Get real. Ask yourself: What is getting in the way of my health? What excuses am I using to not start giving a damn? There is no perfect time to start. Do it now, even if it means one change per week in your lifestyle choices. You deserve to feel and look the best you can!
You cannot change what you do not measure!
- Download a step counter (pedometer) app to your phone or buy one to carry with you all day. Research has shown that 10,000 steps a day keep people from gaining weight and may help those wanting to lose weight. It approximately equates to 3 miles. If by 6 pm you have not reached that goal, you can make up for the difference on a treadmill, walking the dog, walking to the store, etc. Read more on this.
- Weigh yourself 3 times a week in the morning while on an empty stomach.
- Get yourself a ring to wear on one of your fingers, or use the one you are wearing now; it's the best way to find out if you are inflamed or holding too much water. When tighter, you need to exercise to decrease inflammation and water retention.
- If you have a progressive doctor who can refer you for a full DEXA body scan, good for you. This is the best way to know your body composition in every part of your body.
Change the way you drink and eat:
- Avoid drinking sodas, fruit juices (eat fruit instead), more than two glasses of wine a day. Carry a water container in your car, office, and any place you hang out, and sip from it all day (you can add flavored Benefiber or Citrucell to that water if you need to drink something with flavor).
- Also, avoid eating sweets, white bread, bagels, muffins, and most cereals (they are loaded with sugar and high-fructose corn syrup). Instead eat whole grain, dark-colored bread (if you have to), and never consume carbohydrates by themselves (adding good fats and fiber to carbs slows down glucose and insulin spikes in the blood that may predispose you to metabolic syndrome and fat gain). Watch a great lecture that will open your eyes to the effect of sugar on health.
- Consume 20 grams of fiber (soluble and insoluble) per day. For most of us, this is hard to do unless we eat beans, nuts, and 4 servings of fruit and vegetables. Fiber improves insulin sensitivity, makes you feel full longer, keeps your gut healthy (friendly gut bacteria that produce vitamins love fiber), keeps you regular, and can lower the chances of getting colon cancer. Buy Citrucell or Benefiber, two over-the-counter products available in most grocery stores. Try to consume 12 grams of fiber a day from these supplements in water. You can also add them to soups, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, yogurt, water to sip all day at work, sauces, and home-made salad dressing.
- To ensure that you have enough fruits and vegetables at home, buy frozen ones (frozen fruits and vegetables tend to be cheaper and loaded with vitamins since they are picked at their prime).
- Follow a slow carb (low glycemic index) diet. Read this article carefully!
- Twice a day, snack on almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and other nuts at work to get your good fats and fiber, and to make you less likely to cheat later. If you get tired of their taste, mix them with some dried fruit. Research has shown that people who eat nuts tend to have lower LDL cholesterol.
- Avoid junk and fast food. The best way to do this is to have enough food at home and to bring lunch to work. Cook a lot of food on weekends and freeze meals in small containers you can take to work or heat up at home. Get yourself a slow cooker and use its enclosed cookbook to prepare warm foods that you can come home to. Do not sabotage yourself by bringing sweets and junk into your home. If you do, you'll eventually eat them (most of the time, in one sitting!).
- Watch your cravings at night, when most people find it the most difficult to avoid overdrinking alcohol or eating ice cream, cookies, and comfort foods.
- Eat a large breakfast, a moderate lunch, and a small dinner. I know this sounds completely different to what most of us are doing every day.
- Skipping breakfast makes you more prone to overcompensate by eating more calories late in the day. Your body has spent 7-8 hours without food and is starved for nutrients in the morning. Do not feed it sugar and white flour products at this important time, like many people are accustomed to doing due to being rushed. Eggs, oatmeal (the type that has no added sugar, and you can add whey protein powder to it!), Greek-style yogurt with nuts and fiber supplements, low-fat cottage cheese with fruit (if you're not lactose intolerant), almond butter sandwiches on multigrain (high-fiber) bread, and fruit are all good choices for breakfast.
- For lunch have some soup and a glass of water first and wait 10 minutes to trick your body into feeling full faster. Grilled chicken with vegetables, tuna salad over greens and nuts, a Greek salad with sliced steak, and any Mediterranean food choices are good.
- For dinner, fill yourself with stir fried (use olive oil!) vegetables and lean meats. Two hours before bed, you can have half an almond butter sandwich or yogurt with fruit. You will not be hungry and desperate with this diet!
Do resistance exercise with machines at the gym if you are a beginner, or weights if you have more experience. Here are some other exercise recommendations.
Get your hormones checked and supplemented if low
- If you are having a hard time losing weight and you are doing all of the above, have your doctor check your blood levels of free testosterone and thyroid hormones (TSH, T3 and T4) (yes, women and men!). Low hormone blood levels can impair fat loss and energy levels required to exercise. They can also make your less prone to be motivated to follow a healthy regimen. Read more about testosterone here.
If you have access to a glucose tolerance test, take it. This test will determine how your body uses glucose for energy and compare it to a normal response. If you have impaired glucose tolerance, your doctor may want to prescribe metformin, an insulin sensitizer that may help people lose fat by helping their insulin work better at controlling blood sugar and metabolism.
If your belly is hard and you cannot pinch much fat, you may mostly have visceral fat. You may want to talk to your doctor about a new FDA-approved product for HIV-associated visceral fat called Egrifta (tesamorelin). Egrifta is a growth hormone-releasing factor that makes your pituitary gland make your own growth hormone. Growth hormone has been shown to help burn fat. If you do not have insurance, you can apply for patient assistance (more on Egrifta.com).
Drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before every meal has been shown to improve glucose tolerance and insulin response. Better glucose tolerance and lower insulin resistance can make it easier to lose fat. Read more on this.
Find a support system that is there for you through all of your new lifestyle changes. Having an exercise/diet buddy is the best way to improve adherence to your diet and exercise program. Join groups online. Surround yourself with friends who support you all the way and enable you to succeed!