This spring, there will be no shortage of health and weight loss information available on the internet, in the media and from well-meaning family and friends. Each expert, coach and association leads you in their direction because it may have worked for them, their advice is going to help or they are selling a product.
Most diet plans and products will focus on the promise of weight loss via a cleanse, reboot, challenge or product solution, ultimately leading you to cut calories. And they work for a time. And then they don't. You see cutting calories isn't the only factor for weight loss.
What you eat and drink
Research shows the “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) may not be as important as the types of calories you consume. Look at the Keto or Paleo diets. They are very high in calories, yet people experience substantial weight loss, when they incorporate the right types of food.
Calories come in different shapes and sizes. If they come from a box, can or package, chances are they are void of the key nutrients you need to heal and nourish your body. I admit, there are some great packaged goods out there. They are convenient and I also use them. But there are also a lot of really bad products made to look healthy, and they are not a reliable, sustainable way of managing your weight, balancing your blood sugar or hormones, lowering cholesterol or resolving any BM issues.
When it comes to packaged goods, a good rule of thumb: select products that have less than five ingredients OR you recognize every ingredient on the package (advice from Dr. Mark Hyman, best selling author, food renegade and my hero).
Some of you may already be on the same
page as me. Others may rely on frozen foods or ready-to-serve meals several times a week, or everyday. You check calories to accomplish your goals. I encourage you to take a step back and also take a look at the preservatives, added sugars (anything that ends in "ose"), types of fat and consider the following...
No matter your health goal, you need a varied diet FULL of whole foods and LESS of processed foods.
This simple concept is paramount for overall health, energy and weight loss.
I find that when clients focus on eating real food and incorporating some key principles that relate to their health situation, they easily and naturally lose weight, balance hormones, improve digestion, reduce inflammation and obtain a better, clearer state of mind.
All daily diets should include:
A colourful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack. These are carbs and your body needs the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Make sure half at least half your plate includes produce at every meal.
A couple daily servings of quality protein. Not all protein is created equal. A serving is the size of the palm of your hand - not your plate. Lean cuts of poultry, fish, grass-fed beef and eggs are all great sources and deliver all the essential amino acids. If you are vegetarian, small legumes, beans, non-GMO soy, nuts, seeds and even sea vegetables all provide quality protein, but need to be combined with small amounts of unrefined grains like brown rice, quinoa and kasha to get a full amino profile. Limit processed meats. They rob the body of nutrients. Bonus: protein ramps up your metabolism and is a precursor for healthy hormones (like your thyroid). Feed yourself the good stuff.
Healthy fats and oils. There is a reason why some fatty acids are called “essential." You need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain, to nourish your nervous system, and to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads. Nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, greens, organic egg yolk, FISH and even grass-fed meats are all great sources. You don't need to overdo it here - a few tablespoons of quality oil, nuts and seeds a day will give you balance. Focus on high-quality fats everyday and avoid hydrogenated fats which can be found in most deep fried foods, crackers, breads and margarine.
When you have a diet full of real food, your body stops starving. It is nourished. It is receiving the macros (carbs, fats, protein) and micros (vitamins, minerals) it needs to thrive and heal. Your energy soars. You balance blood sugar and hormones. And you move into a state of wellness, naturally shedding those extra pounds. No one is perfect. You may still have a few packaged treats a week, but the shift is critical to your overall health.
How you eat and drink
Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Do you drink your food? If so, you also need to pay attention to HOW you eat. Studies show this has more impact on our health than we previously thought.
Let’s look first look at “mindful eating”. Mindful eating means taking smaller bites, eating slowly, chewing thoroughly, and savouring every bite. Take time to notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture of your food. Breathe. This gives your digestive system the hint to prepare for digestion and to secrete necessary enzymes for absorption. This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less.
A challenge – put your two hands together and cup them like you are holding a handful of sand. This is is the size of your stomach. Is this how much you normally eat at a meal? I know I can put back WAY more than that in less than 10 minutes when I'm really hungry and not thinking.
But hold on! It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register your stomach is full. When you slow down your eating, you’re not stretching your stomach and you allow your brain to catch up.
We also know that when we CHEW our food, it is easier to digest. I tell clients to chew their food to the consitency of peanut butter – it increases the surface area so our enzymes can get to work and absorb all those essential nutrients.
And don't forget about drinking your food.
Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy, tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!). But drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness.
Don't get me wrong, a green smoothie a day can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and is WAY better than convenient junk food. Just consider a large smoothie to be a full meal and not a snack.
Approach smoothies like you would a regular meal. Don't gulp. And you need to chew it to release digestive enzymes. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Approximately 70% of amylase is produced in our mouth. Amylase is the enzyme responsible for carbohydrate digestion. If we swallow without chewing, it can lead to gas, bloating and indigestion. CHEW. CHEW. CHEW!
If your smoothies don't fill you up like a full meal, try adding in a spoon of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds, or a dose of healthy fats like ¼ avocado. The extra fibre will help appease your appetite and balance your blood sugar for a longer period of time.
Consider not only how much you eat, but also what and how you eat:
Less ready-to-serve food items
Fill half your plate with produce – it’s loaded in vitamins, minerals and fibre
Ensure you are getting enough protein for your size and level of activity (athletes need more)
Add a small dose of healthy fats like avocado, olive, coconut, seeds or nuts to every meal
Be mindful of your eating – slow down, chew and enjoy
A smoothie is a meal, not a snack
Chew your smoothie - it improves digestion and absorption
Add ground flax, chia or healthy fat to a smoothie to appease your appetite, balance blood sugar and keep hunger at bay.