For those of you who follow us on Instagram, I’m sure you know that one half of Health Synergy (Hannah) has been away on exchange for the past few months. I am studying at King’s College London which has been amazing, but I have also tried to get involved in the health/foodie scene as much as possible. One of the things I have done since being away was enrol in a nutrition short course at the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM). The course was tailored towards detoxification, cleansing and weight loss/management. Having a mum as a naturopath and given all the work we do together, I was already familiar with a lot of the information being taught but I still found it to be hugely beneficial. There were a few really interesting facts and tips that I wanted to share with you all, as well as just to reinforce some of our key beliefs in regard to diet and overall wellbeing. I hope this will help you in your health journey, whether you are looking to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, or just want some tips on how to lead a healthier lifestyle.
If you are really not sure where to start or how to even begin to navigate all the available information, I think our best tip would be to eat as close to nature as possible – that is, foods that have undergone minimal processing and are close to their natural form. This is fundamental to the Health Synergy philosophy, and is very aligned with what was said at the CNM course. This also means eating foods that are in season and preferably from local sources. It is for this reason that we choose bananas or dates as our first choice for natural sweeteners, as they are still in their natural form and have not undergone any processing in order to extract the sugar. The whole food is being used, so we are consuming the fibre as well as the sugar. Fibre is key to weight loss as it keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
Something else we have always said that was reinforced in the course, was the focus of nutrient density, rather than calories. Yes, calories can be a useful guide if you are trying to lose weight, but it is important not to get too carried away with it. It seems to me that it is illogical to be allowed to eat cake and biscuits, but not allowed to have some avocado or nuts. That is not to undermine other approaches to weight loss, as some people clearly get results by following a strict low calorie diet. However, the Health Synergy approach is much more concerned with the type of calorie. To quote my mum, “The calories (and sugar) in a mango are not the same as the calories in a mars bar!”
In regard to ‘diets’, the course also focused on the how the natural health industry has reached a point of media saturation. Every week there is a new diet or detox regime, that often promise unrealistic or unsustainable outcomes. On top of that, there is so much conflicting information out there, making it almost impossible to know what is good for you and what is not. This level of confusion can make healthy eating really difficult and overwhelming, particularly if you are new to this lifestyle. As we’ve said before in previous articles, it really does come down to the notion that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’… What works for one person may not work for another. So that is why it is so important to listen to your body and do what feels best for YOU. Don’t just buy into the latest fad diet because it is fashionable or because that is what your best friend is doing.
Another important thing to note is that you don’t have to strictly adhere to one particular diet, you can take elements out of different diet regimes to create your own. It is not necessary to cut out entire food groups (unless of course you are intolerant/allergic) as this is likely to be unsustainable for many people. Diets that are too restrictive may get results in the short term, but will not be effective in the long term. That is why it is so important to find a diet regime that you actually enjoy, so it is more of a lifestyle shift than simply a ‘quick-fix’. While shifting habits in the beginning is very difficult, you will notice that after a while your taste buds actually start to change and you will no longer crave the sugary foods you used to. I always find it funny when I turn down a slice of cake or ice cream and people comment on my ‘will power’ but it not that at all, it is a question of genuinely not having a desire for it. Of course, changing taste buds takes time and it will initially require a lot of discipline to change well-established habits.
In regard to detoxification, something I took out of the CNM course was the idea of a Pre-tox. That is, preparing your body for a detox by slowly starting to eliminate toxins from you diet and lifestyle, rather than doing a complete overhaul. The length of time for the ‘pre tox’ will depend on the individual but can range from a week to a month. This is so important as sudden, dramatic changes to one’s diet can put strain on the liver, so the body may then resort to the second organ of elimination: the skin. This is of particular concern when doing a ‘fast detox’ as these tend to be more restrictive so people often end up with breakouts and headaches, which is obviously not ideal! Headaches are particularly common for people who are cutting out caffeine, so doing a pre-tox to slowly reduce caffeine intake over a period of a few weeks, would be the best way to avoid this.
Of course when we talk about detoxing, the next thing that comes to mind is juicing. Juicing has quickly become one of the most popular detox regimes, particularly over the past 5 years or so. This can be effective for a short term cleanse, in order to give the gut a bit of a rest, however it is very important to monitor your sugar intake as people often end up consuming way too much fructose. An easy way to avoid this is to drink lots of vegetable juices, which will also help to balance the Glycemic Load (GL). Balancing the GL is one of the ultimate health objectives as this translates to a better digestive system, better quality sleep, and better moods. Another tip for those thinking of doing a juice cleanse is not to discard the pulp, as that is where the fibre is. Alternatively, you could make smoothies, as that way you are consuming everything that goes in. Something I learnt at the CNM course, however, is that over-blending can result in nutrient loss, so it is best to keep blending time as short as possible, and it is also best to add your superfood powders at the end. This is to ensure that all nutrients are intact, but also because they are expensive, so you want to know you are consuming it all, rather than having some of it lost at the bottom of the blender! Since hearing this, I have started mixing my superfood powders into my smoothie bowls with a spoon, rather than adding them to the blender.
A final point I wanted to raise was the impact of stress on our health. We all know that stress can be detrimental to our health, which was the focus of the latest Health Synergy article (available on our blog and in the Health Synergy Executive Wellbeing Magazine). Something that was emphasised in the CNM course was that stressing so much about having sugar can actually be more harmful to ones health, than just having the sugar! While it is important to take care of your health and watch what you are eating, it is also not something to obsess over, as consuming sugar every now and then will not hurt. The issue arises when refined sugar is being consumed on a regular basis and is sometimes even preconscious, therefore making it harder to break the habit. It doesn’t help that so many cereals, canned goods and most packaged foods have added sugar, even those that are marketed as being healthy. That is why reading labels is so important, even for products that are sold in health food stores, as I have found they still often contain unnecessary amounts of sugar.
I hope you will find this useful in your health journey.