With summer approaching, shorts and bathing suits are on everyone’s mind. We’re shedding those bulky layers and sometimes we need to shed those layers of bulk as well. My blog, 9 Weight Loss, introduces you to holistic, sustainable approaches to weight loss (as well as food politics, quirky and delicious recipes, and really, whatever I feel like discussing that day). Here at Natural Home, each Monday in May I’ll share with you one of my top five tips for weight loss, my “Greatest Weight Loss Hits,” if you will. We’re going beyond the things you already know about, like portion control and exercise, and addressing some of the lesser-known reasons why people gain weight—and how they can lose it.
Tip #1: Eat enough, and enough of the right stuff
You should feel satiated, not bursting, when you finish your meal. If you’re still hungry after 15 or 20 minutes, eat more. In theory, you should stay full for about 4 hours, although everyone’s body is different. If you eat significantly less than your body needs, it is a setup for late night bingeing on Ben & Jerry’s.
This may sound confusing. Don’t you have to be hungry to lose weight? Isn’t a growling stomach indicative of fat melting away? In fact, it can have the opposite effect. When you’re too hungry, your blood sugar drops, and over time, your thyroid puts the brakes on your metabolism. Your body thinks you’re in a famine, so it makes the most of the calories you do consume. This is why skipping meals is a very, very bad idea. I’ve worked with two clients, a 26-year-old and a 50-year-old, who routinely skipped breakfast. The 26-year-old was 10 pounds overweight and the 50-year-old was 40 pounds overweight. Neither of them could understand why. They both lamented, “But I hardly eat?” My response? “Exactly.”
What’s the best way to stay full? When your body is hungry, it’s craving two things: calories and nutrients. This is why eating a fast-food meal will leave you starving (and feeling sick) in a matter of hours. Your body’s wondering where the vitamins and minerals are and asking for more food. So the more nutrient-dense your meals, the more full you’ll be. This means whole, organic, unprocessed foods. No weird fake foods. And don’t forget to chew thoroughly! The better you break down your food, the more nutrients you can extract from it.
Another key to satiety is fat. If you read last week’s post, Why Low-Fat Diets Can Make You Sick, you’re already in-the-know about this key macronutrient. If not, read it. But here’s the 101: Fat is good. We need fat. It’s really important for energy and cellular integrity and vitamin absorption. It also keeps us fuller longer. Do you have a habit of reaching for vending-machine eats just an hour or two after your lunch? Try adding more fat to your meal and see whether your cravings diminish.
Finally, don’t forget about fiber. This stuff bulks up in the intestine and provides a feeling of fullness. Veggies and fruits are a top source. So are whole grains, although not everyone can digest grains well (see my 9 Weight Loss post "Livin La Vida Low Carb" for my thoughts on this).
Want a preview of Tip #2? A certain emotional state, extremely pervasive in American culture, is directly linked to weight gain. Visit Food for Thought next week to find out what it is, and what you can do about it.
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