I spend a large majority of my day talking to people about their health and fitness goals, and while exercise is an important and necessary component of maintaining muscle tone, flexibility, bone strength, and so forth the food we eat and the way we treat our bodies in between workouts is just as, if not more important! You can not out train a bad diet. For someone like me who has been restricted from most forms of exercise for years I have come up with a series of concepts I rule my diet by to maintain my weight without much physical activity.
1.) Ditch the sugar!
Start reading your labels and pay attention to the sugar content. Stay clear from flavored drinks, yogurts, and juices; these are major hidden offenders of added sugars. You want to be in control of the sugar that is added and the kind. A lot of these pre- packaged products contain high fructose corn syrups and white refined sugars.
2.) Catch some zzzz’s
Think back to a night that you barely slept and had to wake up early and go through a long day. What food were you craving? Did you double up on caffeine only to crash again in the afternoon? Here’s the thing about sleep, while you won’t necessarily lose weight by sleeping more (although proper sleep does cause your metabolism to function more efficiently) sleep deprivation causes a spiral effect for hormone function. The two hormones associated with sleep are Leptin, the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and Grehlin, the hormone that tells you when to eat. So when you are sleep deprived you produce more grehlin and have less leptin causing you to overeat at inappropriate times.
More ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain.
3.) Be a food Detective
Read your labels and look out for words such as trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and any “chemical names” or words that you can’t pronounce. Basically you should recognize all of the ingredients and remember whole foods (fruits, veggies, whole meat and eggs) do not need labels and are the best foods for healthy metabolisms.
4.) Cut back on the salt!
Fresh herbs and spices are calorie free additives that can be used to reduce salt in cooking. Excess sodium can lead to many imbalances but mostly it can lead to water weight which will make you appear much heavier than you really are. Refined iodized salts are heavily processed with an additive to prevent clumping, so go for natural sea salts like Celtic or Himalayan for natural occurring trace minerals and elements.
5.) Eat all starches and heavy carbohydrates before 5pm (or 4-6 hours before bed).
Remind yourself the reason for eating carbohydrates is to provide energy. Do you need energy to sleep? Nope, actually the opposite. Sumo wrestlers eat large meals right before bed to gain weight. Keep that in mind when you are about to eat before going to bed. Try to eat your last meal/snack 4 hours before bed so you have plenty of time to digest your food and have a better nights sleep.
6.) Learn to cook
Cooking your own food means you are in control of the sodium, oils, and ingredients that go into your food. Restaurants use unrefined oils that are cheap and there is no way of knowing where the produce came from. Start slow, cook in bulk, and eat as much food from home as you can. It will save you a lot of money and help you control your weight gain. Explore my healing recipes and experiment with a few different categories and styles to keep your pallet excited and satisfied.
7.) Never leave home with out some snacks and water
Being prepared with healthy snacks and fresh water is your best bet to stay on course. Staying properly fueled also helps maintain proper blood sugar and will help you resist binging on bad food when your hunger is out of control. If you are stranded without food try finding a supermarket where you can buy raw nuts, fresh fruit, and healthy snacks instead of stopping for fast food or pre packaged snacks high in fat and sodium. Check out my healthy snack list here.
8.) Ditch the factory processed vegetable oils
Canola, soy, cotton, and any other vegetable based oils that are high in Omega 6’s and highly refined are pro-inflammatory and cause a major imbalance of your Omega 3:6 ratio. A proper balance is 2:1 (Omega 3:Omega 6) to maintain low inflammation levels which is hard to maintain if you are eating an excess amount of these vegetable oils present in packaged and restaurant foods. Keep your cold pressed olive, avocado, flax, or any other similar oil cold and use for finishing on veggies or in salad dressings. Cooking with these causes the fats to turn rancid and fills your body with toxins that causes poor cellular function making weight loss very difficult. Cook with ghee or coconut oil for high heat cooking to avoid this and finish with cold pressed oils to keep you body functioning at a high level.
9.) Eat protein for breakfast
The word breakfast means to break the fast you did while sleeping. Because your body has been without food for 6-8 hours the first thing that you eat can set you up for success or failure. Eating a carbohydrate/sugary breakfast will spike your insulin and cause you to crash in a few hours with pangs of hunger. Eating a protein rich breakfast will keep your blood sugar stable and adding some fat will keep you full for longer. A balanced blood sugar is the key to controlling hunger and warding against binge eating. A combination of protein and quality fat is perfect for blood sugar balance and keeping your metabolism operating efficiently.
10.) Drink more water!
Did you know that many times thirst is confused for hunger? Try drinking a full glass of water before every meal and before every time you go to reach for a snack. This will help you eat less and feel fuller longer. Drinking a full glass of water upon waking also promotes detoxification especially when paired with lemon juice to kick-start your metabolism.
All in all the best way to maintain a healthy weight is to keep your stress down, get plenty of sleep, eat whole foods, drink a lot of water and your body with reflect these health promoting habits.