20 tips to lose weight healthily
When it comes to losing weight, quick solutions, short detox programs and fad diets look appealing for most. You might already have realised, though, that change has to be steady and sustainable in order for optimal weight to be achieved and kept for life.
Weight fluctuations can have detrimental effects on health. Aiming for a bikini body is not equivalent to health and does not lead to a sustainable healthy and strong body. A healthy relationship with food and our body is a long, difficult at times, but certainly very interesting, enjoyable and educational journey. The only side-effect of this process is an improvement of overall health, energy, mood and more confidence!
Fat loss is about education, rather than restrictive weekly plans. A good practitioner should give you the right skills and freedom to make your own dietary plan while enjoying a variety of delicious foods. Strict weekly and daily plans have an endpoint, and then comes again frustration, disappointment and low self-esteem. A restrictive diet might be followed by one or more binging episodes and one more effort to lose weight, possibly with another dietitian.
To your surprise, while a healthy, wholesome diet is certainly important for losing extra pounds, other health and lifestyle factors are even more important! Even if following the best diet in the world, weight-loss is almost impossible if you are not sleeping well, and by well I mean at least three hours of deep sleep a day! Other factors that rank before diet when it comes to weight-loss, is exercise, stress management and a healthy gut flora.
Incorporating a healthy lifestyle, sleep schedule, exercise routine and a balanced, nutrient-rich diet is the only way to kickstart a sluggish metabolism.
20 diet and lifestyle tips for weight-loss and improved health
1. Consume an organic, whole foods diet, with lots of plant-based foods
And one that is rich in nutrients, providing high-fibre and high-density foods to help keep you satiated and fuller for longer. Avoid processed foods and junk food. Except for empty calories, they contain loads of toxic ingredients such as hydrogenated fats, hidden sugars, processed salt, preservatives, flavour enhancers and sweeteners that lead to blood sugar and hormone imbalance, water retention, more cravings and poor metabolism.
2. Cook from scratch the majority of your meals
That way you know exactly what goes in your body. Fresh quality food contains more flavour and certainly more nutrients. Unlike ready meals, homemade food will not lead to unnecessary bloating and water retention. Go for seasonal, local and (if possible) organic produce, to maximise nutrients and flavour and minimise pesticides.
3. Eat at least seven portions of veg and fruit per day (prioritising vegetables)
Aim for all possible colours daily (e.g. strawberries for red, pumpkin for orange, eggplant for purple, kale for green, bell peppers for yellow, blueberries for blue, etc). Increase your intake of antioxidants by incorporating more colour in your diet, like purple carrots, white eggplants, green cauliflower, purple tomatoes, rainbow chard, and so on.
Micronutrients lead to a healthy metabolism and blood sugar balance. When your cells are “hungry” for micronutrients you get a signal to eat more food. If you feed your body with empty calories, this vicious cycle will go on and on.
4. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates/grains
That is white flour products. Sugar and carbs whose fibre has been removed lead to blood sugar and insulin imbalance what makes weight-loss a real challenge.
5. Ensure sufficient quality protein intake
The type and frequency of animal and plant protein intake is very personal and a practitioner should help you assess the right amount for you. While plant-based protein (beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, peas) is important to keep you full and regular, animal protein is important for muscle growth and fat burning.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, your health practitioner will ensure sufficient and balanced protein intake for you.
Grass-fed animal produce is not only leaner but also contains more anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats that help with insulin signalling.
6. Don’t forget the fats!
Many people mistakenly believe that by cutting down on fats they will get a leaner, healthier body. As I like to say, fat is burnt in fat! By avoiding healthy fats, like extra-virgin olive oil, olives, avocado, nuts, seeds, oily fish, grass-fed meats, pasture-raised eggs, sustainable weight-loss becomes a challenge, as does optimal health.
All our cell membranes are made of fats. Fat is needed for our cells to communicate and for fat-soluble vitamins to be absorbed. Healthy fats like flaxseeds, chia seeds (high in fibre too), cold-pressed oils and flaxseed oil can also promote healthy weight-loss as they contribute to energy production.
7. Increase your soluble fibre intake
You will be surprised by how many vegetables it takes to reach our daily fibre intake goal. To ensure sufficient intake, we need to be frequently consuming high-fibre foods like beans, legumes, sprouts, chia seeds, hummus, cruciferous vegetables, apples. Avoid juices and drink more smoothies.
Fibre not only keeps us fuller for longer, but it also provides fuel for our gut probiotics, which determine how we use our energy from food. Gut dysbiosis contributes to insulin resistance. Insulin works by pushing glucose into cells so it can be used for energy, instead of being stored as fat.
8. Feed your friendly bacteria!
Our gut microbes outnumber our own cells by about 10 to one! Keeping them happy by feeding them not only improves gut health and digestion but it's also keeping us lean.
A diet high in fibre, probiotic foods (kefir, olives in brine, capers, kombucha, pickles, fermented vegetables, unpasteurised sauerkraut, beet kvass) and prebiotics (food for probiotics e.g. asparagus, rye, unripe bananas, onions, garlic, leeks) feeds the friendly bacteria, while a diet high in sugars, processed carbs and junk foods feeds the bad guys. A rise in pathogens (bacteria, parasites, yeast) leads to more fat-storing, less fat-burning and insulin imbalance.
9. The way you cook food affects your weight
Heating foods at high temperatures, whether that be baking, boiling or frying reduces the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in food - especially heat-sensitive nutrients like vitamin C and B-vitamins. Furthermore, grilling and barbecuing create toxic compounds, known to cause DNA damage.
Try to eat foods in their raw form (if your digestion is robust) or lightly sauté or steam. Slow cooking proteins, carbs and vegetables altogether is probably the best way to cook.
10. Ditch the vegetable oils!
Avoid using unstable polyunsaturated oils like sunflower and soy oil. Use extra-virgin olive oil for mild cooking or coconut oil and ghee for higher temperatures/frying. All other oils should be used strictly raw. Likewise, nuts, seeds and their butters should be used mostly raw and cold-pressed.
11. Flavour foods with as many herbs and spices as possible
Not only do they improve the taste but they also provide loads of nutrients and antioxidants, for a more functional metabolism. Marinate your proteins in spices and herbs (fresh or ground). Drink loads of antioxidant-rich herbal teas, like green tea, matcha, vervain, rooibos, chamomile, dandelion, milk thistle, nettle, sage, and so on. Some of them also help to remove excess water (diuretics), as well as to relax (another important factor in weight-loss!).
12. Watch out on caffeine intake!
Coffee wakes up by the release of stress hormones. High levels of adrenaline and cortisol increase blood sugar levels with a subsequent spike in insulin. Insulin is a fat-storing hormone.
Caffeine is also dehydrating. The amount of caffeine one can tolerate varies from person to person. Caffeine consumption after 2pm can greatly interrupt sleep in sensitive people. Green tea, matcha smoothies, Swiss water decaf coffee, and chicory and dandelion coffee are great alternatives. If you are still tired, it means that either your diet or sleep are not ideal.
13. Avoid all soft drinks
Yes, even non-sugary ones. Both sugar and artificial sweeteners lead to insulin spikes and inefficient food metabolism. Naturally-flavoured filtered and seltzer/sparkling water (like lemon, citrus fruit, berries, mint, ginger, cucumber) is a great alternative.
14. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces per day
Or 1L for every 22kg! Water retention improves with water intake! All chemical reactions occur in water. Toxins are stored in fat cells. Our body doesn’t like toxins circulating in the body. If there is not enough water to remove toxins, fat cells (toxin) will not shrink easily.
15. Keep a diet diary
This can, at least in the beginning, help you stay on track. The purpose of a diet journal is not to calculate your daily calorie consumption and macronutrients, but to assess whether you are taking care of yourself when needed.
16. Move daily!
By movement, I don’t only mean exercise, but less sitting. Get a standing desk (or even better a treadmill desk!), sit on a pilates ball, park your car far away and walk, take the stairs, dance to your favourite songs, walk your dog - just move more!
Studies say “sitting is the new smoking”. Avoiding sitting for long periods of time helps to regulate hormone production and burn excess calories and fat. Weightlift exercises help build muscle mass that improves insulin sensitivity.
17. Don’t give up!
You need at least 10 weeks to create a habit and six months to stick to a routine without having to think about it. The most important thing is the lifelong skills you will gain throughout this journey.
18. Manage stress and relax more
Chronically high cortisol levels not only lead to hormonal imbalances but can also lead to mindless eating, emotional eating and can create unhealthy eating habits. For good digestion, our body needs to be in 'rest and digest' parasympathetic mode, as opposed to 'fight or flight'.
Your practitioner should be able to educate you on mindful eating and how to manage your stress more efficiently. Some stress-relieving activities include sports, dancing, yoga, pilates, deep breathing, meditation, journaling.
19. Get good quality sleep
This is probably the most important factor for a healthy, lean body. Poor sleep affects our appetite hormone signalling (leptin and ghrelin). It’s not your fault that you have cravings when you haven’t slept well. Your practitioner will educate you on sleep hygiene and might ask for your sleep data (if using a tracker). Relaxing before bedtime is one of the most important health habits.
20. Enjoy your food!
Last but not least - food is not our enemy. Food is what gives us energy, fuel and keeps us alive. Food is about nutrition, optimal health, mental health, emotional health, socialising, creating bonds, memories and celebrating our culture. Eating deserves the right amount of attention and time!
To sum up, one should not see themselves as a number on a scale. Likewise, no effort to lose weight should be evaluated solely by the number of the scale. Results should be evaluated by the new skills one gains, with the only goal being optimal health and an attitude towards physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Dieting, when seen as food deprivation, becomes a very stressful factor for any of us. No creature on this planet (except humans) submits itself to food deprivation on purpose. On the contrary, the right diet provides lasting nutrients, without the additional stress from their deprivation. In combination with regular exercise, the optimal diet allows the body to improve its composition for life.
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