Superfoods: 6 Food Groups that will Boost Your Weight Loss

superfoods

We’ve all heard the use of the category “Superfoods” in many different ways. Sometimes they are marketed as products from companies trying to sign you up for their weight loss plan, but there are many of these “weapons” that you can use from regular food categories that we consume each and every day. Here are just 6 of them.

1. Nuts
Nuts are the new “Special Forces” foods that benefit us in a variety of ways. They are jammed with monounsaturated fatty acids which help to control diabetic tendencies and heart disease. There is also evidence that nuts also increase the body’s metabolic rate so that it can still burn calories for over 3 hours following a vigorous work-out. High in Vitamin E, almonds and pistachios are the most beneficial types.

2. Whole grains
Bakery products made with whole grains seem to be all the rage now and rightfully so. Studies show that people who eat whole grains as part of an every day regimen are usually 2.5lbs lighter than those that don’t. It’s possible that there are other forces at work here of course but the evidence is striking. Whole grains naturally have a high fiber content which helps with digestion, inflammation and controls insulin.

3. Avocados
Many people consider avocados to be unhealthy because of their high fat content. However, it is the type of fat that is important here. For example, bagels are fattening because they contain fats that effect the hormone Leptin, the “hunger” hormone. Bagels cause “rebound” hunger which causes further eating. Avocados contain fats which are healthy and don’t cause swings in insulin levels. They are packed with Vitamin K and C, and anti-oxidants that increase carotene absorption.

4. Beans
How would you like to live longer, weigh less, have lower blood pressure and a thinner waist? If the answer is yes, then eat 3/4 of a cup of beans per day (Navy Beans are the best). The benefits are so wide-ranging that I don’t have room here to write them all down. Better digestion is sometimes overlooked when considering weight loss foods but beans improve that dramatically.

5. Dark chocolate
This is one food that I’m shocked to see listed here. Apparently, dark chocolate lowers the craving for fatty and sugary foods, reduces bad (LDL) cholesterol, decreases blood pressure, increases endorphin levels, and is rich in Vitamin B. As a boy, I was always taught that all chocolate would do is rot your teeth. It seems not.

6. Berries
The “terrorists” of foodstuffs are free radicals. They attack the neurons that tell us when we’re full so its more difficult to tell when we’ve had enough food. Berries are rich in anti-oxidants which attack free radicals. Cranberries, blackcurrants, and blueberries are the most efficient at doing this but raspberries and strawberries are also efficient anti-oxidant sources.

None of these “superfoods” on their own will suddenly cause a miraculous drop in weight but if you were to incorporate each one of these food groups into your daily diet regimen, you can almost guarantee that you would be healthier, and most likely, lose weight a touch faster.

Radical Weight Loss: Don’t Do It

radical weight loss

There are times as we flip through the Sunday magazine inserts that we read about certain lucky folks who were successful in losing “15lbs in 17 days” or “50lbs in 30 days” and I have to admit that there have been times that I’ve sat back and thought, “What if..?” Radical weight loss is a phenomenon that’s gained some credibility over the past several years but my advice is – don’t do it.

We aren’t exactly treading new ground here as we’ve discussed some artificial methods such as diet pills that are available on the market that will supposedly shed pounds of weight in a heartbeat, but we’ve questioned their effectiveness and the trauma that they cause on overall body health. The human body is not “happy” with quick weight shedding as it puts too much stress on bodily functions. Large amounts of weight loss usually involve the loss or transfer of water, fluids, and electrolytes which if left uncontrolled, can be disastrous. We see evidence of this type of radical weight loss in the acting and wrestling communities.

Actors on many occasions have to lose weight to play a certain role or to show aging over time during the course of the movie. Some that come to mind are Tom Hanks in “Castaway” and for “The Philadelphia Story”, Matthew McConaughey in “The Dallas Buyers Club”, and Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables. All of these parts demanded that the character in question exhibit huge weight loss. Hathaway lived on a 500 calorie diet to drop weight while McConaughey ran an all liquid diet which brought his weight down to a paltry 135lbs. This type of stuff is definitely not recommended. Remember that actors who adopt these methods are usually under constant medical supervision.

Wrestlers, and sometimes boxers face the same dilemma when trying to make a weight before a big fight. Many times if a fighter has tipped the scales over his weight, diuretics will be used, particularly at the lower level of the sports, to rid the body of water fast, so dropping weight. Again, this is an example of radical weight loss that is most certainly harmful to your health. Many experts believe that Muhammad Ali’s Parkinson’s Syndrome affliction was brought on by the excessive use of diuretics while trying to make weights for his title fights.

In my humble opinion, there are no quick, easy ways to lose weight that don’t put the human body under some terribly hard stresses. When losing weight like that in large quantities, something is being lost which can’t be put back, and the body has to adjust to that. The older the person is, the more stressful the process. As always, my recommendation is to stick with what works using tried and tested diet regimens and exercise schedules.

..unless of course you have a big fight to get ready for or you’ve just landed the lead role in Robinson Crusoe

5 Ways to Keep the Scales Moving

drop weight fast

One of the most common reasons why people give up on weight loss programs is through lack of results. Initially, pounds drop off dramatically, and like any marathon runner will tell you, during the middle part of the race, things start to become more difficult, and in the case of the dieter, the weight reduction slows down. It’s at that crucial point that we must knuckle down and keep the scales moving.

Generally speaking, dieters realise results in vastly different ways. Some see weight fall off almost immediately and they achieve their goals quickly and easily whereas there are many people to whom weight loss is a daily struggle. Those who belong in that first category usually have gained 15-20lbs in a short period of time, maybe a year to eighteen months. Much of that weight is water, and can be lost quite readily. The second group that tend to take longer to achieve their goals, usually have gained weight over a much longer time period, maybe 4-5 years, and have failed to address their overweight issue. It is this group from which most of the “drop-outs” come.

Like anything else, dieting principles usually work if followed correctly and one reason why the scale has stopped dropping is that we have gotten away from what has been working, either through laziness or just complacency. Its those issues I’d like to address today and also offer some advice and tips on how to deal with “The Dieting Wall”.

1. Be sure NOT to consume more calories than you burn. PERIOD
Even if you have whole grain, lean meat, fish and fresh fruit on your diet, if the calorie intake is above what you are burning, you will not lose weight.

2. Lose the vegan/veggie obsession
Too much of one food group can cause the weight loss to flatten out. Revitalise your metabolism with an injection of protein and carbs. The tiredness will go away too.

3. Eat every 3-5 hours
Long periods between meal times can cause issues leading to possible diabetes. Keep the thought “little and often” at the top of your mind. Your body will thank you.

4. Drink plenty of water but do not waterlog yourself
Water is by far the least likely of any fluid that we drink to put weight on EXCEPT when you drown yourself in the stuff thinking that somehow you will “wash” away the weight. Moderation, people. Moderation.

5. Associate a lack of progress with a change in habits
Many people hit “The Wall” and then refuse to realise why it happened. Nine times out of ten it can be pinned down on a change in exercise schedule, diet regimen, or just plain not paying attention. Stay alert to your deficiencies.

These are just a few of the things we can do to make sure that we keep the scales moving not only through the good times, but also through the bad times too. If we can regularly go back to the basics of what we’ve learned here together over the past several months, that barrier that our bodies throw up in protest can be breached, and once it has, it can be plain sailing from thereon in.

Diet Pills: The Good, The Bad and The Just Plain Ugly

Diet Pill Fads

If ever you get a chance to venture inside one of those nutritional supplement stores (who shall remain nameless) you will see whole sections of the store devoted to diet pills, the so-called easiest way to lose weight – but do they work?

I hate to flog a dead horse here but I have to re-iterate that one of my main philosophical beliefs in the weight loss arena, is the development of a culture, an attitude if you will, that lasts with you long after the stringent diet schedules have been and gone. Diet pills represent, for me, at least, the worst type of aid that dieters resort to. Let me first say that not all products are the same but many diet pill products are very expensive, ineffective and what is worst of all, threatening to your health – the worst of all worlds.

Pills can come in all kinds of forms. There are products that have a diuretic effect which causes the body to lose fluids more rapidly than it consumes, so eliminating water and thus weight. There are those that suppress the body’s natural desire to eat, which by themselves are relatively harmless. The issue here is that the lack of hunger forces the body to reject all foods which can, in certain cases, prevent the user from consuming the necessary portions of essential foods such as protein and vitamins. Then there are those that increase stool production, which frankly, indicates some of the extremes that people are willing to go to in order to shed weight. You can see that there is a need to be careful here.

Realistically speaking, the most effective diet pills provide at best a 10% loss in weight over the short term. There are indications that even with the best products, the body tends to become immune to the dieting effects over 6 months or longer. Diuretic=based pills can lose more than 10% but are extremely dangerous in larger quantities. They can effect potassium concentrations in the body which can have adverse effects on the heart and nerve responses. As you can see, extreme care is needed for what can be potentially minimal results.

I have never felt the need to go to the extent of grabbing weight loss out of a bottle, but there are many people who need the extra help especially in cases of adverse medical conditions. In situations like this, obviously a doctor should be consulted. Research, and lots of it, is essential before embarking on any kind of doseage routine to ensure that first, the effectiveness of the products have been proven, and secondly, horrid after-effects such as anal seepage and hourly vomiting is avoided at all costs. Yuck!

I can only maintain that diet pills are for the dreamers who want to get results way faster than they, or their bodies for that matter, are capable of producing. Stick to what comes naturally and if that doesn’t work, seek expert medical advice, and when you pass that nutritional supplement store, do yourself a favor.

Keep on walking.

Does a Big Breakfast Help in Weight Loss?

big breakfast

I’m quite sure we all remember the rantings of our beloved parents when we were small who carried the torch for making sure we had a decent breakfast before we left for school each day. Breakfasts have long been seen as a relatively healthy way to eat a meal but recent studies have suggested that a big breakfast may in fact help in losing pounds faster than normal.

Researchers based in Israel studied a group of around 100 obese women. The women were split into two groups with all members consuming 1,400 calories per day. Group A split their usage with 700 cal at breakfast, 500 calories at lunch, and 200 at dinner. Group B reversed their routine with the 700 calorie meal being eaten at night and 200 calories for breakfast. After 9 weeks, the results showed that the women from Group A had lost an average of 18lbs, while those from Group B had lost an average of only 7lbs. Additionally, Group A women experienced a drop in levels of glucose, insulin, and triglycerides, all helping to improve cardiovascular health and exposure to diabetes.

The science behind these numbers takes on two main profiles. With a big breakfast, it’s thought that the body is able to piggyback on the it’s own Circadian rhythms which control hormones that process carbohydrates, proteins and fats. With the processes working at an optimum level in the morning hours, it seems that if the body can plow through the majority of the day’s calories at that time, less food will be stored as fat later on. Also, the lack of calorie intake during the evening hours, suggests that less calories will remain “unused” during sleeping hours. I can personally vouch that eating larger meals late in the evening contributes heavily to rapid weight gain.

Researchers did also admit that the study was probably not performed over a long enough period of time to be able to draw solid conclusions but frankly, if you can show almost double the weight loss using one diet plan over another, I think for the average man or woman in the street, that’s enough of a encouragement to maybe give the idea a shot. To me, the trick is not only the ratio of food eaten to the time of the day. Some experts have suggested that it is OK to go wild at breakfast and gobble down pancakes, ice cream, bacon and eggs. My first reaction is who would want to do that before going to work, but that type of attitude develops bad habits, and we know how I feel about that. I’d recommend still consuming a high protein meal with no shaving off of calories and throw in a couple of pancakes and a few extra eggs and sausages. Much of this is about how you feel afterwards too. I’m not sure a self-abusive meal at 7.00am gets me in the mood for a very productive day.

In conclusion, I think this study is very valuable in showing us how we can maybe re-distribute the food intake through our day to effect quicker change in our weight loss program. It seems that after all, a big breakfast can still be “The Meal of Champions”!

Ghrelin and Leptin: The Hormone Helpers

ghrelin and leptin

We’ve talked at length in other articles about the effect of certain hormones on the body’s ability to lose weight. Recent research is starting to establish a much more pressing association between hormone control and weight loss. If you can control two metabolism-related hormones, Ghrelin and Leptin, there’s a good possibility your weight will follow suit.

Many dieters struggle after the first month or so to continue the weight loss regimen that they started off so enthusiastically. After showing some initially encouraging gains, weight loss has slowed to a point where the dieter is in limbo, following all of the diet and exercise instructions, and yet not realising the weight loss. You’ve basically hit “The Wall”, just like a long-distance runner. However, all is not lost. According to new research, it appears that the two primary hormones that are linked to weight fluctuation and metabolism change, can be a help. The first is Ghrelin, which causes the body to “feel hungry” and so requires food. The second is Leptin, which we’ve talked about before in previous articles. This chemical makes the body feel “nourished and satisfied”. These two substances work hand in hand and when controlled, can get a dieter over that “Wall Effect”.

We’ll talk here about some of the practices that we can use to help along the dieting process, but bear in mind that some of what we suggest here may contradict what I’ve recommended before. Remember – these are opinions based on factual research and in no way are designed to confuse or deceive. It’s just another way to approach a problem.

Ghrelin is a hormone that’s secreted in the brain and stomach and when released, tells the brain that the body needs food. It generally surfaces in higher levels at 8am, 12pm, 3pm, and 6pm (basically meal times – no surprise there!). Ghrelin cannot be controlled artificially but we can “fool” it. If we can trick it into thinking the body has had its “fill” by consuming high volume foods that are low in calories, that’s half the battle. Lean meats, white fish, and non-fat Greek yoghurt will suppress the Ghrelin effect. Carbohydrate foods such as lentils, sweet potatoes and rolled oats have the same effect. Also, large quantities of water will fill the stomach and reduce those annoying hunger pangs.

Leptin is produced in the fat cells and tells the body that “I’m done”. Usually, the more overweight a person is, the higher the Leptin content, which suggests that the body would require LESS food. That’s not the case according to researchers. Overweight people typically become resistant to Leptin so reducing its “satiating” effect. Frankly, the body needs to have an even balance of Ghrelin and Leptin to reduce weight and provide a curve which leads to consistent results. Here comes a curve-ball. In order to effect this balance, sometimes too much cardio-exercise can cause overproduction of Ghrelin which isn’t what we want, so as always, set your gym schedule in moderation.

The evidence presented here should be somewhat beneficial to those of us struggling to get back on the horse again, and also, those of us having no success reducing belly fat. However, once again, “moderation” needs to be a factor here to make sure that concrete results are obtained without any adverse health effects.

I’d be interested to get any feedback from someone who has tried this hormonal control approach. Tell us in comments about your experience!

Liquid Diets: Do They Work?

liquid diets

You’ll read and hear a lot about the effect of liquids and fluids on weight loss, predominantly from infomercials desperate to sell you the latest gizmo that turns 5lbs of farm fresh vegetables into one delicious tasting smoothie drink. The question is whether a diet consisting of liquids like these, actually contribute anything to a diet regimen. Do they work?

Personally, I have always been a fan of a large amount of fluid intake during the course of my day. Water, juices form the major part and here we go with my confession! I love sodas and milk too! These last two items mean trouble for any credible weight loss plan, but when you eliminate those two “outlaws”, fluids can be beneficial. They perform two tasks. Physically, they fill your stomach with volume that takes away the hunger pangs that can be so distracting whilst trying to maintain a regimental diet plan. Secondly, and more importantly, they can provide quick, nutritious supplements following strenuous workouts.

The trick in using fluids to is to buy a top quality food processor, like a Bullet Blender, that will create a thin, palatable drink free of annoying lumps and pieces. Poor quality blenders don’t do good enough jobs of crushing up the food products and causes the drink to be somewhat unpleasant. Use vegetables and fruits initially to create a sweetness that makes an enjoyable drink. Some of the more nutritionally beneficial drinks are based on recipes using bland tasting foods and frankly, take some getting used to. However, if you start slow, maybe at one drink per day, you can work up to eliminating one meal per day by substituting a nutritious, vegetable and fruit based drink.

Now there are people who believe that purely liquid diets can replace solid food completely in order to speed up the dieting process. I am not one of those people. There is no doubt that this type of food regimen can “kick start” a weight loss program into high gear, and like we discussed above, help to replace the volume of solid food intake, which in itself helps our target goal. However, the notion that a diet lacking in solid food is in some way beneficial, for me, stands on shaky ground. I happen to think that the human body has a tolerance level for what we put it through with abusive intake, diets, lack of one thing or another and the opposites, of course, but I firmly believe that there is a tipping point. A point at which the body screams “No Mas”, and in my opinion, the elimination of solid food is one of those points.

The body is built on the notion that we behave scientifically in a certain way. For instance, digestive processes need a certain amount of daily fiber to function properly, but flooding the system with nothing but fiber, tips that balance so far to one side, that difficulties arise. Again, there are advocates who swear by the principles, but I’d rather throw my weight behind the use of liquid diets as a gradual alternative that’s used intelligently instead of a “go for broke” plan that possibly digs up other, more difficult health issues.

I think we can say that liquid diets have a role to play in the overall scheme of weight loss, but like everything else we discuss here, moderation is the important criteria.

The Paleo Diet: Did our Ancestors Really Eat this Badly?

the paleo diet

As we’ve found out over the past several months, there are good diets and bad diets. There are good ways to exercise and some that are not so good. The Paleo Diet is a method by which weight loss is obtained from going back to a system of nutrition that our prehistoric ancestors used. The fact remains that looking at what the guidelines are, its hard not to think that this can’t be good for modern-day humans nor our forefathers who had no choice but to eat it.

The Paleo Diet consists of eating large quantities of red meat, seafood, vegetables, nuts and some dairy products. The key is to consume lean meats in combination with “good fats” in order to force the body to burn off damaging carbohydrates.The principal is to eat as humans did during the Paleolithic period which was between 2.5 million and 10,000 years ago. This period was well before any agriculture or farming crept its way into the human lifestyle so the diet specifically bans any processed, refined, or specially prepared foods which eliminates things such as milk, peanuts, beans and almost all bread products.

The principle of eating nothing that our hunter-gatherer predecessors couldn’t eat has some genuine basis in good dieting habits. Processed foods are harmful where large amounts of sodium and preservatives are added during the processing stage which causes much of our current heart diseases. Lots of lean protein, fish, vegetables (again nothing in cans or packets) and some nuts are viewed as valuable core foods. The elimination of certain food groups reportedly controls the intake of some saturated fats, a known cause of a higher propensity for stroke and heart failure. Supporters of the Paleo Diet claim that there is no shortage of daily fibre or vitamins and that there are sufficient quantities of each food group to formulate a balanced diet.

My own reservations with the Paleo Diet stem from a common sense outlook. Any diet that depends upon the intake of large quantities of red meat are flawed. Red meat is a great source of protein but it carries such a downside in terms of its effects on blood pressure, heart failure and many other problems. The other main concern is that we’re assuming that our bodies are constructed in exactly the same way that they were 10,000 years ago, which is a fallacy. Our digestive systems have evolved over time to be able to process dairy products rather than large quantities of seed vegetables. No longer do we have to ‘chase” our food to kill it so there is no need for such large quantities of food during the course of a 24hr period.

Finally, there are certain informed dietitians in the USA who have ranked the Paleo Diet as the “Worst Diet of 2013” out of a revised list of 30 diets. When you have such an overwhelming rejection of a diet’s core principles by a learned and informed group of medical experts, in my view its time to head for the hills. There are too many much better diets available to waste any time trying to behave like Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone.

Toss out the Paleo Diet. It’s for your own good!

Lose 5 Pounds in 10 Days

As you know, I’m not a huge fan of the “miracle” fat loss program where you shed a ton of weight in a very short period of time, only to see it return in a month because the “basics fundamentals” aren’t being followed. However, here are some tips that you can use to lose 5 pounds in 10 days if you have to get your “Beach Body’ rolled out for summer.

1. Ban white bread and pasta.
Pretty much a given that we eliminate starch and carbohydrates almost exclusively here and these two items are the biggest culprits.

2. 30 minutes of high-intensity gym work
Getting the heart rate running fast for half an hour a day will allow the body to start burning fat for energy once the carbohydrates are reduced. Gym work is the quick way to do that. Try to make this work involve push-ups and pull-ups – 40 a day for each is ideal.

3. Drink ONLY water (except for #4)
Water is the elixir of life and we’ve advocated that consumption regimen many times, but for this quick-fix schedule, water needs to be the only liquid. Drink as much as you like. It’s tough but this is Boot Camp!

4. Drink a cup of coffee before your gym work-out.
The extra energy from the caffeine will intensify your work-rate where you will feel the extra benefit.

5. Try to get an extra 30 minutes of sleep every night
Somewhat of a strange request here but the additional rest will give you more energy during the day and for your work-out. The plan here is to reduce carb intake and maximise fat burning activities.

6. There are no cheats in this plan!
I know we’ve discussed “Cheat Day” but we’re on a tight schedule of only 10 days here so there are no breaks! In fact, you need to pick a food that you’re going to eliminate during this period.

7. Don’t begin to weigh yourself until the start of the final 5 days
This diet is a crash course and the body will take a few days to get accustomed to the new routine. Most of the weight will actually get burned off in the last few days so weighing yourself from Day 1 will only serve to destroy your confidence.

Whether you are able to lose 5 pounds in 10 days is entirely up to the individual. It might be that many people decide that 10 days is too short a period of time and that a longer period is required. That is OK, but remember – just because you lengthen the duration of the schedule, the intensity MUST not drop. It is the vigor with which this plan is carried out that’s the key and NOT the length of time it takes to complete.

Try to have fun with this and I hope it’s of some help to those of us trying to snuggle into those Speedo swimsuits!

How to Lose 15 Pounds FAST!

I’m not usually a firm believer in the miracles of substantial weight loss over very short periods as the concept usually is only temporary but I have found a system that will show you how to lose 15 pounds in only two weeks. Can’t beat that with a stick? If it works, right?

Here are the main elements:

1 Eat a high-protein breakfast
It’s no secret that breakfast is widely regarded as the most important meal of the day. In dieting, a big breakfast of eggs, bacon and ham is valuable in two ways. It starts the day off for your body with enough fuel to hold off those cravings until later on. Secondly, and this is a little bit under the radar, looking forward to the following morning’s slap-up meal is usually enough to shoot down those late night meals that cause us so much heartache.

2. Cut out all white carbohydrates
Carbs in of themselves are not necessarily bad but white carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta, and white bread are devastating to any dieter. Foods such as beans, eggs, lentils are a great source of energy and protein.

3. Coffee in the morning, water during the day and tea at night.
This is crucial to any diet but in this case it can be the difference between success and abject failure yet again. Sodas, even the diet variety are OUT. No glasses of milk or juice (can’t trust the fruit source any more). Maybe vegetable juice will work but drink carb-free fluid and lots of it. It’s important.

4. Use one day as a Cheat Day
We devoted a whole article to this at an earlier date so I’m just going to link here to that.

5. No more dairy
Cheese, ice-cream, milk and anything else you can think of in that category need to be chucked out. If you want to lose 15 pounds fast it just can’t be done with dairy products sitting in the refrigerator.

6. Minimum 20 minutes twice a week in weight training for muscle growth
This sounds a lot more difficult and complicated than it really is. If you can find some old arm dumbbells that is sufficient. We want to do some lifting under pressure to begin to force the body into making muscle in stead of fat. This is a way to do it.

At the beginning, the cravings will be quite difficult and persistent. What I recommend is to write down the foods that are “driving you nuts” and be sure to have them on your Cheat Day. If you can satisfy the body like that, eventually the cravings will become much easier to handle and you might even find that they disappear altogether.

Give this diet a try for two weeks. I think you’ll be impressed!

1 2 3 4 5