Confused about what you should be eating?

dannielle-illingworth

Last year, a market research company discovered that supermarkets today carry 40,000 products more than they did in the 1990s.  No wonder we’re all so bloody confused about what to eat, what brands to choose, and which products we should be using.

Do you really think that in the last 20 years we developed a need for more choice?  A need for 40,000 more products in the supermarket aisles?  Were we walking through the supermarket in the 1990s thinking to ourselves:

“Damn, there’s only 4 brands of dish soap available… I just really wish they’d give me ten options to choose from”

No.

I’m pretty sure back in 1990, most us had never heard of a Goji berry or quinoa.  We were eating rolled oats before we knew they were a “superfood”.  And we were quite happy to choose between two products – brand name, or home brand.

Sure, there’s been some good developments with the increase in products – it means we have more options to make healthy choices when it comes to filling our supermarket trolley.

But it can also mean most of us are completely confused and overwhelmed doing our groceries.  We’ve lost sight of what “heathy” is, and it’s sometimes just all too hard.  Reading labels creates more questions than answers.  It takes 30 minutes to find a tin of tomatoes that doesn’t have BPA in the lining.  We feel guilty when we choose generic almond milk instead of the organic, non-GMO, no-sugar-added almond milk that is 3x the price.

So what did health look like in the 1990s?

Whole foods!  Vegetables were a staple – even if most households did the old ‘meat & three veg’ kinda meals.  We also weren’t afraid of fruit back in 1990, so we got loads of fibre, nutrients and antioxidants from fruits.  Grains didn’t have a bad name yet, and meat was almost always included at dinner time.  It wasn’t complicated.

It’s not all bad, though.

The rising interest in healthy living and eating isn’t all bad – most of us now choose wholemeal at least, instead of white bread.  And we might be eating a wider variety of veggies these days.  And hopefully, less meat than we used to.

The point is, we don’t need superfoods and fads to be healthy.

The best thing you can do for your health is to eat a lot of vegetables, some fruit and some meat.  Grains really depend on your current health – some people are fine with grains, and others tend to react.

Avoid packaged foods wherever possible, but also utilise the foods we have access to that make healthy eating so much easier – like frozen vegetables (from Australia, preferably) and already diced meats (for stir-fries, etc) if you’re short on time, or convenience is a factor for you.

When shopping at a supermarket, you should be buying around 80% of your groceries from the outer areas – fruits, vegetables, meats – and 20% from the aisles.

Some of the things I buy from the aisles are:

  • tinned tomatoes, beans and coconut milk, tinned tuna too
  • plant-based milk cartons
  • rice cakes or biscuits/crackers
  • nuts and seeds, dried soup mixes or lentils
  • dry pasta, seaweed (nori) sheets for sushi, rice
  • popcorn kernels (to make my own popcorn at home)
  • herbs and spices, salt & pepper
  • cleaning products (as natural as possible) and pet food

Of course, if I’m baking or my hubby is making pizza dough, we’ll get flour and sugar and all that stuff too.  And yes, we have times where we’ll get a packet of chips or a block of chocolate – I’m all about balance, and being human!  But overall, the amount of stuff I’m getting from the aisles of the supermarket is not a lot.

So, do we need all the fluff and fuss around healthy eating?

Not at all.  Research shows over and over again that a whole foods diet (meaning predominantly vegetables and fruit) is the best thing we can do for our health.  A little meat, if you choose to include it in your diet.  And when it comes to grains, the less-refined are better (the whiter they are – bread, pasta, rice – the more refined.  Choose darker grains, like rye bread or brown rice, as much as possible).

I am a big believer in moderation and balance, because any time I’ve tried to restrict my diet in the past I’ve ended up binge eating.  What works for me is to fill my diet with the stuff that nourishes my body – vegetables, fruits, a little meat and carbohydrates – and allow myself to indulge in sweet treats without judgment or guilt.  I find that the less I restrict myself, the better I eat.

As women (especially mums) we already put so much pressure on ourselves.

Food choices doesn’t have to be another source of stress in your life.  Just do the best you can, and get back to basics.  I have met so many women who are completely overwhelmed when it comes to food, so they would skip dinner altogether (still cooking for their family, of course) and then they’re hungry at 9pm – eating things like chips, chocolate, the kid’s school snacks or raisin toast with butter.

If that’s you, the best thing you can do for yourself is take the pressure off yourself.  As they say, let 80% of the food you eat be for your body (nourishing, healthful foods) and 20% for the soul – whatever the hell you want.  Restriction, guilt, overwhelm and stress doesn’t help you eat better – it does the exact opposite of that.

Relax the reins a little bit lady, and I think you’ll be presently surprised by how simple health can be.

Dannielle-illingworth

Sick of not knowing what to make for dinner or lunches?

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Why willpower won’t help you lose weight

It’s Monday.  You’ve just started a brand new health kick, and you’re convinced that THIS TIME you’ll stick with it.  You have an event coming up in three months and you want to lose 10kg in that time.  You’ve removed all the junk food from your house, and you got pizza for dinner last night as a kind of last supper – just to prove to yourself that it was the last time you were going to eat food like that for at least 3 months.  You’ve got this.  Motivation is at an all time high, and nothing is going to stop you this time.

It’s Thursday.  You skipped the gym this morning because you snoozed your alarm too many times.  You were running late to work and didn’t have time to eat breakfast or make a healthy lunch, so by the time 11am comes around you are starving.  Sushi is the healthiest choice around, so you grab a couple of rolls and basically inhale them without thinking.  But it’s okay, you’re still on track, you haven’t given up yet!  Back to your strict diet tomorrow, for sure.

It’s Sunday.  It’s now been 4 days since you went to the gym, or exercised at all.  You’re feeling like a bit of a failure.  Your diet hasn’t been terrible, but it hasn’t been very good either.  And now you’re sitting on the couch thinking about the packet of potato chips sitting in the cupboard.  You rationalise; “I haven’t really stuck to my diet this week anyway, so I might as well just start again tomorrow”.  Before you know it, the packet is empty and you’re hit with guilt, regret and shame.  Why did you do it?  Why did you give in so easily?  Why couldn’t you just be a bit stronger and ignore your cravings?  You didn’t even enjoy the chips in the end, you were just eating them to punish yourself! Why, why, WHY do you always do this to yourself?

Gosh, that cycle is exhausting.  Trust me, I’ve been there!  And the reason I’m sharing this with you is because I know what it’s like to struggle through with nothing but willpower and CONSTANTLY feel like a failure.  

You feel like you’ll never lose weight.  

You feel like there is something wrong with you because you just can’t stick to a diet.  

You feel worthless because you’ll never fit into those size 9 jeans sitting in your cupboard that you bought 4 years ago as “motivation to lose weight”.  

It’s a really horrible place to be, all that guilt and shame and failure.

But wait for it…. *drum roll please*….. THERE IS ANOTHER WAY!  While the dieting industry would love you to believe that will power is your only option when it comes to losing weight, I’m here to smash that myth.  Let’s be cynical for a second: if all those dieting pills and weight loss shakes actually worked, wouldn’t the dieting industry be out of work?  Wouldn’t they lose customers every time someone actually succeeded in their programs?  Wouldn’t they make A LOT MORE MONEY if they actually set you up to fail in the first place?  By convincing you that your willpower is not strong enough, and then convincing you to try again, use a different product, start again next week or in the new year, the dieting industry is making you into a lifelong customer.  And that’s a win for them and their wallets.

So what’s the alternative to willpower?

Willpower works against your body.  It tells you to ignore food cravings, push through your low energy, ignore your stress and stick to your diet plan no matter what.  So the alternative to using willpower is to work with your body.  Listen to your body, get in touch with you and your individuality, and work from the foundations up.  

When you work with your body, you delve deeper into your food cravings and figure out what is causing them, so that you can eliminate them completely.  Not having food cravings in the first place is a lot easier than fighting those cravings will willpower.  (This is what I teach in my online program Overcome Food Cravings).

When you work with your body, you figure out what is causing your low energy and you fix that first, rather than forcing yourself to “smash it out” at the gym when your body is screaming out for rest.  It might require increasing your iron intake, or improving your quality of sleep, or a number of things.  But whatever is contributing to your poor energy, that needs to be addressed before you can expect to stick to a consistent exercise regime.

How do I work with my body?  I don’t know where to start.

This is exactly what I do with clients in 1:1 sessions, online.  I will help you understand what is going on at a foundational level so that we can get you to a place where eating healthy foods and exercising regularly feels easy.  No battling willpower, no feelings of guilt or failure, just a really down-to-earth and simple approach to getting you on the fast track to success in your weight loss goals.

I’ll help you get rid of your food cravings altogether.  I’ll help you improve your energy levels, get your digestion working properly, and give you coping strategies for stressful and emotional situations.  Whatever obstacle you need to remove before you can start living a healthy, happy life – I can help you out.

For more information on working with me, click here.

I struggled against my body and blamed my lack of willpower for way too long, and I don’t want you to do the same.  Book a session with me and together we’ll get to the root of your issue, so that you can find freedom with food and healthy living.

 

Dannielle-Illingworth

Three Books That Changed My Life

it's-all-good

When I was younger, I was a huge fan of reading.  Then, growing up happened and soon enough I couldn’t remember the last time I’d read a book for leisure.  These days, reading is a part of my self-care routine, and it’s my favourite way to wind down before I go to sleep at night.  I wanted to share with you my top three favourite books that have changed the way I think and feel about myself and my body – I hope that you choose one of these books to read yourself, so that you can start seeing the changes too.

you-are-enough

#1 – You Are Enough

Cassie Mendoza-Jones writes in a way that is easy to follow, and totally relateable.  Her first book, You Are Enough, helped me to learn self-acceptance, and to stop comparing myself to others.  It’s also a great book for overcoming perfectionism, something the author herself understands.

Get it on Amazon here:

You Are Enough: How To Elevate Your Thoughts, Align Your Energy & Get Out of the Comparison Trap

it's-all-good

#2 – It’s All Good

Filled with practical tips, affirmations, meditations, energetic tools and more, It’s All Good guides us to surrender, tune into trust, and ultimately achieve the peace of mind that comes from knowing we are always supported.

I highly recommend purchasing both of Cassie’s books, It’s All Good & You Are Enough, because they complement each other so well.

Get it on Amazon here:

It’s All Good: How to Trust and Surrender to the Bigger Plan

daring-greatly-brene-brown

#3 – Daring Greatly

If you haven’t heard of Brene Brown’s work, you’re in for a treat.  Her uncanny ability to make anyone feel understood combined with her blunt sense of humour makes for a winning book.  In Daring Greatly, Brene talks about the importance of vulnerability, and how shame impacts us on a personal and societal level.  Brene gives you permission to be fully, unapologetically, vulnerable you.

Get it on Amazon here:

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

 

I would love to know your thoughts once you’ve read these books! They have absolutely changed the way I view myself, and the way I live my life.

Enjoy!

danni-illingworth

The secret to overcoming your sweet cravings

Blood sugar balance is often overlooked when it comes to sugar / sweet cravings.

Imbalanced or dysregulated blood sugar levels can play a huge role in the development of cravings and ultimately, weight gain.  

Have you ever had one of those days when you had a green smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and you’re feeling super motivated and healthy.. but by the time it hits 3pm or when you get home from work at 5pm, you’re raiding the pantry and eating anything you can find?  This is one of the biggest signs of blood sugar disregulation and I’ll explain later why eating “healthy” can sometimes cause this problem.

Have you experienced any of the following? Tick the boxes below.

⎕ sugar or carbohydrate cravings

  • ☐crave food, especially sweet food, around 3pm onwards
  • ☐eat healthy all day but want to binge eat when I get home from work/school/etc
  • ☐can get a bit “hangry” if I’m hungry (moody, grumpy, agitated and/or irritable)
  • ☐headaches when hungry
  • ☐feel faint, light-headed or shaky when hungry
  • ☐have urgent hunger where I feel as though I need to eat immediately
  • ☐weight gain, or difficulty losing weight
  • ☐difficulty fasting or going long periods without food
  • ☐restrictive diets often cause intense sugar cravings and/or binge eating
  • ☐“brain fog” or difficulty concentrating when hungry

All of the symptoms above are signs of poorly regulated blood sugar levels – so if you’ve ticked yes to three or more of these then it is highly likely that you have experienced some level of blood sugar imbalance or hypoglycaemia.  The good news is, it’s generally easy to correct!

Here’s a graph that makes it easy to understand what happens to your blood sugar levels when you eat certain foods.

What does it mean when we talk about blood sugar levels?

Blood sugar levels refers to the amount of free glucose (sugar) that is circulating throughout your body in your blood.  Glucose is the form of sugar that your body uses for energy.  When you eat a meal or a snack, or even when you drink something containing sugar, your body converts those sugars into glucose and sends it straight into your bloodstream, where it can then be delivered to the area of your body that needs it.  There are lots of things circulating in your bloodstream, but blood sugar levels are just in reference to the glucose molecules.

Why are blood sugar levels so important?

There are a number of ways your body deals with sugar from the food you eat, but I’ll simplify it into these two scenarios:

  1. If you eat a meal that is stable in terms of glycemic load (more on this later, but it basically means it doesn’t have too much sugar in it) then your body breaks the food down to glucose molecules, releases glucose into your bloodstream and the glucose is sent to wherever it is needed for energy.  Once that glucose has been used up for energy, you’ll have a healthy hunger response to signify that it is time to refuel your body with more food.  This is the blue line on the graph.
  2. If you eat a meal that has an unstable glycemic load, the following cascade of events takes place: your body breaks down the food into glucose molecules, your body sends glucose out into the bloodstream and it is delivered to where it is needed most.  Then, your body starts to realise that there is too much glucose circulating in the blood and starts to go into a stress response to fix it!  Excess glucose is sent to your liver, where it is converted into fat and stored in your body as fat tissue.  Meanwhile, your brain begins to become starved of glucose because it’s all been converted into fat and your brain has no fuel to function! So your brain sends out a signal to your hunger control centre, and all of a sudden you have a really strong craving for carbs or sugar or any kind of food.  You might feel light-headed, a bit weak or even be a bit  grumpy until you manage to satisfy your brain’s craving for more glucose.  And once you eat that glucose-rich food, the cascade starts all over again.  This is the purple line on the graph.

Scenario #2 is complex and stressful to your body systems.  This is the basis of imbalanced blood sugar.  Now let’s look at how you can avoid this cascade and keep your blood sugar levels stable.

What is Glycemic Load?

Glycemic load (GL) refers to the level of impact a meal has on your body and your blood glucose levels.  If a food or meal is balanced in terms of carbohydrates, fats and protein content, and therefore causes minimal impact on your blood glucose levels (i.e. it causes scenario #1) then it is said to have a stable glycemic load.  When a food or meal creates havoc in your body and causes large increases or decreases in blood sugar levels (scenario #2) it has an unstable glycemic load. By eating foods and meals with a stable GL, you can reduce your sugar cravings and mood swings, minimise stress in your body and even lose weight!

 

Top Tips for Stabilising Blood Sugar Levels and Glycemic Load

  • ensure you are eating protein at every meal  – protein helps to slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, which means you have a slow, steady release of sugar (rather than a quick rush of glucose into the body, which causes chaos and stress)
    • protein sources include: eggs, meat, fish, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, eggs, cheese, tofu and tempeh, mushrooms
  • combine sugar- and carbohydrate-rich foods with high quality protein sources, good quality fats or both
    • examples: eat fruit and dried fruit with nuts/seeds/nut butters/etc
    • don’t drink soft drink or other sugary drinks without a meal, or some kind of protein at least (or just avoid them altogether!)
    • sweets/treats should be eaten before/with/after meals, ideally not on their own
  • make sure you are eating lots of high quality fats in your diet, including but not limited to: nuts, seeds, fish, avocado, LSA, good quality cooking oils, and eggs – fats also help to slow the absorption of glucose, thus stabilising blood sugar levels
  • avoid refined wheat products (i.e. ‘white’ wheat products such as white bread, store-bought bakery foods, biscuits, etc) as much as possible – the refining process that the wheat is subject to removes protein, fats, vitamins and minerals necessary for our body to digest the food in a healthy way.  White, refined wheat products basically turn into sugar when digested, and are more likely to cause the red line on the graph (unstable GL). Wholegrain and wholewheat breads and wheat products have a stable GL because they still contain the necessary fats and proteins to help slow glucose absorption (green line).
  • snacking between meals prevents dips in blood sugar that cause cravings, so snack twice per day on protein-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, eggs, animal products
  • eat slowly and mindfully, so that your body has time to absorb and digest your food properly without excessive insulin production

Dannielle-Illingworth

Should you really quit sugar?

You’ve probably heard a fair bit about sugar lately, and how bad it is for our health.  There are even dedicated programs online to help you quit sugar for good – but do you really need to quit it?  Let’s take a look at the role of sugar in our diet and whether or not we actually need it to survive.

Sugar turns into glucose when it’s digested.  High-sugar foods such as lollies, soft drink and even fruit cause a huge spike in blood glucose levels are we eat them, and our body then produces a hormone called insulin to help reduce the amount of glucose in our bloodstream and turn the sugar into energy that we can use to get through our day.  Usually when our blood sugar levels spike, say for example after a high-sugar food, we might feel really energetic, really happy and sometimes even a little bit anxious or jittery.  Once insulin comes along to get rid of all the glucose from our bloodstream, our blood sugar levels will drop and suddenly we’re left feeling flat, tired and moody.  You might have heard this explained as 3.30itis, when you’re feeling flat and tired and reaching for something sweet – but it is often simply due to imbalanced blood sugar levels.

High sugar intake can cause insulin resistance and may eventually lead to diabetes.  The pancreas is responsible for producing and secreting insulin, and if it is overworked due to a high sugar intake (which increases your need for insulin) then your pancreas may start to over-produce or under-produce insulin.  This leads to moderate to severe blood sugar imbalances and can manifest in symptoms such as feeling shaky, anxious, light-headed and/or cranky between meals.  Your body may also become less sensitive to the hormone insulin if it is overproduced, meaning your pancreas has to produce even more insulin to be able to process and transport glucose – and so this negative cycle can down spiral, causing further insulin resistance and placing more strain on the pancreas to produce insulin.  Type II diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to manage blood sugar levels – sometimes the pancreas becomes unable to produce any insulin at all!

Insulin resistance and excessive sugar intake leads to weight gain, and can make weight loss very difficult.  When sugar is eaten in excess, our bodies are unable to use all of that glucose for energy and the excess glucose is sent to the liver, where it is converted to a different form of glucose and stored in your body as fat tissue.  Weight gain can then be very difficult if insulin resistance is present, as your body’s resistance to the hormone insulin means that your body converts more and more glucose into fat cells rather than processing it as energy.

However, glucose is necessary for brain function.  That’s right, your brain NEEDS glucose to function.  Without glucose – say for example if you went on a low-carb diet and weren’t getting enough sugar – your brain will actually send you extremely strong cravings for sugar to ensure that it is getting the glucose it needs.  Glucose is the energy that your brain uses to complete all of its extremely complex processes that keep us living, breathing and moving.  Without glucose, we would literally become brain-dead.  So don’t quit sugar altogether.

There are some forms of sugar you should definitely quit.  Refined white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are two of the worst inclusions in any diet.  Both of these products place an incredible amount of strain on your pancreas and your entire body, and both contribute absolutely no nutrition or benefit to your health.  These forms of sugar contribute to weight gain, fatigue, poor liver health, diminished eye health, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as being linked to higher rates of stress, anxiety, depression and even some types of cancer.  Opt for raw, unrefined sugar, brown sugar, honey and other natural sweeteners rather than the highly refined sugars and syrups.  Check nutritional labels to determine what sugar is in your food, but basically all processed foods will use the cheapest, nastiest forms of sugar available – so opt for homemade treats over store-bought ones!

To summarise, sugar itself is not the devil.  It’s when sugar is processed and refined to remove all its minerals and nutrients that it becomes a bigger problem, and consuming any form of sugar in excess is not ideal for your overall health.  However, we are all individuals and some people can handle more sugar in their diet than others, so listen to your body and if you are noticing any of the symptoms of imbalanced blood sugar that I mentioned above, you might want to limit your sugar intake (regardless of the type or form of sugar).  Remember, your brain NEEDS glucose to function, so don’t quit all sugar & carbs!  And plus, fruit is so darn delicious and good for you, it’d be a shame to miss out on your favourite fruit every now and then.  

So find what works for you as an individual, be sure to give your brain enough glucose to survive, and stay away from those nasty refined sugars and corn syrups.

Dannielle-Illingworth

Smoothies or Juice: What’s better?

With the popularity of new and improved blenders and juices exploding onto the market in recent years, many of you have been left confused about whether you should be juicing your fruit and veg or blending them into smoothies.  There are a few major differences between juicing and blending, and I’m going to summarise them here in this blog post for you.

Firstly, let’s talk about fibre.  Fibre can be described as the rough, fibrous part of fruits and vegetables, and as most of us know it is really important for our digestive health.  A diet high in fibre will usually improve your bowel regularity, reduce constipation and bloating, and has been linked to a lowered risk of bowel cancer.  Sounds pretty important, right?  When it comes to smoothies and juices, the main difference between the two is this:

Smoothies contain the fibre goodness from your fruit and veg – juices do not.

So when it comes to regular fibre intake and improving bowel regularity, smoothies are king.  You can also add extra fibre such as prunes or psyllium husks to your smoothies to really get those bowels moving.  

But sometimes when I have a vegetable juice I am running off to the toilet right away!  How does that work?  This is an important point.  When looking at fibre content only, smoothies come out on top.  But fresh juices can also help your bowels get moving by a few different mechanisms.  Usually, this effect on the bowels will be during a juice fast or cleanse, where your digestive system isn’t being bombarded with food and can focus on functioning the way it should.  Juice fasts are kind of like a ‘reset’ button for your digestive tract.  Juices are also pure fluids, which can help to soften the stool in the large bowel and allow it to move through the digestive tract to be eliminated.  

If you’ve been suffering from constipation for quite a while, juicing may actually be the best place to start for you.  

Ironically, too much fibre when you’re constipated can actually do more harm than good, by drying out and firming up the stool in your bowel (as if it wasn’t hard enough in the first place!).  So be careful of dosing up on heavy fibres when you’re needing to get your bowels moving – juices may be enough to gently nudge your digestion into action.

What about sugar content?  Well in terms of sugar content alone, if you were to juice and blend the exact same kind and amount of fruits and veg, you’d end up with the same sugar content (or close enough).  The thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to juice, you’re basically drinking sugar, water and vitamins and minerals.  In smoothies, you have fibre, which slows the absorption of sugars.  You can also add proteins and fats which also help to slow absorption of sugars.  So rather than just absorbing the sugars straight away (like you would from a juice) your body will slowly absorb the sugars.  This has a few effects:

  • it is much easier for your pancreas to keep up with the intake of sugars, so in this way it could be said to be “healthier”
  • slow absorption of sugars may help you avoid the ‘sugar crash’ or ‘sugar low’ later in the day, which can mean less cravings
  • when sugars are absorbed quickly, your body usually starts to store some of them as fat as a way of processing the influx of sugar; a slower absorption of sugar can help to reduce the amount of sugar your body chooses to store as body fat (to simplify, smoothies may be better for your waistline, depending on your metabolism and blood sugar levels)

So, which one is better for me? Juicing or blending?  There is no easy way to answer this question, to be honest.  Taking everything into account, my personal recommendation would be to have smoothies as a meal on their own, and use juices as a complement to a light meal where you are having some amount of protein, fibre and healthy fats.  And if you’re doing a detox, a combination of smoothies and juices is a great way to go – you’re getting the best of both worlds!

How to Successfully Create Change in Your Life

My belief is that you’re setting yourself up for failure if you try to overhaul your entire life at once.  It’s okay to go “cold turkey” on certain things, like giving up chocolate or alcohol, but completely changing everything about your eating habits, exercise routine and lifestyle is a huge task.  I like using real-life examples, so let me introduce you to Becky.

Before Becky was my client, she was an all-or-nothing type of person when it came to diet and exercise.  She would make a decision to become healthier and lose weight, and would attempt to go from her usual diet to a perfect diet overnight.  You might be able to relate to Becky’s attitude: she said that if she got $1 for every time she said “my diet starts tomorrow” she’d be a millionaire!  Becky was generally able to sustain her diet and lifestyle changes for a week, sometimes even more.  The issue came when she slipped up in one aspect of her “perfect” lifestyle plan, she would feel like a failure and give up on everything!  Just before Becky came to work with me, she had managed to keep up with her diet and exercise routine perfectly for 10 days, and on the 11th day she slept in and didn’t make it to the gym before work.  So what did she do?  Gave up on eating healthily altogether.  She felt as though there was no point in continuing because she’d already “stuffed up”.  She binged on junk foods all day on that 11th day, and told herself she’d start her diet again next week. 

Sound familiar?  Here’s what happened when Becky started working with me.

Becky came to me wanting to create a perfect plan to keep her perfectly motivated and help her achieve her perfect body in the perfect amount of time.  She was putting so much pressure on herself to achieve everything all at once, and had gotten stuck in a cycle of attempting diets and giving up as soon as one small thing went wrong.  I helped Becky understand that no one achieves anything overnight – change and progress takes time and practice.  So together, we decided on just one thing that Becky was going to change – and not tomorrow, not on Monday, but straight away!  She was going to avoid refined sugars.  No plan for exercise, or eating more protein, or limiting other types of carbohydrates.  For two weeks, Becky avoided all refined sugars and she came back to my clinic feeling absolutely amazing.  Two weeks was the longest period of time she had ever managed to stick to a dietary change!  So we ticked that one off, and set to work deciding what her next change could be.  She had started to lose weight, felt less bloated, had much more energy, and couldn’t wait to keep going on her health and weight loss journey.  

Becky’s small success and results from just one change gave her the momentum to continue making changes, one at a time, being gentle and compassionate towards herself the whole way through.  Becky continued on to change her exercise routine, increase her intake of vegetables and fresh fruit, and ultimately achieved her goal weight and created an easy, sustainable and healthy lifestyle that she loved.

So how do you achieve the same?  Start by changing just one thing.

What is one thing you can change to improve your health and happiness?  

Is it giving up soft drink or chocolate?

Is it drinking more water each day?

It is walking your dog once per week?

It is watching less tv?

This first “one thing” is different for everyone.  You might already have an idea of what it is that you want to change first, or you might need to think about it for a little while.

It’s really important that you’re taking baby steps towards your goal at this stage, not leaps and bounds.  Your goal for change also needs to be specific and achievable, in order to monitor your progress and ensure you are able to succeed.  Remember, your success from this one change is the momentum that will keep you going towards your ultimate goal: weight loss and better health.

Can you break your “one thing” done even smaller again?  Is it specific enough?  Does it feel achievable?  

Here’s some general guidelines to help make sure you are on track with.

  Give up soft drink, juice, alcohol, flavoured milks and drink nothing except water

  Swap my morning iced coffee for a glass of water

 

  Go to the gym five times next week

  Commit to Tuesday morning pilates class at 9.15am

 

  Give up junk food

  Give up deep-fried foods 

 

  Drink more water

  Drink my entire 1L water bottle every day

 

  Give up all sugars, sweeteners and fruit

  Avoid refined (white, processed) sugar

 

Your goals need to be specific to where you are at the moment, so if you’re currently suffering from severe sugar cravings and eating refined sugar daily, then perhaps you’re not ready to avoid it altogether and you need to start with just giving up your morning sweet biscuit.  Or if you’re already drinking 1L water every day, aim for 1.5L or 2L.  If you’re not exercising at all, don’t jump into exercising 5 days a week, but just start out slowly with one exercise commitment, and as you start to feel better, your energy increases and your motivation peaks, then you can begin to increase your exercise load.

And remember: you’re not looking for short-term solutions.  You’re creating a healthy lifestyle that is easy, sustainable and enjoyable.  A lifestyle that you can maintain for good, so you never have to go back to feeling the way you feel right now (or have felt in the past).  When I was struggling with my own weight loss journey, I remember having moments where I wished I could somehow imprint the way I felt in my lowest moments, so that they could spur me on to continue creating change.  The disgust, guilt and self-hate I felt after a binge would soon become a distant memory and I would fall victim to another binge session.  And if you focus on short-term change and return to your previous eating and lifestyle habits after this book, you’ll eventually find yourself right back where you started.

Athletes don’t work hard to attain a certain fitness level and then once they achieve it just stop – they keep going, and maintaining their fitness.  It’s not as much effort and hard work to maintain something as it is to achieve it, but it does require effort and mindfulness.  Being mindful that if you give up or let go of your goals, they’ll slip away.  And that maintaining your progress is a lot easier than giving up completely and having to start all over again.

Dannielle-Illingworth

The easiest way to meal prep for quick, healthy meals

Think of the words ‘meal prep’ and you likely conjure up images of 20 plastic containers filled with brown rice, baked chicken and steamed broccoli.  The Instagram world has played a large role in the popularity of ‘meal prep’, but it is also part of the reason why so many of my clients don’t do it themselves.  Balancing kids, work, the household, and everything else is hard enough – who has a spare four hours on Sundays to meal prep for the entire week?

Meal prep can seem a little overwhelming at first – where do you start? How many meals do you make? What if you don’t feel like eating that meal by the time Thursday comes around? Will it really last in the fridge for that long?  I’m going to answer all of those questions, and more, in this article. I totally get the overwhelm, because I’ve been there too! That’s why I’m sharing with you my approach to meal prep – it’s simple, it’s not time-consuming, and it’s definitely not boring.

Where do I start?

Well, that depends on where you’re at right now.  Do you prepare any meals in advance right now, or are you winging it as you go?  For some of my clients, meal prep actually begins with creating a weekly menu and doing the weekly grocery shop on a specific day each week.  You don’t have to start your menu on a Monday – if you have Fridays off work, why not do your groceries then and start your menu on a Friday night?  There’s no rules, and it’s important to create a system that works for you and your family.

I know that a lot of my clients worry that they won’t have enough variety if they have a set weekly menu, but I always encourage a flexible menu (and that’s what I do for hubby and I, too).  We have a rough idea of what we’ll eat each week, and if anything changes we adapt to it. For example, we might have dinner at my parents house one night, or go out on a weekend. If we’re not eating what I’ve bought and it won’t last, I pop it in the freezer and save it for next week.

 

How many meals do I make?

For me, it was really important that I started small when I first tried to prepare my meals in advance.  It was way too overwhelming trying to make 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners all at once. So when you’re starting out, stop and ask yourself this question: What part of the day is it hardest for me to make healthy choices?

If you tend to get a croissant on the way to work every day, then meal prepping a few breakfast meals would be the best place to start.  If you’re more prone to getting takeout for dinner, then preparing dinner meals in advance would be ideal. If you’re someone who eats well all day and then succumbs to that darn chocolate craving every night, then preparing some raw cacao bliss balls or other healthy sweet treat is the best meal prep you can do for yourself.  You see what I’m getting at?

There’s no hard and fast rule, but starting with the meal (or snack) you struggle with the most is the perfect starting place.

 

What if I don’t feel like eating the same meal all week?

Lady, I hear you!  I love eating delicious meals, but I also love me a bit of variety too.  I couldn’t think of anything more boring than eating brown rice, baked chicken and steamed broccoli for lunch and dinner seven days a week.  Making meals that excite your taste buds is definitely important, and if variety is important to you then definitely mix it up.

As an example of how I keep things interesting and different, a few weeks ago I made my homemade pasta sauce on a Monday morning, and added heaps more veggies when I roasted the tomatoes – so all the nutrition was already in the sauce.  Then Monday night all I had to do was cook some mince, heat the sauce and boil gluten-free pasta. Voila, dinner done! I had enough sauce for two meals, but hubby and I didn’t feel like the same thing again.  So I made a lasagne on Tuesday night with zucchini and spinach layers, and the leftover mince and sauce from the previous night.

Meal prep doesn’t mean having the same meal over and over and over again until you can’t stand the sight of it.  It’s just a matter of being a little more organised with your eating, and making things super simple for yourself whenever you can.

 

Will it last in the fridge?

You’d be surprised at how well things last in the fridge.  Things like salads can go a bit wilted, but I’ve got a great option for meal prepping salads in my free ebook (see below).

Always use your common sense with meals, and follow expiry dates on meats of course.  And if you have any doubts, your freezer is your new best friend. Defrost meals as you need them.

Let’s simplify meal prep.

First step is: identify the part of your day or week where you’re not staying consistent with your health eating, and start there.  Prepare breakfasts, lunches, dinners or snacks that will help to keep you on track throughout the week. My free ebook ‘A Naturopath’s Guide to Simple, Easy Meal Prep’ is filled with high protein, high fibre recipes that can be prepared in advance, or made in under 10 minutes.

Once you’ve got that one covered, you can start to branch out a little bit.  Slow cookers are great because you can choose meals that require very little prep, and then just turn it on and let it do it’s thing.  You might like to try simple things like having brown rice or quinoa cooked and ready to go, or preparing something like my homemade pasta sauce in advance for a couple of different meals that week.

If you’re absolutely loving the meal prep and you want to start doing it for more meals in your day, go for it!  But remember, it’s about small steps at a time. At the first sign of overwhelm, stop, breathe and reset. Are you starting too big?  Can you simplify, and start smaller?

 

If you’re stressed about meal prep and it’s your least favourite part of the week, then you’re totally missing the point.  

 

Meal prep should be about making things easier for you, not harder.  Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and do it in a way that fits your life and your family.  And definitely, definitely don’t compare yourself to the Insta-models who prep 21 meals on a Sunday.

 

Okay, that all sounds great, but what am I supposed to be meal prepping?

I hear ya, and I’ve got you covered.  I’ve put together a free ebook for you, with 18 of my favourite high protein, high fibre recipes that you can prepare in advance, or in under 10 minutes.  You can download the ebook below for instant access to the recipes, and get started on your meal prep journey whenever you like, in your own way.

 

 

Remember, simple is best and overwhelm is not your friend.  When you find a way to meal prep that feels good for you, it’ll absolutely change your week.

 

Lots of meal-prepping love,

danni-illingworth

 

Dannielle-Illingworth