Sugar, an addicting drug rather than a "food," is the root of all weight issues. From birth, we eat and drink unnecessary sugar. As we grow, we develop an addiction without even realizing it.
Excess sugar is in nearly every food we buy unless opting for fruits, veggies, meats, and healthy fats (which is the basis of this program). If you don’t believe me, take a walk through your grocery store and scan the nutrition labels on your favorite foods and drinks. Most contain excess sugar, even the fat-free and low-fat ones, which are worse for you than full-fat versions.
Most people don’t realize just how damaging sugar is. It causes a myriad of health conditions including inflammation, weight gain, hormonal imbalances, chronic fatigue, high cholesterol, candida overgrowth* (a fungal infection), and gut issues. It also leads to accumulation of belly fat.
It also causes high insulin levels. According to Mark Hyman, MD, “Numerous hormones contribute to belly fat, but none proves more powerful than insulin, your fat storage hormone. High levels of insulin tell your body to gain weight around the belly, and you become more apple-shaped over time.”
Here are eight simple strategies for ditching the sugar roller coaster:
1. Eat balanced meals. By eating three meals a day with two snacks, you will stabilize your blood sugar and reduce cravings.
2. Add spices to your meals like cardamom, anise, cinnamon, or nutmeg to sweeten any dish. These spices are great with a sweet potato, a bowl of oatmeal, or in a smoothie.
3. Lessen the stress in your life as much as possible. The body craves sugar during stressful times.
4. Make sure to eat healthy fats such as coconut oil. Healthy fats support balanced blood sugar and reduce cravings for sugar.
5. A good substitute for a sugar craving is one teaspoon of almond butter with cinnamon. You can also eat ½ cup berries, a baked apple, a fresh piece of fruit, or a smoothie. Keep it simple and your body will thank you.
6. Take ten deep breaths or go for a walk. These habits will get your mind off your craving.
7. You should use stevia to sweeten drinks because it is natural and will not raise your blood sugar. Forgo the artificial sweeteners such as Splenda and Equal.
8. Exercise! Exercise raises your endorphins (the happy hormone), melts away stress, and reduces sugar cravings.
*If you suspect you suffer from candida because you are unable to lose weight despite healthy lifestyle changes, I recommend taking a probiotic in addition to ditching sugar. Probiotics are a natural way to add healthy bacteria to the gut and combat unwanted yeast issues that lead to weight gain. See more on gut health in the next section.
Did you know that your gut is the key to your health? I always think of a healthy gut as a golden ticket, just like in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Except instead of gaining exclusive access to a candy factory, you gain exclusive access to optimal health.
Your gut contains seventy percent of your immune system. Therefore, if your gut is overflowing with bad bacteria, viruses, and disease, your overall wellness will be pretty shabby, and your weight loss efforts will fall flat.
What’s worse, if you suffer from “leaky gut,” all of those bad guys inside of your gut can pass into your bloodstream, which causes an endless array of issues. Leaky gut is just what it sounds like – a condition that occurs when the barrier to your digestive system develops holes due to things like stress, antibiotics, infections, and high intake of GMOs.
Signs of a poorly functioning gut include things like:
- Chronic pain
- Bad breath
- Weight gain
- Hormonal imbalances
- Poor digestion
Fortunately, you can take action to help heal your gut. The first step is doing what you're doing now – making the choice to eat clean.
The second step is taking a daily probiotic with at least 15-50 billion CFUs (colony-forming units). Probiotic supplements contain strains of live bacteria that will help reestablish the good bacteria in your gut. I recommend the following:
• Primal Defense Ultra: I have taken this probiotic for years. It has 15 billion CFU and 13 different probiotic species. You can purchase it online, and it is great for traveling since you do not store it in the refrigerator.
• RenewLife 50 Billion: Many of my clients take this probiotic because it is a very reputable company when it comes to digestive wellness. It has 50 billion CFU and 10 different probiotic strains.
GUTPRO: Another favorite, GAPS-approved probiotic (a protocol by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride designed to heal the gut lining and restore the gastrointestinal tract)
The third step you can take to heal your gut is increasing your intake of cultured and fermented foods that are good natural sources of probiotics. My favorites are:
- Cultured veggies
- Coconut yogurt
- Coconut water kefir
- Coconut milk yogurt or kefir
- Inner-eco probiotic drinks
- Body Ecology probiotic drinks
- Bubbie’s cultured foods
By taking care of your gut, you’ll revitalize your body and experience greater weight loss, more energy, increased happiness, and a strengthened immune system.
To rebuild your cells and lose weight, getting the adequate amount of protein is key. Too often, the body will hold on to excess weight when there is not enough protein. Also, protein is the building block for collagen, which is vital for fewer wrinkles and balanced blood sugar.
Therefore, be sure to add 4-5 ounces of clean protein to lunch and dinner. Here are your best choices:
- Fish and seafood (look for low-mercury options)
- Lean poultry
- Lean meat: flank steak, bison, ground sirloin
- Eggs: cage-free and organic preferably
- Dairy (only cultured): Greek yogurt, kefir, almond milk yogurt, coconut milk yogurt
- Cheese: goat cheese limited to two tablespoons per day
- Beans and legumes: lentils, black beans, split peas, adzuki beans, garbanzo beans; limited to 1/2 cup per day and considered a carbohydrate
You can also supplement your protein intake with protein powder. There are many options to choose from, but here are the ones I personally like:
• Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein Powder
• Vegetarian protein such as Sunwarrior.com, or myVega.com
For protein shakes, I typically blend water or coconut water or a nut milk, ice, cinnamon, and a scoop of protein powder. If you are very active and exercise often, you may need two scoops. You can also add protein powder to smoothies.
Since each person requires a different amount of carbs and each person breaks them down differently, it can be tricky to find the right amount for your body to maximize weight loss. Your stress, physical activity levels, and metabolism affect how fast your body breaks down carbs. Therefore, it's important to experiment with your body. What will make one person lose weight might make another person gain weight.
In this program, I recommend eating only two carbs per day and consuming them before 4 PM for maximum weight loss. You can experiment with the amount of carbs you eat after this program.
Also, I have so many clients who need to stay on a low-glycemic carbohydrate diet. If this sounds like you, then I suggest low-glycemic fruits such as berries, green apples, and grapefruit, and low-glycemic vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, and spinach. You can see a complete list here: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=faq&dbid=32
I also suggest low-glycemic grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, brown rice, and steel-cut oats.
Grains are one of the top carbohydrate choices for many people who are trying to live healthier. However, while some people thrive on grains, others end up feeling inflamed, depleted, and drained.
Many people who suffer from digestive issues, inflammation, joint pains, thyroid problems, or auto-immune diseases find that removing grains from their diet is beneficial. Typically, these people either have a grain intolerance or leaky gut. Excessive intake of grains (especially grains with gluten and lectin) can lead to leaky gut.
If you notice any unwanted symptoms after eating grains, you should consider removing grains from your diet for a few days and seeing how you feel. Then, try adding them back in again. If those same symptoms return, you likely have a grain intolerance or possibly, leaky gut. Also, if you find you are hungry within two hours of eating grains, it is a sign that they probably do not agree with your body, and you should avoid them.
If you decide to keep grains in your diet, I have a few suggestions that will help with your weight loss efforts.
1. Be sure to exercise proper portion control. A serving size is about ½ cup cooked, or the size of a tennis ball
2. They must be 100% grains. You should not eat any refined grains, such as pasta, crackers, cakes, pretzels, bread, or chips.
3. Choose only gluten-free grains. Gluten is a gut irritant that makes tiny lacerations in the intestinal wall. Toxins in your gut then leak out into your bloodstream, which can lead to a host of problems including inflammation, weight gain, joint pain, muscle aches, headaches, acne, and psoriasis. Please note that any pain in the body can be a sign of inflammation.
4. Eat grains at the right times. For quicker weight loss, eat grains first thing in the morning (breakfast) or within one hour of a workout, but not after 4 PM.
As I mentioned in the previous section, your best options for low-glycemic
- Brown rice
- Steel-cut oats
Also, if you consume grains, be sure to prepare them correctly. Soaking them, as shown below, breaks down the phytic acid, a compound that comes from the phosphorous found in plants. It’s not digestible by humans and inhibits the assimilation of nutrients. Especially in people with thyroid or hormonal imbalances, too much phytic acid can inhibit the thyroid, hamper digestion, and leach vital minerals from the body. It can also interfere with metabolism.
Soak grains (as well as beans, seeds, and nuts, which also contain phytic acid) per instructions below:
1. Add the grains (or beans, seeds, nuts) to a bowl of warm or room temperature water.
2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice or Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar.
3. Soak the grains (or beans, seeds, nuts) for 12-24 hours.
4. Leave the bowl sitting on the countertop.
5. Empty the grains (or beans, seeds, nuts) into a colander and rinse six times to remove any remaining phytic acid.
Cook the grains (or beans) as usual, or store the seeds or nuts in your fridge for 1-2 days.
Fat is essential for weight loss. At each meal, add one serving of fat to help maintain energy and balance blood sugar. If you are hungry after a meal, make sure you have consumed enough fat in your meal. I aim for two tablespoons of oil, 1/4 cups of seeds, or 1/4 avocado.
Omega-3s are essential for health as well as weight loss. Supplementation is recommended