Weight loss can be a struggle for many people and popular shows like the Biggest Loser give us an idea how much of an issue weight is, here in the United States. We all know that a healthy diet and exercise would go a long way to reaching a healthy weight. But I also know that losing weight is one of the most difficult things anyone can do, and maintaining it can be even more difficult. So, the following tips are only meant to act as a guideline for weight loss and general good health. Here are 10 tips to help with weight loss and maintenance.
1. Increase your fiber
It’s difficult to grasp, how something that actually slows digestion can also help to support healthy weight loss, but that is just the case with fiber. Fiber is very difficult for the digestive system to breakdown, but it tries none-the-less! In the process of trying to break down these hard to breakdown plant fibers, digestion slows. Fiber also slows the rate at which these sugars are being released into the bloodstream. This prevents spikes in blood glucose as well as large bursts of insulin, which inevitably will cause us to store fat. Because fiber slows things down a little, it helps us stave off hunger, leaving us feeling full longer, an added bonus to anyone looking to lose weight. High fiber diets include plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, and whole grain products Aim to get anywhere from 25-35 g of fiber/day. Increase fiber slowly and be sure to increase your water intake at the same time to help things move.
2. Eat more protein
Protein, combined with exercise, has a number of weight related benefits. When getting adequate protein, you maintain lean body mass while still shedding fat. You also build muscle faster because protein is a necessary building block for muscle. You may have heard that one pound of muscle burns 70 times more calories at rest than 1 pound of fat. So more muscle, more weight loss. (Make sure you are doing muscle building exercise: More on that later). Some healthy protein choices are fish and chicken, beans, and tofu. Whey protein in your morning smoothie is an easy and tasty way to start off a protein-rich day.
3. Drink green tea
Green tea is not only a healthy and tasty alternative to coffee, but it’s high in antioxidants and its weight loss effects go far beyond it’s caffeine content. Green tea contains a catechin polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which has significant antioxidant activity, preventing oxidative/free radical damage. Studies have shown it to have cancer preventing and cholesterol lowering effects, as well as decrease overall risk of cardiovascular and liver disease. More importantly, at least for the topic at hand, is that EGCG has also been shown to enhance thermogenesis. What is thermogenesis? It’s your body’s ability to burn FAT! Green tea also contains one of my favorite amino acids, L-theanine. Studies have shown that L-theanine can help relieve anxiety and depression and improve sleep quality without causing drowsiness. Better sleep has also been associated with healthy weight.
4. Eat fats
This does seem contradictory to what you should do. But, eating HEALTHY fats can actually help support weight loss. Omega 3 rich fish oil, when combined with moderate exercise, has been shown to increase weight loss, when compared to groups who used exercise alone. There is also some evidence to suggest that fish oil supplementation alone can increase metabolic rate and fat oxidation, while decreasing body fat. For a healthy diet, 20-35% of your calories need to come from good fat. Keep trans fats and saturated fats to a minimum. Use cold pressed oils or extra virgin olive oil for meals and include raw nuts and seeds, like chia and walnuts into your daily routine. Taking an omega 3 supplement may also be something to consider.
5. Decrease sugar
Cut out ALL refined sugar in your diet. It’s that simple. Well, in theory, it’s that simple, but for sugar junkies this may pose a challenge. But, I am sure you are up for it. You will need to get out the magnifying glass a read a few labels to do this. You’d be surprised the foods in which sugar is hidden. If you are having intense cravings, try healthier alternatives like stevia and xylitol, just remember that moderation is key with these, as well. Chromium has also been shown to help control sugar cravings, if you feel as though you need a little added support. Also, don’t be fooled by “ low fat” or “no fat” claims in products. Usually, they have made up for fat loss with sugar, so calories are the same.
6. Use portion control
Eating 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day may require a little more planning, but it is worth it in the end. When we go long period without eating, our blood sugar drops and we usually make unhealthy choices when we get the chance to eat again, because we’re beyond hungry. The next thing we eat then causes an unhealthy spike in blood sugar, again leading to an unhealthy release of insulin and inevitably increased fat storage…. and the cycle continues, and continues. Smaller portions, more often throughout the day, can do wonders to regulate blood sugar and promote healthy weight loss.
7. Reduce stress
Cortisol is a hormone released by our adrenal glands in times of stress. Ideally cortisol should peak early in the morning and decrease as the day goes on. Nowadays, this pattern is rarely seen. We are stressed out, meaning either we have prolonged high levels of cortisol throughout the day or our adrenal gets exhausted from overproduction and we don’t have sufficient amounts. The bad news is, that either way you look at it, weight gain will be the result, as are cravings and fatigue, which once again lead to us making the wrong choices when it comes to food. Stress reduction is key. Yoga, stretching, a warm bath…find a stress reliever right for you. Consider herbs like Pathway Adrenal Support for help in regulating cortisol levels. Take it one step further and have your adrenals tested for more individualized and personalized support.
8. Have your thyroid checked
Adrenal function cannot be mentioned without also addressing thyroid function, as these hormones are so closely related. Thyroid hormones, or more specifically thyroid hormone deficiencies, may be the missing link in achieving sustainable weight loss. Thyroid hormones control the metabolic function of the body. If we are deficient in these hormones, often very common in postmenopausal women, then our metabolic rate suffers. If our metabolism is sluggish, weight gain is inevitable, no matter what we are eating. Ask your MD or naturopathic doctor about having your TSH checked and ask to see the results yourself. Work with them to find a suitable regimen for your needs.
Does it really need to be said? Weight loss is absolutely impossible without exercise. If you are someone who is already exercising, make sure to vary your routine. Include both cardiovascular and resistance training exercises (You remember what I said about muscle… right?). If you are new to the world of elliptical machines, start out slow. Walking for 30-40 minutes, at a pace in which you can still carry on a conversation but increases your heart rate, even 3-4 times/week will help to stimulate weight loss. As soon as that becomes easier, you can start stepping up the pace, or introducing some weight training into the routine. Find a friend who is interested in joining you, it makes the routine a little more enjoyable and you’ll find it’s easier to stick to a schedule when there is someone else depending on you to do so.
10. Don’t diet
Significant and sustainable weight loss is a lifestyle. Don’t be discouraged if you slip up and have one last ice cream cone before the season is over. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss the gym one day. Just get up the next morning and start all over again, doing the right things. Don’t deny yourself the odd treat, just don’t do it everyday. Diets don’t work, but small, simple and lifelong changes in eating and exercise habits DO! Weight loss is really just disease prevention by a different name. A smaller waistline is only a small side effect of an overall healthier you.