Eating a clean diet not only yields significant health improvements for those with food intolerances and chronic health conditions, but can be the key to achieving your weight loss or weight maintenance goals. It’s a paradigm shift from the calorie counting decree we’ve been fed, but trust me, it’s legit. No calculators or food scales required.
This was a pleasant, surprising side-effect for me when I started strictly following an anti-inflammatory way of eating for rheumatoid arthritis. Being 8 weeks postpartum with about 10 lbs of baby weight to lose, I was amazed at how the weight melted off once I started eliminating foods I had intolerances/sensitivities to and just cleaning up my diet in general. I have since maintained a fitter, 10 lbs lighter frame than my pre-pregnancy, calorie counting and even low glycemic index following weight. And I have maintained this weight even during times when I wasn’t able exercise regularly due to injury or just the general insanity of life.
1. Lose the Bloat.
If you are consuming foods you have sensitivities to, you likely have excess bloating and swelling in your hands, feet, ankles, abdomen, chin or around the eyes. This is due to fluid retention caused by inflammation and the release of certain hormones.
If you’re food sensitivities/intolerances are not known, the best option is to follow an Elimination Diet for at least 2 weeks in which you COMPLETELY avoid the suspect food(s) and all derivatives of that food. Reactions to foods are not always immediate – they can manifest hours or days after ingestion. Symptoms of food sensitivity can include headaches, digestion issues, fatigue, depression, joint pain or arthritis, skin conditions like eczema, canker sores, acne; or sinus congestion.
2. Prevent Fat Storage.
With repeat exposure to toxins from food, our bodies can be overloaded with chemicals that need to be detoxified. When the amount of toxins exceed what your body can process, they are either: 1) stored in your liver, which is coincidentally in your belly area (can you say muffin top?) or 2) they are isolated from the body’s systems in additional adipose tissue (aka FAT) as a protection measure. In essence, your body holds on to excess weight to dilute the toxicity.
3. Avoid Beefing Up (literally).
Here’s some food for thought “Cow’s milk, by design, can grow a 90lb calf into a 2,000 lb cow over the course of 2 years.”
This quote is taken directly from the “Diary Disaster” chapter of the book, Skinny Bitch, possibly the crassest, yet eye-opening part of the book for me. When you consume dairy products (and meat), you are consuming the same hormones and steroids those animals were fed to drastically boast production — and profits. Cows are injected with bovine growth hormone. Is further explanation even required to see why dairy (especially non-organic) is not your friend if you’re trying to be lean?
If you (or the kiddies) absolutely can’t give it up (and you are sure you do not have a sensitivity to it), please promise me you will always choose organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free milk and meat products. For beef, the best option is organic AND grass-fed (just being organic doesn’t mean they are grass fed). And try to work in some almond, hemp or coconut replacements once in a while.
And no, you don’t need to drink cow’s milk to consume enough calcium (more info on that coming in a later post).
4. Ensure Optimal Thyroid Function.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Ultramind Solution and 3 other New York Times bestsellers, addressing the root cause of illness, one of the most important factors in hypothyroidism is exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides. Such toxins act as hormone disruptors and interfere with thyroid function. The other major factor that affects thyroid function, Hyman states, is chronic inflammation, with the biggest source of chronic inflammation being gluten. Of course, consuming other foods you have sensitivities to and highly processed and/or genetically modified foods are also going to keep you in a state of inflammation.
The primary function of your thyroid is maintaining your basal metabolic rate, so let’s keep it in high spirits.
5. Keep Insulin Levels in Check.
Consumed refined sugar and other refined carbohydrates are absorbed very quickly causing a surge in glucose levels (also referred to as having a high glycemic Index). This requires your pancreas to release a responding level of insulin to combat the high levels of glucose which are toxic to the body. I believe it’s well-known, but worth reiterating, that insulin encourages the body to store up calories as fat. Prolonged levels of elevated insulin also contribute to inflammation, which if you haven’t gathered already is kind of a theme we have going. This doesn’t mean you need to go all Atkins on me to keep your weight in check. Eating a clean diet includes eating high fiber carbs to slow the absorption into the bloodstream and avoid spikes in that fat storing insulin – choose whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and lots of whole, organic veggies and fruits (leave the skins on!).
And there is no exception to this rule just because you’re eating gluten-free. I admit, whole grain, gluten-free products are really hard to find, which was a big impetus in the creation of our Clean Cravings line. Many gluten-free bread products on the market are made primarily with white rice, corn, or potato flour or starch and loaded with sugar (not to mention a bunch of other artificial crap) so they have a high glycemic Index causing that surge of fat storing insulin. So look for the first items in the ingredients list to state “whole grain” and/or use grains like brown rice and quinoa. Here’s the ingredient list of our Just Crust products as a reference:
WHOLE GRAIN ORGANIC BROWN RICE FLOUR, WHOLE GRAIN SORGHUM FLOUR, ARROWROOT FLOUR, ORGANIC RAW AGAVE NECTAR, GUAR GUM, FRUIT JUICE (GRAPE, PEAR, APPLE), RICE DEXTRIN (A NATURAL AND UNMODIFIED STARCH), ORGANIC OLIVE OIL, SEA SALT.
Read it and weep Glutino!
6. Avoiding the Pitfalls of Refined Sugar.
When refined sugar is consumed, it is stored in the liver as glycogen (blood sugar stored in the liver and muscles). However, if the liver is already overloaded with sugar or other toxins, (which it commonly is due to the prevalent toxins from processed food and environmental toxins), the excess amounts of glycogen get returned to the blood stream in the form fatty acids. The kicker? They are then stored in the less active areas including the buttocks, belly and thighs. One lump or two?
Note: Because this post is focused on weight loss, I will hold my diatribe on the other harmful effects of refined sugar — for now.
7. Maintain pH balance.
A clean diet means a diet that is not highly acidic (e.g., no coffee, dairy, refined sugars and other refined carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, fried and processed foods, large amounts of animal protein). According to Dr. Linda Frassetta, a Nephrologist with the University of California, our bodies now produce fat cells when we have an overload of acidic foods, to prevent the acid from getting to your vital organs. And not only do they add those unwanted pounds, highly acidic foods deplete your body of the alkaline minerals required to neutralize that acid, which include: sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. This makes you prone to chronic and degenerative disease. Alkaline foods include: fruits and vegetables (yes, even citrus fruits because once they enter the body they are alkalizing).
8. Fighting Inflammation.
Avoiding inflammation is the common denominator in all of the above points because it is a big contributor to weight gain. But we’re not just playing defense here. While there are many foods to avoid – there are also plenty of foods we can consume to actually fight inflammation. The key players here are essential fatty acids (EFA’s), which are strongly encouraged in an anti-inflammatory, clean eating diet. Essential fatty acids can be either omega-3 or omega-6 (ensuring a proper balance between the two, requires a post all its own – stay tuned), and are found in: flax seed or flax seed oil, fish or fish oil, hemp oil, chia seed, sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables, walnuts. These are “good fats” that are needed by the body to make hormones and maintain the body’s metabolic rate. Essential fatty acids can increase thermogenesis (fat burning) and a deficiency may cause cravings, particularly for fatty foods.
9. Have Satiety Kick in Sooner.
Whole foods high in nutrients, essential fatty acids, and fiber and low in refined sugar will keep your appetite in check by triggering your feelings of satiety earlier than processed foods and artificial ingredients. Why don’t you see how many almonds you can eat vs. bag(s) of Baked Lays….
10. Rule Out the Crap.
I know this is an obvious one, but worth mentioning. When you choose only whole foods, especially if you’re cutting out gluten and dairy, there’s not going to be a lot of donuts and candy bars on the menu. Enough said.