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Condition - Four steps to successful Weight Management

By Holly Taylor BSc (Hons) DipCNM MBANT

If healthier habits and weight loss are among your new year’s resolutions, give yourself a pat on the back for making health a top priority. As with any resolution, the hard part is actually sticking to your goal and making real changes! For weight loss, it is important that your eating plan is sustainable and enjoyable. The 4 steps below will help you to plan a healthy eating strategy to reach your ideal weight:

Work out why you eat

There are many reasons why we choose to eat and most of them have nothing to do with hunger! Identifying how and why you overeat allows you to have more control over your dietary habits. The easiest way to do this is to keep a food diary for one to two weeks. Note down all the things you eat and drink through the day and any important feelings or emotions. At the end of the week, look over your responses and decide which of the statements below applies most to you:

  1. I overeat because I’m tired and stressed
  2. I overeat because I feel depressed - I crave starchy foods
  3. I overeat because I’m bored and snack a lot
  4. I overeat because I like large portions or feel obliged to clear my plate
  5. I overeat because I’m not really paying attention to my food - I eat on the move / at my desk / in front of the telly

When we’re tired or stressed we naturally crave stodgy, fatty foods and have a tendency to overeat. Supporting the body so it is better able to cope with stress is vital for successful weight loss. Herbs such as Rhodiola and Ashwanganda along with vitamin C, B vitamins and magnesium can help to support normal adrenal function, ensuring the adrenals have everything they need to get us through a stressful day.

When we’re feeling low, it’s natural to crave starchy foods because these help us to transport the chemicals we need into the brain to make serotonin (the happy hormone). But this short term fix usually ends up making us feel worse in the long run, especially as starchy food encourages weight gain! Instead, supplementing 5HTP may be a good idea, as it has been shown in dieting studies to help curb appetite and carbohydrate cravings, making an excellent aid to weight loss (do not take 5HTP if you are taking antidepressants of any kind or St John’s Wort).

Boredom eating is a difficult habit to break. The key is to distract yourself with something else. One option is to create a ‘pamper pack’, a ready-packed box of non-food treats such as face packs, favourite films, magazines, CDs, etc. that you can use to distract yourself.

Many of us are brought up in households where eating large portions or clearing your plate are commendable habits. The pace of modern living also means that meals are often eaten in haste or on the run. Both of these situations can lead to inadvertent overeating, either because we feel obliged to eat what is in front of us or we simply eat so fast we don’t realise we’re full. Getting back in touch with the feeling of fullness is crucial for dieting success.

The most important things are to pay attention to your food, eat slowly and to make time to eat so you can acknowledge the sensations that accompany a meal. Then make a commitment to yourself to only eat until you’re three quarters full. It takes about 20 minutes for the food you have eaten to reach the stomach, so there is a delay before you register that you are full. So, wait a few minutes before ordering dessert and you might find you don’t want it!

Learn to eat appropriate portions

Habitually eating more food than we need causes the stomach to stretch. This can lead us to feel hungry even after a normal portion of food. Luckily, scientists have recently discovered a component of potatoes that can aid the body in feeling full up. PI2 inhibitors work by extending the effects of our natural satiety messenger CCK. Women who have taken part in trials using PI2 inhibitor supplements one hour before meals have reported significantly reduced hunger, increased feelings of fullness, better management of portion size and improved waist-to-hip ratios.

Balance blood sugar levels

Whenever we eat sugary or starchy foods they are broken down by the body into a sugar called glucose, which enters the bloodstream. As blood sugar levels rise, insulin is released to allow that sugar to be absorbed into our cells. Any excess sugar, above and beyond what is needed, is then stored as fat. Eating lots of sugary or starchy foods causes blood sugar levels to rise very sharply. This leads to the release of excess insulin which, in turn, causes blood sugar levels to rapidly fall. This plays havoc with energy levels, mood and appetite, as well as encouraging the body to lay down more fat. Balancing blood sugar levels can help you to lose weight and manage your appetite. Just follow these simple tips:

  • Choose low GI carbohydrates – Opt for wholegrains and wholemeal or brown versions when choosing carbohydrates and ensure these only make up a quarter of your plate.
  • Timing of meals - Eat three main meals a day and two small, low GI snacks. Try to eat every three to four hours.
  • Protein power - Protein slows glucose release from carbohydrates so try to include a palm-sized serving of protein at each meal and a half-palm-sized serving for each protein snack. The best protein choices are: skinless organic chicken or turkey, fish, eggs, live, low-fat natural yoghurt, raw nuts, seeds, quinoa, beans and lentils, tofu and tempeh, goats cheese and cottage cheese.
  • Essential fats – Add one teaspoon of an oil rich in essential fats such as fish, flax or hemp seed oil to meals, each day. Essential fats actually encourage fat burning and aid blood sugar balance.
  • Hidden sugars in drinks - Avoid all fizzy drinks, squashes and fruit drinks as they contain high levels of sugar.
  • Stimulants - Coffee, tea, energy drinks and alcohol disrupt blood sugar levels and are best avoided or, at least, reduced.
  • Take blood sugar balancing nutrients – Chromium, zinc, magnesium, alpha lipoic acid and the herbs liquorice, cinnamon and fenugreek have all been shown to help maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Get moving and burn more calories

In order to burn fat, you have to use more calories than you put in. One way to help swing the balance in your favour is to burn more calories by exercising. The best type of exercise for fat burning is a combination of weight training and low intensity exercise, such as walking uphill, swimming or moderate-intensity cycling.

In addition, you might like to consider adding in some nutrients to help aid the fat burning process:

  • Magnesium and B vitamins support the energy production pathways.
  • Acetyl l carnitine and green tea help encourage the body to burn fat for energy.
  • CLA, when used in combination with exercise, can increase fat loss and help in reshaping problem areas of the body such as the hips and thighs.

Let’s make 2010’s weight loss resolution a success! With these four simple steps you have all the tools you need to embark on a journey towards a slimmer and healthier you. So throw out the fad diet and make this year’s promise a fun and practical change for life. 

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