Most people have gained a bit of weight as a result of social distancing for the past month or two. With gyms, YMCAs, and most indoor exercise facilities shut down, and even outdoor public spaces like hiking trails, bike paths, beaches, pools, and more shut down, it’s likely that your activity level decreased and your weight increased.
It’s okay. Me too.
But not only is it actually a good idea to gain a few pounds during a pandemic (see #3 on the list below if you need proof) I’ve got a fantastic list of actionable tips taken directly from the medical literature that are proven to help jumpstart your metabolism and get you back to your goal weight with less stress, less struggle, and zero dieting.
The first step is to absolutely eliminate any negative self talk you might be having with your food choices. A recent study, published in Lancet in May 2019, offers an amazing insight that will help you release your dieting challenges, eliminate your negative self talk, and allow you to eat in a more fulfilling way.
And that is, don’t diet.
This fantastic, impressive study is a global analysis of diet and health outcomes, looking at 195 different countries over an almost 30 year span of time. Never before has such a large scale investigation of the relationship between dietary intake and disease ever been conducted. This one study can replace everything we’ve based our current understanding of the correlation between diet and disease, because all other studies to date have been much smaller and isolated to smaller regions of the world.
Here is the one, overriding conclusion from that study:
It’s not about what you are eating,
it’s about what you aren’t eating.
In other words, what makes the most impact on your disease risk isn’t so much what unhealthy foods you are eating, it’s what healthy foods you aren’t eating enough of.
Over the past several decades, the medical literature and most diet plans have focused on restricting “bad” foods such as sodium, sugar, processed meats and fats.
But in this largest-study-to-date meta analysis, researchers found that it is actually inadequate intake of essential nutritional components (like nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables) that accounts for more disease and death than overconsumption of any “bad” foods such as red meat, processed meats, fat, sugar, sodas or sweetened beverages.
In fact, inadequate nutrition causes more deaths worldwide than smoking does.
One of the authors of this study, Christopher Murray, MD, states that “poor diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risk factor in the world.” That means that inadequate intake of nutrients cause the body more illness, disease and death than consumption of sugar or processed meats or trans fats ever do.
The researchers found that inadequate consumption of nutritional building blocks led to more heart disease, cancer, diabetes and death worldwide than did consumption of unhealthy foods.
Do you see the positives out of this realization?
You can stop beating yourself up for the cravings, snacks, and “cheat meals” you eat, and instead simply focus on making sure that you are getting an adequate intake of the absolutely mandatory good nutrients that our bodies need to function optimally for a lifetime.
Here are the study details and a list of the nutritional foods to be sure you eat:
- Looking at 195 countries for 28 years (1990 – 2017,) researchers analyzed diet and health outcomes. Correlating nutritional intake with chronic disease (conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer) and death rates, researchers found that lack of nutrition was far more deadly than consuming foods typically considered “disease causing” like fats and sugars.
- For example, when researchers evaluated whole grains intake, they found that a diet low in whole grains led to 3 million deaths and 82 million diseases world wide annually.
- When researchers evaluated low fruit intake, they found that a diet with inadequate fruit consumption led to 2 million deaths and 65 million diseases world wide annually.
- If you do want to restrict one thing from your diet, the results suggest focusing on sodium. High sodium consumption was associated with 3 million deaths and 70 million diseases world wide annually.
These three dietary culprits (low whole grains, low fruits, and high sodium) were the top three causes of morbidity and mortality world wide… causing far higher disease rates and death than consuming sugar, fats, processed meats and sugary drinks.
The results suggest that it might be more important
to be sure we are consuming adequate amounts of “the good stuff”
instead of restricting “the bad stuff.”
What’s the good stuff?
Be sure you are getting plenty of servings of:
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Calcium &
- Seafood-derived omega-3 fatty acids.
Researchers suggest that focusing on increasing nutrient intake
would prevent about 1 in every 5 deaths!
The bottom line: Of the 11 million deaths each year that are related to diet, more deaths are associated with inadequate intakes of healthy foods than with superfluous consumption of unhealthy ones.
Today, try to shift your thinking from negative dietary restrictions to positively consuming healthy foods.
8 Take Home Messages From This Study:
1. Stop dieting and start eating instead.
Instead of restricting your food (a typical diet) plan your meals around being sure you are consuming enough healthy food… what a difference in mindframe!
Obviously a good diet is important, but this study tells me that even if you just can’t seem to get control over a sweet tooth, or a fatty snack is your go-to stress relief, or you splurge and eat a processed meat product, the things you do eat are not as damaging to your health as the things you don’t eat.
In other words, if you have a bowl of ice cream after dinner tonight, instead of going to bed feeling horrible and berating yourself for your food choices, let the ice cream dessert go and instead consider if you ate 2 – 3 servings of fruits and vegetables today.
2. Take a very high quality multivitamin to fill in the gaps.
Another important thing to consider is that if getting a baseline amount of healthy foods is more important than banishing non-healthy foods, then a really high quality multivitamin makes a lot of sense.
So one idea, beside upping your fruit and veggie and nut and seed intake, is to add on a multivitamin and mineral supplement (especially one that has a whole food certified organic blend of fruit and vegetables right in the supplement) to help cover any bases that your intake that day might have missed.
My favorite multivitamins are the MyKind Organics daily vitamin line and Pure Encapsulations multivitamin lin
Both of these “best-of-the-best” lines of nutritional supportive supplements are waiting for you in my online dispensary under the “General Wellness,” tab, at a discount to my readers.
Click over here to browse multivitamins now, so that you can round out your diet with the nutrients your body truly needs.
3. Allow a few pounds of extra weight… at least during pandemics.
It’s medical fact: overweight and obese patients survive life threatening infections better than normal or underweight patient do.
Published June 2016 in Critical Care Medicine, the results of this study suggest that heavier weight allows the body to survive overwhelming bacterial infections, even at advanced age, something good to know as this pandemic continues.
Researchers looked at the data of over 1,400 elderly people hospitalized with severe sepsis (requiring ICU care) and compared their body mass index (BMI) with clinical outcome 1 year after discharge. The results revealed a 25% improved mortality rate in severely obese, obese and overweight patients compared to normal weight patients.
â€œObesity has helped us for millions of years to survive starvation and hardship. When those conditions happened to mankind, people who could store fat survived,â€ researcher Dr. Kalantar-Zadeh points out. â€œObese people have enough stored reserves to survive hardship conditions such as sepsis.â€
In fact, as I blogged about here, only when a person’s BMI exceeds 35 is there an increase in mortality rates.
So… if losing those last 10 pounds isn’t actually going to help you live longer… what defines your â€œideal weightâ€?
What defines your ideal weight is how you *feel* wearing the body you wear each day: your energy level, your flexibility, your capacity to get around, to get outside, and to enjoy the things you want to enjoy each day.
The real focus should ALWAYS BE on feeling as healthy and vibrant as possible.
This means focusing on muscle tone.
On heart strength.
On lung capacity.
On bone mass.
On energy levels.
On restorative sleep at night.
On quality time with loved ones.
On meaningful relationships.
On spiritual strength.
The only patients that should even be at all *thinking* about losing weight are patients with a Body Mass Index of over 35 kg/m2 or higher. And even if you are at 35 BMI or higher? Focusing on energy levels, bone mass, restorative sleep and such will create a path of natural weight loss anyway.
4. Fast instead of diet.
You’ve probably heard of fasting for weight loss, but most people are not aware of the decades of medical research that show just how profoundly intermittent fasting can boost health in ways that go way beyond weight management.
From reducing diabetes risk to reducing dementia to reducing cancer rates, fasting has head-to-toe benefits… and doesn’t have to be difficult.
It can be intimidating to think about trying fasting, as images of going without food for days on end run through our minds and hunger pangs set in quickly. But fasting can be as simple as increasing the amount of time you are not eating at night by just 2 hours. Medical research shows that simply not eating after 8 PM can actually be measurably beneficial to your health.
Fasting has been shown to:
- Decrease inflammation: Published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2007, researchers found that fasting for 12 hours daily decreased all measured markers of inflammation by a statistically significant amount, including interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein… even risk factors for cardiac disease (in this case, homocysteine levels) were reduced.
- Decrease heart disease: A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology in 2009, showed that fasting just one day a month (one day a month!) was enough to significantly decrease risk of heart attack risk by reducing coronary artery disease. In addition to that, a study published in Nutritional Research in 2012 showed that fasting for 12 hours a day decreased blood pressure, and when fasting was increased to every other day for just four weeks, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides were reduced by more than 25%.
- Decrease asthma attacks: Published in Free Radical Biology & Medicine in 2007, reducing calorie intake every other day by just 20% allowed asthma suffers to lose 8% of their body weight in only two months, decrease their blood markers of stress and inflammation, and decrease asthma symptoms while improving quality of life. Just by that small of a reduction of calorie intake every other day… equivalent to simply fasting for just one meal every other day!
- Protect your brain: Improved memory, improved mood, decreased Alzheimer rates, and decreased Parkinson’s rates… all from fasting? Yep. Published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research in 1999, the Journal of Molecular Neuroscience in 2000, the Neurobiology of Disease in 2007 (as well as many other studies) researchers have found that intermittent fasting can improve neuronal connections, increase the proliferation of neurons, and even protect against amyloid plaques.
- Decrease cancer recurrence rates: Prolonging the amount of time spent fasting â€” skipping evening snacks all together and fasting for 13+ hours each night significantly reduced the risk of breast cancer… according to a study that spanned thousands of patients followed for over a decade. Published on March 31, 2016 in JAMA Oncology, researchers found that fasting at night for 13 hours or more was found to significantly reduce the risk of cancer recurrence by one-third, as well as drop HbA1C levels and increase sleep length at night. And another study (published in Teteratgenesis, Carcinogenesis and Mutagenesis in 2002) found that alternate day fasting helped decrease tumor formation, while yet another study (published in Science Translational Medicine in 2012) found that a wide range of cancer cells exposed to fasting showed increased responsiveness and sensitivity to chemotherapy treatments as well as directly decreased tumor growth. So fasting for 13+ hours each night is an effective, drug free, holistic, all natural way to decrease cancer recurrence and help boost cancer treatment.
- Decrease diabetes: Because researchers found that not only did cancer recurrence rates drop with nighttime fasting, but HbA1C levels fell as well, so researchers studied fasting in Type 2 Diabetics. They found that fasting allowed patients to use significantly lower insulin amounts than the daily dieting, and the intermittent fasters actually lost more weight than the daily dieting group. Participants who dieted every day lost an average of 11 pounds during the study and the group who intermittently fasted lost an average of 15 pounds during the study.
- Boost longevity: With all of these significant health benefits, ranging from reduced cancer rates to decreased diabetes and heart attack rates, it’s no surprise that several studies have found that fasting boosts longevity. So far, these studies are still in the animal testing stages, but several important studies have found that fasting intermittently results in a life span that is significantly longer. One study (published in the Journals of Gerontology in 1983) showed that fasting had a greater impact in improving longevity than even exercise did! And a more recent study, published in 2000 in the Mechanisms of Aging and Development, showed short term repeated fasting throughout life resulted in a lifespan that was 75% longer. In fact, a study published in Nature in 2009 stated that intermittent fasting is â€œthe most effective and reproducible intervention to extend lifespanâ€ that we know of… capable of significantly extending lifespan by reducing age-related disorders.
- Encourage long-term weight loss: Published in Nutrition Reviews in 2015, researchers looked at all forms of fasting… including alternate day fasting, whole day fasting, and even simply time restricted fasting (like a 13 hour nightly fast) and all of these techniques resulted in significantly reduced body fat, significantly reduced body weight, and reduced blood lipid levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
If you want to try fasting, take care to stay very well hydrated, get plenty of rest, and when you do eat, make sure the foods you choose are nutrient dense, chock full of protein and healthy fats. And of course, run your fasting plan by your doctor if you have any chronic health conditions or are planning to fast for more than a 24 hour period of time.
I recommend trying a nightly fast as an easy-to-implement lifestyle change that can totally transform your health. This simply means not eating solid foods for 13 hours a night or more. It’s as simple as eating an early dinner and not eating again until breakfast. For example, fasting after a 6 PM dinner until a 7 AM breakfast… that’s all it takes to see health benefits like reduced risk of cancer recurrence, reducing heart disease, lowering blood lipids and weight loss.
As long as you are fasting for 13 hours or more, you are doing it right!
So if you eat dinner at 7 PM, simply hold off on eating breakfast until 8 AM or later. If you eat dinner at 8 PM, hold off until 9 AM before eating the next day. Of course you can and should stay well hydrated throughout the night and continue to drink clear liquids (like water and herbal teas) as often as you like.
5. Sleep more.
I always ask patients who are having trouble loosing weight about their sleep, first and foremost, before we tackle any other lifestyle change. That’s because a medical study (that I shared with you back in August of 2013) showed that poor sleep caused study participants to gain weight 9 times faster than participants who slept well. Nine times faster weight gain!
Many of us live and function daily in a state of catching only a few hours of sleep a night… not just for 4 days but for weeks, months, even years at a time. This has a huge impact on your weight. Imagine gaining 9 times as much weight over the course of a year of poor sleep as you normally would had you slept well.
If you are feeling exhausted from not sleeping well, than your body is going to urge you to reach for food as a way to sustain your energy. This is your body’s way of ensuring your survival!
So if you are watching your weight or struggling to understand why your best efforts are not good enough to prevent you from gaining weight, examine your sleep. Hop over here for some tips on deepening your sleep at night, naturally.
6. Trust the resiliency of your body.
Your body functions on the basis of resiliency. It resets again and again and again and again. Adapting, recalibrating, adjusting, and realigning to health over and over again.
The human body is incredibly resilient, and the basis of our existence is that your body is adaptable. Your health is forgiving and intuitive. Your body can return to wellness despite challenges (like that chocolate bar I just ate while typing up this blog post. You might think I’m joking but I am absolutely not.)
Your body can handle you eating unhealthy foods (as long as you have a good nutritional intake otherwise) so much better than it can handle not eating enough healthy foods in the first place.
So instead of beating yourself up over having a cheat meal or a decedent dessert or that midnight snack, focus on making sure you are eating all of the nutritional building blocks your body needs to maintain health in the first place.
Stick with making sure you are eating the nutritional building blocks, and your body can handle the extra not-so-healthy things you might consume alongside that. Trust in your body’s resiliency.
7. Ground your body while you eat.
Grounding has a profound impact on your digestion, boosting your vagal tone (which supports the function of your entire digestive tract, from your esophagus to your colon and everything in between!) while meanwhile directly impacting your ability to feel full and satiated, even enhancing absorption by decreasing inflammation, which also helps with recovery after a meal.
From every single angle, eating grounded helps: putting you more deeply in touch with your hunger and satiation, helping you digest and absorb your nutrients better, boosting your metabolism and keeping weight gain at bay, even decreasing discomfort after eating.
Even if you eat completely organic, fresh, dairy-free, gluten-free, best-diet-in-the-world you can easily still have irritable bowel issues, or indigestion, or bloating, or pain.
That’s because you can’t fully resolve bowel inflammation without being grounded.
Hop over here to watch a video I created for you to explain why adding grounding to your daily routine is the quickest way to heal your digestion. At the end of this free article I wrote for you, I share tons of ideas on how to eat grounded outside — pick one each day and watch your weight self correct effortlessly.
For more tips on how grounding profoundly supports your health from head to toe, and how to easily incorporate grounding into your daily life to see instant results, grab my new book:
8. Recognize your emotional eating style
What I’ve noticed as a physician examining health outcomes for the past 20 years, is that most people eat emotionally instead of nutritionally.
To help you focus on what matters most (which is consuming nutrient dense foods) I have developed a list of the top 7 emotional eating patterns I see over and over again. If you can develop insight into why you eat the way you do, you can reframe your mind away from eating emotionally and instead eat intellectually, based on what supports your health best.
Stop worrying so much about what treats and indulgences you crave and instead figure out why you crave them.
Look over this list to see if you can identify which emotional eating pattern describes you best and get some tips on working with your eating patterns in a healthier way:
- FOOD IS SECURITY For some folks, food represents safety and security. So when they are not eating, deep fears of safety and panic may arise. There may be worries about food scarcity and needing to know when and what your next meal will be. If you notice you overeat, it may be an attempt to feel secure and reassured that all is well. You may crave comfort foods such as casseroles and home cooking and baked goods, or foods that remind you of childhood. If you tend to eat in this way, it is perfectly reasonable to feed your body foods that comfort it, but the goal is to have reasonable portion sizes. One way to provide comfort and a deep contentment to security-type eaters is to include lots and lots and lots of fiber, so that you feel full, satiated, safe and grounded for longer.
- FOOD IS PLEASURE For some folks, food isn’t just about the nutrition, food is about the entire experience… the smell, the feel, the texture, the flavor, the delight in chewing it. Food is pleasurable and even sensual. If this is your style of eating, you may find you are eating because you want the feel of food in your mouth, not because you are hungry. You may also find a love/hate relationship with food… often pleasure-seeking eaters have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or lactose intolerance or celiac disease and need to find a balance between the foods they love and the foods their body hates. One great idea for pleasure eaters is to enjoy drinking (coffees, teas, water, fresh squeezed juices…) or chewing gum throughout the day to experience that sensual pleasure of having sensations in the mouth without necessarily reaching for food.
- FOOD IS POWER For some folks, eating food is an issue of control or power. These control-based eaters are the ones most likely to try to strictly monitor what they eat and submit to horrible restrictive diets that they absolutely hate! And as you read about in today’s medical study, healthy eating is not about what you restrict but rather what you eat. So for people who see food as power, diets are particularly offensive because restricting food intake feels like a loss of power or a loss of control… two things these types of eaters hate! One great idea for control-based eaters is to drop the diets and instead focus on choosing easily digestible foods like soups and pureed foods that are easier on your digestive organs (liver, pancreas, stomach) and eating frequent, smaller meals, grazing all throughout the day instead of a few large meals. Focusing on high quality foods and eating them more often, instead of restricting quantity, tends to be kinder than dieting and allows your body to feel healthier.
- FOOD IS LOVE Some folks enjoy food that releases endorphins and provides a rush, similar to falling in love. Any of my blog readers who know how often I blog about eating chocolate will recognize… yep, I’m this type of eater. Romantic foods like oysters, red wine, chocolate… it’s not so much that these eaters care about food, they care about the way the food makes them feel. Dieting feels atrocious for love-seeking eaters and restricting food is equivalent to being dumped by a lover. One great idea for love-seeking eaters is to focus on enjoying the people you are eating with more than the food â€” if possible, avoid eating alone (which typically leads to over-eating) and instead really focus on making eye contact with the people you are enjoying a meal with, the conversation. This will allow you to enjoy what foods you do eat — for example, appreciating a lovely glass of wine and a small piece of dark chocolate instead of three plates full of food you do not actually love or even enjoy. Or, focus just as much on creating a lovely place to eat as you do what foods you are eating. Add a fresh flower to your kitchen table, bring your lunch outside to eat in sunshine the middle of a work day, or browse thrift stores for beautiful, vintage glasses and plates to mix and match, or hand sew some beautiful cloth napkins to use as a treat.
- FOOD IS JOY Some people just love to enjoy a wide variety of foods and this is one of their wonderful strengths with eating. My son is a joy-based eater and he is amazing at trying foods most children wouldn’t even think of… exotic foods, spicy foods, unusual vegetables that kids traditionally hate. He is open to trying it all and gets so excited as he watches me prepare an interesting meal from scratch. Because joyful eaters are so open to food, dieting or any type of food restriction at all feels like a huge loss and may even bring deep sorrow. My favorite recommendation for joy-based eaters is to focus on trying new and unusual foods to satisfy their cravings, instead of over-eating a large quantity of boring foods. Keep a stash of different spices, hot sauces and healthy seasonings to make each bite taste exciting and invigorating instead of needing larger portions to bring joy. Joy eaters also tend to actually enjoy preparing food, so if you are a joy eater build time into your day to focus on trying new recipes, browsing new cookbooks, and preparing healthy meals from scratch. Joy-based eaters can feel guilty that food brings them joy â€” but I say this is a strength! Food brings joy! So choose your food selection based on how much joy it brings you and do not waste your time (or calories) on food that does not bring joy.
- FOOD IS ENERGY People that eat for energy may need lots more fats and more protein than other eaters. These people have so much energy output that each bite needs to be calorie dense and their body knows this. Although they get the message to feel bad about eating fats and eating dense protein (after all, eating a light salad seems so much more social acceptable) this leaves them feeling depleted and desperate for a pick-me-up later. They may even feel a sense of shame about eating something that their vegetarian friend (who is not an energy-eater) would not touch. Instead of feeling guilty, energy eaters need to know that they are honoring their bodies by feeding their brain lots of healthy fats (organic whole fat dairy/butter/yogurt or coconut, avocado, fish oil…) and protein (organic, ethically produced meats, organic eggs, organic nuts and nut butters.). My daughter is an energy eater, and I can honestly say that she is one of the healthiest people I know. Glowing skin. Gorgeous hair. Beautiful radiant soul. People who are energy eaters need to feel good about their intuitive food choices that make them crave protein. Not everyone can feel their best on a strictly vegetarian diet, so please be non-judgmental towards yourself or your friends who need to eat ethically sourced meat routinely.
- FOOD IS OPTIONAL Does this sounds familiar: forgetting to eat, not making the time to eat, feeling dizzy because you skipped lunch, reaching for a quick snack and then getting right back to work, forgetting to hydrate? Some folks find it easy to ignore their bodies needs or lose track of time. While sporadic eaters are usually not so bothered by going on a diet, the danger here is that they often don’t take the time to eat healthily so that when they do eat, they are ravenous and don’t make smart food choices, or they don’t even get the needed nutritional building blocks at all. The best thing these eaters can do is to schedule in their eating so that they eat at regular intervals, stay hydrated, and make great food choices… instead of not eating all day long and then binging in a drive through on the way home. Another great tip is to carry water with you at all times, so that even if they you not taking the time to properly eat, you stay well hydrated. This goes for everyone, but to sporadic eaters most of all.
I hope this insight helps give you an idea of how to work with your own unique energy flow, cravings and health goals.
And I hope you will use this one mainframe shift — stop dieting and start eating! — to stop the constant struggling with your diet and instead focus on feeding your body the foods it needs.
Remember, try to shift your thinking from negative dietary restrictions to positively consuming healthy foods.
Want more tips on how to safely, easily, and effectively lose weight in a way that supports your innate health? I’ve got you.
Right this very minute, I’m designing a 5 day Weight Reset Online Class that will give you the 5 pillars of sustainable, feel-good weight loss.
I’ve based this course directly off of the medical literature and my 20 years of experience helping to support my patients with their weight loss goals.