Prepare yourself for a long journey. It is not easy.
- Food manufacturers use sugar in their products to get consumers addicted
- Most processed foods contain high amounts of sugar
- High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a common source of sugar in many foods as it is the cheapest form of sugar available. HFCS can lead to fatty liver, insulin resistance, diabetes and should be totally avoided.
Know the Glycemic Index of your favorite foods: High and medium glycemic index foods should be totally avoided, while trying to lose weight. Many patients are unaware of how different foods affect blood glucose levels. They may think a white potato is OK to have with dinner, orange juice is a good way to start the day, watermelon is a good snack, or that bananas are a healthy choice. However, these all are high glycemic index foods, so knowledge is a key part of each weight loss program. Avoid foods with a high reward value, or seductiveness, like ice cream, pizza, candy, etc. Substitute these for healthier, but still appealing alternatives, like just baked tuber, freshly roasted nuts, berries, fruits, vegetables, or even simply cooked meat.
Sugar is everywhere in our food sources, especially in the liquids we consume. Sodas, vitamin-enriched water, fruit juices, energy drinks, sport drinks, flavored coffees, pre-sweetened tea, and even flavored kefir and yogurt drinks often contain ridiculously high amounts of sugar.
Changing what you drink to help lose weight is often a major challenge. Adhere to drinks like water, which can be flavored by citrus wedges, or unsweetened tea (no caffeine and organic is the best choice) and unsweetened almond or coconut milk. It is not easy, but it is a critical first step in weight loss. Drink water before each meal.
Losing weight requires resetting the body’s metabolism. Keeping the weight off requires adopting healthy eating habits on a regular basis. To begin, you need to give up all sugar, especially all the hidden sugars in processed foods. If you can successfully do this, you will lose a significant portion of your weight over 4-8 weeks. You have to commit to several months of a restricted diet if you want to successfully reset your metabolism. Even a little cheating on the diet makes it much more difficult to reset your metabolism and change to more fat burning rather than fat storage.
Most patients will reach a plateau, and will need to take an additional step to reset or increase their metabolism. At this point, in addition to giving up all sugars, you need to also avoid all grains. If you again reach a plateau in a few weeks, increase your exercise regimen.
It is more successful long term to take one step at a time rather than initiate a very restrictive diet along with a new exercise regimen all at once.
Patients will often lose weight for a while, then while staying on the same regimen unexplainably gain some back. As insulin resistance develops throughout the body, the last place it occurs is in the liver. The weight gained as the result of developing insulin resistance occurs much earlier in the process. As insulin resistance is reversed, there comes a point in the process that one may actually gain some weight back, as part of the reversal process, and it is a sign of reversing insulin resistance, but this weight gain is minimal.
Many patients believe that eliminating fats and starving themselves is the best way to lose weight. They really need to understand that weight loss is not all about the calories in vs. calories burned. Even though the number of calories impacts your body fatness, it is better to control your impulses to eat, than to count calories. Eat low calorie density and and higher protein foods, so you feel more full per unit of calorie and when you reach that point where your brain tells you to stop eating, you’ll consume less calories. Choosing a low-carb diet is beneficial for most patients. Even without counting calories, most overweight people will eat far fewer calories while on a low-carb diet. Sugar and starch actually increase hunger, while a low-carb diet can cause a person to want to eat less. There are some concerns with a low-carb diet however: If patients also attempt to restrict fat intake as well as carbohydrate intake, they are limiting the body’s main two sources of energy, which can lead to hunger, cravings and fatigue. The brain reacts as if it is starving, which causes fat retention and less fat burning. Patients do not continue a diet that makes them hungry and tired, while they are not losing weight.
You need to include “good” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in addition to healthy saturated fats to help you feel satisfied.
- Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) raise HDL, lower LDL and help protect the arteries from plaque buildup. MUFA sources include: olive oil, avocado, cashews, and almonds.
- Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) lower LDL and contain heart-and-brain-nourishing omega-3 fatty acids plus omega-6 fatty acids, which are healthy in small amounts when obtained from raw food sources. PUFA sources include: salmon, herring, mackerel, flax, walnuts and tofu.
- Saturated fats, such as coconut oil, cheese, and butter, are ideal for people on low-carb diets and those trying to cut out refined sugars. Saturated fats are a concentrated source of energy and thus, should be eaten strategically.
AVOID manufactured “low carb” products. Dark bread, for instance, may have less carbs than white bread, if made from different flour grains, but it still contains plenty of carbs. Avoid “low fat” products, as they are usually loaded with sugar or carbohydrates to enhance flavor.
Losing weight is not just about what you eat, but how and when you eat as well. Proper digestion can be affected by your surroundings during meals, and eating while stressed can result in poor food choices.
- Don’t wait until you are hungry to eat. Hunger is the result of blood glucose dropping, which creates cravings for stimulate foods that will raise blood sugars more quickly. Snacks should consist of protein, and good fats. Protein at each meal will help to sustain blood sugar levels.
- Eat smaller meals more often. Our metabolism is best adapted to consume small amounts of food throughout the day, rather than 3 set meals each day. Most people consume too much food at an average meal, and then go too long before they eat again. In an ideal situation, we would consume a small portion of food at least 6 times a day. While that goal is unrealistic for most people, we should aim more towards that manner of eating.
- Chew well. Chewing is the first and perhaps most important part of the digestive process. You have to chew each bite at least 30 times before swallowing. Chewing well allows the digestive enzyme amylase in the saliva to predigest a portion of the food before you even swallow. Chewing well will slow down the eating process, and often results in consumption of less food. If you chew well, you can taste sweetness in your mouth.
- Slow down and enjoy the eating process. Concentrate on the enjoyment of eating using mindfulness techniques. Enjoying each bite as you chew will slow down eating, and increase awareness of approaching fullness. Take at least 20 minutes for each meal, since it takes that long for the brain to receive the signal that you are full.
- Avoid distractions while eating. Eating should not be done at the same time that you are driving a vehicle, having a business meeting, typing up a report, sitting in a loud and noisy environment, reading, or even watching TV (unless it’s a program that makes you laugh or smile).
- Never eat when you are emotional – do relaxation techniques prior to eating.
- Do not overeat. Stop eating after one full plate. Waiting 10 to 30 minutes will usually result in a feeling of being full. If you continue to eat until you feel full, you most likely have eaten more than you need and will feel very full and bloated afterwards.
- Pay attention to sleep and circadian rhythm. Go to bed at the same time, get 7-8 hours of sleep, wake up at the same time. Try to eat at the same time and do not skip meals, you eat more the following meal.
- Control your environment. If you do not have calorie-dense, tempting “junk” food in the house, in your office, or within your reach, you are not going to eat it.
For more advice on healthy lifestyle and eating well, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Koganski at 215-750-7000 or www.newtowninternalmedicine.com.
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