Healthy weight loss is not a mystery. There are a few, simple rules to follow with regard to your diet, and if you stick to them, you’ll almost certainly lose weight. Of course, exercise will increase the rate of weight loss and help you feel better, but following a basic, low calorie, low-fat diet is key. While such a diet is also good as maintenance, you can certainly add in more calories when you reach your goal weight and are maintaining an appropriate activity level.
The Optimal Diet follows these simple guidelines:
1. Lots of leafy greens. Eat tons of kale, spinach, collards, cabbage, tatsoi, and bok choy, etc.
2. Rely on “super foods”, such as sweet potatoes, bananas, chia seeds, dark berries, almonds, sprouts, and soybeans.
3. Lots of fresh fruit in season.
4. Nuts, seeds, and legumes for protein.
5. Very minimal processed grain products. It’s best to avoid wheat entirely.
6. No added fat, refined sugar, alcohol. Minimize added salt.
7. Eat raw food as much as possible.
8. Drink lots of water. No soda or “junk” beverages. Avoid juices, with the exception of low sodium vegetable juices, such as carrot or tomato juice (yes, tomatoes are fruits, but you know what I mean).
Let’s take a closer look at each of these rules:
1. Leafy greens are a fantastic way to boost your intake of fiber, iron, vitamins, and minerals. And there are endless ways to use them! You can very lightly sauté them with olive oil and a little garlic, or you can chop them finely for a yummy raw salad. I love to make smoothies with kale. You don’t have to limit your intake of these greens – eat up!
2. The so-called “superfoods” are excellent in terms of nutritional punch and are delicious! There are a thousand and one ways to use things like sweet potatoes and they’re inexpensive and easy to prepare. Chia seeds can be added to many dishes (smoothies, pudding, cereal, etc.), are mildly flavored, full of fiber and nutrients. Sprouts are fun and easy to grow and add interest to just about anything. Explore meal plans that use these superfoods and you can’t go wrong.
3. Fresh fruit in season is something I don’t limit in my diet. Some nutritionists advise limiting fruit since it can have high sugar content, but I don’t find that this is a problem. After all, how many strawberries or bananas can you really eat at one time? The bigger issue is dried fruit or juice, in which you lose the filling bulk of the water and/or fiber and therefore may ingest more than you would if you stuck to the whole, raw version. Eat it as it comes off the tree or vine and you should be fine.
4. Nuts, seeds, and legumes like lentils are powerhouses of protein, fiber, and vitamins. They are filling, delicious and relatively inexpensive. Nuts and seeds generally have more fat in them than legumes, so you may want to moderate your intake of them when you’re actively trying to lose weight. But eat all the beans and lentils you want! There are a zillion ways to prepare them. Check out the recipes!
5. Grains are over-rated in our diets today and one, wheat, is best to avoid completely. The wheat grown today has been hybridized and genetically modified so much that our bodies have trouble recognizing it. In addition, many people seem to have sensitivities and even allergies to wheat (this is not to be confused with Celiac’s Disease, a severe condition in which the body can tolerate no gluten at all). You might be surprised how much weight you lose just from avoiding wheat (tip: Read the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. It’s very revealing!). There are other grains that are much better for you and that you can eat in their whole form quite easily. These include oats, quinoa, and rice. Exploring new grains can be lots of fun.
6. No added fat, salt, sugar or alcohol is pretty self-explanatory. Especially when you’re trying to lose weight, added fat (butter, margarine, etc.) is a no-no. Minimal olive oil can be used in cooking if needed. Minimizing added salt is smart, and completely avoiding refined sugar is important. There are excellent alternatives for sweet treats and it’s a good idea to get off the sugar train as radically as possible. Similarly, alcohol is full of calories and is not something to indulge in when you’re trying to drop pounds. Not only that, sipping a drink can stimulate your appetite and cause you to eat more than you would have otherwise.
7. A raw diet is an excellent way to radically change your eating habits while dropping weight – and weight will come off, often quickly when you stick to a raw diet. Eating raw is not as hard as it sounds. The biggest shift in thinking comes when you realize that you should eat your food whole – that is, not processed – and in its purest, original form. For instance, a salad made with finely chopped kale, carrots, cabbage, avocado, sprouts (lentil or sunflower, for instance), raw walnuts or slivered almonds, dried cranberries or grapefruit sections and a light, spicy dressing is spectacularly delicious, filling and about as healthy a meal as has ever existed. More on raw eating later, but starting with at least one raw meal a day is a great way to get in the groove.
8. Drink water! After we human beings are weaned off of mother’s milk, we really don’t need anything other than water. Of course, we enjoy interesting drinks and it’s fine to indulge as long as we pay attention to the calories and make water our mainstay. Avoid artificial sweeteners as much as possible. Tea, coffee, seltzer, vegetable juice, light “milk” beverages (such as rice or almond milk) can provide variety. My favorite daily Bev is sparkling seltzer with just a spritz of pomegranate juice (about a teaspoon) and a splash of lemon juice. Add some crushed ice and there you have a refreshing alternative to soda! *Another tip: If you like bubbly water as much as I do, invest in a Soda Stream. This is some of the best money I ever spent. Love that it avoids all the plastic bottles, too!
Additional tips for weight loss, good weight maintenance, and good health include:
• Avoid processed foods like the plague. Eat whole foods – literally, foods that are in their original, whole form, as made by nature.
• Prepare your lunch at home to reduce temptation at school or work. Fast food, snack machines and restaurants with too many decadent choices can quickly undermine an attempt to lose weight and get healthy.
• Bring snacks with you wherever you go to keep from getting too hungry (this sets you up to fail). I often have a bag of almonds or granola in my purse and this has carried me through many, many times. Packaged food bars are another way to go – just make sure you get healthy ones. My favorites are Lara Bars or Raw Revolution bars. Yum!
• Exercising makes weight loss go more quickly and will help you feel better overall. This will increase your motivation to take good care of yourself.
• Eat mindfully. Slow down and chew thoroughly. Enjoy your food!
• Buddy up – It’s hard to establish healthy habits when you’re surrounded by temptation. Having a friend or family member to share the journey will make it more fun and more likely you’ll succeed.
Post from Heather Langan, MA, LPCS, career coach.
health and Fitness coach, life coach. MA, LPCS