Something I find really hard to see is when people in aim to be healthier or perhaps lose weight or change their body composition, eat a teeny tiny salad for lunch then often cave in to an afternoon 3:30itis chocolate bar or arrive home in the evening and eat the entire fridge. Or worse, starve and end up feeling drained and moody. I’m not at all surprised. A few lettuce leaves, a little cucumber, and a mini tin of tuna are not at all sustaining nor will help you achieve your goals.
I can see how easy it is to become trapped in a yo-yo of constant dieting and restrictive eating. Social media has us bombarded with images of girls and guys with what some perceive as an “ideal body” promoting juice detox cleanses, fat loss pills, skinny teas, meal replacement shakes, trend diets and other quick fixes promising fat loss and abs in a matter of weeks. In our quest to look the way we want some are willing to try almost anything! But there are no quick fixes – you have to work hard for it. Bombshell for you – our body’s are naturally designed to burn fat and detox itself if you are providing the right environment for it to do so, pills and products are ineffective at doing this.
Health and weight maintenance isn’t about eating less; it’s about eating more of the right nutrients. We can no longer look at weight maintenance/fat loss as simply “calories in vs. calories out” (sorry to all those who preach this but our body’s are far more advanced and smarter) – this is only a very small part of the big picture and only helps to some extent. Macronutrients (protein, carbs & fats + water & fibre) are not all created equal. They are metabolised and behave very differently in our bodies and it’s the micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phyto-chemicals & antioxidants) that play a significant role in metabolism, hormones and how our body functions. Constant restrictive dieting, cutting food groups or eating low calories may work for the very short term but eventually your body will adapt and hit a plateau.
When it comes to weight maintenance we have to consider not only the quality of food and how much we eat, but also genetics, exercise, sleep habits, stress and other lifestyle factors. Then there are the biggest factors – gut health and control of hormones (insulin, cortisol, leptin, ghrelin, testosterone, estrogen etc.).
So where do we start?
- Acceptance – forget what was and accept where you are at now. Becoming frustrated that you aren’t where you want to be is not going to get you there.
- Realistic – be realistic with yourself and a time frame to achieve your goals. It’s not a sprint, it’s a lifelong commitment and it takes time to make real changes.
- Inner health – focus on eating clean, natural, unprocessed real food. This allows your body to essentially “detox” itself and function the way it is meant to.
- Choices – make healthy meal choices 90% of the time and swap for healthier versions when you feel like you can’t give something up (e.g. avocado instead of margarine or mayo, homemade treats instead of packaged products like protein balls, cacao dark chocolate instead of high sugar versions made with palm oil, natural yogurt).
- Quality – rather than cutting or restricting whole food groups (e.g. low carb) or counting calories, instead focus on portion control, quality of food and nutrient timing.
- Self-care – treat your body with self-love and respect. Overexertion, extremes and constantly pushing to your physical and mental limits is not admirable “dedication”. Create a healthy balance and know when to give your body, mind and spirit a rest. Life is made to be enjoyed too.
- Mindset is everything – shift your focus away from weight loss (take a moment to think if this goal is consuming your thoughts…), stop yourself when negative thoughts creep in, and instead focus on long-term sustainable health. Your body will actually respond when you are not constantly thinking and stressing about it.
- You – It starts with you, your mindset and your willingness to implement changes to improve your entire life. Trust yourself and know that you can do it.
Which brings me to a nourishing and sustaining superfood salad recipe – perfect for work lunches, post workout meals or healthy dinners. Because if you’re going to eat a salad, make it super not “skinny”.
What I love about these ingredients:
Greek yogurt – probiotics will promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Healthy gut bacteria are literally the most essential need for optimal health for the body and mind – as is said all health begins in the gut. Healthy guts ensures nutrient absorption, aids fat loss, improves body composition, prevents allergies, disease and illness, supports immune health and mental health, aids brain function and literally the optimal functioning of our entire body. I could go on all day about how important gut health is.
Apple cider vinegar – not only aids digestion by assisting your stomach to produce digestive enzymes, but also assists with fat loss by helping insulin release to stabilise blood glucose, it also has anti-bacterial properties and aids detoxification.
Quinoa – still a favourite in the world of superfoods. This little seed is the best plant based source of essential amino acids (aka the building blocks of protein), complex carbs, iron and other essential minerals and vitamins.
Avocado – one of my favourite healthy fats for glowing youthful skin thanks to its great source of vitamin E, one of the most powerful antioxidants that reduces free-radicals.
Apples – The pectin in apples is a source of soluble fibre aiding removal of toxins and waste as well as mobilised fats that were broken down during your workout.
Chicken – excellent source of protein and B12, which is essential for red blood cell formation and energy as well as repair.
Superfood Chicken Salad:
150g cooked quinoa (add more for post workout meals)
½ small cucumber
1 small carrot
1 small apple
6 grape tomatoes
6 baby cos leaves
handful spinach leaves
handful alfalfa sprouts
small handful parsley
1 fresh red chilli
200g leftover cooked chicken breast
big splash apple cider vinegar
1 heaped tablespoon natural greek yogurt
2-4 teaspoons hot chilli sauce (sugar free)
Sea salt & pepper
- Cook the quinoa according to the packet instructions (about ½ cup dry will give you more than 120g cooked, perfect to keep a little extra in the fridge for another meal, or add a little extra to this salad for a perfect summer post workout meal).
- Roughly chop the cucumber, apple, tomato, cos, spinach, parsley, grate the carrot, finely chop the chilli and throw into a bowl. Shred the chicken and add it in along with the cooked quinoa.
- Season with salt & pepper, squeeze in the lime juice, spoon in the yogurt and drizzle the apple cider vinegar and hot chilli sauce. Mix well, then add chopped avocado and mix again. Add a little more hot chilli sauce or salt and pepper to taste and serve it all up in 2 bowls.
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Chicken, Quinoa and Loadsa Veg’ recipe from his Everyday Superfoods cookbook.