Once you find that balance you never have to feel like you’re on a diet. For me that’s looking at what I’ve eaten over the course of a week rather than each day and balancing the treats with the healthy. If I know I’m going out I won’t deprive myself of anything but if I’ve had cocktails and a tiramisu I’ll just be a little stricter the following week and throw in an extra gym session or two to balance things out. It’s taken me a long while to find the right balance but now I know roughly how much food I need to eat to stay the same weight and how to adapt things out if I’ve had an indulgent or boozy weekend.
One thing that’s helped me is working out roughly how many calories my body needs to function. I think of it like working out how much petrol I need for a car journey depending on the model and mpg. There’s tonnes of generic guides e.g. 2000 calories a day for women and 2500 a day for men but it all depends on your height, weight and exercise levels so can vary massively from person to person. Ive learned that your body naturally uses calories for energy even when you’re sitting or sleeping – this is your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Obviously you burn more when you’re exercising/active and so you also have a total daily energy expenditure of calories too (TDEE). I still take these figures with a pinch of salt but knowing roughly what my personal calorie needs are helps me plan my food intake to stay on track or know how much I need to cut out to lose a few pounds.
I tend not to mess about with faddy diets or look for short term fixes. For me a long term approach works better and I never feel like I’m depriving myself. 80% of the time I try to eat foods for fuel and nutrients – lean grilled meats, fresh vegetables and salads and whole grains. This doesn’t need to be boring chicken and broccoli. It could be steak with an orange and pomegranate salad. Oven baked cod with tomatoes and crispy kale. Or roast chicken with mushrooms and quinoa. 20% of the time is saved for treats. If I want a burger, pizza or a few beers I go for it. I just make sure that any other meals that day/week are healthier and lower in carbs/calories. If I have cocktails or a bottle of wine I try to match each drink with water and drink an extra litre of water a day for the following few days ’til it’s out of my system.
This is just based on what’s worked for me but here are my tips for trying to find a healthy balance:
1. Keep a food diary. It could be in the notes app on your phone, written in your diary or a photograph of everything you’ve eaten like me. It helps me keep track of what I’ve eaten and stay accountable so the 20% treats don’t creep higher.
2. Try to think long term – rather than quick fix. If you plan your food and exercise and stick to it with a consistent approach there’s no need for harsh diets, depriving yourself or cutting out the treats.
3. If you’re eating out a lot try some of the healthier options on the menus. Restaurants are getting much better at this and offer lots of lower calorie choices. Or opt for a steak and ask to swap the chips for salad or veg.
4. Limit alcohol and match each drink with a glass of water.
5. Use a calculator like Iifym.com to get a rough figure for your personal calorie expenditure. Then you can be a bit more conscious about what your body actually needs.
How do you balance things?