January is the busiest time for gyms, health food stores and for health practitioners. Whether it’s all of the Christmas goodies you succumbed to over the holidays or it’s a New Year’s resolution, this is a common time for many of us to want to improve health and lose weight. It symbolizes new beginnings, another chance to get it right! A regular health concern I see in my practice is the desire to lose weight. But how do we lose weight in a safe and effective way, and in a way that can create lasting changes? Here are a few tips to get you started on the right track:
- Eat more nutrient-dense food: These foods will give you the nutrients your body needs and keep your blood sugar stable, so you are less likely to overeat. Vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds and legumes are particularly rich in vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Avoid processed or refined foods, such as sugar or white flour, as they are low in nutrients and high in calories.
- Eat frequently throughout the day: Eating six small meals and snack spaced throughout the day, rather than three large meals, will keep your metabolism fired up throughout the day.
- Eat in a relaxed environment: Feeling calm at mealtime will enhance digestion.
- Chew slowly: This will improve digestion tenfold, because your body will have a better chance of assimilating nutrients. It also forces one to slow down when eating, allowing for the 20 minutes it takes for your brain to get the signal that you’re full.
- Implement proper food combining: It’s important to avoid combining animal protein and starches at the same meal (e.g. meat and potatoes) and eat fruit on its own. This will improve digestion, which can have an enormous impact on weight.
- Add cinnamon to your meals: Cinnamon will regulate blood sugar and keep you feeling full longer, which will prevent hypoglycemia and diabetes, while aiding weight loss.
- Eat more fibre: Fibre, like cinnamon, will also reduce blood sugar spikes. Good sources of fibre include fruits, vegetables, seeds such as flax and chia, whole grains and legumes. Filling up half your plate with vegetables two times per day will ensure that you are getting your basic daily requirements. Research shows that people who consume the most fibre (about 25 grams daily) weigh 8 pounds less than those who eat the least (about 12 grams daily).
- Optimize the foods that are best for your metabolism: In my last post, I talked about using the SWAMI GenoType program as a tool to discover the foods that are best for one’s health and metabolism. A personalized nutrition program is worth considering when all other weight loss strategies have failed.
- Exercise: I often hear from patients that they don’t have the time or the energy for exercise. However, in order for the body to produce energy we have to expend energy. This doesn’t mean you have to commit to a lengthy training session at the gym. Sometimes just getting five minutes of exercise three times per day can be more effective and long lasting (e.g. walking around the block or doing a set of push-ups). Research shows that the most benefits for metabolism can be seen in the first 20 minutes, so more is not necessarily better.
- Drink more water: Drinking more water (minimum 8-10 glasses of filtered water per day) has been shown to increase metabolism. One PubMed study indicates that it has a thermogenic (or fat burning) effect. Drink water away from meals, as it can interfere with the digestive process.
Many supplements* are currently touted as having miraculous effects on weight loss, but many claims are misleading. Here is a brief list of supplements that will support a healthy weight loss plan:
- Multivitamin: A multivitamin is important if one is on a diet that is not perfectly balanced or if one is having fewer than 1,500 calories per day. Extra minerals are important, especially when increasing fibre intake as it can decrease absorption. A multivitamin that contains vitamin B12, B6, folic acid, choline, inositol and methionine will improve the body’s metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, particularly the burning of fats for fuel.
- Vitamin C, Vitamin E & Selenium: Weight loss involves a mild process of detoxification, because the body is burning fat and tissues. These antioxidants will help offset the extra toxic load. Vitamin C (1-3 grams daily in 2-3 portions) and Vitamin E & Selenium (usually taken together in the morning) is recommended. Drainage therapy can also be helpful to gently remove toxins from the body.
- L-Carnitine: This amino acid supports the efficient use of fats in the body. The recommended dose is usually 500 mg two times per day with a meal.
- Polyunsaturated fats: These fats will balance lipid metabolism. Such fats include Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) from evening primrose or borage seed oils and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from fish oil are both precursors to different prostaglandins and may also be helpful to weight loss. Cold-pressed flax oil is both high in Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic) and Omega-6 (linoleic and others) fatty acids and is more inexpensive.
*Supplements can be helpful in supporting a weight loss plan, but they should not be used as a substitute for diet and lifestyle changes.
Diet and lifestyle changes are important, of course, but just as essential for success is a healthy attitude. It can be discouraging at times to try and realize our goals, especially when past attempts have failed. A counsellor, health coach or personal trainer can provide tools that will help one get past roadblocks. It is also worth ruling out health conditions that could be slowing down metabolism. For example, when we are under stress and our hormones are out of balance the body tends to store fat more readily. Homeopathy or the complete medical system (Heilkunst) is a very effective approach to bringing the body back into balance (homeostasis) at the level of body, mind and spirit, which can in turn promote weight loss. Finding the right plan for your unique needs is something you can discuss with your health practitioner. Until then, I hope these weight loss tips help you realize your goals for the New Year!
Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Haas, Elson M., Staying Healthy with Nutrition, 2006.
Tsakos, Lisa, The Weight Battlefield, 2001.