In Part 1 – How to be a Slim Person – Why Diets Don’t Work, we discussed why going on a diet does not help you lose weight in the long term and in Part 2 – How to be a Slim Person – Fat and Thin Habits, how real slim people are different from overweight people in what they eat, their behaviour and in the way they think. This is all well and good, but how do you get slim? In this section we will present a pain, stress and sacrifice-free action plan for becoming a slim person that can be personally tailored to you. If you follow the plan you will become slim, and more importantly stay slim for the rest of your life.
Before continuing, I must warn you that if you are looking to lose 50lb for your high school reunion in two months, you won’t get there by following this action plan. However, if you are looking to lose weight properly, for the long term then read on.
Becoming a slim person will not happen overnight, nor should it. Changes to what you eat and your habits should be done gradually if there is going to be any chance of long term success. Also, weight should be lost slowly so that there is no chance that the starvation – binge cycle can kick in. Although you will be losing weight slowly, it should be a steady process and over the course of one or two years, you should see a dramatic change. As a rule of thumb, you should not lose more than a pound a week, preferably less. Because you will be losing weight slowly, it will be pretty much impossible to measure any weight loss on a week by week basis. This is because your weight naturally fluctuates daily by several pounds due to how hydrated you are, whether you’ve recently eaten, or been to the toilet, or other factors. These fluctuations have nothing to do with whether or not you have lost fat. You should never weight yourself more than once a week and don’t necessarily believe what the scales say when you do. We would suggest you do not weigh yourself at all (most slim people don’t), instead just look in the mirror or work out whether a favourite pair of jeans are getting looser.
In the action plan we will give step by step guidance to turn you into a slim person. Each step in the process will involve a small manageable permanent change to the way you live your life. Once you have comfortably managed a step, move onto the next one. Do not move onto the next step until you feel comfortable with the step you have just made. When I say comfortable, I mean that you will have incorporated it as a permanent – no going back change to your life, and it feels right. Some steps may be easier than others. It may take you several months to go through the action plan.
Not all the steps in this guide will necessarily apply to you. Everyone is different, not everyone will have the same “Fat” habits, for example, it is not true that all overweight people drink soda or diet soda, although a high proportion do. When you come to an action plan step that you can say hand on your heart does not apply to you, go to the next step in the list.
Step 1 – Eat a hearty breakfast every morning before you go to work.
This should be one of the easiest steps to take as you are actually going to have food at a time when you usually don’t. If you don’t feel you have enough time in the morning for breakfast, get up earlier and go to bed earlier at night. To become a slim person, you should be aiming to keep your energy levels constant throughout the day, which also means you should never skip meals either. The type of breakfast you should eat is cereal, fruit juice (you should not drink more than one glass of fruit juice each day) and maybe toast. The best cereals are ones that have a high fibre content and low GI ones that will give you a slow steady release of energy to keep hungry pangs at bay. Eat cereals such as bran, muesli or home made porridge, which is one of my favourites and only takes 3 minutes to make. Cereals with masses of added sugar and chocolate should be avoided.
Step 2 – Stop drinking carbonated soda drinks.
Your should regard all soda drinks, whether they contain sugar, or are sugar free, as mind altering drugs; mind altering drugs that are telling your brain to eat sugary treats and junk food. It’s probably not a great idea to just go cold turkey and give up soda drinks completely on day one, as with all drugs they are highly addictive. Instead, slowly cut down on the quantity of sodas you have daily and replace with plain old water, plenty of water, especially before mealtimes. It is recommended that you drink at least eight 8 oz glasses of water a day.
Step 3 – Take more time when eating meals.
Double the time that you take to eat your lunch and dinner. This will give your body time to realise how much food you are eating and regulate how much you eat at one sitting.
Step 4 – Switch your brain on to know the difference between real hunger and mental hunger.
Most overweight people eat even when they are not really hungry. Get in touch with your mind and body and work out when you are really hungry because your body is low on energy and when you just want to eat though force of habit, comfort eating or cravings. It is not as easy as you think to know the difference. Sometimes you can feel hungry because you are dehydrated. Try drinking some water and see how you feel in 15 minutes. Recognising the difference between real hunger and cravings will be useful in the later stages of the plan.
Step 5 – Increase the amount of natural exercise you do.
Natural exercise is the type of activity you do on a day to day basis while living you life, not the organised kind such as working out at the gym. Basically, you just need to get yourself moving more. Here are some tips
- If possible, leave your car at home when you go to work and walk to the bus/train, or even cycle to work.
- For any short journeys, avoid using the car and walk or cycle instead.
- If going to work by bus, get off at an earlier stop and walk.
- Go for a brisk walk in your lunch hour after you have eaten.
- Avoid using the elevator or escalators and walk up and down stairs instead.
- When you go to the supermarket, park your car at the far end of the car park so you get exercise walking to the front door and pushing the shopping cart back.
- Walk your kids to school instead of driving. This gets your kids into good habits as well.
- Do more energetic outdoor activities and games with your partner, friends or kids.
- Do your own gardening and car washing.
- Look for and take all opportunities to get yourself moving more.
Step 6 – Identify you comfort eating times and apply distraction techniques to break these habits.
Most people have unconscious routines that they follow during the course of the day. You will probably find that there are times, usually at night, when you will snack when you are not physically hungry. These are your comfort eating moments. You do this because you have got into a habit of snacking at particular times or in particular situations, for example, when you are watching TV, when you are bored, or at times when you are dwelling on personal issues. The problem with comfort eating is that you are taking in extra energy when you don’t need to use it. What happens to this unused energy? It is stored as fat in your body.
To break the comfort eating habits you need to first identify when these points are. If you followed step 4, you should now be more in tune with your own body and be able to recognise the difference between physical and mental hunger. Work out the times when you are feeding your mental hunger. At these points in the day, apply distraction techniques to take you mind off food. Distraction will involve stopping what you are doing and taking part in a different but engrossing activity. For example, if you eat a bag of potato chips when watching a certain TV program, don’t watch that program, do some housework instead. With practice, your obsession with food will gradually diminish because your spare time will be filled with activities that will absorb you so much that the thought of eating won’t even occur to you. Here are some ideas for activities that you can do to stop yourself from comfort eating.
- Go for a walk.
- Phone/email friends or family.
- A workout.
- Go to the gym
- Read a book.
- Do a crossword.
- Play board games.
- DIY jobs around the home that you have been putting off.
- De-junk your house.
- A hobby such as painting, knitting, woodwork etc.
- Pamper yourself and have a long soak in the bath.
- Listen to music (and dance).
- Learn a musical instrument or a foreign language.
- Go out somewhere.
- Go to bed early.
Step 7 – Gradually change your diet.
This step should not be confused with going on a diet, this is diet in the sense of the types of food and drink that you are going to consume for the rest of your life, and more importantly, what you are not going to eat. As with cutting out carbonated soda drinks, it is best not to just suddenly stop eating all of the bad foods that we discussed in part 2 of this article. Sugary and fatty foods are highly addictive and bad eating habits are hard to break. It would be ridiculous to try and break all of your ingrained bad eating habits in one go, no one has that level of will power. Your body and your palate has to gradually get used to eating the healthier alternatives. Every few weeks, change one food type to a better alternative.
There is no problem with snacking during the day if you are genuinely physically hungry. You should be aiming to keep your energy levels constant, so snacking is a good thing as long as you are not doing it at night when your body should be winding down for sleep. Replace potato chips and other unhealthy snacks with unsalted nuts such as almonds, walnuts, brazil, pecan and cashew nuts. Nuts provide protein, healthy fats and essential mineral and nutrients. Don’t go overboard on nuts though as they are densely packed with calories. A handful is perfect for keeping hunger at bay. Replace candy bars with fresh fruit. You should be eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
For your main meals, ditch the highly processed junk and replace with real home cooked food with real (lean) meat, real fish, real vegetables, pulses, wholemeal ingredients etc. There are plenty of recipes out there for tasty healthy home cooked recipes. You should favour low GI meals that give you a slow release of energy. Obviously, it will take longer to cook your own food, but you can cook large batches and freeze for your lazy moments. When you cook your own food from basic ingredients, you know what you are eating. Who knows what is in junk processed meals. You can look at the ingredients on the back of the box, but you’ll probably be none the wiser.
Step 8 – Gradually start doing workouts and other organised exercises.
Strength training is important because having a higher proportion of muscle in your body will increase your metabolic rate making it easier to lose weight. You should introduce workouts gradually, and if you are very unfit, you should get your doctor’s advice first. Joining a gym would be ideal, but not everyone has the time or the money for this, and you have to understand that this would be a lifelong commitment. It is a fact that you don’t necessarily need to join a gym or buy expensive weight equipment. There are a number of muscle building exercises you can do at home such as crunches, push ups, jump squats, step-ups etc. The exercises you do can be tailored for your current capabilities and level of fitness. Just do a search on the web for the best strength exercises for you.
Apart from building strength, you should also do aerobic exercises to burn off fat and make your heart and lungs healthier. Exercises like walking, running, cycling and swimming. Swimming is one of the best exercises because it combines strength training with aerobic exercise and it is easy on your joints.
Step 9 – Reduce your food portion size.
Gradually reduce the amount of food that you eat at one sitting, especially at dinner time. If you are overweight you are basically eating too much. Having a bit less food at meal times won’t necessarily make you feel hungrier because after eating a certain amount of food, your hunger will switch itself off if you give it enough time to register (see Step 3). The best way to cut down on the amount you eat at meal times is to simply not cook as much food as you usually do. If you cut down on the amount you cook, the money that you save in quantity can be used to buy better quality foods; replace that greasy burger with a nice juicy steak. If you do cook too much, just save some for leftovers rather than clearing your plate. To help reduce portion size you could also invest in a smaller set of dinner plates that will fool your brain into believing you aren’t reducing the portion size.
Step 10 – Do not reward your slimming behaviour with food.
This does not mean you can’t go out for a great meal, just do not link going out for a meal with rewarding yourself for doing exercise or cutting down on food for a week. This will lead back to an obsession with food which will lead you back to your old habits.
Step 11 – Ditch your other “Fat” habits.
These habits include counting calories, feeling guilty when you may have overeaten and bingeing because you feel bad. There is no point obsessing about food by counting calories, equally there is nothing to be gained by beating yourself up for overeating as this can lead to you giving up and going back to your old ways. You are changing your habits for the rest of your life. If you have the odd lapse, it doesn’t matter, your are on the road to becoming a slim person, you have plenty of time to get it right.
Step 12 – Don’t go back to your old ways.
If you have followed this action plan and have reached Step 12, you are now several months down the line and you are slowly by surely losing your excess weight and moving towards your ideal body mass index. Keep going, do not allow yourself to drift back into your old fat habits, ever. If you have made the changes gradually, you won’t have had any trouble getting to this point. Even if you have not yet reached your ideal BMI yet, you are already a slim person in your mind and attitudes.