by Melissa Coats,ND
When you love someone, you take care of them. Why should it be any different when it comes to taking care of yourself? Your health is the most important thing you have, and weight loss is often your first step toward improving your overall health. If you’re trying to get your weight into a healthier range, it’s important to find a practitioner who can support you and provide guidance to make your efforts more successful. Let’s start with some of the basics I like to share with my patients.
Every individual has slightly different dietary needs, but there are some basic concepts that are healthful for most people. An optimal diet:
• Is high (65% of daily caloric intake) in complex carbohydrates (beans, whole grains, fresh vegetables, and fruits).
• Is moderate (20% of intake) in protein (beans, tofu, protein powders).
o Low in red meat (beef and beef products)
o High in fish and chemical-free poultry
• Incorporates healthy fats (15% of intake) (olive oil, avacados, nuts).
• Is low in prepackaged/ processed/refined foods, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.
• Includes around 2 quarts of water per day.
Calorie requirements and other obstacles to weight loss are based on body type, activity level, hormone status, medications, and nutrient deficiencies. Dietary recommendations are different for each individual. Your physician can design a program that is right for you and your health history.
Exercise is an important part of any healthful weight loss program. It burns calories, increases circulation, increases excretion of waste products, and increases well-being via stress reduction and endorphin release. Incorporating a 30-minute brisk walk into your daily routine three times a week is an excellent start. Although gradually increasing speed is valuable for cardiovascular health, increasing frequency and/or duration is equally or more important for weight loss. Optimal fat burning is achieved at 60–70% of maximum heart rate (maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age).
You’ll also benefit by incorporating some muscle-toning and strength-building exercises 2–3 times a week. Your naturopathic physician can design a program that’s appropriate for you.
SET A REASONABLE GOAL
Decide how much you want to lose, keeping expectations reasonable. Typically 1–2 pounds a week is healthy and achievable when combining diet and exercise. As with any goal in life, it can be helpful to plan it, envision it happening, see yourself as you’ll be when you’ve achieved it, and plan a reward for yourself.
ADDRESS EMOTIONAL COMPONENTS OF WEIGHT GAIN
Issues of body image and food are emotionally challenging and can bring up feelings and fears for many people. Pay attention to what’s happening with you – what are your needs and issues? For instance, do you tend to eat as a coping mechanism during difficult situations? Practice accepting and appreciating your appearance and your feelings, every day, as you are right now. Find a support system to help you support yourself. Overeaters Anonymous, a group for people of all sizes who want to address their relationship with food, offers support every day of the week.
PRACTICE SELF CARE
Incorporate nice things for yourself into your schedule—relaxing baths, massages, time outside in nature, whatever feels nurturing to you. In our culture food is often used as a reward, so many people have to retrain their thinking. Be creative! Meeting your needs and enjoying your life are the best things you can do for yourself. You deserve it!
Plan your meals and portion sizes. Leaving things up in the air can make staying on track more difficult. Plan healthy snacks throughout the day so that you’re not famished at meal times. Don’t starve yourself! Try to space calories evenly throughout the day so that one meal isn’t heavier than others. Calorie reduction in the early morning or afternoon leads to late night overeating.
Eating slowly allows you to savor each bite of food, and aids digestion as well. Taking time with your food allows you to experience your new food choices with greater enjoyment.
ALLOW SMALL INDULGENCES
If you do feel the urge to eat something you’re trying to avoid, dish up a small portion and enjoy it! You can even schedule in occasional small servings of favorite foods. This puts your food choices under your conscious control and helps you avoid feeling deprived of your favorites. It’s all about moderation.
DIVIDE YOUR PLATE
Often “our eyes are bigger than our stomachs.” To help control portions, visualize your plate. Mentally segment your plate as below, and use plates 9 inches or less in diameter.
Mindful eating can help reframe your relationship to food. Unfortunately, we often eat without even being aware of the food we’re taking in. We eat while watching TV or at the movies, while driving, or under time constraints that don’t allow us to experience the meal. To practice more mindful eating, notice the cues of hunger and satiety; learn to identify personal triggers for mindless eating, such as emotions and social pressures; and focus on the quality of food versus quantity. One can also learn to appreciate the sensual, as well as the nourishing, capacity of food, or feel deep gratitude that may come from appreciating and experiencing food.
Dr. Melissa Coats is a licensed naturopathic physician in Scottsdale, AZ at Naturopathic Specialists, LLC (www.listenandcare.com).