Once you’ve gotten used to eating smaller portions and drinking more water, and have eliminated one junk food from your diet, it’s easier to make the next changes.
Honestly, when I first went through these changes, I was still learning about nutrition and fitness and every little change helped me shed weight so I was in some of them until I plateaued and then went looking for the next step.
If you stick to each stage for at least a week, the changes will be easier to handle and you will only compound the benefits at each step.
Substituting simple carbs and becoming more active.
First you were eating the same things as before, just in smaller portions, but now it’s time to choose healthier alternatives for your usual foods. You will also continue to phase out unhealthy items..
In this step we will considerably reduce the amount of processed carbohydrates you eat. That means breads, pastas, sugars and the like. You’re not going low-carb per-se, since vegetables, fruits and whole grains are, in fact carbohydrates. These are complex carbs and are very beneficial. They provide fiber, water and energy. Learn more about carbohydrates here.
For the next week or two, we will make the following changes:
Reduce simple carb intake.
What I’m talking about here is eating less breads, pasta, flour tortillas, candies, cookies, cakes, breaded items, alcohol and sugary items. You don’t have to go cold turkey, you can have cake or sweets or alcohol one or two times per week. Most of the time, though, you can replace those items with complex carbs simply by eating whole grains or vegetables instead of breads or pasta.
Instead of pasta with meat sauce, you could try having your meat sauce over 1 cup of barley, wild rice or any other kind of whole grain.
You can go even further by using any amount of sautéed cauliflower, broccoli or other high-fiber vegetables instead of grain, which will leave you full and satisfied but will give you only half of the calories! Not to mention the whole grain and vegetable option have far more nutrients than over processed pasta.
Instead of sweets, you can reach for nature’s candy. Fruit. Or cocoa! If you like ice cream or just anything sweet, you can blend some fat free, plain yogurt (greek has the most protein) and fruit (frozen or fresh) and either eat it as is for an instant treat, or put in the freezer for an hour or so and enjoy it as a frozen snack/ice cream. Fruits are naturally sweet, but if you want something sweeter, you can add 1 tsp of raw sugar, honey or other lightly processed sweetener. I also recommend investing in some pure vanilla extract. The aroma and flavor will make you feel like you’re eating something sweet even if you add no sugar!
If you’re more of a chocolate fan, switch to the 70% cocoa and up varieties. They have less sugar and less fat, plus extra benefits of bitter cocoa! You can also get your hands on some cocoa powder that you can blend with yogurt and vanilla as above, or with a banana for a thicker more pudding textured treat.
You can also just snack on fruit! Fruit is delicious, refreshing in the summer and, like I said before, it’s naturally sweet. I personally love snacking on grapes and clementines and pomegranates when they’re in season. You can freeze fruits in the summer or bake them into compotes in the winter. Either way, they are much healthier than processed sweets.
As for alcohol, unfortunately, there’s no substitute*… You either drink it or you don’t. If you have a drink (or more) every day, or most days of the week, I suggest saving it for the weekend or any other one or two days of your choosing. When you do drink, however, you can keep your carb and calorie count low by choosing your drinks wisely.
Beers. Avoid stouts and porters as they have the highest amount of carbohydrates (and calories), Also try to stay away from the more sweet beers as they have added sugars on top of the naturally occurring carbohydrates. Lagers and pilsners are the lightest options for watching carbs with only 10 – 15g per pint.
Wine: Wines are pretty safe, they tend to be low in carbohydrates overall with dry wines having the lowest amount of carbohydrates (as few as 1-2g!) and sweeter wines, of course, having the highest ( can go over 10g). And fortified wines or dessert wines, can have over 20 g of carbohydrates. So if you’re into wine, reach for the medium sweetness or dry wines.
Spirits don’t really contain carbohydrates, since they are distilled, but we usually mix them in sugary drinks. I suggest mixing your spirits with lime (or lemon) and club soda, tomato juice (hello bloody mary!) or grapefruit juice (this is the highest carb of the 3 but still lower than orange and other juices). You can also just have your spirits on the rocks or sip them straight – which also makes you look super refined by the way. 😉
Avoid liqueurs which do actually have sugar in them (up to 20g per serving!) as well as fruity drinks or drinks with grenadine or other syrups and added sugars like sweet and sour mix and such. You’d be amazed how many carbs and calories you can rack up by drinking a few margaritas or mojitos!
Like I’ve mentioned before, I like going out and I enjoy drinks with friends, so while I don’t do it often, when I do drink I will usually avoid beers altogether (not a big fan anyway) and I stick to red wine, or my usual order, “tequila soda with a lot of lime”.
Remember though, while spirits don’t have carbs, they do have between 95 to 110 calories per serving (usually 1.5 oz).
This is the biggest change you’re making for the next step. The next two are just continuing the changes you started last week. The next steps are:
Continue your phasing out of sugary / diet drinks. Move on to the next step you can take. If you’re drinking half the amount of soda/juice as before, reduce the amount even more, switch from sweetened iced tea to unsweetened, etc… (Click here for a reminder of the steps you can take) and remember to drink more water!
Eliminate one more junk food! Stop eating potato chips, or turn that half donut you’re still having at work into no donut at all. Switch up your Frappuccino for a non-fat latte. Yes, I’m considering a frapuccino a junk food and not a beverage. That’s how unhealthy it is.
Start exercising! In step 1 we started becoming more active by walking more, taking the stairs and just moving more on our da- to-day. Now it’s time to add more activity! Add just 30 minutes of exercise 3 times per week. Don’t panic, depending on your condition, fitness level and health status, you can do something as simple as walking briskly, jogging, biking, running, or taking a cardio class at the gym.
If you were already doing one of these before you started the Upgrade, then make your sessions a little longer, add an extra day or up the difficulty.
For example, If you were walking briskly 3 times per week, try jogging one or two out of your 3 workout days. If you were already running 3 times per week, or taking a class at the gym, run a little further (or longer if you’re on a treadmill), or take an extra class per week
That’s it! Those are ALL the changes you need to make for the next stage. Stick to this for at least a week or two and then move on to step 3. If you have trouble adapting, then just stay in this stage longer, that’s ok! Stay in this stage as long as you need to until you can follow it and it feels easy and natural. And remember to measure/weigh yourself every few weeks so you can see your progress!
*Note: I mentioned there is no substitute for alcohol, but if you currently smoke cannabis – medicinally or recreationally – you could always just stick to that instead of drinking alcohol. Smoking has 0 calories, but sometimes people get cravings or just a desire to snack – yes, the munchies! – and this can wreck your healthy eating habits. There are some strains that don’t give you the munchies, but an easy way to avoid it being an issue regardless, is just not keeping unhealthy snacks at home. Keep fruits and popcorn and other light, healthy snacks instead. Chances are you’ll be too lazy to go to the store and buy chips and candy anyway, especially if there is something edible at home.