Six Keys to Sustainable Healthy Body Weight
Have you been dieting in hopes of losing weight or improving your health? Have you found it difficult, or actually suffered because you have drastically restricted calories or entire food groups?
You are experiencing a common struggle. Most people are not “on a diet,” and of those who are, Medical Clinics of North America estimates that half regain lost weight within two years.
To improve your health long term, change your thinking. Get back to the normal relationship your body was created to have with nutritious foods.
There is a strong connection between food and emotions. Eating some foods, especially fatty, salty or sugary foods, causes the brain to release chemicals like dopamine, which can create a pleasing effect. Eating these foods also causes weight gain and digestive problems and damages your overall health; yet for some, the appeal of such foods can be a full-blown addiction. And as with other addictions, the pleasure you feel when you eat these stimulating foods decreases over time, so you tend to crave, and eat, even more of them. Meanwhile, your hormones become imbalanced and your emotions can become a roller coaster.
Figuring out emotional eating can be addressed through six key principles.
First, reduce the amount of processed foods you eat. An estimated 50 percent of American foods are “ultra-processed,” according to bmj Open, and about 74 percent of all supermarket foods have added sugar and other ingredients that spike blood sugar and insulin, as well as leptin (a hormone that regulates body weight), causing ravenous hunger. Processed foods labeled as “diet” are no better. A 2016 study by Open Heart journal found that not only do these foods fail to give your body the nutrients it needs, but they also rob you of the nutrients you already have. Reducing the amount of processed foods you eat is a challenge, but once you recognize how important the issue is, and how damaging these foods are, you’ve taken the first step.
Second, focus on food quality. Whole, natural foods contain the nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants your body needs, and they are comparatively low in calories. They are the fuel your body was created to use, so they boost focus, concentration and energy. Rather than taking away nutrients and exacerbating your hunger, they provide nutrients and satisfy hunger. Examples include vegetables, fruits, healthy meats, nuts, legumes and healthy fats, with a smaller amount of unprocessed carbohydrates. If you are not in the habit of eating natural foods, it can take some getting used to—but you will get used to it and, before long, enjoy it. Start by slicing up some vegetables to snack on as part of your daily routine.
Third, practice moderation. Even if most of the foods you eat are unprocessed, it is easy to eat too much. Some foods contain far more inherent calories than others. Eat only enough for your body’s needs, not more than that. This is one of the most overlooked factors in dietary failure. Consider using smaller dishes, make your first serving about as big as your fist, chew your food thoroughly, and eat slowly (it can take your brain up to 15 minutes to sense that your stomach is full). Then think twice about getting seconds.
Fourth, obey your thirst. Clinical studies show that 37 percent of people mistake hunger for thirst. To figure out if you’re hungry or thirsty, drink water first, then wait 15 minutes. If your body is truly hungry, you might still feel unsatisfied, but if it was just thirsty, as it often is, you will feel satisfied. Foods with high water content, like fruits and vegetables, will satisfy both hunger and thirst. Start a habit of drinking more water, and it will do your body good.
Fifth, try intermittent fasting. Set a rule for yourself to eat only within a certain window of time each day. A common recommendation is to eat only within an eight-hour window each day. For example, you might choose to skip breakfast and eat only between noon and 8 p.m. This decreases insulin levels and increases human growth hormone, which results in your body burning fat. If an intermittent fasting plan like this doesn’t work for you, you can still take advantage of this principle by setting a rule for yourself not to eat after a certain time each evening: 6 p.m., for example. Whenever you eat, eat only nutritious foods.
Sixth, keep note of what you eat. A study of nearly 1,700 participants proved that those who noted their food intake in a journal lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t. Recording what you eat keeps you focused and motivated to improve your habits. Using a journal, a computer program, a list stuck to your fridge or even a notepad and pen kept in a kitchen drawer, keep a record of what you ate, how much you eat, and how hungry you feel at the time.
These sensible, natural principles are different from the commercialized diet approaches that are heavily marketed. The results of such programs have been found wanting. A better approach is to remember the principle Herbert W. Armstrong frequently stated: “My basic rule in diet is: Eat only those natural foods that will spoil—and eat them before they do.”
This snippet of wisdom tells us that there is no secret trick or magical fad that brings you good health. Other laws of health like exercise, sleep and fresh air affect your health, but more than anything else, how we look and feel is determined primarily by what and how much we eat. So apply these points consistently, be honest in your approach, and focus on completion. The end result will be easily sustained, filling and free of unpleasant side effects—a result that’s God designed.