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Of course, it goes without saying, I am not a health professional so as with most things on the internet, take this post with a pinch of salt.

As we get to the end of 2019, I was reminiscing and I have noticed drastic changes in my diet and lifestyle. I think I am currently in my most happy, content place with my diet, exercise and healthy lifestyle so thought I would share some of the stuff I have learnt through my up-and-down continual battle with food and health.

This year was when I actively started following a gluten-free and dairy-free diet – not at all a choice or out of wanting to be healthier. Like I mentioned on the Faith and Food Sheffield page, my body developed IBS at some point and I was living in constant pain from the food I was eating.

Because IBS is hard to diagnose and everyone’s condition is different, it took a long long LONG time to realise that gluten and dairy (among other things) caused me extreme levels of pain and uncomfortability.

So over night, I had to say goodbye to my beloved bread, cheese, pasta and all my favourite foods. I’ve gotten into a great space now where I still get to make my favourite pasta dishes and I make pancakes every week (they’re part of my self-care regime!) by replacing things with gluten-free and dairy-free options, so I still very much enjoy food.

It was definitely a journey to get to where I am now with food. It’s crazy looking back how much of an idol food and dieting became in my life, just because it was so hard to have to change something I was comfortable with. One day I’ll really dive deep into this but for now I’ll just say, I’m grateful for the place I’m in now.

Alongside the battle with food, I started (and stopped!) going to the gym multiple times this year. I can be a very committed person or the complete opposite side of the spectrum where I’m extremely lazy and indifferent. This meant my stomach switched between having a six pack and being large enough for me to rest a plate on, a lot of times over the year.

I have come a long way and this post is kinda to celebrate that as well as hopefully inspire some of y’all!

1. Eat your meals late(ish)

Clock late
Picture from Unsplash

This probably goes against everything you’ve ever heard about dieting but this genuinely worked for me!

I found eating breakfast later in the morning (10:30/11am), lunch later (1:30/2pm), tea (5:30/6pm) and dinner later (8/9pm) helped shrink my appetite.

Hopefully this isn’t just me but I am always hungry. Like, I am always ready to eat and can eat if given the opportunity.

Doing this consistently took a lot of willpower (and prayer) at first but over time, my appetite noticeably shrank. I don’t wake up hungry and I don’t go to sleep hungry.

2. Eat meals in a bowl

food in a bowl
Picture from Unsplash

There’s probably some precise science as to why this works but all I know is I find it so comforting to eat meals in a bowl. I can’t explain it but food just tastes better in a bowl.

3. Use smaller plates or containers

Bowls of food
Picture from Unsplash

Kind of following on from the last one, eating on smaller plates means you generally end up dishing less food on your plate but it still looks like it’s full. It’s like your eyes are tricking your brain into eating less but thinking you’re eating the same amount.

This has been the best way for me to eat less, especially at lunch. I switched out my old lunch box for work (which held enough food for literally 2 and a half people) for a travel-sized bowl. Which leads us to…

4. Take a packed lunch to work

Packed lunch
Picture from Unsplash

This has been the best thing for both my healthy eating AND my finances. I used to love eating out at lunch. But cooking and bringing in a packed lunch to work everyday has become my new favourite thing.

I quite enjoy cooking – although my repertoire of dishes I cook isn’t super extensive – so it’s also a leisurely past time as well as a necessity.

Making your own meals means you can totally control how much sugar, salt, meat and any other ingredient you are avoiding (or cutting down) is in it. For me, it means I can control my portion sizes (which was my main issue before) and I can also make sure what I’m eating is actually gluten and dairy free.

5. Intermitted fasting is your friend

Fasting bread and water
Picture from Unsplash

Fasting has so many amazing physical and spiritual implications – you can Google it if you don’t believe me.

I have been regularly fasting for spiritual reasons for years now but actually including it as part of my healthy lifestyle has been so rewarding. At least once a week I will fast my breakfast in the morning. When I’m doing this, I try and make sure that I get loads of fluids in, because half the time I’m not actually hungry. I’m thirsty…

6. Drink truck loads of water

Drinking water
Picture from Unsplash

Continuing on, water. Apparently we are 60% water so it’s no wonder it’s so important to our bodies.

It still freaks me out when I meet people that don’t drink water and would rather drink a Coke than good ole H2O. How, Sway, how? Water is so refreshing and like I said before, a lot of the time you aren’t hungry, your body just needs to be hydrated.

7. Set up a gym/exercise schedule that you won’t fail at

Going to the gym
Picture from Unsplash

As you plan your 2020 New Year resolutions, let’s stop setting ourselves up to fail.

Maybe no to ‘I’ll go to the gym 6 times a week‘ and yes to ‘I’ll go at least once a week and build that up to twice a week in 3 months time‘. Let’s be ambitious, yes but let’s also give ourselves a fighting chance.

For me, I had to be honest with myself: there was absolutely NO WAY I was going to the gym late in the evening in the winter. Nope, no way. Whereas, over spring and summer, I was so committed and was averaging going to the gym 3/4 times a week.

So, over autumn and winter I try and walk more but I cancel my gym membership. And that works for me so it’s okay.

8. Get enough sleep so you don’t eat to compensate

Cat napping sleep
Picture from Unsplash

I absolutely hate not getting enough sleep. I’m not fully myself when my mind and body have not had a chance to fully rest and reset.

When you’re tired, you are less likely to be disciplined with your new lifestyle choices. You may have that donut as a boost of energy, whereas if you had those 7 and a half hours in bed, you would be energised and wouldn’t need it.

9. Be patient with yourself, habits take time to develop

Patient bench
Picture from Unsplash

Be patient. It will take time to get used to new lifestyle changes, no matter how small they are.

When I was switching to a gf, dairy-free life, I slipped up many many many times. Each time, the side effects reminded me why it was important that I stay committed to the new lifestyle. It took time for me to get there.

And I still occasionally eat stuff I’m not supposed to and suffer from self-inflicted pain, but I just have to get back on the horse, as they say.

Don’t try and change everything in one go: little-by-little, you’ll develop the lifestyle you want for yourself!

I hope this helps you implement some healthier habits to your life. If you want to hear more about my diet and lifestyle (contrary to popular opinion, I still really enjoy food and cooking!), let me know and I’ll do more posts about what eat and do.

Also, I recommend purchasing MoChunks e-Book (comes in video version too!): Losing Weight Nigerian for more food and dieting tips!


Paula Melissa xx

Paula Melissa is a digital content creator, portrait photographer and freelance journalist. Since starting a blog in 2012 and graduating from the University of Sheffield with a Journalism Studies with Employment Experience degree in 2019, Paula has gone on to create and grow her own dynamic digital media empire. She loves reading, eating and spending time with her dog, Rolfie.
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