More Than $4,065 Worth of Expert Weight-Loss Advice

Can't take a five-day time-out from your busy life to focus solely on shedding pounds? The pros from Canyon Ranch, a famous wellness center, share their tips for making nutritious eating and exercise changes stick. By Holly Corbett, REBDOOK.

Led by the former Surgeon General of the U.S. and offering over 40 fitness classes each day as part of a plan that integrates Western and Eastern medicine, Canyon Ranch has one of the country's most comprehensive and forward-thinking programs in the U.S. Set in the beauty of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, the new weeklong Jumpstart to a Healthier Life Program offers the perfect environment in which to take stock of your health and finally reach your goals. This is what they have to teach you (minus the $4,000-plus price tag). 

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Make just one change to start


If you try to say, eliminate all sugar from your diet cold turkey, you'll likely become overwhelmed, give up all together, and dive into a plate of your co-worker's addictive brownies. Instead, make a viable action plan by setting a more realistic weight-loss goal. Try this simple exercise from Sharon Alpert LICSW, a life management therapist, to help you get there:

1. Jot down three specific things you're currently doing that are in line with your goal, such as walking 15 minutes three times a week.

2. List three things you're doing that conflict with your goal, like drinking three glasses of wine of night.

3. Choose one thing on the first list that you can do more of, such as say, tacking on five minutes to each of your walks.

4. Choose one thing on the second list that you can do less of, such as cutting back to two glasses of wine a night.

Once you start taking these small but realistic steps, you'll build a positive momentum toward even greater change.

Eat cleaner to lower your toxic load

The toxins in your system can interfere with the hunger, fullness, and thyroid hormones that help regulate your metabolism. Where do they come from? The average person eats about 14 pounds of food colorings, additives, emulsifiers, flavorings, and preservatives each year. "Eating clean not only lowers your overall toxic load, but those healthy foods also have bioactive components that help your body better process and clear toxins already in your system," says Chrissy Garner-Wellington, a nutritionist and the program's teacher of What's in Your Pantry?

You don't have to eat every single thing organic, but your aim should be to eat "clean" by sticking to lean meats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables rather than stuff that comes from a box or bag. To start, take a glance at the price look-up (PLU) code sticker you find on fresh fruits and veggies, which can provide important clues about the produce you're buying. If it starts with a "9," and is followed by four numbers, it means the product is organic. (You should always buy the Dirty Dozen organic.) If the code begins with the number "4," it means the produce is conventionally grown, and could have been farmed using fertilizers and pesticides. Look out for PLU codes that start with an "8," indicating genetic modification. "There's just not enough research out there to tell whether or not GMO foods are potentially harmful to your health or impact metabolism, so your best bet is to avoid them," says Garner-Wellington.

Related: 21 New Medically Proven Ways to Burn Fat And Drop Pounds


Find balance to shed pounds

If despite exercising more and eating healthier the number on the scale is stuck, being out of balance may be sabotaging your weight-loss efforts. Let's say your goal is to lose five pounds of your post-pregnancy pooch this summer. "In order to follow through with that, three things need to be in alignment: your emotional self, your cognitive or thinking self, and your physical self," says Wren Bernstein, LICSW, life management therapist. If your intention feels wrong to any one of these centers, you're not likely to succeed, no matter how hard you try.

For example, the cognitive part of you may want to lose weight, but if you're not behind it emotionally-say, if you aren't willing to sacrifice your pre- or post-work hours with your baby to exercise-you'll have a problem. The key is finding a creative solution, like signing up for an exercise routine that also lets you bond with your baby, such as Stroller Strides, a stroller-based fitness program with 1,400 chapters in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, that combines power walking with strength and toning moves, and plays songs to keep babies engaged.

Use yoga to conquer a binge

One of the biggest reasons we get into a binge-eating cycle is because it's a powerful coping mechanism, temporarily distracting us from feeling of anger, boredom, or sadness. "Yoga addresses the mind-body component that's so important to breaking a food addiction because you learn how to process these powerful emotions rather than distracting yourself with food. Each of the poses is meant to teach you to breath through your unpleasant sensations and feelings, while increasing the flow of energizing oxygen, and calming your central nervous system," says Mark Gerow, a mind-body specialist, Yoga for Athletes teacher, and author of the upcoming book Years of Posing: A Yoga Teacher's Struggle With Addiction and Trauma.

The science backs it up: Overweight women who took one 60-minute yoga class a week, and started a daily practice for a few minutes at home reported less binge-eating while also lowering their BMI, and hip and waist measurements, found researchers at Australia's Deakin University. Moreover, other studies show that doing yoga lowers levels of stress hormones, which helps to boost insulin sensitivity, and aids your body in burning food as fuel rather than storing it as fat.

Practice slow eating

"We notice the people who rate themselves the highest on stress during our program advisory consultations are often the same people who eat the fastest," Mark Liponis, M.D., Corporate Medical Director for Canyon Ranch Health Resorts and author of The Hunter/Farmer Diet Solution. Rushing through meals can produce a surge in cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone, keeping you in an aroused state that not only compromises the body's ability to digest the maximum amount of nutrients, but also contributes to insulin insensitivity that's linked to the dreaded muffin top.

"To counter that reaction and train you to take your time when eating, we take a full hour to eat meals at Canyon Ranch," says Liponis. At home, try this easy eating meditation for a similar effect: Focus on a small morsel, such as a raisin or nut, noticing its shape, size, color, texture, and scent. Place it on your tongue, enjoying the flavor and keeping it in your mouth for as long as you can, or for at least 20 seconds. Chew slowly, then swallow.

Related: 20 Ways To Speed Up Your Metabolism

Fuel up your exercise

If you're not eating the right nutrients at the right times, your sweat sessions might send your appetite into overdrive. "We've seen that a lot of exercise won't necessarily create weight loss without the requisite nutritional changes," says Gerald Link, PT, orthopedic manual therapist and sports medicine specialist. Eating smarter after exercise is key for controlling appetite, supplying the nutrients your body needs for peak performance, and speeding muscle recovery.

Think about your post-workout snack as a way to keep your blood sugar levels steady so you can recover faster. That means noshing on a protein- and carb-rich snack of about 150 calories to help refuel tired muscles. And yes, you do need to eat something. If you don't, you may burn muscle-which ultimately slows metabolism-since your muscles won't have any glycogen supplies from food to use as a fuel source. You should aim to eat within 15 to 30 minutes of working out, although there's a two-hour window post exercise during which your muscles are like a sponge, waiting for fuel-in the form of food-to repair and replenish them. Some smart options include an apple with about 11 almonds, a few ounces of raisins with a handful of sunflower seeds, and six honey-wheat pretzel sticks with two teaspoons of natural peanut butter.

Change your body weight set point

Have you felt stuck a certain number on the scale, and no matter how much you tried to diet you just couldn't seem to change it? "There's a strong pull for the body to maintain its current weight. It will adjust your metabolism to keep you at that set point," says Liponis. But if you eat more nutritiously, focusing on what your body really needs, it will eventually get the message. "After about a year, your body readjusts its set point, so maintaining it becomes effortless."

The same diet won't work for everyone; you have to know your specific metabolism type in order to successfully lose weight, keep it off, and change your set point, says Dr. Liponis. He's broken it down into farmers, who should graze on small bites and restrict fat, and hunters, who should eat less often and cut back on grains and sugar. Pear shapes tend to be farmers while apple shapes tend to be hunters.

Hunters often crank out too much insulin, indicating a vulnerability towards developing type 2 diabetes. If you're one, you can do two things to counteract the overproduction of insulin that leads to belly fat. First, cut back on grains such as flour, wheat, rice, oatmeal, and corn. "Our body converts grains into sugar," says Dr. Liponis. "A hunter stresses out her pancreas at say, a pasta dinner because it will have to work overtime to produce more insulin." Then, follow meals with a 15-minute stroll. "Doing this gentle kind of physical activity after eating helps hunters lower blood sugar to take the strain off the pancreas," says Dr. Liponis. "It's not about sweating or getting your heart rate up. It's about moving rather than sitting still to keep your blood sugar levels in check and help prevent belly fat."

By tailoring your eating and exercise habits to your specific metabolic type, you can kiss the yo-yo dieting roller coaster goodbye and help the number on the scale settle at your happy weight for good.

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