Counting calories is so 1998, and is probably as helpful as leeching: an old school tool for healing that may be useful for a rare few in exceptional circumstances. But for most of us, the new year brings a fervor of "I'll do better and eat less" mania, which hasn't helped 99% of us feel, look, or behave any better.
As we welcome 2015, forget the calories and invite in more pleasure, and less crazy-making weighing and counting. It's time to put away the scales and calculators, and start listening to what our bodies are really asking for: real rest, real fun, and real food. Trust me. Join me in welcoming in true healing, real nourishment, and balanced energy for the new year:
1. Play more, work less.
If working out at the gym stresses you, and you don't go anyway, then just stop. You'll get more benefit, and enjoy your life a lot more if you move in ways that are fun for you. Stress puts you in the metabolic state to keep weight on, while playful fun energizes you while you sweat out toxins. Go play frisbee. Have sex (a lot). Take up archery. Take your mates for a hike and picnic. Dance. Movement that is fun and laugh-inducing is good for you. You'll do it more often, and it will release the beneficial, metabolism-balancing neurochemicals of pleasure, including dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. Get out and have fun — you'll find your body and hormones responding!
Sleep is the foundation upon which your entire life is either built sturdily, or crumbles and falls apart. Logging 7-9 hours of quality sleep, every night, is necessary for your body to balance hormones, which affect your mood, metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Your brain also disposes of waste, essentially detoxing and clearing out unnecessary neurochemicals, while you sleep. The " glymphatic" system clears away toxins or waste products that could be responsible for brain diseases, including Alzheimer's.
3. Watch your thoughts.
40% of our thoughts are habit. We think the same things over and over again, and most of them, especially when it comes to our bodies, our abilities, and ourselves are not nice. It's normal — humans have a "negativity bias" built into our brains. This means your brain, left to its own devices, will default to the negative, to try to protect you from mistakes. However, this constant focus on the negative can put us into a stress state, keeps you going back for comfort foods to relieve some of the stress, and don't make you feel worthy of the amazing, energized, healthy life that's waiting for you when you are kind to yourself. In short: you can't kick yourself into a happy relationship with your body.
4. Go on a media detox.
What you see impacts your health, confidence, and cravings more than you may know. From magazine covers that simultaneously show sized 00 models promoting the latest fad diet next to chocolate cake recipes, to "fitspirational" Facebook and Instagram feeds featuring perfectly toned professional athletes that throw us immediately into "compare and despair" mode, our eyes and brains are assaulted with images of how we should look tens of thousands of times a year. Turn off the river of self-hate-inducing images by going on a 7-day media detox. Turn off the commercial TV, talk radio programs, celebrity magazines, and anyone on social media who makes you feel bad about yourself, even for a moment. Turn it all off. This will help you start listening to your own body, and feeling better about how you actually look and feel, rather than comparing yourself to someone who has probably been airbrushed or surgically altered to begin with.
5. Remove the "Toxic Six."
I don't believe counting calories does anything to detox or heal your body, nor has it helped control the obesity epidemic. Because calories don't matter. What does matter is removing foods to which you are intolerant of or sensitive to. There are six common foods that most people suffering from weight-loss resistance, hormonal imbalance, or mood imbalances are sensitive to: gluten, dairy, soy, corn or maize, sugar (including alcohol and artificial sweeteners), and caffeine. Removing these six foods for at least two weeks will allow your hormones to balance, leading to easy, natural weight loss and balanced moods and energy. These foods are also implicated in the plague of leaky gut and digestive disorders seen now by doctors around the world. Avoid these foods for two weeks, and then reintroduce them, one at a time for 4 days, to help you understand how each foods affects your energy, digestion, skin, and mood.
Mom was right: chew your food! Most digestion of carbohydrates happens in the mouth with mechanical chewing and the enzymes in your saliva. If you swallow half-chewed food, your stomach won't break it down much more, causing bloating, gas, and bacterial overgrowth. I recommend that you chew each bite of food until it is mostly liquid. This allows for better digestion, metabolism, and 'ahem,' elimination.