Over the past week, I've had loads questions from readers about their weight loss concerns. It was suggested that I post a kind of 'FAQs post' to address the most common questions, so here it is!
I've had to spilt this post into many as there's a lot of really good questions! You can read Part 1 here. If you can't see your question below it will be answered in another Q&A post in the very near future.
1. I think I oversize my portions, how do I know what portion sizes are right and which ones are too excessive?
The most accurate way to check your portion size is with a digital food scale. Key foods to weigh are the highly calorific ones like meat, rice or pasta.
Generally the portion size for pasta is 75g if you're on a calorie restricted diet and a maximum of 100g. If this doesn't seem like a lot, then I highly recommend using brown pasta as it's so filling that 75g feels just as big as 150g of white! It doesn't taste much different either, in fact it has a little more flavour, like home made wholemeal bread to be exact. I love it!
For meat, keep this around 75g too, this is much easier if you're cooking it into a recipe such as shepherd's pie or bolognese, as you can fill up on extra veggies and side salads. Poultry is lower in fat than red meat so 100g of this is fine in my opinion.
Veg is generally an 80g a portion for it to count as 1 of your 5 a day, going over this is not really an issue though as most veg is low in calories. For variety I recommend buying frozen mixed veg that contains around 3 or 4 different veggies, then go wild with the portion and you won't mind reduced portions of meat.
If what you're eating comes out of a box or packet, check the recommended serving size on the packaging, it's usually it's around the nutritional information on most supermarket branded products.
2. My friends keep trying to convince me to drink alcohol when I'm trying not to, calling me boring and generally using emotional blackmail, I drink and feel shit afterwards. How do I say in a nice way to lay off ?
As some of you may have read in my other blog posts, I don't drink alcohol (any more) either! I've not touched in at all in the last 9 months for various health related reasons. When I first gave it up I would get a lot of hassle at the pub for just drinking lemonade (which has no turned into water). At university or my local, if someone assumed I was drinking a vodka and lemonade (I used to drink vodka and mixers) I just wouldn't correct them to save that conversation ("Why aren't you drinking? Are you pregnant?!").
I wouldn't preach not drinking to my friends that were drinking and I certainty wouldn't sit in the pub and do that. I think that because I didn't preach, eventually everyone got used to seeing me not drink and they don't care any more. There's a very small minority of those that still give me hassle for it and they're always the ones that are the worst drunks. I won't hesitate to remind them of this and then they back off.
So the general trick with this is to hold your ground, try not to preach, just shrug it off and carry on. If people see that you're going to do something regardless of their opinion, eventually they tire of expressing their opinion and leave you to it. True friends will accept that you're changing your lifestyle to suit your health (and purse!) and will just let you get on with it.
As for any 'friends' that use lines such as "You're no fun when you're not drinking", remind them (as it's always the worst drunks that say this), that they're also 'no fun' when they've puked down their clothes, cried in the toilets, drunk-texted their ex, crawled into a cab and then wasted the rest of the weekend in bed, hungover.
3. What are good things to snack on?
Usually when I have the desire to snack my first reaction is to drink cold water. Often we mistake thirst for hunger so I like to check that I'm genuinely hungry first.
If I am hungry, I like to snack on apples, they fill me up for ages as they're full of fibre. Other good snack foods are mini or child-friendly sized packs of treats like cheese, yogurt, raisins and nuts. Look out for lunch-box-sized packs of pre-prepared fresh fruit, often supermarkets like Asda have a huge selection of these. Another great way to ensure a healthy supply of snack is to sign up to a Graze box, a box that looks like a chocolate selection box but is stuffed with a huge variety of healthy treats that you can choose from on the website.
4. I keep hearing that carbs will make me fat. Should I go low-carb or no-carb?
Here's a controversial issue that gets many people arguing. Here's my take on it: Carbs don't make you fat, it's excess calories, as these are stored by the body as fat. It doesn't matter whether the excess calories are from dietary fat, protein or carbohydrate, your body will store the excess as fat if you don't burn it off. I'm sticking by this whole-heartily, as I've successfully lost weight without low-carbing and suffering from all the adverse effects of doing so (tiredness, lack of energy, foul moods etc.). I'm aware that there's a very small minority of people who may have to eat a low-carb diet because of special dietary needs and are recommended to do so by their doctor, but as I say this is a very small minority of the population.
This does not mean I'm suggesting you can go wild with the chips! Oh no. I eat carbs, but I portion control them (see answer to question 1 above). I also aim for complex carbohydrates as these are not so high on the glycemic index (basically a way of measuring a food's effect on blood sugar levels). I stick to whole grains whenever I can, so brown bread and brown pasta for example. This way I'm fuller for longer and don't suffer that pesky sugar crash mid-afternoon.
5. Why do you have such an issue with diet pills? Do you see them as 'cheating'?
My issue with 'diet pills' is that they don't really work. Most of them have the effect of 'blocking dietary fats' so basically limiting the body's ability to digest them. What happens when your body can't digest something? You poop it straight back out! So whilst taking these pills, if you happen to slip in your healthy ways and eat too much dietary fat, you will.. er..'pay for it'. I guess you could argue that this will train someone not to eat foods high in dietary fat, but I see it as a form of self punishment in a way (You eat junk food, then punish yourself for it by spending the night on the toilet) and it only tackles one type of diet issue: i.e high dietary fat rather than dealing with high sugar, excess salt or (the real reason) people gain weight: too many calories!
It's not that I see diet pills as 'cheating', it's that it removes the sense of urgency from the individual to train themselves into eating a truly healthy, balanced diet, with no messy consequences that could lead to adverse effects, such as dehydration!
Bottom line on this: Whatever you do to lose weight you have to be certain that you can carry it on for the rest of your life in order to maintain the weight loss. Ask yourself: Do I really want to take an expensive diet pill every day, for the rest of my life?