Qualified nutritionist and health writer Michele Chevalley Hedge wants us to ditch the guilt and enjoy what we eat and drink – and still see results.
Can you indulge in your favourite foods, enjoy a glass of wine here and there, and still lose weight?
According to Michele Chevalley Hedge, the answer is yes.
A qualified nutritionist and health writer who is passionate about helping people achieve their health goals, Michele knows what it’s like to be overweight – in fact, she vividly recalls the time where she was 10kg overweight and had never felt more miserable in her life.
But it was the decision to overhaul her health, eat healthier and shed those extra kilos that eventually saw her get her life back on track and ultimately led her to pursue a career in nutrition.
Drawing from her own lived experiences and her many years experience in nutrition, Michele released her first book, Beating Sugar Addictions for Dummies, which was a success, followed by her second book, The Healthy Hormone Diet, which also turned out to be a hit.
But with her third and latest book, Eat, Drink & Still Shrink, Michele wanted to get down to the very problem that many Australians face – the inability to lose weight as a result of our busy, demanding lifestyles.
In a bid to help Aussies lose those extra kilos and keep it off for good, Michele came up with a 28-day ‘reset’ eating plan which is not only practical and sustainable, but still allows them to enjoy the finer things in life.
Having seen countless patients in her clinical practice who’ve struggled to lose weight and keep it off, Michele says there are two key factors that often drive an unhealthy lifestyle – a diet that comprises mostly packaged, processed foods and food deprivation, both of which often leads to binge eating and weight gain.
In her book, she lays out the foundations of how people can adopt a healthy diet consisting of mostly wholesome, unpackaged and unprocessed foods, with the odd exception of processed snacks and indulgent treats.
“Now, I live in the real world with everyone else – I have three children, I have a silly dog, I have a hundred loads of laundry, so I’m not always eating real whole foods, but most of the time, I am,” she says.
“But when I’m not, I’m making sure that the packaged foods I’m eating don’t contain a lot of hidden sugars. For example, a lot of our yoghurts that look super healthy are packed with added sugars and sugar can be disguised in many different names.
I’m not talking about the natural sugars in fruits, vegetables and grains, and for the most part, in moderation, these natural sugars will not upset our blood glucose and our insulin.”
Should you have to go for the more convenient option of packaged foods, Michele recommends reading the nutrition label carefully.
“So we need to become a label reader,” she says.“Often, it’s those healthy-looking yoghurts or muesli bars or those paleo balls where the perception is ‘Oh that’s healthy’.
“What happens is they skip the brown rice and the sweet potatoes and then they’re binging on the ‘healthy’ paleo bar or gluten-free things, which are often packed with sugar.
“So that’s the big thing playing into people’s diets. There’s still this marketing biscuit section where these terms are used and are perceived as healthy, but they’re often not.”
Michele also warns against depriving yourself of certain foods, which can lead to binge eating and weight gain.
“I’m absolutely convinced that the greatest path to wellbeing is not having an extreme approach,” she says.
“So when we deprive ourselves, there’s this yo-yo effect – and while they’re trying to stick to this 500 calorie diet of eggs and celery, they’re not learning to feed themselves.
“So they’re getting weight loss without the education, and when they come off, boom, the weight goes back on.”
She also believes that, when it comes to striking the right balance for good health and wellbeing, there’s more to it than just eating healthy.
“I always talk about the knock-on effect of eating well, sleeping well and exercising well which affects not just yourself physically, but also mentally and emotionally,” she says.
“Once people start to dip their toe into the water of healthy eating, it has an effect on their sleep, it has an effect on their mood, and it has the ability to keep their blood sugar well-balanced so that they’re actually becoming present enough to connect with people.”
When it comes to practising healthy living, Michele says sleep, exercise, practicing gratitude, finding ways to bust stress and banishing guilt are her five ‘non-negotiables’.
In Eat, Drink & Still Shrink, Michele lays out a series of micro-habits under each of her ‘non-negotiables’ which are practical and, most of all, achievable, no matter what stage you’re at in your life. Some of her micro-habits include restructuring your bedtime, eliminating ‘blue light’ from your computer, phone or laptop after dinner for a good night’s sleep, training with weights, committing to a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) session once or twice a week, and keeping a journal to remind yourself daily of what you’re thankful for.
Having dealt with a fair share of clients with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, Michele is a believer of embracing complex carbohydrates like sweet potato, brown rice and quinoa, but sticking to eating these foods during the day.
“When we’re talking about people with insulin-resistance, pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes, I like those people to use a bit of carbs particularly at breakfast and lunch, but not necessarily at dinner,” she explains.
“Because those types of good carbs, which I call energy burners or fuel for our brain and our muscles, most of us after dinner aren’t running a marathon or studying, so we don’t necessarily need to have those extra energy or calories on board at night.
“So eat well during the day and use those carbs to fuel your brain and your energy, but then at night, move to your protein and good-quality fat, and then an abundance of veggies that aren’t starchy.”
For those who may struggle to manage their blood glucose levels, Michele says it’s important to remember that a good night’s sleep and reducing stress levels can make a world of difference.
“Whilst nutrition will have an effect on a person’s insulin, they also need to be thinking just as much about their sleep and their stress levels,” she says.
“Because both sleep and stress will have an enormous impact on people’s insulin levels and blood glucose. In fact, for some people it is the key driver of their insulin issues in diabetes. It’s not necessarily their nutrition.”
Eat, Drink & Still Shrink by Michele Chevalley Hedge, published by Plum (RRP $34.99) is out now.