With so many people trying out so many different diets, weight loss is such a massive topic and an entire industry in itself. And like so many nutrition-related topics there’s so much misinformation and confusion. So for our most recent Ask an Expert Q&A (join our next one Friday November 11th at 9:30 p.m ET), we called up certified holistic therapist Eva Woroniecka to tap into her knowledge about weight loss and find out her recommended dieting tips.
What advice would you give to those who have struggled with weight for a long time?
This is not an easy answer because nutrition is an intricate science that must be learned. As such, the first thing that should be done for weight loss is to come and see me. Hehe! I know it sounds funny, but it’s true. Many people struggle with their weight because they simply haven’t been taught about nutrition. It’s actually really sad because it’s our school system that’s to blame. Nowhere in the world is nutrition being taught in the regular school system and I’m hoping to change that one day.
Even doctors don’t learn about nutrition! Do you know how many medical schools in the U.S. actually teach nutritinon? The answer is less than 20 percent. That means that only 2 out of 10 doctors have any clue about proper eating habits. As such, anyone struggling with their health or their weight should consult a nutritionist as soon as possible or for those on a budget, I recommend reading Optimal Nutrition by Patrick Holford.
I would also advise individuals wanting to lose weight to have the proper proportions of macronutrients: carbs, protein and fat. Most people eat too many carbs (especially in the form of sugar) and not enough healthy fat.
What most don’t know is that fat doesn’t make you fat. Sugar does! Thus, low-fat diets are actually dangerous because fat is one of the most important nutrients. The essential thing to know, however, is what type of fat to eat.
I recommend 1-2 tablespoons of a good quality cold-pressed oil such as coconut, flax, olive or sesame oil with every meal. The quantities of carbs and protein will depend on your height, body structure and your lifestyle, so it’s difficult for me to explain food proportions because it will vary from person to person. For example, a 160 cm tall female weighing 130 lbs who exercises every day for an average of 30 min would need 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta, or 1 medium potato (about 1 cup) or 1 slice of bread with every meal as well as 3-5 oz of fish or lean meat (vegetarians would substitute 1/2 cup of beans/lentils) and 1-2 cups of veggies. It’s also important to incorporate the sweet, salty, sour and savoury tastes into each meal. Most people eat too much sweet and salty and not enough sour, savoury and spicy.
There are so many different diets out there, many of which contradict each other, that dieting can become a frustrating thing. Are there any specific diets that you know to work?
Most of these popular diets are just marketing gimmicks. There’s no single diet that’s good for everyone. That’s because everyone’s body has a different bio-chemistry and thus has different nutritional needs. That’s why some people love strawberries for example, while others hate them. “Different strokes for different folks,” is how I explain it.
The best diet in my experience is a balanced diet; one that incorporates all the major food groups (carbs, protein and fat) and uses only whole, unprocessed foods.
In my practice, extreme diets such as fruitarian, vegan, raw food and low-fat diets can have dangerous effects in the long-term. Even vegetarian diets can have adverse effects if not done right. Personally, I eat fish or meat every day, but not at every meal. Thus, at least one of my daily meals is vegetarian or vegan.
What are the most important things to keep in mind if you’re going to start a low-carb diet, and want to do it safely and effectively?
If you’re going to reduce carbs, I highly recommend having a high fat intake which can come from organic cold-pressed oils such as coconut, flax seed, pumpkin seed, sesame seed, sunflower seed as well as fresh avocados. I would also increase the intake of raw nuts and seeds. Protein, especially from animal sources should be kept to 3-5 oz twice a day. Only athletes require higher amounts of protein. Aside from fish and lean meat I recommend beans and lentils for protein. But make sure to soak beans and lentils overnight and then take them out of the water. That’s because legumes contain a substance called phytic acid which blocks the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. Soaking beans or lentils removes phytic acid and makes them easier to digest and quicker to cook.
Are there any herbs or other natural products you’d suggest for speeding up weight loss?
Yes, it’s called exercise! And guess what?!….It’s free! That’s right, exercise is not only great for weight loss, but extremely important for the heart, brain, muscles and bones. Studies show that people who exercise regularly live longer, stronger and happier lives. Weight training for example is recommended for strengthening muscles, but why is that important? One reason is that stronger muscles provide better stability and movement for your bones and joints, thereby preventing arthritis. A second reason is that lean muscle increases your metabolism. So your body will be a better fat burner and you will actually be able to eat more and still look great.
One of the most important things to know for weight loss is to increase the amount of healthy fat and reduce the amount of carbs, especially in the form of fruits. That’s because the sweet taste increases appetite and causes us to eat more. Also, all forms of sugar are converted to fat immediately. That’s right! Part of the sugars are used for fuel, the other part is stored as energy in the muscles and liver and the other parts are stored in fat cells.
Fat on the other hand is used for fuel and only stored in the body if the caloric intake for that day was too high. Also, a reduction in fat causes the body to hang onto fat cells for protection.
Are there any tricks you recommend for people who deal with strong hunger pains while on a diet?
Number 1: Drink more water. Very often people think they’re hungry but the body is actually thirsty.
Number 2: Seek the advice of a certified nutritionist to make sure you’re eating the right proportions of food, as people often try to reduce their food intake too drastically.
Number 3: Eat your food slower and chew each bite at least 34 times. Your food should be like soup when you swallow. Does your stomach have teeth? Of course not, so use those beautiful pearly whites and chew your food better! Studies show that people who consciously chew their food, actually enjoy their food more, eat slower and are therefore leaner. Isn’t that a win-win situation?
Another trick is to use chopsticks or a small spoon to eat as this will also slow you down. Lastly, if you’re still hungry after your meal, get up and move around. Go for a walk or start dancing in your room, this will take the focus off your hunger.
Which is generally more important when it comes to being healthy, and which do you tend to focus on most with clients, diet or exercise?
Both are necessary for optimal wellness, but there’s far more to learn about diet as compared to exercise. That’s because we need to eat three to four times a day while exercising once a day for 20-60 minutes is enough. Exercise can be easily incorporated by just walking more or taking the stairs at work, but proper nutrition takes some know-how.
What exercise routine would you recommend for weight loss?
All exercise is great! Just get out there and have fun! Go for a walk with a friend instead of meeting for a coffee, you can still chit-chat while simultaneously getting healthy together.
Personally, I love to exercise in the outdoors. Rain or shine. I go for a jog or a nice walk and do some strength training, such as push-ups, sit-ups and squats. I like to use things like picnic benches to do my strength training. But I also like to get down and dirty in the grass and connect with Mother Earth.
It’s important to do various forms of exercise in order to train different parts of the body. My favourites are dancing, jogging, swimming, cycling and trekking.
As for the science of exercise, it’s recommended to get 20-60 minutes of continuous exercise three to four times a week, which includes both cardio and strength training.
But wait, there’s more! People who have sitting jobs should stand up and move around for at least a few minutes every hour. That’s because sitting for long periods of time causes stagnation, especially of the lymphatic system (our body’s immune system and detoxifier), which depends on movement for optimal performance. Movement also boosts circulation, which increases oxygen and nutrient delivery to the body. Whenever I have to do computer work, I set my timer for 50 minutes and when it goes off, I get up, stretch and do a two-minute happy dance!
What advice would you give readers in regard to portion control when eating at restaurants, such as the ones that tend to heap french fries (and sometimes other “sides”) on your plate?
I advise people ask for a salad instead of those french fries, but if you find the overall portion size too big, then immediately ask for another plate or a to-go container and put some of the food away. Studies show that people who have more on their plates eat more as a result.
Have any questions for Eva? Post them in the Comments box below…