The year of Undiet Concludes with: What to Eat When You’re Not Dieting!
Hello! I’m glad you’ve all been enjoying The Year Of Undiet, and that a lot of my words have resonated with many of you.
Friends of mine who do not struggle the least a bit with their diet and exercise are few and far between. Most of my mates, models and non-models, will opine about ‘carrying extra weight’ and waver between strict regimens and going crazy on binges.
This week I’ve been saying: stop dieting. Pick an exercise you love. Free yourself of guilt around food. And today I’ll be looking at the ‘food rules’ you should keep in mind whilst eating intuitively.
These are less ‘strict guidelines’ as thoughts to let sink in and gradually guide your choices over a lifetime. You might lose a lot of weight, you might not – more likely than not, you’ll reach your comfortable weight – the measurements and appearance your body is meant to have, as opposed to those you see in magazines (sorry ’bout those).
So here are some food rules I loosely stick to, which will hopefully help guide your own choices.
5) Hot water
Hmmmm. I probably shouldn’t have started on the most boring-sounding one, should I.
But hot water is a really, really great and important feature of ‘The Undiet.”
Every since I was 19 and trying to banish my body of glandular fever and acne (an attractive year for me), I’ve been starting every morning with a pint of hot water. I don’t expect all of you to have the whole pint, but a mug’ll do.
I half fill the glass with boiled water, half with cold (so the glass doesn’t shatter) and it’s perfect temperature to down.
The hot water is fantastic for flushing away toxins you’ve amassed overnight (I honestly start sweating them out immediately), hydrating you after hours of not drinking and making you desperate for a wee the whole journey into work (a downfall). But seriously, weeing aside: it’s the best way to start your day.
Carrying this theme on, you should drink water throughout the day as well as your normal tea and coffee (which contain caffeine, which is a diuretic, which dehydrates you).
Why? Because half the time we want to nibble, our body actually wants us to drink. I choose hot water most of the time, because it helps warm me up – if I want to snack it’s probably cos I’m chilly, and if I’m chilly I definitely don’t want cold water).
Lastly, know when to drink. I never down loads of water while I’m eating because it floods your system and hampers digestion by diluting all those enzymes. Sip a bit of water if you have to, and avoid glugging down loads just before and after a meal.
4) Educate yourself about nutrition. Don’t be scared of fats, sugars, proteins, carbs…
This is a biggie. The success of the Atkins made us afraid of carbs; the Dukan made us eat processed turkey slices and every other baloney diet (including one a photographer was doing ‘based on the food we ate when we were monkeys’) has given us totally wrong information about food.
That’s why I saw my friend eat a plate of dry chicken, washed down with a full fat coke. Or another refuse roasted sweet potatoes as she was going carb-free..and down 3 glasses of white wine.
You don’t have to do a nutrition degree to learn that there are carbs in wine and that it’s better to eat a big, balanced meal of chicken with veg than three strips of meat with a sugar and fat-filled Cola. We’ve lost our way when it comes to knowing what’s good for us!
This video by Jimmy Kimmel totally proves my point – the huge amount of people going ‘gluten-free’…Who don’t even know what ‘gluten’ is!
The fact is that your body tells you what’s good for it, if you listen. And if you can back it up with real knowledge about food – where it comes from and why it’s good or bad for you – you’ll eat wisely.
3) Read the Body Balance Diet Plan
Confession: I never managed to stick to a strict Ayurvedic diet. However this book really, really changed my outlook on diet and exercise. In a nutshell, Ayurveda tells us that people come in three types, of ‘doshas’: Kapha, Pitta and vata. Our food, drink and exercise can help balance our dosha. So Kapha are sedentary and prone to weight gain, and their food needs to be dry and hot to give them a kick up the backside. Pitta are hot, aggressive and stocky, so their food needs to cool them down. And Vata (me) are cold, prone to anxiety and thin, so food needs to warm us up and calm us down.
The foods that suit me are the foods I naturally love – but that I had denied myself, thinking I should eat raw all the time. I scoffed kale and downed green juices, even though I found them unpleasant. The result? I was always cold, which made me absent-mindedly nibble, and I got ill all the time.
Once I stuck to the general principles of Ayurveda (you can be mega strict or, like me, you can be broadly influenced). I eat stews and I don’t eat the stuff magazines tell me to like kale, cos even though it’s good for me…I don’t LIKE it! I’m lighter and I have a bolstered immune system, and I’ll always come back to consult the ingredients and certain chapters if I feel I’ve lost my way a bit.
2) NO crazy detoxes, but you’re allowed a reset.
Seriously, what’s the point of a 40-day juice detox? All that’s gonna happen is you’ll lose a lot of weight very fast, feel really virtuous, be unbearably smug, and then put on weight and feel terrible the second you eat a burger/cake/normal food.
Your body doesn’t need to detox. Your body detoxes itself. If you feel full of chemicals and bad food, all you need to do is cut out processed foods and drink more water, and let your body do the rest.
What I do recommend is a bit of a ‘reset’ now and again. I do this whenever my body feels out of whack – for example coming home from a trip where I’ve indulged in the food and eaten lots of sugary snacks. Or if I have a lingerie job coming up and I want to lose a bit of water retention/bloaty feeling.
It’s basically setting a certain amount of time (1 day – 3 days – a week, for example) where I shall not let pass my lips:
Sugar (sometimes I cut out fruit, too)
Processed foods like bread
Tea and coffee
Why have I chosen those? Because they are the foods that I intuitively feel that my body doesn’t like so much, and that I benefit from cutting out. You might be completely different: this is totally your own choice.
I’ll make sure I’m quite organised, by making stews and tasty alternatives at the ready so that I won’t feel deprived.
It’s great for feeling a bit of an energy recharge, as processed foods can make us feel sluggish, and I find it kickstarts my metabolism.
I did a little ‘reset’ before this shoot and felt great.
But the most important thing for me is that it makes me realise the habits I form. I don’t need pudding every time I eat, as I’m often already full. I could say no to midweek booze, as it only makes me sleepy the next day. My skin benefits and I realise I have a better, constant level of energy without spikes from coffee.
1) NO Processed foods
1 and 2 are the only strict rules of my ‘Undiet’.
There is no reason to eat processed food. You can make everything yourself – in the same time it takes to prick holes in some plastic and put it in the oven.
Pasta sauce in a jar? Mate, it’s just tomato sauce with added chemicals. Heat some onions and garlic for 5 mins, add a tin of tomatoes and sprinkle with rocket – chemical free and two portions of veg! All you have to do is add more veg at the cooking stage and you can get your entire 5 a day in one meal.
Takeaway curry? I can make a curry quicker than it takes to order over the phone: heat up onions, garlic and ginger for 5 mins, add chicken/veg, a bit of curry powder, and BAM! You have a curry in 15 mins flat!
Fruit yogurt? Buy your own yogurt. Cut up some fresh fruit. ALAKAZAM! Preservative-free, processed sugar-free pudding or breakfast!
Cooking from scratch needn’t take up any more time than takeaways do. It’s cheaper, it’s healthier and it’s more fun: what’s in season this week? What country do I fancy going to today?
Please take it from me. I only started cooking aged 26. Previously, I’d thought it was a huge mystery: something that only clever chefs and people who’d grown up cooking could do. What if I didn’t heat meat properly? What if everyone thought it was disgusting?
If you’re new to cooking, then buy a cookbook*. Pick what you like: I recommend one pot wonders such as a curry, casserole or pasta sauce and follow the recipe. Marvel at what you have cooked, at how easy it was and how utterly satisfying that was.
Cutting out processed foods means that you can control what you put in your body. There are no hidden fats, sugars or chemicals (it’s crazy what sugar is added to. Just cos something tastes savoury doesn’t mean it is sugar-free).
You’ll lose puffiness. Your skin will glow. You will feel proud of yourself for the concoctions you whip up, and your immune system will improve. Best of all, you can cook for your friends and family: food is love, after all.
And that’s where I want to end with my Year of Undiet Plan. Food is love. Love what you eat, and love yourself by eating consciously, healthily and guilt-free.
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*My favourite cook books:
100 Weeknight Curries by Madhur Jaffrey (some of these take minutes)
Leon: Ingredients and Recipes by Allegra McEvdey (lots of information for novices, and recipes that range from easy peasy to more advanced).
Gok Cooks Chinese: I love Chinese food – but lots of the cookbooks I had were a bit complex, requiring trips to a special Chinese food shop. These are mega easy and actually really tasty, helping you with the foundations of Chinese cooking.
Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals – Proof that you can knock up delicious food in half an hour.