We have become a nation of fat people. No, I’m not pointing a finger at you. I know you are probably lean, healthy and fit. But for many, weight loss is a perplexing mystery and on-going source of frustration, unhappiness, and even despair.
Whenever I work with someone, weight is invariably the number one concern. “Why can’t I lose it?” “Why can’t I keep it off?” “How come it always comes back?”
So what’s going on here anyway?
- What we know is that diets aren’t helping much – at least not over the long term. Despite the billions of dollars spent on weight loss programs, and the millions of people on diets – including our children, the trend doesn’t seem to be letting up. More than one in three adults and one in six children (ages 2-19) in this country are obese.
- We’ve been seduced by a food industry that has laced virtually all of their products with one extremely addictive substance – sugar. It has hooked us all and thrown our bodies and hormonal systems completely out of whack.
- We’ve been enticed by chemically-processed “diet” foods and drinks that are proving to have just the opposite effect on the body.
- We live in a world of chemicals and toxic substances that are finding their way into our bodies through our food, air, water, cell phones, and everyday products we slather on our skin. It is estimated that each of us carries a toxic load of about 700 synthetic chemicals within our bodies right now. And latest research is now linking these toxins to diabetes as well as autoimmune disease.
- We continue to believe it’s all about food and exercise, when it’s much bigger than that, as you’ll soon discover as you read down my list of 25.
I know it’s long, but I’ve designed it for easy skimming so you can pick and choose those you might like to try. Even print it out and keep it on hand for reference.
#1 – Eliminate sugar and white flour.
This may seem a bit extreme, but as one expert, Susan Pierce Thompson, developer of “Bright Line Eating”, notes: What is extreme is that “In the U.S. alone, over 70,000 people have to get a limb amputated because of their Type 2 diabetes.” That’s extreme.
Sugar and white flour are hugely addictive. They change your brain, disrupt your hormones, and are linked to depression and mood disorders. Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D., Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, and NY Times bestselling author of The Blood Sugar Solution, estimates these substances to be eight times more addictive than cocaine. And they are hidden in fast foods and all the processed foods you find on your grocery store shelves.
#2 – Remove the junk food from your pantry.
This will help you with number 1. If you only have to run as far as your pantry to grab a bag of chips, or something sweet, you’re sunk. If you’re serious about getting lean (and healthy), get the junk out of reach: chips, cookies, crackers, cakes, and candy. Create a pantry section for good treats: nuts, sprouted seeds, protein bars, popcorn, Islandic and other pastured yogurts, and nut butters.
#3 – Replace diet drinks, soft drinks, and concentrated fruit juices with water.
Don’t drink your calories. Even diet drinks with artificial sweeteners are associated with weight gain and metabolic derangements. But most alarming, artificial sweeteners have been shown – unequivocally – to harm our healthy gut bacteria: our “Microbiome”.
Our microbiome. Yes, we all have one and it is the newest frontier in the science of our anatomy. What we’re discovering is that it’s the body’s central control center. A broken microbiome – one devoid of healthy microorganisms – is linked to all sorts of ailments, including asthma, eczema, Crohn’s, MS, autism, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, obesity, cancer, and even malnutrition.
Consistent use of chemical sweeteners is just asking for trouble.
“I started buying “diet” and “sugar free” foods about 8 years ago. I wasn’t obese just overweight. I managed to get to a healthy weight but at a price. I began to get bad diarrhea, eczema, heart palpitations, acid reflux, severe chest pains, headaches, dizziness, nausea and aching joints. It took me a while to figure out the cause but I eventually landed on a few websites listing most of these symptoms due to artificial sweeteners. I immediately cut them from my diet and gradually my health improved.” (Chris Kresser Blog.)
#4 – Eat three meals a day on a regular schedule.
This is a controversial topic with very little agreement from the experts. Three meals…meals and snacks…6 meals….carbs at night…small meals throughout the day…meals every 3 hours….The list is endless.
Susan Pierce Thompson, who has developed one of the most effective weight loss programs out there, adheres to this rule: “Three meals a day. No grazing. No Snacks.” She cites the many benefits of a regular schedule: increased fat loss, increased energy levels, improved sleep, improved cellular repair due to a longer fasting window, improved insulin sensitivity, and lower cholesterol.
“It’s eating all day long that keeps people thinking about food, obsessing with eating, and feeling hungry again right after putting food in their mouths. Eating at regular meal times alleviates all that.” Susan Pierce Thompson
And one final note: The science simply does not support the concept that more meals boost your metabolic rate and increase fat burning. What more meals seems to be doing is making us hungrier.
#5 – Include protein at every meal.
Protein is your master food for weight loss. Not only will it help you to build muscle (and burn more fat as a consequence) it is the most filling of foods you can eat, so you stay full longer.
Protein also has a thermic effect on the body. It helps burns more calories, boosts metabolic activity, and reduces the glycemic effect of carbs. Studies have shown that when people increase their protein intake, they eat fewer calories.
#6 – Drink water just before your meals.
You know the water they bring you at the restaurant before your meal? Drink it. Then request another glass before your eat.
Water is an important tool for fat metabolism. Drinking about 16 ounces 15 to 20 minutes before a meal helps the stomach to produce hydrochloric acid for proper digestion. (Note – diminish your water intake or excessive intake of other beverages during and immediately after a meal as it dilutes stomach acid, making digestion more difficult)
#7 – Drink more water throughout the day.
Increasing your water intake can increase thermogenesis – your metabolic rate and your body’s ability to burn fat, by 24%. Get about half your weight in ounces. For someone 130 pounds that would be 65 ounces or 8, 8-ounce glasses per day.
#8 – Add fresh grapefruit to your diet.
Grapefruits are natural fat burners says John Douillard, a recognized leader in the fields of natural health, Ayurvedic and sports medicine. Add a little grapefruit to your regular food plan.
#9 – Take apple cider vinegar daily.
Vinegar is a fat-burning , cholesterol-lowering, blood-sugar-stabilizing, and waist-shrinking super liquid. It helps block the digestion of starch and improves digestion and the absorption of nutrients. In studies, it has been shown to turn on fat metabolism.
As little as a teaspoon a day is enough to significantly improve body weight, body-fat percentage, waist circumference, LDL cholesterol, and visceral (internal) body fat. Dilute a teaspoon in a cup of water and gradually increase to one tablespoon two times a day.
And by the way, starting a meal with a salad was not some random practice. Vinegar before your meal starts your digestive juices flowing, helps to keep blood sugar stable and lowers insulin levels.
#10 – Eat slowly and always leave the table slightly hungry.
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to catch up to your stomach. Slow down when you eat. Place your fork down between bites. Take smaller bites and let your brain tell you when you’re full. If you’ve gobbled down your meal in five minutes and are thinking about going back for seconds, stop, glue yourself to your chair, and wait until your brain catches up.
#11 – Add fermented foods.
Jon Gabriel, who took his body from 409 pounds to lean 186 in a year and a half, recommends adding fermented foods to your diet to help with weight loss. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, grass-fed yogurt (without added sugars), kefir, miso, kombucha, and any fermented vegetables provide beneficial microbes that help your digestive system.
You don’t need much. Treat these as condiments and add a little every day. I have a daily glass of kombucha and often add a little sauerkraut to my meals. (Note: be sure the sauerkraut is fermented, not pickled. They are different processes and pickling does not generate healthy bacteria.)
“Fermenting anything, especially vegetables, creates healthy probiotic bacteria that are essential to a healthy and functioning digestive tract” Jon Gabriel.
#12 – Drink green tea.
The polyphenols in green tea help to support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and inhibit pathogenic bacteria. A healthy gut is foundational to a healthy and properly working body – one capable of burning off excess weight. But be careful not to overdo it as it is generally caffeinated and can affect sleep. Here’s an alternative supplement that provides the antioxidant equivalent of seven cups of green tea without the caffeine.
#13 – Eat More not Less.
Never, ever, ever starve yourself! Extreme caloric restriction puts the body in high alert for starvation which slows your metabolism. Never go hungry. Instead concentrate on real whole foods: lean protein, greens, vegetables, fruits, some nuts, seeds, eggs, and good fats. Dump the refined carbs and sugar.
#14 – Take a tip from the French.
Mathilde Thomas in her book, The French Beauty Solution, speaks of the French custom of honoring mealtimes. “One thing you will rarely see is a French woman eating while they walk.” The French sit down to eat. They honor mealtime as an important part of the day to relax, converse with friends, or simply enjoy some peaceful time alone. “Even if it’s only you, set the table, use a lovely plate and silverware, and relax. You deserve it.”
# 15 – Get plenty of fiber in your diet.
Studies show that soluble fibers may reduce fat, especially in the belly area. Add high fiber veggies like berries, beans and legumes, split peas, apples, figs, pears, kiwi, and artichokes. Try to get a about 25 grams of fiber per day.
#16 – Reconsider those fruit smoothies.
If you’re wondering why all those fruit smoothies are not helping with your weight loss, here’s why. Fruit is good for you when eaten in its natural state. The fiber in the fruit buffers the absorption of sugar into your blood stream to keep your blood sugar levels from spiking and turning all that sugar into fat. This all changes with you emulsify the fruit into a smoothie. When you blend, you shred the fiber, releasing the sugar to hit your blood stream like a handful of candy.
#17 – Move throughout the day.
We go to the gym day after day. We see the same people on the treadmills, ellipticals, and weight machines, sweating and busting their butts, but have you ever noticed that their bodies don’t seem to change?
The sad fact is that exercise doesn’t help much with weight loss. In fact, the stress that people often experience hauling themselves to the gym has exactly the opposite effect, stalling weight loss.
So why do I include it in my list?
While working out may not be the most effective strategy for dropping those pounds, it delivers amazing benefits to help with weight loss. It strengthens your heart, lungs, and muscles. It rushes blood and nutrients to every inch of your body, improving your cardiovascular function. It increases energy and boosts metabolism. It sets off a flood of endorphins to lift your spirits and improve your happiness level. It can even decrease your body age and give you a longer life.
Whatever your method, just move and make it something you love to do: walk, hike, lift weights, bike, swim, dance, or play with your kids.
#18 – Get up from your desk every hour.
Sitting for hours on end stunts your metabolic system. The simple act of standing doubles your metabolic rate says Marc Hamilton, an expert on health and physiology. He goes on to say that rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity double in people who sit for hours a day.
Sitting for extended periods of time shuts down a fat-burning enzyme called lipase that the body uses to burn fat. So… while we sit… and sit… and sit… fat gets deposited exactly where we don’t want it.
You don’t need a gym to fix this. Just move about during the day. Stand while you talk on the phone. Get up during commercials on TV. Get up from your desk at least hourly. Take the garbage out. Ditch the drive-through and walk into the coffee shop. Walk you dog. Take every opportunity throughout the day to get up and move.
#19 – Breathe – deeply.
I know. You know how to breathe or you wouldn’t be here. But stress, tension, and charging around to get it all in has turned us into shallow erratic breathers. This triggers the stress response, which in turn, freezes fat loss. Taking time occasionally during the day to simply stop and take a few slow, deep breaths, slows the output of cortisol and allows your body to release a little more of that unwanted fat.
#20 – Laugh often.
Laughter is a calorie-burning exercise. Come again? Yes, it’s true. Not only does it make you happy, laughter also provides a cardiovascular workout for your insides, burns calories, boosts your heart rate, stretches your muscles, and increases your metabolism. It won’t replace your walks or a little gym time, but it will make you happier which, according to the latest research, improves your health and potential for weight loss.
#21 – Get Happy.
Mood affects food. People who are unhappy or depressed tend to eat more since food is one of our greatest sources of pleasure. Instead of filling up with food, fill your life with moments to bring little sparks of happiness in and savor those moments: time with your pets, time with friends, a great book, walks in the park or other beautiful places, bird watching, a trip to the dog park (even if you don’t have a dog), spontaneous easy trips to places you want to explore, a movie night with a friend…make it up. Pay attention to these moments, let them sink in so you feel the pleasure of the experience. There are no do-overs in life. We get one shot. Make it happy.
#22 – Sleep.
Sleep is your ultimate healer and ally when it comes to weight-loss. Lack of sleep drives up the hunger hormone (ghrelin) increases your stress hormone (cortisol) which, in turn, activates the part of your brain that demands rewards (food in particular). Shoot for 7-8 hours a night and develop a routine for bed time and wake up time.
Studies have shown the people who are chronically sleep deprived are hungrier, snack more and long for more sugar and carbs.
#23 – Check your thyroid.
Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism. If it’s off, so are you and the weight can come on like gangbusters and stick until you fix the underlying problem. Most traditional physicians do limited thyroid testing when you go for your annual blood work. My recommendation: find a functional physician who will order a comprehensive blood panel of all your thyroid hormones and knows how to correct any imbalances.
#24 – Choose your friends wisely.
The latest research suggests that obesity can be “contagious” – socially that is. A Harvard study of 12,000 people found that if someone gains weight, their family, friends, and partners also tend to do the same, even if they don’t live near each other.
#24 – Fast one day every week.
Many nutrition experts suggest intermittent fasting as one beautiful way to help with weight loss. By giving your body a break from food for a period of 12 to 16 hours, you promote something called autophagy. This, says Dale Bredesen, M.D., and expert on neurodegenerative disease, is your body’s natural way to cleanse and renew cellular health.
Twelve hours is the minimum but sixteen, according to Yuri Elkaim, holistic nutritionist and fitness expert, is the “sweet” spot that yields the greatest benefit. Start your fast after your last evening meal: for example, 7:00 p.m., until 7:00 a.m. is 12 hours. If you can extend that to 11:00, you’ve gotten yourself to 16 hours. Bredesen suggests breaking the fast with water (no ice) and some lemon juice as a detoxifying drink.
One note of caution, especially for women: once a week is enough. If you overdo this, you can compromise your thyroid, you master metabolism gland, which you absolutely do not want to do.
#25 – See yourself as you want to be.
Visualization is a powerful tool used by Olympic athletes, executives, musicians, and top achievers to obtain extraordinary results in their lives. Jon Gabriel, in his book, Visualization for Weight Loss, introduces it for weight loss.
Here’s the drill: Close your eyes. Relax. See what you want… That chiseled torso, your former 30-year-old body, strong arms and legs, a lean and tight midsection… Create a crystal clear vision in your mind of exactly the body you want to create. When you have a clear vision and hold it in your mind, it is said that the Universe conspires to create it.
Start with the mind. The body will follow. ♥
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