I’m not overly fat or unhealthy. I would just like to improve myself.
Give up alcohol consumption.
Alcohol is a carbohydrate (it’s a sugar) and it could potentially make you gain fat. It especially affects your liver, but your other organs as well - your brain, your stomach, your kidneys. It’s the “poison” of choice for many people and it’s socially-accepted in most societies, but if you have an addictive personality it can kill you, slowly but surely.
All added sugars (brown or white) as well as artificial sweeteners (aspartame and sugar alcohols like xylitol). Stevia is recommended. Even honey, agave, rice and maple syrup should be avoided.
Then you can switch to a high fat/low carb diet. There are a lot of benefits for this, but make sure you do your research and read from as many sources as you can. The internet is full.
Instead of a diet, you could consider an eating pattern that you can turn into a lifestyle. I can give you examples of Intermittent Fasting and the Ketogenic Diet.
There are more ways to do Intermittent Fasting (IF) but a very popular one is 16/8 - where you fast for 16 hours a day (including the hours you sleep) and have an 8 hour eating window. If you do this, you’ll do well with a low-ish carb, medium to high fat and medium to high protein. Get your carbs from fruit and vegetables and healthy whole grains. For example: brown rice, sweet potatoes, most veggies and stick to low glycemic index (low GI) fruits. For protein, go for healthy options like grass fed chicken, free range eggs, beef, pork, turkey, grass fed cheese. Nuts are also a good source - almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios. And of course beans and pulses (best type of protein if you’re vegetarian). And then be liberal with your healthy fats. Fats are essential - coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), grass fed butter and gee, avocados.
Now, for a ketogenic diet, your aim is to reduce carbs to a minimum and increase the amount of healthy fats you consume (no greasy pizza or deep fried stuff). For this, you want to get your carbs mostly from veggies - put them in soups, stews, smoothies, salads. Protein as above: go for healthy options like grass fed chicken, free range eggs, beef, pork, turkey, grass fed cheese. Nuts are also a good source - almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios. And of course beans and pulses (best type of protein if you’re vegetarian). And fats as above, but more of them: Fats are essential - coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), grass fed butter and gee, avocados.
Some days, if you follow intermittent fasting, you can go for one meal a day (OMAD) where your fasting period increases to 20 or more hours and your eating window to 4 or less hours.
With IF and low carb, you regulate your insulin levels, so your body burns fat instead of carbs or sugars. Also go have a read about autophagy which is encouraged by IF.
Everybody says sugar, but I’m gonna go for salt.
Honestly, cut table salt out of your diet and you’ll see all sorts of improvements. We’ve gotten to a point where we can’t taste the taste of food without salt, we are so addicted to using excessive amounts of salt. And especially if you eat out every once in a while or buy take away, you get accustomed to a lot of salt in your food. We don’t need that much in our diet.
Salt also makes you retain water like crazy, so your overall appearance will be puffier. You know how when you cry at night, the next morning your eyes are puffy. It’s because of the salt in tears. Also when you eat Chinese food at night, the next morning you wake up bloated and puffy. Also because of the excess amount of salt in your food.
It’s also not good for blood pressure.
If you can’t give it up entirely, just reduce it and see how you feel. You’ll thank me.
I would say sugar is the no brainer here.
Not talking about the naturally occurring sugars in fruit. But added sugar, processed sugar, white sugar. Most of it is just empty calories. If you only do one thing, cut out sugary drinks (including fruit juice, as it is depleted of fiber) and you’ll find it much easier to lose fat over time, as well as improve your overall health. When I say sugary drinks I don’t mean just Coca Cola, but Starbucks coffee as well, milkshakes and commercial smoothies.
This will give you some perspective:
“If you’re drinking an average of 150 calories of soda every day, not drinking soda will save you 1,050 calories per week. Over a year’s time, that translates to the equivalent of more than 15 pounds of fat – not including any weight you’d lose from other lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise…” (https://www.livestrong.com/)