Taking action and starting something new is always tricky. We like to make goals, research and read on how to achieve those goals, and create plans. But then, when it is time to take action, we often don’t even start. That is how most people’s diet plans go. Does that sound familiar?

Most of my clients come to me not for help in defining their goals, and not always to help them create a plan, but to help them start. Starting a diet, any diet, is simple, but definitely not easy. Often we become overwhelmed with all of the options and diet plans and quit before we begin. But there are a couple of things that all diet plans and weight loss programs have in common. These commonalities are the key to simplifying your plan and making it easier to start.

To simplify your diet plan and kick-start your nutrition program follow these simple five steps:

1. Get rid of the junk food –This is the most obvious step as we all know junk food is bad for us, and it is likely one of the easiest first steps.  To succeed at your health goals you have to stop eating junk food, no excuses. Junk food – chocolate bars, chips, pop, candy, sugar gum, etc. – are full of sugar, trans-fats, sodium and lack nutrients. They help satiate us in the moment, but they create a metabolic affect that makes us fat and leads to poor health.

2. Get rid of the “health” food that has added sugar – This step is as important as getting rid of the junk food. Sugar is hidden is lots of “healthy” foods such as granola bars, juice, non-fat yogurt, condiments such as ketchup, and chocolate milk. These foods are step up from junk food as they typically contain at least a few nutrients, and rarely contain trans-fats. But they often contain a lot of sugar, which can curtail your efforts and sabotage your diet and weight loss plan.

These foods are almost more harmful than junk food because they are often sold to us as a healthy option. We feel safer consuming them and will often consume more of them because we believe them to be good for us. But sugar is sugar, and all sugar is ruining our health.

Sugar is slowly being exposed for what it really is – poison. In small quantities it is necessary as we can use it for fuel, but in the large quantities that is normal in our western diet, sugar is killing us. Sugar initiates a metabolic response that can make it nearly impossible to lose weight, can lead to diabetes, heart disease and other metabolic diseases, increase chances of cancer and can lower our energy levels.

3. Eat real food – whatever diet you are want to follow, Mediterranean Diet, Paleo Diet, Keto Diet, Weight Watchers, Whole 30 or one of the thousand others, the most basic principle of all of them is to eat real food. Real food is food that is not processed, not packaged, and can be found in its true form – the way it looks when it is harvested from the ground, a tree or an animal.

This step is often challenging in our fast-paced, go-go-go society. We are often looking for short cuts or meal-hacks that make meal prep faster. But a lot of products we purchase to make life more efficient are full of sugar, preservatives and hidden calories. An example is pasta sauce. It’s actual very easy and relatively quick to make our own pasta sauce, and yet, to save time, we prefer to purchase it. Store bought pasta sauce typically always contains added sugar, and sometimes it includes preservatives.

Eating real food takes a bit of planning, and it is not as convenient as take-out food and packaged goods. But it is probably one of the most effective steps you can take to achieving real weight loss and improving your health.

4. Add vegetables to your diet – would you be surprised if I told you that the majority of people do not eat enough vegetables?  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in report released in 2013, 91% of Americans do not meet the recommendations for vegetable consumption.  Instead of eating vegetables people are filling up on grains and breads, fries, and junk food, all food that contributes to weight gain.

Increasing the amount of vegetables in your diet can have significant impact on your health and weight.  Firstly, vegetables are nutritionally dense – they pack a lot of nutrients into very few calories. Second, you can fill up on them with little fear of weight gain – they are full of fibre, which helps you feel full and with vegetables containing so few calories you can eat a lot of them and not have them negatively impact your weight.

5. Minimize pasta, breads and starches – pasta, breads and starches such as potatoes and sweet potatoes are high in carbohydrate and can contribute to weight gain when consumed in high amounts. Yes, they can be considered “healthy” food, but that doesn’t negate the fact that if you are consuming too many carbohydrates you will gain weight. It’s best to minimize these foods, eat them only a couple times a week, instead of regularly throughout the week. The best strategy is to replace your rice, potatoes and pasta side dishes with fresh vegetables.

The key to weight loss is as simple as these five steps – no junk food, no “health” food, eat real food, add vegetables to your diet and minimize carbohydrates such as pasta, breads and starches. Simple, right?

With some commitment and a bit of planning, I can pretty much guarantee that if you follow these five steps you will achieve the weight loss you desire without a complicated diet plan and without resorting to a challenging low-carb or low calorie diet that is not sustainable.

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