The holidays are fast approaching and we all will be tempted by high-sugar, high-fat treats. On average, people gain 7 to 15 lbs over this time of the year. Not only that, but this high sugar intake depletes our immune systems, leaving us more vulnerable to seasonal colds and flu’s. This guideline is meant to encourage you to stick to your healthy eating plan, to stay healthy, and to avoid the weight gain, or even drop some unwanted pounds.
Causes of Weight Gain
In addition to taking in too many calories for our bodies’ needs, excess weight can be caused by several different factors. Most people with weight struggles have a combination of these: liver stress / toxicity, adrenal / thyroid fatigue, and digestive deficiency. (In Oriental Medicine diagnostics, these would equate to Liver Qi Stagnation, Damp-Heat in the Middle, Spleen deficiency with Dampness, and Kidney deficiency.)
Steps to Successful Weight Loss
In addition to the appropriate acupuncture and herbal regimen, the following guidelines are essential to help correct these imbalances, and shed excess weight. The more of these steps you follow, the more you will benefit.
Reduce your stress levels:
Take up yoga, meditation, prayer-work, breath-work; whatever helps you manage your stress. This is #1 for a reason. If reducing your stress means changing your career / job, relationship, or residence, then you should consider doing so.
Why? Aside from halting weight loss, and promoting fat gain, stress is a killer! It is a major precipitator of all forms of disease and dysfunction in the body. Stress puts a burden on the adrenals, which weakens the thyroid, and causes cortisol release, wreaking havoc with hormonal balance, and adding belly fat. Stress also impedes the processes of the liver, which is vital for detoxification, blood sugar balance, hormonal balance and metabolism. Lastly, stress makes us crave junk food & refined / processed carbs and leads to overeating.
Sleep 8 hours every night:
Why? Enough sleep allows the body to recharge and renew itself. Without it, the adrenals, thyroid and liver become depleted. Too little sleep also adds more stress into the system. Plus, we tend to crave junk food and overeat when we are tired.
Walk at least 30 minutes every day, after a meal:
after lunch or dinner, or both. This is in addition to any other exercise you are currently doing.
Why? The light, low-impact, rhythmic movement of walking after meals promotes digestion and stokes metabolism. This is not about burning a lot of calories, so you don’t have to walk fast.
Drink enough water:
Women, 64-96 oz daily. Men, 80-112 oz daily. This should be filtered or purified water. No added flavors other than fresh squeezed lemon, lime or sliced cucumber. (After about 10 days, your body will get used to the water, and you won’t have to run to the restroom so often.)
Why? Studies show that increasing water consumption boosts metabolism, aids in detoxification of liver and kidneys, assists hormonal balance, decreases aches and pains (inflammation) and calms excessive hunger.
Have a snack between meals: Do not allow yourself to get too hungry:
If you are feeling hunger pangs between meals, eat a handful of nuts, some fresh fruit, a clean protein shake, or some fresh veggie sticks.
Why? Allowing ourselves to get very hungry drops blood sugar too much, causes adrenal and liver stress, and leads to poor food choices and overeating when we do eat again.
Limit caffeine intake:
to 1 cup daily of organic coffee or tea, before 10 am.
Why? More than this stresses the adrenals and liver, releasing stress hormones that throw off blood sugar levels, making us crave sugar and adding belly fat.
Follow the “50/25/25 meal plate” at your 3 main meals per day:
Visualize dividing your plate into 4 quarters:
50% (2 quarters) of your meal is vegetables: raw, steamed, sautéed, stir-fried, roasted – it doesn’t matter – it just needs to be vegetables (not corn or peas). Do not add cheese or creamy dressings to your vegetables. You may add dressing made of balsamic vinegars, herbs, spices and raw flaxseed oil or hot sauces (if they don’t contain sugar.) For roasting or sautéing use grass-fed ghee, sesame oil, coconut oil or authentic virgin olive oil.
Why? Vegetables are nature’s perfect health & diet food; Low in calories and fat, while being high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and anti-cancer properties, as well as countless phyto-nutrients that assist the thousands of processes that our bodies and organs must perform everyday.
25% (one quarter) of your meal is clean protein: (about 4-6 oz) all animal protein must be ORGANIC and GRASS-FED or FREE-RANGE. Any fish must be WILD CAUGHT. You may also choose gluten-free, vegetarian protein options such as whole cooked beans, nuts, organic tempeh/tofu, or a clean sugar-free protein powder. Any dairy must be ORGANIC and GRASS-FED. Any eggs must be ORGANIC and CAGE-FREE.
Why? Animal-based foods that are not organic, grass-fed, free-range and wild-caught have higher concentrations of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, PCB’s, dioxins and other toxins, due to the biomagnification of fat soluble toxins as they travel up the food chain. All soy products must be organic because non-organic soy is genetically-modified.
25% (one quarter) of your plate is either Wheat-free, Whole-food Starch or Fresh Whole Fruit: Wheat-free, whole-food starches include: Baked sweet potato, yam, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash; or Slow-cooked brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat, or oatmeal.
Why? These are the most healthful, lowest glycemic starchy carbs. Contrary to popular fad “low carb” diets, our bodies actually need high quality whole-food starches to perform optimally. Low-carb diets stress the liver, gallbladder, thyroid, adrenals and hormonal processes.
alcohol, sugars of all types (except for whole fresh fruit), sweets and sweeteners of all types (other than stevia), hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (a.k.a. trans fats), all flour-containing products such as breads, tortillas, chips, pretzels, crackers, as well as instant oatmeal or other instant cereals/grains. Also avoid all artificial colors, flavors and preservatives (as much as possible!)
Why? All of these products burden the liver and adrenals, and wreak havoc with blood sugar balance, slowing down or halting fat burning, and making us crave junk food.
Notice if you are sabotaging your own weight loss:
If you find that you are eating in response to negative emotion, then seek counseling or coaching to help you resolve the emotional issue, and find healthier ways to manage stress.
Why? Many emotional-eaters have experienced an abuse, major loss or trauma in the past that precipitated overeating. If this is true for you, you must address and resolve this before you will be able to shed the weight for good.
Taking it to the Next Level
Those who are the most successful at dropping and maintaining their weight also incorporate these things:
- Use the free My Fitness Pal to track calorie intake. It includes a program to determine how many calories you need per day. In general, meals should be between 300-400 calories (women) or 500-600 calories (men) and snacks between 100-200 (women) or 200-300 (men). More than this at any one sitting usually gets stored as fat.
- Plan your meals! Know each day what and when you are going to be eating. Get creative! Try new tasty, vegetable-heavy recipes, such as salads, soups, stir-fries, and green smoothies.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Realize this is a day-by-day process. Successful, long-term weight loss is not a quick fix. You will slip up, and hit plateau’s. It is important to stay positive and keep on going.
- Stick with it. It can sometimes take 2-3 months on this program before you see significant change. This is because you are feeding your body vital nutrients and rest that it may have been lacking for many years; often the body needs time to heal and detoxify before it is “willing” to release excess weight. Be patient. Have faith, know that you doing the right thing for your body. Even if you can’t see the changes externally yet, your body is getting healthier.
- Add a regular routine of resistance training, cardio and/or yoga. A regular fitness routine will help tremendously. Building muscle revves up the metabolism, tones the body, greatly helps to balance blood sugar, and decreases the aches and pains of everyday life. It also keeps us more mobile and able to do things as we age.
Best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful and healthful Holiday Season!