These days, many of us need to lose weight – and it’s not just to compensate for holiday excesses or to get beach fit. It can be a matter of urgency. Even if your health isn’t in danger, you may want to feel better and more able to keep pace with life in the fast lane. Be warned, however: dieting isn’t the same as losing weight healthily. To be healthy about it is to reduce the body’s fat percentage. This isn’t always what happens with a strict dieting regime. Let us show you how to lose weight for the long term – and feel vibrant along the way!
What’s really important for your health (and your figure)? You should focus on eliminating or reducing fat accumulations in your body. An excess of fat is the real culprit when it comes to illness and disease. You see, we can’t just put the blame for weight gain on socioeconomic factors. These factors can help us understand why some people tend to be heavier. They can also be helpful in telling us why certain sectors of the population seem to suffer a disproportionate increase in body mass.
What are these factors? Primarily, we’re looking at sedentary lifestyles, poor eating habits and a tendency toward instant gratification. We don’t want to work too hard or suffer any kind of discomfort. If you don’t push yourself to be moderately active, your body’s metabolic capacity will weaken and worsen with age. Your body accumulates anything you put into it that it doesn’t use or can’t excrete efficiently and this increases your body fat percentage so that, of course, you gain weight.
In order to lose weight in a significant and lasting way, it’s essential that you change your lifestyle and your mindset. Fad and crash diets often mean gaining more weight in the long term than you’ve actually lost – and they can lead to the dreaded cycle of yo-yo dieting, which means that you’re punishing your body and can never really maintain a balanced weight. Furthermore, these so-called ‘miracle’ diets often lack the essential vitamins and nutrients that your body requires. As a result you may feel run down and can end up getting ill.
One thing that all these temporary diets have in common is that they promise you the world without any sacrifice at all. They tell you that you don’t need to think about what you’re eating, that the pounds will melt away. This is a clear case of ‘if it seems too good to be true’ syndrome. When you see the golden carrot dangling before you, you won’t want to consider what really works: changing the way that you eat, eating sensibly and getting active.
Intermittent fasting: burn your accumulated fat
One sort of diet that has had a lot of recent press actually has science to back it up. It’s called intermittent fasting. This kind of diet – though it’s really a lifestyle change that can alter your perception of food and improve your relationship with it. It’s also simple and involves little sacrifice. The basis of it is on helping your body change the way it consumes energy. Just as you expect your car to burn fuel, your body will go from ‘simple sugars/carbohydrate burning mode’ to ‘fat burning mode’ and use fat as its main fuel. Let’s look at this in greater detail.
The simplest way of dieting involves scheduling your meals in such a way that you increase the length of the intervals between your eating times. Therefore, you’ll make your body burn accumulated fat instead of immediately using the sugars that you ingest.
To compel your body to make this change in its fat burning process, you should allow a minimum 16 hours without eating. Sound scary? It’s much easier than it sounds.
Bear in mind that the body needs 6 to 8 hours to metabolise its glycogen reserves, which are quick energy stored as sugar. Beyond that time period, your body has consumed its sugar reserves and will try to gain energy by burning accumulated fat. This is why if you eat more often than every eight hours, you’ll keep topping up lost glycogen and your body will never have a chance to use its fat reserves for fuel. However, if you teach your body to function in ‘fat burning mode’, this will produce a gradual and healthy reduction in your weight. You’ll notice a significant feeling of well-being, too.
Remember that we told you not to be frightened? Well, there are a number of ways of ensuring an effective fast. One option is to skip breakfast and have lunch as your first meal of the day. Yes, this flies in the face of popular belief. You won’t be doing it every day, though, so it’s perfectly fine. Instead of brekkie, drink coffee, black tea, green tea or lemon water. Just avoid using milk and sugar. You can use a natural sweetener like stevia instead. When lunch time comes, don’t eat more in a bid to compensate for not having had breakfast!
Also, don’t forget that fasting doesn’t give you carte blanche to eat everything under the sun when you’re not fasting. You should still strive to make healthy food choices and to radically eliminate junk food. Make a conscious effort to reduce sugar consumption and replace it with beneficial fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, flax seed, avocado, moringa oil, and walnuts.
For instance, try a spoonful of coconut oil once your eight hours of fasting have passed. The oil will stimulate the fat burning metabolic process and it will stimulate the thyroid, which also regulates your metabolism, strengthening fat consumption.
Try not to be impatient. The effects of these changes are not necessarily immediate. It can take a couple of weeks to begin to see changes; but when your body starts burning fat instead of sugar, you will see a reduction in your cravings for sweet and unhealthy food. This is because your body will begin to use fat for energy and won’t need sugar.
Popular remedies and recommendations
As we advised at the beginning of this article, changing your lifestyle is vital for achieving more permanent weight loss and looking after your physical and emotional health. Follow these recommendations for healthy habits:
- Drink mote water! Getting sufficient amounts of water facilitates the weight loss process because it helps your body break down fat and helps to distinguish true hunger from boredom or dehydration. Aim to drink about two litres per day.
- Eliminate added sugar and alcohol. Try to avoid or restrict chocolate and sweets. Replace them with fruit – especially oranges and grapefruit. Alcohol metabolises as sugar, so it’s best kept as a rare indulgence or entirely avoided.
- Stay away from diuretic medicines. Restricting liquids makes your blood pressure go down, a state known as hypotension. It will make you feel tired, nauseated and exhausted – all of which makes losing weight much more difficult.
- Be mindful of your food and the way that you prepare it. This entails that you stop eating empty calories and emphasise nutrient-dense foods. Steer clear of saturated fat and reduce your intake of white flour, potatoes, rice (all refined, white food) and red meat. Eat protein rich organic tofu, tempeh or pulses instead and lots of vegetables. If you feel that you must snack between meals, you can drink herbal tea or tomato juice or you can eat a tomato, or some type of grain (corn flakes or oats). How you cook is almost as important as what you eat. Rather than frying, try grilling or roasting. Even better, you can steam, boil or oven roast your foods. These methods require no added fat.
- Get a wriggle on! Don’t sit in front of the television or computer for hours on end. A sedentary lifestyle spent sitting down for more than 4 hours at a time negatively influences the glucose and fat levels in your body. According to studies, each hour that you spend sitting increases your risk of cardiac disease by 18%. If your work requires you to be seated for long periods of time, take at least five minutes’ break every half hour or hour and do something active.
- Eat smaller portions. Studies at the University of Utah concluded that there is a gap between the time a person finishes eating and the moment the stomach feels full. Eating from small plates means that smaller portions are served. So, when the plate is empty, the brain receives the signal that you’ve finished eating and will give you a chance to work out whether or not you’re truly satisfied. This way, you’ll avoid eating ‘just a bit too much’.
- Variety is the spice of life. Season your meals with pepper, ginger, curry and cayenne. These foods are thermogenic and will stimulate your metabolism to burn calories much faster. These spices have more wonderful benefits for your health, as well. They fight heartburn, reduce swelling and improve digestion.
- Exercise. Even a 30-minute walk during the day can be nicely effective. Whenever possible, take the stairs instead of the lift.
- This is no joke. Do not go to the supermarket when you’re hungry. Shopping for food on an empty stomach stimulates your hunger and may tempt you to buy more food than necessary or lure you toward fattier, junkier food.
Natural weight loss remedies focus on natural stimulation of the liver and the digestive system, which facilitates the body in its attempt to lose weight. For example:
- In a glass of water, put 1 spoonful of diluted apple cider vinegar with a pinch of baking soda and drink 30 minutes before each meal.
- Eat parsley and drink apple cider vinegar. These foods work for weight loss because you use more energy to metabolise them than the calories (energy) that they provide.
- Drink horehound tea. Just put 1 teaspoon of horehound in 1 cup of warm water. Drink two warm cups a day for 15 days. Caution: avoid if you’re pregnant or if you suffer from gastritis or a peptic ulcer.
- Make an infusion with red tea and cardamom. Heat 1 litre of water. Add 2 spoonfuls of tea and 5 teaspoons of cardamom. Drink a cup each day. Again, avoid this infusion if you’re pregnant or you suffer from gastritis or a peptic ulcer.
- Help yourself to some carrot juice. Liquefy, juice or blend 3 unpeeled carrots. Drink three times daily, between meals.
- Make artichoke water. In half a litre of water, boil 3 artichokes for 15 minutes. Drink the resulting liquid throughout the rest of the day.
- Whip up a herbal mixture of celery, turnip and parsley. Wash and chop 3 celery stalks, a handful of parsley, and 2 turnips. Boil for 15 minutes in half a litre of water. Drink this refreshing liquid throughout the day.
- Use a green apple and some fresh pineapple juice to make a smoothie. Wash and cut a green apple in fours and liquefy it with a glass of pineapple juice. Have this luscious drink every morning.
- Eat fucus, dandelion and turmeric. Fucus vesiculosus algae are loaded with minerals like iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron – all of which allow the thyroid glands to consume energy. Dandelion naturally stimulates the liver and the digestive system, whilst turmeric is a great antioxidant. Combined, these three foods effectively facilitate the process of weight loss.