9 Ways to Lose Weight (And Keep It Off) Without Changing Your Life

According to Science Daily, the number one reason why diets fail is because dieters underestimate the amount of calories they consume.

In reality, it goes far deeper than that. Miscounting calories isn’t the problem. That’s only an indicator of a far greater issue: that the dieting measures most people take are overly prohibitive.

Many of us associate dieting with restriction and sacrifice — doing things we don’t want to do in order to improve ourselves. That association (and the subsequent actions we take as a result) is typically what trips us up when it comes to losing weight.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I have discovered that you can lose weight and keep it off without making any drastic lifestyle changes. Furthermore, I’ve made it my personal goal to reveal this truth to as many people as possible, which is why you’re reading this.

Mindset

Before I get onto the specifics, I want to discuss something far more important than any dieting tip I can give you: your mindset. Regardless of how effective my tips are, they’ll be worth little if you don’t approach diet from the right perspective.

The biggest mindset adjustment you need to make is your desire for quick results. Why? Because quick results require great sacrifice and are typically unsustainable in the long run.

Here’s an example. A pound of fat is equal to approximately 3,500 calories. Therefore, if you want to burn 3lbs of fat per week, you will need to consume a deficit of 10,500 calories per week, or ~1,400 calories per day. If your recommended daily intake is 2,000 calories, that means (in theory) that you must consume no more than 400 calories per day. Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

I refer to calories only to underline just how onerous the task of quick weight loss is, because I don’t actually want you to focus on your calorie consumption. My approach to diet is far more intuitive and relies upon a subjective observation of how you look and feel over a period of weeks and months, not days. But my point remains: you must divorce yourself from the desire to lose weight quickly.

Doing so is easier than you might think. The reason why most people are keen for quick weight loss is because they want to get off the diet as soon as possible (because it is overly prohibitive). That in itself should highlight the fatal flaw in dramatic dieting: that you’re likely to put all the weight back on when you come off the diet. Such dieting represents a vicious cycle.

Instead of that, you can create a diet that results in gradual, sustainable weight loss and requires little to no willpower. A diet that you can maintain for the long term. A diet that allows you to eat all of the things that you love. A diet that you can (dare I say it) actually enjoy.

In this case, the tortoise beats the hare almost every time, and does so without even breaking a sweat.

So let’s get down to it. If you adopt even just a couple of the tips below and make no other changes to your diet, you are likely to see positive results. And if you employ enough of them, you will observe sustained weight loss.

1. Consume Protein at Breakfast Time

A good breakfast is a protein-packed breakfast. In an article on WebMD about hunger-curbing foodsPurdue University nutrition professor Wayne Campbell, PhD had the following to say about the satiety benefits of protein:

You are most likely to feel fuller after eating protein than other nutrients, including fiber, and one of the theories behind why higher-protein diets work well with weight loss is because it helps you not [to] feel hungry.

That statement was on the back of two studies from Purdue in which it was argued that you are likely to feel less hungry after eating a protein-rich breakfast when compared to an equivalent meal made up of carbohydrates.

I’m sure we can all think of a protein-rich breakfast meal that we would love to eat. Now you can do so without guilt, safe in the knowledge that it can help you to lose weight. When I do eat breakfast (which is rare these days), my meal of choice is grilled bacon and poached eggs.

Speaking of eggs, in a study presented at the 2007 Experimental Biology meeting, researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center compared weight loss between two groups of dieters. The first group ate bagels for breakfast, the second group ate eggs. Researcher Nikhil V. Dhurandhar, PhD concluded the following:

Compared to the bagel eaters, overweight women who ate two eggs for breakfast five times a week for eight weeks, as part of a low-fat, reduced-calorie diet, lost 65% more weight, reduced waist circumference by 83% [and] reported higher energy levels.

When people eat [sic] eggs, rich in protein, at breakfast, they felt more satisfied and consumed fewer calories throughout the day, compared to those who ate a primarily carbohydrate meal like a bagel.

The moral of the story is this: a high protein breakfast helps to keep you full and, by extension, can help you to lose weight.

2. Skip Breakfast

Past studies have claimed that eating breakfast provides many benefits for health and weight loss: it boosts your metabolism, prevents you from overeating, positively affects your mood and more (depending upon who you speak to).

However, these claims are typically based upon dated or small-scale studies that follow spurious lines of reasoning. More recent studies have concluded that breakfast is no more important than any other meal when it comes to weight loss.

I mentioned above that I rarely eat breakfast these days — probably once per week. Why? Because it is by far the easiest and least challenging way to lose weight that I know of.

Several studies have concluded that by skipping breakfast, you are likely to consume far less over the course of the day. One such study measured a net calorific deficit of 400 calories per day amongst subjects that skipped breakfast. That’s 2,800 calories per week, which is approximately equivalent to 0.8lbs of fat.

The old argument that you make up for lost calories from skipping breakfast later in the day has been discounted. Although you are likely to consume more calories later in the day than you would have otherwise, the net result will be a calorific deficit.

However, what about the negative side effects commonly attributed to skipping breakfast, such as hunger pangs and decreased alertness? While it is true that you are initially likely to experience what you consider to be hunger pangs, your brain is fooling you. After all, you can survive for weeks without any food; I think you can manage a morning. The “hunger pangs” you feel are nothing more than your body expecting food out of sheer habit. Go without breakfast and after a period of time (possibly just days), the hunger pangs will reduce to a more than tolerable level and eventually disappear altogether. I say this from personal experience.

As for decreased alertness, some studies on children have argued that skipping breakfast can lead to decreased cognition and academic performance, but findings are sketchy at best. A systematic review of 45 studies conducted between 1950 and 2008 concluded as follows:

The evidence indicates that breakfast consumption is more beneficial than skipping breakfast, but this effect is more apparent in children whose nutritional status is compromised … Few studies examined adolescents. Studies of school breakfast programmes suggest that such interventions can have positive effects on academic performance, but this may be in part explained by the increased school attendance that programmes encourage.

So if you’re a malnourished child who is likely to skip school if you don’t have breakfast, you should probably eat breakfast. Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about it.

I’ll conclude with a simple suggestion: try skipping breakfast for a few days and see how it goes. Give your body a chance to adjust. Drink plenty of fluids to combat your hunger pangs and look forward to an even more satisfying lunch. It could be all you need to do to lose weight.

3. Give Up Liquid Calories

There are generally three reasons why people want to (or are happy to) drink liquid calories:

  1. Caffeine
  2. Ignorance
  3. Taste

The first reason isn’t good enough – after all, you can get caffeine from all sorts of non-calorific sources (as demonstrated in this chart).

The second reason represents a lack of appreciation for how many liquid calories you are consuming (in which case I’ll refer you back to the aforementioned chart).

The third reason is somewhat understandable, but ultimately an issue of perspective.

I mentioned at the top of this article that any weight loss is to be celebrated. So, let’s say for a moment that you wanted to lose just ½lb per week, which is equivalent to around 1,750 calories per week or 250 calories per day. A 500ml bottle of Coca Cola is equal to 210 calories per day. Cutting out that bottle a day would lead to a deficit (over your existing diet) of 1,470 calories per week, equal to approximately 0.42lbs per week. By just cutting out those liquid calories, you can theoretically lose nearly ½lb per week without doing anything else.

Even if you really enjoy your Coca Cola, you can replace it with Diet Coke. Although it may not taste quite as good as what you’re used to, you will find that your taste buds adjust over time (mine certainly did). There is almost always a good zero-calorie substitute for whatever liquid calories you are currently consuming.

4. Use “Sensory Overload” to Stop Hunger Pangs

When it comes to hunger pangs, my strategy of sensory overload is foolproof in the sense that if you are still experiencing hunger pangs when you have completed the process, you can be sure that you are genuinely hungry and should perhaps therefore eat something relatively substantial. However, the chances are that you will rarely get to that point.

I’m not going to pretend like this process is complicated – it is about as simple as it gets. But its simplicity does not detract from its effectiveness. Just follow these five steps:

  1. Drink a tall glass of water
  2. Drink a cup of tea or coffee
  3. Eat a piece of fruit (like an apple or a banana)
  4. Eat a healthy low-calorie snack (like a Nakd Bar – my personal favorite)
  5. Drink a tall glass of water

The idea here is that you are overloading your senses with a number of stimuli – a variety of tastes, textures and even temperatures, not to mention a considerable volume of liquid. Hunger pangs are often psychological (e.g. you crave chocolate because you like the taste) or habitual (e.g. you experience hunger pangs at lunchtime because your body is used to eating then, not because you need to eat) rather than physical, and overloading your senses with a variety of food can coax your brain back into a state of perceived satiety.

If you follow the above five steps and are still hungry after fifteen minutes or so, feel free to eat something more substantial. You’re almost certainly hungry in a physiological sense. But the chances of you still wanting to eat at that point (regardless of whether you actually feel hungry) will be pretty slim – you should feel pretty full.

This can also be a great process to follow when you are tempted to snack on unhealthy foods. Allow yourself to eat your snack of choice, but only after you have followed the above five steps. Once you’re done with the five steps, you may not feel like it anymore. If you do, have at it.

5. Keep a Food Diary

A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine observed 1,685 participants, all on calorie-restricted diets. The average weight loss per person after twenty weeks was 13lbs. But here’s the kicker: those who logged what they ate lost an average of 18lbs, compared to an average 9lbs for those who didn’t. By virtue of increased awareness, those who kept food diaries managed to lose twice as much weight.

The takeaway is this: you should probably be keeping a food diary. Don’t worry about the calories – just the simple act of writing down the meals and snacks you eat will increase your awareness of what you’re eating and aid you in your weight loss efforts.

I’m deliberately not linking to any online food diary apps here as they are typically bloated and tempt you to start tracking everything from calories to macronutrients. Instead, I advocate a simple approach to food logging: just use a text file, spreadsheet, or just paper and pen. If you want to stay electronic and link sync your data across devices, I recommend Evernote.

6. Work For Your Snacks

I’ll never suggest that you ban yourself from eating your favorite snacks. However, you certainly could benefit from making them a little less accessible.

Will this really help? Science says yes. It’s all to do with convenience.

In an article on overeating on This Emotional Life, Suzanne Phillips, PsyD referenced a handful of studies that hammer home the effects of convenience on eating (paraphrased):

In one study, a dish of chocolate kisses was moved over the course of weeks to different locations in secretaries’ office: the corner of the desk, the top of the left hand drawer and on a file cabinet six feet from the desk. It was discovered that the further the dish was from people, the less they ate – a difference reflected in 225 extra calories a day. In the debriefing, the secretaries revealed that the longer the distance, the more time they had to talk themselves out of eating another piece!

In another study a cooler full of free ice cream was placed in a cafeteria. It was in the same place every day, but on some days the glass lid was left open and on other days it was closed. On the closed lid days only 14% of the diners had ice cream compared with 30% on the days it was left open.

We’re talking about a simple exercise in psychology: if you’re getting a craving for a particular snack then put yourself in a position where you have to put effort into get hold of it. Don’t make it as simple as opening a cupboard – make it so that you have to walk or drive to your local store.

That little extra effort required may be enough discouragement to convince you not to have the snack (or choose a healthier alternative that you already have in the house). Worst case, you’ll burn a few more calories making the trip to get the snack!

If you want a more challenging version of this and your local store is a semi-considerable distance away (say a mile or so), resolve to walk to the store if you want to get a snack. Your net calories consumed will be lower.

7. Measure Your Portions

In the past a typical serving of spaghetti for me would be anywhere from 160 to 200 strands of spaghetti, which equates to 525-700 calories (yeah — I like pasta). I would grab a healthy handful of spaghetti (perhaps 150 strands), then, fearing I was doing myself a disservice, grab a few more just for good measure.

Then I started measuring out my spaghetti to around 150 grams (which is around 150 strands). In doing so I saved myself from consuming an additional 35-175 calories. I didn’t feel like I was cheating myself either — I was just taking my greed out of the equation and measuring out an amount of spaghetti that I knew would satisfy me.

In my experience, knowing what amount of food will fill you up and making only that much can lead to weight loss with no perceived reduction in satisfaction and satiety. This is backed up by a compelling soup study (yep, you read that right) conducted by Cornell University. In the study, one group were given a normal bowl of soup to eat, while another group were given an automatically-refilling bowl of soup. The outcome was telling:

Participants who were unknowingly eating from self-refilling bowls ate more soup than those eating from normal soup bowls. However, despite consuming 73% more, they did not believe they had consumed more, nor did they perceive themselves as more sated than those eating from normal bowls.

The conclusion was similarly compelling:

These findings are consistent with the notion that the amount of food on a plate or bowl increases intake because it influences consumption norms and expectations and it lessens one’s reliance on self-monitoring. It seems that people use their eyes to count calories and not their stomachs. The importance of having salient, accurate visual cues can play an important role in the prevention of unintentional overeating.

To put it another way, if a big portion of food is put on your plate, you brain tells you that you should eat it. On the other hand, a smaller portion can fill you up just as much and be just as satisfying (psychologically speaking) without the extra unwanted calorific load.

8. Use the Portion Reduction Method

This might feel like a tough one, especially for the kind of person I used to be: those who seemingly only feel satisfied when they eat to the point of slight sickness. It is however a highly effective way of eating less calories.

The method isn’t complicated: it begins with stopping when your body tells you that you’ve had enough at meal time. If you’re anything like me then it’ll take some time to rediscover this feeling, but it is there.

I appreciate that leaving food on the plate is often easier said than done. With that in mind, my suggestion is this: only put ¾ of the food you make on your plate. Then eat the meal slowly and give it fifteen minutes. If you’re still hungry then eat the rest — if not, put it in the bin. Yes, I know it’s a waste, but the quicker it’s in the bin, the sooner you can’t eat it. Then next time you know that you only need to make ¾ of the portion size (or even less, if you care to repeat the experiment). I call this the portion reduction method. It’s gonna be a thing.

I was talking about my spaghetti eating habits in the past tense above for good reason. These days, a serving of pasta for me is only about 75 grams — I just don’t have the appetite for a bigger portion these days. That is thanks to the portion reduction method.

9. Change Your Plates

According to Brian Wansink, head of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab and the author of Mindless Eating, dinner plate sizes have increased 36% since the 1960s. That corresponds with an increase in obesity in the US from ~15% in 1960 to ~30% in 2004. While correlation does not necessarily lead to causation, the relationship between these two variables is thought-provoking.

With the above in mind, you’ve probably read that if you use smaller plates you’ll eat less. However, that is not necessarily the case — a plate that is too small can simply convince you to go back for seconds or thirds, thus rendering the whole exercise pointless.

So instead of using smaller plates arbitrarily, find your ideal serving size then grab yourself a set of plates that makes your meals look suitably piled up. A mountain of food on a relatively small plate will seem bigger to you than a meal spread across a larger plate.

Conclusion

Over the past few months I have implemented all of the above strategies, and over those months I have been steadily losing weight. I’ve enabled myself to slowly develop habits that I previously would have thought unthinkable. It’s amazing how you can change your diet if you give your body the time it requires to gradually adjust.

I still enjoy all of the foods I love (sometimes in far too much abundance) and I never feel like I am restricting myself. I never thought that sustainable and enjoyable weight loss was possible, but that thought process was nothing more than a reflection of conventional wisdom. The simple fact is that all of the above tips cannot easily be tied to a product, which means that the dieting industry isn’t interested in talking about them. Fortunately, I am.

I am confident that the above tips can help you to lose weight. If you have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to fire away below!

Should You Believe Everything That Doctors Say on TV?

You see them everywhere. You recognize their names. And yes, they’re some of the most influential people you know.

These are what some like to call celebrity doctors, who have millions of followers that hang onto their every word. Whether or not it is deserved, these people are widely respected for their “wisdom.”

Celebrity doctors are not going away anytime soon, as the medical industry draws of tens of millions people in each year. Here at Healthy Enough (including yours truly), we watch some of these celebrities on TV and other forms of media every day.

Does that mean we should take all of their advice to heart? In other words, are celebrity doctors all they’re cracked up to be?

Before we dive into this question, let’s figure out why they’re so darned irresistible in the first place.

Why Are Celebrity Doctors So Popular?

They have Presence.

Any successful doctor celebrity is putting on a performance. They have a commanding voice and speak sensationally.  I dare you to watch an episode and try not to hear the words “quick results”, “unbelievable findings”, and “miraculous cure”.  Sometimes, they go so far as to make viewers believe that all cures work for everyone, and that every medical problem has a solution attached to it.

They seem like they truly believe in what they preach. Or, for the skeptics out there, they can pretend they believe it. So many of these doctors spread hope amongst us, and deliver promises (whether or not that is their intention) that sound nothing short of miraculous. People who watch these shows regularly notice that they provide the best, and most times, the easiest to achieve the results they want.

Can We Believe Them?

Maybe. (You didn’t expect me to give you a simple answer, did you?).

For one, we want so badly for what the doctors are saying to be true. We want so badly for those quick fixes to work, whether it’s our low energy levels or high cholesterol levels.  If there’s a product displayed in front of us and it comes with promises of a cure you’re desperately seeking to find, why wouldn’t you jump all over it?

We also want these solutions to work to because we like the people who are telling us that these so-called ‘miracle cures’ can actually cure us. Who wouldn’t want to watch a good looking person who happens to be charismatic and seem to truly care about our health?

Whether or not these products work, these doctors are making money off you. Some even have their own line of products that they push in media outlets. One such doctor likes to harp on conspiracy theories which questions the traditional medical industry and navigates fans to his products, which are – of course – much better.

I bet you’re not surprised to learn that many of these doctors have their own line of products or get some sort of kickbacks from promoting products on media. Not only that, but many of these doctors want you to go to their website, where they get paid per pageview. Yup, you guessed it – they have tons of ads on their website.

That’s not to say that doctor celebrities are all that bad.  You do have to remember that most of them were practicing physicians (and some currently still are) and do have some credibility. And while their advice isn’t for everyone, they probably aren’t basing it off of heresy alone.

So What Does This Mean?

It simply means that you cannot be blind about your health.

While there are many authority figures that might have some legitimate claims or solutions, it doesn’t mean it’s always the right one for you. Sure, these doctors’ claims may be legitimate, but you can’t simply hear what you want to hear, or believe what you want to believe.

The next time you hear of the latest miracle cure, do some research. Ask the advice or opinion or your doctor, or a trusted professional. Make sure you have all the tools necessary to make an informed decision.

Oh, and advice that claims it’ll cure you quickly and easily? It probably isn’t true.

Why You Should Eat Chocolate Every Day

Tom: The following is a guest post by Renee Knight: a freelance writer, editor and storyteller who loves covering health topics. You can find her at ReneeKnight.com.

I eat chocolate just about every day – and I think you should, too.

I let myself enjoy this sweet treat as a mid-morning snack and I don’t feel guilty about it or worry what it’s going to do to my waistline. In fact, I feel pretty good about my choice.

The key is, I’m not eating a milk chocolate candy bar filled with caramel (though that’s certainly okay once in a while). Instead, I’m choosing to get my chocolate fix from dark chocolate – a sweet treat that actually provides health benefits.

That’s the beauty of dark chocolate – not only does it satisfy my sweet tooth, it’s also good for me. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants that help protect the cardiovascular system and even might help promote weight loss. Even better, eating a small block of dark chocolate keeps me from splurging on a bowl of ice cream or a calorie-filled candy bar later in the day.

In the last few years, several studies have been released purporting the benefits of dark chocolate. And the possible health benefits for those who incorporate dark chocolate into their diet are myriad, including lower blood pressure, weight loss and decreased stroke risk.

The Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University recently completed a study that shows a specific antioxidant in cocoa prevented mice from gaining weight while also lowering their blood sugar. The exciting results of this 12-week study appeared in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Other recent studies show that dark chocolate may help prevent type two diabetes and lower the risk of developing heart disease.

Sounds great, right? Just remember, while choosing dark chocolate over milk chocolate provides several health benefits, that doesn’t mean you should eat an entire 3.5 ounce block in one sitting. Just like anything else, dark chocolate is best in moderation. I usually buy the bigger bars and eat one block at a time. I try different kinds just to mix it up, but I never opt for versions with nuts, caramel or any other popular candy filling. If you choose those varieties, you lose the health benefits and gain empty calories.

And don’t just put any ol’ bar of dark chocolate into your cart. Look at the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate – the higher the better – and check out the ingredient list. Any options with a long ingredient list likely aren’t your best bet.

I have to admit, while I’ve grown to love dark chocolate, I wasn’t a fan at first. Milk chocolate, with all its sugar and fillers, is my first love. If you’re used to milk or even white chocolate, dark chocolate can seem pretty bitter at first – especially when you’re eating versions with a high percentage of cocoa (which offer the most benefits).

To get past that, I pair my antioxidant rich chocolate with my favorite tea. It helps cut down the bitterness, which is honestly something I don’t even notice anymore. If you’re not a tea drinker, a glass of milk or even water may help as you adjust.

Next time a chocolate craving strikes, opt for high-cocoa dark chocolate rather than your go-to sugar-filled sweet treat. Keep a bar in your house like I do, or maybe buy a bag of mini dark chocolate bars to make it easier to stick to one serving at a time. Not only will this keep you from overindulging on not-so-good-for-you sweets later, you’ll enjoy the many health benefits that dark chocolate provides.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy dark chocolate? Tell us in the comments below!

Weight Loss: When Being Selfish is a Good Thing

Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
~ Dr. Seuss

Although weight loss doesn’t have to be a painful process, there are usually what I like to call “emotional start up costs” as you find your feet. It’s expected. We embrace it. Hooray for positive change!

Unfortunately, these costs are often accompanied by something far more damaging and insidious. Surprisingly, the source of this negativity is your friends and family – the people who are supposed to love you, house you, feed you, cuddle you when you have nightmares, hold back your hair when you’ve had one too many tequilas, drive the getaway car if you should decide to rob a bank, and so on.

Yup. Friends, family and other miscellaneous loved ones can often get jealous about what you’re doing the minute you start to take care of yourself and get – quite frankly – rude and unsupportive. I have experienced it first hand with my own weight loss and heard stories from the majority of my friends who’re currently on the same road as us all – the one to a healthier life.

Frustratingly, I’ve been in situations before when I’ve been socializing and have had food and drink literally waved under my nose. These are the kind of lines you have undoubtedly been victim of:

You can have one more. It’s a special occasion!

Can’t you just have a night off?

All this healthy eating isn’t good for you. You’ve got to live!

Sigh.

Yes, it is a special occasion. Yes, from time to time, you do need a night off. The last line’s just plain ignorant, in my eyes, but you may feel differently. And yes, it’s been said to me more than once. But what happens when there was a special occasion last weekend too?

Personally, it upsets me that these people who are supposed to do all of the things I listed above actually don’t respect my decision to turn myself into something better.

You have to remember that whether they realize it or not, these sorts of people are usually jealous that you’ve got the drive and commitment to make your life more fun to be a part of. Additionally, they’re often looking for a reason to validate their own bad choices like binge eating/drinking, because if somebody else is doing it around them, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. How many times have we used that tired old excuse?

Who’s experienced this? And how did you deal with it? Probably better than me, I hope. Monica Reinage has got it down way better than I have. My innate ability to “zing back” with something witty is almost non-existent. It’s one of the main reasons why I decided that my career path as a stand up comedian probably wasn’t the right one. I suppose that my usual, polite response of “no, thank you” or “I’m not hungry” or “get that crap away from my nose, you weird, space-invading space-invader” wouldn’t quite cut it as some drunk guy yells “YOU SUCK!” from the back of a darkened room above some grotty bar on the outskirts of the city.

I guess, that in my own roundabout, special way, I’m trying to tell you that you need to do what’s best for you. All the time. Period. Being selfish, in this context, is a good thing.

Anybody who challenges your decision to be happy and be the best you can be isn’t worth having around. Just like Dr. Seuss said.

The 10 Proven Benefits of Coconut Oil (You’ll Really Like Number 3)

Every now and again, a ‘super food’ or new fad arrives in our super market aisles that equally interests and baffles us. New, tasty ways of giving our bodies what they need is an exciting discovery for us healthy (or wannabe healthy!) types.

One new ‘super’ on the block is coconut oil. When researching this article, I came across pages and pages of information, with writers raving about it. And I agree – I’ve personally found coconut oil to be fantastic for cooking and beauty uses; ranging from making an excellent sweet-based curry to providing me with a natural and cheap facial scrub.

But what about the proven benefits of coconut oil? For something that is so versatile and seemingly can be used for everything, I want to know if I really should be lathering my face with the oil that I associate more with frying my onions. Plus, should I be eating this amount of fat in my every-day diet? What about the claims that it can help me to lose weight?

Research Has the Answer

  1. Forget what the marketing industry told you about saturated fat being bad! (Here and here explains why.) At around 92% saturated fat, coconut oil should be your staple oil for cooking with. Saturated fat has stronger bonds than others, meaning it won’t break down at higher temperatures like vegetable or olive oil can do. The latter two are less safe to cook with, since their lack of resistance to higher temperatures attracts nasty free radicals.
  2. The answer we’ve all been waiting for: coconut oil can help you to lose weight. It is rich in Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), which are fats that are more filling than others and can boost metabolism slightly. Therefore, by eating coconut oil over other fats that contain Long Chain Triglycerides (e.g. vegetable oils), you’ll feel fuller for longer and be less likely to over-eat.
  3. The same research also shows that Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) are readily oxidized in the liver. In layman’s terms, faster oxidation translates to greater energy expenditure – i.e. fat burning – than other fats.
  4. When eating coconut oil during dieting, fat is especially lost around the belly – great news for midriff-flashers and those with a middle-age spread alike. A study of obese men who ate 30 grams of coconut oil for 4 weeks found their waist circumference to reduce by 2.86 cm, or 1.1 inches.
  5. The MCFAs mentioned above contain lauric acid, which is formed into monolaurin within the body and has been found to destroy harmful bacteria. It was compared to antibiotics in its power to kill the fatal pathogen responsible for cases of blood poisoning.
  6. The same acid is also said to help fight herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV.
  7. While you’re trying to stay healthy, it’s good to know that coconut oil helps improve nutrient absorption; including some of the B vitamins, the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, K, beta-carotene, and some amino acids. Minerals such as calcium and magnesium are important for preventing osteoporosis. Bruce Fife, CN, ND therefore suggests coconut oil can be used to aid this prevention, since it helps absorb the minerals so well.
  8. There is an abundance of research into the effects of coconut oil on neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s. It may improve symptoms, or delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Pretty powerful stuff!
  9. It’s even great for your pets. The brilliantly named Dogington Post reported the benefits of using coconut oil on doggy ailments, including research into how the MCFAs provide an effective defense against many troublesome parasites, including giardia.
  10. The amount of anecdotal evidence for using coconut oil in beauty treatments is around the same as for cooking and health. Amongst others, it’s anti-fungal, can be used as a natural alternative for deodorant and intensive conditioner, and most interestingly, it has a natural SPF of somewhere between 4 and 10. My initial thought was: “Surely sunbathing in oil will fry me to a crisp?” Apparently not, according to this research.

Coconut Oil: A True Super Food

And you’re probably now wondering where you can buy it and what to do with it. Since it is becoming more well-known, check your local supermarket, or alternatively head to your favorite health food shop. Always look for virgin coconut oil, as the benefits described above were based on the virgin variety.

Some people from the research swear by having a spoonful a day. But as it is so great for cooking with, it makes sense to test your culinary skills and knock up a meal fried in coconut oil. Add it to your morning smoothie or bake a cake for pudding – you’ll likely feel the benefit from just a few additions to your daily diet.

The same goes with beauty. Replace your usual products and simply try it and see the difference.

I hope this article made you want to fill a bath of coconut oil and bathe in it; just like how felt when I read the research and commentary. Have you tried coconut oil and felt or seen the benefits? Please do share in the comments section below – research or personal tips are both welcome.

How To Break Bad Habits

Whether you’re old, young, short, tall, rich or poor, you’ll have to break a bad habit at some point in your life.

I’ve been trying to stop biting my nails pretty much since I started – probably when I cut my first tooth – and now at the ripe old age of 23, I alternate between having beautifully manicured nails and bitten off stubs; all depending on how stressed I am at any given moment.

Ah well, we can’t have it all.

However, I’m sure that the majority of us have made some healthier substitutions to our diets and methods of cooking at some point in our lives, because we’ve realized that “the way Mom always did it” may not be the best way for our waistlines.

Picking up habits from our parents or other relatives means that we often don’t see the cooking methods or eating habits that we perceive as totally ‘average’ or ‘normal’ could actually be doing us more harm than good.

For example, when I was a kid, I used to absolutely wolf down my food at break-neck speed, and when I read Tom’s Why You Should Take Your Time When Eating, it really resonated with me. I often found myself still hungry at the end of large meals and would end up going back for seconds, causing the inevitable weight gain. It also left me (TMI alert!) horribly gassy and generally dissatisfied with what I was putting into my body.

Another bad habit that I see almost daily is piling our plates too high (here’s how to combat that). We often associate large amounts of anything with comfort, affluence, or homeliness, but we don’t stop and think how much our bodies actually need.

I found that consciously upping my water intake to two to three litres a day meant I wasn’t as hungry, and my portion sizes were downsized, or I couldn’t finish what I had previously perceived as ‘average’. I started to take my time when I ate – because my tummy was already half-full – completely eradicating the gassy, going-back-for-seconds problem.

Lastly, when I left home and moved into college dorms, I found that I was automatically adding a substantial amount of oil or butter to the pan to cook my food in without actually realizing why I was doing it. Surprise, surprise – that’s the way I’d seen someone else do it! Once I realised I could use a smaller amount of oil (these days, I only use about a teaspoon) and get the flavours going with herbs and spices instead, the weight began to fall off me. I found it fun to experiment with what works with different tastes and textures, all while losing weight in the process.

All of the tips I’ve shared with you are tried and tested methods by yours truly and are perfectly actionable; you can get started today.

Remember – you don’t have to give up anything that you enjoy or do things that you don’t want to do to take action today. We’re simply creating a lifestyle that works for us and our bodies, one small step at a time. Think of it as a fun challenge, not a chore. The feeling of knowing what foods and portion sizes work with your body and suit your lifestyle is an incredibly satisfying one, so try it today!

How to Lose Weight While Keeping Both Your Body and Mind Happy

Our bodies start from weighing 8lbs on average, then grow into a completely different adult form and can last up to (and even beyond) a hundred years. They house a variety of intertwined organs and  tick along without us even consciously thinking about it. It’s pretty incredible.

Our minds are as equally fascinating. That squishy brain of yours has lobes, arteries and veins, plus the ability to form a personality, control emotions and store vital information. As well as memories of pointless YouTube cat videos and internet memes, but you get the idea.

The reason I’m praising both body and mind is that they go so well together. What your mind tells you to feel, your body will feel.  

We Have to Love Body and Mind

We can’t push our bodies to exercise or ignore the food we love without hurting our minds. Let your mind win and your body will thank you for it.

This is the thinking behind Healthy Enough. To get to your desired level of health and fitness, you must have fun when exercising and enjoy what you eat – i.e. you still have to enjoy life during the process.

What Does This Involve?

Let’s look at exercising first. If you do an activity you enjoy, it’s obvious you’re much more likely to want to get out of bed to do it again the following day and even put more effort into it. So choose a “workout” that you also consider to be a hobby.

Although I’m not a huge fan of calorie-counting, a 182lb male can burn 520 calories during a 60 minute casual game of basketball, whereas he’d burn 260 calories running for the same length of time. That’s having fun while getting a better result!

Since we want to keep both our minds and bodies happy, it’s reassuring to know that group sports also benefit your mental health. Do you like group games with your friends? Researchers found when comparing two groups of women who had similar physical health, those who participated in social sports such as tennis and netball had better mental health and life satisfaction than the women who exercised alone or at a gym.

Research has also shown that people are more likely to maintain their physical activity when it’s combined with social support. So group games don’t just burn more calories and are good for your mental health; they’re motivating too.

And For Eating?

The same rules apply. Cooking food you love means both your mind and body will look forward to meal time and appreciate what you’re putting into your body.

If you happen to fancy a treat, go for it! Experts have said that eating small quantities of sweet treats can be part of a healthy diet. As long as you balance the rest of your diet with nutritious food and you do physical activity, don’t deny your mind the pleasure of a melting chocolate bar.

In fact, a study at Tel Aviv University has shown that allowing yourself a sweet treat after your meal can strategically help with weight loss, as they keep cravings under control and therefore reduce the chance of bingeing on junk food.

Just remember: it’s all about balance.

Listen to Your Body and Mind

Your body and mind are both very powerful things but they’re both yours and you know them best. What food does your mind want to eat that’ll benefit your body? What food disagrees with your body and therefore causes discomfort in your mind? What form of exercise pleases both your mind and body?

You need to keep them happy, as after all, we want them to be around for a long time.

That age-old phrase of “your body is a temple, so treat it like one” is a good one. Be mindful of what you put in it, and keep it fit and healthy. But we also need to remember our minds. They’re just as important. Feed them both what they need.

Having Trouble Losing Weight? Sleep More!

One of the basic premises of Healthy Enough is to simplify the highly complex world of nutrition and exercise in order to help you understand that becoming healthier doesn’t have to be so darn complicated.

There are literally thousands of different diets, programs, and products that are specifically designed to help you lose weight, which can be extremely confusing to navigate through to determine what works and what doesn’t.

There are so many different ways to lose weight that it can be overwhelming. But fortunately there is one variable that does not change and is the easiest for you to control. Your sleep.

The Importance of Hormones in Weight Loss

Believe it or not, sleep plays a major role in your ability to lose weight.

Here’s why: sleep affects the levels of several hormones in your body, including leptin and ghrelin. Each plays an important role in stimulating and suppressing your appetite.

Leptin is responsible for suppressing hunger, while ghrelin stimulates your appetite. A decrease in sleep lowers the levels of leptin in your blood and increases the levels of ghrelin, which results in an increase in appetite.

Another problem associated with a lack of sleep is an increase in cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that works to break down body tissues. When you are stressed or sleep deprived, cortisol levels increase because the body is getting ready for the fight or flight response mechanism.

If you’re not sleeping enough, you will also miss out on the critically important Growth Hormone boost that comes each night during deep sleep. When you are asleep, your pituitary gland secretes more growth hormones than when you’re awake.

Growth hormones stimulate cell regeneration, reproduction and growth. These hormones also aid you in building muscle tissue. And the more muscle tissue you have, the faster your metabolism will be. With a faster metabolism, you burn more calories at rest, which leads to easier weight loss.

Sleep’s Effect on Appetite, Exercise, and Recovery

Now that you understand a little about your hormones in relation to sleep and fat loss, let’s look at how a lack of sleep affects your appetite.

Can you recall the last time you got poor night’s sleep? Maybe you were tossing and turning all night, or perhaps you had a bout of insomnia and the next day you were most likely craving carbohydrates like crazy.

Not only does sleep loss appear to stimulate appetite, it also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. When you don’t get enough sleep – approximately 7 to 9 hours per night – you feel tired and crave (and often eat) sugar to artificially create energy.

And let’s not forget the fact that if you’re not getting enough sleep, your exercise performance will suffer.

In addition to this, since sleep is the primary time the body recovers from exercise, it’s also when you will be rebuilding your muscle tissue. Without this recovery time, you’re going to go into your next exercise session at a disadvantage. It’s also an easy way to over train your body and end up with an injury.

And weight loss and exercise aside, a lack of sleep is related to a number of more serious health issues such as increased risk for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

There are also numerous other physiological and psychological benefits from getting enough sleep and just as many drawbacks from not getting enough. So just keep this in mind: more sleep improves everything!

So make sure you get your 7-9 of hours of sleep each night. Not only are you going to feel better, think more clearly and have more energy, but you’ll also be improving your long-term health as well.

The Role of Water in Weight Loss

There are a bunch of reasons as to why you should drink more water — not the least the fact that around 60% of your body is made up of the stuff. It stands to reason that you should keep your levels topped up. But for the purposes of this article, you should drink more water because it encourages weight loss and increases satiety.

One study conducted at Virginia Tech offers evidence of water’s weight loss effects. The following is a paraphrased summary of that study courtesy of Wikipedia:

Davy et al. took a group of 48 overweight and obese Americans aged 55 to 75 who were considered inactive and divided them randomly into two equal-sized groups. The control group followed a calorie-controlled diet equating to approximately 1,500 calories per day for the men and 1,200 calories per day for the women. The second group followed exactly the same diet but drank 500ml of water before each meal. Both groups kept up the diet for 12 weeks.

Although both groups lost weight on average, the water-drinking group lost about 5lbs more on average (an 30% increase in weight loss). Because the water-drinking group reported feeling both more full and less hungry, the researchers believe that the water acts to suppress appetite.

Subjective effects also reported by the water-drinking group were feeling less hungry, having a clearer mind and a better ability to think. There were no negative effects reported.

While this study is far from perfect (for instance, the sample size and physiology of the subjects is limited), it does point towards the positive effects of drinking plenty of water. Furthermore, the study is backed up by an enormous volume of anecdotal evidence of the benefits of water consumption on weight loss.

Finally, drinking water prior to meals is advised in order that you do not confuse thirst signals with hunger signals. In my experience, it also encourages you eat less than you might otherwise.

So go ahead – drink more water. What have you got to lose?

Why Restrictive Diets Are Your Worst Enemy

You need chocolate.

Seriously. Life’s too short to cut out the things that you love the most: whether that be chocolate, cake, nachos, fries or all of them (hopefully not on the same plate).

Following a diet that prevents you from eating your favorite foods is a bad idea for two reasons:

  1. It’s incredibly hard to sustain in the long term
  2. It can make you utterly miserable

Successful long term weight loss and weight management is not about being miserable. It’s about moderation, not dieting extremism. After all, if you’re going to be following a diet for the rest of your life, you need to make damned sure that it involves you eating all of the things that you love.

Chocolate, chips and cake can all be part of a healthy diet. Moreover, if you like those foods, they should be. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.