Archive: Weight Loss

The Power of Cleansing

Well, it’s that time of year again…the days are shorter, the temperature is dropping and the leaves are starting to change. Summer definitely flew by!

For most, summer is a time of indulgence. Barbecues, drinks on the patio or dock, and ice cream are staples of many while at the cottage or camping. The long bright days and warm weather keep us energized and active. Fall is the time for us to prepare for the shorter and colder days of winter, when energy is typically lower and our immune function is greatly depressed. The climate of fall is moderate, which is perfect for a cleanse. If we attempt to cleanse during the extreme heat of summer or the extreme cold of winter; added stress is placed on the body, and we are more likely to get sick or experience unfavourable effects.

Doing a cleanse is ideal to clean out all of the “gunk” that has accumulated over the previous season/year and to get our bodies tuned up for winter. Unfortunately, we are exposed to toxins in our food (pesticides, herbicides), water, cosmetics, body care products, plastic products and in the air that we breathe. In Chinese medicine, fall is the time when the lung and large intestine are most active. If we don’t clean out the toxins from the body before winter, we are more susceptible to illnesses in these organs, such as colds, the flu, bronchitis, asthma flare-ups, and digestive concerns. Not only can a cleanse help to boost energy levels and mood, clear up skin issues, resolve digestive problems, and jumpstart metabolism and weight loss, it will also give the immune system a much-needed boost to prevent those dreaded colds and flus that commonly start as the temperatures drop.

A cleanse typically involves at least 2–3 weeks of dietary changes to give the body a rest from foods that are harder to digest and have negative effects in the body. You will most likely need to cut out all gluten, dairy, non-organic meat, peanuts, shellfish, corn, soy, alcohol, added sugar in any form, artificial colours and flavours, preservatives, and caffeine (except for green and white tea in some cases). Foods that may be avoided include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and mushrooms (as they can cause inflammation in the body). It is advisable to discuss your individualized food plan with your Naturopathic Doctor to ensure you are getting the appropriate nutrients.

In addition to dietary changes during the cleansing period, it is beneficial to include homeopathic remedies, herbs and nutrients to support the body’s detoxification pathways. Be sure to consult with a licensed healthcare practitioner (such as a Naturopathic Doctor), as we all are unique and require different supplements for proper detoxification. The Naturopathic Doctor will make sure that what you are taking will not interact with any medications you take or any conditions you may be suffering from. He or she will also focus on where you need the most support. Some patients may need extra fibre and herbs to help eliminate through the liver and digestive tract, others may need more support for the kidney, lung or lymphatic system. It is really important to make sure you are cleansing in the right ways. If done improperly, you can activate and accumulate toxins in your body, when the goal is to eliminate them completely. Following the right meal plan and cleansing protocol are needed to make sure you reap the most benefits and avoid any negative side effects.

Expect to feel a little cranky and agitated in the first several days. You may notice some digestive changes, mild headaches and some fatigue. After about 3–5 days, you may notice that your energy levels have increased, your mood has improved, and your body is more balanced. Your body and mind will be better suited to deal with the harsh days of winter.

Here are some easy ways to gently detoxify on a daily basis. For a complete and individualized cleanse, please consult with a licensed healthcare practitioner for the best results.

  1. Avoid exposure to toxins in the first place.Eat organic producelow-mercury fish and organic/free-range meats whenever possible. Make sure the cosmetics you are using are safe, limit your use of plastic, and ensure you are drinking pure water and breathing clean air.
  2. Fresh lemon or lime in water 5 minutes before meals.This sounds too simple to help, but the sourness of the lemons and limes really help the liver to detoxify and get the digestive juices flowing.
  3. Sweat it out.Many toxins can be eliminated through our sweat. Plus, exercise has so many other wonderful benefits. Detoxifying is just one more great reason to get out there and get active!
  4. End your shower with 30 seconds to 1 minute of cold water.This stimulates circulation and lymphatic flow to help move toxins out.
  5. Get enough fibre.We eliminate toxins through our bowel movements. If you are constipated, the toxins can be reabsorbed into the body. Increase your consumption of hemp hearts, salba or chia seed, ground flaxseeds, sweet potatoes, and vegetables. Ensure you are having at least one complete bowel movement a day, ideally 2–3 per day.
  6. Drink enough water.Our kidneys are a major route of elimination, so it is important to stay hydrated. Aim for approximately 2–3 L of water per day, more if you are sweating and exercising intensely.
  7. Breathe deeply.Our lungs are a major detoxifying organ. It is important to take complete breaths to fill the lungs with fresh air and to exhale any airborne toxins, including carbon dioxide. Make sure you breathe using your abdominal muscles and diaphragm for maximal effects. Inhale for four counts, hold for four counts and then exhale for four counts.
  8. Deal with emotional issues.Toxins are not only found in our external environment. The body produces toxins as byproducts of many metabolic processes. Negative emotions also act as toxins in the body, impairing hormone balance and interfering with normal physiological functions. Anger, sadness, jealousy and resentment are all emotional toxins that need to be dealt with. Make sure you journal, talk about your feelings, and/or see a psychologist or psychotherapist to work through these emotions.

With these small changes and an individualized cleansing protocol from your licensed healthcare practitioner, you will be well on your way to a healthier and happier you!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.

New Year, New You?

With the final stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, many expect to be transformed from pumpkin to princess or rags to riches in the coming year. Dreams of betterment dance in our heads: to lose weight, quit smoking, eat healthier, save more money, find the job of our dreams…

While some of these resolutions may be realistic, others are outright unreasonable and unattainable. If you couldn’t lose 50 pounds last year or save $500 every month, then why will it happen this year?

I am not saying you should scrap your resolutions completely. I believe this is a great time of year to reflect on what you have accomplished in the previous year and plan for what you want to achieve in the future. Instead of calling these ambitions resolutions, let’s call them “S.M.A.R.T. goals”.

“Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage, but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal.” ~Renowned American philanthropist Elbert Hubbard

Just what is a S.M.A.R.T. goal?

It is any goal that is:
• Specific
• Measurable
• Attainable
• Realistic
• Timely/Tangible

For example, if you want to lose weight, then you need to decide how many pounds you want to shed and how long it is going to take you (be specific). You will need to weigh yourself weekly and take your waist and hip measurements to make sure you are on track (making it measurable and tangible). Make sure your goal is attainable, realistic and timely. A weight loss of 2 pounds per week is doable, but a loss of 40 pounds over 10 weeks is not.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help to reach your goal. Consult with a licensed healthcare professional to determine what is realistic and attainable for you. If you are trying to lose weight, he or she can help you plan meals, follow specific nutritional guidelines, develop an exercise schedule, and identify obstacles that prevent weight loss and ways to overcome them (e.g. support your thyroid gland, reduce stress, balance your hormones, prevent stress-related eating, reduce cravings, etc).

Don’t go it alone! Increase your chance of success by buddying up with a friend or family member for your workouts and/or for regular update meetings.

Try and try again. Don’t give up! Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation and professor at the University of Calgary, discovered that it may take five attempts for a vow/goal to hold. The key to achieving your goal is to get right back on the horse. See each new day as a new start. Imagine, as an infant and then as a child, that you gave up trying to walk and then ride a bike. Life would be very different than it is right now!

It definitely won’t be easy at first and you will have to make sacrifices to achieve your goals. But the satisfaction of reaching your goal will keep you coming back for more.

“One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.” ~Sidney Howard

So let’s make this New Year one where you are a healthier you through S.M.A.R.T. goal planning. Come on, I know you can do it!

Happy 2012!

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” ~Lawrence J. Peter

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.

Cheating (Sensibly) Over the Holidays

Temptation is everywhere…shortbread cookies in the lunch room at work, a dessert buffet at the office Christmas party, plus all of the baked goods you made at home that are supposed to be for Christmas Day. Where is your willpower when you need it? How can you continue to eat healthy over the holidays?

Luckily we live in frigid Toronto, where the style is over-sized sweaters and loose hanging scarves that cover up those few extra pounds many of us gain over the holidays.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

If you are fed up with gaining the “festive five” over the holidays, follow the tips below to treat yourself without having to loosen your belt a few notches. You will be able to have your cake and eat it too, without compromising your waistline and health.

Get those zzzzzs. Sleep deprivation raises cortisol, a stress hormone, which makes us crave sugary and carbohydrate-rich foods such as cookies, cakes and desserts. When we don’t get enough sleep, we also release high amounts of ghrelin, a hormone that makes us feel hungry. Our bodies also produces less leptin, a hormone that makes us feel full. You’ll be fighting a losing battle if you get less than 7–8 hours of sleep at night.

Drink up. Our bodies can confuse dehydration with hunger. Make sure you are drinking at least 2 litres of fluid every day; herbal teas and water are best. This will help to keep your energy levels high and sugar cravings at bay. Try a herbal tea from your local specialty tea shop when you want something sweet. Some of my favourite flavours include rooibos mixed with cocoa nibs, coconut, vanilla and/or chai spices. Sip up and enjoy!

Bump up magnesium levels. Sugar cravings, especially for chocolate, may be a sign that you are deficient in magnesium. Stress, the birth control pill, alcohol, coffee, some medications, excessive sweating and a poor diet can all result in magnesium depletion. Eating foods that are high in magnesium, such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, sesame seeds, halibut, black beans, sunflower seeds, cashews and almonds will reduce your cravings. Talk to your licensed healthcare practitioner before taking any mineral supplements. Discuss the possibility of deficiencies of chromium and zinc as well, as these are needed for proper blood sugar control.

Don’t go hungry. Eat a well-balanced and healthy snack before going to a holiday party to ensure you don’t overindulge. Have a hard-boiled egg and some raw vegetables, snack on some hummus with vegetables, or eat an apple or pear with about 14 raw almonds or walnuts. At the party, focus on the sushi plate, vegetable platter, salads and small amounts of meat to stave off cravings for the sweets.

Enjoy what you are eating. Be mindful of what you are putting in your mouth. Treat yourself but don’t overdo it. Scan the room to see what desserts are available, then choose one or two that you would enjoy the most. Take your time eating the first one, noting the smell, texture, and taste on your tongue. Chew slowly and savour each bite. Give yourself some time before deciding whether or not you want another one. It takes time for your body to feel full from food, so if you wait before you have seconds, you will be less likely to want more.

So go ahead and cheat, without the guilt!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.

Andropause: Male Menopause

The “change of life” not only applies to women, men go through their own version of menopause, called andropause.

Now you may not see men fanning themselves and turning red due to hot flashes, but this change of life does affect their stamina, drive and overall vitality.

Andropause typically occurs in men between 40 and 50 years of age when testosterone levels decline, which can result in fatigue, depression, lack of vitality, increased irritability, mood swings, sleep problems, hair loss, decreased sex drive, night sweats, loss of muscle mass, and/or problems in achieving or maintaining an erection. Testosterone levels can even start to decline in men at the age of 30 and drop continuously over time. This occurs gradually, so the effects may not be as noticeable as in women, whose hormone levels drop more rapidly.

Testosterone is an elixir of life that helps to make men feel strong, young and virile. It maintains bone integrity, preventing against osteoporosis and preserving muscle mass. Testosterone also protects the heart and prevents cardiovascular disease. Obesity, a lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, some medications, a poor diet and stress can all interfere with the action of testosterone.  If you are overweight, your body can actually convert testosterone into estrogen. Not only does this make testosterone levels drop, when estrogen levels get really high, men may start to develop breasts (called gynecomastia).

What Can You Do to Enhance Testosterone Levels?

Lose excess weight by following a healthy exercise program and eating plan. Fat cells in our bodies actually produce estrogen, even in males. Don’t eliminate your fat intake completely, however; choose healthy sources of fat such as avocado, fish oil and raw extra virgin olive oil instead of animal fats and trans fats.

Avoid consuming large amounts of alcohol. Limit beer consumption, as it has been shown to have estrogenic effects, which mask the benefits of testosterone in the body.

Quit smoking and talk to your doctor about any possible side effects of your medications.

Eat organic fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and poultry. This will reduce your exposure to pesticides, antibiotics and hormones that can impair the action of testosterone.

Eat liver-supporting foods. Include eggs, onions, garlic, dark leafy greens, lemons and limes, artichokes and beets in your diet to help your body detoxify from harmful types of hormones.

Avoid using plastic food and beverage containers and eating canned foods (their lining is made of plastic) as these contain hormone-disrupting bisphenol A.

Go green with cleaners and body care products to avoid exposure to the hormone-disrupting chemicals found in conventional cleaning products.

Exercise to maintain muscle mass and decrease fat mass to optimize your testosterone levels.

Eat cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, rutabaga and turnip, as these all help to reduce estrogen levels in males.

Relax and de-stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, reduces the action of testosterone. Meditate, or do yoga or deep breathing exercises to take it easy.

Eat zinc-rich foods to maximize testosterone levels. Include cremini mushrooms, spinach, sea vegetables, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, oysters, crab, lobster, clams, salmon, turkey and lamb in your diet.

Get your fibre in to reduce estrogen levels. Choose organic vegetables, chia seeds and hemp seeds to keep you regular.

Your Naturopathic Doctor can determine your testosterone levels by doing a salivary hormone test. This will test for various hormones, and allow him or her to choose the most appropriate herbs and nutrients to support healthy hormone levels.

With a little help, you will be able to increase your stamina, drive and overall vitality!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.