Anyone who has ever dieted knows severe calorie-cutting is not the best way to lose weight. In reality the sums (cutting X calories to shift Y pounds) never quite work. This is because the equation does not take account of your metabolic rate or how efficiently your body burns calories. The speedier your metabolism is, the less likely you are to convert food to fat, and the faster you’ll shed any extra weight.
Ironically, eating very little actually lowers your metabolic rate because the body interprets food deprivation as a threat of starvation and takes measures to conserve its fat deposits. This primitive survival mechanism sabotages many dieter’s best efforts. The answer is to feed your body well with plenty of nutrient-rich, low-calorie foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry and eggs, possibly aid with fat binding supplement, and exercise.
Giving Your Metabolism A Boost
Eating certain foods may rev up the metabolism. Seafoods such as fish, shellfish and seaweed (nori and wakame are good edible varieties) are rich in iodine, a mineral the body needs to produce the metabolism regulating hormone thyroxine. Watercress is another excellent source of this nutrient.
Oily fish such as salmon, herrings, mackerel and sardines have the added advantage of being rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Many diets cut out oils because they’re calorie dense but the variety found naturally in fish, seeds and nuts supply vital amounts of nutrients known as essential fatty acids.
The essential fatty acids can actually increase metabolism so you burn calories more efficiently and your energy levels soar. Essential fatty acids also play a role in keeping your skin smooth and silken. Dry rough skin shows your body needs more essential fatty acids. Topping up supplies also means your skin will burn less and tan better when exposed to the sun.
Sudden, uncontrollable cravings for sweet foods, such as biscuits, cake and chocolate, are one of the main reasons that diets so often fail. It’s partly psychological – if you’ve succumbed once, it’s tempting to think “I’ve blown it so what’s the point in going on”. But take heart, cravings can be curbed and the occasional piece of cake is not going to ruin the fruits of your labor.
Most cravings for sugary snacks are caused by a drop in your blood-sugar level. Between meals is when we are most susceptible. The key to overcoming them lies in preventing big dips in your blood-sugar level during the day. This means eating small regular meals which include wholefoods, such as brown rice, rye bread, lentils, beans and oats.
Keep It Simple
Some people believe that how you mix your foods at mealtimes influences your ability to lose weight. Combining certain types of food hinders proper digestion, which can lead to bloating, sluggishness and tiredness. However, as proof of this theory is lacking, the best advice is to eat a balanced diet.
Eating pineapple and papaya after meals also assists good digestion, as these exotic fruits contain protein-digesting enzymes (bromelain in pineapple and papain in papaya). The juices of these fruits are also wonderfully refreshing and cleansing.
How To Redefine Your Body
Hidden fluids may account for weight that is hard to shift by conventional dieting. Our bodies are made up of 50% to 60% of water but sometimes fluid-control mechanisms go haywire, sending fluid levels soaring to over 65%, which translates as six pounds or more on the scales.
Puffy skin, wobbly cellulite and a bloated and tight-feeling stomach are all tell-tale signs of water retention. By getting rid of excess fluid you can expect to lose excess weight caused by fluid retention within a few days. Start by avoiding excess sugar. It shoots up insulin levels which encourages the tissues to retain water. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. They are rich in flavonoids, substances which prevent the blood capillary walls from leaking fluids into surrounding tissues.
Celery juice is especially good for restoring the balance of fluids. Other fruits and vegetables with mild diuretic properties are young dandelion leaves, watermelon, cucumber, fennel, leeks, parsnips, peaches and mango.
Clover flower tea is very effective because it contains cumerin, a chemical which helps to drain excess fluid away from the tissues. You can also add the flowers to your bath water.
- Eat up to seven portions of vegetables (not potatoes), and two (only) portions of fruit each day.
- Drink at least six glasses of spring or mineral water a day to help flush away toxins. If you find plain water a bit dull, mix it with diluted fresh fruit juices or a twist of lemon or lime.
- Don’t drink more than a cup of fresh coffee a day. Substitute with herbal teas (fennel is particularly good for ridding the body of excess fluids) and weak Chinese tea with a dash of semi-skimmed milk or sweetened with a little honey.
- Be adventurous with your food shopping and cooking methods. A healthy eating plan, such as the ‘bikini diet’, doesn’t mean losing out on flavor. Try filling your basket with tasty and exotic fresh produce and wholefoods, and experiment with stir-fries and steamed dishes.
- If you start to feel dizzy or faint, nibble on a few unsalted rice cakes, a little dried fruit (raisins, apricots, peaches, pears, figs or prunes), or up to ten unsalted almonds, hazelnuts, pecans or Brazil nuts (but not peanuts) and the feeling should pass.
- Beef up your intake of slowly-absorbed carbohydrates. The best sources include oats, beans and peas. This well help keep your blood-sugar level constant.
- Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days. This can be anything from agentle stroll or walking the dog to a session of aerobics.
Each day, choose any one of the following breakfast suggestions, one main meal and two snacks. Ideally your main meal should be lunch. If you cannot manage one of these cooked choices, make a large, mixed raw salad made from any of the following:
- lettuce leaves
- lamb’s lettuce
- spring onions
- green and red peppers
- half of avocado
- Sliced banana topped with crunchy oat cereal
- Natural yogurt sprinkled with ground mixed nuts
- Wholemeal toast and honey or sugar-free (100% fruit) jam
- Mixed berry salad (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, black and red currants) with oatcakes
- Rye bread or toast with a little butter
- Muesli with skimmed milk or apple juice and fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries, sliced pear)
- Pre-soaked dried figs, prunes or apricots sprinkled with flaked almonds
- Charcoal-grilled chicken and peppers, onion and courgettes
- Giant prawn kebabs with brown rice and sweet-corn
- Basil flavored sardines served oven baked vegetables
- Spicy spaghetti with olives and capers
- Stir fried vegetables with scallops and shrimps
- Baked salmon with dill, new potatoes and fennel
- Spanish omelet with steamed spinach and petit pois
- Mango smoothie
- Papaya with lime juice
- Fresh fruit salad or fresh fruit kebab
- Slices of watermelon
- Carrot and celery juice
- Rice cakes with hazelnut butter
- Mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds (a handful only)