By Aliaa Serry
‘Tis the season of light clothes, beach hair and tanned skin; summer is almost upon us. With hotter weather come the thoughts of fad diets and quick fixes to attain the ultimate bikini bods, which are assuredly not the healthiest approach to getting fit.
We all always feel the need to prep and prim our bodies to look their very best, now that the layers upon layers of winter clothes we hid the extra weight under are gone. How can one shed that excess winter weight without going to extremes? It surely is easier said than done, isn’t it?
Cairo West Magazine sat down with Dana Dinnawi, a certified nutritionist, to answer our burning questions about proper nutrition, exercise and effective weight loss.
CWM: Is there a quick-start process to get into better eating habits after a lapse in winter?
DD: Yes, I always recommend a good cleanse once a season to help jumpstart organs and release toxicity. This is most needed especially after winter, since it’s the time for conserving energy. Spring brings with it a feeling of renewal and expansive energy so it’s one of the best times of the year to naturally revive the body using a cleanse.
What are the foods that are most important to cut back on when you want to change your eating habits?
It is very important to remember that each person is different when it comes to what fuels their own body and what doesn’t, but within that context, the foods that everyone should avoid are inflammatory foods. Those are foods that are known to be potential allergens, which can lead to ailments and disease down the road. Those include: wheat, sugar, dairy, soy, alcohol, processed foods and caffeine.
How important is choosing the ‘right’ time to eat?
There are many different theories about this. Personally I believe that one should be sure to leave at least 3 hours between their last meal and bedtime and then allow the body 12 hours of recovery time between their last meal and breakfast. Our bodies need time to assimilate foods and our digestive systems need time to rest in order to function optimally.
How often you eat during the day depends mostly on your blood sugar levels. If you suffer from low blood sugar or feel weak throughout the day, then you need to eat every 3-4 hours to maintain your blood sugar levels. You don’t, however, need to eat that often to keep your metabolism functioning – that is a myth.
On the contrary, leaving more time between meals gives your body a chance to tap into its fat reserves for energy instead of depending on the continuous supply of incoming food. Listening to your body’s signals is very important. This is a process that takes trial and error.
What can be considered a healthy weight loss per week when getting back into shape?
I don’t generally look at weight loss per week per se because every person is unique. If someone has been eating a lot of processed foods and not enough liquids, for example, and makes the shift to more water-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, they may actually gain weight in the first few weeks as their body soaks up this new hydration.
Another person eating a diet full of sugar and dairy might find that they automatically lose a couple of kilos, as they are de-bloated. Rather than focusing on the scale, I look at energy levels, as well as physical symptoms such as headaches, joint pain, sleep patterns and bowel movements to determine how effective an eating plan is. If those are in place, weight loss takes care of itself.
What can be combined with a healthy diet to get the body’s metabolism into better shape?
One of the simplest, yet most often ignored tips is water consumption. Water is key when it comes to allowing the digestive system to function properly and to losing weight. If your body is dehydrated it will hold onto weight, as well as toxins. If you don’t have enough water, your bowel movements will be slow, which means your weight loss will also be slowed down.
What are your 5 top tips for getting into shape quickly?
- Drink warm lemon water first thing in the morning.
- Have a smoothie for breakfast and consume 1-2 green juices per day.
- Gradually try to eliminate wheat, grains, dairy, sugar, processed foods, caffeine, alcohol, and soy from your daily diet.
- Be sure to have at least 2 litres of water per day.
- Exercise in order to allow your body to sweat daily. You need to be dripping sweat at least 4 times per week.
Which foods should be in your daily diet?
Fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes and lean animal protein.
Here’s an essential question for all of us caffeine addicts: how much coffee can a person have a day?
One cup of coffee a day is actually good for you, but try not to have more.
Are there certain foods that help you sleep better?
Honey and coconut oil are known to induce a sense of calm before bed. Coconut oil, especially, works in doing so by coating the myelin sheath- the layer around your nerves.
How often should one exercise?
Exercise is like sleeping, you have to do it to be healthy. Ideally, I’d recommend some form of exercise daily. But it doesn’t have to be with the same intensity on a daily basis, just make sure you get your body moving. You can intensely exercise, for example, 4 times a week and then enjoy rest periods during weekends by going on leisurely walks.
You talk about eating “clean” vs dieting. Can you explain the difference between them?
The main difference is that a “diet” by nature is a process that inherently has a beginning and an end date. It implies deprivation or restriction of some sort, for a certain period of time, to achieve a particular goal.
Clean eating is not a fad diet but a way of life. By choosing ingredients in their most natural, wholesome state, and preparing them in healthy fats, you reduce inflammation in your body, balance your pH levels, and improve overall vitality.
When you eat clean, you remove processed foods- not just junk food, but anything that is made in a factory, comes in a package, or has a long shelf life. Those can include breads, croissants, pasta, cookies, chips, sauces, prepared meals, dairy, sugar; caffeine and alcohol. Instead, the bulk of your daily intake comes from fresh fruits and vegetables, animal protein, nuts, and seeds.
What are the specific benefits of clean eating?
By eating clean, you are giving your organs a break- allowing them to operate more efficiently, and removing toxins that cause inflammation in the body. The benefits of clean eating include: Loss of unwanted weight and bloat, Release of stored fat, renewal of body cells, improving digestion, boostingthe immune system, having a stronger sex drive, clearer skin and reduction of cellulite, better sleep, less headaches, and having higher levels of energy.
In a nutshell, getting healthy is more about making a commitment to take care of your body rather than deciding to embark on a short-term fad diet. Lace up your running shoes, load up on fruits and veggies and start your journey towards a life of healthier habits today!