You wake up and throw together your usual morning power smoothie—kale, chia seeds, frozen berries, banana, almond milk, protein powder and some ice cubes. You head to the gym, jump on your bike or head outdoors for a run or walk. You shower and head to work with your lunch salad in hand. You’re trying hard to drop the excess weight so you have another salad for dinner when you get home. You’re counting calories, you’re exercising, you’ve eliminated all junk food from your house, you are passing over those donuts that George brings into the office every Friday, but you are still not losing weight. Does this story sound familiar?
Believe it or not, your salads and your smoothies may actually be the problem. Provided you are getting enough calories so that your body isn’t starving and hoarding that coveted adipose tissue as an energy reserve to get you through this year’s “Bathing Suit Famine” and provided that you are actually at a slight calorie deficit which allows you to burn excess fat and lose weight, then what you eat could be as much a factor as how much you eat.
The internet is abound these days with enticing looking smoothies, picturesque raw food entrées and testimonials about how great everyone feels eating these colorful works of culinary art—but they only great if you live in Southern California. For those of us that just endured a brutal cold and snowy 5-6 month winter, this sort of raw food diet is, well…for the birds…the ones that migrate south, anyways. Here’s why.
Think of your digestive system like an old-fashion cauldron of soup over a fire. Your stomach is the “cauldron” that holds the food you eat and your metabolism provides the “fire” for cooking this food into a stew. The cooking process itself is akin to your digestion in this metaphor. Your digestive system or the cooking process is responsible for turning everything you put into the cauldron into a 100 degree Fahrenheit pureed soup (without an actual stove and without a blender, mind you).
Now what would happen if you poured a whole bunch of cold smoothie, raw salad, a few ice cubes and an occasional ice cream into this pot of soup? Your body would need to work really really hard to bring the soup back up to temperature and get it cooking again, right? It would SLOW DOWN the cooking process, which means it SLOWS DOWN your digestion and taxes your metabolism.
So this is exactly what happens in our stomach when you drink iced beverages and eat lots of raw foods—your digestive system becomes overburdened and its ability to cook or digest your food is compromised. As a result you overwhelm your body’s ability to efficiently digest the nutrition in your food and you are left with a sloppy mess: diarrhea, loose stool, possibly even constipation, malnutrition and a sluggish metabolism.
So now what? Now you need to get to some creative thinking and meal planning. For smoothies try cooking them. They are really quite good this way. Throw your bananas and berries in a pot with some water and bring it all to a simmer until the fruit is soft and cooked. Add in the greens at the last minute so that they stay bright green and don’t over cook. Make sure you cool it all down to room temperate then add in any power supplements like protein powders, chia seeds, nut or moo milk and then blend. If you are up for it ditch the smoothies some mornings and throw together an egg and vegetable scramble instead. For salads try steaming or baking your favorite vegetables such as green beans, pea pods, zucchini, kale, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli and serve with your favorite dressing. Ditch the salads some of times too and go with soups and stews instead. There are plenty of soups for all months of the year that celebrate the season and taste good. Just Google “summer soup” and see what recipes pop up and inspire you.
Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t ever eat salad or a raw piece of fruit ever again. As the summer weather gets hotter, this is usually a great time to add some raw foods such as fruit, salads, juices or smoothies to your diet, especially if you are hitting the farmers markets or harvesting right from your own garden—just don’t overdo it. You already know that too much of a good thing is not necessarily good for you. The same applies here. It’s important to remember that cooked foods are easier to digest than raw foods. Cold smoothies and salads on a daily basis, or three times a day for that matter, are just too much for most people.
There is not one right diet for everyone, so listen to your body and observe its progress and response to what you put into it. If you are not losing weight and are struggling with digestive problems then the fuel you are putting into your body may not be optimal for you.
So go ahead and try decreasing the amount of raw and cold foods and increasing cooked foods in your diet. If you feel you need extra help losing weight, call our office to get started with a customized nutrition plan, acupuncture or herbal program to help reduce stress, balance hormones, curb cravings, boost your metabolism and resolve any pain or injury that is holding you back from a healthy exercise regimen.