We all enjoy Christmas and New Year – it’s an incredibly special time of year when we come together with friends, family and loved ones to eat, drink and be merry. Unfortunately many of us succumb to the ubiquitous mince pies, Christmas pudding and copious amounts of alcohol that are readily available throughout the festive season. And we often pay for this over indulgence by gaining some unwelcome extra pounds. Which is why lots of us embark upon an ambitious diet at the start of the year. However, as a staggering 98% of all diets fail, we reckon that it’s time for a new approach to weight loss.
Did you know that only 2% of dieters are able to maintain their weight loss long term? Indeed, crash diets only make us crave more fattening foods and sugar than ever before. It’s been proven time and again that taking regular exercise and adopting a healthy eating pattern is the only way to achieve sustained weight loss. There are also a number of natural ways to encourage your body to burn fat effectively. By following the three simple steps below, you’ll soon be able to shed that excess weight gained over the festive season for good.
1) Stimulate your thyroid function
The thyroid is the largest gland in the neck – it produces an important hormone called thyroxine, which is sometimes referred to as T4. Our body converts T4 into another hormone called tri-iodothyronine, or T3 for short. T3 stimulates our metabolism by triggering our cells to burn fuel and release energy. Thus, the more active our thyroid, the more T4 and T3 is produced to burn fat and the less likely we are to gain weight.
UK Doctors estimate that around one in five of us will suffer from some form of thyroid problem by the time we are 60. Low thyroid function, known as ‘hypothyroidism’ not only manifests in weight gain, it also causes a number of other unpleasant symptoms such as chronic fatigue, dry skin and hair, hair loss, depression and constipation. To improve our thyroid function and ultimately aid weight loss, we need to obtain sufficient amounts of iodine from our diet. Iodine is an essential element, necessary for the production of both T4 and T3, in addition to a number of other hormones. Unfortunately, iodine deficiency has increased more than fourfold during the last 40 years and it is now estimated that around 75% of adults no longer consume enough of it. Iodine is abundant in a variety of natural foods sources such as kelp and sea vegetables – by incorporating these into your daily diet, you can dramatically improve your thyroid performance and lose weight as a result. Alternatively you can choose to take a liquid iodine supplement to ensure that you’re getting the correct quantities of this vital nutrient.
Research has also linked the triglycerides in coconut oil to an increase in our metabolism, making this delicious and aromatic alternative to cooking oil particularly helpful for those with a low thyroid function. Mixing one tablespoon of coconut in warm water and drinking this liquid on an empty stomach is recommended for optimum weight loss.
2) Increase your insulin sensitivity
Insulin is required to help glucose enter our cells, where it is used as fuel for energy to power our body. Glucose is created by digesting carbohydrates, which are present in a variety of foods and in particular, starchy foods including potatoes, bread, fruit, dairy products and sugar. If your diet is high in sugar and carbs, then your body will need to produce more and more insulin to break down the extra glucose, eventually upsetting your metabolism. You’ll no longer be able to break fat down in an efficient way and your weight will rocket as a result. Exceptionally high insulin production, which is known as ‘insulin resistance’, also causes energy dips, depression and sugar cravings and will put you at greater risk of diabetes. According to Diabetes UK, around 2.9 million Brits are currently diagnosed with this life threatening disease that can lead to heart disease, stroke and other serious medical conditions. And a further 850,000 are totally unaware that they are suffering from the ‘silent killer’, which claims more than 100 million lives around the world each year.
One of the most effective ways to decrease insulin resistance and increase your insulin sensitivity is to select foods that stabilise blood sugar levels. Chia seeds for example, score extremely low on the glycemic index and slow down our absorption of complex carbohydrates, which helps balance blood sugar levels. They are also incredibly rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to boost our metabolism. This makes them an ideal superfood for those who want to benefit from demonstrable weight loss and prevent diabetes. Cinnamon, a relatively inexpensive and readily obtainable spice, has also been associated with managing blood sugar levels. Research at the Beltsville (Maryland) Human Nutrition Research Center revealed that cinnamon made fat cells more responsive to insulin and its most active compound, methylhydroxy chalcone polymer (MHCP), increased glucose metabolism by up to twenty times. Finally, as raw cacao is rich in magnesium and chromium, both of which are known to stabilise blood sugar levels, it’s another sensible addition to any diet where weight loss is the aim. In fact, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council recommend eating between 50 and 200 micrograms of chromium every day – so now you have the perfect excuse to enjoy plenty of raw chocolate!
3) Supplement your diet with L-Carnitine
L-Carnitine (also known as carnitine) is a powerful natural substance manufactured by our body in the liver and kidneys. It helps transform our fat into energy, and is therefore crucial for maintaining a healthy weight. Studies have revealed that oral carnitine reduces fat mass, increases muscle mass and actively reduces fatigue, which can all lead to sustained weight loss. A study among 35 patients revealed that their glucose uptake increased by around 8% with an oral supplementation of L-carnitine.
Usually our body produces sufficient quantities of carnitine, however strict vegans and vegetarians, premature infants, breast-feeding women and those suffering from certain medical conditions such as angina, are all prone to a deficiency in L-carnitine. Symptoms of such a deficiency include muscle fatigue, cramps, and premature aging. Those at risk are encouraged to take either L-carnitine supplements or to eat plenty of foods rich in L-carnitine. In addition to organic red meat, these include raw nuts and seeds such as Brazil nuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds. And, as vitamin C is essential for the manufacture of L-carnitine, eating super fruits such as goji berries, which are crammed with this important vitamin, is strongly recommended.
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