As summer winds down, a common question from many of my patients is, “How do I avoid those extra pounds every fall and winter?”
Our ancestors seemed to have a different perspective…
Each fall, they would greatly increase their fruit, grain, nut and seed intake. This intake of excess calories would accomplish winter insulation and energy storage – as the famine of winter was just around the corner.
Hacking this tendency in modern days is important for a few reasons. Of course, this is speaking generally about our modern American population:
- We do not need the amount of insulation that our ancestors did.
- We are not gearing up for a winter famine.
- We already consume more calories than we need year-round.
- We already have years of excess caloric intake stored as fat.
So, how do we adapt? It’s easier than you think, thanks to these 7 simple hacks.
Meal Time Basics
Eat no more than 3 meals per day, without snacks. When being fed every 2-3 hours, the body is not encouraged to burn any of its stored fat for energy.
Why should it bother digging out the fat stores for energy when it is being spoon-fed all day long? When you eat 3 meals a day and have ample time between meals, the body is forced to burn that stored fat.
Once fat is restored as your active fuel supply, you will see better energy, more stable moods, greater mental clarity, better sleep, less cravings and natural and permanent weight management.
The key here is to make each meal count, and try to make lunch the main meal.
Follow these meal time basics:
- No snacking between meals.
- Only drink water from supper to breakfast each day. For best results, aim for a 13-hour fast each night.
- Make supper smaller and earlier (before 6pm).
- Make lunch the main meal and relax while eating – no eating on the go or in a hurry.
- As you become a better fat burner, you can try skipping supper to make the nighttime weight loss fast even longer.
Ayurvedic Weight-Balancing Fruits
Triphala is an ancient Ayurvedic herbal formula consisting of three fruits: amalaki, bibhitaki and haritaki.
These are all-fall harvested fruits that have been shown to support healthy weight loss. (2)
Triphala has been used for thousands of years as an intestinal scrub to clean the villi and support better elimination, healthier digestion and weight loss.
Years ago, I had a patient who came for a follow-up visit around 10 years after I initially saw her. She reported that she had lost 50 pounds by following my instructions to take 2 capsules of Triphala after each meal.*
*The results shared here are not typical or expected for short- to medium-term use of triphala. While supplementing with triphala can help support healthy weight loss, the only tried and true method of losing substantial amounts of weight is changing one’s diet and exercise in accordance with the supervision of a certified health professional.
Flushing Fall Roots
Every fall, while there are an abundance of yummy, in-season, calorie-rich foods to consume, there are also detox and weight loss foods being harvested!
Cleansing roots, such as dandelion, burdock, turmeric, ginger and berberines like Oregon grape, golden seal and barberry, are harvested in both the spring and fall, suggesting that a great time to detox, reset digestion and lose weight can be the fall – if we eat the right seasonal foods!
Fall-harvested bitter and pungent roots store well, and make great liver tonics and teas throughout the winter. Roots like ginger and turmeric are warming, and are perfect for supporting healthy weight loss each winter. (8) Look for roots that carry either a sweet taste like licorice or a pungent, spicy taste like ginger.
Drink dandelion root tea or eat dandelion greens in the fall, and drink bitter, pungent root teas all winter. A touch of raw honey can curb the bitterness and, according to Ayurveda, support healthy weight loss. (10)
Make meals bigger, but cleaner. For example, in the fall, cook up some kale and dandelion green, or enjoy a fruit salad for breakfast (while fruits are still in season).
Yes, fruits alone can help you lose weight, as most fruits have weight management properties. (3) The problems typically come when you eat fruits alongside starchy carbs or fats. Eating these together can overshoot the body’s calorie requirements, resulting in stored fat and unwanted weight gain.
Easy At-Home Detox
This fall, try our 4-day Short Home Cleanse to kick start fat-burning and lose some pounds and be ahead of the curve (no pun intended!).
The detox protocol is quite simple, and is a shorter version of our 2-week Colorado Cleanse:
- Every morning for 4 days, take increasing doses of melted ghee (clarified butter) blended into a small amount (1/4 cup) of warm milk.
- Eat a non-fat diet for these 4 days. For best results, eat a traditional Indian rice and bean dish called kitchari as your meals.
- On the evening of day 4, drink a cup of smooth move, senna tea or another gentle laxative to flush your intestines.
Re-Connect with the Natural Light/Dark Cycles
As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, our bodies are designed to produce more melatonin and sleep more.
Melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland during the dark cycles, not only puts us to sleep, but it can also support healthy weight loss. (4)
To our misfortune, studies show that modern humans are more disconnected to the light/dark cycles than ever before. (5) Chronodisruption, due to excessive exposure to artificial light at night and other factors, blocks the adequate production of melatonin that we so greatly depend on for healthy sleep cycles. We also tend to produce less melatonin as we age.
Studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder found that reducing the exposure to artificial light at night can re-establish normal levels of melatonin production and reset the body’s natural circadian clock – in just one weekend! (5)
Perhaps one of the best ways to curb winter weight is to avoid late nights in front of the smartphone, computer and/or TV this fall and winter.
The longer you are up after the sun goes down, the more the body is convinced that you are in an endless summer. The “Endless Summer Effect” triggers the genetic clock to start eating more in preparation for the perceived winter famine to come.
Exercise Outside and Get More Sun
One way to help the body lose weight and balance its natural rhythms is to get more daylight. The first morning sunlight instantly blocks any lingering melatonin production during the day, making room for more calorie-burning energy.
The LESS melatonin you make during the day, the MORE you make at night. Nighttime melatonin helps you lose weight and daytime melatonin production helps you gain it.
The CU study mentioned above also found that healthy residents of Boulder were producing daytime melatonin and having energy crashes during the day. (5)
It turns out that shorts bursts of exercise can be as effective as longer duration exercise. I recommend trying my 12-Minute Workout:
- Warm up for 2 minutes with a walk or slow jog, breathing deeply through the nose.
- Do four 30 second to 1-minute fast-twitch muscle activation surges, breathing deeply through the nose. This could be jumping jacks, stair step-ups, shadow boxing or sprinting outside. Follow each surge with a 1-minute rest period, breathing deeply through the nose.
- Cool down for 2 minutes with a walk or slow jog, once again, breathing deeply through the nose.
- Repeat this every day, outside whenever possible, during the fall and winter.
Vitamin D and Weight Loss
Optimal levels of vitamin D have been shown to support healthy weight loss.
Our ancestors got their fall and winter vitamin D from organ meats, fish, fish liver and eggs. (6,7)
Many foods are “enriched” with vitamin D, but with vitamin D2 instead of D3. Vitamin D2 is called ergocalciferol and is a synthetic form of vitamin D. It is not as effective as natural vitamin D3.
Today, getting adequate levels of vitamin D may require supplementation. Experts at the Vitamin D Council suggest getting vitamin D3 levels checked annually and maintaining levels higher than the current recognized FDA standards.
For optimal health, they suggest keeping levels between 50-80 ng/mL.
I suggest using an easy-to-digest form of vitamin D made from sheep lanolin, rather than the often difficult-to-digest fish oil form of vitamin D3.