Healthy and Sustainable Weightloss Tips from our Naturopathic Doctors and Health Coach

YikDr. Ardyce Yik (ND) is a Canadian-licensed naturopathic doctor trained in family medicine. She is currently licensed and registered with the Board of Directors of Drugless Therapy (Naturopathy), the regulatory body for naturopathic medicine in Ontario, Canada. Currently she practises at Integrated Medicine Institute (IMI) in Hong Kong. Well-known for her expertise and compassion, Dr. Yik is dedicated to helping her patient achieve and maintain optimal health and wellness. She is fluent in English and Cantonese.

Besides maintaining a busy family practice, Dr. Yik writes for various magazines and has given health seminars at different institutions, including McKinsey & Co. and Hong Kong International School. She has also appeared as a naturopathic medical expert on Bloomberg Television.

 See other articles on: Fitness Training Guide


Questionnaire: Identifying Possible Causes of Your Weight Gain

questionnaire1prepared by Graeme Bradshaw and supported by Dr. Ardyce Yik (ND) and the Naturopaths at IMI

Do you have a functional or medical issue causing weight gain?

Many people want to lose weight and have a healthier physique, but the fact is it's often hard to control your weight on your own. If you have an underlying condition that affects your metabolism or weight, you won't be able to lose weight despite efforts to eat less and exercise more. Indeed, you may even feel worse after such efforts. In these cases, being overweight is merely the symptom of a deeper underlying cause. If you've been trying to lose weight without success, it's time to look beyond diet and exercise.

A screening questionnaire

Use this questionnaire to help determine whether you have any other underlying causes of weight gain, or simply a stubborn weight loss journey. The following conditions often interfere with your metabolism, endocrinology, or physical balance and make it difficult to achieve healthy weight loss:

  • Toxic Lifestyle
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Endocrine (Hormonal Issues)
  • Allergy
  • Chronic Illness
  • Depression
  • Hypoglycemia

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Help! I'm overweight- but I don't eat much!

scaleby Dr. Ardyce Yik (ND), Naturopathic Doctor, IMI

Whenever I hear this statement in my office, I first ask for a detailed 24-hour diet recall. Some people may not be consciously aware of how much they eat, so it's a good idea to recall what's actually been consumed. The recall will go something like this: "I had coffee this morning. I only had a chicken salad for lunch. I had some ice cream afterwards — it was hot outside — then a handful of almonds plus a banana in the afternoon — they're healthy, right? I think that's — oh wait — and two chocolate chip cookies from a colleague. Hmm. I guess I ate more than I thought!"

After I confirm the validity of their statements (i.e., that they really aren't overeating), we start investigating functional or medical conditions that could be causing their weight gain or preventing them from losing weight.

If you have an underlying condition that affects your metabolism or weight, you won't be able to lose weight despite efforts to eat less and exercise more. In fact, you may even feel worse after such efforts. In this case, being overweight is merely the symptom. If you've been trying to lose weight without success, it's time to look beyond diet and exercise.

Go through the following statements and see if any apply to you:

  • I constantly have cravings for sugars or refined carbohydrates (breads, baked goods, pasta, white rice, etc.)
  • I and/or my parents or grandparents have diabetes mellitus.
  • I gain weight easily, especially around the abdomen (tummy).
  • I feel sluggish, have brittle nails, dry skin, thinning or unhealthy hair, and am often cold when others around me feel comfortable.
  • I have been told I have thyroid problems, high triglycerides, gout, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) or cysts in the ovary, unwanted facial hair, or fertility problems.
  • I am currently taking thyroid medication.
  • I have fewer than 7 bowel movements per week.
  • I eat hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, bacon, beef, fried chicken, fries, or chips almost every day.
  • I no longer enjoy doing the things I used to enjoy doing. Sometimes I experience suicidal thoughts.
  • I need my comfort food — chocolate, ice cream, baked goods, etc. — especially in the evening, or else I'm miserable.

If two or more statements apply to you, there may be hidden factors such as hormone imbalances, insulin resistance, depression, sluggish detoxification, or constipation that prevent you from losing weight. Talk to your healthcare practitioner to further investigate any possible underlying health issues.

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Healthy Eating on Vacation for Your Children

by Dr. Ardyce Yik (ND), Naturopathic Doctor, IMI

The suitcases are packed. The passports are ready. You and your children are all set for the upcoming trip. Don't leave your healthy eating habits behind! Here are eight ways for you and your kids to stay healthy while on vacation.

  1. eating vacationPack the snacks Fruit-and-nut bars, whole-grain crackers, and trail mixes are great snacks on-the-go (and also on the plane). Make your own trail mix by putting together juicy raisins, dried apricots, almonds and pumpkin seeds. If travelling by car, pack low-fat yoghurt cups, apple slices and chunks of melon, pineapple and papaya. Store them in a cooler and take them out for a refreshing treat.
  2. Portion control Just because a cruise serves a 24-hour buffet doesn't mean your children need to be eating 24 hours a day! Teach your children to stop eating when they are comfortably full. If you and your children have a hard time controlling the food portions at a buffet, try starting at the salad bar first and then using a smaller (salad/appetiser) plate, even for the main dishes. Using a smaller plate means less loading at one time, forcing you to get up more frequently and leaving time for your body to register whether or not you are full.
  3. Fast-food stop? If a fast-food stop is inevitable, choose healthy options whenever available. Order a green salad or chicken veggie wrap instead of fries. Choose a berry smoothie or freshly squeezed fruit/ vegetable juice instead of a milkshake or soft drink.
  4. Preparing infant formula On vacation, the best way to mix infant formula is with bottled distilled water. Most grocery stores sell bottled water labelled as purified, distilled, reverse osmosis or demineralised. You may even find bottled water labelled specifically for infant use. Bottled water should ideally be boiled for one to two minutes and cooled before mixing with formula, since most bottled distilled waters conform to the same standards as the public water supply.
  5. Don't skip breakfast! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and should include foods from various food groups. If your child suffers from constipation while travelling, try adding half a grapefruit or stewed prunes to the breakfast.
  6. Stay active Keeping your children active will help to offset the extra calories that might be consumed on vacation. Instead of sitting on a tour bus all day, consider sightseeing on foot. Go for a swim, hit the slopes or go hiking on a bird-trail with your children.
  7. Keep hydrated Often times, children are so excited or preoccupied on vacation that they don't even know when they are thirsty. Offer them water and fluids at regular intervals. Being active, travelling and staying out in the sun can cause dehydration, so make sure you bring water with you wherever you go.
  8. Relax! After all, it is a vacation. It's OK for your children to indulge once in a while. Try sharing the dessert or limiting the sweet indulgences to once a day.

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Weightloss: Keys to Success

by Graeme Bradshaw, Naturopath, Homeopath and Founding Director, IMI

weightlossgoals2Every healthy lifestyle program needs a bit of perseverance and will power to succeed. But here are a few of IsoWhey® top tips:

  1. Start by recording your waist and weight measurement and repeat at the end of each week. (Just once weekly)
  2. Drink plenty of water. A sign of hunger can often be dehydration. Keep hydrated, keep your belly full and flush out toxins.
  3. Read packaging and ingredients lists - know what you are putting into your body.
  4. Avoid sugar, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, sugar and highly processed foods. Avoiding alcohol, fruit juice, soft drinks, white bread or buns, cakes, sweet biscuits is needed on a low GI low carb diet.
  5. Plan meals. Have some ingredients for breakfast ready at home. For the meals use plenty of foods that are low GI carbs – proteins and vegetables make up most meals.
  6. Portion control - use a smaller plate or rice bowls.
  7. Fiber for fullness. If you need more fiber to feel full we can provide that in Chitin capsules – take 2-3 before meals with water. Add flax meal to the IsoWhey drinks.
  8. Get more sleep - tired people tend to eat more high calorie foods to boost their energy.
  9. Don't skip meals. It slows your body metabolism and causes sugar cravings.
  10. Exercise 4-5 days a week.
  11. Gather a support network that can be there for you on bad days. Managing your program to fit lower stress times is helpful too. If feeling down or stressed call up a friend instead of turning to food.

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Key Weight-loss Supportive Nutrients

by Graeme Bradshaw, Naturopath, Homeopath and Founding Director, IMI

supplementsberriesWhilst there is no magic pill for weight loss, certain nutrients may go a long way in assisting healthy weight management in combination with a wholesome lifestyle, good dietary habits and exercise.

Healthy Heart Support:

Omega-3 Oil (Flax Oil or Fish Oil)
Fish oil is also known to improve cardiovascular health as well as some issues with diabetes. Therefore if you are overweight or obese, increasing fish oil intake is recommended along with an appropriate exercise program to improve your body composition and further reduce your cardiovascular risks. Alternatively add 1 tsp of Flax Seed Oil into the breakfast shake. It makes the drink more satisfying, and is a vegetarian source of omega 3 oils. Pharmaceutical and high-grade ultra pure fish and flax oil are available at IMI in wide ranges of omega oil combination, dosages and forms (capsules or naturally favored liquid).

Recommended brands & dosage:
1) Ultra Pure Fish Oil by Vital Nutrients. 360mg/240mg (lemon Flavour): 2 – 3 softgels daily
2) Essential Balance 3, 6, 9: A flax oil vegetarian option that can be mixed into the IsoWhey giving a satisfying effect. 1 teaspoon 1 - 2 times daily.

Stable Your Appetitie and Feel Fuller Longer:

Chromium GTF
The supplement helps to curb sugar cravings and may help restore normal cholesterol and blood sugar levels according to studies. 200mcg per day is commonly taken. 100% wholefood Chomium GTF is available at IMI.

The most nutritious plant on earth can be consumed as capsules. Taking 4-5 between meals is a good way to manage appétit with a high fiber and hi nutrient food supplement. It also assists purifying the colon and takes away heavy metals like mercury and arsenic from the body.

Fiber curbs appetite and if taken before meals reduces the meal portion and makes you feel full for longer. Flax seed meal added to the protein drinks is recommended. There are other fiber products available as well. SatisFibre - This supplement can complement IsoWhey shakes and contribute to the sense of fullness. Soluble fibre slows the rate of absorption of fat and carbohydrates from food, which helps to maintain normal healthy cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Product of Australia, available at IMI.

Metabolism and Energy Booster:

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10 plays a key role in energy production and is essential for all energy dependent processes. For this reason, CoQ10 may help to increase capacity for exercise, increase endurance, and reduce recovery time after exercise.

Moreover, it is thought that in some individuals, the predisposition to become overweight may be associated with a genetic tendency towards decreased energy production (thermogenesis). One study of obese individuals (approximately half of whom were CoQ10 deficient) found that daily supplementation with CoQ10 in addition to a calorie-restricted diet more than doubled the amount of weight lost after 8-9 weeks of dieting in those who were CoQ10 deficient at the onset. (Murray MT. Encyclopedia of nutritional supplements: the essential guide for improving your health naturally. Roseville, CA: Prima Health, 1996.)

Pharmaceutical grade CoQ10 is available at IMI.

Healthy Liver Support and Detoxification:

Green Tea Extract
Green tea is thermogenic like Q10, and the tea or the capsules really help. It also supports detoxification during your program.

LG Cleanse – for Detox
This is a herbal formula that also assists bowel frequency. Taking 2 twice daily with the meals or ideally with hot water before the meals will assist detoxification. This way your IsoWhey program is also a detox program. Product of Canada, available at IMI.

Liver Support
Supplements with liver support features can help to eliminate fats out of the liver that is beneficial to your weight-loss process. Product of US, pharmaceutical grade liver support products are available at IMI.

Healthy Bone Support:

Calcium and magnesium work together to support a healthy cardiovascular system. Calcium is necessary to maintain healthy teeth and bones, while magnesium supports relaxed muscle and nerve function and heals the body to metabolize and absorb calcium.  Studies show that higher-calcium diets favor burning rather than storing fat. Calcium changes the efficiency of weight loss. Magnesium is involved in the synthesis of protein, and it is an important co-factor in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the human body, many of which contribute to the production of energy, and with cardiovascular functions. Commonly suggested intake ratio of 2:1 for calcium and magnesium. They also help reduce the acidity during the detoxification and weight-loss process. 

Recommended brands & dosage:
Vital Nutrients Calcium & Magnesium (200mg/100mg). 1 - 2 capsules once or twice daily. Calcium generally recommended at night. 

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Is Your Digestive System Making You Fat?digestive system

by Graeme Bradshaw, Naturopath, Homeopath and Founding Director, IMI

I have written quite a few articles on gut health and how our digestive system affect our immunity, mood, and other aspect of our health and wellness.

It is my experience that very often we need to first address the underlying issues in the gut in order to make other conditions such as eczema, chronic fatigue or joint pain go away.

Recently I came across an interesting article written by Dr Mark Hyman on the digestive system and the extra weight. I would like to summarize his original article and share with you some of the important points.

Dr Hyman has seen patients who lose significant amounts of weight, just by cutting food allergens from their diet. He has also seen people lose 8 to15kg, simply by balancing the "bacterial ecosystem" in their intestinal system, just as we have here at IMI.

One of his patients, a 42-year-old woman, suffered from chronic inflammation, fluid retention, acne, fatigue, and joint pain, as well as irritable bowel syndrome with bloating and gas. She had tried every known diet, but was unable to lose weight.

Dr Hyman believed that the reason she could not lose weight was the inflammation, caused by the imbalances in her gut and the food sensitivities. The fluid retention, eczema and joint pains were all signs of her inflammation.

Amazingly, she lost 14 kg in a few months and all her other symptoms went away after she eliminated the foods to which she was allergic or sensitive to, and was given healthy probiotic bacteria to heal her gut.

"The big debate in medicine is which comes first: inflammation or obesity," wrote Dr Hyman, "I have always believed that we become inflamed first, and gain weight second—which makes us even more inflamed, perpetuating the cycle."

He cited 2 studies conducted in Europe, both of them linking inflammation and weight gain, and thus explain their implications for treating obesity, heart disease, diabetes and more.

The first study, published in December 2007, looked at two groups of children. The first group was overweight and the second was normal weight. The researchers measured three key factors connected to inflammation:

1. High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP)—a marker that shows the general level of inflammation in the body

2. Plaque or thickening in the carotid arteries (the main arteries that supply the brain), through ultrasound

3. IgG protein, an antibody that indicates delayed food allergies

The researchers found that the overweight kids had a 3 times higher level of CRP (inflammation marker) and a 2.5 times higher level of IgG antibodies to foods, indicating food intolerance.

The overweight children also had much thicker carotid arteries, which is a sign of early atherosclerosis and an indicator of heart disease.

This study suggests that these food allergies are a cause of the inflammation and obesity, not a consequence. IgG causes inflammation in many organs throughout the body.

The authors of the study explain that damage to the gut can lead to a leaky gut, allowing food particles to be exposed to the gut's immune system. This then triggers a system-wide immune response, leading to inflammation all over the body and producing obesity by increasing insulin resistance.

"Inflammation from any cause—bacteria, food, a high-sugar, high-fat diet—will produce insulin resistance, leading to higher insulin levels," explains Dr Hyman. "And since insulin is a fat storage hormone, you store more fat, mostly around the belly."

This study draws a remarkable link that has received little attention by conventional medicine.

The second study was published in the July 2007 issue of Diabetes.

Researchers took thin mice and then fed them a very high-fat diet. The gut bacterial flora was affected by such change in diet: toxin-producing bacteria are promoted by the high-fat diet while anti-inflammatory and protective bacteria were eliminated.

The researchers found that mice fed the equivalent of an American diet produced more of a bacterial toxin called LPS (lipopolysaccharide), which then leaked into the body through their leaky gut.

In humans, these toxins then latch onto immune cells, stimulating them to produce a firestorm of inflammatory molecules (such as the cytokines TNFa, IL-6, and IL-1), which in turn produce insulin resistance, fatty liver, and obesity. Insulin resistance is effectively a block to our healthy energy producing metabolism.

"When you eat a bad diet, bad bugs flourish. Your whole gut ecosystem is upset and the outside world leaks in across a damaged gut lining," wrote Dr Hyman, "the result is not just obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, but so many allergic, autoimmune, and inflammatory diseases."

Even more interesting, the researchers also found that even with a normal diet, injecting LPS into the mice led to the same problems – inflammation and obesity. These mice didn't eat a bad diet. Just injecting toxins into them made them fat.

The researchers explain that by adding soluble fiber, such as oats, to the diet, the mice can increase the population of the good bacteria like bifidobacteria and decrease the bad bugs – leading to weight loss.

"When you eat a typical American diet, you foster the growth of bad bugs in the gut. They then damage the gut lining and produce toxins that are absorbed into your system", says Dr Hyman. "Because of the leaky gut damage, partially digested food particles also leak into your bloodstream. Then your immune system reacts to the toxins and foods, producing a firestorm of inflammation from the immunoglobulin IgG".

Dr Hyman's original article can be found here:

My own observation and experience accord with Dr Hyman's article—a toxic gut makes us fat and sick because it makes us inflamed.

The most common food intolerances contributing to the inflammation are to dairy, eggs, and wheat or gluten in the early stages, but as the insulin resistance develops, troubles develop with sugar and yeasts, too.

Many doctors following the Functional Medicine approach to health, including myself and Dr Hyman, find that the elimination diet—especially with dairy, wheat and sugar—is the basis for a turn around to most chronic health problems including stubborn weight issues.

The other aspect to create this change is to remove the bacterial and yeast toxins. Removing both the intestinal toxins and the inflammation-causing foods is essential in correcting chronic health issues.

What Tests Can You Do To Check For These Issues?

• An IgG Food Intolerance blood spot test sent to Great Plains lab in USA will identify IgG sensitivities to over 100 foods as well as to Candida albicans, a common toxic yeast.

• Great Plains Labs also offer an excellent Organic Acid Urine Test. This directly measures the levels of bacterial and yeast/Candida toxins absorbed from the intestines, accurately identifying the need for treatment for Candida and bacterial infections in the gut.

• Blood testing for Insulin Resistance and CRP ultrasensitive (measures of blood sugar and inflammation troubles) are also easily arranged at IMI

Does An Elimination Diet Based On IgG Results Lead to Weightloss?

A recent study by researcher in The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine shed light on elimination diet, chronic inflammation and weightloss.

The paper titled "Eliminating Immunologically-Reactive Foods from the Diet and its Effect on Body Composition and Quality of Life in Overweight Persons" was publiched in the February 2012 issue of theJournal of Obesity & Weight Loss Therapy.

It assessed the effect of an Immunoglobulin G (IgG) food sensitivity test—in combination with a food elimination diet—on weight, body mass index, and quality of life in people who wanted to lose weight and/or were overweight.

In this study, 115 foods were tested on a total of 120 subjects aged 18 and over to see which food provoked an IgG-mediated antibody response from the immune system.

"The results of our study showed that participants lost an average of almost 1 pound per week, which is just under the recommendation of what is considered safe, healthy, and potentially permanent weight loss," said John E. Lewis, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and Associate Director of the Medical Wellness Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Additionally, participants lost nearly 3 inches from the waist, as opposed to just under 1.5 inches from the hip, providing support for improvements in central obesity, which is a strong risk factor for metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other inflammatory diseases.

Participants also noted substantial subjective improvements in both physical and mental quality of life.

IgG blood spot testing is a simple, affordable test can help identify food intolerances or hidden food sensitivities that may contribute to obesity, according to Dr Lewis.

He added that several prior studies have linked inflammation in the digestive tract to obesity. "It's likely that these reactive foods have a chronic inflammatory effect on the body," he said.

"Once you subtract those foods from the diet, the immune system can regulate, which lowers the chronic, systemic inflammation, and thus helps people to lose weight."


Lewis et al. Eliminating immunologically-reactive foods fom the diet and its effect on body composition and quality of life in overweight persons. J Obes Weigt Loss Ther 2012:2(1);

IgG antibodies against food antigens are correlated with inflammation and intima media thickness in obese juveniles.

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Having Unhealthy Food Cravings? Decode What Your Body Really Wantscravings

by Dr. Benita Perch (ND), Licensed Naturopathic Physician, IMI

Hunger and cravings are two different sensations. Our body regulates hunger, signaling our brains that it's time to eat. With food cravings, there could be a myriad of reasons.

One of those reasons could be food intolerance. Strangely, our body often craves the thing that is worst for us. Some of the food we crave and eat on a daily basis could cause low-grade inflammation in our bodies. Although there are times that the body is lacking in certain vitamins or minerals and will crave for such foods, this is in fact the least common reason. Another reason is dysbiosis or the imbalance of good and bad bacteria and the parasites like candida in our intestines that feed on sugar and therefore can cause cravings.

Our cravings can be important, but encrypted messages from our body, telling us what we really lack. Understanding why we crave certain foods will encourage us to try alternatives that will improve our overall health.

If you are low in energy and sugar, you are likely to crave for more easily obtainable forms of sugar like chocolate, to give you a boost. However, if you are chronically stressed and have adrenal burn out, you are likely to crave salt.

When we are sad or stressed we tend to crave comfort foods that remind us of our childhood, or we crave carbohydrates, which cause the release of serotonin—the 'happy neurotransmitter' in our brains. In these times choosing the right carbohydrate is important for our health. So instead of eating French fries and mashed potatoes, which may increases serotonin levels but cause food intolerances, weight gain and candida, go for sweet potatos, grilled wedges (not fried) or mashed cauliflower. Instead of cream based pasta or macaroni and cheese, go for brown rice or pasta and try using coconut cream to make pastas creamy and slightly healthier.

Chocolates too is craved due to low blood sugar, to increase serotonin. It also contains magnesium, which is often why women crave it before their periods. When craving rather go for dark chocolate, cacao, carob and fruit.

Having dairy cravings usually indicates a food intolerance, so go for goats cheese, rice, almond, soy or coconut substitutes which are healthier alternatives to cow's milk products. Craving salt, potato chips (crisps) or fast food is most often a sign of adrenal fatigue. Instead you should go for celery, limes and lemons, or berries and citrus foods to provide your body with vitamin C. Seeds and quality animal protein are all good for healing the adrenals.

If you are emotionally lacking some excitement in life you may crave Tom Yum Soup or some spicy food to give you a kick. These are not bad for you, if taken in moderation. But if you crave meat, this could actually be a mineral deficiency of iron or your body needing more protein and you should try to eat healthy grass-fed free-range meat.

You might also crave eggs if your body needs protein or have a sulphur deficiency. So try eating organic free-range eggs either poached or boiled. But eggs too are often a common food intolerance and the craving is not always a good thing.

Most often we crave caffeine in the form of cola or coffee when you are suffering from adrenal fatigue but it is addictive and should be avoided. Instead try having green tea as an alternative.

Beer cravings are often for the yeast in beer that feeds the candida in the gut. So instead try drinking whisky or vodka with soda.

Craving ice, clay or dirt is a condition called "pica" and it is when a person is iron deficient. In homeopathy, strange food cravings are a sign that the body is out of balance and the right homeopathic remedy balances the body and stops the craving. But common cravings like salt and sugar can often give a clue to the indicated homeopathic remedy, too.

To truly understand your cravings, you can test for food intolerances through elimination diets or an IgG test, which is available in IMI. Our naturopaths can help you with your digestive and nutritional issues.

A nathuropath-led detoxification program can often help with unhealthy, intense cravings for sugar, alcohol, or other more severe addictions. Here is more information on the clinical detox program.  

The next time you crave for a certain food, try to understand what you body is telling you and go for the better, healthier alternative instead!

Make positive changes for your health and wellness, one step at a time. We at IMI can help you protect your health and achieve long-term goals of total wellness. For more information, call 2523 7121.

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diets sad

Why “Diets” Don’t Work

By Monica Proctor, Holistic Health and Wellness Coach, IMI

From low fat to low carbs to protein diets and even liquid diets, people will try almost anything in their frantic desire to shed a few pounds. Although diets can produce results in the short term, very few dieters maintain their weight loss, no matter which diet they try and a high proportion of dieters regain more weight than they started with. So, why don't diets work?

During the dieting process

  1. Metabolism slows down: In an effort to conserve energy, the body views dieting as a threat to survival. Willpower alone cannot override our body’s response driven by evolution.
  2. More focus on food: We feel more hungry constantly counting calories and considering what foods we can or cannot eat.
  3. Emotionally deprived: 'Everybody is eating what I'm not allowed to. They can have it - why cant I?' These feelings make us more susceptible to seeking high calorie comfort foods.
  4. Rebound eating: Biochemistry and psycho-emotional reasons lead the body to believe that it needs more food otherwise it will die.
  5. Yo Yo dieting: Upon resuming our usual diet, we regain fat weight making us want to re-shed and reassume dieting again.
  6. Deregulated Appetite: We begin to distrust our body’s food instincts and signals for hunger, cravings, fullness and satisfaction, instead we begin to rely on external signals, loosing connection with our own innate internal ones.
  7. Unbalanced mood regulators: Neurotransmitters such as a lack of serotonin, enhances cravings for carbohydrates which naturally raise serotonin levels.  Dieting normally decreases tryptophan intake (a building block of serotonin) further increasing our cravings and depression about eating.

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Principles of Eating

group eating2

By Monica Proctor, Holistic Health and Wellness Coach, IMI 

It’s important to re-establish good eating habits and to be mindful during the process:

1) Eat when Physically Hungry: Physical hunger gives rise to physical symptoms, e.g. your stomach may growl. It’s not driven by a compulsion, you can wait knowing you are hungry. It gets bigger the longer it's been since you last ate.  It occurs when you have fully digested and utilized your last food intake and need more fuel. If you do not pay attention to this hunger, you may become irritable, shaky, light headed or get a headache. Once you have eaten you feel sated. Emotional hunger comes suddenly and is triggered by an emotion.

2) Eat with Awareness and Enjoyment: Choose foods that satisfy your own internal assessment not an external good or bad classification. Eating is a natural, innate organic process, avoid ignoring cravings. Stay connected to body signals related to appetite, chew slowly to release taste and facilitate digestion. Consider a quiet environment to restore connections.

3) Stop eating when full (a quantitative measure) and satisfied (a qualitative measure). Your memory of food peaks after about four bites, so if you only have those bites, a week later you'll recall it as just a good experience than if you polished off the whole thing.

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Mindful Eating

check burger

By Monica Proctor, Holistic Health and Wellness Coach, IMI

So often we eat mindlessly. We stuff food into our mouths while working on the computer, watching TV, or when we’re on the run. The pleasure of eating lies in slowing down and fully experiencing all of the elements of food. Take some time to explore each of the following during your next meal and notice the difference.

Sight: Look at your food and imagine you are a Martian scientist. You just arrived on Earth and have never seen this food before. Look at it carefully without naming it. Can you see the water, the rain and the sunlight within the food?

Smell: Bring the food up to your nose. Without naming the scent, experience smelling the food, and then describe what you smell.

Physiological reaction: Now focus on what is going on in your mouth. Begin to notice that saliva is produced, even though you haven't yet put the food in your mouth. Notice the mind/body phenomenon and how the senses respond to the anticipation of food being eaten.

Touch: Now explore how the food feels. Without naming the sensation, just experience touching your food.

Motion and movement: How is it that your hand knows how to move the food directly to the lips? As you bring the food up to your mouth, notice what happens next. The mouth receives the food. Nothing goes into the mouth without it being received. And who or what is doing the receiving? The tongue. Observe what the tongue does with it. How does it get the food between the teeth? It's amazing that the tongue is so skilled, and that such a remarkable muscle can actually receive food and then know what to do with it every time.

Taste: After becoming aware of the food in your mouth, start biting into it very slowly. Then begin to chew. Notice that the tongue decides which side of the mouth it's going to chew on. Give all your attention to your mouth and take a few bites. Then stop to experience what's happening. What is happening is invariably an explosion of taste. Express what's going on. Be really specific. What is the experience? Is it sweet or sour or juicy? There are hundreds of words to describe the experience of tasting.

Texture: As you continue to chew the tastes change, as does the consistency. At a certain point you will become aware of the texture of the food because the taste has mostly passed. If the texture causes aversion, you may want to swallow it, but try to keep it in your mouth.

Swallow: Don’t swallow it yet. Stay with the impatience and the inborn impulse to swallow. Do not swallow until you detect the impulse to do so. And then observe what is involved in getting the food over to the place where it's going to be swallowed. When you detect the impulse to swallow, follow it down into the stomach, feel your whole body and acknowledge that your body is now exactly one bite heavier.

Breath: Next, pause for a moment or two, and see if you can taste your breath in a similar way. Bring the same quality of attention to the breath that you gave to seeing, feeling, smelling and tasting the food.

Silence: Be silent. By this point, you understand something of what meditation is. It is doing what we do all the time, except we're doing it with attention: directed, moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental attention.

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Hunger Games

By Monica Proctor, Holistic Health and Wellness Coach, IMI

mindful eatingThinking about getting a snack? Want a second helping? Shouldn’t it be easy to figure out if you are really hungry? Your emotions can make this situation very tricky. When you’re sad or depressed, you may try to fix these feelings with food even though there is no physical need, causing you to overeat, feel guilty and typically not even solve the problem that started the urge in the first place.

According to Hong Kong counselling psychologist, Catriona Rogers, physical hunger gives rise to physical symptoms: your stomach may growl, for example. It’s not driven by a compulsion; you can wait knowing you are hungry. But the symptoms get more intense the longer it’s been since you last ate. They occur when you have fully digested and utilised your last food intake and need more fuel. If you do not pay attention to this hunger, you may become irritable, shaky, light-headed or get a headache. Once you have eaten you feel sated.

Food for thought

Unlike physical hunger, emotional hunger comes on suddenly. It’s triggered by an emotion, although most people do not recognise this. You are driven to feed your feeling, not your stomach. Catriona says, “Most commonly, people eat when they are down, depressed, lonely, bored, tense, angry or sad. Food is a good way of stuffing down the emotion and avoiding feeling it fully.” Often you crave something very specific, like a comfort food. But when you have finished eating, the feelings you were avoiding are still there.

We attach different emotions to different foods. Sometimes we even programme our kids to respond to foods at an early age: when they’re sad, we give them cookies and sweets. When they misbehave, it’s off to bed without dinner. Rewards of sweets for good behaviour can set up patterns for emotional eating.

Catriona advises parents and children to listen to their own bodies, to eat slowly and to chew their food properly and mindfully, becoming aware when you are physically full. Finally, she notes the importance of talking and educating children about emotional eating and feelings. If your child is bingeing on food and you think it’s emotional eating, broach the subject and suggest some “real food” rather than the comfort foods that tend to be used in emotional eating.

Keep it in check

To manage your emotions, it’s important to check in with yourself, establish new habits and keep a journal. If you’re lonely or bored, try calling a friend or family member.

If you are stressed, try yoga, get some exercise or take a bath. If you are tired, rethink your meal and sleep routines. If you are eating to procrastinate, start the very thing you are avoiding.  From a nutritional standpoint, it’s good to ensure you are properly hydrated: drink some water, then see if you are still hungry after 20 to 30 minutes. Reduce refined carbohydrates, which result in short- lived, feel good neuro-chemicals and spikes in blood sugar levels. Also, have a good supply of essential fatty acids, which are found in fish, eggs and nuts, as these can affect mood.  If you want to eat smart, deciding what to eat is only part of the equation. Before you indulge in another helping, it’s important to stop and think. Figure out if your stomach is really hungry or if it’s your mind or your heart that needs attention instead. Don’t be afraid to get help. You can take advantage of counsellors, nutritionists and fitness experts who can help you create a healthier relationship with food. 

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New Study Suggests Health Coaches Are Key to Weight Loss


By Monica Proctor, Holistic Health and Wellness Coach, IMI

Does the support of a Health Coach increase the likelihood that people will reach their health goals? Health coaches could play an important role in the battle of the bulge, according to a new research.

Findings from a pilot study conducted at the Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center show that obese individuals participating in a weight loss program that were supported by a professional Health Coach or peer lost clinically significant amounts of weight (i.e., at least 5 percent of their initial body weight).

Interestingly, the weight losses were comparable to the amount of weight lost by patients participating in a more intensive behavioral intervention with twice as many treatment sessions.

Health Coaches offer additional support, accountability, and information to motivate behavioral change between treatment visits, which is likely why weight loss patients get better results when working with a coach.

Obesity is no longer an "American problem", but has grown into a worldwide epidemic. The World Health Organization reports that 1.6 billion adults worldwide are obese.

While researchers state that more studies will need to be conducted to confirm the results, the growing evidence of Health Coaches’ impact is an optimistic sign in our fight to overcome the obesity crisis.

Accountability is a key factor in Health Coaches’ ability to help patients reach their goals, but the format is flexible. Last year, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that even long-distance health coaching (via phone sessions) was highly effective.

The role of Health Coaches has only started to be defined. As doctors consider the effectiveness of “vegetable prescriptions” over invasive medications, and traditional healthcare costs continue to rise, health coaching is primed to become a leading alternative in our fight for a healthier, happier future.

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Are You a Skinny Fat Person?

skinnyfatBy Monica Proctor, Holistic Health and Wellness Coach, IMI

Don’t you just love those fabulous looking people that never work out, eat whatever they wish and still manage to stay slim? It’s a popular notion that if you are overweight you are unhealthy, and if you are thin, you are healthy. Don’t get caught up with appearances, new research points to just how dangerous being a skinny fat person or in medical terms metabolically obese normal weight, meaning that you may be under lean and over fat.

So why does this matter? A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that nearly 1 in 4 skinny people have pre-diabetes (signs may include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or high cholesterol) and are “metabolically obese.” In addition, if you are a skinny fat person and get diagnosed with diabetes, you have twice the risk of death than if you are overweight when diagnosed with diabetes. Let alone laying the foundation for other chronic illnesses.

Following the steps to being a skinny healthy person is an effective way to upgrade your body’s energy, biology and sleep. The key is to get the right tests done by your physician and follow a healthy lifestyle to maintain a balanced body composition.

Steps to a Skinny Healthy Person

  1. Eat a low-glycemic load diet, include protein in every meal and “crowd out” processed oils, foods, and sugar. Consider taking high quality supplements that fit your needs.
  2. Power up with an exercise plan that includes cardio and strength training, to boost metabolism and muscle mass.
  3. Manage stress levels and protect sleep time, lack of these trigger cravings for carbs and impact metabolism.

Mark Hyman, MD, The Blood Sugar Solution 

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