Well, it’s that holiday time of year again when all the parties start rockin’ and rollin’ and, like most of my patients, you’ll likely eat and drink too much by the time New Years Day rolls around. That’s usually the day when my patients, and many people, try to “start over” and ring in a healthier new year by starting that diet and fitness routine they’ve been neglecting.
I’d like to suggest that you set realistic goals so that you stay with it and don’t throw in the towel by February 1st because it’s too hard to sustain. The key is to create do-able little achievements every week. Let me show you how.it
Picture Yourself Healthy
Many of my over-40 patients sabotage their fitness goals from the outset. They create unrealistic goals that they may have been able to achieve in their 20’s but it becomes very difficult over 40, since your metabolism is just not the same. Here’s what I’d like you to keep in mind:
➢ Weight loss of 1-2 lbs a week. You want sustainable fat loss not water weight loss.
➢ Aim for a healthy over-40 age weight, not the one you may have been in your 20’s.
➢ You want to make realistic, healthy lifestyle changes, not go on another “diet”.
➢ Celebrate every 5 lb weight loss – treat yourself to something fun.
Healthy Food Choices
Unless there is a medical reason for doing so (high blood sugar, high cholesterol, sensitivities, etc), you don’t need to exclude certain foods from your diet altogether to lose fat and get into shape. You just need to make certain foods smarter, like this.
➢ Fats – instead of saturated animal fats from meats and dairy, opt for monounsaturated fats like olive oil and nut oils. This means you can eat nuts (go for dry roasted and lightly salted) and nut butters. Limit meat to a 4-6 oz portion. If you must drink dairy, limit it to 2, 8 oz glasses, as milk contains a lot of sugars in the form of lactose that can sabotage fat loss by aggravating insulin levels. Take at least 2 Omega-3 fats capsules a day.
➢ Sugars – Sugar stokes insulin secretions which make you hold onto body fat. Even healthy fruits and vegetables have natural sugar in them, some more than others, like carrots, beets, oranges, etc. Limit these high sugar vegetables/fruits and opt for higher fiber, high vitamin, low sugar, low glycemic vegetables/fruits like grapefruit, apples, plums, apricots, spinach, kale, broccoli, etc. A good sugar-gram counter can help you stay at, or below, 20 grams of sugars a day to stop insulin from over-secreting and help your body let go of its stored fat more easily.
➢ Low Glycemic Index Carbs – low glycemic, high fiber, protein-containing carbs, like whole grain bread, crackers; grains of wild or brown rice, amaranth, quinoa; legumes like kidney, navy beans, chick peas. Read labels. There are several low carb/high fiber breads on the market that make great wrap sandwiches, pizzas, etc. Stay below 100 grams of these low glycemic index carbs a day to help let go of stored fat and keep your energy up. Also see “Designer Diets” below.
➢ Fiber – aim for 25 grams a day. Again, read labels to know exactly how much you’re getting. Fiber keeps you full, pulls bad LDL cholesterol out of your digestive tract and helps keep blood sugar levels normal.
➢ Water – a minimum of 1 gallon of fresh water a day will not only keep you hydrated, but it will help you flush out burned fat residue. It also boosts your energy and helps your skin reconform as you lose the fat beneath it.
➢ Protein – you want to lose fat and retain muscle, so you need adequate protein intake to not catabolize, or burn, muscle for protein. Unless you have a kidney disease that requires a limit your protein intake, aim for between 60-100 grams of protein a day (more vegetable than animal) to keep blood sugar stable and appetite decreased.
➢ Vitamin Supplements – a good, high-power multi-vitamin should be standard for everyday health maintenance, whether you are trying to lose fat or not. However, you may want to take a little extra Vitamin C, at least 1,000 mg a day, since you may need to cut back on high sugar citrus fruits (except grapefruit) for a while. Also, antioxidants like E, selenium, resveratrol, help fight oxidation as you burn fat.
Yes, they’re in the news and many people have success with them. These are the low carb diets such as South Beach, Atkins, Paleolithic, etc, that some people lose 5 or more pounds a week on.
Some of my patients have done very well with them and you may feel that you’d like to try one of these. Most of these low carb diets have an “induction phase” which require you to eat very little to no carbohydrates. This means no grains, legumes, fruit, and very limited vegetables.
Carbs, even low sugar, low glycemic ones like the ones I recommend, are more “comfort foods” because they help create serotonin, a feel-good-chemical in our brain. On very carb restricted diets, some people don’t make enough serotonin and get cranky, unable to sleep, feel irritable, can’t concentrate, and generally just don’t feel well. This, I feel, is one of the biggest drawbacks of these very carb-restricted diets.
If you want to try one of these diets, first, I’d suggest that you do so along with your doctor’s participation who can monitor your blood pressure and make sure you’re not going into ketosis, a potentially hazardous to your kidneys situation from eating too little carbs. I would also suggest to start at the second phase of most of these diets where you can eat a little more carbs but don’t go under 50 carbs a day of low glycemic index carbohydrates.
Ideally, I would advise that you stay closer to the 75-100 range of carbs and about 20 grams of sugar, for long range successful fat burning, but I’ll let you decide if you would like to try one of these more carb-restricted diets. Be sure, however, to take a nutritionally packed multivitamin that includes minerals, antioxidants and higher ranges of minimum daily requirements of all vitamins as you won’t be getting much from the limited range of fruits/vegetables on these diets.
Add Some Fun – Exercise!
How many people blow their diets and fitness goals a month or so into it because of boredom and a sense of drudgery to it? The secret is to stop thinking of exercise as something you have to do to get in shape and as something you like to do to stay in shape!
There are many different forms of FUN exercise routines out there that can motivate you, provide some team-effort with a group of like-minded people, and really burns fat and tones muscle at the same time. Try a Zumba, Yoga, hip-hop dancing, spinning, or a kick box class! High energy workouts that you do with a group instead of on your own may be just the motivation you need to keep moving and losing.
Weight training, just 2-3 times a week can not only strengthen and tone your muscles but boosts your metabolism, which helps burn fat, even when you are at rest. Can’t beat that!
Banish Boredom – Get Creative
The key to losing fat successfully and getting fit is to incorporate healthy eating as a lifestyle change, not a program that you’re on for a few months then stop. People who are the most successful in their diet and fitness goals are those who become more creative in their food choices – they’re always finding ways to combine healthy, low sugar/carb foods they can have into interesting and delicious recipes. For example, how about these low carb, practically no sugar combos for anytime meals or snacks:
➢ Great snack: 2 tb of unsweetened sunflower butter or almond butter with apple slices.
➢ Healthy PBJ: 2 tb low sugar peanut butter wrapped up in a low carb/high fiber flat bread (low carb whole wheat Lawash) and 1 tb of sugar-free, high fiber jam.
➢ Healthy personal spinach pizza: 1 large whole wheat Lawash or Flat-Out bread, 1/4 to ½ cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, ½ cup of cooked chopped spinach, mushrooms, black olives.
➢ Low Carb Desserts – there’s no need to give up sweet indulgences. Almost any dessert recipe out there from cakes to pies can be de-sugared/de-carbed using Stevia or Xylitol as the sweetener and low carb almond flour for crusts and cakes. Experiment!
Well, there you have some basic tips to get you started on your fat loss and fitness goals for 2011. If you approach it sensibly and creatively with the suggestions mentioned above and add some fun forms of exercise into your life, it won’t seem like you’re “on a diet”. Rather, you’ll feel like you just made some healthy and fun lifestyle changes for yourself. By spring you’ll be rolling out a new and improved you! Best of luck and Happy New Year!
Photo Credit: luigi diamanti