Today weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry. The demand is high for fad diets, books, DVDs, belts, body wraps, pills, food products and supplements – all promising to make weight loss easier, quicker, permanent. Not to mention fitness centres, clinics, groups and personal trainers. In the USA during 2008, between US$33 and $US55 billion was spent on this industry, including medical procedures and pharmaceuticals. Over $US1.6 billion was spent on weight loss supplements alone.
The figure for Western Europe in 2009, excluding prescription medications, was in excess of US$1.4 billion. Today the industry is believed to be worth in excess of $US71 billion in the USA (a fall from 2019 due to Covid-19, but expected to rise again in 2021). That’s a lot of money for products which promise lots but ultimately fail to deliver. Did you know that it’s estimated that 90% of people regain all, or more, of the weight lost?
So why the upsurge in the diet industry? In 2017 it was reported that 13% of the world’s adult population were obese, and a further 39% were clinically overweight. 8% of global premature deaths (4.7 million) were linked to obesity, making it the 3rd highest global killer, surpassing car crashes! Clinically obese and overweight is based on the BMI scale (body-mass index) which is calculated by dividing the weight in kg by the height in m2. Overweight is classed as being equal to or above 25, with obese being above 30.
Twenty years ago malnutrition and hunger was the major concern in undeveloped countries, but now obesity is the bigger risk, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and more. That’s not to say that malnutrition and obesity cannot exist in the same country, and even in the same household.
The problem today is the availability of unhealthy processed foods, high in salt, sugar, artificial additives and calories. Often cheaper than fresh healthy ingredients, convenient and with a longer shelf life, it’s easy to see their appeal.
The increase of the sedentary lifestyle has added to the problem, particularly with children and adolescents who are no longer walking to school, playing on computers and phones instead of having an active life outside, and being fed high calorie and high fat diets. One in five children are now clinically overweight, and a study in 2016 found that the number of obese children and adolescents had risen ten-fold from 1975 and stood at 124 million. This does not bode well for their long-term health.
In the more developed countries driving everywhere, limited exercise and processed and fast-food is a way of way of life, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that in the USA for instance, 70% of adults are either overweight or obese, and the average daily calorie intake has now increased to 3800.
Europe is not lagging behind by much on calorie intake, with average being 3000, whereas the recommended daily intake is 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men. Weight gain occurs when more energy is gained through food and drink than is expended by the body in daily activity, although weight gain can also be caused through hormonal changes or imbalances, medications, change in bodily functions, and even a lack of sleep!
Long-term weight loss can rarely be achieved on fad-diets, dietary pills and supplements, but requires a change in lifestyle, incorporating healthier eating habits and an increase in exercise. So what can you do to shift excess weight, even if its just those last few stubborn pounds that you’re having problems with?
Reduce calorie intake – the recommended calorie intake, as mentioned above, is 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men. Cutting down by 500 calories a day should allow you to healthily lose 1 pound a week, by reduction in diet only. It is recommended to cut down on sugar, saturated fats and salt equally.
Increase physical activity – any increase in physical activity will require a further intake of calories (energy) to support it. If the calorie intake is not increased, the body will need to take from its reserves and will burn fat. Exercise doesn’t need to be drastic to start with – just a simple walk will suffice until fitness levels improve.
Get a good night’s sleep – a lack of sleep can dramatically influence weight gain or maintaining a diet. Sleep deprivation affects the hormones, and studies have shown that this has an affect on two of the hormones which influence hunger and metabolism. A lack of sleep will reduce levels of leptin and increase levels of ghrelin. Leptin increases energy expenditure and inhibits the appetite, whereas ghrelin reduces energy expenditure and increases the appetite.
Therefore a lack of sleep increases the appetite and leads to cravings for high fat, high carbohydrate food. A study conducted in 2010 supported this, finding that sleep-deprived dieters lost half the amount of fat than the dieters who had a good night’s sleep.
Mother Nature has provided us with some wonderful herbs which, when incorporated into your diet, in addition to providing healthy low calorie beverages, have some remarkable properties which may give an extra boost to your diet, whether you have many pounds to lose or just a couple:
Guava Leaf Tea
Guava Leaf Tea can help in several ways. It prevents complex carbs from being turned into sugars, and also stabilizes the leptin hormone that triggers the brain when the appetite is satisfied, but is generally disabled by sugary foods. The tea may also inhibit the alpha-glucosidase enzymes preventing glucose from being converted to glycogen, stored in the liver (fatty liver) and adipose tissues such as the tummy and hips, and also preventing insulin resistance and related water retention.
At the same time, it can also alleviate the effects of an existing fatty liver, improving fatty acid oxidation and export, and thereby decreasing insulin resistance and metabolic breakdown. Anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants properties can boost the metabolism, increasing fat burning and destroying fatty tissues and excess glycogen which is not required by the body.
Tamarind Tea is a great choice in many aspects for those looking to control or maintain a healthy weight. It contains hydroxycitric acid which has the ability to reduce the activity of fatty acid synthase, the enzyme responsible for forming adipose tissue in the body. Tamarind also increases serotonin, the hormone which impacts the entire body, stabilising the mood, controlling the appetite and helping the body decide whether to burn or store fat, thus regulating lipid metabolism.
As a mild diuretic and digestive stimulant, it can also help to flush the toxins from the body, speed up digestion, and help to alleviate excess fluid, gas and bloating. Compounds within the tea also help to suppress hunger pains, keeping you fuller for longer and preventing overeating.
Karkade Tea contains flavonoids which help to regulate lipid metabolism and boost fat breakdown, so it’s a great beverage for after a meal. By lowering blood sugar the tea encourages a healthy metabolism, decreases the appetite and helps to prevent weight gain. Human and animal trials regarding weight loss reported that all subjects showed a reduction in overall weight, body fat, and hip to waist. The fresh flavour can also reduce the cravings for something sweet.
As a diuretic herb it can help to flush toxins and excess fluids from the body. A 12 week clinical study published in the journal Food & Function in 2014, demonstrated that hibiscus extract consumption can reduce obesity and abdominal fat, and improve liver damage in obese individuals. Furthermore, a 2010 review suggests that low calorie herbal teas like hibiscus tea can help support weight loss by increasing the intake of fluids, supporting previous research from 2002 published in the journal Medical Hypotheses that hibiscus tea may be a natural weight loss alternative.
Drinking hot Fenugreek Tea will give the metabolism a boost and help to shed any excess pounds. It is rich in galactomannan, a healthy polysaccharide responsible for the breakdown of fat and sugar metabolism in the body, and can trigger the burning of adipose tissue, including stubborn belly fat. Studies have shown that it can inhibit fat accumulation, therefore encouraging the body to burn excess fat, whilst also enhancing the feeling of fullness and reducing the appetite. As a diuretic this tea can dispel water retention and is also excellent for eliminating bloating.
Lemongrass can give you more energy, increase the metabolism and thus help the body to burn more fat. It will also make you feel fuller, thus reducing hunger pangs. According to a study published in 2013 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, polyphenols within lemongrass enhance the oxidation of fatty acids in the body. It also aids digestion to ensure that more nutrients are absorbed from the food, waste is dispelled from the body quicker, and as a natural diuretic it eliminates excess fluid. A perfect low-calorie and refreshing beverage to add to a weight-loss regime.
Moringa is a highly nutritious, low calorie, energy booster which can immobilise fat storage, especially visceral fat. Laboratory tests have confirmed that it can enhance fat breakdown and reduce fat formation. It also contains a compound called phenylalanine which enhances communication between the brain’s nerve cells and reduces hunger pains.
Anise aids in promoting an efficient digestion and fat metabolism. With its diuretic properties it helps to eliminate toxins and remove excess fluids from the body. Anise may also reduce stress and tension which prohibits cortisol and thereby reduces cravings. Stress can be responsible for the body increasing the storage of fat and may also increase the possibility of diseases or dysfunctions within the digestive system.
As a natural diuretic, this tea can flush toxins from the body, cleansing, purifying and stimulating the kidneys and liver. Antioxidants, together with anti-inflammatory properties, can help to rid the body of harmful free radicals, protecting the body against oxidative stress and certain chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and a weakened immune system. Marmaraya demonstrates several cancer-fighting effects. The tea will also speed up the metabolism. Combined with its diuretic properties and ridding the body of excess cholesterol and burning subcutaneous fat, Marmaraya Tea is an excellent aid to fighting excess weight.
Bedouin Tea (Habek)
Habek can help by stimulating the digestive enzymes, digesting and absorbing the nutrients properly, boosting metabolism and ensuring that fat is being used correctly and not stored, systematically aiding weight loss. The diuretic property further ensures that excess fluid is not stored, and proper digestion promotes the elimination of gas and bloating.
As a natural diuretic, this tea can flush toxins from the body, cleansing, purifying and stimulating the kidneys, liver and pancreas.This tea is also a natural diuretic and can help to rid the body of excess cholesterol and burning subcutaneous fat, which together with its ability to enhance metabolism, can aid in the fight against excess weight.
Mint has several ways to aid in a weight loss regime. It stimulates the digestive enzymes to promote better absorption of nutrients, thus improving the metabolism and aiding weight loss. Plus it boosts the release of extra bile, helping for better digestion of fat, and pushes excess liquid from the body, reducing bloating and helping the kidneys. Toxins are flushed from the body and fat turned into usable energy. The strong scent of peppermint tea has also been found to reduce appetite, and a cup of the drink could suppress food cravings and help you feel full for longer periods of time.
Mint has a calming effect on the body and mind, which is very important to initiate weight loss as stress can be responsible for the body increasing the storage of fat and may also increase the possibility of diseases or dysfunctions within the digestive system. Stress also produces cortisol which leads to food cravings and can destroy any weight loss regime.
Green tea boosts the metabolic rate and increases fat burning, especially during exercise. It is particularly effective in reducing dangerous abdominal fat. Green tea is also known to help regulate blood sugar levels and block the formation of new fat cells.
So what’s your pick? What could be better than a refreshing, healthy beverage, designed to help you meet your goals? No fads. No gimmicks. No harmful additives and colourings. Just natural, the way Nature intended.