In my early 30s, my fat hormones started acting up.
I constantly felt tired and depressed. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning and I would hit a slump in the afternoon, ravenous for food (mostly carbs and sugar). Although I continued to work out almost every day — and ate what I thought was a sensible diet — I just couldn’t shake the weight gain associated with getting older.
I tried every diet out there: Atkins, South Beach, Herbal Magic, The G.I. Diet … the list goes on. I would lose five pounds and put 10 back on. It was a really difficult time for me, because I just couldn’t understand what was happening to my body. It didn’t make sense given the fact I often felt like the most hard-working woman at the gym.
An appointment with a naturopath set me straight on a few things. I had candida albicans, meaning yeast was accumulating in my gut. All of us have it (even men!) and it feeds on sugar, yeast, vinegar, sulphites and processed wheat products. Another contributing factor to my mysterious weight gain was undiscovered food sensitivities. A test revealed that I needed to eliminate wheat, dairy, corn, oats and barley from my diet. I followed a very strict anti-candida cleanse while eliminating all my food triggers for the good part of a year.
At first it was very difficult to remove the most common ingredients found in readily available foods. Not only that, but I also had to start cooking meals from scratch, and learn to read labels in a whole new way. Who knew spices and soy sauce had wheat in them? I also had to limit social functions and/or stick to safe foods like salads and grilled meat when I did go out.
Using the lessons below, I lost 40 pounds right before turning 40, and I’ve kept it off for four years.
Here are my 5 tips for successful, belly-busting weight loss:
1. Get real.
It really is important to ditch all processed foods. If the food you're putting into your body is mass-produced and has ingredients you can’t pronounce, then it’s likely not going to be good for you. Getting back to a diet full of real foods from nature, is your ticket to long-term weight loss.
For me, this included organic meat, fish and lots of vegetables — especially green ones like kale, collards, broccoli, asparagus and spinach.
2. Get help.
Despite all my efforts to lose weight in the past, I found that the needle on the scale wasn’t moving because of unknown food sensitivities and allergies. I worked with a naturopath to uncover these sensitivities and became gluten, dairy and sugar-free, as a result.
I replaced oats, bread and crackers with brown rice, amaranth and quinoa, and ditched cow’s milk for unsweetened almond milk.
3. Train hard.
It irks me to see people at the gym walking casually on the treadmill. If you’re not breaking a sweat, chances are you’re not transforming your body (in my opinion at least). I started lifting heavy weights, followed by 15 to 20 minutes of HIIT Training on the treadmill, four to five times per week. To be honest, I get really sweaty at the gym. I grunt when I lift and most importantly, I breathe!
I'm also a certified yoga instructor, so I do yoga every night before bed to keep my muscles lean and supple, and to help me sleep.
4. Think like a raw vegan.
I was a vegetarian in my early 20s, but later became anemic. I decided to add animal protein back into my diet to help my red blood cell count. My vegetarian experience did teach me how to be conscious of better eating, however.
Today I dabble in raw vegan cuisine and try to include tons of plant-based protein options in my diet, like quinoa, hemp and harmonized brown rice protein powder. I also juice green veggies with lemon and ginger every day, to ensure I’m keeping my body alkaline.
5. Protein, protein, protein!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to increase your protein and eat it at every meal. Protein increases your satiety, meaning you feel fuller, longer. I use plant-based protein in shakes, plus nuts and seeds in salads. I have a lean cut of animal protein or fish for dinner with lots of veggies.
These days when I feel tired or hungry, instead of grabbing carbs I’ll eat some leftover chicken and it usually does the trick. I never eat at fast food restaurants, and I plan my meals as much as possible (to avoid a situation where there’s foods I can’t eat). I also always pack low-sugar fruit and nuts just in case I get hungry.
I know that losing weight can seem impossible (especially as you get older!) but trust me, it can be done.
These are just some of the things I did (and continue to do) to lose weight and maintain it. My whole story, trials and tribulations, tips for success, and meal plans can be found in my e-book, Fit and Fab Over 40.
Photo Credit: Getty Images & Courtesy of the author