• Mandy Raff

Eat Your Way to Better Health - Putting it all Together

Now that you’ve read about the changes I made to my eating habits, and the positive impact this had on my overall health, you might like to make these changes yourself. But how do you implement them in your own life? How do you make it fit and make it work? How do you stay on track? I’ll try to address these questions here and help you put it all together.

Firstly, let’s review the tips I’ve given you so far -

1. Eat regularly

2. Eliminate processed sugar

3. Reduce processed carbohydrates

4. Forget counting calories

5. Eat healthy fats

Eating regularly requires a level of preparation and organization, to ensure you actually have healthy options in the pantry, or snacks/meals ready in advance. Shopping regularly will help. Write a list and stick to buying what’s on the list. And if you don’t know how to already, you might have to learn how to prepare healthful food for yourself. It’s really not that hard. You know the line – if I can do it, anyone can? Well, it’s true. I’m no chef. Food doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to take a long time, and meals don’t have to be Masterchef style. (Seriously, I don’t know any ‘home cook’ who cooks like that!). Keep it simple and fresh, and do what works for you and your lifestyle. Personally, I’m a serial batch-cooker. I cook things in a greater quantity than I can eat in one meal, and freeze or store portions for later. This works well if you’re time poor, or like me, you don’t want to cook every day.

Tasty meals can be easily assembled from fresh whole foods and some prepared ingredients. One of my go-to lunch meal ideas was introduced to me by my sister. It’s a brown rice salad with roast pumpkin, salmon, tomato, cucumber, avocado, baby spinach, chick peas and any other salad vegie you have on hand to throw in. Prepare ahead by cooking a batch of rice and roasting some pumpkin – enough of each for a few serves. Then when you’re ready to eat, simply chop the vegies, put everything together in a bowl, add a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, toss and voila! You can swap the salmon for any cooked protein (I often use chicken) or if you’re not doing rice, just make the salad without it. This is a great work lunch that you can put together the night before.

Having healthy options at the ready will also help you make the other changes I advocate. When you’re hungry and the pantry/fridge is bare, or you’re just too darn tired to even think about cooking, the temptation of fast takeaway food is real and hard to ignore. But let’s face it, although options for takeaway food have come a long way, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that’s better than what you can create yourself with fresh real ingredients. Preparing your own food is the best way to have control over what goes into it, and to avoid nasty chemicals and preservatives. And as already stated, real food made at home can be fast.

If you’re consuming mainly whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible, and of the best quality you can afford (preferably organic), with some healthy fats included, then you’ll pretty much have everything covered. A diet that follows the food pyramid by Dr Joseph Mercola here would be ideal, although I'd probably put fruit on the same level as vegetables. If you eat this way your body and mind will be so well fuelled that your cravings for processed sugar and carbs will diminish. I grew up on meals that were mainly meat and three vegies, and in actual fact this is pretty much what I eat now for main meals, with a couple of differences – a smaller portion of meat (or some type of protein) and lots more vegies (all of which are not completely overcooked as they were by my parents lol). Things are really coming full circle, and we’re going back to the way our forebears ate, although our cooking methods have certainly changed for the better.

Eating this way is also a complete no-brainer if you’re catering for a family. You don’t have to prepare anything that’s different for yourself while you try to change your habits as everyone in the family can be on board with this, and they will all benefit from it. If eliminating sweets is an issue with children, swap out processed sugar for natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup. Get the kids into baking yummy healthy treats, using ingredients like almond meal instead of poor quality wheat flour. Bliss balls are a great sweet snack that can be so easily made with a few ingredients, don’t need baking, and can be stored for school lunches etc. Apparently our taste for food is set by what we eat during childhood. Set your kids up for life with whole food nutrition now.

Eating out might seem challenging if you want to follow these suggestions, but there’s always a way around it. Luckily there’s an increasing number of cafes and restaurants that have a healthy foods focus, or at the least offer alternatives that work. Just be aware that ‘healthy’ in their eyes may not actually be that – it’s a label, not a prescription. Ask questions about the ingredients. Choose things that are made with fresh local ingredients if possible. Stick to the basics. Be aware of the hidden sugars in dressings and condiments. And if you choose something that doesn’t fit anything I’ve suggested, well guess what – you’re not going to be struck down by a bolt of lightning! Think like the Cookie Monster does these days. ‘Sometimes’ is OK.

The other thing that will really help you get on the path to healthy eating is addressing your personal relationship with food and the way you think about it. As women we’ve seen food as the enemy for most of our lives. It stops us achieving that goal weight we’ve always wanted to be, because we apparently can’t be happy or beautiful or a worthy human until we’re at that weight. We’ve guilted out over eating that extra biscuit or polishing off the rest of the icecream. We’ve guilted out even just thinking about doing that. We’ve deprived ourselves just to fit into that favourite dress or pair of jeans. We’ve weighed ourselves incessantly. We’ve tried every diet known to man – OMG I even did a potato only diet once!

Well girls, it’s time to lose the guilt. It’s a negative emotion that doesn’t serve us. We are not defined by our food choices, and why on earth should we feel miserable or ashamed about eating? We need food to survive. It’s the fuel for our bodies. And we need to eat regularly to maintain good mental and physical health. Put away the scales for at least a month, and rely on how you feel, and the way your clothes fit, to give you the real clues as to what’s happening with your body. And I’ll give you another little tip. If you do feel compelled to weigh yourself, don’t do it when you’re pre-menstrual or on/around the full moon. As women our weight will fluctuate naturally during our cycle and we will be heavier at these times.

If you try to make the changes I’ve outlined but find it hard or fall back to old habits, please be kind to yourself. We are human after all, and sometimes life gets in the way. These suggestions come completely from a place of no judgement – no Food Police here. I’ve been there. I get it. If you’re an emotional eater, you'll have more success making dietary changes if you address this first. I’ve written a blog about emotional eating that might help. You can find it here. Sometimes it’s a timing thing - being at that place where you’re so ready to make changes. For me it was finally listening to the pain my body and soul were experiencing. I’d hit rock bottom. When you’re truly ready, it will happen. And you need to find the path to better health that works for you. Perhaps that means working on one change at a time. Perhaps that means reducing things slowly rather than going cold turkey. Perhaps that means making some other changes in your life first. Find that path and then get as much support as you can to navigate it.

The best thing you can do right now is start treating your body as a temple. Sounds clichéd, but this is really important. If you completely honour your body and love it, you’ll treat it with respect and give it all the things it needs. Listen to your body more. How does it react to different foods you consume? How does what you eat affect your digestion? What foods make you feel energised? What’s happening with your blood sugar levels?

Start eating mindfully. Pay attention to what you’re eating as you’re eating it. Real attention. (How many times in the past did I consume a whole packet of chips in front of the television without even thinking about the taste of it or getting any real pleasure out of it?) Connect with where your food comes from and get back into connecting with the real flavours of real whole foods. Food is pleasurable and meant to be enjoyed. Eating has been a pleasurable social activity for eons and part of family life, so please keep enjoying it!

If you’re looking for recipes that are appropriate, you'll find lots of them online. This is definitely not my speciality! One person I follow is Alexx Stuart from Low Tox Life, who puts up great family recipes. If you want to follow the actual weight-loss plan I did five years ago, I’ve put the link to it here. It’s a very simple plan, and when I look at it now I realize how much I’ve learnt since then. The plan doesn’t include meal plans and recipes, but the basics are there. I lost over 20 kilos doing this. It took about 10 months. Initially the weight dropped off quickly, and then it gradually kept reducing until I reached my natural weight. The plan is based on the changes I’ve outlined in the previous blogs. Now that I’m at my natural weight, I’ve reintroduced dairy, some whole grains, and eat any type of fruit or vegetable. I still don’t count calories. I still don’t eat processed sugar or refined carbs. I still eat every 3 hours and include protein each time.

The biggest lesson for me in the past was you can’t go back to old habits. You just can’t. Those old habits will quickly cause the same health issues. To be successful in maintaining your natural weight, you have to make complete food and lifestyle changes as part of a forever plan, not just for now. Sounds big, but once you start the right types of changes, you won’t want to go back to your old ways. You’ll feel amazing, you'll look amazing, you’ll have so much more energy, and your mental and physical health will improve out of sight. It’s a lifestyle for me now and I’ve never felt better.

So come on girls – you’ve got this!

NB. I'll be putting all the information from this blog series into an ebook that you can easily download FOR FREE. Sign up to my mailing list now and you'll receive it soon. If you're already on my mailing list, you're sorted.

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If you missed the start of this blog series, you can find my other tips here.

(Please note, the content of this blog is based on personal experience and is for informational purposes only. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, dietary supplement, exercise, or other health program.)

#healthyeating #nutrition #womenshealth #findingbeautiful