The great part about adopting a healthier lifestyle is most of the time you will lose weight without even trying. This is because carrying more than a few extra pounds of fat is actually a sign your body isn’t in its healthiest state; and the same goes for being underweight. General overeating can cause weight gain, however, it is usually more the type of food that is causing the weight problem. Starving yourself to lose weight only serves to stress your body further and generally leads to binge eating and other types of disordered eating. Healthy weight loss will help ensure that you keep the weight off that you have worked so hard to get rid of, and it also ensures that you lose the right kind of weight because generally you want to lose fat while maintaining or increasing muscle. As an added bonus; most of these tips can be applied to someone trying to gain weight naturally as well! These are my top 12 tips for losing weight naturally.
Some people think they can get away with eating whatever they want if they exercise enough, but it doesn’t really work that way. Food isn’t just calories, it is also vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, etc. No amount of running is going to negate the fact that you ate a big mac for breakfast. Even if you burn off every single calorie in that big mac you are still left with the indigestion, inflammation, and chemical additives, while your body gets minimal amounts of micronutrients out of the deal. It is theorized by some scientists that it may be the chemical content of conventional food (and not the calories themselves) that has lead to the obesity epidemic we are seeing today in North America. These chemicals have been termed “obesogens“. Eating more nutrient dense foods such as fresh vegetables, fruit, and grass fed meat will supply your body with plenty of important micro-nutrients without the questionable chemicals. In addition, too much cardio (spending hours at the gym trying to burn off all the ‘bad’ calories you ate) negatively affects hormones by increasing cortisol production in the body. This means that too much cardio can make it harder for your to lose weight! There is a smarter (and more satisfying) way to go about this!
2. Eliminate Refined Products from your Diet
This means white sugar, white flour, pastas, overly processed meats (such as conventional hot dogs), etc. Generally, the less packaged stuff you can buy, the better. Good alternatives to white sugar are good quality honey, coconut sugar, and whole foods such as dates and bananas. Check out my guide to alternative sweeteners here. These foods will help you feel less deprived while making the transition. Eliminating refined products is one of the best things you can do for yourself even if you aren’t trying to lose weight because you are forced to replace these foods that are empty of nutrients with nutrient dense ones. This can help all sorts of other health issues as well (skin conditions, fatigue, digestive issues, etc.). As tasty as refined products are, they promote overeating and don’t properly nourish your body.
3. Don’t Drink Your Food
Ditch the smoothies, soda, juice, coffee, etc. Chewing is an important part of the digestive process; it signals to the rest of the system to start producing digestive enzymes. Without these enzymes your body cannot completely digest its food, which can slow down metabolism. In addition, it is much easier to drink an excessive amount of food than it would be to actually eat the whole foods themselves. Often when you are drinking smoothies for a meal you consume more food than you really need or you may still feel hungry when you are finished. Protein powder smoothies can be a great addition to your diet if you are looking to add more protein. However, the best protein sources come from whole foods; don’t rely on protein powders for all your protein. Check out my article on whole food sources of protein here.
Pop and fruit juice are arguably the worst offenders; they contain no fiber to slow down sugar absorption which causes blood sugar spikes. Blood sugar spikes are followed by the dreaded sugar crash, which creates cravings for more sugar; its a vicious cycle. Don’t be fooled with fruit juices just because fruit is natural. The fructose content without the fiber is just as bad for your health as any other sugar. Fructose itself is actually a suspected obesogen.
If you are going to drink coffee it is best drank unsweetened (or with a small amount of natural sweetener), and if you can make the switch; black, green, and herbal teas are excellent alternatives. I still love me a cup of earl grey tea in the morning!
4. Avoid ‘Diet’ Foods Like the Plague
Diet foods are the bane of my existence. Diet foods are usually low fat and contain artificial sweeteners. First, when you are dieting you want fat in your diet (more details on this in the next point). Secondly, the lack of fat must be replaced with something, which usually ends up being extra sugar or starch. They also use thickeners and all sorts of artificial ingredients to make it taste like “normal” food. You do not want any part of this in your diet. This will not help you lose any weight.
I’m not sure if these are still on the market but at one point a fat alternative came out called ‘olestra‘ that people were using in fat-free products because your body didn’t break it down the way it digests normal fat so you wouldn’t get any calories from it. Sounds great right? Not. Read this comical review of someones experience with it (adult language involved, click at your own risk). Sugar alcohols can produce similar gastrointestinal problems because you are meant to digest your food so when your body comes into contact with something it cannot break down, bad things happen. If you feel like you need a little more comedy in your day check out these reviews of some sugar-free gummy bears (again there is adult language involved).
Artificial sweeteners are just bad news all around. Recent studies have shown that eating artificial sweeteners actually increases carbohydrate cravings, and even stimulate fat storage and weight gain (source). Food is supposed to have calories. You are really better off eating nothing than eating Source yogurt and diet Pepsi. If you can’t stop yourself from eating these foods, you may want to ask yourself why you can’t stay away from them. It is actually fairly common for people to become addicted to diet pop. There are more natural alternatives to diet pop but I would only recommend having them occasionally as drinking them every day can still cause problems. My top picks for diet pop alternatives are Zevia All Natural Soda, Spritzers, or my personal favorite; GTs Kombucha (my favorite flavor is gingerberry!).
5. Eat More Protein and Fat
Protein and fat are where its at! Good quality protein and fat are the main macro-nutrients that make you feel full and satisfied from a meal. This is because it takes longer for your body to digest proteins and fats as opposed to carbohydrates that can pass through the digestive tract a lot quicker. Proteins and fats stimulate hormone messages to the brain telling us that we are full and to stop eating. While there is nothing inherently wrong with carbohydrates themselves, reducing carbohydrate consumption and increasing good quality proteins and fats can help reduce sugar cravings, keep you feeling full, and stabilize your energy levels throughout the day. Good quality fats include coconut oil, butter, avocado oil, olive oil, and fats present in grass-fed meat and eggs. Avoid vegetable and nut oils as they are high in polyunsaturated fats and oxidize easily. Good quality proteins consist of grass-fed meat, wild caught fish, eggs, nuts and seeds (in moderation), and organic dairy (if tolerated). If you would like to learn more about fats and oils, check out my complete guide to fats and oils here.
6. Only Eat When You are Hungry.
This is by far the most difficult thing to do in the North American society. Advertising is telling you to eat every second of every day. All social gatherings are built around food; eating out, potluck, family dinner, etc. It is really hard to get away from the constant temptation to eat when you aren’t hungry. The first step is identifying why you eat besides for hunger. Most people eat when they are bored or stressed, but there are a lot of other reasons people do it as well (feel obligated, don’t want to be rude, certain time of day, etc). When you feel like eating you should first consider how hungry you really are, and if you aren’t really hungry try drinking some water or a cup of herbal tea instead. Snacking on non-starchy vegetables is also a good way to keep your hands busy.
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