Thanks so much for sharing your question. It’s a great one, and even though it’s sounds like you’ve struggled a bit, the fact that you’ve pledged to never “diet” again is a huge step to achieving and maintaining your goal.
We can often get down on ourselves for what we view as past “failures.” However, every experience that we have is a learning experience—an opportunity. For instance, what were the types of things that led you to fall off the wagon?
You see, you likely already have all the information and experience that you need in order to achieve your goals. It’s just a matter of working together to find the formula that works best for you.
That last part is really important. You see, the truth is that the “best” diet is the one that you can stick to. I know, I know, I can feel you rolling your eyes, but it’s true. How can you begin to find what works best for you? The following Habits of Highly Effective Nutrition Plans are a great place to start.3
Habit 1: Eat slowly and mindfully
For fat loss, there are two habits that you’ll need to master, and when done consistently and combined with good food quality, these two simple tools are typically enough for almost everyone to lose fat:
• Eat slowly
• Eat until just satisfied, about 80% full
Slow eating helps you tune into your body’s hunger cues, and along those lines, it makes your body the boss. You don’t have to rely on external methods (e.g., calorie counting, weighing/measuring food, points, etc.), and subsequently, you gain control.
Perhaps most importantly, slow eating is a tool that you can use any time, anywhere, and no matter what’s on your plate or who’s around, you can always eat slowly. If you can master the art of eating slowly and mindfully and learn to sense into (and listen to) your physical cues, you will be well on your way to becoming a nutrition ninja!
Habit 2: Eat protein-dense foods with each meal
When it comes to improving body composition, optimizing protein intake may be one of the single most important dietary changes that one can make. Protein-dense foods increase satiety, improve appetite control, and increase calorie burn. On top of that, high-protein diets have consistently been shown to be more effective than normal-protein diets for decreasing body fat and increasing calorie-burning muscle mass.
What protein sources are best? Glad you asked. Here’s a list of our Top 55 High-Protein Foods, and you can download it completely free.
Habit 3: Eat vegetables with each meal
Mom and grandma were right: Veggies are good for your health and your waistline. Studies show folks who eat more veggies tend to do a better job of losing fat and keeping it off. Veggies have a low-energy-density, which means that you can consume a relatively large volume comparative to their calorie content.
While most people recognize that vegetables are packed with important vitamins, minerals, and fiber, their true super powers may lie in their phytonutrients, which give fruits and veggies their vibrant colors and possess potent fat-fighting, anti-aging, and antioxidant properties. Along those lines, it’s a good idea to consume a variety of vegetables each day, trying to include as many colors as possible each day:
• Greens: various leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini
• Reds: tomatoes, red bell peppers, red cabbage
• Oranges: carrots, orange bell peppers, various squashes, pumpkin
• Whites: onions, garlic, parsnips, cauliflower, yellow squash
• Purples: eggplant, purple cabbage, beets
Habit 4: Carbohydrate intake should match activity levels
For fat loss, most people will do better by reducing carbohydrate intake, but it doesn’t mean that a low-carb diet is necessary. Rather, a controlled-carbohydrate diet seems to work best.
Generally speaking, most people will do best with some carbs, with appropriate adjustments made for activity level and body type (e.g., insulin sensitivity). In other words, the more active you are, the more smart carbs you’ll need; on the other hand, sedentary folks, especially those who are trying to lose fat, typically need fewer carbohydrates.
Overall, when it comes to choosing smart carbs, the emphasis should be placed on whole, minimally-processed foods that are slow-digesting and high in fiber, and when you do choose to add carbs to a meal (not necessarily every meal), the following are the best choices:
• Colorful, starchy vegetables (e.g., sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, winter squashes)
• Colorful fruits (e.g., berries)
• Other sweet/starchy fruits and vegetables (e.g., bananas, plantains, potatoes)
• Legumes (e.g., lentils and beans)
• Whole, intact grains (rather than foods made from processed flours), including whole or steel-cut oats; wild, brown, or red rice; quinoa, amaranth, or buckwheat groats; sprouted grains; kamut or spelt grains; maize; millet; and barley
• Other whole grain products (e.g., sprouted grains)
Habit 5: Eat healthy fats daily
Don’t fear the fat! Despite a bad rap, fat does NOT make you fat. In fact, similar to protein and unlike carbs, dietary fat is essential. You see, fat is necessary for normal cell, brain, and nervous system function, normal hormone production, and absorption of key fat-soluble nutrients (e.g., vitamins A, D, E, and K) . It also helps promote healthy blood sugar, increases satiety, and is a great source of energy.
A good rule of thumb is to replace less healthy fats (e.g., soybean, canola, corn, cottonseed, safflower, and sunflower oils), which are typically found in processed/packaged foods, with healthier fats such as:
• Raw nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds, cashews) and nut butters
• Raw seeds (e.g., pumpkin, chia, hemp)
• Olives and extra-virgin olive oil
• Avocados and extra-virgin avocado oil
• Other cold-pressed, extra-virgin oils (e.g., walnut, macadamia nut, hemp)
• Butter and ghee (from pasture-raised cows)
• Fresh coconut, coconut milk, and extra-virgin coconut oil
• Fatty fish and shellfish (e.g., salmon, anchovies, sardines, oysters, mussels, herring, tuna, white fish)
I hope this is a helpful start, Patty. Remember, while extremely effective, these habits are just a starting point. The first habit is arguably the most important, and with enough practice, it can be the key that unlocks the door to finding out what works best for you. Once again, we applaud you for your pledge to not ever diet again, and we look forward to helping you every step of the way. Keep up the awesome work!