I’m often sought out in the school playground for what I know; to have a conversation with a chef, mum of three and food coach by those who hope I hold the silver bullet of what I’d include in a menu to encourage weight loss…
I must admit, my go-to response is rather boring and ‘non-diety’, with a need to find a way to vamp it up but it goes along lines of – I enjoy a menu with a wide variety of foods every day, taking attention to my portion size for my needs and aiming to spend at least 30-45 minutes a day in physical activity that has my heart rate elevated.
Yawn, I know right? no exotic superfood induced high/low macro something in that, is there?
So if I still have my audience’s attention I continue and suggest the following approach, in no particular order and by no means do I consider it a ‘diet’:
1-2 pieces of fruit daily. With a serve of fruit looking like 150g of fruit salad, an apple, banana or 30g of dried fruit.
A minimum 5-8 serves of vegetables a day. Being 75g of broccoli, or other brassica vegetables, a tomato, 1 cup of carrots. Starchy vegetables such as pumpkin and sweet potato would also to be included.
2-3 serves of protein a day from a variety of sources: nuts, seeds, eggs, meat, fish, quinoa, legumes. A serving size of legumes could be 75g of cooked lentils or chickpeas, 80g of chicken, 30g of nuts or seeds (which are also good fat sources).
2-3 serves of dairy. A serve could look like 200g of yoghurt or 40g of cheese (which are also good fat sources), but not relying primarily on dairy from calcium as I know sesame seeds and parsley are good sources and include them abundantly where I can.
I include a variety of whole grains and high fibre cereals, and depending on my expected energy needs up to 9 serves a day. A serving size could look like a 40g bread roll, 75g of buckwheat or barley or 30g of flour. And I have to say, this surprised people the most, but if I’m super active I require loads of energy, if I’m hanging around reading all day, I don’t require so much and eat accordingly…
Fats. Most food naturally contains a proportion of fats: oats, dairy, nuts, avocado, eggs, etc. so to add further fats is often not required. However, olive oils for cooking and salad dressings contribute an excellent flavour, and there is nothing like a hot buttered scone!
No cake or treats in there that can’t be right?
Nope, not from a packet anyway, but I feel free to enjoy an occasional treat using the foods above as muesli bars, fruit and nut balls, chickpea pancakes, avocado mousse, raw chocolate…
Is this menu for everyone?
Yup, if you’re generally healthy, not pregnant or breastfeeding or have a diagnosed illness– then maybe not; seek specialised advice to guide you. Or if you’re taller than most (like me), or smaller than most, or more active than most (we’re not talking an occasional boot camp active, think in full training athlete) – then your portion SIZE will and should differ. But this style of eating is good for weight loss, and even maintenance. Or weight gain should that be your need.
But what type of diet is that?
Always the next range of questions asked. Is it Paleo, Sugar-free, Low Carb, from a celebrity. Do I fast at all? (FYI – only overnight, then I have BREAKfast in the morning).
Nope, I call it delicious food choices, more technically though it’s the basis of the Australian Dietary Guidelines – the ADG, and here at Healthy Happy Staff we believe they are wonderful set of guidelines for healthy eating because they are well researched and for the vast majority of Australians a perfect guide to promote health and wellbeing, reduce the risk of diet-related conditions and reduce the risk of chronic disease – excess weight being one chronic disease.
The ADG’s do not apply to people who need special dietary advice for a medical condition, or to the frail and elderly. Alarmingly, the special dietary advice for medical conditions group in our population is becoming larger.
Well, to be brutally honest, we are social creatures who cherry pick the best facet of a regime to suit our way of thinking – our cognitive biases. That, and change is hard – our pesky subconscious has a nasty habit of reverting to the comfort of familiarity; even when we know it’s to our detriment. Think ‘one more slice of cake won’t hurt’…’wine on a weeknight? Yes please!!’
The other issue is the ADG are guidelines to consider and not mandated to follow, leaving the interpretation to the discretion of the consumer combined with food manufactures processing what was food into something that resembles food; it’s little wonder diets are amiss.
Because I don’t want to scare my newly acquired company with my line – I enjoy a menu with a wide variety of foods every day, taking attention to my portion size for my needs and aiming to spend at least 30-45 minutes a day in physical activity that has my heart rate elevated, I save the ‘heavy stuff’ of weight loss for another time because I would prefer to shift the focus from weight to health. To how we want to feel. It’s about finding a way of eating that is flexible and sustainable, ideally using whole foods: grains, cereals, fresh fish and meats, unfiltered honey, raw foods and fermented foods (the science is catching up, your gut matters!!).
Here, I introduce the need for self-reflection
Oh to simply enjoy our food: to have a healthy relationship with our food, body and appetite. This is where mindful, intuitive eating come in to play along with awareness of our appetite, hunger and fullness cues. These are not ideas that appear in many media arenas, preferring dramatic weight loss hype. So while the ADG is the basis and for so many, it can sound boring, the idea is that we can make it personal, and it can be fun. We can experiment.
It is possible to enjoy and experiment with a wide variety of foods from a number of food sources and ask yourself questions to encourage intuitive eating such ‘did I feel energised today?’…’did I stop eating when I felt comfortably full?’…’did I use my food to soothe my emotions?’…’was I eating even though I wasn’t hungry?’…’did I trust myself to tell me how much I needed to eat?’…’am I thirsty?’
Exploring your answers and determining a plan of attack should the situation(s) emerge again, is the next step – that’s the behaviour change component of the Healthy Happy Staff coaching program and with large body of evidence available that demonstrates significant improvements in health can occur through individual behaviour change attempts, peer coaching is also sound way to approach workplace health.
If I still have my audience’s attention, I discuss fuelling through the day, not the end.
If not enough attention is paid to your nutritional needs in the earlier parts of the day, you may find yourself overeating later in the day under the guise of ‘binge eating, sugar cravings (or claims of addiction), stress or hormonal urges’; fuelling yourself through the day and spending time reflecting on your energy levels will naturally allow you to develop an intuitive eating routine that will be with you for life, regardless of a holiday break, work duties, pregnancy, extended stress periods etc. And fuelling your body post workout though is imperative, and not to be skipped on either – you’ll know about it later in the day when everyone is looking like a chocolate sundae!
Let’s be mindful to not blame sugar for everything, either – like we once did with fat. You can gain weight from overeating everything – yup, given enough, even broccoli. Have a look at your ‘sugar’ sources, are they refined complex carbs like brown rice, seedy whole grain slices of bread or quinoa salads in portions applicable to your energy needs, or are they mounds of white rice with your curry, espresso martini’s, pale ales your favourite chocolate confectionary? Sugar itself is rarely consumed in isolation, a chocolate bar or fruit cake is a wonderfully palatable concoction of Carbs, proteins, fats and usually, contain a list of some unrecognisable ingredients – these babies will add more to your hips than they will a burst of energy. “Sugar is your friend, but not your bestie”, writes Leanne Cooper from Cadence Learn. Check it out.
Are you crazy tired ALL.THE.TIME? Then maybe you need to visit your GP to discuss possible blood tests, your iron levels in particular – too much can be as debilitating as too little. I also make mention of teas ability to bind the iron making in unable for your body to absorb, and suggested drinking water as a replacement – and this delicious spice tea mix can do wonders for hydration.
So how would you ‘arrange’ these guidelines to your day?
We all have a role to play in community health, the only question is how do we play this role? Through intelligent, evidence-based inquiry we can understand how to health coach to support others in taking on positive behaviour change.