My most comprehensive blog to-date is dedicated to my brother and those that have asked me this question recently, three enquiries this week!
First things first, when I use the word "diet", I don't mean weight loss programme, I mean diet plan or food regimen.
I do not do diets, I only do lifestyle changes. I have had three lifestyle changes over the last 10 years and lifestyle change no. 3 seems to be permanent. If you go from bad eating habits to following the advice below, you will lose weight and then you will stabilise at a normal weight.
The diet plan provided here is obviously subjective, it is what I have learnt works for me. You are unique and will have to adapt the below for your own preferences. The media gives mixed messages so you should always do more research on anything that baffles you.
How much like me are you?
Sweet or savoury? I will choose sweet every time! I don't like sickly sweet stuff though, like thick chocolate sauces or icing.
Carbs or meat? I'm more on the carb side of this spectrum - I'll choose rice and beans over steak or cake over a sausage roll any day.
The first thing that should go down your throat every day:
Two glasses (500 ml total) of water; I have mine warm with a squeeze of lemon. I won't go into the benefits of water here but know that there are many.
A healthy and filling breakfast
For me, only one breakfast fills me up: oats. Not just any oats, rolled oats or steel cut oats. Good quantity? 40g for a woman, 60g for a man.
40g? Are you kidding? You'll get used to it. It looks like it's so little at first but it expands on cooking and once you've conditioned yourself you'll be alright.
Nutritionally all oats are about the same but steel cut oats are the least processed; rolled oats have been steamed and rolled to soften them up and any packet that says quick-oats or two-minute oats is very processed stuff.
The very processed oats are much easier and quicker for the body to absorb so you get hungry a lot faster - or at least I do. I consider them junk food and I never eat them. That said, they are better/healthier than rice crispies, corn flakes and so on.
Oats are also said to expand in your tummy that's why they fill you up.
Whole milk or semi-skimmed milk or fully skimmed milk?
Whole milk. I have been using semi-skimmed milk for 10-years now and recently switched to whole. It's healthier and I realised that my diet is very low in fat so I need all the fat I can get. That said, I don't use that much milk: every portion of oats has 100 ml milk and the rest is water.
Nutritionists might recommend less fat but, you know what? It's not the fat in a very natural food like milk that matters. It's the bread, cake and pastries you should watch out for. 100ml of whole milk only has 3.4-3.7% fat. Semi-skimmed milk has 2% fat or 1% fat depending on the variety. Would you process the fat out of your breast milk before feeding your child? Hmmm, no? I thought so!
Don't have time to cook steel-cut oats daily?
I cook a big batch of oats at the weekend covering six days of food as shown in the video below:
250 g steel cut oats + 1200 ml water + 600 ml whole milk.
Fruit for breakfast
This is another highly nutritious breakfast choice. Some people I know can have fruit for breakfast and feel satisfied, sadly, that is not the case for me. I can snack on fruit but it's not a meal in my book!
How about bran flakes and all that high fibre cereal?
It's great if eaten in the right quantity but it doesn't fill me up. The recommended quantity you should eat is so little that if you eat that amount, you'd be hungry again in an hour. Breakfast should keep you filled for three to four hours.
What about fry-ups?
I love a fry-up as much as the next person. I will not normally have more than one a week. I treat fry-up breakfasts as a treat that is (usually) eaten out of the house for lunch at a nice cafe.
Having a fried breakfast for lunch rather than breakfast helps to reduce the calories consumed in a day. If you're on holiday and it's included with the hotel, have it but have smaller lunches and dinners to make up for it.
What should you not eat for breakfast (ideally)?
Croissants, bagels and bread. I love bread and I'm crazy about good quality croissants (Tesco's in the UK do the best) but this stuff doesn't fill you up and simply isn't as nutritious as oats. If you must, have breakfast like this no more than once or twice a week. Try to have five oats breakfasts per week.
Any fruit or vegetable.
I don't usually have time for a snack mid-morning but if I get hungry I like carrots and tangerines.
To all those who say fruit is bad: it's better than a snickers bar and plus it's packed with nutrients, minerals and fibre.
One note, nutritionists seem to be confused about bananas. They seem to hinder some people's weight loss but not others. I don't know if they're good for me but I cut down from one a day to 0 - 3 a week.
A healthy and filling lunch
A friend sent me this image of his lunch; he was probably surprised that I sent him an email reprimanding his choices.
Lunch has to be filling otherwise you'll get cravings. Indeed, that evening I got an email telling me he'd guzzled the whole 250g (1500 kcal) packet of peanuts by that evening!
Just before lunch, drink another two glasses of water. I usually have mine warm with no lemon at midday.
Three good lunches:
3. Cooked wholegrain plus legumes of some form
Very filling. I watched an experiment on TV where they gave one group of builders one lunch, and another group the same stuff as soup. The soup group were full for 1.5-2 hours longer!
Especially in winter, soup will satisfy you; 300 ml (12 ounces) is a good portion for anyone. If you must have bread, no more than one slice. Even better, bulk it up with two tablespoons of rice or pasta - preferably brown or wholemeal. Ideally just the soup should be enough.
I usually have 50g dry weight equivalent of whatever grain/starch I am having. Some people say cut out white rice and white pasta but I don't eat them every day so I don't think it does any harm at all. I am very anti diets that recommend cutting certain things out completely. From my perspective, there is only one diet that can work, it's called the eat-less-diet and it's been tried and tested for centuries!
I usually have the equivalent of half a can in my preparation. I will publish the recipe in another blog.
I don't use oil in the preparation, the onions are sweated in a bit of water, seriously, you can do that. It makes a big difference to the calorie content and the taste is absolutely great.
With grains and legumes as a big part of your diet you'll get two massive thank yous: one from your waist and another from your wallet.
Add a piece of meat to your dinner if you want. I prefer not to most of the time, I would rather have some custard and fruit for dessert than a piece of meat. Read this to decide on your meat portion.
Around 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. you will get hungry. Listen to your body and have a snack. If you don't, around 5:00 p.m. you will end up having crisps, biscuits, chocolate and other such junk!
A 100-200 calorie snack should take away your cravings.
As a mid-afternoon snack I love peanuts (no more than a small handful please and not every day), a hard-boiled egg, yoghurt, carrot with houmous, a nectarine or honeydew melon. Something a little more filling than the mid-morning snack.
WATER: Make time for two glasses (500 ml total) of water at any point in the afternoon; I have mine warm with no lemon mid-afternoon.
A healthy and filling dinner
Have two glasses (500 ml total) of water; I have mine warm with a squeeze of lemon like in the morning.
The foods from lunch are just as good for dinner. I don't like salad for dinner because I wake up hungry in the middle of the night if I have that so I almost always have grains and legumes.
Have one piece of meat too if you have the calorie space.
I personally never have two pieces of meat with any meal, one is enough for any person. As a kid, we were always rationed one piece of chicken or one sausage etc. so this isn't something I had to learn, I just carried it on into adulthood.
Other foods that I eat
Not a regular part of my diet. I will have a fair amount of mulled wine at Christmas and one or two cocktails (max) at a party. When I go out for meals I never have alcohol, it's simply not necessary and it's too expensive a habit.
I love Domino's. I estimate that I have pizza once every two months or so. I can go ages without having it and then have it twice in a month. I don't have a rota or anything!
I successfully weaned myself off my Coca Cola "addiction" during lifestyle change one. I used to drink it daily, then I cut it out - cold turkey - and I have never craved it since.
I love bread! Excuse the number of times I have used the word love in this blog but I am a real foodie. I am so into food, that is why I got fat in the first place. As much as I love bread, we don't stock bread at our house anymore.
Generally, it's hard to eat it in the right quantity and we manage fine without it. A two-bread-slice sandwich is not a filling lunch, in my humble opinion. We have bread when we go out for meals. Re-classifying it as an eating out food led to a sharp drop in bread consumption.
If you can't remove bread from your daily routine go for low-GI breads, these tend to be very oaty/nutty breads, yum.
CRISPS, BISCUITS, CHOCOLATE, CAKE
Not generally stocked at my house. I think a portion of any of these foods 2-3 times per week should be okay for most people. Classify them as an eating out food and don't keep them in your house otherwise you will eat them. Don't use your kids as an excuse, they don't need them either!
Stuff that will get you off track!
1. Cravings - never ever allow yourself to get hungry; keep a low calorie snack on you always.
2. Temptation to have a large portion - get used to weighing. Calorie track for a week and buy a kitchen scale. We love the Rosemary Conley scale, I've had one since 2005.
3. Friends and colleagues - they're always offering you stuff and telling you it's just this time and that you deserve it and all sorts of other lovely things that you want to hear - learn to say no.
4. Holiday - have fun but not too much, Dr Harry has some tips on keeping healthy on holiday.
5. Life changes e.g. moving country or house, starting a new job, having a baby. These things are major; think about how your life needs to change with the new circumstance before it happens otherwise you will gain weight.
Final note: life's for the living so enjoy yourself. I am particularly strict with myself because I have a condition that makes me very prone to weight gain. Once gained, that weight is like fuel prices: downward-sticky!
Although your personal finances and your business success are my primary interest, I believe you only operate at peak efficiency when you're fit and healthy. If you feel good, it filters through to your work. To help you with that, click for your free ebook: The Quick Guide to Sexy