If you can control what you eat, you can control your weight.
While I’d be the first to say that the practical reality of the above statement isn’t so simple, it is nonetheless valid in principle.
A clear corollary of that statement is if you don’t know what you’re eating, you can’t control your weight. Therefore, an important step when it comes to weight loss is to know what you’re eating.
When I say “know”, I don’t mean on a superficial level. Being aware that a Big Mac is a Big Mac isn’t the same as knowing what is actually in a Big Mac.
And that brings me to the main point of this article: one of the best things you can do to promote long-term weight loss is truly know and appreciate (for better or worse) what you’re eating.
In a perfect world, you do this in two ways:
- Eat whole foods whenever possible. My dictionary handily defines ‘whole foods’ as “food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances.” You can take this as far as you’re comfortable.
- Prepare your own food from scratch using whole foods. By doing so, you’ll have the greatest possible awareness of and control over what you’re eating.
With the said, let’s cover some practical issues that might immediately cross your mind.
I’m not telling you that you can never have a Big Mac or a chocolate bar again, nor am I telling you that you must spend hours slaving over a hot stove every evening in order to prepare your dinner. In fact, I’m not telling you to do anything you don’t want to do – that’s not the Healthy Enough way.
Instead, I am inviting you to consider that (a) knowing more about what you eat can encourage weight loss, and (b) preparing food from scratch doesn’t have to be an intimidating process.
Truly knowing what you eat can empower you to make better decisions without necessary impairing your enjoyment of food. Consider simple healthy food ‘hacks’, such as:
- Grilling food instead of frying it.
- Measuring out the fats you use when cooking.
- Reducing high-calorie ingredients by 10% (you won’t notice the difference – trust me).
It also means that you’ll avoid bullshit ‘diet’ foods that are not designed in your best interests (e.g. “low fat” foods that are instead high in sugar), and foods that may seem relatively healthy, but in fact aren’t (e.g. most commercially produced salads).
By knowing and deciding exactly what you eat, you’re more in control of what goes into your body, which means that you’re more in control of your weight.
If you feel that preparing food from scratch is an intimidating process, you’ve probably not been shown how simple it can be, nor told that there is in fact no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to cook. Just start small and simple in terms of the recipes you tackle, and work your way up as your confidence improves.
Consider for example how a tin of chopped tomatoes, if simmered over a medium heat for 20 minutes or so, can alone be used as a simple tomato sauce (for say a pasta dish). You may be astounded as to how much flavour is packed into just one or two ingredients prepared with no skill required.
Another good example of how the ‘art’ of cooking is often blown way out of proportion can be found regarding the humble egg. Poached eggs are seen by many as impossible to get ‘right’, but if you strip away all the over-complications, you’ll find that the process is actually remarkably straightforward. (As a side note, who bloody cares if your poached egg doesn’t look perfect; life isn’t perfect. You’ll get better in time, and you’re not running a Michelin-starred restaurant.)
So, I encourage you to take control of your weight loss by taking control of what you eat. You can do so by preparing more food from scratch, which isn’t half as scary as it may sound. Start with the Healthy Enough Guide to Cooking, and perhaps try one of my recipes, which are designed to be simple and open to reinterpretation.
And to reiterate what I said above, in following my advice I don’t expect or encourage you to stop eating your favourite ‘sinful’ snacks, or eschew takeaway food or eating out from now on. I’ll never tell you that any given food or way of eating is off-limits – quite frankly, life is too short for that. Instead, I invite you to just push your boundaries a little, with an open mind, and see where it takes you. Any step in a more positive direction puts you that much more in control, and should be applauded.