My philosophy on nutrition is to keep it simple and sustainable. Here's how I approach things:
Knowledge is power
When you understand the ‘why’ behind certain types of training and nutrition, it becomes much easier to make the right choices.
For example, if all you know how to do is follow a strict meal plan, exactly as written, then what do you do when you’ve finished the plan? Start again? That’s a bit boring. Buy another one? That’ll get expensive and what if you can’t use your meal plan because you’re traveling, out to dinner, or stuck at work late? Being able to identify the best options for you, on the fly without needing to refer to a guide is incredibly empowering.
Another example is if I tell you to, “say no to hot chips, they’re bad for you”, that’s not particularly motivating and may even get a negative emotional response! But if I simply explain to you how hot chips are made, what they contain and how they impact your body you won’t need willpower because trust me, you won’t want to eat them!
Keep it simple – use principles rather than rules
As Katharine Hepburn said, “if you obey all the rules you miss all the fun!”. If you build your health journey around rules, not only will you need hundreds of them to keep you on track, you’ll also want to break them at some point (perhaps many), and likely get the guilts for it. But if you understand a few simple principles that will guide your health journey, you can apply those to any situation. Once you have your principles to refer to nutrition is easy!
For example, if your rule is “1200 calories per day” then you have to check every single thing you eat, doing loads of calculations and adding everything all up… this might be fine for a little while but how sustainable is it? Who wants to live like that their whole life!? Obsessing over calories may be important for professional athletes, and it can be a good tool for the rest of us to use every now and again (perhaps as a once a month reference guide to help you assess where you’re at in line with your goals and whether you’re overeating, or undereating!) but it’s often not a healthy headspace to hangout in. Too many times I’ve seen an obsession with food rules turn into an unhealthy obsession with food – full of guilt, self-loathing and regret.
Instead, I always recommend simple guiding principles like “always choose the most natural and unprocessed foods available to you at each meal” and “avoid high sugar foods where possible”. Principles like these ensure you can make the right choices without demonising your food.
Add rather than remove
You don’t have to exercise nearly as much willpower when you’re adding things IN to your diet rather than cutting things OUT. A focus on eating the foods your body really needs first (veggies/proteins/fruits/seeds) is a positive way to crowd out less healthy or more calorie dense options. Once you get the good stuff in you won’t have space for anything else! And if it’s not vegetables you’re craving, then finding the healthiest version of your treat foods to indulge in is also a good move.
For example, at meal times fill half your plate with veggies, a quarter with quality protein and the rest can be whatever you like within the healthy spectrum, examples might be some rice, a slice of sourdough, some delicious healthy fats or fruit.
And if you’re craving chocolate? Choose the best quality and lowest sugar/chemical version available, for example ditch the cheap milk chocolate (50% sugar) and choose a 70-90% cacao version (dark) with between 5-15% sugar instead. It may be more expensive but you’ll end up saving money because you’ll tend to eat less of it!
Get healthy to lose weight, not the other way around
You tend to get what you focus on, so talk about what you want, not what you don’t want.
If you wake up every day with the thought, “I have to lose weight” you’re focusing on your weight in a negative way which puts a focus on everything you don’t have and all the ways you’re failing. Climbing back from perceived big failures is not motivating.
Instead, set your goals around getting healthy and nourishing your body in the best way possible, so your thought pattern becomes, “I am a healthy person”. This path will inevitably lead to weight loss as a side effect and you’ll do it in a healthy way. Small wins lead to big wins and help you feel inspired!
Slow down to speed up
It’s incredibly important to slow down when you eat. Relax, chew properly and taste your food, without multi-tasking at the same time!. This will help your appetite signals register properly and reduce inflammatory responses (e.g. bloating, reflux). It will also blunt the cortisol spikes that can mess up your digestion, create inflammation and lead to increased fat storage. Slow down at meal times to speed up weight loss.
Use the 1-2 rule with your vices & treats, such as alcohol
When it comes to foods we know we shouldn’t be over-indulging in but just can’t seem to stay away from, particularly when weight loss and optimised energy/health are the end goals, use my 1-2 rule as an easy way to cut down, without feeling deprived. First up, be honest with yourself about your vices and what you might be having a bit too much of. Alcohol? Bread? Chocolate bars? Pasta? The shared office bikkies? Whatever it is that you love but know it will be hard to cut out completely, simply make a deal with yourself that you’re allowed to indulge in 1-2 serves of those things, 1-2 times per week. For me, that means 1 glass of wine with my husband on a Friday and/or Saturday night, a slice of sourdough at Sat/Sun brunch and coffee with a little milk to kickstart my morning a few times per week. Health goals, sorted! And I never feel I’ve overindulged, or am missing out. It’s a winner!
- 2 poached eggs, lots of sauteed greens, a quarter avocado and some sliced tomato (on weekends or big training days, add a slice of sourdough).
- Plain oats made with some chia seeds, plus with half a scoop of organic whey or vegan protein powder and hot water, add berries and a teaspoon of Greek yoghurt.
- A tin of wild caught sardines with a squeeze of lemon.
- Beans with a small serve of rice and lots of greens. Option to add a quarter avocado.
- 100g (women) to 200g (men) of chicken/oily fish/red meat, with a small serve of nuts.
- Protein shake with a scoop of organic whey (Promise Nutrition) or vegan (Passion Projects), plus half a frozen banana, some cinnamon and chia seeds or dried coconut.
- Boiled eggs with chopped tomato, avocado, cucumber, drizzled with olive oil and lemon/lime juice, sprinkled with chilli or pepper.
Lunch & dinner Tips:
- Fill at least half your plate with either salad, or green and colourful vegetables.
- Add a palm-sized serve of quality protein (this is a portion guide for women, men can increase to 1.5 to 2 palm sizes), like fish/chicken/meat/beans (note this does not include processed meats like sausages or preserved deli meats like ham/turkey/chicken/devon slices, but can include tinned oily fish).
- Add a small serve of healthy fats and carbs, or a slightly bigger version of one or the other (for example, directly after you’ve exercised fats are unable to be utilised by your body, but it’s the optimal time to eat your carb serves). Likewise, fats can be too heavy right before bed but carbs can help you sleep.
- Do your best to eat dinner an hour or two before bed, and avoid sweets at night so you’re not falling asleep with a full stomach, or rollicking blood sugar levels that can disturb your sleep.
- Still hungry after lunch/dinner? Leave at least 20 minutes before going back for seconds, so your appetite hormones can catch up and tell you if you’re really still hungry, or not! Try sipping on a herbal tea during this time - liquorice or peppermint or fennel are great for something sweet.
Focus on protein or fibrous vegetables or low sugar fruits. Ideas/options:
- My all time go-to is my own product Chief Bar. Seriously don't know what I did without it, it's completely guilt free and pretty much a proper meal in a bar. It'll fill you up and keep you going for a long time.
- Berries with a little plain Greek yoghurt and sprinkled with chia seeds.
- A small handful of nuts (12-20).
- A tablespoon of chia seeds soaked in almond/coconut milk or coconut water with a sprinkle of stevia stirred in.
- Boiled eggs with hummus and pepper/salt.
- Tinned wild caught sardines or salmon and a squeeze of lime.
- A few squares of quality dark chocolate.
- A green apple sliced and topped with a small serve of nut butter (almond, not peanut).
- Steamed veggies with a small serve of organic butter or drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chilli.
- Chopped cucumber/carrot/celery with hummus or babaganoush (avoid sunflower oil).
- Homemade protein balls.
- Half an avocado with mustard.
- Pumpkin slice sprinkled with cinnamon.
- A piece of low GI fruit like pear, apple, berries, citrus.
Want to learn more?
Get started with my BUF Girls online program BUF Body.