With many of us considering a healthy route to weight loss for the New Year, we asked Kate Harrison for her tips to get healthy in 2015.
10 Lessons in Eating Well and Changing your Life the 5:2 Way – from a Former Yo-Yo Dieter
Five years ago, I’d have said I was the very last person on earth to write a diet book. I was a frumpy 11 and a half stone, with almost three decades of yoyo eating behind me. I was also a passionate cook, with more recipe books than anyone I knew. In fact, possibly more cookbooks than my local branch of WH Smith…
Yet today I’m two and a half stone lighter, running a Facebook group of 35,000 dieters, and celebrating publication of my fourth book about healthy eating, The 5:2 Good Food Kitchen. It’s my favourite book so far, packed with my favourite recipes, plus stories from lovely people who’ve also found 5:2 has transformed their lives (one has lost 40kg/88lbs thanks to the 5:2!).
Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about what makes us succeed at diets and lifestyle changes. So if you’re thinking about trying out 5:2 – cutting calories on just two days a week and eating normally the rest of the time – these are my top 10 tips.
1. Part-time changes can transform your whole life
Focusing on nutritious but lower-calorie meals twice a week has knock-on effects. It makes you more mindful of making good choices the rest of the time – so I’ll still eat cake or chocolate, but only when I really want to. And I buy and eat far less junk because I’m more thoughtful.
2. Plan ahead
Choosing the right days to fast – or exercise or meditate – and then writing them in my diary has helped me to stick to what I want to do. It also means I have the right foods for a Fast Day in the fridge or cupboard.
3. But stay flexible
Life is for living, and if you are invited out for a surprise lunch or get amazing news, switch your Fast Day to tomorrow (and write that in your diary so you don’t ‘forget’).
4. Set positive goals:
Don’t tell yourself what you can’t eat – focus on what you can: I like to set myself a ‘seven veg a day’ target, or try to adapt my favourite dishes with a lower-calorie twist.
5. A little help from your online friends goes a long way
Setting up the Facebook group when I was looking for information about fasting in 2012 was the best thing I did. Now it’s a 24/7 source of support, tips and inspirational photos for people across the world.
6. Never beat yourself up if you do overindulge
The ‘all or nothing’ approach of so many diets is so punishing, and guilt can make you give up. If you do overdo it on a Fast Day, just start again next day. Staying healthy is about the big picture, not the occasional lapse.
7. Eat real food
Fresh, seasonal food is delicious and great value. I still use convenience foods sometimes if I’m in a mad hurry, but I never buy ‘diet’ foods which are over-priced and full of unrecognisable ingredients. With a bit of planning, you can cook once and freeze six meals. It’s one of the best things you can do for your body and your bank account.
8. Snacking makes no sense
Snacking is great news for food manufacturers, but can be bad news for our bodies if we do it all the time. Getting back in touch with my appetite means I look forward to meals, and my digestion is much more settled!
9. Try out new flavours
I love sampling new spices, sauces or ingredients, like the Korean pickles that have been a real foodie trend in 2014. Food is about exciting the senses – and new tastes help make mealtimes fun.
10. Be open to new things
Many people were sceptical about fasting to begin with, including me. But I took the risk, and after so many years as a diet failure, I’m thrilled that the simplest approach is helping me maintain a healthy weight.
Now I realise my own failures probably mean I was the perfect person to write a diet book… because I know if I can do it, anyone can… and now my own cookbooks are on the shelf alongside my old favourites!