When I’m dieting, I try to stick to 1200 calories a day. I’ll confess, I sometimes go lower. The Fast Diet is a pretty well-respected method for dieting that sees subjects take two 500 calorie days a week, and eat what they like the rest of the time. In a more hardcore version of this, dieters can restrict themselves to 1200 calories on the non-fasting days. This was my inspiration for my calorie counting in the first few weeks of the diet. Hard, yes. Dangerous? I don’t think so. Unprecedented? Not at all! In fact, calorie restriction may actually lead to not just weight loss, but better health all around. (As I keep saying, everyone is different, and none of this information is being presented to you as my weight loss guide for general consumption.)
So, what works best for me? First of all, skipping breakfast. Breakfast is the Holy Grail of dieting. The advice used to be that you should never, ever skip breakfast. Eating first thing was supposed to kickstart your metabolism, and besides, isn’t there that saying, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and supper like a pauper”?
Actually, this is one of the reasons I keep researching, keep listening to the latest advice, and constantly re-evaluate my approach. What’s accepted wisdom now might not be in five years’ time. Even with the exercise DVDs I do, I can tell how much the science of physical exercise has moved on from each era I workout in. The effectiveness of various forms of nutrition and exercise is a notoriously hard field to research, because human trials are difficult and expensive, and thanks to ethics, sometimes completely impossible to do properly.
So, if you’re like me, and aren’t bothered about eating first thing, then take heart – it’s perfectly okay to delay your meal until you’re ready!
The second thing I’ll do is eat a very light lunch. Fruit and yogurt, or a smoothie, or soup, or a sandwich, or even a low calorie omelette – enough to keep me going through the day. Avoiding hunger pangs is my aim here, and for that I really like taking psyllium husks. Sounds scary and weird, but actually it’s just a capsule full of indigestible fibre, which you take with water around 30-60 minutes before a meal. The water mixes with the fibre and creates a gel in your stomach which gives a feeling of fullness, helping you to stave off hunger while you adjust to smaller portion sizes. When I first heard about psyllium husks I thought they were too good to be true, so I did a lot of research to find out what the catch is. Well, there isn’t one – as long as you use them according to the directions, and have a normal digestive system (i.e. you’re not suffering from a condition or disease that presents itself in your digestive system), there’s no sinister drawbacks or horrible surprises waiting. In fact, these are very much like the zero noodles that were a huge craze a while back – the same principle of indigestible fibre helping you to feel full. Here’s a link to purchase some if you’re interested!
Onto dinner. My magic hack for low calorie consumption is simple. When every calorie counts and I’m dieting for fast results, I avoid over-complicating things, and I also avoid temptation. So, I pretty much avoid cooking as much as I can. I love cooking, but it’s a sure fire way for me to start wasting food (by throwing out ingredients which I’m not going to be able to eat the full package of) and complicating my day. There’s also always the issue of temptation… Should I just finish off this bag of potatoes for an extra 100 calories? This doesn’t look like enough rice, should I pop in 25g more? This would taste better if I added x, y, z… Instead of doing all that, I’ll grab either a ready meal, or a box recipe delivery like Hello Fresh or Gousto. Both of these companies have low-calorie options which taste great, and reduce waste and temptation. And ready meals get a bad rep, but they are delicious and calorie controlled – most of them keep fresh for days, and depending on where you buy them, you can get some truly delicious and super healthy options! When selecting a ready meal, I never buy any that go over 600 calories. If you’re doing something like the 5:2 diet (five days of normal consumption, two days of less than 500 calories) then ready meals can take the pressure off, as there are loads of options and some even hover around 300 calories, giving you a chance for a low-calorie soup or cereal bar for lunch or breakfast.
With these hacks to make dieting easier for myself, sticking to a diet when eating at home isn’t really that difficult at all! Every person is different, though, so if you have any tips of your own, please share them with me below!