Although this is probably something you have already heard and just ignored, I am here to tell you STOP DIETING! Your crash diet is what is preventing you from losing weight!
After living in Costa Rica for a solid amount of time, this was the first time I was starting to realize just how big the "diet culture" is in the United States. My level of awareness was completely changing as I started realizing more and more how my relationship with food and dieting was just a product of the society and culture I grew up in. I realized this when I started observing just how few people were overweight in Costa Rica and how the whole diet culture was almost nonexistent. "Well how do they stay so healthy and thin?" I would think to myself. The answer is because they eat a diet consisting of whole foods. They cook using real ingredients and real food, they eat three nourishing meals a day, they DON'T OVEREAT, they DON'T eat overly processed and sugary/fat filled foods, and they stay active. I'm here to tell you, that is the big secret.
I could go on and on about the impacts of dieting culture on and how it DOES NOT work at all, but you clicked on this post because you want to know how I lost 20 pounds. I lost those 20 pounds without starving myself, without counting calories, and without feeling deprived. And, yes, it is possible. The dieting industry that wants to take all of your money has just conditioned you to think you need a quick fix and that the quick fix will work. I have a long past with dieting, losing weight, gaining the weight back, and so on. It never worked.
Here is what I did and how I have managed to lose weight and keep it off. I am not on a diet. This is my lifestyle that has enabled me to lose fat, lose weight, and get into the best shape I have ever been in.
1. Eat a whole foods, plant-based diet
I am a vegan and I believe that the vegan and vegetarian diet are the best thing you could ever do for yourself and the planet. HOWEVER, I understand that giving up meat and animal products is just not going to happen for some people and I understand. That doesn't mean, however, that you cannot incorporate more whole and plant-based foods into your diet. What does this mean? Eat things that don't come in packages. Shop the produce! The majority of my diet consists of fruits and vegetables. Eat less meat, less processed foods, less refined carbs, and replace it with veggies and fruit. The calorie density is much lower and you can eat WAY MORE! This works for weight loss because when you are eating a ton of fruits and veggies, you don't feel hungry or deprived therefore it is much easier to stay on this kind of a lifestyle than when you are starving. And, you don't even realize it but you are eating way fewer calories (even though you feel like you are eating more) and this causes the weight to naturally fall off, without even thinking about it. I have a huge appetite and eat huge meals. I stay full all day long! And another added benefit is that there are never any food comas. The food is so nourishing and feels so good to eat, I stay feeling light and energetic after meals. Here is an example of what I would eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Breakfast - 1 frozen banana, 1 cup of frozen mixed berries, 1 cup of almond milk, 1 teaspoon of chia seeds, and 1 teaspoon of maca powder. You can ALWAYS add spinach or kale to smoothies for even more added nutrients. Also, for WEIGHT LOSS, you may want to omit the high calorie foods like nut butters. Natural nut butters are VERY HEALTHY and a great thing to eat but when you are trying to lose weight, just be careful you aren't eating too much of this.
Lunch - Huge salad with mixed greens, I used spinach, kale, and arugula. Then I add 1/2 avocado, nutritional yeast, and a little fresh lemon juice as a dressing. Using your hands, work the avocado into the lettuce so that it's spread evenly. Then I just top my salads with whatever fresh veggies I have on hand. I added hemp seeds and garbanzo beans for extra protein and sauerkraut which is amazing for gut health since it's a natural probiotic. I add this to almost everything.
Dinner - I made a bed of brown rice, tempeh, and kale and broccoli. I avoid using oil to cook so I cooked the greens and tempeh in a little bit of water and coconut aminos for flavor.
2. STOP your old habits
This is probably different for everyone. For me, the old habits that I had to stop were negative self talk, focusing too much on calorie counting, not eating enough, eating packaged "health foods" that were loaded with refined carbs and sugars, being too concerned with what I weighed, and thinking that there was any quick fix. Losing weight and becoming a healthier version of yourself is a process and it takes time. Although the diet industry would love for you to believe there is a quick fix, there isn't. And if you do successfully lose weight in a short amount of time, YOU WILL GAIN IT BACK. When I really understood what a healthy lifestyle meant, this is when things changed for me. For example, since I love to travel, I needed a diet that I could sustain here or abroad. There is an abundance of fresh and cheap produce in Costa Rica - and really anywhere in the world. Diets that leave you feeling restricted do not work because you just can't sustain it while living a normal life.
This is less than $20 worth of produce from a farmer's market in Costa Rica
3. Find a way to stay active that you enjoy
More and more studies are showing us that exercise doesn't have much to do with how much you weigh. It's great for your physical and mental health and great for staying lean and building muscle, but doesn't actually have a huge impact on your weight. For me, however, living an active lifestyle has been essential in my health journey. I have been incorporating exercise into my daily life for so long that it is just like any other thing I do every day. It's a part of my day that I enjoy and look forward to. Please understand that it wasn't always this way! When I first started getting into exercise, I hated it! The key is to not be bored and to switch up your workouts. My workouts include hiking, going for runs outside, surfing, swimming in the ocean, going for walks on the beach, going to the gym, doing short 10 minute high-intensity workouts and so much more. Depending on where I am, what my energy levels are, and what I'm in the mood for determine how I'll be active. I listen to my body and I go with what feels good for me. Find things you enjoy doing and go for it! You don't need to burn an insane amount of calories for exercise to have a positive impact on your health and your mind! I have been consistently staying active for about two years now and it is an important part of how I was successful at losing weight.