Now that the holidays are over, I’m sure a lot of you are thinking about losing some extra pounds and maybe even going on a detox. Weight loss and detox don’t always go hand-in-hand, but often they do. If you’re looking to lose weight, a detox is a great start, and often necessary. Although, if you’re looking to detox you may not need or want to lose weight. Regardless of your goal, it all starts with what you put in your mouth. This article is designed to get you started on the right foot for your New Year’s health goals.
As mentioned, the most important factor in attaining your health goal of weight loss or detox is what you are eating. [I don’t mean to mitigate the emotional component of weight loss (if in fact there is one for you).]
When it comes to eating, it’s more important to eliminate the “bad” foods rather than simply include “good” foods. On the list of foods that need to be eliminated, sugar is by far number one. This doesn’t simply mean table sugar that is added to food or drinks, it means all sugar-containing foods such as: pies, cakes, cookies, candy, soda, doughnuts, ice cream, brownies, etc.. Additionally, the so-called healthy alternatives of these foods that don’t use refined white sugar as a sweetener are also on the list of foods to avoid. I’m referring to ice cream flavored with agave nectar, or cookies sweetened with white grape juice concentrate, and anything in between. About the only thing you may be able to “get away with” that’s concentrated and sweet is a small amount of raw, unfiltered honey in tea, or a smoothie. It’s best to avoid sweeteners like brown rice syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, date sugar, and all other alternatives to white sugar. Stevia is sometimes acceptable, but not for everyone, as I’ve found it can negatively affect pancreatic function. However, if you must, it seems the best alternative.
Second on the list of foods to avoid for weight loss and detoxification is all forms of starch. This includes bread (even whole- and multi-grain), pasta (even whole-grain), rice (even brown rice), and potatoes. In fact, if you really want to lose weight, you should consider avoiding all grains. This would include foods like oatmeal, quinoa, corn (a grain, not a vegetable), etc.. It may seem way too restrictive and low-carb for many people, but it’s what I see work. I’ll write more articles in the future on the mechanism(s) of why restricting sugar, starch and high carbohydrate foods can help with weight loss, and why detox can help weight loss, but for now I just want to get the basics out regarding diet.
An exception to the “extreme” restriction in starch (not sugar, as sugar should be avoided by everyone) is an individual who wants to detox, but is not looking to, or can’t “afford” to lose weight. Generally, grains like brown rice and starchy vegetables can be OK in a situation like this.
After sugar and starch, if you’re attempting to lose weight you’ll need to cut out all alcohol. Alcohol is one of the simplest forms of sugar and can certainly thwart any efforts on shedding pounds, even if you’ve already cut out sugar and starch. A glass of wine a night may seem harmless, and even healthy, but in reality it will affect metabolism in a way that may keep you from your weight loss goals. And alcohol is obviously a “no-no” for anyone on a detox.
Lastly, it’s best to limit or completely eliminate fruit from the diet. Even though fruit is natural, the sugar in it can negatively affect blood sugar levels and lead to hormonal shifts that can prevent weight loss. Typically, fruit only needs to be avoided during the first one to three months of a weight loss regimen, and the ability to tolerate it can be assessed thereafter.
One key reason people seeking to lose weight and detox need to avoid sugar and starch is because of its effect on blood sugar levels/fluctuations and the resultant hormonal shifts that take place. Again, this is a topic for another article. But I need to make another point regarding blood sugar fluctuations and eating. It’s not simply what you eat that will affect your blood sugar, but “how” you eat.
There are basically two issues when it comes to blood sugar imbalances. A person is generally more hypoglycemic (tending toward low blood sugar) or hyperglycemic (tending toward high blood sugar). Very often however a person simply shifts between the two extremes of high and low blood sugar. Regardless of where on the spectrum you lie, your eating schedule should basically be the same. Also, because people often shift from high to low blood sugar throughout the day, it can’t always be picked up on a blood test.
As far as “how” to eat, it is imperative to eat (protein-containing foods) within one hour of waking in the morning. And it’s imperative to eat something every few hours to avoid a significant drop in blood sugar. This usually means that people need to snack on something every 2-3 hours. Several signs that your blood sugar is too low and that you need to eat (or really that you should have eaten already to avoid these symptoms) are: feeling irritable or light-headed between meals; eating relieves fatigue; craving sweets; dependence on stimulants like caffeine to function “well”; and/or get shaky, jittery, or nervous between meals. Several signs that your blood sugar is generally too high and that you tend toward insulin resistance are: craving sweets throughout the day; craving sweets after eating; eating sweets doesn’t satisfy your “sweet tooth”; feeling tired after eating; increased thirst and appetite; fat deposits around the mid-section or “belly fat”; and difficulty losing weight.
Sometimes it’s OK if you choose to exercise within an hour of waking up, instead of eating first. If that seems to work and you don’t have any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should be fine. However, you should eat (protein-containing foods) within at least 15-20 minutes after your morning workout.
Keep in mind that there are many reasons that a person may have trouble losing weight and diet alone might not give you the results you are looking for. Other areas of consideration include thyroid, adrenal, digestive, brain, pancreatic health, etc.. Specific measures for correcting imbalances in any impaired organs/glands/systems is usually also necessary to achieve weight loss and detox goals. But you must start with what you are eating (and not eating) and how and when you eat, or your efforts will most likely be fruitless.
Start with the dietary recommendations mentioned above and you should be well on your way to achieving your goal of weight loss and/or detox.
Also, please see my article my article titled “Daily protein requirements” for more specific information on the importance of eating protein.
Check back for more on weight loss and detox!
Happy New Year!
Dr. Rob D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology