Balanced Eating: Stop Dieting & Lose Weight

Diets don't work. So, maybe the only way to keep weight off is to change the way you eat, and to eat that way for the rest of your life. I call this way of eating, balanced eating. It's not a diet, because hey, who needs another failed diet? Balanced Eating is a way to eat that helps to lose weight, maintain weight and incorporate foods you love regularly. Sound too good to be true? Read on!

Balanced Eating: What to Do When DIets Don't Work

If Diets Don't Work, What's a Girl (or Guy) to Do?

First, let's just get diets off the table. You don't need research to tell you they don't work. I bet you're like me and have been on the "on a diet off a diet, then weigh more before the diet train" way too many times.

To be happy and healthy, the only thing that does work is to figure out how to eat so that your body gets what it needs and your mind is happy, too. 

Since food is a big psychological trigger to happiness for most, that means you'll need a way to incorporate the foods you love that are not good for your waistline. 

What those foods are depend on your upbringing. For most of us, our food loves were set during childhood. I love pasta with marinara sauce, pot pies, apple pie, well the list is too long to go on, but a low carb or low fat version of them just isn't going to do it for me when I want the real thing. 

Giving up just isn't part of my nature. I'm the person that tries something 50 times until I finally get it right. Sometimes, it takes me a while to realize I need to change my way of thinking. 

After I finally realized diets weren't working for me (which took years because I thought it was something wrong with me versus something wrong with the concept of dieting), I began to put together a different way of eating for myself.

Day by day, that way of eating became a plan I call Balanced Eating. I developed recipes, tips, and guidelines that I could incorporate into my plan. Many of these were based off of some of those failed diets. But, unlike those diets, they included ways to incorporate foods I loved and to learn how to eat in a way that kept me happy and healthy. 

If you want to read more about my personal journey with weight gain and loss, check out my post My Weight Loss and Maintenance Story

Balance spelled out in tiles with purple background

So What's Balanced Eating Anyway?

Balanced eating has six main guidelines that work great for healthy weight loss and maintenance:

  1. Eat carbs and fats separately.
  2. Eat protein regularly.
  3. Focus on healthy foods.
  4. Eat every three to six hours.
  5. Recognize optional foods.
  6. Balance optional foods, healthy foods, and activity.

Let's look at each of those guidelines in a little more depth. Most of them are pretty easy, and they're not rocket science, but they work.

Eat carbs and fats separately

This just means you eat carbohydrates and fats at different times. Eating carbs and fats separately helps to keep your body from storing fat. 

So if you're eating fat, you don't eat high carb foods like grains, high carb vegetables, sugar, etc. within two and preferably three hours of eating the fat. You eat no more than five grams of carbs when you eat fat. 

When you eat carbohydrates, you eat no more than five grams of fat. For those of us from the US, five grams of most fats is about a level teaspoon. However, it is important to eat a little fat with carbs as it aids in digestion and can help absorb fat soluble vitamins in foods. 

Eat protein regularly

Each time you eat, you'll be eating protein with your carbs or fat. A good guideline is 10 grams with snacks and 20 grams with meals. 

Protein requirements are going to vary by age, activity level, etc. So, this is a guideline only. 

Why eat protein? If you have a big appetite or are a frequent snacker, protein helps to balance blood sugar and make you feel full longer. 

I have a huge appetite. As a result, this guideline is super important for me. 

I'm also not much of a snacker. When I eat 20 grams of protein with each meal, I'm getting a good amount of protein for me each day, staying full between meals, and contributing to my overall physical health.

Focus on Healthy Foods

To focus on healthy foods, you have to know what is healthy and what is not healthy. 

Assorted vegetables

What's Healthy?

Once again, not rocket science :). It's no secret that vegetables are better for you than just about any other food, with fruits coming in next. If you're a vegetable hater, then sneaking veggies in whenever and wherever possible is very important. 

Also, low carb veggies like lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage go with fat. You'll eat fruit and high carbohydrate veggies with other carb foods and protein. If you're unsure which vegetables are low carbohydrate, check out this post from Healthline, The 21 Best Low-Carb Vegetables.

Healthy eating includes eating vegetables on a regular basis and including other food groups such as fruits; nuts and seeds, whole grains, except wheat and corn; limited amount of dairy and eggs; and low mercury fish. 

If you're allergic to any of those healthy foods, then don't eat them. Due to the allergic reaction, those foods are not healthy for you.

I'm an enthusiastic supplement taker. You can read more about that in my post My 7 Reasons to Supplement and Specifically What I Take. Still, I believe it's extremely important to eat a varied diet. 

Balanced Eating: Baby with Cake with Flowered Icing

What's Not Healthy?

Like what is healthy, most of us already know what isn't good for us to eat or drink. 

  • Too much alcohol
  • Deep fried foods
  • Over-processed foods
  • Meat
  • Sugar, high carb sweeteners and artificial sweeteners

Meat is not a healthy food. Sorry! It's true!! There are many studies that follow long-lived groups of people such as Seventh Day Adventists. All of these different groups of people around the world have similar dietary practices. They're either vegetarian, vegan, or pescatarian (eat fish occasionally). None of them eat meat regularly.

I believe you can maintain or lose weight eating meat (that's proven), but you decrease your likelihood of being healthy long-term as a meat eater. Further, if you are a meat eater, then reducing your meat intake is very beneficial to your health. 

As a result, I do not include any recipes on Naturally Happy Healthy Me or in the Balanced Eating Plan that include meat. If you want to eat meat, then you can find a huge number of recipes online for the keto diet that include meat. Keto meat recipes will be low carb / high fat / protein.

I do occasionally eat meat as part of my optional meals. However, I try to limit my meat consumption. 

Eat Every Three Six Hours

This just means you try to eat no less than three hours since you ate last and no more than six hours apart.

Why? Because eating regularly regulates blood sugar levels and promotes eating the correct amount of food each time you eat. Plus, eating regularly helps ensure you will be able to think about what you'll eat versus stuffing anything in because you feel like you're starving.

I'm not a snacker so I try to eat meals every four to six hours depending on whether I'm hungry. If you are a snacker, then no problem. Just try not to eat more than every three hours. 

If you find you're super hungry, and it's only been an hour or two since you last ate. Then, you probably didn't eat enough food or you didn't eat enough protein. Just eat more of the type of food you last ate (either fat or carbs) and make sure you eat protein, too. 

Balanced Eating: Baby Holding Hand with Cake Icing over her Mouth with a cake in front of her.

Recognize Optional Foods

Optional foods significantly contribute to weight gain. They are wheat, corn, refined grains, potatoes, sugar, high carb sweeteners and carbs+fats together. 

When you eat them, be sure to enjoy them and don't feel guilty. However, realize you'll need to balance optional foods with healthy foods if you want to maintain or lose weight. 

It also helps to eat a fat and protein meal or snack the next time you eat to balance eating optional foods. 

This part of the eating plan is easy. All those foods you love to eat that make you overweight are probably optional foods. 

You still get to eat them...Hooray! You just have to balance them.

Balance Optional with Healthy Foods Plus Activity

If you decide to eat optional foods, then you need to balance your eating with healthy foods. Exercise can also be used to balance. Balancing just means taking steps to keep your body from going into a weight gain spiral. 

The most important step in balancing is determining how many times you need to eat healthy foods and activity for each time you eat optional foods. Your body will have a point where you've eaten too many optional foods, and you begin gaining weight. 

Maybe that point is one optional meal or snack to nine balanced meals, snacks, plus activity. Maybe it's less or more. 

If you're like I used to be, you don't know what that point is. But, I can tell you that it's a very important piece of information if you want to be able to eat the foods you love and lose or maintain weight. 

The easiest way to determine your balance point is through trial and error. I recommend you begin with one optional meal or snack for nine balanced meals, snacks, plus activity. Weigh yourself before you begin this experiment and weight yourself after you've finished the 10 total (1 optional + 9 balanced). 

If your weight remained the same, then that's your balance point. If it went up, then you need to add more to the balanced side. Try 1 optional + 10 balanced. Keep adding on the balanced side of the equation until your weight goes down.  Then, you've found your balance point to lose weight. If you're losing more than a pound a week, you may want to increase your optional eating.

Me Oatmeal Pancakes w Raspberry Syrup
Me Blueberry Muffin Being Buttered
Cinnamon Roll Cake for One

Balancing with Healthy Foods

To balance with healthy food, you just follow these guidelines which were provided above:

  • Eat carbs and fats separately.
  • Eat protein regularly.
  • Focus on healthy foods.
  • Eat regularly.

Each time you have a meal or snack where you're following these guidelines, then it counts toward one balance point. 

You can even earn bonus balance points by having foods that are low in carbs and fat with no more than five grams of each several times a week. (If you're familiar with Trim Healthy Mama, these foods are THM FP or fuel pull for their plan.) 

All the recipes on Naturally Happy Healthy Me are suitable for balancing with healthy food. Each recipe lists whether it's low carb, low fat or both. And, also lists whether it's suitable for Trim Healthy Mama or Keto. 

I give examples of balanced eating below to give you more insight into how balancing works. 

Balancing with Exercise

To be healthy, we must exercise. However, as you begin balanced eating I recommend no more than 45 minutes of exercise at a time and no more than several hours a week total in your balanced eating plan. Especially in the beginning. 

Why? Because over exercising can actually cause your body to retain weight. This is especially true for those who don't exercise regularly, don't eat enough, and are already under stress (either physical or mental). 

Even 15 minutes of walking counts as a balance point if you've been a couch potato before beginning balanced eating. The minimum exercise to gain a balance point is 15 minutes. 

If you have been inactive, are in poor health, etc. then you should always see a doctor before beginning exercise. 

Any type of exercise that is equal to or exceeds walking for 15 minutes counts. After you're comfortable with 15 minutes of mild exercise, like walking, then you can work your way up to more moderate forms of exercise. 

You don't have to include exercise to balance, but it makes balancing much easier. You must exercise to be healthy. Even if you're an optimal weight, and you don't exercise, your body will not be healthy long-term.

As you continue with balancing, you will need to increase your exercise to keep your body in balance as you will quickly adjust to the amount of exercise you're doing at any one time. 

Planet Fitness 30 Minute Workout
Top Balancing Exercise: Weight Lifting

Plus, the top exercise that makes your balance point lower (this means you can eat more optional foods before you gain weight!) is weight lifting. As you increase muscle mass, you will be able to eat more. Check out the 11 Major Health and Fitness Benefits of Lifting Weights for even more benefits to weight lifting.

I find going to the gym to workout especially to do weights intimidating. Because I'd rarely go if I went alone, I go with a friend several times a week. 

I'm a big advocate of Planet Fitness Weight Circuit. Their minimum monthly fee is $10, they don't require memberships, and they have a weight circuit with machines arranged where you can work out in half an hour. They also accept many insurance exercise programs where you pay nothing. Plus, a Planet Fitness trainer will show you how to use any piece of equipment or take you through the circuit for free. 

By only working out several times a week, you can add enough muscle mass to make a real difference in your balance point. Quickly! You'll notice a difference within a month. I'm speaking from experience. 

Easy Chili Salad
Cherry Berry Bliss Smoothie
Dijon Dill Salmon with Broccoli

Example of Balancing Optional Food with Healthy Foods and Exercise

You really want to eat at your favorite restaurant. So, you decide you're going to eat your favorite menu items that include both carbohydrates and fat. Plus, you're going to eat a huge dessert after and have wine with the meal. This is an optional meal. 

You're currently balancing nine healthy meals/snacks plus exercise with one optional meal. To balance, you'll need to

  • eat nine healthy meals / snacks OR
  • have seven healthy meals / snacks plus two exercise sessions OR
  • eat five healthy meals / snacks plus two healthy low fat / low carb meals / snacks OR
  • have six healthy meals / snacks plus three minimum 15 minute exercise sessions OR
  • eat four healthy meals / snacks plus two healthy low fat / low carb meals / snacks plus one exercise session OR
  • X healthy meals / snacks plus no more than two healthy low fat / low carb meals / snacks plus no more than three (minimum 15 minutes, maximum 45 minutes) exercise sessions = 9 balance points. Where X is nine minus (the number of balance points from low fat / low carb meals plus balance points from exercise sessions)

What If You're not Balanced Yet and You Eat Another Optional Meal / Snack?

Hey, we all do it. You know you haven't balanced yet from your last optional meal (which you loved and enjoyed!). While at a friend's house, you're offered a scrumptious looking pie. You think you'll just eat a bite, but the next thing you know, you've eaten a huge piece. 

First, don't beat yourself up. It happened. Enjoy it, then plan for how to balance it out. 

Next, figure out where you were in your last balancing act. You had three to go before you were balanced? Or was it four? No sweat! Say it was four and figure you have 13 healthy meals / snacks plus exercise to balance. 

13 may sound like a lot, but if you use your low carb / low fat options (+4), exercise three times (+3), then you only have six healthy meals / snacks to balance. 

What's the Difference Between Balanced Eating and Similar Plans Like Trim Healthy Mama or Keto?

The following is a simplistic comparison of Balanced Eating, Keto and Trim Healthy Mama:

Balanced Eating

  • Eating plan
  • No religious orientation
  • Includes optional foods you love with a way to balance them out to lose or maintain weight. 
  • Discourages meat consumption
  • Encourages use of monk fruit powder as a healthy sweetener
  • There is no on or off eating plan. Just in or out of balance.
  • Incorporates exercise

Keto

  • Diet
  • No religious orientation
  • Strict diet which includes high fat and protein with very low carbohydrate consumption. 
  • Encourages meat consumption
  • Rapid weight gain when off diet
  • Doesn't incorporate exercise

Trim Healthy Mama (THM)

  • Eating plan
  • Christian-based
  • Encourages meat consumption
  • Encourages the use of erythritol, stevia, and xylitol as sweeteners
  • Either on plan eating THM approved foods or off plan
  • Incorporates exercise
  • Sells specific THM products
Both keto and Trim Healthy Mama recipes can be used in balanced eating with some modifications. For example both keto and THM dessert recipes may use sweeteners that aren't healthy for many people. 
Balanced Eating: Girl Thinking About Eating a Cake

Try It, You'll Like It

If Balanced Eating sounds intriguing, then I recommend trying some of the yummy, fast recipes with no more than 15 minutes prep time on Naturally Happy Healthy Me like

Balanced Eating: What's Your Style? Comment and Share

Balanced eating is my solution to losing and maintaining weight. It works for me and has helped me to stop yo-yo dieting. It also helps me to stay healthy and happy. 

Have you tried the principles of balanced eating? Do they work for you? What changes have you made for your personal eating to lose or maintain weight?

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