January is often the month of new diets and resolutions; clean eating, meal prepping, calorie counting and all kinds of “New Year, New Me” challenges promoted over social media.
Instead of thinking about what results you want to achieve by the end of January, think about what you would like to realistically achieve by the end of 2021.
Stop dieting and trust your body
When it is time to eat, hunger hormones begin sending cues for you to find food. This may include a grumbling stomach and feeling light-headed. If hunger is ignored, it becomes more intense and often impacts mood and can lead to poor food choices or consuming many calories all in one sitting; for many this can result in feelings of guilt and failure. This could happen after a busy day and is also often experienced by those who regularly restrict their eating whilst dieting.
Research has also shown that people who have previously lost weight as a result of restricting calories, would need to eat fewer calories compared with someone else the same weight who has never dieted, just to maintain their weight. This is because your body adapts with each restrictive diet you try, each time finding it more difficult to keep the weight off.
How to listen to your body?
It may sound counter-intuitive to be telling you to eat when you are hungry when you have become used to dieting but that is exactly what you should be doing. Whilst nutrient-dense foods high in protein, fibre and vitamins and minerals are important to eat, creating too many restrictive rules and banning “non-diet” foods can become difficult to maintain. Instead, begin eating when you are hungry. Think on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being painfully hungry and grumpy and 10 being painfully full, bloated and perhaps even feeling sick. Try to eat when you are mildly hungry, around a 3 and top up to a comfortably full 7. This will help to keep you feeling satisfied, have fewer cravings and become likely to eat in excess.
What if I am not hungry?
There are times when you might not feel hungry such as when you have just finished exercise or know you will be busy for several hours. Use your intuition and eat what your body needs to recover from a workout or to ensure you do not get over-hungry later, for example if you know you have back-to-back meetings all afternoon. Learn to trust your instincts and avoid hitting 0 on the scale.
Trying something new
If you are still set on trying something new this January, why not consider increasing the variety of the food you eat? January is the month of Veganuary, so there are loads of vegetarian and vegan recipes being shared online, these work well as main meals, side dishes and even leftovers. Eating more plant-based food is also more sustainable for the planet, so instead of “dieting” this year, learn to incorporate choice, fewer restrictions and become in tune with your body.
Green Lentils and Feta recipe
- 100g sofrito (vegetable base, sold in most supermarkets)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 400g dried green lentils
- 650ml water
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 0.5 tsp salt
- Juice of a lime
- 200g feta (or vegan alternative)
- With a hand blender, blitz the sofrito and olive oil until it forms a fine mince.
- Place the lentils, sofrito, salt and water into a saucepan and simmer until lentils are cooked and water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes).
- Stir and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the oregano and lime juice whilst still warm.
- Allow to cool further before adding the feta.
- Option to top with other roasted vegetables such as peppers, beetroot, squash.
Enjoy for lunch, a side or as a post-workout meal.