Anyone who has ever gotten stuck in a cycle of “diet for a week, cave and give into cravings, fall wildly off-track, then vow to start dieting again Monday” knows this simple fact: Diets don’t work.
Despite this knowledge, they, like thousands of others who are trying to shed a few pounds, continues this pattern of deprivation and indulgence in hopes that they will reach their goal. The problem is that weight loss is much more complicated than just calories in and calories out, eat the salad, and don’t eat the cake; if it were that simple, we wouldn’t be faced with the obesity epidemic we are currently in.
So if diets don’t work, then how are we supposed to beat the bulge? The simple answer is this: Support your body, don’t deprive it. Of course, as mentioned, it is slightly more complicated than that, so let’s dive in.
Why Diets Don’t Work
There are thousands of ways to diet, diet programs you can buy, and diet books you can read. While they (mostly) have good intentions and may provide immediate success, they almost never work long-term. They are a band-aid solution to an underlying set of problems unique to each individual.
While there are hundreds of reasons why dieting is not successful, these are just a few of the most common reasons:
- Not sustainable: Most diets are based on the premise of cutting out foods you previously enjoyed. You may successfully avoid these foods for a week or two, or maybe even more, but eventually life gets busy, cravings kick in, and you’re out with friends eating pizza and drinking margaritas vowing to start again next month.
- Can harm your metabolism: The faster your metabolism, the less you will store energy as fat. Diets based on restriction often require you to only eat specific amounts of food at specific times. This restrictive behavior damages and slows down your metabolism, as your body thinks it is in a period of famine (harking back to our hunter/gatherer roots when food wasn’t always readily available) and your metabolism slows down to avoid starvation, making you hold on to fat.
- Damage your adrenals: Adrenal fatigue, which can cause you to feel tired, get sick, crave unhealthy foods and gain weight, can be brought on by dieting. When you are restricting yourself and cutting out foods or entire food groups, you put your body under large amounts of stress. Your adrenal glands can’t keep up with that stress and stop functioning properly, which has a ripple effect to the rest of your body’s systems and prevent you from losing weight no matter what you do.
- Make life less enjoyable: Dieting means constantly worrying about what you’re eating next, when you’re eating next, counting and calculating whether or not foods fall into your “plan”, feeling guilty about “cheating” and even the smallest indulgence, and thinking of how to compensate for every diet misstep. Essentially, you lose the ability to be spontaneous, eat well, and enjoy life, which is why nearly everyone relapses and gains back the weight they lost (if not more!).
In short, diets are not long-term solutions for health. They are an attempt at fast-tracking your way to health, which we are sorry to say, does not exist.
This does not mean, however, that weight loss and becoming healthier is impossible. In fact, while it may take a little longer to get to your goals than the immediate success of a crash-diet, making simple changes will allow you to live healthier and happier for the rest of your life.
The Right Approach to Health and Weight Loss
Healthy eating and exercise is not a one-size-fits-all model, however there are some principles that everyone should focus on and build off of.
1. Eat Whole Foods
Far too much of our daily food intake comes from a box. We should be focusing on nutrient dense, whole foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, healthy carbohydrates such as potatoes or sweet potatoes, minimally processed dairy products, and organic, sustainably raised meat. Two rules to follow are:
- If it has to tell you it’s healthy, it probably isn’t: For example, broccoli doesn’t have to tell you it’s good for you, those boxed gluten free protein brownies with brightly colored claims all over the packaging? Not so much.
- Learn how to cook and prepare food: You don’t need to have chef-level skills to eat delicious, whole-food recipes. Read here for tips on how to meal prep effectively, and visit our recipe page for easy, healthy recipe inspiration.
2. Be Mentally Present for Every Meal and Snack
Mindless eating is the largest culprit for why people struggle with portion control and over-eating. We are eating on-the-go, distracted by our phones, TV, work, etc, and eat without paying any attention to our food. When eating any meal or snack, slow down, put the screens away, and actually experience your food: How it looks, smells, sounds, tastes, and feels. Not only will you enjoy your food more, but you will better acknowledge when you are full and therefore eat less.
3. Support Your Detox Organs
Every day our bodies are exposed to thousands of toxins, from food, water, household products, cosmetics and pollutants in the air you breathe. The five major organs responsible for eliminating these toxins from your body are your liver, kidneys, colon, lungs, and your skin. While they do an incredible job keeping you healthy, they can easily get bogged down if not supported properly.
When these organs struggle, they pass off the toxins to be stored and build up in your fat cells. This can cause any number of serious health problems, including weight gain and the inability to lose weight.
How to Support Your Detox Organs to Lose Weight
Each of the five detox organs functions differently and therefore different needs. Follow these steps to keep your detox organs functioning optimally to help you lose weight.
- Eat a high fiber, low sugar, whole foods diet whenever possible.Some of the best foods for liver function are probiotics, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, fresh herbs, berries, green tea, and apple cider vinegar. Read here for a more in-depth look at foods for liver detox.
- Choose organic as often as you can. Your liver has its work cut out for it dealing with all the environmental toxins that are largely out of your control. Eating organically cuts out one of the major sources of toxin exposure you face daily.
- Use natural liver-boosting supplements. Herbs such as dandelion root, milk thistle, and holy basil help the liver remove toxins and eliminate waste.
- Reduce alcohol and drug use. While there are certainly benefits from drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, and at times drugs are necessary, your liver is the organ stuck with the job at removing the toxins they bring in. Limit your intake and choose natural remedies for minor pain and illnesses as much as possible.
- Move more. Your liver stores and circulates blood through your body. By moving more, you increase this circulation and up your liver’s capacity to remove waste quickly and efficiently.
- Avoid processed meats, they contain countless chemicals that put much unnecessary stress on your liver. Instead, choose organic, less processed meats or other vegetarian protein sources.
- Drink plenty of water. Your kidneys use water to help filter toxins and waste from your body through your urine. The more water you drink, the more frequently you will expel that waste from your body. Read here to learn how much water you should be drinking each day.
- Watch your blood pressure. High blood pressure puts a lot of pressure and stress on your kidneys. Check out these ways to naturally lower your blood pressure.
- Limit your salt intake. Too much sodium makes you thirsty, leads to swelling, and increases blood pressure, again stressing the kidneys. Avoid processed foods, make your own soups and sauces, and flavor your food with herbs and spices instead of piling on the salt.
- Be mindful of your fat intake. While you need healthy fats to live and thrive, too much fat will put undue stress on your kidneys. Stick to healthy fats found in whole foods such as omega-3s and avoid trans fats in processed food and vegetable oils altogether.
- Use kidney cleansing herbs such as burdock root. Burdock root is a blood purifier and natural diuretic that will increase urine output and therefore waste elimination.
- Eat kidney-friendly foods. These include high fiber, high water, but lower potassium foods, such as: Red bell peppers, cabbage, parsley, watermelon, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, lemon juice, onions, garlic, kale, and sweet potatoes.
- Eat plenty of fiber, especially through high fiber vegetables and fruits, such as broccoli and raspberries. Fiber helps you have regular bowel movements and prevent constipation, allowing for better elimination of waste via your stools.
- Drink plenty of water. Just as water is important for helping your kidneys to flush out toxins, it is also important for your colon. Your large intestine absorbs the amount of water it needs to soften your stools and pass them through the colon, if you are dehydrated this won’t happen and you will become constipated.
- Eat less sugar. Not only does refined sugar have devastating effects on all parts of the body, but it contributes to dysbiosis (out of balance gut and intestinal bacteria) in your intestines. This leads to inflammation, cell damage, and chronic diseases such as Crohn’s, IBS, Diabetes, and Celiac’s disease.
- Include ground flax in your diet every day. Ground flax has the soluble fiber and healthy fats your colon needs to function optimally. Follow this method to use ground flax to get your colon back on track!
- Eat Prebiotic and Probiotic foods, such as kefir, saurkraut, and kombucha. These healthy bacteria will help to restore balance to your gut and colon microbiome and prevent colon related diseases and illness, such as diarrhea, IBS, and colon cancer.
- Stay away from secondhand smoke. If you are a smoker, consider quitting, and if not, keep at a distance from people when they’re smoking. Every time you breathe out, you exhale toxins, but unfortunately, you breathe them in with every inhale. While you can’t avoid all air pollution, smoking is certainly one that is in your control.
- Keep plants in your home. Plants naturally detox the air for you, so the more plants you keep in your home, the cleaner your air will be.
- Use natural, non-toxic cleaning products. You breathe in many of the chemicals that you use to clean your house with. Avoid toxic air fresheners and use natural or homemade cleaners to keep your air as pure as possible.
- Get plenty of exercise, especially outdoor exercise if you can. Being fit will not only increase your lung capacity, but it will also help your lungs become more efficient. Outdoor exercise is best, however try to keep it to parks, trails, and quieter roads to avoid the air pollution commonly found in busy cities and streets from cars and businesses.
- Use lung-cleansing herbs, such as Osha root. This herb is fantastic for clearing mucus and congestion, relaxes the muscles to allow for deeper breathing, and improves blood circulation to the lungs, which increases the filtration of carbon dioxide and toxins from the lungs.
- Perform deep breathing exercises. Deep, diaphragm breathing is not only relaxing, but it allows the lungs to fully expand, gather waste and toxins from the entire organ, and expel them all, replacing with fresh, clean oxygen.
- Sweat more. The primary way your skin releases toxins from your body is through sweat, so grab your trainers and hit the gym. Exercising will increase the circulation of blood to your skin, so as you sweat you will release more toxins from your pores. As you get fitter, your sweat will improve: You will hold onto nutrients and salts and release more toxic substances.
- Drink plenty of water. Noticing the theme here? All organs in your body need water, and your skin is no exception. Improve its functionality (and appearance!) by drinking plenty of water every day.
- Dry brushing. This not only helps to increase the circulation of blood to your skin, but gentle dry brushing also helps to remove dead skin cells and prevents them from blocking your pores.
- Eat a skin-friendly diet, including colorful vegetables and fruits, plenty of healthy fats, and limiting sugar and caffeine.
- Detox baths. Adding essential oils and specific salts to your bath water and taking a nice long soak in the tub is not only relaxing, but it will also help to detoxify your skin.
The Bottom Line
Instead of trying diet and deprive yourself to lose weight, adopt a healthier lifestyle that focuses on good, nutritious food, plenty of exercise, clean water, and stress relief. You will be happier, healthier, and the weight will begin to fall right off!
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