Achieving the perfect body and feeling confident in a swimsuit is often something that most people deem impossible. Diets are extreme and often set unrealistic goals and timelines. I am sure if you are a regular dieter, you’ve researched your fair share of dietary programs and weight-loss regimes only to find that in reality, most of them don’t produce the results you were hoping for and you simply just can’t live your life on a strict and boring dietary plan.

This is precisely why diet’s DON’T work!

Instead, the mind-set needs to change. We need to change our habits towards eating and our mentality towards dieting. We should never view foods as ‘out of reach’ or ‘not allowed’ because that will only make us desire to eat these foods. Instead, focus on the foods you are allowed in abundance and follow the 80-20 rule: 80% of the time eat the foods that you know will aid weight-loss, build muscle and make you feel great – inside and out. 20% of the time allow yourself to enjoy the food and drink that isn’t so healthy but allows you to be social and let loose.

Healthy eating is all about moderation and practicality. Enjoying some treats in moderation and being practical about what foods you can eat day-in and day-out.

Practicality also refers to what’s available to you, preparing your food in advance when working a demanding job and being practical about a timeline for yourself to achieve your goals. If you put yourself on a weight-loss program that is extreme and radical and restricts you from being social and in general just being happy, do you really think that’s going to last very long? You are not going to lose 50lbs overnight. However over the course of 4-6 months losing 50lbs is completely realistic once you’re following the right program that is not termed a ‘diet’ but simply a lifestyle change.

Scrap the word ‘diet’ from your vocabulary and focus instead on changing your habits and your mindset. View yourself as a healthy, happy person and that’s exactly what you will be.

The first step is knowing what you can eat. Have a look at the categories below:

Category A

Outlines foods that you should eat the most of on a daily basis. Most of these foods are fantastic for building muscle, burning fat and aiding weight loss and there are so many exciting and delicious recipes you can explore using these foods.

Category B

Outlines foods that are extremely healthy but are to be eaten less frequently than the foods in category A if you are trying to lose weight. Many of these foods are essential for good health and optimal bodily function but are also quite high in natural fat, sugar, carbohydrates, etc. so enjoy them often but in moderation!

Category C

Are foods that are best avoided to be honest but if you are adopting the 80-20 rule, then you can enjoy these foods 20% of the time. So one night a week if you want to go out for dinner or drinks with friends or if you want to enjoy a bar of chocolate and popcorn at the movies, then do that. But for the majority of the time try to avoid foods in this category.

I have kept these categories very, very simple so they are easy to follow and incorporate in to your daily life. They are as follows:

Category A

All vegetables – Eat these in abundance, every day! Organic Oatmeal, Quinoa, Brown Rice and Millet. Greek Yogurt (Plain – No added sugar or fruit) Black coffee or Tea Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil All natural herbs and spices

Category B

All fruits All Nuts and Seeds All fish, meat and poultry All dairy

Category C

Everything else! All alcohol, refined carbohydrates, junk food, soft drinks, candy, etc. All baked goods and goodies – cakes, biscuits, pastry, etc.

When it comes to eating by these categories it really is very simple. The natural foods that are unrefined and without additives, extra sugar and added preservatives should be the basis of your diet the majority of the time. Any whole, natural foods that grow on the farm should be the staple of your daily diet. A few other small points can also be incorporated in to your new lifestyle when you’re eating by category. Notice I did not say ‘diet’. This is your new lifestyle.

These extra notes can also help you to make the right decisions when it comes to your food. Some small points are as follows:

  1. Eat Good Carbohydrates

    Carbohydrates included in Category A are the low-glycaemic, slow-releasing carbohydrates: Oatmeal, quinoa, millet and short grain brown rice. These release energy over time and do not promote fat storage like other refined and processed high-glycaemic index carbohydrates such as your regular white breads, pastas, pastries and junk food.

  2. Eat Fiber-Rich Foods

    Fiber filled foods aid digestion and speed up metabolism. They also help remove unnecessary waste from the body. Most vegetables and fruits are rich in fiber.

  3. Drink Water

    Don’t consume ‘empty’ calories in sugary drinks and morning Frappuccinos. Drink water instead to nourish the body. A lot of the time when we are thirsty we confuse thirst with hunger and opt for food instead. Try consuming more water throughout the day and you might find that what you thought was hunger initially was really just the body’s need for fresh water.

  4. All things in Moderation

    Eat slowly and mindfully. Recognize when you feel full and don’t overeat at any meal. At home, try using smaller plates and reduce your portion sizes. You can always grab seconds if you’re still hungry but be mindful of your body and listen to your stomach when it tells you it’s had enough.

  5. Reduce Salt Intake

    Salt stores fluid and makes you feel heavier and more bloated after a meal. Train your tastebuds to enjoy food without the added sodium. A small amount of good, natural sea-salt is needed daily, but not with every meal and certainly not as much as the average American currently consumes.

  6. Start Your Morning Off Right

    Eat a good, hearty breakfast in the morning and reduce hunger cravings throughout the day which usually lead to the consumption of refined sugary and fatty foods. Try starting your day with eggs or oatmeal to stock up on slow-releasing carbohydrates, protein, essential fats and great natural energy to kick start the day!

  7. Choose REAL Food

    As I said earlier, choose foods from the farm. Natural foods that are grown on the land, caught in the water or hunted. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats and fish, raw nuts and seeds and unrefined whole grains. Try eating foods that are local and in season and avoid anything that comes in a packet, frozen, covered in colored sauce and packed with additives and preservatives. Cut back on take-away foods and easy convenient snacks and instead try home cooking. Cook whole, hearty meals and enjoy knowing the source of your food – knowing that what you are ingesting is pure and natural.

Stop looking at weight-loss as a time-consuming, difficult task involving restricting diets and no fun. Change your habits and get excited about your new lifestyle! Nothing is ever ‘off-limits’. We are just learning a new, exciting, healthy way to eat, live and achieve our goals.

Thanks for reading. And remember… be smart, eat smart!

Megan O'Neill

Megan O'Neill is a musician, psychologist, nutrition advisor and an absolute health-nut! She currently resides in London, but - as you may have guessed from the name - is originally from Ireland. Six years ago, following an incredible trip to Asia, she suddenly became very ill with IBS, food intolerances and chronic fatigue. No-one could have predicted how that fateful trip would... Read More

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