- Keep your blood sugar steady: Avoid the “crash and burn” effect of refined carbs and simple sugars such as white bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, sugar and caffeine. Sugars (especially in combination with fat and salt) are addictive. By selecting whole grains and fruit and veggies as your sources of carbohydrates, and eating every 3-4 hours, you will eliminate cravings that sabotage the best of us.
- Maintain good hydration: Drink hydrating beverages throughout the day, and aim for half your body weight in ounces (eg: 150 pound person should drink 75 oz or approximately 9 to 10 cups of water per day). When you become dehydrated, your metabolism slows down, toxins begin to accumulate and create a sluggish liver, and you end up with low energy, among other impacts. Your best choices are pure water, or herbal teas that contain no caffeine or sugar. If you find it hard to drink plain water, flavour it with slices of lemon, lime, grapefruit or orange. Try adding some fresh mint leaves, or even some slices of fresh ginger. This makes a refreshing summer drink, adds antioxidants and helps soothe the digestive tract.
- Eat lots of fibre (at least 35g/day): Fibre keeps you feeling full, slows the digestion which allows the body to better absorb the vitamins and minerals from your food, lowers cholesterol helps eliminate toxins, and helps keep blood sugar steady. Best sources of fibre are veggies, fruit, whole grains, and beans/legumes.
- Eat protein at every meal: Eating protein helps with the repair of muscle tissues (especially important if you’re exercising regularly, which of course you are, right?!!), and has a high thermogenic effect. In other words, it takes more energy (calories) to digest protein than any other macronutrient, so eating protein helps raise your metabolic rate. Choose lean, organic animal proteins (chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, and limited amounts of red meat), beans, tofu, nuts and seeds.
- Eat adequate amounts of healthy fats (20- 30% of your daily caloric intake): Fat is not the demon it’s been made out to be! Essential fatty acids (especially Omega-3) are called “essential” for a reason – your body cannot make them itself and they are required for the structure and function of every cell in your body, especially your brain and nervous system, and your endocrine system which manages your hormones. Excellent sources of healthy fats include coconut oil, olive oil, flax oil and ground flax seeds, avocado, nuts such as almonds and walnuts, and yes, even SMALL amounts of dark chocolate.
- Eat a diet of WHOLE LIVE foods: Avoid processed and refined foods, and eliminate all artificial sweeteners, MSG, and trans-fats. When you eat these refined foods, you set yourself up to crave food all the time, as your body tries to find the balance that it is programmed to expect from whole foods. Aim for a rainbow of colours on your plate from the world of fresh fruits and veggies, and select plant sources of protein more often.
- Get moving daily: Incorporate activity into your day every day... park your car further from the store, take the stairs more often, scrub the floors and clean the windows.... go out for a walk, bike ride, play tennis, or take a class at the gym! You’ll burn calories during your workout, for up to 48 hours after, and in the long run, increase your metabolic rate permanently by building lean muscle mass. And the benefits of exercise for weight loss go beyond caloric burn – it also helps your body “shake off” the effects of stress, improve mood and self-esteem, create a firm and toned appearance, helps eliminate toxins through sweat which allows the liver to keep up with its many functions including directing the metabolism... the benefits are countless!
- Sleep! Studies show that when we don't get enough or good quality sleep, we eat more! Establish a “bedtime routine” including some relaxation time (a warm bath, meditation or relaxation exercises, deep breathing, light reading) away from sources of electricity (like the TV or computer), and have regular bed and wake times.
- Deal with emotions emotionally: Food is fuel for your body. If you find yourself thinking about food when you’re not hungry, use this as a signal that you may have some underlying emotions that are trying to talk to you. If this happens often, the old adage “It’s not what you’re eating, it’s what’s eating you” is an important key for you. Emotions need to be handled emotionally.... in other words, acknowledge them, express them, and let them go... don't swallow them along with a tub of ice cream!
- Set SMART Goals: Giving yourself goals to work toward gives you something tangible to accomplish, and creates a “finish line” for you to cross. Making your goals SMART helps you know when you’ve achieved your goals so you can celebrate, and create some new goals. SMART goals are: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
AND ONE BONUS KEY:
Be kind, be patient, and be gentle with yourself. Healthy living is not an “all or nothing” thing. It is a continuum, and as you start making changes, build on them... before you know it you will be making more healthy choices than not. Aim for the 85/15 rule – 85% of your choices should be healthy whole foods, allowing for 15% “fun” foods where you may choose less than the ideal. These foods have a place in your diet too, if you make your choices consciously... remember, it’s about Body, Mind, and Spirit. When you choose those “Spirit” foods, don’t berate yourself for it, enjoy it fully! And then make your next choice a healthy one. Acknowledge the hard work you’re doing every day, and remind yourself each night as you go to sleep that “Today I am healthier/fitter/stronger than I was yesterday.”