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The What, When and How of Weight Loss

By Jasmine Ma, L. Ac.

Image of assorted vegetables and an athletic man drinking water

WHAT

  • Don’t eat the same things every day. The more varieties of food the better, because they all provide different types of nutrients – vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, etc.

  • Eat a balanced diet with as many vegetables as possible.  Eat 2-3 times as many vegetables as fruit, and make sure to eat fresh fruits or juice rather than canned or bottled, which lose their nutrients and often contain undesirable additives.

  • Do add foods with healthful fats to go with your vegetables or fruits, like coconut oil, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, macadamia nuts, cashews and other seeds/nuts. *Seeds or nuts can help slow down the fructose absorption process and keep your blood sugar steady.

  • Focus on natural, high fiber foods in their original “whole” form — the less processed the better.  Learn to read labels — you may be surprised what you find!  Avoid food with lots of mysterious ingredients, dehydrated foods, sugar and alcohol.

  • Limit your intake of simple or refined carbohydrates especially pastries, white rice, white bread, pasta and so on.  If you don’t have an active lifestyle to burn them, then limit your intake, even for complex carbs like whole grains. Replace high carb grains with buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, and soaked/sprouted beans. The best carbs are from non-starchy vegetables and moderate amounts of high-quality protein and beneficial fat. Eating this way will help you convert from “carb burning” to “fat burning” mode.

  • Add probiotics to your diet for both digestion and immune support, ideally getting them naturally from fermented food. As author Michael Pollan note in a recent New York Times magazine article [http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19]: “Disorders in our internal ecosystem may predispose us to obesity and a whole range of chronic diseases.” Our gut microbes influence our metabolism, which regulates how slowly or quickly we gain weight.

  • Drink water to keep yourself hydrated, so you won’t turn to soft drinks when you are both hungry and thirsty. Try not to drink much after 3 or 4 pm, especially after dinner, or your body may not assimilate the liquids well and could cause water retention in your body.

WHEN

  • Treat breakfast more seriously than lunch and dinner, as it is the most important meal of the day.  During the rest of the day, try to eat small portions of food on a regular schedule.

  • Don’t wait to eat until you’re starving — doing so can disrupt your blood sugar balance and cause you to grab whatever food you can find quickly, which often means junk food. Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time so you aren’t caught in this situation, and you can make maximize the value and pleasure of every meal.

  • For example, if you want to make a green smoothie in the morning, your weekend grocery shopping list should include fresh fruits (such as apple or pineapple), green leafy veggies (such as baby arugula or kale), raw seeds (like pumpkin, Chia or flax seeds or flax seeds) . To make whole grain oatmeal cereal or low carb buckwheat meal for breakfast, you can soak them the night before, to sprout a bit so as to bring out more nutrients, to lower the starchiness and to cook faster.

  • Don’t eat dinner too late or the food may become stagnant in your gut, staying undigested in the small intestine, turning into fat more easily.  The later you eat, the more likely you are to gain weight.  If you have to eat late, eat very light with mostly veggies, and keep portions small.

Image of a parfait and an older woman riding a bicycle

HOW

  • The best way to avoid fattening foods is to not have them around!  When grocery shopping, don’t buy foods like chocolate candy, cookies, crackers, chips, ice cream, cheese, or even dried fruit, because once you’re feeling hungry and you have them near you, you may not be able to stop eating them.

  • It’s important to enjoy your food but to not be an emotional eater, someone who eats to comfort him or herself and temporarily feel better.  If you do have this tendency, focus on solving your fundamental problem, which is how you deal with stress.

  • Make sure to sit down to eat, and savor your meals.  Take time to chew your food completely so you can digest it properly.  Eat mindfully, focusing on your meal and not on too many distractions.

  • We need to move around during the day to process our food properly.  But exercise isn’t only something that happens at the gym. Even if you only move around 3 minutes every hour, that can get you to the minimum 20-30 minutes of exercise you need every day. Especially if you work on the computer or generally have a sedentary lifestyle, make sure to get up every hour, stretch, move your arms and legs around, twist your wrists and ankles inwards and outwards, walk around and up and down stairs.

  • Even while watching TV, you can do fun body movements like marching in place or standing in front of furniture, stretching or simply moving your arms in a swimming motion. All will add up to your daily exercise routine. It’s actually healthier and safer to do a little exercise every day than to be a weekend warrior who does no exercise during the week but overdoes it on the weekend.

  • In fact, your breathing also affects how you process food into fuel.  In general, the lower the oxygen levels in your cells, the less efficiently they turn food into energy, triggering your cells to crave more fuel from food, thereby creating a vicious cycle. This could explain why many shallow breathers tend to have sugar cravings.

  • Two complementary strategies to train the body to burn fat as a fuel trace back to ancient Chinese and Indian healing traditions. One is fasting, either for a minimum of three days or periodically — under experienced masters’ or practitioners’ guidance and monitoring — to bring your body to a new metabolic state. Such fasting must be paired with the second set of strategies, which include a combination of breathing techniques, focusing more on inhaling, and meditation, which can also be used whenever feeling hungry or before each meal.

  • Periodic fasting (again, under supervision from a health care professional), steadily making your meals a little lighter, can be a very effective technique for many people. Once your body gets used to burning fat, your cravings for sugar and junk foods may decrease surprisingly. Just like withdrawal from any addicting substance, working to break your addiction to glucose may cause you to experience the side effects of detox/healing crises, such as headaches, nausea, lightheaded, irritability and moodiness. Again, the appropriate breathing meditation can greatly reduce these side-effects.

  • Finally, having the right mindset for weight loss is important. The biggest challenges for most people are emotional: how to eliminate cravings and emotional eating, learn self-discipline, and avoid self discouragement.  So you may need emotional support to succeed in weight loss. For this, you could benefit from learning some established emotional stress relief techniques, such as EFT Tapping- Emotional Freedom Technique, which has been used by many people with success in weight loss. You can learn the technique easily from YouTube. The Work, from Byron Katie (thework.com) is also a helpful tool for emotional stress relief.

  • But never lose hope, because every single day you have the opportunity to improve.

Disclaimer: this article gives tips on weight loss but does not constitute medical advice; consult your health care provider before embarking on a major weight loss program.

Asian Fortune is an English language newspaper for Asian American professionals in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Visit fb.com/asianfortune to stay up to date with our news and what’s going on in the Asian American community.

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