temptation is everywhere and sometimes difficult to avoid, especially if there is a buffet in front of you (out of sight, out of mind) but you ARE strong enough to indulge yourself without feeling like a beached whale afterwards. The keyword is moderation. But I know it’s not enough to say that, so below are 4 important points that hopefully will help you keep in mind that the Christmas period doesn’t have to compromise your healthy plans.

Underestimate your food portions

I know you’re really looking forward to these Christmas delicacies, just try to put on your plate smaller portions than you would usually! When we’re hungry, we tend to overestimate the quantity of food we need and then we’re left with no choice but to keep eating after we’re already full. Putting less on your plate would allow you to ask yourself if you want more or not. And don’t worry, there will be enough food for you to come back to – actually, chances are there will be way too much food so don’t be greedy. Now, this advice sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many of us don’t listen: if you’re not hungry, do not eat. For the Christmas edition, I would go further: if there is anything you don’t like, don’t eat it! Yes, Brussels sprouts are part of the traditional British dinner but if you don’t like them, save space to enjoy other foods you really like. If you’re planning to have dessert, you don’t want to be already full by then. And when you eat, do it mindfully, take the time to really appreciate it. It’s not a quantity game and binge eating will not do you any good (even on healthy food).

Drink a lot… of water

Festivities almost always include alcohol, but drinking doesn’t make you feel fuller… Unless it’s water. If all you drink is sugary and/or alcohol, not only are you going to go way above your calorie budget but you’re going to feel dehydrated (and then drink more alcohol, you know how this works). And when you’ve had too much alcohol, you’ll make poorer choices between your food options. Try to limit your consumption of alcohol and increase your water intake. If you’re struggling with the idea, remember that water cleanses your body and is a natural hunger suppressant. It’s the number 1 thing your body needs to function properly (after the air you’re breathing obviously). Still not convinced? Take a look at how many calories each alcoholic drink contains on average. It quickly adds up.

Allow your body to digest

By that, I don’t necessarily mean vegetating in front of TV (let’s be honest, we’ve all seen Christmas movies several times, they’re not as good). Think of your body like a machine that needs to process everything you give it. If you keep feeding it when it’s already full, it won’t have time to process what it already has. Why not go for a walk to help burn some calories? It doesn’t have to be a long walk, even 30 minutes in the neighbourhood would be beneficial. If you’re bored, don’t think of food as the solution to keep yourself busy, offer to play a game that will keep everyone entertained. Remember to stop eating at least 2 hours before bedtime to allow enough time for digestion. You could also prepare to fast the next day to clean up your body, or practise intermittent fasting, although this is not an ideal solution for everyone.

Learn how to say ‘no’

You will 100% be offered extra food or another glass of alcohol when you’re already full. Don’t be polite and accept because you can’t say no. Prioritise your body, not the host (I know it sounds selfish but no one else but you is responsible for your own health). People tend to insist when they’re feeling very festive but they won’t remember the next day you said no. There is nothing more unpleasant than forcing yourself, so just be honest (don’t forget to smile while doing it) and it will be all good! If there is too much food (there will be), offer to take some leftovers with you to enjoy the next day as an alternative.

Finally, I think it’s important to remind you this: don’t forget to enjoy yourself in the process. Doing things in moderation shouldn’t be boring or prevent you from having fun! Remember why you’re doing this and all the benefits in the long term! Happy body, healthy mind, healthy soul, everything goes together. And if you know this time you ate more than you should have, it’s all fine, you’ll lose it naturally over time if you stick to your healthy lifestyle. Christmas is only 2 weeks away now… Do you feel you have enough mental tools to overcome the family feast this year?

Big Girl x

Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight & Tips to Regain Control

Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight And Tips to Regain Control

If you’re on a weight loss journey, December is probably the worst month of the year to stay motivated. It’s getting cold, days are shorter, and it’s more difficult to stay active… Switching to “couch potato” mode and watch your favourite shows instead (with some comfort food?) seems like a much better idea. Plus it’s Christmas soon so why bother losing weight now, let’s postpone to January when everyone will be making good resolutions, right? Well I don’t want you to give up now! There is no one-size-fits-all solution but if you feel demotivated because you’re doing everything by the book and still don’t lose weight, then let’s go through the most common reasons why it’s not happening and how to overcome this phase.

Possible reasons why you’re not losing weight

It’s important to know losing weight and losing fat are not the same thing. Losing fat is ultimately what you want… And if you’re not losing weight, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not losing fat. So before going through the list below, ask yourself if your new lifestyle is making positive impacts on your body and soul. If the answer is yes, then you have nothing to worry about, just carry on!

  • If you recently started to exercise, then you can gain muscle (which is heavy) and therefore think you’re doing something wrong. As it’s fat you want to lose anyway, this is actually a good thing.
  • Have you been keeping track of what you’re eating? Sometimes the difference between what you think you eat and what you actually eat can be huge… You could be eating too many calories without even noticing.
  • If you “drink” your calories, it will jeopardise your efforts of eating healthy and won’t even fill you up. A can of coke contains 140 calories, a glass of wine 80 calories, a pint of beer 200 calories. Remember than water is what you really need to stay hydrated and it contains 0 calories.
  • Sleep deprivation can not only lead to mental health issues but could also be a risk factor for obesity. Have you been getting enough sleep lately?
  • Maybe you’re not eating when you’re really hungry. You could either stop and think if you really need food right now, or you could try intermittent fasting to limit your feeding window during the day (but do not starve yourself!).
  • Have you already hit your healthy set point? Your body will naturally go towards its ideal weight if you have a healthy lifestyle. Question is: do you and your body both agree on what your ideal weight is? Have realistic expectations.
  • Some medical conditions can make weight loss a lot harder. If you think it could be your case or have any doubts, speak to a doctor about your options.
you can win if you want

Tips to regain control of your weight loss

I can’t tell you exactly what you should eat (or stop eating) to suddenly lose weight, but I can give you some tips to stay focused on your healthy goals. If you’ve ever been promised to lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time by eating a specific food, your chances of success are very slim. Dieticians would agree it’s more about a lifestyle change and building a long-term habit! So play the long game.

  • Focus on your wellbeing – How do you feel?
  • Remember why you’re doing it – Think long term. For example: “I want to be a healthy person and live a high quality life. I want to feel good about myself too.”
  • Create a food plan when you’re not hungry – Know in advance what and when you eat (even better if you eat at the same time every day), it will give you control over your food choices and make impulsive unhealthy meals less frequent.
  • Eat mindfully, enjoy each meal and focus on your food (no distractions like TV, phone, etc).
  • Make sure you accurately estimate food portions and be wary of hidden calories. Sometimes you don’t realise the impact of small additions to your meal: an extra tablespoon of olive oil is 120 calories, an extra tablespoon of mayonnaise is another 100 calories, etc. Sugary drinks and alcohol are also very high in calories (as mentioned earlier), so it’s best to avoid them completely or at least reduce your consumption in your day-to-day routine.
  • Remember you make choices, not rules. If you have too many food restrictions in your diet, it will eventually frustrate you and make you subconsciously want them more. Focus instead on healthy food you love.
  • Sleep well and drink more water (and stay consistent). The right amount of sleep and staying hydrated will help you manage your appetite better!
  • Don’t focus only on weight – it’s just one indicator among others – and track other healthful changes that may have happened, like your waist and hips circumferences. You can also use a smart scale to get more information on your body composition (% fat, % water, muscle mass, etc).
  • Don’t compensate your boredom with food and distract yourself – I give you a few ideas how in this post.
  • Be patient and realistic, things won’t happen overnight.

I think it’s pretty normal to experience a weight loss plateau at some point. The key is to not give up, weight loss will eventually resume, unless you’re doing something wrong without knowing… This is why I wanted to list the most common reasons why you’re not losing weight and how to overcome it. And if you constantly remind yourself of how far you’ve come, it should definitely keep you on track. Not everyone can succeed in changing their lifestyle for good, because it requires dedication, self-discipline, perseverance and resilience. Do you have what it takes? I know you do!

Big Girl x

How to Improve Your Diet to Positively Impact The Planet

burger and fries

Have you decided to become a healthier version of yourself? If so, I’m proud of you and I’m looking forward to sharing that journey with you! What if doing that also gave you the opportunity to take actions and save the planet? I hope you are interested because you can actually do both at the same time. Sustainable nutrition is the future we need.

What is sustainable nutrition?

What I mean is changing your food choices provides the simplest and largest impact you can have on the world and your body. Meat production has a heavy impact on the environment and it’s no secret to anyone that red meat (especially beef) requires a lot more land and more water to produce than poultry, resulting in significantly higher climate-warming emissions. By simply choosing chicken over beef for example, you could reduce your dietary carbon footprint by half! Or you can simply remove animal products from your diet to have an even bigger impact on the planet.

Is a plant-based diet the only solution?

I’ve always found it annoying when someone who chose to be vegan tries to make you feel bad for eating meat, but the truth is their diet is the least damaging for the planet. After a lot of research on the matter, my view on the topic has evolved quite a lot over the past few years. I think it’s all about limiting your carbon footprint without necessarily having to remove your favourite foods from your diet, sometimes it makes a vegan diet easy to adopt, sometimes it feels impossible. So for now I’ve decided to go halfway and have at least one plant-based meal a day.

Huel, short for Human Fuel

huel products in my kitchen

One of the reasons I love this brand so much is that they really care about the environment and are making an effort to talk about it more: “Halting climate change is possible, eating for our health is achievable and lowering our carbon emissions is simple. It all starts with changing the way we eat. It’s time to change the way we think about food.” Huel is 100% plant-based and any food waste becomes renewable energy. They provide all nutrients you need and they constantly innovate with new flavours, no wonder why they keep growing (and it’s really good news for the environment).

What can you do to improve your diet and reduce your carbon footprint?

  • choose fish/poultry over beef/lamb
  • choose plant proteins over animal products
  • eat less food high in sugar/fat
  • avoid fried foods
  • limit your consumption of alcohol
  • eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes (lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas), nuts and seeds

How I choose to contribute

Personally, I skip breakfast as part of my intermittent fasting so I have only 2 meals a day (which is not recommended for everyone so make sure you talk to a dietician if you have any doubts). I have Huel for lunch (I love their coffee caramel black edition, I add matcha powder to it) and I eat mostly fish or poultry for dinner (more and more rarely red meat compared to before but it still happens occasionally).

I have nuts as a healthy snack and include a lot of fruits in my diet. Also, I don’t eat gluten anymore and avoid dairy products as my body doesn’t seem to tolerate any of these very well. Gluten-free & dairy-free diets are not always easy to follow but it also benefits the planet, not just me. Bearing in mind I want it to be a lifestyle I can adopt in the long run, not just a temporary measure.

Want to find out more?

If you want to read more on the topic, check out the links below:

What positive change for both your health and the planet have you made so far?

Big Girl x