10 Item “Healthy Diet” Checklist

Back in 2004, a year after my first pregnancy, I took what I can only describe as a leap of faith, by embarking on my very first, and luckily last, weight loss journey. Since then, my focus has shifted on long-term health and becoming a better version of myself over the years. Healthier and happier version of me. However, I did not even understand at a time that weight loss is such a big thing for so many people and that choices are so vast that can truly leave a person lost in confusion as well as despair. These days, I imagine it to be even harder for the person looking to improve their health or better manage their weight. The moment you open up your email or social media account – you are overwhelmed with health messages, recipes, different diets being promoted from all kinds of experts and influencers in health industry.

I am one of them. Well, who knew that out of my first and very positive weight loss experience, passion was born and so was my calling. Because one thing I knew was that I felt better, not just for the weight I lost, but for the energy & confidence I gained as well as incredible satisfaction from helping others has given me. With all that, there is also a constant need to remain a student myself as well as educate others on the latest in nutrition and health as, not only through solutions that we offer, but through the education – we can make this world a better, healthier place. Because knowledge is power. Always.

If you are one of those looking for help and not sure where to start, let me give you a few pointers what to look for, so you can make the right choice, the one that is sustainable long-term, rather than go astray or run around in circles. If you are no stranger to dieting, I am sure you have, at some point perhaps, started a diet or an exercise regime but never got the shape and result you wanted, felt hungry or deprived, lonely, lacked energy or motivation to keep going?

It could be that what you were trying has not been something that is sustainable or lacked support or real science to make a long-term result. Here is my list of what to look for…

  1. Focus should always be on body composition rather than weight loss alone as a measure of your progress. Traditional diets focus on a number on the scales rather than on what that weight loss consists of. Any time you go to the slimming class and step on those scales – you actually have no idea what is going on internally and whether that weight loss consists of fat or muscle.Why is that important? Well, if you are losing muscle, you are also slowing your metabolism which is the quickest way to hit the plateau as well as gain all weight back, and more. And then you diet again and that is how we end up becoming a Yo-Yo dieters. Diets like this are also a cause of premature ageing, reduced immunity, low energy, poor performance and declined strength. Only when we lose fat and fat alone, our shape starts changing and we are reducing the health risks that fat is causing. Keeping or even increasing our muscle mass means that we have greater strength, faster metabolism and we only then run a chance of a sustained weight loss. Losing weight AND keeping it off.
  2. Focus on balance of macro nutrients, not calories alone! Because if your diet is not balanced – it is not healthy. You may be eating foods generally considered healthy, but only when they are eaten in the right balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates – you will achieve more than weight loss – healthy body composition! This is probably the reason why, unless you know your nutrition, you should seek help or educate yourself at the very least. Protein, whether you are a vegan, vegetarian or meat-eater, should be 30% of your daily calorie consumption and so should be healthy fats. So, salad alone for lunch or “everything low-fat” is not good for your body and diets promoting that are not great long-term! It is a sure way to lose muscle instead of body fat and that is not the right way to lose AND keep the weight off, to say the least! Vegetarian and vegans in particular may struggle with this and if their diet is unbalanced in this respect – it may be the reason for unexplained weight gain or lack of energy and stamina.
  3. Focus on calorie quality to optimise metabolism, not just calorie quantity. Traditional diets allow you to eat within your calorie allowance and you are good as long as you do not go over! We need to move away from this outdated thinking because it is a calorie quality that counts far more. 200 calories worth of broccoli will have a completely different impact on the body than 200 calories of chocolate. So,” calories in-calories out” approach is outdated and we know better now thanks to the science. Your body requires a certain amount of micro nutrients every single day to provide your body with health and vitality, so, the key is, even if you are eating to lose weight, to still hit your nutrient levels. Nutrition can not be compromised. Otherwise, you WILL see lower energy levels, loss of muscle, and more. Research shows that only 25% of adults consider nutrition when eating. We obviously need more education on why nutrition always needs to be on our minds when eating, not just for an effective weight management, but for general health and longevity.
  4. Think about your hormones. Traditional diets completely ignore the role of hormones. Because they focus on just calories alone. We need to know better, so we can do better. Most people do not realise that how we feel, look and even act is regulated by our hormones and we are not just talking menopause. Everyone is effected by their hormonal activity every second of every day. They also control our body composition. Low quality food, even if it is low-calorie food, will compromise our hormonal activity and our biochemistry. In particular we are talking about fat burning hormones that completely get out of balance when we eat unbalanced diet and it stops us from burning fat. Remember, it is fat we want to burn?However, when we eat clean, high quality food in the right balance, together with the right kind of exercise – fat burn is ON, baby! This is the KEY, so read more about how hormones effect our hunger, cravings and weight management, in general.
  5. Focus on meal frequency! The science now shows us that your body can only function optimally if it gets the right nutrients in the right amounts and – in the right frequency. So, the right plan would be the one that allows you to eat more high-quality foods, more frequently. This would stabilise your blood sugar and satisfy hunger rather than spike it! So, skipping meals, especially breakfast and snacks is a big no-no! Those are also the opportunities to fit in more nutrition.
  6. Focus on exercising smarter, not necessarily exercising more. We are almost pre-conditioned to think that when we are trying to lose weight we need to get to gym more, like every day. Science shows us that doing small amount of exercise, but effective exercise that stimulates your metabolism is a lot smarter way. So, instead of running for hours on treadmill, you are far better off adopting exercising at intervals so you get a varied heart rate. When you combine that with some resistance training – you will far better support your precious lean muscle and burn body fat. Remember that nutrition is 80% of your efforts, so make your workouts effective and no more than 30 minutes per day, on average, is needed.
  7. Focus on eating that promote stable blood sugar levels. Many diets promote low-calorie meals or snacks, however, whilst they are low-calorie, they could be completely unbalanced and messing up your blood sugar levels (calorie quality and balance, remember). The result is – storing more fat, even if weight loss is registering on the scales (loss of muscle due to lack of protein). Another way we can cause blood sugar rollercoaster is by skipping meals or snacks, usually in hope that we will lose more weight. It almost always backfires as research shows – all it does is causes us to over-eat on the next meal. If you truly want to do it the right way and achieve fat loss, avoid any diets that promote meal skipping. Meal frequency matters.
  8. Avoid fads, eating plans that have a “fashion” element attached to them… so, high protein diet, low carb diet, high fat diet that is popular right now, etc, or basically, any diet that excludes whole food groups. It takes years before we can see true evidence and clinical data on those diets and there is already plenty of evidence on some. But, just the sheer fact that they are excluding whole food groups means they will cause imbalance. It may work short-term, but the imbalance generally means that people can not stick to it long-term. And if it is not a lifestyle thing, it is not right. Only balanced diet is a healthy diet, remember. We must understand that. That means – balanced amount of protein, fibre, healthy fats and vitamins and minerals and trace elements in diet will ensure our bodies get all they need so they can function properly and have strong immunity, slow down the ageing process and help us manage our weight for a long time after losing it.
  9. Start with an end in mind – so, if your goal is to be healthy – focus on your long-term health, not on your looks alone and short-term weight loss. It is about long-term health strategy rather than short-term tactics. For that to happen, your diet and diet of your family, needs to be … you’ve got it – balanced and nutrient dense. It does not matter how hard you work in the gym if you do not control what goes on your plate.
  10. Focus on developing healthy mindset, knowledge and insights so you can achieve the shift within. Education on nutrition is so important so that you can understand and make right food decisions, however, working on developing long-term healthy mindset is far more important as it will help you get out of the dieting prison and ensure you can live your life free of negative body image, limiting self beliefs, stay in control of your emotions and a lot more. So, instead of just focusing on your physical body, the key is to understand your emotions – where they come from, how to accept and process them; your psychology – beliefs and how to change them if they are limiting you in any way; your language – what you say about yourself, food and world around you and how you say it and if you are making any assumptions… etc. Only healthy mindset helps you stay healthy for life and I am sure that is what everyone hopes for.

I hope this was helpful, although it just gives you some pointers rather than in-depth solutions into each. Each of the points is a subject in their own right, but being aware of each can be a step into the right direction..

I am a Nutritional Therapist & Herbalife Nutrition Health Coach and if you would like help with your own weight management, or have any questions, please do reach out, I would love to help.

Feel free to check out “Healthier & Fitter in 4 Weeks Challenge” that is designed with all the above in mind, science based and nutritionally sound and comes with all the support one needs to reach health and weight management goals. Perhaps not in the very first 4 weeks if you have a longer way to go, but, you will learn what to do to repeat it many times over you need to get to your goal. And, if you are the same as me – you just may love it so much that you will want to continue to eat like that indefinitely for constant health and energy as well as effective weight management. Because it is a way of life, not a diet.

If you have been inspired by this article or wish to connect or place a comment, please do so further below and, please do share, because, remember, sharing is caring. 🙂

I believe that health is our greatest wealth, health is happiness, so wishing you to be healthy and happy, always

Sanela

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