Christina Carreau BA, ND
The key to any weight loss program is commitment and persistence. Change will happen over time. I believe that one of the most important tools that you need when it comes to losing weight and maintaining that weight loss is an understanding of diet and nutrition. That combined with a ‘healthy foundation’ will ensure that you achieve the results that you are looking for. The healthy foundation is established by implementing and experimenting with the 12 tips outlined below.
1. Education: You need to know where your nutrients are coming from. Understanding the differences between protein, carbohydrates and fats is an absolute must. What are healthy fats versus unhealthy ones? What are good sources of fiber? What role do each of these foods play? The ultimate goal of eating is to fuel your body, therefore make sure you understand the whats and the whys of the foods that you are putting in on a regular basis. Talk to your naturopathic doctor or holistic nutritionist if you are in need of education surrounding this. This is critical to any weight loss program.
2. Experimentation: I encourage everyone to play around with their diet. What happens if you have pasta for breakfast? Do you feel better? Worse? What if you start your day with a Greek salad? A chicken breast? We are all creatures of habit and most of us start out our day with a smaller meal and work up to our biggest meal in the evening. Try reversing this and eating your biggest meal of the day at breakfast and smallest meal in the evening. Maybe that will work better for you in terms of energy? Maybe not? The more that you can experiment with meal portions and the foods that you select at each meal the more familiar you will become with what works and what doesn’t. Again, let energy and mental alertness be your measuring stick.
3. Elimination: This ties in closely with experimentation but requires you to select a specific food or food group (perhaps one that you feel doesn’t agree with you) and eliminate it from your diet for a week or two. Some elimination options include gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine, red meat, alcohol, etc. Some people find it easier to cut out these foods one at a time whereas others prefer to cut them all out at once. The goal is to see whether your body feels better, worse or the same while implementing these dietary restrictions. I do believe strongly in moderation and therefore often advocate that people exercise judgment when it comes to food. That being said, most of us consume too many processed and allergenic foods and over time that is detrimental to health. The idea behind elimination is that it allows you ‘to break the cycle’ and to become more aware of patterns that interfere with your weight loss goals.
4. Ensure Adequate Protein Intake: Protein allows us to feel fuller for longer, it helps keep blood sugar levels stable, supports healthy immune function, provides and stores energy, regulates enzymes (involved in digestion and other reactions) and hormones, and supports repair of muscles and other body tissues. Protein is SO important when it comes to weight loss. Familiarize yourself with sources of protein both vegetarian and non and ensure that you are eating enough protein on a daily basis.
5. Limit Carbohydrate Intake: Carbohydrates have gotten a lot of bad press in the media but not all carbs are created equally and it is essential to understand the difference between good carbs and bad ones. The most important thing to understand is that carbohydrates all break down into glucose (sugar) and are therefore responsible for blood sugar levels. Every carbohydrate has a numeric value (1 – 100) assigned to it based on how quickly it converts into glucose, This is referred to as glycemic index (GI). The lower the GI of a carb the more stable it keeps blood sugar levels, thereby providing you with a more steady and sustained energy supply. Familiarize yourself with the glycemic index of foods. The more stable your blood sugar levels, the more energy you will have, the less food cravings you will have. and the more likely you are to lose weight, and maintain a healthy weight.
6. Fiber: Fiber serves many purposes but one of its most important roles is to help bind and flush toxins from your system and to help keep your bowel movements regular. If you do not go to the bathroom daily or if your stools tend to be dry or hard, fiber is lacking. Most North Americans do not get enough fiber on a daily basis.
7. Water: Dehydration manifests as hunger. Make sure that you are drinking enough water everyday. You should be drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water/day and for any caffeinated or alcoholic beverages adding an additional glass to offset the diuretic effects. This is such a simple but important step in healthy weight loss programs.
8. Address hormone imbalances: Hormone imbalances can impair our ability to lose weight. Addressing any thyroid, adrenal and pancreatic imbalances will help ensure successful weight loss programs. These imbalances can be assessed through blood tests and also through symptoms. Talk to your Naturopathic or Medical Doctor to determine whether you have any imbalances that need to be addressed.
9. Goals: Keep your eye on the prize. Short-term and long-term goals are so important to help keep you focused and motivated. The day-to-day of this process will ultimately have to be about making healthier choices because results happen over time and if your only measuring stick is the scale you will get discouraged. Goals are so important because they will allow you to implement change and assess progress based on those changes, ultimately helping you determine what works and what doesn’t. Be realistic with your goals and the changes that you want to see. If you make your focus about healthier food and lifestyle choices, weight loss will follow.
10. Exercise: Is SO important! Not only does this accelerate the amount of calories that you burn, but it also improves cardiovascular function, enhances oxygen exchange in the body, improves circulation, helps relieve stress, enhances detoxification via skin and lungs, the list goes on and on. Find some activities that you enjoy and start incorporating them into your routine on a regular basis. This will help you achieve your weight loss goals so much faster than if you focus on food and diet alone.
11. Supplementation: There is no shortage of supplements for boosting metabolism, curbing appetite, reducing food cravings, regulating blood sugar levels, etc. It is always best to focus on the basics and setting a healthy stage and then adding in things that can help accelerate the process.
12. Patience: You did not gain weight overnight and therefore you will not lose it overnight either. You need to have patience with yourself. This is not a race. This is about improving your overall health and well-being. Allow your body the time that it needs to accommodate the changes that you are looking for.
I wish you all the best on your journey to ‘a healthier you’.