Nikki's Food & Diet Tips
Follow Nikki on her journey with regular and informative food and diet tips to suit everyone.
A number of my new clients come to me with many misguided beliefs about dieting, so I wanted to write a quick article to correct 5 of the most common “mis beliefs" that I have come across.
Hopefully you find it interesting.
1. You need to drastically cut calories if you want to lose weight
NO! When your body goes into a major calorie deficit, it stops functioning at its normal level. You will lose weight but this will be a combination of muscle and water and not fat. Fat will be stored, your metabolism will slow down and when you do eventually start eating normally again, you will put the weight back on and often more and, because you have less muscle it will be even harder to lose it.
You need to burn more calories than you consume , aka creating a calorific deficit, if you want to lose weight ( the normal healthy recommendation is around 500 calories a day to lose a 1lb of fat a week) but this deficit should be made up of diet and exercise. If you are one of those people who enjoy counting calories then you can have a fitness professional work out your BMR and your calorie deficit and go from there. But if, like most people you just want to eat well and create healthy habits rather than trying to follow a restrictive diet, then it is stlll possible to lose weight without worrying about calories, just keep it simple, eat mindfully in other words et when you are hungry and not when you are bored or sad , understand what you are eating, avoid heavily processed foods and finally exercise in a way that will build muscle as well as keep your heart healthy.
2. You need to stop eating carbohydrates if you want to lose weight...
NO! Carbs provide us with energy so we need carbs BUT there are good and bad carbs, also known as starch and sugars. Starchy carbs include things like vegetables, bread, pasta and sugars include fruit, biscuits and chocolate.
If you are serious about losing weight then you should be reducing the highly processed carbohydrates, whether starches or sugars. So cut out white bread and pasta and replace with wholemeal or whole grain products; reduce your biscuits and cakes. A simple rule of thumb is the closer to nature, the less refined, the more dense the carb, the better.
3. You need to stop eating after 6pm if you want to lose weight ...
NO! The time of day that you eat will not in itself determine weight loss or gain, it is all about the number of calories that you eat vs the calories that you burn , in other words that calorific deficit. If you eat more calories than you need , even if you eat them all before 6pm, you will put on weight!!!
Having said that, if you are like most people, you are more likely to binge or indulge in unnecessary and less healthy snacks in the evening so if you do eat in the evenings, be mindful!
4. You can eat as much as you like, as long as its healthy ....
NO! Healthy food still contains calories so although you should always choose healthier foods over the less healthy options , you still need to be mindful. So for example although nuts are of course healthier than crisps, nuts are still calorific so replacing a family sized bag of crisps with a family sized bag of nuts will not help your diet. Likewise, although home made fruit smoothies are of course better than fizzy drinks, just be aware that fruit is still sugar and you are more likely to drink several pieces of fruit in one sitting. If you eat more than your body needs, even if it is a diet full of smoothies, nuts and avocado, you will put on weight !!
5. You can eat as much as you like, as long as you exercise ...
NO! Exercise of course is essential BUT you truly cannot out exercise a bad diet. if you want to lose weight then you need to combine the right type of exercise with a healthy diet and you need to bear in mind that calorific deficit. It is really easy to overestimate the amount of food you burn in an hour long training session and it is also very easy to finish a hardcore session and then reward yourself with a snack that exceeds all of the calories that you've just worked so hard to burn.
The reality is that although you will burn calories during your training session, this number will be a small fraction of the total number of calories that you burn throughout the whole day. You burn calories even whilst you’re chilling on the sofa.
So exercise and eat healthily ...both will ensure success .
If you are trying to lose weight, one of the worst things you can do is to adopt a restricted and unsustainable diet. You will probably lose the weight quickly, BUT, at some point, your mind or body will force you to revert back to your normal habits and then you will put the weight back on, and often, struggle to lose that weight the next time around.
The best way to lose weight and maintain that weight loss, is to adopt a healthy lifestyle BUT OF COURSE, that is easier said than done.
So many of us have acquired bad nutritional habits that we may not even be aware of, such as
Snacking between meals
Adding sugar to drinks or snacks
Binge eating late at night
In addition, with so much “expert” but conflicting advice, it can be difficult to decide which are good habits and which are bad, for example, is fat good or bad for you? should you avoid carbs? if sugar is so bad does that include fruit too?
Some people will count calories or track their macros and this is a very effective approach BUT for lots of people who don’t understand, have the time or just don’t want to deal with number crunching, simply changing daily bad habits for improved and healthy habits will take care of those numbers and lead to impressive results.
If you eat well and mindfully, your results will be great with or without number crunching.
From my experience there are a number of good habits that are worth forming and adhering to daily.
I’ve listed just a few below. Try the ones that you think might benefit you and see what you think but bear the following in mind
1.It takes at least 21 days to form a habit so don’t beat yourself up if at first you don’t succeed.
2. It is better to try one habit at a time rather than trying to boil the ocean and overhaul your life in one hit. Take a simple, easy and quick to complete habit and then add a new habit every 14 days.
3. Review your progress against each habit and if you are struggling to complete a habit try and work out what the barriers are and how you can overcome them.
Changing habits slowly but surely will result in great results and benefits …it;s not about the perfect race BUT about continued momentum and sustainable behaviour.
A FEW GOOD HABITS
1. RECORD WHAT YOU EAT - this habit is about awareness, not change. The point of logging your food is not about being judged, counting calories or being punished for eating “bad” foods. It’s more about understanding when you eat, what you eat and how your mood or environment might influence your choices. Logging your food is an effective way to keep your goals and intentions at the forefront of your mind
2. EAT EVERY 3 - 4 HOURS WITHOUT SNACKING - (especially relevant if you are sugary snacker) One of the most important habits you can form is eating regularly throughout the day, in accordance with your hunger and fullness cues , in other words eating mindfully.
Under eating regularly will lead to a lack of energy and performance plus possible over eating later in the day. Drastic under eating will cause a reduction in your metabolism which will eventually slow down fat loss. Snacking as a habit, as opposed to when you are hungry, can reduce hunger cues and ruin your appetite.
This habit will help you to reconnect with your body - listen to its cues and eat when your body needs nourishment rather than when you need comfort , or to alleviate boredom or because you are unhappy.
3. EAT LEAN PROTEIN WITH EVERY MEAL - The word ‘protein’ is actually derived from the Greek word ‘protos’, which means ‘of prime importance’. Protein helps boost the metabolism, building lean muscle tissue and reducing body fat.
Great protein sources include eggs, Greek yoghurt, poultry, meat, fish, peanut butter. If you are a vegetarian good sources include quinoa, quorn, soy, buckwheat, beans, nuts and lentils
4. EAT FRESH VEGETABLES WITH EVERY MEAL - by eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, you will benefit from a ton of vitamins and minerals which will make you feel stronger, sharper and more energetic.
5.. DRINK FRESH WATER BEFORE & AFTER EVERY MEAL - Water is the most important nutrient in your diet, nothing else comes close. It is the most widely used nutrient involved in the process and make up of the body. How much water you should drink really depends on the individual BUT drinking fresh water 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after every meal is a good habit to form.
6. MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY - Sleep has a direct correlation to the quality of your waking life. No other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort. Again, the amount of sleep you need really depends on the individual but good quality sleep is important for everybody whether you function perfectly on 6 hours shut eye or need at least 8 hours a night.
Assess your sleeps needs and habits.
See how you respond to different amounts of sleep.
Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
Beware of hidden sleep stealers like alcohol and caffeine.
Turn off electronics before bed
Don’t make sleep the thing you do only after everything else is done, STOP doing other things
I was talking to a new client the other day and she was telling me about her ongoing weight loss battles.
She told me that she had once found huge success with a very popular and restrictive weight loss plan. She had an important event and she wanted to lose a lot of weight to fit into a particular outfit this plan was easy to follow, she lost the weight quickly, looked great in the outfit and was happy. Of course once the event had passed , her eating became more relaxed and she put the weight back on. Some time later she had another important event, so she embarked on another restrictive diet and again the weight came off, albeit it was a lot harder to lose the weight this time. Once the event was done and eating was restored to normal, the weight came back.
This cycle continued and continued and now today, with another important event looming she is really struggling to lose the weight and says that her metabolism seems to have slowed right down.
This story sounded so familiar to me, maybe to you too, so I thought you it might be useful to set out a few reasons why crash dieting doesn’t work.
Firstly there is physiology. The body doesn’t understand the concept of “dieting”. It simply recognises dieting as a sign of starvation so it goes into “starvation mode” which basically means that it becomes very efficient at using the calories it obtains from food and drink.
The main thing that happens is that the body starts to protect the stores of energy or fat that have accumulated and it turns to lean muscle as its calorie source. This directly leads to loss of muscle which in turn lowers the metabolic rate so that the body needs fewer calories to keep functioning and weight loss slows down.
Generally the more muscle we have, the higher our metabolic rate, the less we have, the lower our metabolic rate.
When we start eating normally again we gain weight more easily because our metabolic rate is still low. Sometimes it take months to readjust especially if we have lost a lot of muscle mass during the diet. Also, your body will hoard as much fat as it can, just in case the “starvation” happens again. This explains why people gain so much weight after a bout of crash dieting.
Luckily, the negative effects of yoyo dieting on your metabolism can be reversed by building muscle through exercise and eating the right foods.
The body will also set up an “anti starvation” trigger if weight loss is too quick. This basically means that it sets itself up to take advantage of any food source it finds, so when food becomes available there will be a tendency to binge as the brain assumes that this food might be the only calorie source for a long time. So when we haven’t eaten for a while and then we overeat, this is not down to lack of willpower but the physiological programming of our bodies.
Studies show that restricting calories will bring about weight loss inside a 6 month period but that the weight will be gained back within 12 - 18 months. Other studies indicate that calorie restriction is only 50% effective in achieving mathematical projections for weight loss. In other words it is possible that excess calorie intake may not be the primary cause of obesity, just another symptom. If some hormonal or genetic abnormality has triggered an issue which causes overeating, then how can forcibly restricting food intake solve the problem? It may mask the symptom i.e. weight gain, for a while but it will not correct the underlying hormonal or genetic dysfunction. If this remains unchanged then the risk of weight gain is still present because the stimulus has been ignored.
The mind can also affect our ability to diet, as well as be impacted by our diet. Nutritionists talk about a deprivation - binge cycle which is both physiological and psychological. Not only will the body crave missing nutrients, the mind will also crave what’s forbidden and when we give in, which experts say will happen 2 out of 3 times, it is very likely that we will overeat or binge which will then lead to feelings of guilt, which leads again to crash dieting and so on ..
Crash dieters get into a cycle of yoyo dieting and then may lose confidence in their ability to lose weight and feel miserable as a result.
Self denial and repeated crash dieting can also increase the risk of the “all or nothing” mentality where we think, what the hell I just “relapsed” so I may as well go the whole hog and eat big time and I’ll start again tomorrow.
Also extreme dieting makes you moody, irritable and lethargic and research has shown that crash diets can decrease your attention span, dull your memory and lower your IQ as early as 48 hours from when the diet was started.
So, does crash dieting work? Definitely not …
If you need to lose weight do it sensibly and slowly through exercise and sensible balanced eating rather than going to extreme crash diets which may help you lose weight in the short term but will definitely slow down your ability to lose weight and keep it off for the long term.
Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live
So now the experts are telling us that the national guidelines issued back in 1977 and 1983 warning us to reduce our fat consumption in order to avoid heart disease ,should not have been issued due to lack of actual supporting evidence.
There are still those out there who argue that fat is bad and leads to obesity but statistics show that despite the fact that we have cut the proportion of fat in our diets by 6% over the last 30 years obesity rates have trebled over the same period. The fact is that we have replaced the healthy fats with not so healthy carbohydrates and this is what has led to increased waistlines …but that is another story. Let’s get back to fat.
So some FAT related questions and answers that some of my clients have asked me and that you may be wondering about…
So why should I eat fat?
Fat is an essential part of your diet. It is a structurally integral part of every single cell membrane in our bodies, every single cell for every single function. lt provides our bodies with insulation and our organs with protection. It also provides us with energy, boosts our immune system and it makes our food more tasty.
What’s the difference between SATURATED, UNSATURATED and TRANS fats?
Saturated fats are commonly known as hard fats that usually come from animal source, dairy and eggs. These are the fats that were regarded as bad, with dietary guidelines recommending that they take up no more than 10% of your diet. One of the key reasons was because these fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol. But it turns out that they also raises HDL (good) cholesterol so the effects on HDL and LDL cancel each other out. Experts are now challenging this “bad fat” label and the dietary guidelines. However don't forget, saturated fats are still high in calories so overindulging in cheese, eggs and butter will increase your weight.
Unsaturated fats are commonly found in the form of oils. More often than not they come from plants such as seeds but they also come from fish. These fats can be further divided into polyunsaturated (fish, nuts, oils) and monounsaturated (olive oil)
Trans fats that have been manufactured are BAD fats! Basically healthy unsaturated fats are hydrogenated to change the chemical structure and produce more “desirable” properties such as longer life shelf. Among other negative things, trans fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol. Recent studies show a definite link between trans fat and accelerated risk of heart disease. Trans fats should be avoided!!!
Are low fat foods the best option?
The fats are simply removed and replaced with SUGAR and SWEETENERS. Sugar and sweeteners cause INSULIN levels to rise and this leads to storage. So low fat foods are not a good option.
But doesn’t Fat have double the calories of Carbs or Protein?
This is true but Nature generally packages good fat with protein such as meat, fish and eggs. This combination makes us feel fuller for longer as protein provides high satiety or a feeling of fullness. When food has been manufactured, then fat is more likely to be combined with refined carbs and processed sugars such as french fries or doughnuts. Those combination leads to low satiety or appetite satisfaction which of course leads to snacking and craving, and this in tandem with high calories.
But surely fat intake leads to fat storage ?
No! Carbs lead to fat storage. Very simply, when we eat carbs, our blood sugar levels rise, insulin is then released to remove the excess sugar from our blood. Insulin will store that extra sugar first as glycogen (to be used later) or fat, once glycogen stores are full. Carbs or sugar mobilise insulin, not fat!
So in summary
FAT does not make you FAT, SUGAR makes you FAT!
I hope I’ve answered some questions but don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions or would like to know more about the importance and effects of fat, carbohydrates or protein in your diet.
I talk to so many people who are trying to lose weight but who skip breakfast or who scoff down a quick bowl of sugary cereal as they rush out the door.
But there are several reasons why a high protein, low carb breakfast should become a daily habit even if you only have limited time, and especially if you are trying to lose weight.
- Breakfast literally means “breaking the fast” . It provides your body and brain with fuel after the overnight fast. Taking on the day without breakfast is like driving a car without petrol.
- Eating regular meals stimulates the metabolism and signals the body to start using fuel instead of hoarding it. Skipping meals will force your body into lockdown mode burning fewer calories.
- Eating breakfast will give you more energy and studies show that having breakfast helps you focus
- A high protein breakfast will make you feel fuller for longer than a high carb breakfast which will reduce the likelihood of snacking on sugary snacks during the day to relieve hunger and increase energy. Why? In summary, protein reduces Ghrelin (a hormone that grows appetite) and elevates PYY (a hormone that reduces appetite) A low protein high carb breakfast will have a similar effect but this effect is short-lived.
- A breakfast high in processed carbs may make you feel hungry within a couple of hours because the foods rapidly break down into sugar which causes insulin levels to shoot up and then plummet, leading to more hunger.
So, in my opinion, a high protein breakfast is always the best way to start the day and if you do include carbs then stick with low GI foods such as natural muesli, heavy mixed grain breads or vegetables, some of which work perfectly in omelettes.
Below are some of my favourite breakfast recipes. Visit www.nikkicarrolfitness.wordpress.com for more ideas.
Cottage Cheese with Fruit
Nice and simple for those who struggle to eat breakfast at all.
Grab a bowl of cottage cheese and add your favourite fresh berries and fruit.
Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
Portable, ideal if you need breakfast on the run.
Blend 1 frozen banana, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 1 cup almond milk and a couple of ice cubes. You can add a scoop of your fave protein for that extra protein boost.
Baked Eggs and Avocado
Perfect for sharing.
Slice avocado in half, scoop out the pip and enough flesh to hold your egg snugly inside. Tightly pack your avocados into a baking tray. Crack an egg into the avocado half, and bake for 15 - 20 mins or until the egg white is set. Season and garnish with pepper and herbs.
Quinoa or Oat Porridge
If you just want a nice bowl of hot and tasty goodness
Quinoa is a great source of protein as well as iron, fibre and calcium
Use quinoa flakes to make porridge. You can add pieces of fruit or honey to taste. Alternatively use good old fashioned oats and add fruit or nuts.
Everywhere you look you see information warning you against the dangers of food. “Fat is Bad!” “Juice Your Meals” “Avoid Carbs” even “Too much fruit makes you fat”
It seems that eating is a chore that we should almost be embarrassed about having to undertake. Food is merely a fuel that we need to consume as efficiently as possible and in fact if we want to meet the current beauty standards, not only should we be efficient and disciplined about this consumption but it should only be premium fuel, whether it be in the shape of Superfoods, Paleolithic foods, Raw or a Green Juice.
But surely this cannot be right?
REAL food is not the enemy (and notice I emphasise the word REAL). Real food is not only good for you, it is essential for us to live. It provides us with the raw materials required by our minds and bodies to grow and flourish.
So if food is not the problem what is?
A very recent study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, showed that Britons are, on average, 30lbs heavier than 30 years ago despite eating, on average, 600 fewer calories for the same period. So, we are eating less calorific foods, for example swapping fried breakfasts for cereal, eating more fish, drinking less alcohol; but our lives are more sedentary. We are more likely to have desk jobs and then slouch in front of the TV at the end of the day. It is absolutely true to say that you cannot out exercise a bad diet but activity is important. We need to move more.
Another factor is our relationship with food. It seems almost weird to talk about having a relationship with food but how many times have you consoled yourself with food when you are feeling sad or angry? How many times have you used food to cheer you up or pass the time? When was the last time you ate because you were actually feeling hungry? You could actually hear your tummy rumbling?
And what about the times that you restrict yourself from eating a “bad” food? You order salad when you really want chips, you order green tea when you really want a mocha, you order fruit salad when actually you want the chocolate brownie with ice cream.
Is the food the problem here or is it the way we view food?
We end up with lists of “bad” foods that we shouldn't eat, we restrict ourselves from eating these foods, we ultimately give in (studies consistently show that 95% - 98% diets do not work) and then we feel guilty and punish ourselves by further restriction or beating ourselves up at the gym.
Another question to consider is when and how we eat. How often do you eat out of habit? For example, whenever I get home, whether from work, shopping or even dinner out, I always walk through the door, hang my coat up, go straight into the kitchen and look in the fridge. Wherever I’ve just come from, however I am feeling, hungry or not, that is my habit. More often than not I will then grab something and snack on it whilst I am thinking about or even preparing my next meal. For some reason, in my head, snacking is not the same as eating, it doesn’t count. Am I the only one guilty of this?
And what about the times that you eat whilst on the run, scoffing down a breakfast bar as you rush to work or bolting down a sandwich whilst at our desk and at the end of the day you can’t even remember what you ate let alone whether you enjoyed it.
MFK Fisher said “we should have ritual and ceremony, not just gobbling down some food to keep us alive”
Aesop said “ a crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.
Mindfulness is the new buzzword but I actually believe think mindful eating is a really healthy approach to adopt. If you are mindful then you live in the moment, you don’t worry about the past or anticipate the future, you just focus on the present. If you take eat mindfully then you focus only on your meal with no distractions, you eat when you have the time to eat properly, you take your time and eat slowly, you do not multi task but just concentrate on the food. If you eat like this then you are more likely to enjoy the meal, appreciate the food that you are eating and the way it makes you feel and cons to , care more about what you eat and thus make better choices about what you eat in the future and most importantly eat when you are hungry and stop eating when you are full.
So, food really isn't the enemy. Perhaps our activity levels, our relationships with food and the way we eat food are the things that we should be concerned about, not the food itself.
* The material on this website is provided for educational purposes only. We cannot guarantee any weight loss or fitness results.