NEW YORK—Have you made another New Year’s resolution to get healthier and lose weight?
In previous years, have you tried fad diets or made drastic life changes such as cutting out six cups of coffee per day? If so, you probably realized that these methods don’t work for very long.
The key for you might be to make small, healthy changes that will gradually become a natural part of your life.
Dr. Peter Bongiorno, a naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist, says there isn’t a one-size-fits-all weight-loss plan. Bongiorno and his colleagues Robert Kachko, a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist, and Cynthia Hewitt, an acupuncturist, focus a part of their practice on helping weight-loss seekers take off those extra pounds. They advise patients not to focus so much on the scale, but to adjust lifestyle patterns.
Holistic beauty and health coach Claudia Colombo, owner of Fábula Skincare and Wellness NYC, agrees that making small changes are important. She says you need to find ways to keep the initial excitement about changing your life and losing weight long-term. So you may need to adjust your attitude along the way in order to make a serious commitment to losing weight. The ultimate outcome is up to you.
All of these experts believe that strategizing and planning are important components for transitioning to a permanent, healthy new you. They shared the following healthy weight loss-tips.
Get Enough Sleep
“I don’t even recommend that people exercise if they are not sleeping enough,” Bongiorno says.
Lack of sleep puts your body into a stressed state because it raises your stress hormones, so “you’re going to hold onto your fat, and you’re going to lower your metabolism.”
Bongiorno recommends seven and a half to eight hours of sleep for most people.
Sleep is really important for your digestive tract and immune system as well. Bongiorno said it’s been shown that you can’t have good digestive function and gut flora function (microbes in the intestines that influence the function of the immune system) if you’re not getting enough sleep.
Move Your Body
You have to move your body in order to stimulate circulation, which helps to remove gases and waste products from your cells. If you’ve never exercised, a good first step is taking daily walks, preferably in the morning, Kachko said.
Starting in the morning sets your circadian rhythm (physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle), so your body can distinguish daytime from nighttime and get a better and deeper sleep.
Make Better Food Choices
“We always have a choice,” Colombo said. Living in New York, a lot of people just don’t cook because there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. So try choosing a place that specializes in healthier food. Colombo suggests sweetgreen, which now has six locations in Manhattan.
Kachko says it’s important to choose real foods and not foods with added sugar, salt, or fat. If you’re not sure what the best menu option is, ask for help or pick something lighter.
You can also adjust your eating habits by eating only part of your typical fatty meal. For example, the next time you order a burger, don’t eat the bun.
Colombo and Bongiorno practice a similar strategy of gradually bringing in healthy food choices.
“It’s those little things that we switch and change and add in, and then we crowd out all the other stuff,” Colombo said.
Bongiorno said it’s not about getting rid of your comfort foods entirely, but figuring out how to bring in healthy foods that can complement your favorite meal.
“If it’s not realistic … there’s no point,” he said.
Add stress-reducing activities, such as meditation, yoga, or acupuncture to your life.
Go regularly to meditation or yoga classes. Controlled breathing helps you to relax, and paying attention to what’s happening with your breath helps you bring mindfulness to other parts of your body. You can get on a treadmill and just go, go, go to burn calories, but if you do yoga, you have to consciously think about what you are doing with your body. This discipline can carry over into other weight-loss efforts like eating habits.
“Those exercises, are really about bringing the mind to the body,” Hewitt said.
Acupuncture is also a good modality for reducing mental and physical stress. Hewitt said stress is like a spinning wheel, but acupuncture works as if sticking a pipe in the spokes of a wheel, stopping the spinning.
If you’re trying to get healthy, lose weight, and change your lifestyle, you have to plan. Plan ahead for food shopping, weekly meals, and exercise. Put time for these things on a schedule, just as you would for a meeting, starting a new project, taking a class, and the like.
Life is very packed. Colombo says people tend to sacrifice their health because they are so busy. If you go too long without eating, you become ravenous, which leads to overeating. Make health a priority in your schedule.
The foods available in each season nourish the particular needs of our bodies during that time of year. For example, in the winter, root vegetables are more abundant, and Colombo said our bodies naturally want carbohydrates, so eating healthy carbs such as sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, and squash are a good way to go.
The body is connected to the mind and emotions, and winter is a dark, quiet time, so it’s easy to feel bored or emotional. This can lead to eating unhealthy food in order to fill the void, Colombo said. You can help sustain your energy and elevate your mood by eating healthy grains like buckwheat and quinoa, which also are great for cholesterol.
Bongiorno and his colleagues say that the right supplements or herbs can be very beneficial for getting back into balance. An unbalanced diet depletes vital nutrients necessary for a healthy life, so they recommend a repletion regimen that includes a multi-vitamin, good-quality fish oil, and a probiotic for digestive function. If you eat fish twice a week, you can get balanced a little quicker.
Drinking tea can also enhance weight loss. Green and oolong teas, in particular, help break down fat, Kachka said.
If you want to take herbs, it’s very important to use good quality ones. Bongiorno and his colleagues say they use herbs from Wise Woman Herbals in their herbal therapy regimens.