Don’t think of it as a diet. Think of it as an improvement in your eating habits. You don’t have to suffer to be fit and healthy. On the contrary, you should be enjoying yourself! That way, you can sustain it. Here are ways on how to eat more, enjoy food, and still lose weight!

1. Eat more whole food. Eat less processed food.

Whole food means it’s all-natural, usually only has 1 ingredient, and was once part of nature. Examples are lettuce, mangos, plain nuts, rice, chicken, and oysters. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients and usually have lower calories than processed food.

Eat less processed or convenience food because most are chemically altered, has added fat, sweeteners, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. They are calorie-dense with zero nutrients. You’ll know by reading labels. Examples are pastries, canned meat, canned fruit, hot dogs, and juice drinks.

So between a plate of microwave pasta with 400 calories and a plate of sweet potatoes, grilled veggies, and steak with the same amount of calories, you’re better off choosing the latter. You get to eat more but it’s obviously way better for you.

2. Eat more Protein

Protein has numerous weight-loss benefits: it’s harder to digest so you burn more calories just by eating it, it keeps you feeling fuller for longer, it helps build muscles which make your metabolism faster.

Plan your meals around protein and you’ll be a fat-loss success in no time! It doesn’t have to come from meat all the time. Other sources of protein are beans and legumes, spinach, nuts and seeds, quinoa, and many others. Make sure to include those in your meals too.

3. Eat more food you like. Eat less food you don’t.

Now that you know that you have to eat whole food instead of processed food. Find food items that you actually like and enjoy eating.

If you like brown rice instead of sweet potatoes, by all means, eat more brown rice! If you don’t like avocados, skip them and consume other sources of healthy fat like nuts. If you’re vegan, eat all the vegan food you love.

While it’s important to have a variety of food in your diet, don’t force yourself into eating something you really don’t have the stomach for. Find alternatives so you still have balance. If you don’t like what you’re eating, or if you deprive yourself of what you like, you will become stressed. Your body will react by releasing stress hormones and that’s detrimental for your health too. Aside from that, nobody can sustain a diet they don’t like.

4. Snack more. Overindulge less.

It’s better to eat five to six small meals than to overindulge in two meals a day. There’s still some debate as to whether or not eating more frequently helps our metabolism work faster. But for sure, eating small, frequent meals will keep your hunger at bay so you don’t overindulge.

What’s been proven is that weight loss depends on how many calories we consume versus how many we expend. Saving your hunger for the last minute will only make you get cravings and eat more than you have to. Light snacking on healthy food like a fruit of nuts in between your main meals will help you keep to your daily caloric needs.

5. Scrap perfection. Embrace imperfection.

Nobody is perfect. We all have slip-ups from time to time. It’s okay to have a cheat meal once or even twice a week. For most of us, it helps keep our sanity while on a diet. It’s like a mental and physical reset so that we can go back to eating right with more motivation.

Don’t have an all-or-nothing attitude though! A cheat meal is okay but a cheat day isn’t. Just because you gave in to your chocolate cravings during lunch, it doesn’t mean that your diet for the entire week is ruined. It doesn’t mean that you can lose your motivation and start eating whatever you want, how much you want again.

For those who are too rigid with their diets, a cheat meal can actually do you good and help you progress even more. Our bodies adapt to the changes we put it through. For example, if you’ve been eating the same healthy meals at the same time for weeks on end, your body already knows and can predict the routine so sometimes this can actually slow down your metabolism. A cheat meal can “shock” your body because it’s not used to the change, which in turn revs up your metabolism again.

Don’t be afraid, plan your cheat meal for the week. Just remember to keep things in moderation.

6. Take your time. Don’t take shortcuts.

Any diet that promises “instant” or “magic” results are usually either dangerous or unsustainable. Anything that’s extreme and can make you lose weight at an unreasonable rate can do more harm than good. Understand that losing weight is a journey. It’s a process that you have to undergo properly in order for you to get healthier and more fit while you’re at it.

It’s better to go slow, achieve milestones along the way, and maintain steady progress than lose weight in a few days, crash, and end up even more unhealthy than when you first started.

7. Don’t just diet. Do exercise too!

By now, we all know that our weight is determined by how much calories we consume versus how much we expend. Now that you’ve gotten your diet and nutrition down pat, make sure that you also engage in a sound exercise program to help your weight loss plans even more.

Exercise helps us burn even more fat by increasing our calorie expenditure. As our bodies adapt to exercise, we can actually eat more! Cool, right?

It also helps us maintain or build more muscles. Again, by now we know that muscles make our metabolism faster! Several other benefits of exercise include: it gives us more energy throughout the day, it helps us sleep better, it improves circulation which makes our skin healthier, making us look younger, it makes our bones sturdier, it helps with brain health, it makes our hearts stronger, and lastly–exercising helps release endorphins, the happy hormones. It makes us feel happier and more optimistic to live our lives to the fullest!