Healthy Weight Loss – Eating YOUR Body’s Way
If you hope to follow a healthy eating plan for more than just a short time without feeling deprived, you have to “do it your way.” You must satisfy your psychological and emotional needs for pleasure as well as satisfying your physical needs for nutrients and fuel. Your own body’s individual physiological needs are also crucial. For an eating plan to be effective, it must be in tune with what your body needs as well as with what your psyche needs. You must do it your body’s way. This means listening to your body and avoiding hunger. It also means avoiding foods to which you are allergic in order to avoid triggering a fat storage-promoting hormonal cascade.
AVOID YOUR ALLERGENIC FOODS
If you have food allergies, the first and most important principle of “doing it your body’s way” is to avoid your food allergens strictly and, if needed due to multiple food allergies, rotate your foods to minimize the reactions to borderline food allergens. Eating foods to which you are allergic causes inflammation. This makes your adrenal glands secrete hormones which destabilize your insulin and blood sugar levels. The high level of insulin you then experience affects the activity of enzymes that control your fat metabolism thus causing your body to hold on to and deposit fat rather than allowing you to burn it for energy. You must individualize your eating plan so that it fits your food allergies. There is no diet book or plan that you can follow “as is” if you have food intolerance or allergies. Being able to customize an eating plan is essential because the list of problem foods varies from person to person.
In addition to avoiding allergic reactions, you should also avoid hunger that is prolonged or excessive. Like allergic reactions, hunger can trigger a fat deposit-promoting hormonal cascade. When you have tried to lose weight in the past, you probably experienced hunger between meals and summoned all of your willpower to resist eating. By the time the clock said it was time to eat, you were so famished that a normal portion of food was not enough to satisfy you. This is obviously not a good way to reduce how much you eat. It also inhibits fat burning and is not a pleasant way to live. Listen to your body! If you feel physical hunger, weakness, or irritability that is relieved by your next meal, your body is telling you that your blood sugar may be dropping and you need food. Hunger cannot be controlled by applying mind-over-matter willpower. It can be controlled by stabilizing your blood sugar and insulin levels. This is accomplished by eating the right types of food in the right combination at the right time. Apply the principles in Food Allergy and Gluten-Free Weight Loss and you will be able to control your hormones and hunger, keep your body in the fat-burning mode, and lose weight.
In the Anti-Inflammatory Zone, Barry Sears, PhD advises keeping hardboiled eggs, cooked chicken and other prepared protein foods in your refrigerator at all times so a meal can be put together and eaten within a few minutes of experiencing hunger. (1) While this may not always be practical, especially for those who work away from home or have a family they want to eat with, I hope that you can carry some nuts, a linked-and-balanced snack (such as low- or moderate-GI crackers and some nut butter or cheese) or an apple with you at all times and have a small snack when hunger hits. This will keep your blood sugar and insulin levels stable, thus preventing the fat-depositing hormonal cascade and allowing you to stay in the “burn fat” mode. It will also make it possible for you to eat moderately and yet be satisfied at your next meal.
SATISFY YOUR NEED FOR PLEASURE
We are not physical creatures only. We have a physical need for food, but food also satisfies our need for pleasure in a very basic way. Be sure to enjoy what you eat. Pay attention to your food as you are eating it. Eat slowly, concentrate on the taste of the food, and savor every bite. Do not watch TV or read the newspaper or mail during meals. If you do, your physical need for food might be fulfilled before you meet your need for emotional satisfaction and pleasure, which can lead to overeating.
There will be some times when your emotional and pleasure needs may be exceptionally high. This can happen when you are under stress or need comfort. Stress can also result in physical hunger by causing fluctuations in cortisol and insulin levels which destabilize blood sugar. Therefore, exercising willpower to not eat when stressed is not the best thing to do. Controlled eating is a better way to cope with the urge to eat comfort foods under stress. Try to stay on your healthy eating plan – meaning link and balance protein with carbohydrates – but choose your favorite foods. If you are not allergic to chocolate, this may be the time for a controlled splurge such as one or two ounces of dark chocolate, eaten slowly and savored. Eat some nuts or other protein before or with the chocolate to balance the sugar it contains or enjoy stevia-sweetened chocolate. (See the recipe on page 198 of Food Allergy and Gluten-Free Weight Loss).
Be good to yourself in other ways and seek comfort and pleasure from other experiences in addition to food. Buy yourself a new music CD and listen to it, or enjoy – really listening – to some favorite music that you already have. Music can cause your brain to release endorphins. Since low levels of endorphins can cause food cravings, music may help relieve them. Listening to a favorite piece of music for a half hour can produce a relaxation response and reduce stress.
Exercise can also induce positive brain chemicals and hormonal changes. If you can exercise outdoors and enjoy the beauty of nature, that is an ideal way to help relieve stress. If it’s raining, exercise inside while listening to your favorite music or watching an enjoyable DVD. A stationery bicycle is ideal for rainy days, or you may even purchase a stand that you can use to pedal your regular bike indoors when repetitive pedaling would be soothing but the weather is bad. Just remember to exercise after a meal or snack, not when you are hungry. Especially if you are exercising to relieve stress or if it has been two hours since you last ate, have a small linked-and-balanced snack before you exercise.
Don’t despair if you end up eating something with a high glycemic index or that is high in fat during a stressful time. You are only human! Have some protein to balance your splurge and move on. When you do indulge, pay attention to how you feel after a large, carbohydrate-heavy meal. Listen to your body. It may become very tired or sleepy and thus tell you that your healthy eating plan keeps you more energetic and clear-minded than you used to be. Knowing this will help you get back to your healthy eating plan.
YOUR BODY’S WAY IS BEST
If you have tried to lose weight in the past and not been able to lose or to keep the weight off without a struggle, it may have been because you were working against rather than with your body and dieting in a way that raised your insulin level. In The Insulin Resistance Diet, Cheryle Hart, MD asks and then answers this question: “If high insulin levels make you fat, then would lower insulin levels make you thin? The answer is yes. Keeping insulin levels from spiking is the key to your weight loss solution… (by) keeping your insulin at fat-losing levels.”(2) The one qualification I would make to her statement is that you cannot eat foods you are allergic to without producing a hormonal cascade that will raise your insulin levels and thus interfere with weight loss. Therefore, you must also avoid your allergenic foods if you have food allergies, in addition to linking and balancing protein and carbohydrate foods. In other words, do it your body’s way for both insulin control and allergy control, and you will be able to lose and maintain weight loss.
1. Sears, Barry, PhD, The Anti-Inflammation Zone, (New York, Regan Books, 2005), 70. Perhaps the lack of variety and strictly utilitarian approach to meals in The Zone diet books is part of the reason why people find this diet hard to follow long term.
2. Hart, Cheryle R., MD and Mary Kay Grossman, RD, The Insulin Resistance Diet, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001, 2007), 5.