When I started working as a Nutrition Coach, I thought I'd be working with people who had pretty poor diets, but interestingly enough, it's quite the opposite.
Most women I work with eat a lot of salads, vegetables and fruit. They often drink green smoothies, include quinoa, kale and other every day super foods in their meals, tend to eat fish and chicken over red meat, and may have a little good quality cheese or dark chocolate in amongst it all.
So a healthy diet, right?
But these women still come to me because they struggle to lose weight, are often low on energy, and just feel as if they're missing the mark somehow.
So what's the answer?
Well, there are 5 common mistakes I see over and over again with women like this. So if this is you, check out the list below along with some simple tips on how to avoid them.
1. Do you eat the wrong way around?
If you start your day with a small breakfast so as not to overload, have a middle sized lunch and a big dinner, you're eating the wrong way around.
After 12 hours (ideally) of overnight fasting, your body needs to start the day with a big dose of nutrients to get through the day. The key is to load up with protein and healthy fats like in this crunchy nut granola.
A smoothie is also a great way to start your day by fast tracking those nutrient-dense fruit and veggies into your blood stream. And by including a good dose of protein and healthy fats it'll keep you going until lunch time without putting too much pressure on your digestive system (particularly good for anyone suffering with constipation, gas or bloating).
In the same vein, your body needs to start winding down at dinner time, so loading up with heavy meats or refined carbs won't do your body any good at all. Opt for some grilled fish or roasted chicken and veggies, or try a veggie chilli or curry with beans or lentils (pre-soaking beans and lentil make them easier to digest). These light but filling dinners will keep you satiated until the morning, whilst allow you a good night's rest.
2. Do you eat enough protein?
Most people don't get enough protein in their diets and so find themselves topping up with caffeine or sugary snacks through the day.
How do you know if you're not getting enough?
Well, do you get very low on energy at certain times through the day? Do you get ravenous quickly and feel as if you could eat your arm off? Do you experience dizzy spells or faintness, particularly after working out? Then you're probably not getting enough protein.
I say probably as there could be something else at play and would highly recommend speaking to your doctor to rule out any other underlying causes. Similarly I'd be happy to talk to you about other ways to improve your diet to help with this.
Both animal and plant based sources of protein will give you a slow release of energy without making your bloated or tired. So if you're eating a salad for lunch or dinner in a bid to lose weight, try adding, or upping the amount of protein you include.
This could be some grilled chicken or fish, any variety of beans or lentils (my faves are puy lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans black beans) or perhaps some quinoa, buckwheat, tofu or almonds. In fact here's a list of the top 50 vegetarian sources of protein for you!
3. Are you afraid of carbs?
The recent Paleo and Atkinds crazes have sadly made many of us scared of carbs. Paleo, for example, promotes a grain free diet because they believe that our bodies were created to work best without them. And whilst I agree that for many people this can result in weight loss, increased energy and improved digestion, it's not for everyone. And the message that we shouldn't be eating carbs at all has been mixed up in amongst it all.
So let's get one thing straight. Carbohydrates - the complex kind, the kind you get from whole grains, starchy vegetables, beans, lentils and peas, are good for you. In fact they're not only good for you but they're an essential part of a healthy diet.
These types of carbs will help keep your blood sugar stable, stop you from snacking, and give you that much needed energy to get through the day!
4. Do you opt for the low fat option?
Many of us grew up being told that low fat foods are healthier, but the reality is that most foods branded as 'low fat' are packed with added sugars and artificial flavourings, as when the fat is removed, so is the taste!
Even in the case of plain dairy (milk, cheese and yoghurt), sugar isn't added to it, but the process of removing the fat increases the naturally occurring sugar in it (lactose). That's why skimmed milk tastes so sweet (I know!).
Sugar and refined carbohydrates are by far the biggest contributor to inflammatory disease and chronic illness, so opting for the low fat option is one of the worst things you can do for your diet, weight and overall healthy. And we need healthy fats in our diets to improve brain function, mobility and to help us absorb fat soluble vitamins, amongst many other things.
When faced with a choice, always go for the full fat option. But the important bit? It must be in amongst a real, whole foods diet rich in fruit, vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds and organic grass fed meat, diary and eggs.
5. Do you eat on the run?
Eating whilst standing up, in a meeting or on the way to drop the kids at school is what I call mindless eating. It's a habit that we women fall into oh so easily, but without your mind being present for this very important act, it also means your body isn't processing that food the way it should be. And this is when you find yourself getting hungry shortly after you've eating, snacking on things you don't really need, and taking part in more mindless eating. It's a vicious cycle.
Every meal, even if it's a snack, should ideally be eaten from a plate, whilst sitting down. Chew your food, eat slowly and meaningfully, and be mindful of what you're putting into your body. These very simple things can really aid weight loss and improve how you feel about food.
Now of course the tough part of all of this is figuring out how to fit it all in, as it's easy to say and another thing to actually do them all!
As a Certified Nutrition & Health Coach who helps busy women just like you lose weight, improve their relationship with food, up their energy levels and create the awesome life they want and deserve for themselves, I'd love to do the same for you.
For a free, no obligation chat, book a time slot with me here and we can talk about how you too can reach your weight, diet and health goals.