So, let me start by saying that – whilst I am truly thankful for all I have and wholeheartedly believe in keeping an attitude of gratitude – the Naturally Skinny Gene is not really a part of my DNA. As Britney would put it, perhaps rather bluntly but liberatingly honest, nonetheless: if I “want a hot body”, I have to “work b*tch”.
To the detriment of my close girlfriends, who either get dragged into my laser-focused mania from time to time or have to put up with me on no carbs, no alcohol, no sugar, no fun, I have embarked on many weight loss missions for those once-in-a-lifetime occasions, where I simply felt I HAD to look my best. This would include, for example, our wedding, any wedding in which I’ve appeared, big birthday celebrations…the list goes on. It was either slim down and shape up or have photos of the occasion haunt me forever in many different but equally traumatising ways (including the annual rotation of my dear mom’s at-home Christmas tree decorations, incorporating archival family photos and proudly displaying them for all to see, dangling casually amongst glitter bombs and flickering lights). Yes, the Christmas tree decorations will get you, if you don’t watch out.
So, I can honestly say that, in my opinion, there is certainly no “secret” to getting skinny. There is no “magic” way of eating whatever your carb-hungry heart desires and slimming down simultaneously. Unless, of course you have some sort of thyroid problem or the coveted but rare Naturally Skinny Gene. For the rest of us, there is only one road to success: “work, b*tch.”
Here are my personal top ten tips for shedding some pounds (with the usual disclaimer that I sure ain’t no doctor, nutritionist or shaman):
- The devil’s name is Sugar: diet fads come and go but I have yet to meet an expert who encourages the consumption of the White Beast. My number one rule is to stay far away from sugar, in all its sneakily hidden forms, including simple carbohodrates. The stuff is in fruit juices, fizzy drinks, high-sugar fruit, bread, pasta, muffins, ready-made sauces and condiments including tomato sauce, chocolates, canned or dried fruit, ice cream, frozen yogurt, granola, smoothies & of course sweets. It’s everywhere: simply google high-sugar foods and read food labels to keep track of your intake.
- Keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day to aid weight loss: this can be done by sticking to foods low on the glycaemic index (GI), including small snacks in between meals, avoiding caffeine, eating breakfast and avoiding all forms of sugar, as mentioned above, including artificial sweeteners. If you sometimes fall off the wagon by eating a food with a high glycaemic index or load, combine it with low GI foods (like a handful of raw almonds) to help balance the meal.
- Limit alcohol: I have always cut out alcohol when dieting. Not everyone has my A-type German blood though and this rule can be very hard to keep, for some. Not only does alcohol interfere with (or slow down) the way your body burns fat, it messes with your blood sugar levels, lowers your dieting discipline and, somehow, always makes a McDonald’s burger seem like a great midnight snack. If you want to indulge, stick to a glass of red wine, clear liquors like whisky or vodka and stay away from sweet, fizzy mixers. Use fresh lime wedges or cucumber slices with soda, as a healthy mixer option.
- You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Exercise is great for limited calorie burning, increasing fitness and improving muscle tone (nobody wants to be “fat skinny” after all; we want to be “toned skinny” a la Rachel from FRIENDS). But, if you want to lose weight and become a smaller human, following the correct diet is 85% of the battle. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that 30 minutes on the treadmill “erases” that chocolate brownie or burger & fries. It really, really doesn’t.
- Have your last meal at 6pm and make it a light one. When your body is winding down from the day and going into rest mode, where do you think all the calories you’ve consumed at dinner, go? Yes, that’s right: to your hips (or your stomach). Wherever it goes, the fact is that it’s not being burned. It’s being “stored”.
- DNAlysis and similar companies offer diet-related genetic testing these days, that reveals whether your body burns fat better on a diet high in complex carbohydrates (like oats) or protein (tjoppies and wors). One of my best friends, Moi, did this test, changed her eating and swears it changed her life. By the same token, I can also tell you that I tried the LCHF (low carb high fat) program for six weeks straight and did not shed one kilo. Yes, even with my German Discipline Of Steel. Each body is different and what works for you won’t necessarily work for the next person. Hence, genetic testing (if you can afford it) might be a worthwhile consideration if you’re not sure what works for you.
- Stay hydrated. We often mistake thirst for hunger and overeat this way.
- Plan a weekly cheat meal. It’s easier to plan a cheat than to have a cheat and feel like a cheater. This often causes us to beat ourselves up or throw in the towel. It’s OK to indulge once or twice a week, even whilst on a diet. It keeps things sustainable and will increase your long-term chances of success. A piece of dark chocolate (anything over 70%) is a delicious and relatively guilt-free treat, by the way.
- If you’re curious, try intermittent fasting. This works like a bomb and is the latest discovery in cutting-edge weight-loss techniques. Intermittent fasting is not a diet. This plan doesn’t require you to change what you eat, you only need to change when you eat. Essentially, intermittent fasting is said to force the body to go into “fat burning mode” during a 14 to 16 hour fasting portion of the day. It’s not as hard as it sounds and carries a whole host of other health & aesthetic benefits. Read more here. All I can say is: I’ve tried it and it works!
- Consult a professional. Last but not least, if you’re after a serious long-term weight management lifestyle (which is obviously more efficient, healthier & more sustainable than a quick burst of panic-induced weight loss mania), consult an expert:
- Go see a holistic nutrionist (Hannah Kaye in Cape Town is excellent); OR
- Consult a medical doctor specialising in the latest scientifically proven weight loss programs. We worked closely with the phenomenal Skin Renewal Clinic (they have several branches across South Africa) on our recent televison makeover series, MOOIMAAK. We managed to help a handful of keen candidates lose as much as 13 kilograms in 3 months on Skin Renewal’s medical weight loss program. I kid you not. We were gobsmacked at the results and none of the ladies ever went hungry, got cranky or fell off the wagon. See below for their before and after magic.
Wishing you all a body-happy (and, more importantly, a generally happy) festive season! One final word of advice: don’t start any diets in December or else you’ll give new meaning to the term “silly season”. Enjoy the Christmas cake, the New Year’s bubbly and perhaps one sneaky helping of a midnight McDonald’s. Rather, set your sights on 2018 and let January be the time to”work b*itch”.
With (low-glycaemic) love,