How I started:

My story actually begins at puberty. But the few extra kilos didn’t bother me too much at the time. That changed when I got to my thirties and after several diets I did not manage to lose 5-10 kilos. The yo-yo effect … I know all about it. Protein shakes and soup diets, dietitian visits and Weight Watchers … I’ve been there. Unfortunately, these things only seemed to work for a while … until a Spanish doctor told me: “Buy a treadmill and grow your own veggies.”
I’m not slim by nature and never will be. Accepting that as a fact will spare you from a source of frustration. My body is my body, with its beautiful aspects and less beautiful ones … That my BMI is 24 and not 20 no longer bothers me. I feel good and live healthy, and that matters a lot more to me.

Belgians and people from the South of the Netherlands are sometimes said to have a ´Burgundian´ lifestyle, meaning that they indulge in the good things of life, more particularly in copious meals with meat, creamy sauces and rich products. But the true meaning of ´Burgundian lifestyle´ is “to enjoy a snack and a drink”. And that is exactly what I have learned here in Spain: to enjoy some nice tapas with a glass of fine wine. Essential to the Mediterranean diet is to enjoy food together, in the company of others.

Eating a healthy amount and being aware of what you eat is already a big step forward. It is the awareness that leads to change. But only when you are ready for it.

Step by step towards a healthy lifestyle:

1
Do not fool yourself. Put apologies and excuses aside. Consult your family in your search for solutions.
2
Do not check your weight every single day and do not count calories. Check occasionally and make adjustments if you see it going the wrong way.
3
Move! You’re not doing me a favour with a subscription to the gym. I know I can only keep doing something if it is a thing I like and if I can do it in a relaxed way, such as swimming and jogging. Because of our business, I’ve had to juggle a bit with time, but in the end I managed to make things fit into the schedule. In the morning my husband takes the kids to school; I leave after breakfast and go for a 1km swim. That means 30 minutes of swimming, 4-5 days a week. In addition, 2-4 times a week I do 35 minutes of brisk walking or jogging. Whether this is sufficient exercise I do not know but for me it’s feasible, so I can carry on doing it.
4
Stop eating sweets. Even though I only ate two cookies a day with my coffee … now I do not eat any cookies anymore. Treat yourself once a week and enjoy it. I typically have a croissant or a pancake. Eliminating sweets from your diet will also eliminate the craving so you can enjoy that one treat all the more. That way there’s nothing to feel bad about.
5
Open your fridge and make room for fruit and vegetables. I bought several stackable trays which I fill with things like raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, … ready to grab.
6
Make weekly notes of what you want to do for food. (On my homepage there’s a weekly planner you can download.)
7
When buying, give preference to unprocessed products! If you like a piece of meat then buy a chicken leg instead of a prepared burger. Look for honest meat, preferably unprocessed.
8
Take your time to read the labels. Pay attention to sugars, fats and carbohydrates. (NB. 4g of sugar corresponds to 1 teaspoon!)
9
When making fresh vegetable sauces, make a double portion. That way you will have some reserve in the freezer for days when you’re pressed for time. Make different kinds of vegetable soup that can be frozen in portions. Always handy on busy days.
10
If you’re not used to cooking with vegetables, let yourself be inspired by the internet or cookbooks. You’ll see, the more inspiration, the more fun it is to cook. And when you start experimenting it really gets exciting …
11
Leave behind that typical plate of potatoes, vegetables and meat with sauce. Try replacing the potatoes with a different kind of vegetables or legumes.
12
Watch your portions! 80% should be vegetables. If you’re also preparing legumes then it should be 60% vegetables, 20% legumes and 20% fish/meat. If you’re using large plates, do not overfill your plate! (On my homepage you can find a handy rule of thumb to determine one serving.)
13
Make sure to have some healthy snacks in the house, to deal with those sudden munchies. I for one always have raspberries, blackberries and grapes or pistachios in stock. If I would rather have something salty, I may enjoy some crispy seaweed.
14
Invite friends to have food together and challenge yourself to prepare a table full of goodies made from fruit and vegetables. You will see people react in a positive way and how stimulating that will be for you. Even a BBQ may consist of mainly vegetables.
15
If your spouse and/or children are not readily impressed with your new style, please them occasionally with what they do like. My family like potatoes once in a while and then I might make potatoes in the oven with thyme and rosemary, or mashed potatoes. Quickly ready, little work and they like it.
16
Organize an outing over the weekend, take a walk or go for a bike ride. Try to do something active. When you do this regularly you will notice that you start liking it.
17
As to exercise and food: choose the most feasible solutions for you and your family. It should remain fun for everyone!
18
And above all, don’t forget to enjoy!

 

Do not postpone! There’s always an excuse to be found for not doing something … Look for motivation and set yourself small, achievable goals. For example: no more sugar in your coffee, no cookies for a week … If you know that you cannot resist the temptation of the sweets, don’t buy any!