What To Do
If you haven’t put weight on in lockdown have you even done lockdown right? Sofa days, getting dressed only on the top half, more alcohol than usual and much less movement…It’s been pretty impossible to maintain a steady weight hasn’t it? A recent study reported that 48% of people said they have put on weight during lockdown, another 48% reported of increased anxiety and depression and 29% said that their alcohol consumption has increased. Well with a lower mood and more calories from alcohol, it’s no wonder we’re all feeling a bit softer round the middle!
Of course we all know that the number on the scales doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of life (unless it’s significantly low or high), but in the context of putting on a few kilos or half a stone you probably aren’t putting your health at risk, but it’s likely that it might make you feel low and frustrated emotionally which can lead to binge eating, or restriction and an unhealthy relationship with food - definitely not what we want!
So in the interest of keeping this all quite cruisey and hopefully helpful, here are my nutritionist approved tips for weight loss. Side note, as a Nutritional Therapist I explicitly don’t provide a ‘weight loss’ service to my patients, my practice is geared around helping individuals heal from (often) unexplained illnesses, imbalances, gut health issues etc, and I don’t tend to offer meal plans as part of the service. That being said, there’s a lot you can do with the following 3 simple principles that will not only have you shifting a few stubborn pounds but also feeling better within yourself, more energetic and vibrant - and that is what it’s all about.
1. Fasting is your friend
I’ve written about the benefits of fasting before because it’s one of my favourite health tools and, coincidentally, helps with weight loss too. Of course there’s huge controversy over fasting and intermittent fasting in the media but the bottom line is this: Fasting makes you more insulin sensitive (a good thing), and allows the body time to start its in-built repair systems (also known as autophagy, where they body cleans up damaged cells). The best way to carry out an intermittent fast in my opinion is to skip dinner, not breakfast.
Metabolically speaking we’re not wired to eat our largest meal of the day after the sun has gone down, it confuses our mitochondria and this puts undue stress on our cells. Instead, start your day with a protein based breakfast (avoid sugary oats, granola etc) and opt for eggs, avocado and greens and then have your last food for the day around 4/5pm so that you get a good 16 hours (ish) in between that meal and breakfast the next day. The other positive benefit about doing an intermittent fast this way round is that you’ll sleep better on an emptier stomach too.
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2. Keep sugar and carbs to a minimum
Carbs have been victimised for years, and whilst I have nothing against a humble sweet potato or some carrots (yes, vegetables are super sweet too!) I do take offence at the hundreds of ‘healthy’ and ‘refined sugar free’ snacks out there being marketed as health foods. The fact is that if you snack on these sweet treats in between meals, or even during meals, you’re not allowing your body the chance to burn fat for fuel because there’s always a constant supply of glucose - not to mention the havoc that this plays on our blood sugar levels, leaving us at risk of disease later in life.
I truly believe that dieting shouldn’t always be about restriction, but simply making better choices about food. If you are looking to lose a few pounds then don’t sacrifice the quality sources of protein, healthy fats and veg in your diet in favour of empty carbs (diet foods, essentially). Instead, ditch the grains and processed cereals and just keep your meals really simple with just the essential elements (protein, fat and veg). And if you’re thinking ‘but we need carbohydrates to survive,’ then I raise you fruit and vegetables - both high in carbs!
3. Exercise first thing in the morning, fasted, and always outdoors.
Lengthy title but this is an important one, and not something that you’ll read in most magazines or blogs because it doesn’t sound like it specifically relates to weight loss. Firstly, by exercising fasted (i.e. before breakfast) our bodies have to tap into their stored fat reserves for energy, and if you’ve done intermittent fasting and haven’t eaten since 4/5pm the previous day you’re pretty much guaranteed some fat burn and increased insulin sensitivity.
Secondly, the role of light and mitochondrial function is often overlooked in weight maintenance. We need our mitochondria to be functioning optimally, and in tune with our circadian rhythm so that our metabolism is firing on all cylinders. The best way to influence your mitochondria is with light. Getting outside first thing in the morning and getting full spectrum light into your eyes sends really clear signals to the brain that it’s day time and time to burn! You’ll also sleep better too which means you’ll wake up with a more stable blood sugar and less carbohydrate cravings. Win win!
I don’t want to say that it really is ‘that simple,’ because of course we’re all individual and will respond to interventions in different ways. But not only do the three principles above stand you in good stead of losing a few pounds, but they will all also impact your health in a positive way helping you to feel healthier and happier!