Changing Habits Changing Lives Review: How Cyndi O’Meara Inspired my Health Transformation

January 11, 2015 | By More

 

I was reflecting the other day on how much my life has changed for the better health wise in the past few years. Reflection always leads somehow to the question of “where did this all start?” And for me it was a book called Changing Habits Changing Lives by Australian nutritionist Cyndi O’Meara.

Changing-Habits-Changing-Lives-front-cover-3.4I have read and absorbed so much information about the effect of healthy eating habits over the past several years since starting this blog and studying food coaching, but this book was certainly the catalyst for all that has transpired since.

At the end of this post I have listed the top 5 tips that have influenced me and helped me to finally get healthy, lose weight and keep it off without the awful feelings of hunger, deprivation and misery that come with dieting. You can take a look at the book here: Changing Habits Changing Lives Book. But now, let me share my story.

It Wasn’t Always Easy

It is so easy for me now, but it wasn’t always the case. At the time of first reading this book I was a confirmed junk food addict. Embracing healthy eating just wasn’t a priority for me despite the fact that I had been battling an extra 15 to 20 unwanted extra pounds for many years.

Changing-Habits-Changing-Lives-Review----Backcover-3.3To me dieting was the only way to lose weight so I would periodically go on the latest fad diet. I tried all of them including Weight Watchers, Herbalife, pharmacy branded shake plans, soup diets, low carb, low fat, high protein, calorie controlled, raw food, you name it, I tried it.

The problem was that I was always miserable when dieting and as soon as I attained my desired weight, I would go back to my usual eating habits and put it all back on, usually with a few extra pounds too. Can you relate?

What I didn’t realize then was that many of these diets promoted eating highly processed foods full of chemicals, additives, artificial sweeteners and genetically modified ingredients. Many of which are highly addictive and can actually cause weight gain.

I used to love all junk food. Don’t get me wrong, I am a foodie and I have always loved dining out at great restaurants and cooking fabulous food at home. I always sourced the yummiest, freshest ingredients I could, and I made everything from scratch.

I also, however, often used to indulge in all manner of junk food from the grocery store and fast food outlets. I regularly enjoyed burgers, gourmet donuts, desserts, store-bought cakes, dressings, ice creams, candies and anything else that tasted good to me at the time.

My First Foray Into Healthy Eating

Surprisingly enough, my first awakening to healthy food and the additives and chemicals in foods came, not for me, but our son who I had at 44. I wanted to give him the best start in life so I cooked all of his food fresh. I also started researching the ingredients in food and the potential harmful effects of additives and chemicals. It all made sense to me and I ensured that he had the healthiest foods available while still making meals that were interesting and yummy for a youngster.

The crazy thing is that although I had all of this newfound knowledge that I was diligently applying to our son’s diet, I never considered applying it to my own eating habits. Duh!

Enter Changing Habits Changing Lives

Changing-Habits-Changing-Lives-Review----Book-CoverIt was nearly 13 years later when I first heard about Cyndi O’Meara and it was at one of those times when I was on the bad end of my yo-yo dieting cycle. I was nearly 30 pounds (18kg) overweight and I felt miserable.

After hearing about Cyndi’s book, I did some Internet research and found that she had impressive credentials and was a highly regarded nutritionist and healthy living expert. I thought I would at least read it in the hope that I could find a better way to lose weight and keep it off while still being able to enjoy delicious food.

It was like turning on a light switch. It all made sense, and most importantly it didn’t seem difficult. The book is well written, informative, entertaining and not too technical. In other words, a fun read that is easy to understand.

The whole premise is to make small changes one week at a time and adopt them until they become a habit. When I say small, I mean really easy doable steps that anyone could do without too much sacrifice.

Some of them I had heard of before and were really just common sense, but the way Cyndi writes and explains things makes it a lot more motivating and it propels you to actually take action and do it. She also makes suggestions about the logistics and affordability of implementing the steps.

This is not a diet book and doesn’t place restrictions on the amount of food you can eat. To quote Cyndi:

Quote 1.3 from book Changing Habits Changing Lives Review

My Five Top Tips

In the book there are over 40 weekly tips for you to turn into habits. Some of them you will find easy, some more difficult and some you may already be doing. If you can implement even some of them you will be well on the way to a happier, healthier and slimmer you, and that will give you the motivation to try even more of them.

At the end of each chapter there are simple action steps to take for that week and in some chapters there are also some simple recipes to help you get started. She also has a full selection of healthy recipes in her cookbook which comes with over 200 recipes. You can learn more about it here: Changing Habits Changing Lives Cookbook

Here are the five tips that made the biggest impact for me. You may find different ones but the most important thing is to take action and get started (remember, even small changes can make a big difference over time!)

Top Tip 1: Healthy Reading (Chapter 7)

As they say :‘knowledge is power’. This chapter is all about the ingredients in your food and how they affect your health and weight. To quote Cyndi:

Quote 2.4 from book Changing Habits Changing Lives v3

 

I had a bit of a head start here because of all the research I did to ensure my son had a healthy diet once he went on to solid foods. There are many people though, who would love to know more about this but don’t know where to start and the food companies will go to any lengths to hide bad ingredients which makes understanding food labels really tricky.

Changing-Habits-Changing-Lives-Review----Chapter-7

This chapter will help you to learn how to read labels and also identify hidden nasties in food products. Cyndi recommends two books, both of which I own and use regularly. They are called Additive Alert by Julie Eady and The Chemical Maze by Bill Statham.

Top Tip 2: The Facts on Fat (Chapter 10)

Changing-Habits-Changing-Lives-ReviewTo me this is one of the most important things to learn. We have been indoctrinated for so many years that fat is bad and we should avoid it at all costs but all the while, as a society, we have been getting fatter and fatter. The reason is that fats taste great, they give flavor to foods and when the fat is removed the food tastes boring. So, to ensure people continue to buy their products, manufacturers add untold amounts of sugars and artificial flavors to make their, so-called, “food” more palatable.

Cyndi explains why fats are important to our diets and how to identify healthy fats from unhealthy ones plus the adverse effects that hydrogenated fats have on our bodies.

Top Tip 3: Go Back to Butter (Chapter 11)

butter---Cindy-Omeara-Review-v3.1

I so loved this chapter because I so love butter. I have always loved butter but all the diets I have tried have ruled it out as a ‘bad food’. This chapter discusses the myth that margarine is the healthier option. It discusses the history of margarine manufacturing; all the processing and additives used in the manufacturing process and the health consequences.

You will never eat margarine again after reading this short chapter but you will continue to enjoy butter, which is not only tastier, but healthier as well.

Top Tip 4: Forget About Calories (Chapter 27)

I loved following her first recommendation in this chapter and that was throwing my (well used) calorie counter in the trash. Yipeeee!

Cyndi explains in layman’s terms why the whole calorie counting theory is flawed and offers insight into why dieting will actually make you fatter, a counter intuitive notion that will help you reassess the way you eat. She offers insight into how you can change your metabolic rate so that you can lose weight and keep it off.

Top Tip 5: Balancing Proteins and Carbohydrates (Chapter 23)

In this chapter Cyndi discusses the flaws in ‘high protein’ and ‘low fat’ diets (both of which I had tried in my diet yo-yoing days.) She explains why they cannot work long term and offers easier and more sensible solutions. It’s all about balance.

Your Habits Will Change Over Time

As I mentioned earlier, I read a lot about healthy living and weight loss and this book was the very beginning for me. My transformation from overweight and unhappy didn’t happen overnight. It has been an ongoing process of trial and error, experimentation and research, but it has all been worth it. At 62 I feel fitter, slimmer and healthier than I did in my late 40s and I plan on keeping it that way.

Just recently, I was wandering around the grocery store appalled at most of the food that was being offered for tasting.

Years ago I would have tried all of them or, if I was on one of my numerous dieting efforts, I would be salivating and wishing I wasn’t on a diet so I could try them all. But now, all I could think of was the amount of chemicals, additives and genetically modified ingredients in them and I was not even remotely tempted to try them, let alone buy them.

What I Don’t Like about it

When writing a review I always try to keep it balanced by also talking about the things I dislike about a product or service. However, this book had such a huge impact on my life, one that has continued to this day, that I don’t have much bad to say. If I had to come up with a criticism it would be that a few of the chapters just seemed like common sense to me. Chewing your food for example. I think everyone knows that, but maybe not, and she does go on to elaborate on the reasons for chewing and tips on how to develop the habit, so I suppose this isn’t really a complaint.

I would love to hear from you in the comments below, so please share your experiences, questions or other insights into healthy eating and weight control without sacrificing flavor and fun with food. If you would like to check out her book further, you can find it here: Changing Habits Changing Lives Book

NOTE: Australia versus USA. Cyndi O’Meara is an Australian living in Australia so the references in the book refer to the Australian food system. Having lived in both countries, I know that the tactics she suggests are as important, if not more so, for people living in the USA. Food in the USA is much cheaper than in Australia (nearly half) but it is even more important to be mindful of ingredients and processing because the USA regulatory bodies allow much more genetically modified food and chemicals that are banned in other countries. Fortunately there is a much bigger organic food movement here in The States so it is easier to find organic food at a reasonable price. Either way, Cyndi´s book can be a valuable resource, no matter the country where you live. It has had a huge impact in my life and I think it may help you too.

 

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