Summertime and the livin’s easy... You may remember these lyrics from the popular song Summertime” all about lazy days of summer when everything seems to slow down. Summer is a good time to forget our worries and let our hair down. It’s the perfect time to lose weight as fresh salads and delicious fruits and vegetables are in season. Summer is the season of high energy, joy, and passion. Nature is at its full and glorious height, so it’s sensible to use this positive energy to get our health in tip top condition. One way to do that is to adopt a sensible eating plan that balances our hormones and increases our vitality. A 21- day program is a perfect way to achieve better health and stay in stride with the season. While on the program, your body will adjust noticeably to your new, healthy regimen. Perhaps most importantly, you will love how you feel.
Are your hormones out of balance?
Understanding the complex balance between and among hormones is an important part of understanding how weight loss works in a sustainable way. Depending on how well versed you are in your body’s biochemistry, it may very well be time to change everything you believed about dieting. Simply put, hormones control your fat-burning switch. That is to say, there are hormones that create weight gain and hormones that keep you lean. I refer to this as having your fat burning switch in the on or off position. Controlling hormone levels through diet is tantamount to flipping these switches.
There is so much cutting edge data now equating hormonal imbalance with weight problems. Eating a hormone-balanced diet is the way forward to not only losing weight but creating great health and vitality as well. Indeed, I have done a great deal of research and writing in this area, and it underpins my Weight Loss Nature’s Way program. For the purposes of this short piece on summer weight loss, I will address two major hormones in particular – one that stores fat and one that burns fat – and propose ways in which we can flip these “switches” through diet.
So How Do You Burn Fat?
Insulin is a well-known hormone responsible for converting food into useable energy. Most people associate insulin with blood-sugar levels. More generally, insulin rises and falls according to what you eat. As food initially enters your digestive system, it is broken down into glucose (blood sugar) to be used as energy in your body. When glucose enters the blood stream the pancreas produces insulin which allows the billions of cells in your body to open up and receive this energy to use for their various functions.
If you continue to eat refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, pastries and sweets, insulin keeps getting released for prolonged periods of time, causing your cells to remain open. They don’t know any better – This releases excess energy that gets stored as fat. When you normalize insulin levels your body will stop storing fat. Thus, for weight loss, the goal is to reduce insulin production.
Insulin has a sister hormone, and her name is glucagon. This hormone is a critical component of your fat-burning biochemistry. The role of this hormone in your body’s biochemistry is the exact opposite of insulin’s. When you need more energy and food isn’t available, glucagon is secreted. Glucagon goes into the cells and causes fat to be released. There is a much more complex explanation but I have given you the short version here. The point is that reducing insulin levels and increasing glucagon levels will increase overall fat burning.
Below is an outline of foods to enjoy that will help you accomplish just this by establishing a hormone balance that is more conducive to both weight loss and better overall health. By following my 21-Day program, you will avoid hormonal imbalance and feel happy and contended while maintaining a healthy weight.
Fat Burning Simplified
There are a number of foods/food groups that promote hormonal balancing and fat burning including:
• Whole Grains: Whole grains are low-calorie, complex carbohydrates that haven’t been processed or milled like white flour or white rice. This means they haven’t been robbed of their essential nutrients or dietary fiber that is essential in keeping weight down.
• Vegetables: Bite for bite, vegetables and whole grains provide more nutrients and fiber with fewer calories than any other food group, making it easier to control your weight.
• Sea Vegetables: Research shows that seaweed is not only an amazing health food but speeds up weight loss by blocking fat intake and promotes fat burning as well. Sea vegetables are a rich source of many trace minerals. Seaweeds break down and digest slowly compared to processed foods. This actually allows hormonal balancing to occur.
• Beans and Bean Products: Many fad diests shy away from beans. Be that as it may, fad diets are out, healthy eating is in. Regular bean eaters are less likely to be overweight and have smaller waistlines than those who pass on legumes. Beans release energy slowly into the body, making them a great weight loss food. They are also high in protein and fiber, which satiates the appetite and helps keep you full for longer periods of time.
To the contrary, there are many foods/food groups to avoid when trying to achieve hormonal balancing or lose weight. These include:
• Highly Processed Foods with Chemical Additives
• Cheese and Dairy
• Red Meat and Pork
• Chicken and other Fowl: (As a vegan, I do not recommend animal food. It is also important to note that the estrogen injected into chickens plays havoc with hormone balance and weight gain, so it's best to stick with a wholefoods plant based diet).
• Tropical Fruits (Tropical fruits are often very high in sugars and acid that can compromise the digestive system and disturb the balance of the body).
• Deep Fried Foods
• Refined Grains
Replacement Foods Promoting A Healthy Transition
• Baked Goods: Substitute high-calorie, high-fat baked goods with sugar and dairy-free cookies, muffins, etc.
• Black Teas: Wonderful additions to your regimen. I urge you to incorporate medicinal teas in your recipes. I recommend Bancha Twig tea (Kukicha).
• White Bread: Substitute with wholegrain, sourdough bread or sprouted bread
• Cheese: Substitute with Mochi (or mochigome, a short-grain, sweet brown rice favored in Japan) or finely grated and roasted tofu products.
• Meat: Substitute with tofu, tempeh, seitan (wheat “meat”), beans and/or lentils.
• Meat Stock: Substitute with miso, bouillon, dulse, or vegetable stock.
• Milk: Substitute with rice, oat, or almond milk.
• Pasta Dishes: Replace conventional pasta with whole wheat, rice, or spelt pasta. Soba noodles also make an excellent substitute.
• Iodised Salt: Replace with natural sea salt. There is no need to worry about getting your daily allowance of Iodine. All of the 56 essential elements for human health are present in sea vegetables, including, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, iron, and zinc, together with important trace elements, such as selenium, that are often lacking in land vegetables due to soil demineralization. What’s more, the minerals in sea vegetables exist in a chelated colloidal form that makes them readily “bioavailable” for us in crucial bodily functions.
• White Rice: Substitute with short-grain brown rice, quinoa, or other wholegrain.
• Sugar: Substitute with brown-rice syrup or barley malt.
• Scrambled Eggs: Try tofu instead, it scrambles well.
• Soy sauce (commercial): Use shoyu or tamari. Both are naturally-fermented versions soy sauces.
You will find an abundance of delicious recipes using all of the above ingredients on Christina’s website or in any of her books.
It is indisputable -- breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
Breakfast makes the biggest impact on your health. It is true medicine. Breaking our “fast” after sleeping, we need energy to get going. Blood sugar can be low from fasting during the night, but we want to avoid spiking our blood sugar whenever possible. Whole grains are at the top of my list for breakfast. They release energy slowly and keep you on your toes all morning because they are burned most efficiently as a fuel source.
Avoid high-calorie, low-nutrient breakfasts such as cereals, which can be high in added sugars, flavourings, and colourings. This will actually leave you feeling lethargic. Read the labels to make sure you purchase cereal with only natural ingredients and no artificial additives or preservatives.
As an alternative, miso soup is a great morning food as well as a vehicle to nourish the spleen (which governs digestion) and a wonderful addition to your diet in general. Miso is made from soy beans. Beans are the most alkalizing form of protein. Miso can also be taken as a midmorning snack if preferred.
Your metabolism naturally peaks midday, so it is important to have a substantial breakfast to boost the metabolism. Thus, I round out my morning ritual with Green Juice. Green Juice delivers incredible health benefits. For the more adventurous of you, go right ahead and eat some steamed greens in the morning. In the least, adding green juice or steamed veggies to your morning meal is something to move towards. As with miso, steamed greens can be eaten as a midmorning or mid-afternoon snack sprinkled with some sunflower or pumpkin seeds
Kick Starting Your Metabolism & Ramp-Up Your Detoxification
It’s important not to starve the body, otherwise it will continue to store fat for fear of perishing. Your energy levels will increase as you remove the meat, sugar, and dairy foods from your diet. I recommend fresh vegetable juice in the morning with breakfast. It is the perfect start to clean out your system. You will feel clearer, fresher, and lighter as toxins begin to leave your body.
The overall health benefits of my program are immediately noticeable. As I mentioned, it is important not to throw your body into a state of starvation lest your metabolism slow down. A medicinal tea or a snack from your “healthy snacks” list midmorning and mid-afternoon will help maintain your metabolism and fat-burning processes. Moreover, your digestive system will strengthen quickly and get used to the higher fibre content from the whole grains, beans, and vegetables in your food. The weight-loss drinks I suggest will stimulate circulation, get things moving, and kick-start your body’s ability to break down and dispose of fat.
It’s all about generating healthy habits. Once you get your fat burning switch in the “on” position, you are on your way. If you make the lifestyle changes, your overall health will benefit.
Using Your Medicinal Teas
Medicinal teas will help you discharge toxins and clean out your system. Have your medicinal teas without food; they will assimilate better and work more effectively. If you are having a snack midmorning or mid-afternoon, leave 30 minutes between your tea and snack. Here are some recipes to include in your daily regimen.
• Days 1-7
Drink fresh or dried daikon tea. If you have both, alternate them day-to-day. If you have only one of them, use the one you have.
• Days 8-14
Drink kombu as your medicinal tea.
• Days 15-21
I would like you to make the carrot & daikon tea as your medicinal tea
You may drink green tea as desired during the day.
Note: You can make your medicinal teas and take them with you to work in a flask or bottle. If this is not possible, take a miso soup sachet and have that at your break instead; or simply have a cup of green tea. Lunch is easily transported in containers. Do what works for you. If it is difficult or complicated, you won’t stick with it. Medicinal teas can be taken when you return home.
Quick & Easy
Many of us lead busy lives. My secret to success has been learning how to be clever and shorten my time in the kitchen to make life simpler. It’s great to plan ahead so that when you cook you have rollovers for the next day’s lunch or dinner. I call it “cook once, eat twice.” I always cook more than I need for dinner so that we have what I call “rollovers.” Storing portion sizes of food in your freezer is a fantastic way to think ahead. It makes the time spent prepping food much less. Using soups two days in a row works well so make sure you cook up enough so that you have food left over and don’t need to rush to prepare something for lunch. The same goes for any grain or bean dish -- simply refrigerate and use the following day and serve with some fresh salad or steamed greens. When you get into the habit of cooking this way, it will become second nature.
Medicinal Teas Week One (choose from either fresh or dried daikon)
Fresh Daikon Tea
Daikon is an incredible vegetable with so many benefits it is now readily available in the vegetable section in most supermarkets. In the U.K. it is called Mooli. I use this amazing long white radish in most dietary recommendations but it is also my No. 1 weapon in my weight loss programs. This gift of a vegetable hosts the best vitamins and minerals to stimulate weight loss including riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, Vitamin B6 (essential to thyroid hormone production and metabolism), and a host of other treasures. Daikon is a natural and gentle diuretic that has been used for centuries in the Far East. A host of clients report to me that the excess fluid they have been carrying simply dissipates and the tea accelerates their weight loss.
Simply grate about two tablespoons of fresh daikon, squeeze out the juice into a cup and add hot water. You may squeeze some fresh ginger juice or a dash of natural soy sauce to flavour. Drink the tea and eat the gratings.
Dried Daikon Tea
• 1 tablespoon of dried daikon
• Dash of shoyu
• 1 ½ cups of water
• Soak daikon for 10 minutes. Place daikon, Shoyu and water in a pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain the liquid and drink.
Medicinal Tea Week Two:
As I mentioned earlier, sea vegetables have a profound positive effect on fat burning. This tea will aid the kidneys in breaking down hardened fats.
• 4 inch piece kombu
• 4 cups filtered water
• Add the kombu to the water in saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
• Reduce heat to simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the kombu and drink the hot liquid.
Medicinal Tea Week Three:
Carrot & Daikon Broth
This broth enhances the liver system and aids in restoring balance to an overworked digestive system.
• 3 cups filtered water
• 1 tablespoon grated carrot
• 2 tablespoons grated daikon
• Dash of Shoyu
• 1 umeboshi plum (pitted) and diced
• Bring the water carrot and daikon to a boil in a pan and then reduce heat to low for 5 minutes. Stir in the shoyu and umeboshi plum. Drink and eat all the vegetables.
Green Juice - Marlene’s Garden in a Glass!
As I mentioned, green juice is the perfect fuel for your body. Green Juice increases your cellular health, rejuvenates every atom in your body, cleans out toxins, and makes you feel vital and clean. Its high water content means it is easily assimilated and it contains the whole vegetable except for the fibre, which is the indigestible part of the plant anyway.
Green juice therefore provides all the healthful ingredients in a form that is easy to digest because the micronutrients are broken down it is easy to absorb and is wonderful for people with digestive issues.
• 1 large carrot
• ½ cucumber
• 2 celery stalks
• 1 fennel stalk
• Some green leaves (kale, chard, spring greens etc.)
• A tiny piece of root ginger
• A parsley sprig or two
• Put all the ingredients through a juicer and drink; delicious.
Snacking and cravings are always the big ‘downfalls’ for many. So here is a list of my favourite guilt-free, easy-to-prepare snacks and some notes on curbing cravings.
• Popcorn: Crunchy, delicious, and a source of whole grain fiber, popcorn makes a nice snack. Plus, you can enjoy a large, filling portion. Make your own at home using organic sesame oil it’s so healthy.
• Kale Crisps: Potato chips are high in fat and, as many of us know, it's hard to eat just a few. Instead, try making kale crisps sprinkled with some soy sauce for a healthy substitute.
• Healthy Cereal: Choose a whole-grain bran cereal packed with fiber such as bran flakes for a nourishing start to your day. Add fruit and rice milk for the most nutritious beginning, or make some of my delicious tasting granola (visit my you tube channel to learn more bout healthy breakfast alternatives).
• Go for Real Juice: 100% fruit and vegetable juices are naturally rich in vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting antioxidants. "Fruit juice drinks," however, are usually packed with sugar and empty calories. It’s best to make your own.
• Snack on Healthy Hummus: Hummus is a gratifying combination of nutrition when paired with fresh vegetables like baby carrots or celery sticks. Made from chick peas, hummus is a good source of iron, vitamin C, protein, and fiber. So enjoy the pleasing taste of hummus and skip the cheese dips.
• Drink your medicinal teas in place of your afternoon tea or coffee.
Marlene’s Top Healthy Snacks
• Vegetable sushi
• Peanut Butter & Apple Slices
• Raspberries & Blueberries
• Wholegrain Bagel & Sugar Free Jam
• Sweet Potato Wedges
• Natural Corn Chips
• Carrot/Celery Sticks with Hummus
• Applesauce with handful of walnuts
• Crunchy Sprouted Chickpeas
• Toasted Seed Bars
• Homemade Granola
• Roasted Pumpkin & Sunflower Seeds
• Roasted Almonds
• Homemade Fruit & Nut Bars
• Rice cakes with Hummus
• Vegetable Crisps
• Sunflower Seed Cookies
• Dried Prunes or Dried Raisins
• Vegetable Juice or Fruit Smoothie
• Frozen Red or Green Grapes
More Weight-Loss Aids
• Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a super spice when it comes to boosting your wellbeing as it has many health-giving properties. In terms of weight loss, it's all about controlling those post-meal insulin spikes that make you feel hungry. And you don't need to get much of the stuff to get the benefits. Studies have shown that just a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon a day can lower the blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. To up your cinnamon intake either sprinkle some cinnamon on to your breakfast cereal, or soak a cinnamon stick in some hot water and drink the tea.
Just half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day significantly reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics, a new study has found. The effect, which can be produced even by soaking a cinnamon stick your tea, could also benefit millions of non-diabetics who have blood sugar problem but are unaware of it (the discovery was initially made by accident, by Richard Anderson at the US Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland. – Published in The New Scientist, Nov. 2003).
• Fennel Tea: Fennel tea boasts a list of health giving benefits. It's packed with good levels of potassium, magnesium and calcium as well as the vitamins B and C. But when it comes to weight-loss, fennel had a double benefit working both as an appetite suppressant and a metabolism booster. Fennel tea is widely available in supermarkets, so add it to your daily diet to stave off cravings and boost your fuel burn or add fresh fennel to your morning juice.
• Salad: Eating a low-calorie salad before your main meals can help you to lose weight and ensure you get your recommended daily intake of vegetables. And it's not rocket science as to how it works for weight loss. The key is the sheer volume of a salad, which makes you feel too full to overeat when it comes to your main meal. You need to make sure you don't drown it in a fatty dressing though. A little olive oil and balsamic vinegar makes the perfect accompaniment.
• Green Tea: Another powerful brew, green tea really has a multitude of health and wellbeing benefits. And if you are keen about fitness, it makes the perfect pre-workout drink. Indeed, it's been found to increase endurance by as much as 24%, allowing you to exercise longer and burn more calories. In terms of boosting your weight loss power, a study carried out by the Journal of Nutrition finds that drinking five cups of green tea per day can help you lose twice as much weight, most of it where we want to lose it most - around the middle (December 11, 2008, doi: 10.3945/jn.108.098293). Nettle tea is also a great weight-loss tea as it supports metabolism and has diuretic properties.
• Celery: Celery rates well as a weight-loss food. You can actually end up burning more calories eating it than your body will take on consuming it. But by no means does that make celery low in nutritional value. To the contrary, it's super-packed with fiber (great for digestion) and foliates (the essential nutrient for the care and production of new cells within the body). Get your celery fix by making sure it's featured in your pre-meal salad, as an accompaniment to your lunch, or as a healthy snack when you want to satisfy that notorious craving for munchies.
• Lentils: Lentils are great weight-loss food as they have the power to really satisfy your hunger without packing your body with loads of calories and fat. For this reason, lentils feature heavily as a meat substitute - they can make you feel like you've had a meaty dish minus the calories and saturated fat that come with eating meat. Like celery, lentils are full of fiber and foliate, and give you a full feeling. They are also great for digestion and healthy cell growth.
• Quinoa: Pronounced 'Keen-wah', quinoa is known as the 'mother grain' by the ancient Peruvians. Quinoa is good for weight loss as it has the power to keep you feeling fuller for longer due to its high protein content. Also, the carbohydrates that are present in the grain are released slowly into the body. Thus, you won't get that rush of energy after eating quinoa as you would with other foods like white rice or pasta that stimulates insulin production.
• Water: Drink eight glasses a day. Water is a natural appetite-suppressant. Moreover, water is the only vehicle to remove toxins from your system. It’s a must. Water is the cheapest, simplest way to curb appetite and keep your body functioning properly. If you’re dehydrated, your metabolism will slow down. Add slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, fresh ginger or a few drops of juice to make it more appealing. You can also try adding a few drops of lemon and ginger juice to a morning cup of hot water. In the evening, have a cup of hot water, your body and skin will love you for it.
• Go Nuts!: Almonds and Walnuts are a good source of potassium, and they provide a whole collection of heart friendly nutrients such as vitamin B6, magnesium, and copper. Nuts are a useful source of antioxidants including selenium and vitamin E. They are also cholesterol free and snacking on them regularly, as part of a healthy, balanced diet, may actually help to reduce blood cholesterol levels (Researchers led by Dr Joan Sabate of Loma Linda University in California have done studies published in the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine that show the ability of nuts to lower cholesterol).
• EAT NEGATIVE CALORIES: A portion of Brussels sprouts is worth 50 calories; yet 75 calories are used in digestion and absorption, so burning 25 calories of body fat. Other negative calories foods include broccoli, carrots, celery, leeks, apples, and strawberries.
• Take the Half-Hour Challenge: Exercise burns calories. A daily 30-minute brisk walk will burn around 1,500 calories every week. Over six months this totals a staggering 39,000 calories - the equivalent to over 11lb of fat.
• The Two-Day Rule: If you're trying to lose weight, don't let more than 48 hours go by without doing some form of exercise as it's important to keep your metabolic rate raised if you want to burn fat. Post exercise, your body burns calories at an elevated rate for at least four to five hours.
• DON'T OVER INDULGE: Eat when you are hungry, not out of habit. Graze rather than gorge. Eat little and often with snacks in-between.
• Chew Well!: We all know how to chew our food well and that this simple act helps digestion. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register that we are full.
And….. Last but not Least! Time To Get Rid Of The Demons!
The Chemistry of Cravings
Wouldn’t it be nice if logic and common sense ruled our food choices? We could simply do the research, think things through, eat healthy food, and enjoy every minute of it. We would eat the foods that help us lose weight, never be hungry and stay healthy without looking back. So what’s stopping us? We all know the answer to that question - habits and cravings.
I see so many men and women lose faith in their ability to change their eating habits because they feel helpless when cravings set in. The lure of that sugary dessert calls out to them from across the room, and they can’t resist. At other times, it’s the realization of what they have just eaten that daunts them as they emerge from a mental fog to realize they just ate a 1,000 calories of pizza. The result of these setbacks is a debilitating loss of confidence, a sense of futility, and often-diminished self-worth – that sinking feeling that we are simply not up to the task. This can lead many to give up and simply tuck into another bar of chocolate or have another sugary drink.
The issue of cravings is the most common reason why people fail to keep to stick to their new regimen of healthy eating. Well, we don’t need to throw our hands in the air and give up. There are simple, practical strategies that can help us diminish and even “unplug” those pesky, destructive desires. But it is important that we understand where these urges come from. They didn’t simply fall from the sky. After all, knowledge is form of power.
Our connections with food encompass nutrition family, culture and sensory pleasure. Cravings have both emotional and physical qualities and they are closely related. Trying to “tough it out” works for some people but not everyone has the steel will to simply put the cravings to the side and stick to the programme. Perhaps the most important connection is the biology of cravings; it is a primary factor and is tricky since it works below our level of awareness.
The body keeps close track of the nutrients you need and how to use them on a cellular level. It is also very clever in the ways it stores some things for later use and does its best to excrete anything that could be harmful. There are both emotional and physiological components to cravings. For example, your body may crave more protein but never requests a hamburger. This is important; there is no burger demand system. Your mind may translate protein into hamburger but that simply has to do with past experience not a specific request.
There are some foods that do produce a chemical reaction that is addictive in nature, producing mental or emotional responses that either give us pleasure or stimulate us. Caffeine is a good example. We may feel that we need that double latte, but the body doesn’t really need it. In fact, the caffeine may be a primary reason we cannot make it through the afternoon without a stimulant. But our experience is that the coffee opens up those weary eyes and gives the boost to soldier through. We don’t stop to consider that one of the criteria of good health is to be alert and energetic. Our push for a short-term fix overrides our consideration for a long term and more healthy solution.
Trying to second-guess your body’s needs with supplements or the latest fad food is a waste of time and money. Your body is a miraculous organism that is constantly focused on creating health. Our job is to give our bodies the basic building blocks and let it function. This involves a little training, however. The body develops habits the same as the mind. The habits of the body are expressed in chemical reactions and often involve the hormonal system. The results of these chemical reactions affect our brain and are fundamental to many physical habits. This is a food addiction.
When you stop eating the addictive foods that are saturated with salt, sugar and fat and instead adopt the principles of healthy eating I have outlined here, your weight will start to shift. In fact, I guarantee that you will start craving healthy foods. No kidding! Why? because that is what will make you feel good. Your body will desire more and more and more.
Go for it!