Friday, January 4, 2008

What the Nutritionist said.. And my Diet Plan

Last year I went to see a nutritionist to see if she could give me some tips about my weight loss diet.

I didn't really expect to learn much to be honest. You see, I've been overweight to some degree for all my life, or at least I thought I was. And the reason that I didn't think I'd learn much is that I'm a big researcher. When I'm interested in something, I read about it, I research it, I follow pretty much every avenue of investigation I can. And I'm REALLY interested in losing weight!

As far as I'm concerned, I know as much about the THEORY of weight loss as anyone out there. I never get sidetracked by fad diets, and I can tell you a million ways to track calories points, food groups or kilojoules. I know that it all comes down to energy in vs energy out, maintaining your metabolism by eating enough each day, focusing on fresh food and getting all the food groups.

But, like I said, I like to explore every avenue. So off I trotted to my nutritionist appointment. I shamefacedly showed her my eating logs for the past 9 weeks and explained toer, her my plan - how each week I make a menu plan, making sure that my calories average 1400 a day with less calories during the week and more on the weekend... and how every week I utterly fail and end up binging all weekend. That 9 weeks of food data had a whole lot of Smith's crisps, Chicken Treat and chocolate in it!

To my relief she said she 'didn't mind' my meal plans and my method of printing out my weekly plan to follow. However, she did think that I could be a lot 'smarter' in how I plan my meals and snacks. Here's a summary of the advice she gave me which I think might be helpful for most people, although of course everyone's different and you should always get advice personalised to yourself.
  • Eat more veggies. (Duh!) At least two serves at lunch and two at dinner. Which leads into the next point -
  • Balance every meal. That means 1/4 protein, (Chicken, Ham, Beef) 1/4 carbs (potato, corn, bread) and 1/2 veggies. She said that my favourite standby meal, Sketti, could be balanced by adding a salad.
  • Eat more protein. That one surprised me as I am a huge meat eater. But she said protein is important to stop the binging cycle because it's so satisfying. I should eat two serves at dinner, and two serves during the day, at lunch or breakfast or split between the two. A serve of protein is pretty tiny though - 100g of cooked beef or chicken is two serves (!) so I only have to add some to lunch.
  • Eat more dairy. This was the real surprise! I thought dairy was a bit of a grey area and too calorie dense to include much of it in my daily diet. But she said because dairy has such low GI it can keep you full for longer, and it could be used strategically as snacks to prevent overeating. She suggested a glass of milk with Milo as a good 'stop-gap' snack for the times when I come home from work too hungry even to wait until I can cook dinner. I LOVE that idea!
  • This is the important bit - are you listening carefully? Include "sometimes" foods in your food plan 3-4 times a week! That means small serves of crisps, chocolates, lollies and alcohol. Including them through the week makes you less likely to binge at the end of the week. (I was really starting to like the lady at this point :) )
  • Takeaway and rich desserts are 'occasional foods and you should aim to have them no more than once a week.

So, this weekend, I plan to make four weeks worth of meal plans in advance. I intend to follow the above guidelines plus these ones of my own;

  • Plan to average 1600 calories a day, spread evenly over the week, with only a little extra on the weekend. I'll be back at the gym next week and from prior experience should be able to easily manage at least 200 cals exercise a day, bringing me to my ideal goal of 1400 cals a day net.
  • The weekly plans will be printed and put on the fridge. On a "normal" day (get up, catch the train, gym, work, catch the train, home, bed) or on weekend days when I'm at home, the plan will be LAW. On a non-normal day, (dinner or lunch with a friend, sleepover with the girls, BBQ on the weekend, night at the pub etc) I will follow the plan as closely as I can, and when I can't, I will make the best choices available to me. For example, choosing appropriate sized portions at BBQ's, choosing the best options I know how off menus, and having small portions of 'sometimes' foods when in company, enjoying it, and then not having any more. Also I will choose vodka with diet coke instead of cocktails with cream :)
  • Going off the plan at one meal WILL NOT be an excuse to give up and binge untill the start of the next week.

Hope some of this info has been usefull or at least interesting! What's your diet plan for the New Year?

P.S - I plan my meals using an excellent peice of recipe organisation and nutrition software called DietPro by Radium Technologies. It's excellent value for money and the developer provides great technical support.

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