Maybe you’re struggling with your weight, or perhaps you feel like you don’t have enough energy during the day, or you can’t stop binging on junk food. Or maybe, like me, you are tired of that extra layer of fat bouncing on your body.
Whatever is bothering you, don’t feel bad about it, you’re not alone, and we are here to help you out.
In the past, I have really struggled with binging on candy and high sugar food. I was addicted. But, today, I have managed to quit most of the added sugar that used to be in my diet, but my journey is not over yet.
Food temptations are always around, and every day I have to remind myself to choose the long-term happiness of eating healthily instead of the few moments of instant pleasure you get from junk food.
What we eat greatly defines our mood, weight, and energy levels.
So, if you are looking to lose some weight, improve your mood, or wake up with more energy, you’ve landed in the right place.
Invest a few minutes of your time and, by the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what, when and how much you should eat.
Note: At the end of this article I will also share my current nutrition and exercise formula.
The three most important rules to lose weight, improve your mood, and get more energy are:
- 1st – At all costs, avoid high-sugar processed foods and drinks (candy, breakfast cereals, sport energy drinks, soft drinks, packaged fruit juices)
- 2nd – Eat real food
- 3rd – Eat less than you’re currently eating
1st – Avoid Junk and Processed Food
Very high in sugar, and contains no fiber and no nutrition value, processed food is designed to give you instant pleasure and create addiction.
Processed and junk foods are very fattening due to their high levels of added sugar. Added sugar makes you fat (I explain how in this video) and makes you addicted. I explain all of this in my video Why added sugar is everywhere.
High sugar drinks are one of the worst things that the food industry makes, delivering the biggest profits for them and the biggest problems for those who drink them every day. Avoid soft drinks, packaged fruit juices, sports drinks, and soda at all costs.
This is by far the most important step in order to lose weight, increase energy and improve your mood: avoid or greatly reduce your consumption of junk, processed, and high sugar foods and drinks.
Before moving on to the next step, start by eliminating as much junk food as you can from your diet.
2nd – Eat Real Food
Real food is what grows on trees, in the ground, runs on the land, swims in the seas, or flies in the air. Fruit, vegetables, legumes, meat, poultry, and fish.
Buy fresh organic food whenever you can and prepare your own meals so that you know exactly what you are eating.
It’s easier and faster to buy ready-made food but you’ll feel and look much better if you invest a little extra time in making your own meals.
I’ve shared a ton of healthy recipes in the recipes section here, but don’t worry; I’ll help you choose the best recipes to get you started.
Avoid or reduce dairy products like cow’s milk and cheese. Trust me, you’ll feel better, lighter and you’ll lose weight too.
3rd Step – Eat Less Than You’re Currently Eating
Once you’ve achieved the other two steps, it’s time to start gradually reducing your calorie intake.
If you’re looking to lose some weight, chances are that you’re eating more calories than your body is burning.
But before we reduce our calorie intake, we first need to know how much we are eating.
If this sounds like a boring task, that’s because it is! However, technology helps make it quicker and easier.
There’s an app called MyFitnessPal that is totally free. With it, you can add up all the food you eat and it will automatically calculate, or estimate, the number of calories you’ve consumed. You can download the app here for iPhone and here for Android.
Remember: Add everything, from the few peanuts you ate to that Mars Bar or that half a glass of coke. When I first started using this app I forget to add most of my snacks as I thought “it’s just a few calories – it won’t matter” but those little snacks add up to much more than you expect. So, add everything you eat, even those small snacks. And don’t forget any calorie-containing beverages too.
After a few days you’ll have a clear idea of how much food and how many calories you are eating.
After that, reduce your calorie intake by just a small amount – about 100-200 per day.
Be patient and take it slow; it takes time to train your stomach and your appetite to get used to eating 200 calories less than normal. Once you’re comfortable, reduce your intake a little bit more. It’s not easy, and it takes time and discipline, but it’s not impossible and you’ll soon start to lose weight.
Eat Balanced Meals: Carbs, Protein and Fats
Every meal should contain the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fats.
At dinnertime, we should eat meals that are low in carbs and that contain protein for a better night sleep and less fat production and storage.
Carbs have a bad reputation, and so too do fats, and so everybody is eating crazy amounts of protein.
There are good carbs and bad carbs, protein can come from plants or from animals, and there are good and bad fats too.
That’s why it is so important to take some time and understand carbs, protein and fats.
Carbohydrate plays a vital role in our diet, but not all carbs are good for us.
Good Carbs: Vegetables, fruits, legumes, potatoes, green noodles, salads
Bad Carbs: Potato chips, soft drinks, candy and chocolate, soda, breakfast cereals, white rice/pasta/bread
Let’s make it simple and easy to understand:
Good carbs are those foods that come from a tree or from the ground: Vegetables, fruits, legumes, potatoes, and green noodles.
Bad Carbs are those foods that come in a package and that have been through many different processes before arriving in your supermarket. Fiber is removed, sugar is added, and the ingredients list is longer than the product’s name.
Good Carbs Examples (with recipes)
Oatmeal: Perfect for breakfast, cheap and easy to prepare. Oatmeal recipes here
Fruit: Mixed with oatmeal or have a fruit salad for breakfast. Always have your fruit 30 minutes before your main meal.
Broccoli: Steamed, broccoli makes a perfect side dish. Recipes here.
Quinoa: Goes great with salads or oven-baked vegetables. All my quinoa recipes here.
Zucchini: Recipes here
Spinach: Spinach recipes here
For a deeper understanding of Carbs, I recommend you to check my guide What Are Carbs? A Beginner’s Carbs Guide.
Protein is one of the primary building blocks of your body. It’s very important for repairing and building muscle.
In nature, plants produce protein from amino acids. Animals eat plants, so they store protein in their muscles.
We can get protein both from plants or from meat.
In the last few years, I’ve been leaning more towards plant protein as most of the meat available in supermarkets is from animals that spend all their lives stressed in small cages, having high amounts of antibiotics pumped into them, and with very bad hygiene.
In the last decade, a number of studies have revealed problems of a high meat diet.
Plant-based protein sources:
- Legumes (lupin, lentils, green peas, soy, red, black, and yellow beans, fava beans, chickpeas)
- Chia seeds
- Leafy greens
- Hemp seeds
- Tofu, tempeh, and edamame
Animal Protein Sources
- Fish (tuna and salmon)
Fiber Alert: Remember that meat, eggs and dairy don’t contain any fiber, so you should always include vegetables in your meals to add some. In contrast, all plant-based proteins contain fiber.
Fiber is very important for digestive health. It helps clean your gut and prevent constipation where food rots in your intestine causing bacteria and parasites to flourish. You can learn more about the important role and benefits of fiber in my article Not Enough Fiber in Modern Diets
Just like we have good and bad carbs, not all fats are created equal.
Fats have a bad reputation because, in the past, fats were thought to be stored as body fat. That’s not true. In fact, that’s what happens with sugar. All the excess sugar we eat is stored as fat in our body.
Fats are just as important as carbs and protein for our body, but we need to know what fats we should eat and which ones we should avoid.
We can get fats from plants or from animals and again, plant-based fat is more heathy than fat from animal sources
These are my simple Five Rules about Fats:
- No milk, cheese, butter or any dairy (I do have free range eggs)
- Have seeds and nuts
- Use extra-virgin olive oil for salads and for cooking instead of margarine, cooking oils, or butter
- Have wild fish and free-range meat
- Don’t abuse red meats (lamb, beef and pork)
You can learn in detail how to choose healthy fats in my article How to Choose Healthy Fats
You can also learn why Not All Fats Are Created Equally here
How Much to Eat
We all have different energy needs. Some of us work in front of a computer every day but do intense workouts. Others spend their days walking and constantly exercising. It’s impossible to have a set number of calories that is right for everyone.
But we all know how much food we should have in one meal. We know the difference between being full and binging.
Eat slowly, use your teeth to chew the food into small pieces to help digestion, and remember to breathe. If you eat too fast, you will probably eat more than you should.
Preparing your meals in advance, when you’re not hungry, also helps to set the amount you know that’s enough for your lunch or dinner.
When you finish eating, if you still feel hungry, wait five minutes. In most cases, you are just tempted to binge and, after five minutes, that feeling should disappear.
It’s also important to remember that your stomach can take a few minutes to tell your brain it’s full. Waiting a few minutes before eating more gives your stomach chance to let your brain know it doesn’t really need any more food.
The Real Foods
Vegetables: High in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, vegetables help to make you feel full and cleanses your gut. Steam your vegetables to preserve the vitamins.
Fruit: High in sugar and fiber, these are the healthiest carbs you can eat so I have some fruit every morning. Fruit contains sugar, but it’s also very high in fiber which makes sugar absorption slower and causes a smaller insulin spike. This is the big difference from processed foods with added sugar. Learn more about the different of natural vs added sugar here.
Red Meat: An important source of protein and fat but remember that meat, eggs, dairy and fish, do not contain any fiber. Always have your veggies. These days most of the meat we eat is produced using high amounts of hormones and antibiotics, fed with corn, and very little is produced free-range. For that reason I never eat red meat more than once a week.
Eggs and Fish: Free range eggs are a good source of protein, and wild fish provides good source of fat and omega-3 fatty acids.
Dairy, Butter and Milk: Avoid as much as you can.
Healthy Fats, Nuts and Seeds: Extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, coconuts, nuts, and seeds are a very good sources of healthy fats in your diet.
What We Should Avoid Eating:
Processed food: Everything that comes in a package, a bottle, or any kind of plastic wrap.
Junk and Fast Food: Everything that comes from a drive-through.
Refined Carbs: Highly processed food with high amounts of added sugar, including breakfast cereals, commercial granola, ice-cream, liquid carbs (soda, soft drinks), chocolates, candy bars, energy bars…all the crazy high sugar stuff that is so easy to binge on over and over again.
Why Junk Food Makes You Fat?
Most junk/processed food is very high in sugar. You don’t have to trust my word; just check the food label (learn how to read food labels). When we eat too much sugar, our body converts the excess into fat.
Watch this quick animation video where I explain how this happens
When we eat, the beta cells in the pancreas produce insulin. As we have seen in the video before (you’ve watched the video, right?) insulin removes the excess sugar from our blood.
Now, some foods raise insulin more than others. That’s because some foods are “sweeter” than others (learn more about the Glycemic Index here). A Mars candy bar contains much more added sugar than one mango, even though a mango is pretty sweet.
Mangos contains fiber which makes sugar absorption much slower, so the sugar goes into the blood stream more slowly and steadily. A chocolate bar contains much more sugar and no fiber, so the sugar floods our blood stream very fast. The pancreas has to start producing as much insulin as it can to remove the excess sugar as quickly as possible.
After we eat, insulin is produced, and while we have insulin in our blood, we are always storing fat.
That’s why if you take insulin in the form of pills you will gain weight. It’s as simple as that.
The natural way to keep insulin production to zero is not to eat. That’s why it’s very important to allow four hours between meals.
This means no snacking between meals, otherwise your pancreas will be constantly producing insulin, and that insulin will be producing and storing fat all the time. You don’t want to be a fat producing and storing machine.
Allow your body to digest all the food you have eaten and let insulin levels drop to start burning stored fat for energy.
Carbs timing: Before or After Workout
If you exercise, have your carbs an hour or so before or after the your workout. This way the carbs are used for energy and are not stored as fat.
You can learn more about when to eat carbs in my article Carb Timing and Exercise
Ways to reduce calories
- More veggie noodles (how to make veggie noodles here) instead of white pasta or white rice
- Oatmeal for breakfast: It makes you feel fuller for longer due to the fiber and protein. Oatmeal Recipes here
- Whole foods instead of fast/processed foods
My Nutrition & Exercise Formula
This is my personal nutrition and exercise formula. It’s probably not the best formula out there as there’s always room for improvement, but this is by far the one that’s given me the best results in terms of energy, mood and mental focus.
- No processed junk or fast food: If it has more than four ingredients on the package I don’t eat it
- No dairy, cow’s milk or cheese: I have almond milk instead
- Try to avoid white bread and white pasta (I have it around twice a week)
- Most of my meals are prepared at home from fresh ingredients
- I do my best (as my budget allows) to buy organic fruit and vegetables
- No more than two meals a week of red meat
- Only cage-free meat and eggs
- Only wild fish
- No alcohol abuse. I don’t go for spirits, but I love an occasional glass of white wine in the summer and red wine in the winter
- Exercise at least twice a week, and I do my best to walk at least 15 minutes per day