Since weight loss is the most common resolution for the New Year, I figured a post on this was necessary. A note, though: I think the success of “weight loss” would be much higher if we referred to it as burning fat. The human subconscious doesn’t like loss as it generally is associated with something negative. Say it though we might, our subconscious minds just don’t like to “lose” anything. Now fat, that is generally a bad thing (which is a tough misconception to break on a strictly dietary level) but the subconscious doesn’t mind letting go of it so much. I think a movement away from “diets” and toward “healthy lifestyle” would be helpful in reforming some negative subconscious associations as well. Enough of that, though… on to the practical strategies!
The good news here is that weight loss if often much easier than one expects, at least once we break through the brick wall of health misconceptions out there. This means, at times, doubting conventional wisdom, questioning the advise of your doctor (gasp) or disregarding the “tips for flat abs” spit out by the latest beauty magazine. As you may have noticed, the average person, your doctor, and the models in many magazines all look unhealthy, though for different reasons.
So what’s a person to do? How do you sort through the options? I suggest trying what works, and letting go of any long-held dietary assumptions that don’t seem to be working. Seems like common sense, but while people have been encouraged to eat “low-fat” to lose weight and prevent disease the last 50 years, the obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer rates continue to rise… a lot. Perhaps the old paradigm isn’t working?
The Typical American Diet- It is making us sicker!
The typical low-fat, “healthy whole grain” diet that is often recommended as the standard of health these days just isn’t working anymore. In fact, this diet often leads to more problems that it corrects. While some people do notice some weight loss from strict calorie restriction, this model is not the easiest or healthiest way to lose weight. Take case studies from several of my clients (names have been changed):
Deborah, Age 35
Deborah came to me with two goals: weight loss and increased fertility. She was hoping to conceive another child and after 4 miscarriages was having trouble conceiving. She suspected hormone imbalance and possible thyroid issues. She wanted to lose 10-15 pounds and have more energy. She already had several children and realized that any change would have to be family wide to be feasible. Her husband eventually became a client also as he suffered from high blood pressure, hypoglycemia, and skin issues.
We concentrated on simple diet and lifestyle adjustments that she could incorporate with the whole family. Deborah admitted that she wasn’t much of a cook so we worked on specific meal plans and recipes to simplify her cooking routine. Her husband and kids resisted at first but soon adjusted and liked their new lifestyle (which contained a lot more protein and healthy fats!).
At the one-month follow-up, Deborah had lost 10 pounds and her skin looked extremely healthy. She explained that her husband had lost weight also and wasn’t struggling with hypoglycemia anymore. His blood pressure was down and the kids were less irritable and sleeping better. Her symptoms of hormone imbalance and thyroid issues were gone and she felt great.
Deborah called me several weeks later to see if she needed to adjust any of her diet or supplement plans during her pregnancy! Though her doctor assumed that she would lose the baby as she had with the last four, Deborah went on to continue her new lifestyle throughout the pregnancy and now has a healthy baby.
Andrew, Age 27
Andrew came to me with one goal: weight loss. He was tall, but over 100 pounds overweight for his size. He admitted that he had strong food cravings and had trouble sticking to any kind of “diet.” He wanted to build muscle and eventually be lean and fit. His current diet was almost entirely processed foods and he admitted that, as a single guy, he didn’t often cook. He was having digestive troubles, skin issues and trouble sleeping. He had recently also started developing anxiety and mental disturbances.
He was fed up with the way he looked and felt and very open to change. He jumped into a healthy lifestyle and called often with questions about foods and recipes. At his one month follow up he had lost over 20 pounds and he had lost 40 by his 2 month follow up. He also noticed that all of his digestive, skin, and mental issues went away and he had started exercising more because he wanted to. Today, he is on his way to his goal weight and physique.
Matthew, Age 51
Matthew came to me reluctantly at the advice of his wife, who was also a client. He wanted to lose 30-40 pounds, but that wasn’t his main complaint. He had been battling skin issues and digestive troubles for years and they were getting worse. He had a family history of almost every disease imaginable, and at his age was starting to worry about his heredity. He had borderline high blood pressure and cholesterol and his fasting blood sugar qualified him as pre-diabetic. Among his favorite foods: bread, rolls, donuts, soda, coffee, pancakes, pastries, chips, etc.
Matthew assured me that these foods were part of his life and that there was no way he could forgo them. He didn’t like salads and most vegetables, and while he did like most meats and proteins, he always ate them with bread. Finally, at the urging of his wife, he agreed to try some lifestyle adjustment for two months. Matthew is one of most consistent and dedicated clients I have seen, and once he agreed to this change, he stuck with it.
At his two-month follow up, Matthew had lost almost all the weight he wanted to lose, his skin had cleared up and his digestion was greatly improved. The first time he tried his old “favorite foods” he told me that he felt so bad, he didn’t even want them anymore. Several years later, Matthew is still sticking to a healthy lifestyle and maintaining his goal weight. His digestive troubles are completely gone and his doctor has noted to his heart looks much younger. He is slowly incorporating more exercise to further benefit his heart.
So What Did They All Change?
It may come as a shock (though not so much if you’ve read my other posts) but they all eliminated grains, sugar, and processed foods. They also started eating a lot of healthy fats and proteins and drinking mainly water. All of the above digestive problems were caused by the same common denominator: gluten. Can changing the food one eats really do all that? Indeed, it is all that can!
Most people are starting to realize that not all fats are bad, and that perhaps there is a connection between high levels or carbohydrates and high insulin levels, but even the most educated dietitians and health experts have trouble letting go of those “healthy whole grains.” I understand, I did too, but they were hurting my body and causing a bevy of problems in my clients. Yes, grains have fiber and vitamins (though not near the amounts that vegetables have) but they also have gluten, lectin, and phytates… all put there to make them indigestible to us (mammals) so that they could pass through our bodies and emerge (pre-fertilized) to grow again. Since we now grind them up into fine particles, they still pass through our bodies without being fully digested, they just do a lot more damage along the way. Read more about the science behind that here. The biological fact is that you absolutely need the right kinds of proteins and fats for your body to function, but there is no biological need for grains (or high levels of any carbohydrate for that matter).
These gluten containing, gut destroying foods also contain high levels of carbohydrates which can cause insulin resistance, weight gain, and eventually diabetes if eaten in large amounts. But wait, you say, I eat grains all the time and I don’t have any of those problems. Really? Get rid of them for a month and see if you don’t notice a rapid increase in energy and overall feeling of health (as well as usually weight loss). In the worst case, you went without your favorite foods for a month, in the best case, you feel much better and no longer even crave these foods.
I challenge you to give yourself 30 days to improve your health, and see if the changes don’t work for you. It isn’t all about diet… it is about a healthy lifestyle that lets you feel great, look great and stay free of disease (and that is a helluva lot better than a slice of Pizza!). If you are truly ready to see some results, jump in:
Step 1: Eat Healthy Foods
This will require some paradigm shifts! The basic premises are as follows:
- Cut the grains
- Eat fewer carbs (aim for between 50-100 grams per day from vegetable and fruit sources if trying to lose weight.) Fit Day offers a free online nutrition tracker to help you figure out how much of each food you are eating.
- Eat Fat… Lots of fat!
- Get enough good protein
- Drink clean water- water should be the main liquid you drink, along with herbal teas. Drinks like soda and even juice contain a lot of sugar (and often chemicals) that harm the body.
The adjustment can be difficult, more from a practical perspective than a dietary one… what do you actually eat? Check out some meal plans and some recipes (scroll down).
2. Optimize Vitamin D
Research is continually showing how necessary Vitamin D is, and it plays an important role in healthy metabolism and optimal health. A bloodtest can show you exactly how much you need, but my experience with clients is that most adults need at least 5,000 IU a day, and often more if they weigh more, are pregnant, or are highly deficient.
3. Get Enough Sleep
We all know that sleep is important, we just don’t get enough. Sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy weight as well as for proper hormone function, mental clarity, prevention of illness and much more.
4. Get Some Exercise
Your doctor, your mother, your friends… everyone has told you how important exercise is. Most people avoid getting enough exercise thinking they don’t have time or that it requires too much effort. The great news is that you can achieve great results with the right kind of exercise, and spend much less time than you think!
Ready to make some lasting changes? Let me know below! I’ll try to help you stay motivated and informed, but if you need more reading material now, check out my Wellness 101.