Happy new year! Now the resolutions, vows to go the gym, and strict "diet" plans begin... or maybe NOT THIS TIME.
When trying to change to a healthful dietary pattern and make a lifestyle change sustainable, it is essential to be realistic! It is not only important to focus on enjoying the process and the rewards (not just the weight loss), but also what you can ADD to your lifestyle and your plate- essentially “crowding” out, rather than restricting. Tips on what to add and what to crowd out below.
Add, Not restrict
When “diets” are too restrictive it is not only hard to stick to but also often leads to feelings of “failure”, over-eating, guilt and can be very discouraging. Sound familiar?
It is unrealistic to eliminate all indulgent foods and create “good” and “bad” foods. This type of thinking can hurt our relationship with food and with ourselves. It can also lead to disordered eating, poor body image, low self-esteem and even eating disorders.
When practicing a “no dieting weight loss plan” kind of lifestyle- you are building your meals & plate with INTENTION about what you want to ADD to your plate and in what portions certain foods that are more indulgent are present. You are also aware of what your drivers for hunger and eating are- It is not a diet.
When thinking of food from an abundance mindset, you get to focus on what to include and get the nourishment your body needs in a sustainable way that you can stick to.
You also help improve health by including foods full of nutrients and antioxidants that help reduce inflammation, reduce your weight if that is indicated (specifically excess body fat- especially dangerous visceral fat around the waist) while not have to constantly diet and count calories. Sounds nice, no?
Additional benefits to your family
By creating a positive food-focused environment in your home, you get to cultivate a healthy lifestyle and it empowers you and your loved ones with a balanced approach to eating.
Prepping and cooking foods and trying new things allows you and your family to develop a taste for a variety of foods which makes it fun and sets a great example for the kids and family. Learning how to prepare food and nourish one’s body is a life-long skill your kids will keep with them!
You don’t have to be a gourmet chef!
Seriously, you do not have to be a gourmet chef or be cooking non-stop! I understand, we are all busy.
In addition to learning some skills that can assist you in the kitchen to make you efficient (we include culinary coaching in our practice & have virtual community events too!), there are plenty of ready-made meal services or even partially prepped items at the grocery store if you find yourself too busy to take on cooking right now.
Options like pre-cut vegetables, ready to eat salad mixes, baby carrots, snap peas and celery as well as frozen food items and ready-to-eat pantry items like canned or dry beans and whole grains can make that goal of getting more home-cooked meals, easy snacks and more vegetables and fiber on your plate!
If you haven’t seen it, check out my pantry essentials for a plant-based diet guide (free download when you subscribe to my blog).
Some ways you can cut down on processed foods and calorie-heavy restaurant meals are to start with trying to eat more meals at home, pack a lunch a few days a week and think of ways to amplify your current food by making small changes (read more below on how).
For those who struggle with cravings you may also experience less hunger & cravings eating this way.
So how do you practice a no dieting weight loss plan?
Eat more plants- veggies and fruit are nutritionally dense yet have low calorie density. These food options also have filling fiber that allows you to fill up your plate with lots of food (no restriction there!) and help stabilize blood sugar and keep you full. ESSENTIALLY A FREE FOOD.
By eating this way, you get to also improve your gut bacteria (your gut microbiome). Extensive research is showing the importance of the relationship between the predominance of healthy gut bacteria and its relationship with obesity, metabolism and even mood!
What foods to ADD:
- Fiber-rich foods such as whole grains (Ex. Whole wheat bread, quinoa, farro, oats), beans & legumes (a variety of beans and lentils dry or canned can fit the bill!) Yes… you CAN eat carbs : )
- Protein (a quarter of your plate) (Seafood/fish/lean poultry (a portion of your plate, not the whole thing!) if you include meat…AND MORE plant proteins regardless. Foods like tofu, tempeh, beans, edamame and lentils provide food “packages” that come with carbohydrates, fiber and protein along with vitamins and minerals. More bang for your buck to optimize health!
- Aim for half your plate or double your current portion size of a variety of vegetables & fruits. Remember it can be a combination of cooked and raw foods- eat the rainbow!
- Be sure to include a small portion of healthy fats that help with fullness and taste. Opt for the majority of fats to be UNsaturated fats (mono & polyunsaturated fats) like olive oil, avocado, a variety of nuts and seeds like flaxseed, chia, sunflower and pumpkin. A serving is typically a handful of nuts or 2 tbsp of nut butter. A favorite for me is chia seed pudding! Here is my apple cinnamon chia pudding recipe!
- INDULGENCE- Yes, I said indulgence should be included. It is absolutely okay to include treats and more indulgent foods. The sustainability of your eating pattern depends on it! Do it in a way that is mindful. What does that mean?
- Be mindful of WHY you are indulging- Is it stress or emotional? If so, is there something else you can also do to help relieve stress and provide comfort to yourself? Have you been overly restrictive? Are you being social?
- Be mindful of HOW MUCH- Are you sitting with the whole package of cookies? Could a smaller portion be as satisfying?
- Be mindful of WHERE- Is it when you are sitting in front of the TV? Is it when you are bored? Are you really hungry or just happen to be in the pantry? Are you hitting the drive thru on the way home because you didn’t stop to eat during the day? Could having a snack to eat on your way home help?
Foods to CROWD OUT (does not mean NEVER):
⁃ Highly processed packaged foods that are often fried & have added sugars, salt and oils (ex. Chips, cookies, cakes)
⁃ Fried foods (fast food, French fries, even crunchy snacks billed as “healthy” alternatives like lentil chips)
⁃ Added sugar-sweetened beverages (Think Starbucks drinks, juice, sugary sauces)
⁃ Saturated fats like butter, cheese, sour cream, dairy (Think creamy salad dressings, cream-based sauces, pizza, burgers)
⁃ Red meat
⁃ Breads & baked goods made of refined all-purpose floor
There is a time and place for such foods and you don’t have to make any food a “forbidden food” but it’s all about what’s on the majority of your plate most of the time! YOU GET TO CHOOSE.
Another “trick” is to re-create versions of traditional go-to foods using whole, unprocessed ingredients. You get to enjoy the flavor yet also get the most out of the food nutritionally. An example is preparing a cream sauce using white beans and cashews or using lentils and mushrooms in place of meat or in addition to the meat. Another easy swap is to use whole grains when baking in place of refined flour or opting for a ready-made whole grain English muffin instead of white bread.
Remember to ALWAYS come from a place of self-love: embracing your whole self, accepting yourself as you are while working to make changes that serve your long-term health!
How I can help
I love to partner with my patients who are trying to achieve such lifestyle changes in my practice by combining modern medicine with lifestyle and culinary coaching that treats the WHOLE YOU!
If you live in Texas, reach out and learn more about weight management & lifestyle coaching programs that could help.
If you are not in Texas, be sure to subscribe to my blog for valuable information and resources. More programs coming soon to www.richamittalmd.com.
Richa Mittal MD