It’s mid-April and summer is on the way, which means many of us are trying to shed a few pounds. While we’re not advocates of a good food/bad food list, but we do encourage our clients to eat mostly whole foods. And when calories are reduced while trying to drop weight on a diet, there are some great ways to take the edge off. Here are some diet-saving strategies to help you stay on track and minimize those hangry days.
- Hydrate. Water is amazing – it helps regulate body temperature, transport nutrients, and much more. When you’re on a cut, it also helps keep you full. Working to get at least 2L (1/2 gallon) of fluids per day can make a huge difference when you’re in a fat loss phase. It doesn’t just have to be plain water – herbal teas, flavored water or sparkling water are also great choices. If it’s cold outside, a nice warm beverage will also give you something to do with your hands.
- Get your fibrous veggies. Fibrous veggies (think greens, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, etc.) will help you feel more full, keep you regular, and provide the vital micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) your body needs. Cut up some cucumbers, celery, and grape tomatoes for a crunchy snack — if it’s ready to go, you’re more likely to reach for it and avoid the diet saboteurs. These foods also take longer to eat, helping you feel less deprived.
- Wait. Experiment with pushing your first meal of the day a bit later, and have a higher fat breakfast.
- Go for volume. Skip the dense foods like ice cream or cereal in favor of those with more volume and fiber, like oatmeal, potatoes, rice, high-fiber tortillas and bread, fruits, veggies and popcorn.
- Stay busy. Take a walk, have coffee with a friend, or tackle that project you’ve been putting off. Staying busy will help mitigate stress, and keeps your mind off of food for a while. Keep moving to raise your calorie burn for a double whammy.
- Re-evaluate your timeline. Make sure your fat loss cycle isn’t too long, and that your caloric deficit isn’t too steep. Cutting for longer than 2-3 months at a time without a break tends to slow metabolism, create diet burnout, and, if you’re not careful, reduce your hard-earned lean muscle mass.
- Get social. Organize an outing, a bike ride, or a walk in the park with friends. If your social activities include food, make a plan ahead of time and stick to it.
- But watch out for social media! Don’t hang out on facebook or Instagram when you’re hungry — you’re guaranteed to see nothing but scrumptious food pictures. Instead, eat first to take the edge off.
- Treat yo-self. Include (and plan for) a small treat each day. Even just a single square of chocolate will have almost no impact on your progress, but will give you something to look forward to each day. It will also keep you from feeling like you’re depriving yourself of everything you enjoy.
- Learn to get comfortable with a little hunger. Realize you WILL be hungry. That’s okay, because it’s temporary. Sit with your hunger and remember that you always have a choice. If the hunger becomes unbearable for more than a day or two, you can always reverse out of your cut. Stay focused on your goal, but remember that if being hungry is too uncomfortable for you right now, it’s likely not the right time for a fat loss cycle. Mindset is everything, and cuts are about mind over matter.
- Find your tribe. Having a group of people around you for support can be really helpful, or even just a designated go-to friend who you can whine to on hard days. Pick someone who is positive and supportive, and also helps you keep perspective. Explain your “why” (i.e., the reason for your cut) and ask them to remind you when the going gets tough. If you don’t have a support system, you’re welcome to join ours! Our social group is free to join, just contact us and request to be added.
- Caffeinate. Caffeine helps suppress hunger and minimizes fatigue. A cup of coffee or green tea in the morning and another in the afternoon is great. Don’t overdo it, though. A lot of caffeine with reduced calories can leave you feeling jittery. Know your limits.
- Don’t be afraid of a bedtime snack. While you’ll probably have to forego the Haagen-Dazs while you’re cutting weight, a pre-bed snack of casein pudding contains slow-digesting protein that will help you sleep better, maintain your lean mass, and satisfy your sweet tooth. Stick it in the freezer to make it feel more like a treat (plus, it will take longer to eat).
- Meditate. On difficult days (or any day, for that matter), meditation can help quiet the mind and body and give you some perspective. Headspace is a great meditation app that many BITE coaches have found to be helpful.
- Make soups and salads your go-to. If you’re cutting when the weather is cold, a nice warm bowl of soup with tons of veggies will help satiate and warm your belly without adding many calories. A hearty salad (again, tons of veggies) will fill you up and cool you down on hot days.
- Pair energy dense foods with veggies. Adding peanut butter to celery or carrots rather than eating it alone will make it last longer and give you vital nutrients at the same time. For a quick, low-cal snack, Laughing Cow cheese on cucumber, bell pepper or celery is a great treat.
- Avoid alcohol. While a few drinks here and there in moderation are fine while maintaining your weight, alcohol can quickly sabotage your progress when you’re trying to lose fat. It has a dehydrating effect, and your body will need to process alcohol before it can metabolize any other nutrients. Not to mention that with the reduced inhibition a few drinks can provide, you’ll tend to have less self control around food.
- Spice it up! Keep an eye on sodium, but don’t overlook the benefit of adding a little spice to your meals. A favorite is Green Dragon hot sauce from Trader Joe’s — it’s tasty, not too spicy, and has virtually no calories. Dehydrated peanut butter powders like PB Lean, PB2 or PBFit are much lower in fat and calories than regular peanut butter, and can add a ton of flavor to both sweet and savory dishes. Experiment with some new spice combinations to give your food a kick and keep things interesting.
Do you need help planning and/or sticking to a cut? We’d love to help! We have one-time nutrition plans, monthly coaching plans, and a dynamic community of coaches and clients who support and encourage each other. We’d love to have you join us!