The hardest time of the year is just around the corner and temptations are lurking everywhere: Mulled wine, cookies, greasy food, the smell of vanilla and cinnamon. Add to that the cold, the body tries to replenish its fat reserves, we eat more. And not to forget the pre-Christmas stress, which increases cortisol levels and thus promotes weight gain.
As I write these lines, I’m questioning myself if I’m just the right person to educate about food. The last few weeks I have been doing the opposite of what is to follow here. And yet: I am aware of it, and I put up with these few kilos because I don’t let them make me panic. And because I know the key to getting rid of them. I just don’t like to put it in the lock right now. I’d much rather bake, eat it while it’s still warm, get seconds, and pour wine over it. Apparently, that’s what I need right now.
So what’s up with the food? The fact is: neither I nor most of the people who read my texts here are 20 anymore. I remember weeks when I drank more than I ate, and when I did eat, it was at 5 a.m. to avoid the nasty hangover, and still the kilos melted away. I remember the 30s, when the 17 kilos from the first pregnancy disappeared on their own within the first six months, without any exercise. And then at some point the break comes. The evil 40, when the metabolism no longer does what it should. When every piece of cake is punished, and even looking at the cake should be forbidden. I’ve always balanced my calories with an active lifestyle – especially sports – but with such a clear surplus as now, it’s just not possible.
A few years ago, I trained as a nutritionist. Now, when I unpack the old knowledge again, I start counting calories. The plate should consist of so and so many percent carbohydrates and so and so many proteins. Meat or fish should be on it, lots of vegetables. That was healthy. During this training I became pregnant for the third time and dared something „crazy“: I ate a vegan diet. This contradicted every nutritional guidebook that was recommended to us (they didn’t go beyond vegetarianism) and even my gynecologist regularly asked me if I was being so sensible and eating a healthy (i.e. meat-heavy) diet. As if meat was the ultimate. The fact that I learned more about nutrition in that time than I did in my two years of education makes me speak with high regard about vegans. I gave birth to a healthy baby girl, had no deficiency symptoms (well iron, but that was already the case with the first two pregnancies) and found that I don’t like to give up cheese. Meanwhile I would call myself a flexitarian, I eat everything I feel like, with the side note that I rarely feel like meat and fish.
I’ve tried it all and would be careful not to claim that one lifestyle is better than the other. It may be better for me. For my weight, for my skin. But definitely not better for everyone. Food is more than a necessary evil. It is pleasure. To let it be taken away is the last thing we should do. But enjoyment should be taken in masses.
Here are some tips for everyday life:
- Sweet drinks are true calorie bombs! In a can of cola, for example, there are about 140 calories. For comparison: to burn them off, you would have to jog for about 15 minutes. And not on the spot… The same applies to alcoholic beverages, by the way.
- Sugar, especially in drinks: Coffee or tea can only be had with sugar? Try to break the habit. Most of the time it doesn’t even take a week. And if it doesn’t work: Maybe you change the type of tea or switch from coffee to espresso?
- Fruits are healthy – but in moderation: Fruits have fructose. Bananas, pineapples may be healthy, but also full of calories. That would be extra calories because your lunch is certainly not a banana.
- Dried fruit: everywhere you look right now you see ads for dried fruit (okay, probably not everywhere, the algorithms just assume I might like dried fruit). Well, they are certainly not unhealthy. Can’t compete with fresh fruit, but they do have fiber. Now comes the big but: how quickly are 10 plums or apricots eaten in the dried variety? And would you manage that much fresh fruit in one sitting? Because of their small volume, we eat much more because the feeling of satiety does not set in. With the same amount of calories. In advertising, dried fruit is sold as the healthy snack. That may be true, but what is the comparison being made with? Does a mother usually pack her child a packet of potato chips? Or a chocolate bar every day? If you have a choice between chocolate and dried fruit, choose dried fruit. If you have a choice between dried fruit and fresh fruit, choose fresh fruit. And if it’s dried fruit or nothing at all. Well, nothing at all is actually an option.
- Observe yourself: Do you like to snack? Chocolate during the day, chips on the couch in the evening? What are your eating habits? Where is it easiest to „cut back“?
- Do you belong to the often-little or the seldom-much eaters? Some need the feeling of being really full, while others rely on several small portions spread throughout the day. However, if the supposedly small portions are not so small at all, it could become problematic. Observe yourself. A „food diary“ provides information about how much you actually eat. Also write down how you felt after eating. Light, full of energy, or beat because it was too much?
- Do you eat because you’re hungry? Or more out of habit? Because it’s there? Because it’s time? Out of boredom?
- Do sports: Sports can also make you feel hungry (because the carbohydrate stores have been emptied), but at the same time you burn calories, build muscle (which in turn increases the basal metabolic rate) and above all you get a better body feeling.
- You have eaten particularly rich in the evening? Skip breakfast the next day. Give your body the time to burn the calories.
- Be sure to eat healthy fats. Classic examples: Avocado or olive oil instead of butter. Fat is not bad per se. I see cereal packs in Germany with the Nutriscore B, which are so far from healthy, because pure sugar, that it almost shakes you. And yet: B! Because: No fat. The sugar propaganda is still too strong, don’t let it influence you. Something that is industrially produced and tastes sweet cannot be healthy. By the way, I don’t know of any olive oil that has received a better Nutriscore than C. And no, you still shouldn’t drink it by the gallon.
- Take enough proteins. However: They do not have to be of animal origin! Legumes, nuts, soy or vegan substitutes provide enough protein, even for athletes. There is a dispute about the recommendation for protein intake anyway.
- Sometimes it makes sense to fool the body into thinking it is eating a lot, but in reality fob it off with very little. For example, I always have konjac noodles at home. They taste like nothing, but with proper seasoning, mozzarella and fresh tomatoes, they make quite a passable dish. It fills the stomach even though konjac noodles have only 8 calories per 100g.
- You like to bake? Save on fat and sugar – and it’s still guaranteed to taste good! 30% less is absolutely appropriate in almost all cases.
- For the head people among us: as soon as a diet is on the agenda, the body does exactly the opposite of what it should. For many, dieting is not the right (or the long-term) way to lose weight in the first place.
- Healthy snacks are basically non-existent. That would be a carrot. Who wants a carrot (who is over 20)? All the snacks that are supposed to be healthy – nuts, dried fruit, vegetable sticks with dip – are just extra calories. Ask yourself this question: are you eating them because you’re hungry? Or because you’re bored? Snacks only make sense when other adults are around. And as a sakuska.
- Think positively. Eat with a clear conscience. Positive mindset leads to less cravings. Less stress (counting calories, for example) leads to fewer cravings. Loving yourself leads to fewer cravings.
- Don’t believe everything you see. There is no food that will make you lose kilos only on your belly. The kilos disappear – and that’s the mean thing about it – always first where you would like them to. There are also no workouts that make fat melt away in certain places. You can train muscles, but not tap into individual fat deposits. But it’s the sum that makes it. The right food, exercise, feeling good in your own body, compliments.
- And the most important thing: You want to lose a few kilos? Then you can do it! Not with renunciation, but with mindfulness. What else have you managed in your life? What are those few kilos in comparison?
- Sometimes a diet comes faster than expected: When you’re newly in love. Or newly separated. But even that weight loss isn’t permanent. And that’s okay.