When it comes to weight loss, there’s no shortage of diet plans. Check any magazine rack, and you’re bound to see the latest and greatest diet plans. The question is this though, how do you know if a diet plan fits your needs and lifestyle? Before you begin, ask yourself these questions:
- Does it include various foods from the major food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, lean protein sources and nuts?
- Does it include foods you like and that you would enjoy eating for a lifetime — not just until you lose the weight?
- Can you easily find these foods in your local grocery store?
- Will you be able to eat your favorite foods, or better yet, all foods?
- Does it fit your lifestyle and budget?
- Does it include proper amounts of nutrients and calories to help you lose weight safely and effectively?
- Is regular physical activity part of the plan?
Most people looking to lose weight often focus on the losing weight part of a diet and not making it a lifestyle change. The diet you pick to lose weight should be one that you will continue to eat after you have lost the weight. If you pick anything other than this concept, you are most likely going to gain it all back.
I understand how difficult it is to take a look in the mirror and realize that the reason that something is wrong with me is because I caused it. Years ago, I stood in my bedroom and took a profile picture of myself with no shirt on (I was 20 pounds overweight). I used this as motivation to live/follow my 4-pillars of health: Diet (how you eat), Activity (exercise mentioned), Spirituality (attitude about ourselves plays a huge role) and Supplementation (assistance for what may be lacking in your everyday diet or for plateaus while losing weight). Occasionally I show the picture to people, and they can’t believe it’s me (I cut the head off of the picture). See, I too once was overweight. But now, utilizing the techniques I teach, I am able to maintain the health I desire. I learned a new lifestyle and so can you.
If you are serious about losing the weight you have gained over the years, then it generally boils down to lifestyle changes that need to become permanent. Being a healthy weight involves several areas of which two are the most important: Calories consumed and Calories Burned. Before we get into these two areas, let’s take a quick look at other things that may influence the battle you are facing.
There are those of us who have other underlying reasons for weight gain or inability to lose weight. The #1 reason other than the calories consumed vs. burned is stress. Stress will: Increase your desire to eat, increase your storage of fat, decrease your desire to exercise and decrease your metabolic rate. This is sort of the “perfect storm” of weight issues. Considering that these days most people are “stressed out”, there is no questioning why obesity is on the rise (over 38% of the adult population).
For more help on this topic of “other” things that may impact your ability to lose weight, I am including an excerpt from a previous article I wrote on hidden reasons people struggle with their weight issues:
I have worked closely with hundreds if not thousands of people who are challenged at losing weight. In all honesty, I used to be amazed at how many people really don’t get the concept of “how to lose weight”. Only recently through prayer did I come to realize that we all have health struggles. In short, I have become a lot more companionate to the struggles that many have with achieving a healthy weight. Being overweight is a major contributing risk factor for most of the diseases that shorten our lifespan and decrease our quality of life. I also realized that many people think they are doing the right thing to lose weight, yet modern marketing and advertising has most people buffaloed. Here are a few examples: eating a bowl of cereal in the morning is a great way to lose weight (this will only contribute to blood sugar dips and increased cravings). Or, that eating “low-fat” is sound advice to losing weight (low fat foods often are high in either sugar, salt or artificial ingredients which will not help with weight loss one bit). Taking it one step further: Just put this patch on your body and watch the pounds melt away. Ok, the last one might be a bit crazy, but the reality is that what we get “taught” on TV and radio via advertisements is deceiving and not always the whole story.
I was touched by a gentleman who phoned into my radio program admitting that he was significantly over weight, yet acknowledged at this point he wasn’t focusing on his weight issue. He admitted he was a “food addict” and realized that traditional “dieting” was not going to work with him until he corrected his addiction.
Another great example was the woman I met on a flight who put on 100+ pounds after her divorce because “she didn’t want to be loved anymore and figured that by being overweight that no one would. (Made me cry). Or the person I met who gained 130 pounds in 7 months because of the loss of his mother suddenly. And there was the woman who put on 75 pounds in 5 months following a bad auto accident. What about the woman who gained 15 pounds the year she finished going through menopause. Or the guy who gained 15 pounds only 2 months after he stopped smoking. And I can’t forget the woman who gained 50 pounds the year after she stopped using a stimulant weight loss supplement for 2 straight years. Each one of these situations is true and the weight went on for different reasons:
- Body trauma
- Hormonal changes
- Adrenal fatigue
- Drug use
- This list can go on and on
I am not writing this to endorse or give you excuses to stay overweight, but to help you realize some of the root causes of why you are overweight. I preach that we ALL need to get to the root cause of why we have what we have before we can “treat” it. I have consulted with numerous people who were realistically eating 1200 calorie/ day diets and doing 45 minutes of aerobics 4 days per week and couldn’t lose weight. It doesn’t add up (pun intended) does it? These people were all TRUTHFULLY consuming fewer calories than they burned and not losing weight. The body is an amazing machine. In some rare instances it can do some pretty astonishing things. With these people that were just mentioned, it was an emotional issue similar to the woman who’s husband cheated on her and then divorced her: Her body was subconsciously retaining weight so she couldn’t be loved. (These are not my words, but hers)
If you are truly struggling with your weight: Find out why you struggle and then address it head-on.
- Addiction- Get into a counseling program with someone who deals with addiction or consider hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy is one of my favorite things to use in situations like this (addiction)
- Emotions- Ditto to the above statement but maybe not the hypnotherapy component.
- Body trauma- Dig to the root of the trauma and injury and work at getting it fixed. Use other modalities of healing such as healing touch, acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, supplementation, etc. to “heal” your body from the damage done from the physical trauma.
- Hormonal changes- Work on supporting your body’s hormone levels and the process of change. Chinese medicine is great at helping assist the body through both menopause and andropause. Consuming less processed foods and animal proteins can be helpful as well. Supplementing with digestive bitters and liver support herbs will be helpful too.
- Adrenal fatigue- this can come from drugs, supplements, stress, tobacco, etc. With regards to supplements, I am referring to those that contain stimulants like kola nut, guarana, caffeine, etc. Too often people who use these weight loss supplements will slow their metabolic rate over time and when they stop using the supplements, they gain weight just looking at food. (Joking of course-but it seems like it). Getting your adrenals back in order by removing stress, certain drugs, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, etc. is critical for reducing and healing from adrenal fatigue. Energy drinks are EVIL in my opinion and will most likely lead you down this path of a slower metabolism and adrenal fatigue. Drinking plenty of water, supplementing, eating right, getting more sleep/rest are all helpful at getting you back to your old self.
- Drug use- if these are prescribed medications, you obviously need to address removal with your health care provider. Illegal drugs and OTCs are also evil here. Read your labels and ask your pharmacist if your “medication” may increase your appetite/weight or slow your metabolism down. Just because your doctor says take it doesn’t mean it is healthy for you.
The above are often combined with poor diet (high calories and wasted calories) and lack of exercise, which leads to a waistline explosion. This is even more of a reason for us to focus on those things we can control (what we put into our body and how much activity we get) while we are sorting out the other areas. An example would be someone who is dealing with a lot of stress over an extended period time. The body turns itself into a fat-factory due to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Until you can get your stress levels under control and in-turn lower your cortisol levels, you need to be extra-diligent about your diet and activity. Stress will often drive cravings for foods that are unhealthy for us and will easily pack on the pounds: Sugar, starches and alcohol. To be totally transparent, this was me several years ago. It was only recently that my stress level normalized and my weight was easier to keep off.
Let’s get back to the two major areas that impact our weight: Diet and exercise. For whatever reason we seem to focus on diet when trying to lose weight and forget that being active is an essential component of any weight-loss/weight-maintaining program. When you’re active, your body uses energy (calories) to work, helping to burn the calories you take in with food you eat. Losing weight should be a full effort and not just a calorie/starvation program. Let’s start with what it takes to gain or lose a pound of body weight:
One of the major keys to weight loss is to consume fewer calories than we burn. In order to lose one pound, you must burn 3500 calories more than you consume. Based on your age, gender, height and weight, you burn 2118 calories per day just to keep going. Any extra activity will make you burn more. If you burn and extra 350 calories per day and eat 350 calories per day (total=700) you should expect to lose 1 pound in 7 days. For example, 30 minutes of brisk walking daily will burn 150 calories per day or 3/10 of a pound each week. The following are other activities and how many calories you may burn in 30 minutes (based on a 140 pound person) (go to www.my-calorie-counter.com for more detailed activities and calories burned):
- Jogging- 225
- Bicycling, 10-11.9 mph, leisure, slow, light effort-191
- Elliptical Trainer Machine – Levels 11-14 – Light Effort -254.5
- Swimming laps, freestyle, slow, moderate or light effort- 222.5
If you want to speed up the process, you need to either consume fewer calories or increase your activity. There are tons of websites available to show you how many calories there are per serving of that type of food.
Obviously, the more difficult the activity, the more calories you will burn. Most experts (including me) recommend losing between 1-2 pounds per week. I recommend this pace for a few reasons:
- Rapid weight lose can cause you to lose muscle and not fat. Since muscle is what burns fat, the more you lose, the more your metabolic rate (burning of calories) will go down. Granted, the scale may say you lost weight, but it will be difficult for you to maintain due to your decreased metabolic rate. 1a. Rapid weight loss is usually followed by rapid weight gain.
- Rapid weight loss can put stress on major organs such as your heart and kidneys.
This all might sound overwhelming, but the reality is that you didn’t put that extra 30 pounds on in 30 days, but more likely over the past several years. Let’s assume that you put it on in the past 2 years: This means that you averaged gaining 1.25 pounds per month. Expecting to lose it in 30 days is unreasonable and VERY unhealthy. Your goal should be to lose 1-2 pounds per week. Keeping this in mind, you should lose the 30 pounds you requested in 15-30 weeks (more likely 15 weeks). Losing the weight slowly will also help you maintain a higher rate of metabolism and help your skin shrink back (reducing skin folds and wrinkles).
If you want to track your food/calorie intake, there are numerous apps for smartphones or you can use “old-fashioned” pen and paper to do the work. Regardless, keeping a record will enlighten you into the world of what you really eat/drink in a day and even the times when you consume most of your calories (should be in the morning and become less and less as the day passes by).
With this all being said, there is hope; getting your ship pointed in the right direction is the first start just like in the “perfect storm”. How do we go about getting our ship pointed in the right direction? Good question. Each one of is different with regards to inner-drive and willpower. It is for this reason that most people fail at losing or maintaining their weight. We all have hurdles, bumps in the road, blockades, brick walls, etc. that impede our progress and in most cases derail us. Granted above I mentioned the calories in vs. calories burned and what it actually takes to gain or lose a pound of body weight, but the following will be my “bare-bones” approach to getting your through or over those hurdles and blockades.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the questions you may want to ask yourself about the diet you are considering. These questions are a great place to start, but science should be another area to focus on. Recent research does show that a low-carbohydrate (low sugar and starch) diet is the best for losing weight and keeping it off, but even this can be challenging for most.
Let’s take a look at what a low-carb diet actually looks like:
A low-carb diet means you eat fewer carbohydrates and a higher proportion of fat and protein. Most importantly you minimize your intake of sugar and starches. You can eat other delicious foods until you are satisfied – and still lose weight.
- Meat: Any type, including beef, pork, game meat, chicken, etc. (avoid the fats in meats and chicken as they are saturated fats and can lead to other health issues)
- Fish and shellfish: All kinds: Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel or herring are best, but any fish is better than none at all. (Avoid breading)
- Eggs: Yes, the whole egg and not just the white. Boiled, poached, fried, scrambled, etc. However you like them prepared…go for it! Eggs are one of my “perfect foods” due to a great balance of fat and protein.
- Vegetables that grow above ground: All kinds of cabbage, such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Asparagus, zucchini, eggplant, olives, spinach, mushrooms, cucumber, lettuce, avocado, onions, peppers, tomatoes etc. Veggies are high in fiber, which will negate any naturally occurring sugars in the plants. Eat as many veggies as you want or can tolerate. They will fill you up and have little to no impact on your waste line.
- Dairy products: Always select full-fat options like real butter, cream (40% fat), sour cream, Greek/Turkish yogurt and high-fat cheeses. Be careful with regular milk and skim milk as they contain a lot of milk sugar. Avoid flavored, sugary and low-fat products. Always buy organic dairy products!
- Nuts: My personal favorites for weight loss are almonds, pistachios and macadamia nuts. All high in protein, fiber and good fats. Try a handful of raw almonds in the morning every day and see what happens to your weight. I keep a bag in my family room near where we watch TV so I can munch on nuts (something healthy) instead of chips.
Avoid: Sugar and starchy foods (like bread, pasta, rice, beans and potatoes). Examples we often overlook are sushi with rice, specialty coffee/tea beverages, alcoholic beverages, foods labeled “whole grain” (often aren’t really whole grain), potatoes in all forms, and most fruits. Fruits are a tough one because they provide amazing health benefits. Avoid all fruit juices and try to consume those with a low glycemic load/index. Make sure when eating fruits to eat the whole fruit because the fiber will help balance out/negate some of the impact of the naturally occurring sugars found in fruits.
Foods like breakfast cereals are sometimes the worst culprits. They often market themselves as “healthy” with images of hearts or with the picture of a tape measure but are usually evil for your weight. Another pitfall are foods that are marketed as Non-GMO, Organic or Gluten-Free. Even if your potato chip is Non-GMO, it is still a potato chip and will have the same negative impact on your weight. A gluten free cookie is still a cookie with the same calories. Organic means organic and not fewer calories. Don’t fall prey to misleading adverting or claims to be healthier. Calories and where they come from are what you need to focus on right now.
Since the low-carb diet has shown to be the best for losing weight, I believe this is the one most of us should attempt first. The challenge with a low-carb diet is the elimination of carbs. Remember the questions to ask yourself about choosing a diet mentioned above? If eating a low-carb diet seems impossible, then maybe you need to look at something else…OR…do what I do and make sure you take a couple of Phase 2 capsules prior to all meals and snacks. I used to say just take them with only starchy meals and snacks, but recent information leads me to believe that most of you (us) don’t know what is or isn’t a starch. For this reason, when in doubt, don’t leave Phase 2 out.
Other supplements that can be helpful in our discussion would be Relora and Tonalin. Relora is for those who have a ton of stress in their lives and suffer with weight issues due to the negative impact that stress has on cortisol levels. Adding it to your supplement program will over time have a positive impact on losing the weight you carry around your midsection (men) and hips (ladies). Tonalin is a good fat that has science showing it’s positive impact on weight. Since most people do not eat enough good fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, etc.), the addition of Tonalin to your everyday supplement program can help your body focus on burning your body fat for energy.
Whatever your struggle may be, keep in mind that the root of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight begins with a healthy lifestyle. Cut out those visits to fast food restaurants, eating refined and processed foods, get moving and pick a “diet” that suits your lifestyle. It really does boil down to calories consumed vs. calories burned.