4 Ways to Stay Hydrated for Weight Loss

I’ll go ahead and say that the hormonal shifts I’ve experienced since going off of birth control haven’t done wonders for my waistline. I spent a couple of months in total distress about what felt like an out-of-control rising of the number on the scale due to hormonal fluctuations. All told, it ended up being just enough weight to make my clothes uncomfortable and negatively impact what I saw in the mirror. And it felt like it would never go away. 

I focus a lot on positive self-image here at CWB, and I go out of my way to insist that a few pounds here and there really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But sometimes attacking extra pounds is just that — it’s not loaded with meaning if you know why it’s happening and you’re approaching it healthfully and mindfully (ie, de-coupling weight from self-worth).

I’m almost back to the size I was when I got off hormonal birth control back in the late fall, so I can confidently say that the work I’m doing is working. And in addition to some diet changes (which I’ll share in another post), one of the things I’m doing is making sure I’m drinking LOTS of water. 

Weight loss isn’t just about vanity — it’s about being healthy, happy, and confident — and as long as we can have a healthy approach and mindset around this touchy topic, I think we can have a productive conversation about it. Don’t you? Awesome. OK, let’s talk about how integral it is to stay hydrated for weight loss.   

stay hydrated for weight loss

Stay Hydrated to Avoid Extra Snacking

Staying hydrated keeps us from being tricked into eating more than we really need. It’s actually pretty common to confuse thirst for hunger, so we can use that information two ways for our weight loss strategy.

First, if you find yourself hungry between scheduled meals (and yes, I certainly think you should schedule your meals, preferably 3 to 4 hours apart, if you’re trying to lose weight), consider that maybe you’re thirsty instead. Drink a glass of water or a mug of caffeine-free herbal tea before diving into a bag of chips. You might find that the hunger subsides and you’re able to wait til your next meal to eat.

Second, drinking water before a meal accelerates the feeling of satiety. A recent study showed that when obese adults drank 16 oz of water before each meal, they lost 9 lbs over the course of a 12 week period as compared to the control group. These results were due to the effect of starting the meal with a partially full stomach — satiety was reached sooner with fewer calories per meal

Another study from the University of Illinois found similar results: “People who increased their consumption of water by one, two or three cups daily [independent of meal timing] decreased their total energy intake by 68 to 205 calories daily and their sodium intake by 78 to 235 grams. They also consumed 5 grams to nearly 18 grams less sugar and decreased their cholesterol consumption by 7 to 21 grams daily.”

So the two big takeaways to remember here: We sometimes confuse thirst for hunger, and water itself can make us feel fuller faster. Kicking off a snack with a big glass of water could 1) curb the craving entirely or 2) reduce the size of the snack you’re about to eat. Both awesome things when you’re trying to lose a few lbs.

Stay Hydrated to Avoid Sweet Cravings

I mentioned earlier that we can sometimes confuse thirst for hunger. Taking thirst a step further into the more sever territory of dehydration, not only do we think we’re hungry, now we’re experiencing cravings.hydration for weight loss

Cravings due to dehydration can take the form of any kind of food, but often, we crave sweets. Why? Because our organs require water to function properly and process the nutrients we take in. Specifically, the liver uses water to release glycogens (a form of glucose that gives us energy) and other components of energy stores. When we don’t have adequate water in our system, adequate glycogen can’t be processed — and that’s when the sugar craving strikes.

For me personally, the sugar cravings can really get out of control, so this is particularly relevant. Using water to control sugar cravings hadn’t really crossed my mind before, but it works.Humans are more than 60% water, so think of it like oil in an engine. Without the oil to allow things to flow properly, metal grates on metal and the engine stops — or worse, burns up and is destroyed. By drinking adequate water, we become well-oiled machines, working just fine without unneeded 

Track Your Daily Water Intake

While there isn’t an official standard for how much water an individual should drink, a simple guideline for weight loss is to drink (at least) half of your weight in ounces. It’s a super easy way to come up with your daily goal for water consumption — with very little math. So a 150 pound person should aim to drink 75 oz of water per day. It might mean more trips to the bathroom at first, but you’ll get use to it.

You can’t change what you don’t track.

If there’s anything I’ve learned as a coach and as a guinea pig for my own ideas and lifestyle strategies, it’s that there’s absolutely no way to know what works if you don’t keep track of what you’re doing somehow. There are so many simple ways to track — especially now with personal apps at your fingertips to make that job easier. But seriously, a simple pen and paper work great too. Or a picture. Have you ever started a diet or any kind of big change and actually taken “before” pictures? (If you have checked out my most popular post about how I cleared my acne, then you know that I’ve done this more than once.) You live with yourself every day, so you don’t see changes over time, so that picture is worth a thousand words. You have to set a baseline so that you can know when something’s changed. 

And in the case of tracking your water, you’re using that measurement not just as a baseline but as a way to set a goal for yourself. You’re way too busy to keep track of each ounce of water you drink. That’s a ridiculous request. But you can most certainly use a bottle, jar, or glass with a known capacity and track how many times you fill up. If you drink out of a 24 oz bottle and you weigh 150 lbs, set a goal to have at least 2 bottles of water throughout your day at work, and aim to get the fourth bottle and those few extra ounces (75 oz total) in before your head hits the pillow. Everyone can count to three, right? Another option is to get a container that you know can fit your total water needs for the day and just use it as a pitcher — some people really like to drink out of a glass instead of a bottle, so this would work great for them. Easy peazy.

hydration for weight loss

Drink Water

Soda isn’t water. Coffee isn’t water. Tea isn’t water. Sports drinks aren’t water.

I’ve focused on water with a quick mention of herbal tea for a specific reason. It’s because other drinks (including sports drinks!) don’t count toward your water count if you’re really shooting for hydration and weight loss. Coffee and tea are diuretics and do the opposite of keeping you hydrated, not to mention that they’re often accompanied by cream and sugar. If you want to drink them, go right ahead, but they don’t count toward your trackable daily water intake. (And consider dropping the sugar.)

We’re talking about weight loss here, so surely you know that sodas aren’t included in this list at all — diet or otherwise. These drinks contain not just the undesirable high fructose corn syrup or fake sugar, but also sodium and caffeine. None of which is helpful for staying hydrated. (Although caffeine in moderation — and especially from green tea — can sometimes be helpful for weight loss.) 

As for sports drinks, they’re also loaded with sugar and salt. Sure, sodium is an electrolyte, but unless you’re severely dehydrated or finishing up a huge race or physical undertaking, there’s no reason to sip on sports drinks. There’s certainly no place for sports drinks in an office or in front of the TV.

The common thread through this whole section is this: DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES. Drink water.

Infuse Your Water with Natural Flavors: Fruits, Herbs, Fresh Spices, or Veggies

If water is boring to you, try infusing it with natural flavor. And as I said up top, most herbal teas are fine to count in your total water intake — as long as they’re not taking up the bulk of your daily water intake. 

Infusing your water is super simple. You can infuse one serving of water (more work) or you can get a pitcher or dispenser and fill it up with your desired flavors (less work). If you let it sit for a few minutes or even hours, the flavors become stronger. Just make sure to refrigerate it after a few hours to make sure nothing gets funky.

Here are a few fun suggestions:hydration for weight loss

  • ginger lemon: peel and slice or crush fresh ginger, slice some lemon (and even squeeze some)
  • strawberry basil (or mint): slice the strawberries, toss the basil or mint in whole
  • blackberry fennel: slice fennel bulb and greens, toss the blackberries in whole
  • cucumber mint: slice the cucumber, toss the mint in whole

Herbal tea: this one is tricky. Any tea you’re drinking for hydration should first and foremost be caffeine-free. Caffeine is actually a diuretic and does the opposite of what we want — it’s dehydrating. Herbal teas include things like chamomile, fruit teas (make sure there’s no sugar or fake sugar), and hibiscus tea. There are so many herbal teas to choose from, but some herbs have medicinal properties so make sure you know what you’re drinking before you start guzzling herbal teas. They make for a great alternative to coffee if you’re looking for something warm and a great alternative to iced tea if you want something cold with a bit more flavor.

Water for Weight Loss

So that about covers it. Water helps stave off sugar cravings, curbs your appetite, and decreases over all calorie consumption if you drink enough of it. It’s crucial as part of any successful weight loss/maintenance strategy, and essential for the proper function of our organs. As the weather starts to warm up and you find yourself outside basking in the sunshine or taking a brisk walk after lunch, have a bottle of water in tow. Stay hydrated to stay safe and healthy, and drink you way to a healthy weight too!

Why Gut Health Matters: Your Weight

Ok, I feel like I need to preface this post with my distaste for our culture’s tendency to equate weight with beauty. It’s all too easy to get bogged down constantly worrying about our appearance and comparing ourselves to other people. (I’m not immune to this, by the way.)But being healthy and happy is so much more than a number on a scale, and we’re trained — even at insanely young ages, and especially as women — to tie our self-worth to how we look and how much we weigh.

Not only is this culture-wide obsession psychologically damaging, it’s also misguided. Being thin can be a sign of good health, but it’s not always the case. It’s possible to carry some extra weight without any negative health implications, and it’s possible to be “skinny-fat” — skinny on the outside and fat on the inside, damaging your organs with visceral fat. Weight isn’t everything. It’s something, but it’s not everything. 

I could fill an entire post with a rant about our misguided emphasis on weight and how damaging “fat shaming” is to folks who struggle, but that’s not what today’s post is about. We’re still continuing the conversation on gut health, so I’m going to put our weight struggles into perspective and give you some tips to help flatten out that seemingly constant uphill battle.

gut health and weight loss

original image sourced from mojzagrebinfo through Creative Commons

 

Gut Health and Weight Loss

I recognize that this is a sensitive topic, but it’s important to discuss for that very reason. That number on the scale, the muffin top at your side, your pants or dress size … for better or for worse, these things can dictate how we feel — physically and psychologically — and those feelings have can have tremendous effects on how we walk through the world.

Our weight can limit our ability to do even basic things — play with our children, walk up a hill, climb stairs — and as such, it can have a major effect on our self-esteem. Of course I’m not saying that extra weight affects every person’s self-image or every person in general in the same way. I wouldn’t presume to step into anyone else’s shoes. But I will say from experience that carrying even a little bit of extra weight can sometimes cause dramatic shifts in how I feel about myself, and that it’s always so much easier to put it on than it is to take it back off. 

So today, we’re going to talk about why our bodies hang onto those extra pounds, what’s happening in our guts when we gain and lose weight, and how healing the gut can make maintaining and losing weight easier and more long-lasting. 

Let’s Get Started: Good Bugs

gut health and weight loss

image sourced from OpenClips through Creative Commons

Last week we covered Mood and Gut Health, and I explained how an inflamed gut = an inflamed brain. I talked about the physiological and chemical changes that happen when we have an inflamed gut and how that can lead to mood issues like anxiety and depression.

Are you an anxious eater? Do you “drown your sorrows” in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s when you’re feeling down? Do you have an extra beer or 4 when you’ve had a bad week? Stress (which we’ll get into in another part of this series) has an effect on our gut flora, and the type of gut flora we have affects our mood and our resiliency. But did you know that some gut bacteria can actually make our bodies hold onto fat?

That’s right; if we nurture the wrong types of bacteria in our gut through a poor diet and high-stress lifestyle, they will sabotage our efforts to lose weight by squeezing every last nutrient out of the food we eat and storing it all as fat. It’s also been shown in recent studies that certain gut microbes can dictate our cravings. So maybe it’s not YOU craving that cheesecake at all! It’s the BUGS in your gut telling your brain they want some dinner! Those jerks!

As far as weight gain is concerned, getting the proper mix of bacteria is as important as eating veggies and exercising (and it just so happens that those two things are great for the good bugs!).

We’re Outnumbered!

Did you know we have 10 times more bacterial DNA living in and on our bodies than we do human DNA?

We’re like one giant walking bacteria frat house.

If your house were a 24-hour party, with people coming and going constantly, wouldn’t you want to create an environment that welcomes considerate people who bring delicious appetizers and help you with the dishes instead of jerks who park on your lawn, eat your food, and leave cup rings on your nice wood furniture?? I think so. 

By now it should be clear that our gut bacteria affects our bodies in profound ways. But before I go any further, let me back up and talk about the way our bodies work to store and release fat. 

Gremlins and Leprechauns

Wait, I think I meant to say ghrelin and leptin. Look, I never said I wasn’t gonna be cheesy in explaining this stuff to you. After the unicorns and dragons from the Gate Keeper post, I figured I might as well throw some more mythical creatures into the mix.

Ghrelin and leptin both control appetite. The former makes you hungry while the latter makes you full. Put more accurately, ghrelin tells your brain to eat and promotes fat storage and leptin tells your brain you’ve had enough and encourages fat release.

image sourced from Pimkie through Creative Common

image sourced from Pimkie through Creative Common

Ghrelin is released from the stomach and pancreas and is activated by the GOAT enzyme high up in the stomach. If you’ve ever looked into bariatric surgery, you might already know that the restriction in the stomach reduces the production of the GOAT enzyme, which reduces or eliminates ghrelin production, allowing patients to feel full with a dramatically reduced amount of food. 

Unfortunately, our brains evolved to protect us from starvation at a time when food was a lot harder to come by, so if there isn’t an artificial restriction turning off ghrelin while we’re trying to lose weight, those hunger pangs can be pretty brutal. And if the body thinks we’re starving, it will store every ounce of food we eat as fat — just in case. Adding to that, if we’re already obese, our ghrelin levels are higher than those of our lean buddies, causing greater hunger and a harder time resisting temptations. 

Recent findings have also shown that high-fat foods activate the GOAT enzyme, which means that high-fat foods could be making us hungrier and telling our brain to store more of what we’re eating as body fat.

Oh, and one more thing. Sleep deprivation increases ghrelin. Do you find yourself snacking all day long after a terrible night’s sleep? I always thought it was because my body was trying to keep me awake. Now I know it’s that gremlin ghrelin!

It’s not all bad. Ghrelin is also responsible for controlling insulin levels (another hormone that causes weight gain) and stimulating a hormone in the pituitary gland that mobilizes fat tissue and promotes muscle growth. We need ghrelin. It’s not just there to mess with us.

gut health and weight loss

image sourced from SatyrTN through Creative Commons

Leptin is produced in white fat cells and communicates to the brain, “Ok, there’s enough here, get up and move around.” Interestingly, like ghrelin, the more body fat you have, the more leptin you have — counterintuitive isn’t it?

I’ll explain. Have you ever heard the term insulin resistance? It’s a metabolic disorder that leads to type-2 diabetes. Insulin regulates the delivery of glucose into the cells, but when the cell walls no longer properly respond to insulin due to excessive exposure, they resist allowing glucose into the cell. This results in excess glucose in the blood, which then gets stored as fat, in addition to being associated with  a number of health problems.

The same thing happens with leptin resistance in brain cells — the cell walls in neurons become resistant to leptin when there’s too much of it floating around. In fact the two hormones leptin and insulin go hand in hand, both intimately linked to inflammation. If you have insulin resistance, you likely have leptin resistance, and vice versa. 

The effects of leptin resistance are multi-fold.

  1. Leptin is proinflammatory, which means that when there’s too much of it floating around in the body, it can set off that inflammatory cascade that leads to leaky gut and bad bacteria in the gut.
  2. Leptin inhibits serotonin, so if there’s too much leptin, guess what there’s not enough of … (should I link the mood/gut post again? sure, why not?)
  3. Leptin tells your brain to stop eating, but if the neurons in the brain have closed their doors due to leptin resistance, guess what message isn’t getting received? And then we eat and eat and eat, never feeling satisfied. 

What to do? What to do?

This post is about weight loss, not weight gain, right? So how do we set all these bugs and hormones straight? How do we prevent our bodies from sabotaging our efforts to lose body fat?

Chill Out

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that reducing stress is a great place to start. I briefly touched on the negative effects of stress on gut bacteria at the beginning of this post, but reducing stress also helps prevent leptin resistance. And I don’t just mean “OMG deadline!” stress. I mean physical stress caused by things like a Big Mac and fries or a super sized Coke too, which means we need to … 

Skip the Junk

Foods high in inflammatory fats (omega 6, trans-fats, and saturated fats from conventionally raised animals) and processed carbs (from white flour and white sugar) not only cause leaky gut and promote the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, they also raise ghrelin and create leptin resistance.

Fed Up

The Right Stuff

Fill your belly with healthy fats from eggs and raw nuts and fiber-rich foods. I’m not talking about Metamucil or some gross processed saw dusty thing to add to your water. I’m talking about whole fruits (not juice), veggies, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and (occasional) whole grains and legumes. (If you need to lose weight, I’d stick to the first 4 for now.) These fiber-rich foods will prevent or inhibit leptin resistance and make losing weight that much easier. 

Small and Often

To prevent the starvation response, don’t skip breakfast, and eat smaller, low-glycemic meals throughout the day. Everyone is different in this regard — some people find that eating 3 times a day works for them. Some people find they’re much happier eating 4 to 6 times a day. Either way, don’t let any one meal get too huge — it’s not just the content but the size of the meal that triggers ghrelin. 

Get Some Rest

Are my lists in this series starting to seem redundant? Last week we learned that getting a good, consistent sleep pattern going helps promote beneficial bacteria in the gut. This week, I’m telling you that it keeps ghrelin, and therefore hunger, in check during the day. 

Step into those Sneakers

And again with the exercise. Isn’t it more motivating to know that exercise is about so much more than just the calories you burn while you’re doing it? Exercise not only increases good gut flora, but it also prevents leptin resistance by converting white fat to brown fat. (I didn’t have enough room to go into these two types of fat, but check out what WebMD has to say about it for the difference between Fit Fat (brown) and Fatal Fat (white).) Those calories you’re burning aren’t the half of all the great things you’re doing for your health just by breaking a sweat.

gut health and weight loss

image sourced from Jmyreen through Creative Commons

What’s Next?

I just threw a lot of information at you. How do you feel about it? Are you ready to start making some changes? Pick something from this list of 6 that you can start working on today — just ONE, no more — and commit to yourself that you’ll keep it going all week. Just start with this week and then reassess next Tuesday. You might find that you’re already noticing a difference and are ready to incorporate something else from this list. Maybe you want to stick to the one thing for another week. Either way, that’s ok! It’s just about getting started and making changes that will last for the long haul! There are still at least two more Why Gut Health Matters posts coming your way, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I’m here to answer any questions you might have, and if you want to try out a free intro coaching session, shoot me an email and we can set something up. 

Did you miss the first three parts of this series? Check them out here!

Why Gut Health matters: A Series on You

Why Gut Health Matters: Your Gate Keeper

Why Gut Health Matters: Your Mood


Sources for this segment of the series include a 6-credit continuing education seminar presented by Merrily Kuhn, RN, CCRN (r), PhD, ND, PhD and the Institute of Brain Potential (bibliography and references can be viewed here), and information from the following articles, journals, and experts:

http://www.science20.com/news_articles/ghrelin_hunger_hormone_activated_fatty_foods_not_your_empty_stomach

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-truth-about-fat

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bies.201400146/full

Dr. Mark Hyman: http://drhyman.com/

Chris Kresser: http://chriskresser.com/

 

Why Gut Health Matters: A Series on You

As you probably know, gut health is one of my pet topics. I truly believe that it’s the cornerstone for whole-body and whole-mind health, not just because I had a radical change in my skin after healing my gut, but because volumes of research on this topic have shown that gut health is linked to everything from mood to the immune system; from stress to weight gain; from endocrine disruption to vitamin absorption; and the list goes on. Gut health will determine not only how our bodies function inside our skin, but how we interface with the world around us. In no uncertain terms, it has the power to determine the course of our lives.

why gut health matters - heal your gut

photo sourced through Creative Commons (Pixabay – 214522)

 

A Series on Gut Health

Over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to dedicate at least one post per week to this series. I’m going to write until I run out of things to say, and in doing so, I’m going to propose some actions steps for you to take if you suspect that your gut health isn’t quite in order. To that end, I don’t know how many I’ll end up writing, but here’s what I have in mind right now, in no particular order.

Why Gut Health Matters: Your Gate Keeper
Why Gut Health Matters: Your Mood
Why Gut Health Matters: Your Weight
Why Gut Health Matters: Your Skin
Why Gut Health Matters: Your Stress

Under each of these posts should be a subheading that reads: How Inflammation in the Gut Affects Your ________. I’ve spent the last week or so taking  a virtual class put together by the Institute for Brain Potential for continuing education credit called Understanding the Gut Brain: Stress, Appetite, Digestion, and Mood. This class, along with hours and hours of research of my own will inform the posts to come.

why gut health matters - heal your gut

free image sourced through Creative Commons

We’ll cover good bugs and bad bugs in the gut (aka: microbiota, gut flora, probiotics) and what they might be doing to your health. And we’ll also cover how to get the good bug to bad bug ratio back to ideal. We’ll talk about how the body becomes inflamed from within and how that affects the brain and our autoimmunity, and we’ll also cover how to throw ice on the flames. We’ll talk about just how much control we have over our own appetites and how physical changes inside our bodies can send our weight skyrocketing — and we’ll talk about ways to get that under control too. Overall, this series is going to draw lines connecting gut health (or the absence of it) to a number of ailments I know some of you are living with every day. 

It’s too often that I hear about people my age and younger suffering with debilitating autoimmune disease, painful cystic acne or skin problems, a laundry list of allergies, mild or severe mood disorders, and digestive distress that keeps them from venturing too far from the bathroom.  I’m certainly not saying that older folks should be suffering from these things any more than those my age and younger, but just as Type 2 Diabetes and fatty liver (both conditions historically referred to as “adult-onset” or reserved for an aging population) are creeping into the lives of younger and younger people, so too are these ailments I’ve listed commonly experienced by the elderly or infirm. 

Your Action Required

Either on Facebook or right here in the Comments Section, I’d like to hear from you which topic you’d like me to cover first. I’m sort of working on all of these at once because they’re so interrelated, but if there’s a burning question you have about one of the subtopics I listed above, please let me know that you’d like me to prioritize that one. It’s my goal to give you as much information as I can to motivate you to take action on behalf of your own health — and your own quality of life. 

For a sneak peek and general overview of some of the topics into which I’m going to deeply dive, check out Your Single Most Important Health Advice – Heal Your Gut. At the bottom of that post, you’ll find some simple tips to get you started in the process of healing your gut. Pick one to try next week, and I’ll be sure to give you good reason to stick with it over the course of this series.

10 Simple Weight Loss Hacks to Start Today

weight loss hacks

photo sourced from Creative Commons Author: TipsTimesAdmin

I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of anyone who promises easy weight loss.

As someone who has experienced a lot of fluctuation in my weight over the years, I know how difficult it can be to lose pounds, especially those last 5 or 10 vanity pounds. I have been a number of sizes over the years and tried a number of diets. At my heaviest, I snacked all day at my grocery store job and drank all night at my favorite place to play my music. I followed no rules and gave myself no limitations until one day I stepped onto the scale and couldn’t believe my eyes. 

I know that it can feel impossible or futile to even try, and I know how hard it is to keep the weight off once it’s shed, so I’ll start with that personal message to let you know that we’re all on the same page. I make no promises. I am not here to trivialize anything about the effort it takes to lose weight. I’m here to help with some tips that work.

 

10 Simple Weight Loss Hacks to Start Today

I didn’t say these tips were EASY, I said they were SIMPLE. And they are. Not only are they simple, they’re small enough changes that you could choose one or two to tackle each week, and in no time at all, you will have created new habits for yourself that could and most likely will precipitate lower numbers on the scale. That wasn’t a promise or premonition, but based on my experience as a person and as a professional, I think it’s safe to say that trying these out can only bring you closer to your goals, not further away.

1. Stop eating straight from the container.

This is an old trick, but it’s tried and true. If you eat your snack straight from the container, the chances that you’ll overeat are enormous. Get a small plate or bowl and portion out your snack, especially if you’re treating yourself to something sweet, salty, or crunchy. Those three properties in food are the trifecta that create a bottomless pit in your stomach. As humans, we evolved to gravitate toward sweet and salty for the calories and crunchy for the freshness, but these days most things with a crunch aren’t always fresh (chips, crackers, etc.). Be smart about your portions and don’t go back for seconds. 

Hyman snacks2. Be prepared with healthy snacks. 

It’s easy to make a bad decision if you’re totally depleted by the time you notice your hunger. With nothing in your car or bag to satisfy you until your next meal, of course those 99 cent tacos from Jack in the Box sound like a good idea. Have a few nonperishables in your glove box or purse for times like these. Protein bars, turkey jerky, nuts, or even a few pieces of fruit (as long as you eat them regularly) all work as emergency snacks. Check out some great tips on this front from Dr. Mark Hyman.

3. Take a walk.

Your walk can be whatever you need it to be each day, as long as you do it. Maybe on Mondays you’re stuck in meetings for most of the day and only have time to walk once around the parking lot at work. Great. Do it! Maybe on Tuesday, you have time to walk the whole block once or twice. Great. Do it! Just commit to doing a little something small every day. Studies have shown that short walks throughout the day can do more for our heart health than one long workout. Start small, but start. 

4. Wear a pedometer.

The simple act of wearing a feedback device can really do wonders for our behavior. Just knowing where we stand actually has the power to influence subsequent behavior for the better. If you wear a pedometer, you’ll know where you’re starting on your journey, and you’ll have the data that you need to measure your improvement over time. If you have a competitive spirit, you might not even notice that you’re ramping up your steps each day to try to beat the day before. This same feedback phenomenon works for food journaling. The simple act of writing down what you’re eating has the power to change it for the better.

5. Stop drinking your calories.

weight loss hacks

image sourced through Creative Commons author: Uporabnik:Gap

This is a big one. It actually might be the most important thing on this entire list. Maybe I should have put it first … and last. STOP drinking your calories. Drink water. Drink infused water. Drink a cup of coffee or tea in the morning. But please stop drinking soda and fruit juice and sugary teas and energy drinks and sports drinks and frappuccinos and anything laden with sugar. The impact it will have not only on your waistline but on your energy level, your liver health, your cardiovascular health, your pancreas, your complexion, your gut health, your overall sense of wellbeing, EVERYTHING, will be massive. Stop it. And diet counts too. Stop it. I recently attended a lecture in Berkeley that was focused on the impact of sugar (especially soda) on our young people and wrote about it on my work blog. Check it out here for more details on the health impacts of sugary beverages.

6. Drink plenty of water. 

Related to #5, drinking water is far preferable to drinking anything else to quench your thirst. Water is essential for every function in our bodies, and a huge percentage of our population walks around chronically dehydrated without even realizing it. We often confuse thirst for hunger, which means we’re eating when we really just need a glass of water. It’s a good practice to drink some water in response to a hunger pang before reaching for a snack. Then, if you still want the snack a few minutes later, go for it.

Additionally, if you’re not dehydrated, your body won’t hang on to water for deal life, allowing you to release water weight. If part of your weight loss strategy involves a low-carb plan, you will need extra water to make sure you’re not overloading your kidneys and liver with too much protein to process. 

7. Eat at a table with the TV, phone, and computer off.

This hack is about mindful eating and training yourself to alert your brain to what your body is doing. If you are eating with distractions around you, your brain isn’t focusing on your food, which means it’s not focusing on when you’ve had enough to eat. Those who eat in front of the TV or standing in the kitchen playing with their phones tend to consume more calories than those who sit down at a table and focus on their food.

Check out my 7 tips for Mindful Eating

8. Stop hitting the snooze button.

photo sourced from Creative Commons Author: Eigenes Werk

photo sourced from Creative Commons Author: Eigenes Werk

You’d be surprised at the impact that avoiding the snooze button can have on your energy throughout the entire day. We cycle through various stages of sleep throughout the night, and each stage takes a certain amount of time to get through. When your alarm goes off in the morning, hitting snooze allows you to fall back to sleep and start a new cycle,  only to be interrupted 11 minutes later, part-way through the first stage. This can be pretty disorienting and has a negative effect on our energy level for the whole day. The less-rested we feel, the more caloric energy we will crave in the form of carbohydrates and sweets. Have you ever noticed that when you’re exhausted, all you want to eat is junk food and sweets? This is why. (It also helps to get enough sleep in the first place, which we talked about last week here and here.)

9. Breathe.

This one might be the simplest and most challenging of everything on this list. Breathing is something we do all day every day, but how we breathe can make all the difference in how we process the world around us. It’s physiologically impossible for our bodies to engage in the fight or flight stress response while we are practicing deep breathing. I’m going to try to keep this explanation as simple as possible for brevity’s sake, but I want it to make sense to you. Here goes: Typically, when we’re stressed, we take short, shallow breaths. This engages the sympathetic nervous system and kicks the stress response into gear. When we’re stressed, we release cortisol (a stress hormone) into the blood stream, which takes the blood out of our organs and sends it to our limbs so that we can fight the lions and tigers our ancestors fought. Except now we aren’t fighting lions and tigers, we’re sitting at a desk freaking out because our computer crashed in the middle of a big report that’s due in 20 minutes. This relocation of our bodies’ resources causes a halt in digestive function and slows down our metabolism so that we can conserve our energy (stored as fat) for all this fighting we’ll be doing (that we’re not actually doing), causing weight gain (especially in the middle). I hope this makes sense. Please ask questions in the comments if you need more on this one. I could write a whole post just about breathing.

The point is that when we practice deep breathing, we stave off that whole cascade I just described, which prevents stress-induced weight gain. 

10. Congratulate yourself.

weight loss hacks
imaged sourced from Creative Commons originally at mommyedwards.com

 I saved this hack for last, because it’s the one we often forget to do for ourselves. If you’re taking strides in your life to create positive change, be proud of yourself! Write down your accomplishments, no matter how small. Find non-food-related ways to reward yourself for all the wonderful things you’re doing for your health. Notice the small changes and celebrate them. A great way to help you notice is to take “before” pictures. You’re seeing your body every day, so you might not notice the changes as much as you would if you had a baseline to compare them to.  I was very happy I took pictures of the changes in my face over the years so I could truly see how far I’d come. It feels good to acknowledge the work you’ve done and how far you’ve come.

Make time for this one every day, and it will set the stage for the next day to be even better.

 

 

Now it’s your turn! What simple hack have you found that has helped you on your weight loss journey? Please share below!

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