“I just don’t understand – I do everything right! Why can’t I lose weight?”
I hear this pretty often from new patients looking for weight loss advice. Here are a few tricks that work for (almost) everyone.
(And by the way, this advice is also a great preventative measure against heart disease, diabetes, NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease), and many other chronic diseases of Westernized culture.)
- Cut out added sugar. Eating sugar is what makes people gain weight (rather than eating fat. Counterintuitive, I know. I’ll often draw a flow chart for my patients to explain how this works). Read labels (!!), and if you see any words ending in “ose” (sucrose, fructose, dextrose, etc), anything ending in “syrup” (especially High Fructose Corn Syrup), cane juice or fruit juice concentrate, honey, agave or anything of the sort, avoid it. If you can’t completely avoid added sugar, then at least make sure it’s a natural sugar and not something synthetic, and it’s as far down the ingredient list as possible.
- Cut out refined carbohydrates. I did not say cut out complex carbohydrates like veggies and whole grains – those are your friends. But DO avoid just about everything white – white sugar for sure, but also white breads, white pastries, white pasta, and even white potatoes (substitute sweet potatoes if you must have a potato). Processed white things lack fiber and nutrients, and basically turn into sugar the second they encounter the enzymes in your saliva. They’re pretty much the same thing as sugar.
Side note here, for those of you who are gluten free: a lot of gluten-free products are still just processed white grains. They might not set off an allergy, but they won’t help you shed excess pounds. Choose gluten-free whole grains whenever you can.
- Cut out processed foods in general. If you do the first two then you’ve gone a long way towards this anyway. But keep in mind that your liver is both the organ that breaks down fat, and also the organ that detoxifies foreign substances in your body. You know all those ingredients on the processed food labels that you don’t recognize? Your liver doesn’t recognize them either, and it’s got a lot of work to do to get them out. If your liver is backed up then it’s not going to be very efficient at breaking down fat.
- Half your plate should be vegetables. I mean it. Eat a lot of ‘em. And then eat some more. If you can get them organic, great, but if you can’t afford organic then just wash them well, say a little blessing, and get them in your body.
- Eat protein with every meal, including every snack. This will help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you full longer. Get creative with your protein sources – grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, nuts and nut butters (raw if you can get them), soy (non-GMO), Greek yogurt (if you’re not sensitive to dairy), hummus… you get the idea.
- Exercise! I know, it’s so obvious I shouldn’t even have to say it. But if you hate exercise, it’s probably just because you’re not used to it. Everyone can find some form of physical activity that they enjoy if they’re determined. Do you love the beauty of nature? Go for a walk in the evening when it gets cool, or in the morning as the sun rises. Do you enjoy calming stretches? Sign up for a yoga class. Do you enjoy fluid movement? Consider taking up dancing! How about slow hikes? Really, there’s something for everyone. Start slow, but make it a habit. That’s the key.
Still having trouble? You might need a liver cleanse so it can get back up to speed in breaking down those fats. You might have some hormones that need balancing (like your thyroid or cortisol levels, but there are other possibilities too). You might not be getting enough sleep – this will set off a whole cascade of hormonal events that will keep you from shedding excess pounds. You might just need some help stabilizing your blood sugar with supplements or even short-term medications while your diet gets cleaned up and your lifestyle starts to change.