Healthy Weight Part 2
Last week I wrote about the processed, hyper palatable, high calorie foods that we have such access to, and how they trigger a deeply primal addictive eating pattern within many of us. The inundation with these foods in our environment, combined with a primal urge to gorge high calorie foods, has led to an obesity epidemic.
I have assured my readers that failing to find the willpower to overcome these urges to overeat high calorie foods, is not a personal failing. We simply do not have sufficient willpower to overcome these urges once the addictive pattern is established (which happens in childhood) and especially when we are tired, upset, stressed or hungry. However, we can find ways around this challenging issue that eats away at our self esteem and our health.
This week I want to talk about hormones, and about habits.
Stress and Cortisol
Stress, such as many of us experience daily in our modern lives, causes a release of the hormone cortisol. Chronic stress leads to chronic high cortisol levels. High cortisol levels tend to cause increased appetite, and sugar and fat cravings. You might know this from your own experience. While some people will stop eating when stressed, many of us will tend to overeat, and crave chocolate and other high calorie foods.
Therefore, when we are tired and stressed after a difficult day, or when life is just full on, we have an extra hurdle to overcome in our weight loss journey, with cortisol causing us to crave the very foods we don’t really need.
Excess cortisol puts you at increased risk of heart disease and causes you to store fat around your internal organs. The best way to manage this modern day dilemma, is to manage stress more effectively. Here are a few ideas:
Oestrogen and testosterone
Women often crave chocolate or salty foods before their periods. However women with an excess of oestrogen relative to progesterone, which is called oestrogen dominance, will tend to gain weight around their middle. Oestrogen dominance is the case for most women nowadays, due to an excess of environmental oestrogen-like chemicals, as well as inefficient oestrogen metabolising pathways in the liver. During menopause, women also tend to put on weight around the middle as the fat cells take over from the ovaries in producing oestrogen. This can all be helped considerably by promoting healthy detoxification with a good diet, lots of fibre, and plenty of vegetables and in particular leafy greens, daily. Minimising toxins in your food, environment and personal care products is also important.
For men, testosterone levels tend to decline with age, and this is associated with weight gain, and also depression. Higher levels of teststerone tend to help the body burn fat. I have written an article here about optimising testosterone for men.
Leptin is the hormone that tells us we are full, and much research has been done around this hormone in recent years. A bad diet will affect our leptin levels, but so will sleep deprivation. When we run on chronic lack of proper sleep, leptin levels lower, increasing our desire for fatty or sugary foods. Therefore getting enough sleep is important to control those cravings.
Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Its job is to take the glucose in your blood and put it into your cells, and to store it in your liver for later, such as between meals. When your insulin processes are overloaded with an excess of fat along with sugar, your body tends to store that excess energy as fat. I don’t recommend the common ‘low carb’ diet, because I believe that fruit is a wonderful source of natural energy, sweetness, and nutrition that our body thrives on. However, taking out the foods made with flour, and with added sugar, can go a long way toward balancing our insulin levels. Additionally, including enough protein in each meal, especially breakfast, has been shown to balance blood sugar and reduce cravings over the day.
There is a thyroid disease epidemic occuring and low thyroid hormones are often associated with a slower metabolism. We also have an iodine deficiency epidemic, and iodine is essential for thyroid and metabolic health, as well as breast health and many other issues. I do not suggest you randomly start supplementing with high levels of iodine without getting yourself testing, however, increasing your iodine levels through consuming seaweed regularly is highly recommended. Just make sure your seaweed comes from the Atlantic, or Tasmania, not the highly polluted Pacific Ocean.
Our modern lifestyles and environment can really work against us having a healthy weight. So let's look at ways we can minimise our need for accessing our overtaxed willpower. The best way to do this is to develop healthy habits, one or two at a time. Habits help us not have to access our willpower, because they become our default.
Last week I talked about the habit of planning your meals ahead in order to not have to make food decisions when you are stressed, tired, hungry or upset. If you made the decision the night before, have done the shopping, and you are prepared for the ups and downs of daily life, rather than falling back on takeaways or microwaved food regularly.
I also talked about choosing foods that are close to their natural states,- vegetables, fruits, potatoes, meats, seafoods, eggs, yoghurt, wholegrains, beans and lentils. These foods are inherently satisfying to our being, but not necessarily to our taste buds if they have been conditioned to eat hyper-palatable foods. These foods help to reset our leptin hormone so that we feel full and satisfied, something which processed foods do not do, which is why we overeat them.
Another tip is to eat protein with every meal, and eat enough of it. You can eat vegetarian proteins but be conscious that you are eating protein foods with every meal, especially including breakfast. That may mean leftovers, an egg, baked beans, protein powder in a smoothie, nuts and seeds, or peanut butter. A savoury breakfast will also go a long way to set up your day for less cravings.
Another healthy habit I highly recommend, particularly at this time of year (summer), is to have a large salad once a day (with some protein). By adding in a substantial salad you are crowding out of your diet many of the other possible foods that are less desirable, and filling up your nutrition tank, and letting your body know you are getting enough nourishment, you don’t need to keep overeating.
Next week in part 3 I will talk about the recent diet craze of intermittent fasting, and show you how you can simply and easily include its well established benefits in your normal day to day life, with a huge impact on your weight, health and wellbeing.
Salad with Mango Dressing
When most people think of a salad they think of a tiny little side dish. If that is you, I want to encourage you to change your thinking and think of your salad as a whole, filling, delicious, vibrant and colourful meal. I am talking about 250-300 grams of vegetables. In the beginning, this may take you half an hour to eat, but you will get faster over time. A good salad dressing can make all the difference for an enjoyable salad.
Make a big bowl of salad including any of :
leafy greens- baby spinach, cos lettuce, kale chopped finely
capsicum, tomato, cucumber, radish, cabbage
steamed vegetables like asparagus, broccoli
leftover baked vegetables such as baked pumpkin/sweet potato
herbs such as coriander, parsley, basil
Some sort of protein: leftover meat chopped, hummous, chickpeas, black beans, tuna, salmon, walnuts etc
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of ACV, lemon or lime juice
2 Tbs tamari or Braggs
2 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
1 mango cheek, skin removed.
a little water to thin if needed
Blend these ingredients and use 2 tablespoons for your salad and put the rest in the fridge for next time.