Nature Medicine Weight Loss Tips
Losing weight is not a simple task. Taking a miracle pill and immediately losing all our excess weight would of course be ideal, but we all know that it does not work like that. Your body had to work to put on the weight and therefore you must work to take off the extra pounds. There are few tips and tricks you can use in order to help make weight loss easier for you.
There is a neurological component strongly associated with weight gain. First, there is eating for emotional comfort. Appetite is the body’s natural way to balance food consumption with energy expenditure to maintain a stable and healthy body weight. A number of different hormones signal the brain when food is needed or not. These signals are received by dopamine-producing neurons in the hypothalamus of the brain, modifying the brain’s reward center and motivation for food.
During periods of stress, sadness or grief, it is very common to eat in order to feel better. In some cases, emotional binging occurs. When we binge, we eat much larger quantities than we normally would and more than our bodies can handle. Unfortunately, this easily contributes to putting on the pounds. We eat more because the hormones responsible for controlling appetite become deregulated, specifically leptin and insulin. Leptin is released from fat cells to decrease appetite when the body has had enough. Insulin suppresses appetite when blood sugar is high.
When these hormones become unbalanced, dopamine levels in the reward center of the brain are elevated, triggering unnecessary and inappropriate hunger. Binge eating also leads more food cravings and less satisfaction, similar to the diminishing pleasure alcoholics or drug addicts experience. Binge eating actually triggers the same dopamine response in the reward center as nicotine and cocaine. The 20-second rule can be employed to help with removal of processed food stuffs.
Second, weight gain is also a form of protection. We have all heard of building a wall around us; we keep our feelings inside and become closed off from others. We can also build this wall physically. Our mind feels the need to keep us safe from the stresses we are facing in our lives and so the switch to turn off our hunger is overridden and we continue to eat to feel secure. With extra weight, people cannot get as close to you. Our mind is very strong. While it can help protect us emotionally and physically, it can also play tricks on us. It is not easy for the body to let go of the extra weight.
We go to the gym and eat less, but nothing happens. In our mind, we are still threatened by the stresses in our lives and letting go of the weight will make us vulnerable, so the mind will hold onto the weight. Once we begin to deal with these conflicts and build security, the weight will start to come off. Some women feel threatened by undue sexual energy directed towards them and they may put on weight just to stop it. Men may have felt bullied when they were younger, so the excess weight gain makes it harder to be pushed around.
Hunger and Thirst
The connection the mind has to the body is very real. As discussed above, emotional eating can easily turn off the signal that we are full. The mind can suppress our ‘stop eating’ mechanism. After a while we begin to eat because we think we should and not necessarily because we are hungry. Your body needs to relearn what hunger is. Next time you think about eating, take a moment and make sure that you are truly hungry. You do not have to skip any meals, but you may notice that you do not have to snack as often.
Knowledge is power. Learn to recognize true hunger vs. emotional eating). As we said the mind can be tricky. The mind can also confuse thirst with hunger. Often times we feel hungry so we go for a snack, but in fact what the body really wants is fluid. Relearning the difference between thirst and hunger is something we may also need to do. When you do feel hungry, before reaching for a snack, try having a glass of water first to see if that corrects the problem. Eventually your mind and body will be able to distinguish between the two.
Am I Full?
As you can tell, resetting the body and mind connection is very important with weight loss. The next step is taking the time to enjoy your food. Living in a high paced society, we have grown accustomed to eating on the go and eating quickly. Did you know that it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full? Eating quickly can lead to second helpings and overfilling the stomach before the mind can tell you to stop. Ever feel too full once you are done eating?
This is because, by the time you stop eating, the stomach has already expanded beyond its optimal capacity and now needs to work harder. Taking 20 minutes to enjoy a meal can let the brain know you have had enough and allow it to turn off the hunger signal. Learning to take your time to eat may take a few days. Some tips that may help are:
- Chew slowly. Try not to eat quickly, chew each bite. Counting a certain number of chews per bite helps prepare your food for proper digestion for the stomach (e.g. minimum 15 chews per bite).
- Pause in between bites and put your fork down while you are chewing.
- Try eating with your opposite hand. It will not only take longer, but you will definitely have a good laugh. You may even become ambidextrous. If necessary sit on your eating hand.
Positive Food Environment
Like emotions, our environment can play a role in our eating habits. Eating while watching television or a movie can actually cause you to eat more. We eat faster as we get more involved with the program and pay less attention to what and how much we are eating. Sit at the table away from the TV, computers or talking on the phone. Pay attention to your food and enjoy it. Put your taste buds to work. Surround yourself with positive conversation at the table and avoid any negative topics until after you are done eating.
Make a Plate
What we put on our plate is very important to eating a proper diet, maintaining blood sugar and balancing our appetite. Protein is essential for the body to keep insulin levels normalized and prevent them from spiking. Elevated levels of insulin over time lead to weight gain and insulin resistance (contributing to type II diabetes). Fiber will help to curb your appetite, keep you full for longer periods and is essential for the proper functioning of the digestive system. Preparing your plate for each meal is a necessary step.
- Select a small dinner plate. Contemporary plate styles are quite large and look great but are very misleading about portion sizes. Filling a smaller plate looks better and is more appealing to our tricky brain.
- Fill your plate with the appropriate portions of protein, carbohydrate and vegetables. Your plate should resemble the following diagram.
- Remember to wait 20 minutes before going for seconds. If you are still hungry, then have more vegetables or a little bit of everything. Do not refill the plate with the same amount.
Every person has a different body type and does not require the same amount of food or nutrients. Your body can actually tell you how much you should be eating. Use your hand as a guide when you set up a plate to determine your individual portion sizes.
- Protein: equivalent to the palm of your hand
- Carbohydrates: make a fist.
- Loose fist for complex carbohydrate
- Tight fist for simple carbohydrate
- Veggies: open up your hand nice and wide. This is one portion not to skimp on.
Make a habit
Remember it takes 21 days to introduce a new habit. Be patient and stick with it! (see Changing Habits section).
Weight loss is a multifactorial approach and many factors need to be addressed. Important factors that can also be addressed are: