Health: Tips for weight loss and gain

By Stephanie Vilendrer

Now that you are back to working hard on academics, are you remembering to put some time and effort into improving your physical health, too? Regardless of whether you think you need to bulk up, slim down or just tone your body, doing so in a healthy way will incur benefits that reach far beyond body image. With the right lifestyle choices, your energy levels will peak, your memory will improve and excess pounds will fade. This week’s column discusses health secrets that will help you achieve an ideal weight while improving overall health and well being. Emphasizing correct food choices, effective exercise and emotional management techniques are key. I will not discuss eating disorders, and if you think you or someone you know has an eating disorder, please seek professional help because the health ramifications can be serious. Food is the most critical component to weight change. What you eat is far more important than how much you eat. If you are calorie counting but still eating the wrong foods, your efforts are in vain. Foods are not created equally, and the simple notion of “a calorie in is a calorie out” is just plain false. The secret to a healthy diet is to eat real foods, in the right proportions and in accordance with your “metabolic type.” According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, individuals fall into three categories: carb, protein or mixed type. Have you ever noticed that after eating a breakfast of a bagel and fruit you feel tired and irritable, but that after an omelet you feel satisfied and energetic for hours afterwards? If so, then you are likely a protein type. If the first breakfast leaves you energized until lunch, you are likely a carb type. Some people are a mixed type and really need a combination of a protein and carbs at each meal. How your body is wired to metabolize your foods is important. Eating for the wrong type will often result in sugar cravings, reliance on caffeinated beverages for energy, and overeating later on. Dr. Mercola has a free online test that will help you determine your metabolic type, but just tuning in to how you feel in the hours after eating will give you a good idea of what types of foods provide you with lasting energy. Of course, it is still important to eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods for optimal health. Your metabolic type is simply a guiding principle about what to include in each meal. Vegetarians and vegans should be especially careful to include plenty of legumes, nuts and seeds in every meal if they are a mixed or protein type. In addition to correct macronutrient ratios, there are a few basic food rules to keep in mind when working on weight loss and overall health. The most important is to minimize your sugar intake. The average American consumes more than 20 teaspoons of sugar each day. Consider that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed that amount in an entire year! Sugar contributes to obesity by being stored as fat when the body is faced with excess intake. Plus, sugar has been shown to have toxic effects by stimulating inflammation and the subsequent production of free radicals, which are implicated in premature aging, diabetes and obesity. Don’t turn to diet products as an alternative, either. Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose actually stimulate appetite and have a host of other dangerous health effects. Minimizing sugar intake (avoiding soda, fruit juice, sports and energy drinks, mixed drinks and sweets, to name a few) might be the single most important thing you can do for your health and waistline. Try limiting your beverages to only water and herbal teas for a few days, and you may be amazed how such a simple change can result in easy weight loss and greater energy. Also be sure that you are eating plenty of healthy fats: coconut, olive and flax seed oils; avocados; nuts and seeds. Besides fulfilling essential physical needs, they will aid in controlling cravings and contributing to glowing beauty. For those of you who despise the gym, I have good news. Research shows you don’t have to hit the treadmill to lose weight. You should, however, get some exercise in the form of brisk walking every day, preferably outdoors whenever possible. Doing so will increase vitamin D exposure from the sun, allow you to breathe in plenty of fresh oxygen and reconnect with nature. Humans are not meant to be sedentary, and a recent study showed a positive correlation between time spent sitting, obesity and disease. For all the non-athletes out there that want to achieve a really fit body and lose a little weight but are short on time, here is a great tip: focus on interval training—short, intensive physical exertion interspersed with moments of rest. Anaerobic workout sessions are highly efficient (accomplished in 20 minutes or less) and effective. During anaerobic exercise, the body’s supply of oxygen, which is utilized in aerobic exercise to convert fats, carbs and proteins into energy, is depleted at a faster rate than the muscles require. Thus, the body must rely on anaerobic metabolism (i.e. without oxygen) for fuel, which uses up carbs and eventually fats for energy far more quickly than can be accomplished with longer duration aerobics. In the hours after an anaerobic workout, the body taps into fat stores for energy production while carb sources are replenished, resulting in a higher metabolism that 24 to 48 hours. Plus, interval and weight training stimulate the release of human growth hormone (HGH), which builds muscle, strengthens bones, controls blood sugar levels, boosts immunity and slows aging. Whether you are trying to gain some weight, slim down, or simply be healthier, anaerobic exercise is especially useful for anyone with a busy schedule. Finally, have the right mental attitude. If you’re going to change how you look, you have to already imagine yourself as such. Forcing your body into submission is not the goal and will simply create emotional stress, thus sabotaging your efforts. Instead, love yourself as you already are, and view your lifestyle changes as a gift for your health that will have the side effect of slimming and toning your body. Attaining and maintaining optimal health should always be the priority. Also remember that results take time, so be patient and enjoy the process. Achieving realistic lifestyle changes, especially with regard to diet and exercise, will benefit your overall health and happiness. Best of luck on your journey toward wellness. refresh –>