Why do so many of us struggle to maintain a healthy weight? One of the top culprits, says integrative nutritionist Annie B. Kay, MS, RD, RYT, in her R&R retreat lecture A Natural Way to Healthy Weight, is the typical American diet, which is loaded with sugar, heavy on processed foods, and doesn’t include much fiber. One of the major factors in finding balance, Annie says, is to examine our choices and explore new options that could be more beneficial to our health—and waistlines—in the long run.
In order to maintain a healthy weight, Annie says, it’s necessary to first look at what’s on our plate. “Whole foods are healers,” Annie says. “They supply us with a sustained energy balance, unlike high-sugar, processed foods, which take our blood sugar on a roller coaster ride.” To help us foster this sustainable energy, Annie suggests shifting from a grain-based to a green-based diet, avoiding white flour and other simple carbs, and stocking our kitchen with foods high in nutrient density—foods packed with more nutrients per calorie, such as fruits and vegetables. Nutrient-dense foods also have the bonus of keeping us full longer.
When many of us think of filling foods, protein comes to mind, and for good reason—it’s an essential nutrient. What could be a surprise, however, is that Americans actually consume too much protein—and mostly of the animal variety. But, as Annie notes, there are alternate sources of protein that are just as effective, and they come from plants: beans, nuts, and whole grains such as quinoa. Plus plant protein has the added benefit of being fiber-rich, which isn’t the case with animal products. And as Annie points out, “The right combination of fiber and protein is ideal for healthy weight management.”
Also worth noting, Annie says, is that how we eat is as important as what we eat. “Mindfulness is a beautiful practice when it comes to eating,” she says, pointing out that our emotional state affects our underlying metabolic function, how we digest and metabolize food. “Opening up our senses as a means of coming into balance with our eating habits can be effective in helping us notice the underlying roots of our hunger,” Annie says. Pause and notice how you’re feeling the next time hunger strikes. Are the cravings truly hunger, or are they instigated by something else, such as stress or boredom?
Lastly, Annie encourages discovering things in life that fuel our life force that aren’t food, activities including yoga, knitting, or spending time outdoors. These practices, which incorporate movement and stress management—along with mindful eating—can help curb emotional eating, keep our weight at a healthy level, and encourage more vitality in life. And that is truly nourishing.
What steps do you take to maintain a healthy weight?