overexerciseA close member of my family recently went on a weight loss diet and happily dropped 25 pounds within two or three months. Suddenly encouragement changed to despair as she found that try as hard as she must, sticking close to her diet, she could hardly lose even another 5 poundss over the following two months. Discouraged, she fell off the wagon and gained back 10 pounds of what she originally lost.

So what happened? One thing is that she was going to the gym regularly, getting healthier and the fat she accumulated was being replaced by muscle, which is denser and heavier. If she had stayed on the diet longer, eventually she would have begun to lose weight again at even an even faster rate because her muscle growth due to exercise would have increased the body’s fat-burning ability.

A common mistake for many who go on a diet to lose weight is in believing that somehow if they exercise more, they burn more calories and therefore will lose weight faster. In fact, one has to burn at least 500 calories a day for a week, which comes to 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat.

So what is the value of exercise in weight-loss dieting, given the fact that the amount of exercise one is able to do will always be limited by how fat we are?

Exercise is vitally important in losing weight, not so much for burning calories as it is for revving up Yang metabolism. This literally turns your body into a fat-burning machine.

However, the transition from fat to muscle may seem to be a no-man’s-land in terms of actually shedding of pounds.

scaledudeThe word is finally getting out. Approximately one third of Americans are overweight. As a result, they suffer from a number of metabolic diseases such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The health problems arising from this condition result in literally billions of dollars in additional health care costs.

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, beginning at 5:30 PM PST I will offer a free 1½ hour webinar on safe, balanced weight loss. Please register in advance for participation.

In advance of that webinar, I would like to offer a few ideas that you might find useful and that we will talk further about during the webinar. Even incorporating a few of these into your daily routine can make a big difference in your ability to shed those unwanted pounds over time.

Foods and food quality

 Eat whole, pure foods. Before you reach for that extra fatty, sugary, starchy something ask yourself the questions, "Is it worth it?" and "Am I willing to wear it?"

Eat as many fresh vegetables and fruit as you can.

Everyday, be sure to eat quality protein, such as a 3-ounce serving of meat, 2 eggs, dairy including milk and yogurt, or beans.

Satisfy cravings with proteinaceous foods such as nuts, hard boiled eggs, and non-fat yogurt.

Try to eat more slowly, giving your appetite time to catch up with your hunger.

Don’t be afraid to discard or donate excess food. For many of us in our time and place, overeating is more of a problem than starvation and the earth is always ready to renew itself with our discarded waste and food. Parents: don’t eat your children’s leftovers. This can be the bane of many parents who fail to lose weight.

Restaurants are notorious for large portions. In most cases, you can easily eat only half of what is given and save the leftovers for a delicious meal the following day.

Whenever possible, share desserts.

It is often better to have a small bite of something that may not be so good for you in your adventure in weight loss than to struggle with unsustainable self-denial.

Do snack. Studies have shown that eating small amounts throughout the day charges your metabolism. For such occasions, carry a bag of seeds or nuts to help satisfy some of those hunger cravings for things that are not so good.

Don’t miss meals! Having said this, while breakfast is usually considered the most important meal of the day, if you are not hungry or have overeaten the previous day, you might wait until midmorning brunch and or have something light such as fruit or a low-calorie high-protein fruit smoothie.

Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Whenever possible, drink first and eat later, or better yet, learn to recognize the difference.


Keep a diet diary or use one of a number of online diet diary calculators. Most of us get fat because we lose awareness and control over what we eat.

Check the scale regularly, one to three times weekly.

If you begin an exercise routine, keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat; with added muscle, the body tends to have higher metabolism and burn calories more efficiently. Do not get discouraged because the scale does not reflect weight loss. Instead, use a tape measure to measure your abdomen, arms and thighs and track your progress that way.


Adequate sleep is vitally important to any weight loss program. One of the reasons we eat so much is because we are chronically tired and we learn to use food as a temporary metabolic stimulant. I think this is one of the biggest reasons many people are over their healthy weight.

On the other hand, make it a habit to get at least 30 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a day. Gardening, by the way, is fabulous exercise. Find ways to get more movement in your life such as taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Consider listening to audiobooks while exercising, jogging or walking.

Triphala and Garcinia

Triphala and Garcinia cambogia are traditional and the best supplements to use for weight loss and weight maintenance. I’ve put these two herbs together in Planetary Formulas’ Triphala-Garcinia Program. I know the research doesn’t support the extravagant weight loss claims attributed to the use of garcinia, but taking three 1300 mg tablets of this formula along with an 8-ounce glass of water a three times a day, a half hour before meals is an effective supplement when accompanied with a comprehensive dieting and lifestyle program.

Among Triphala’s myriad uses as a key treatment in Ayurvedic medicine is weight regulation through whole body detoxification. Triphala, comprised of three fruits, amla (Terminalia emblica), haritaki (Chebulic myrobalan) and bibhitaki (Beleric myroblan). Each fruit corresponds to each of the three doshas or humours of the body, harmonizing, detoxifying and eliminating all excesses in a balanced way. It is the most effective herbal antioxidant and among its many uses, it optimizes digestion, assists liver detoxification, prevents accumulation of fatty deposits throughout the body including the circulatory system, and normalizes bowel function with no dependency.

Garcinia inhibits the liver enzyme that turns carbohydrates into fat. It also quells hunger.

The basic strategy for the use of herbs for weight loss is to help digestion and promote detoxification. Additionally, many overweight people have an underactive thyroid gland, which causes low metabolism. Because of its iodine content, kelp or bladderwrack provide the essential nutrients necessary for the production of thyroid hormone. These are all found in Planetary’s Triphala-Garcinia Program.


Kichari: An Ideal Food for Balanced Weight Management

Kichari is an ideal food for all healing and is especially useful for promoting balanced weight loss, treatment of insulin resistance, Syndrome X and diabetes. It makes an ideal food consumed occasionally or as a mono-diet over extended periods of time.

Kichari, commonly known as "mung dahl" in Indian restaurants basically consists of split yellow mung beans and white basmati rice cooked with the three basic spices of turmeric, cumin and coriander, rock salt and ghee or clarified butter.

This basic recipe can be served alone or with the addition of complementary spices such as asafetida, and various vegetables to make a stew. As such the combination of carbohydrate and beans make a complete protein with which the addition of ghee and spices are easily digested.

For much more on kichari, plus multiple recipes, please see my previous blog:

Kichari: The Food of the Gods

High-Protein Breakfast Smoothie

I often like to start the day with a breakfast smoothie using 1 cup of whole or non-fat milk (lower calories), or a nut milk such as almond milk.

Next I add a protein- vegetable- and fruit-rich powder. Often, I use two scoops of Orac’s Protein and Greens which contains 17 grams of pea protein. To this I add:

6 walnut halves

1 teaspoon of bee pollen

1 tablespoon of brewer’s yeast

1 banana

Berries, frozen or fresh

Perhaps an occasional mango

For digestion and metabolic warmth I might add ½ teaspoon each of ginger, cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.

Starting the day off with this high-energy superfood will usually satisfy all my hunger urges for a half-day or more.

The next two meals might consist of a bowl of kichari.

Be sure to register for the weight loss webinar on Oct. 1 where I will present traditional natural approaches to weight management based on ancient principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and modern naturopathic approaches!

scaleA few months ago, I found myself asking the question that so many of my students and colleagues were polite enough to not ask me:

"What is an herbalist, author of multiple best-selling books and articles on natural healing, mentor to an entire generation of healers, doing walking around with a pot belly and some 40 to 50 pounds of life-threatening flab?

The truth is, I had tried on numerous occasions to lose weight using various well known methods, including fasting. Fasting certainly works as any caloric reduction would, but the problem is the almost uncontrollable urge to eat anything and everything, especially after completion of a fast. It’s the old ‘action-reaction’ law that haunts everything we try to do.

Basically, whatever one has to say about weight loss, and evidently judging from the plethora of books and experts out there, that’s a lot, it all boils down to caloric restriction and raising one’s metabolism; in other words, less food and more movement.

But there is one more vitally important aspect to weight loss, one that has been the unique aspect of the Weight Watchers method: the psycho-emotional component. It was in September 1961 that Jean Nidetch, an overweight woman from Queens, NY, called a group of friends to share her obsession of eating freshly baked cookies. It was from this that she realized that the most effective keys to weight control was not only the types and amount of foods that one eats but the mental aspects of "empathy, rapport and mutual understanding" that precedes all other measures. Her discovery resulted in a personal 70-pound weight loss and the beginning of one of the most effective weight control organizations in the world. Jean began by turning her weekly cookie eating fests to weekly support gatherings to encourage and help fellow dieters to lose weight and feel healthier. The key was gentle and supportive, personal and collective accountability. With that philosophy at its core, Weight Watchers was organized as a company in 1963.  Instead of counting calories that went into the thousands each day they developed a system of counting only a limited number of points – an important psychological approach that makes the whole thing a lot more practical than counting calories.

Depending on one’s starting weight a fixed number of points is allotted for each day. In order to keep weight loss balanced, and to prevent rebound so that the loss is permanent, the number of points allotted for each day during the weight loss phase continues to slightly diminish as one loses weight. Because many consider Weight Watchers not simply a weight loss method but weight maintenance one as well, when one reaches one’s target weight range, the formula changes to allow more points for weight management. It is at that stage that one can solicit Weight Watchers for free lifetime membership.

Previous to Weight Watchers, I would start a diet program and then find that I was getting nowhere because I always managed to eat more than I needed since I didn’t realize how much that extra slice of bread or ice cream indulgence really cost me in terms of my ability to lose weight. So I failed and gave up.

Next there were the restrictive diet regimes, many if not all of which I know intimately and well, either from personal experience or the countless numbers of patients I’ve supervised over decades. Such programs definitely work for awhile but again the pendulum swings back and before we know it we have driven ourselves insane following some rigid fad dietary regime that denies us access to our favorite foods. This drives to the other end of dietary insanity, where we find ourselves putting on the pounds with beer, pasta, cake, pies, candy, you name it.

Weight Watchers’ success is in the realization that strictly in terms of weight loss, along with food quantity, it is not so much what we eat but how much accountability we keep to others and ourselves.

The funny thing is, I knew that Weight Watchers worked because I tried it several years ago and had indeed lost weight. The problem then was that it was inconvenient to keep a handwritten daily diet diary and making sure that I ate within the personally allotted daily point allowance based on my weight. Nowadays, they still have personal calculator that one can purchase to be sure one stays within the daily allowance, but I personally found that downloading and using the Weight Watchers online app for iPhone (and other smart phones), together with the handy bar scanner where one could scan a product’s bar code to get the number of points for a serving of any packaged food makes the process of weight loss like a game based on the choices I make and am willing to make throughout the day.

Rather than ruling out an indulgence of that wonderful aroma of baked flour, fat, sugar and cinnamon that wafts to my senses between flights in airports, I can look up the points for the Cinnabon and see that yes, I could eat it, but it will cost me an entire day’s worth of 30 points to do so, and isn’t really worth it.

In addition to knowing how many points I am allowed to consume and the convenience of logging these on my iPhone app, what makes Weight Watchers really work for me is going to the weekly weigh-in sessions, which take about 45 minutes each week. So far as I’m concerned, all three components have been an essential part of my commitment.

One of the common complaints about Weight Watchers has been that previously it did not emphasize healthy eating as much. Attempting to maintain its fundamental approach that allows one to eat or drink anything so long as they remain within the point allowance, in recent years Weight Watchers evolved a Points Plus system. This identifies a category of pure, nutrient dense, whole foods in a recommended category of "Power Foods." Consuming more of these foods leads to greater satisfaction, less hunger and greater health. For example, a cup of rice, whether it is white or brown, is still 5 points. Since it is always about making smart choices, one may choose whether a half cup at approximately 2 points or so together with a high protein food such as an egg, also at 2 points, would be a better and more long lasting satisfying choice. Weight Watchers also allows a limitless amount of vegetables and within reason fresh fruit point-free and they encourage five servings of these daily which goes a long way toward feeling satisfied while losing weight. Because many mistake the need for food with the need for water, Weight Watchers recommends 8 to 10 glasses of water daily. I don’t think this takes into account the increased tendency towards frequent urination that occurs for many as they age.

Often when I counsel patients on diet I ask them to keep a diet diary. Each time they bring it to me I tell them how their food choices may sabotage their efforts to heal. I then began to consider that what was good for the goose just might be good for the gander (me). Serendipitously, this occurred just at the time when I read a study published in the August 2012 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine1. It was a sizable study involving 1,685 overweight or obese U.S. adults ranging from 25 years and older that found that people who kept food diaries and were only encouraged to eat a healthy diet and keep physically active were able to shed almost 13 pounds on average. According to the senior investigator, Victor Stevens, PhD, senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., "those who kept food records six days a week -- jotting down everything they ate and drank on those days -- lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less."

Much like Weight Watchers, accountability, rather than whether someone ate too much sugar or not enough whole grains or vegetables, was the major reason for the success of this approach to weight loss. This was further emphasized by the fact that these subjects were also required to meet weekly in groups to share their food diaries and brush up on skills like how to judge portion size.

Somehow this rang a bell for me and it didn’t take long for me to reconsider Weight Watchers, the only systematic approach to weight loss that I had tried and achieved a measure of success.

As an Italian, my dietary Achilles' heel is pasta. On New Year’s eve, Lesley and I went to dinner at our favorite newly opened local Italian restaurant (for those of you who live in the Santa Cruz area it’s called Casa Nostra and it happens to be located in my hometown of Ben Lomond). Knowing that we were going to dinner that evening, I had only one meal that day: an 8-point breakfast of whole grain cereal, banana, blueberries, lycii berries, walnuts (the best appetite appeaser), and non-fat milk. This left me with 27 points for the evening, enough to accommodate an uncharacteristic indulgence in a superb marinara meat lasagna. It so happened that theirs was not so much smothered with high calorie cheese but with beef so to my taste the consistency, the health value and the points were better. If I didn’t have so many points to spend, I would have had to consider halving the serving for a meal the next day, instead, I was happy to indulge my epicurean propensity and eat their full portion. When I tabulated the points I found that of even this at best only took up perhaps 12 to 14 of my 27 points remaining. This left room for our stopping after a movie at another excellent local German restaurant (Tyrolean Inn) for their most exquisite warm apple strudel even topped with a dollop of whipped cream!

The next morning I awoke, meditated, got to the bathroom scale, and was delighted to learn that I didn’t gain weight from my on-the-town foray of the previous night. In fact, I even lost a tad. This was even before getting on the elliptical rider, which I alternate with a daily two-mile jog and some weight resistance training and yoga. Besides the self-esteem that many associate with a thinner body, there is the real benefit of the ability to enjoy life more fully. One of my greatest satisfactions is that I can now do all the yoga asanas I once used to do some 20 or so years ago.

And oh, I forgot to tell you how much weight I have lost over five-month period – a whopping 30 pounds! At the young age of 73, I’m rapidly approaching my new weight goal, which may be close to what I was in my late teens. By the way, about four months ago I gifted one of my grown children a Weight Watchers membership and she just let me know that she’s lost 19 pounds to date.

beforeww   afterww

Above: Michael Tierra before (left), and after (right) Weight Watchers

So if you are into making another New Year’s resolution to shed the pounds, I suggest that you consider joining Weight Watchers online and attend the local weekly meetings for at least the first three months. I think the further accountability and the ongoing support from others who are on the same path is well worth the modest expense.

So there you have it! I’ve given you all my new year’s advice for the big question that many have at this time - how to lose weight in this year. May you be as successful and feel as good.

[i] American Journal of Preventive Medicine Volume 35, Issue 2, Pages 118-126 (August 2008) DOI:10.1016/j.amepre.2008.04.013

scaleWeight has never particularly been a problem for me. Yes, I've weighed more than I "should" at various times in my life, but when I focused on losing it, the weight came off. In the last few years, however, not only has it been impossible for me to shed weight, I've also watched the scale increasingly climb to my highest number ever, sans pregnancy, and it was closing in on that record, too.

Yes, I hit a landmark age this last year (you can guess all you want), but I also exercise five days a week. So what was happening? Why did I finally buy some pants a size up, something I swore I'd never do but lose weight instead? What was up with this weight?

As I looked back to when I stated gaining weight, it was simultaneous with writing and editing our new herb course. I put much pressure on myself (and Michael and Anne!) to complete it within our impossible deadline, but at the same time I was also writing another book. In order to do both, I found myself on the computer in the early mornings rather than making breakfast, and working long afternoons, sometimes skipping lunch. I would always eventually have at least breakfast and dinner, but the hours became erratic and undependable.

To complicate matters, I had spent a good 30 years cooking and was tired of it. I wanted what many others had, when I finished my writing to pop into the kitchen and find a wholesome, balanced meal all ready and waiting for me. I won't say that never happened, but rarely enough to truly sustain my family or me.

Instead, I found myself "you got it" snacking. I snacked on fairly decent stuff compared to what most do such as organic, whole grain crackers, dried puffed veggies, nuts, sesame sticks and the like, but nothing truly nutritious or balanced. I also found myself eating out a lot, something I love to do, but with foods too luscious to turn down, such as dairy and breads. After two years of this you can predict what happened, and it did. Twenty more pounds later I no longer fit my clothes and knew why. It was obvious.

And so in an effort to start the new year off right and to cleanse, something else I needed, I began to cook again. There's no substitute for home cooking, there really isn't. Yes, I know the restaurants in town where I can enjoy a nutritious and delicious meal, but it's still not the same, particularly when it comes to losing weight.

No only did I start cooking regularly again, but I chose alkalinizing meals, lots of veggies, some protein and a small amount of quinoa or rice. The result? Weight loss, "easy" and simple. It actually wasn't even my goal to lose weight, but when I found my new pants too big, I knew something extra wonderful was happening.

So I thought I'd share this food plan with you. I know weight loss can be very difficult for some who have definitive metabolic issues, but for many, a change of diet is the simplest and most direct way to shed pounds.

How to Lose Weight

Eat lots of cooked vegetables, some fruit (cooked in cold weather, raw in warm), some whole grains, some legumes, and animal protein.

How to Gain Weight

Eat lots of flour products (crackers, cereals, muffins, toast, bread, crackers, chips, pies, cakes, cookies, bagels, pasta, tortillas, you get the idea), dairy (cheese, milk, ice cream, cream, sour cream, sauces and dressings and so on), sugar, fried and fatty foods, nuts and nut butters, tahini, alcohol, desserts and cold/iced foods and drinks.

Acid/Alkaline Diets

If you want to shift to a more alkaline diet, there are many charts online which delineate the acid/alkaline balance of foods. In general, most vegetables are alkaline except the nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and green bell peppers). Very few fruits are alkaline (sour cherries, unripe bananas, lemons and limes make the list), while some grains and legumes are alkaline, too (millet, quinoa, buckwheat, lentils, white beans and soybeans).

Now don't hold me to these being fully accurate because every chart I've seen is different! So check them out yourself online and make your own choices.

As we sail into Spring, energetically if not weather-wise (it begins any day now, according to traditional Chinese medicine!), a simpler diet may be your ticket to not only better health, but weight loss, too, should you desire that. Best of luck to you!

eggsbaconI've lived through 40 years of fad diets ranging from Adele Davis, living foods, Paul Bragg, juice diets, macrobiotic, low fat, low carbohydrate, Mediterranean, high protein, to the currently fashionable Paleolithic diet. We may be coming around full circle with the recent findings that a high-fat breakfast consisting of foods rich in saturated fats such as bacon is actually good for you. Such are the findings of researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham led by senior study author, Martin E. Young, published in the March 30, 2010 issue of the International Journal of Obesity.

The study found that a high-fat (that's fat, not protein!), low-carb breakfast jump starts your metabolism so that you have more energy throughout the day and you will process food more efficiently and lose belly fat, insulin resistance, lower blood lipids and prevent coronary heart disease, as well as prevent and reverse type 2 diabetes.

The study consisted of feeding mice either a high-fat (45% fat) breakfast or a high-carbohydrate breakfast with only 10% fat. All mice were given the same number of calories. The mice only had two meals a day; those with a high-fat breakfast had a high-carbohydrate dinner, and those with a high-carbohydrate breakfast had a high-fat dinner.

The mice with the high-fat breakfast had the best metabolic markers which include body weight, glucose tolerance and blood lipids, especially triglycerides, compared with the mice who ate high-fat dinners.

The study concluded that a high-fat meal at the beginning of the day could generate enough energy to drive up metabolism for the entire day, while a high-fat dinner would slow it down, resulting in weight gain. Chief researcher Martin E. Young, Ph.D, said that 'The first meal seemed to 'program' their metabolism very effectively for the rest of the day.'

Good fats such as the omega-3 fatty acids abundant in salmon are recommended in the study, but it is my observation and experience that even saturated fat from bacon and sausage is the basis for energy storage. As described in Know Your Fats by Mary G. Enig, each pound of fat supplies us with approximately 4000 kilo-calories of reserve energy. Enig describes how this means that a slender person who weighs 150 pounds will be carrying 25 to 30 pounds of fat as energy reserves; the same amount of energy in carbohydrate form would have to weigh 50 to 70 pounds!

The Optimal Diet

Some years back, I was introduced to the work of Chicago Dr. Jan Kwasniewski described on his website as The Optimal Diet. He literally has treated and cured thousands of patients with a wide variety of chronic degenerative diseases ranging from obesity, coronary heart disease, arteriosclerosis, and diabetes, to arthritic conditions.

His dietary recommendation is especially radical to anyone like me, who has been persuaded of the value of low-fat diets. Dr. Kwasniewski recommends three to four times the amount of fat to protein along with one quarter or less the amount of carbohydrate.  The Optimal Diet also strongly advocates the inclusion of organ meats (liver, heart, intestines, kidneys, etc) as superior to muscle meat such as filet mignon or New York cut steaks. Dr. Kwasniewski's diet also completely downplays the importance of vegetables and fruits, which as carbohydrates occupy the smallest percentage in relation to fat and protein.

A typical Optimal Diet breakfast might consist of four slices of bacon, two or three eggs fried in the bacon fat, and a half slice of whole wheat toast with butter. Astonishingly, I've seen individuals whose cholesterol was 265 drop down to 187 after being only two weeks on this high-fat diet.  Many of these also lost as much as two or three inches around the waist at the same time.

So I know it works at least for some, but the problem is that most of us are so heavily conditioned to believe that fat is bad for us and find it very difficult to follow such a strict high-fat diet. Now with the recent University of Alabama study, one can achieve good results by making sure your highest fat meal happens at breakfast. If you prefer, you can use a wide variety of fats including so-called 'good fats:' omega 3 fatty acids as found in flax seeds, salmon and sardines.

So my eldest son just called to invite me to his house for a breakfast this morning of delicious pancakes with fruit topping and a couple slices of bacon on the side. I wonder how I should respond!

We're already halfway through January! How are you doing with your health-centered New Year's resolutions? In my last post on diet and weight loss, I discussed exercise and making reponsible food choices. In this post I'd like to address another option for detoxification, balancing and weight loss: Fasting.

All fasting is essentially a process that gives the body a rest and restores normal metabolic function. There are generally two types of fasts: a more extreme detoxifying juice-only fast, and a milder yet still balancing and detoxifying fast based on legumes and grains.

apple juiceFour-Day Apple Juice Fast

If you have previously overindulged in rich foods, meat, fat, dairy and so forth, you may reap remarkable benefits from a mono-fruit juice fast. For starters, I recommend the four-day apple juice fast.

Purchase or be prepared to juice the equivalent of at least a half-gallon of organic apple juice per day for three days.

The drill is simple: to maintain blood sugar levels, have at least one 8-ounce glass of warm or room temperature apple juice every two hours or anytime you feel like eating.

To maintain healthy fats during this (or any) diet I also recommend a teaspoon of olive oil three times daily.

After three days of taking apple juice only, you 'break-fast' on the fourth day. This day is the day that can either make or break the gains achieved by the previous three days. On that day, one can have warm vegetable soup with added beans and brown rice, accompanied by a wilted salad garnished with olive oil and Bragg's amino acids (an alternative to soy tamari sauce).

A "wilted" salad is the a traditional Asian dish made by chopping up salad greens and putting them into a cheesecloth bag and dipping them briefly into a pot of salted boiling water for 30 seconds or so. This is then placed on a dish with another dish on top and a weight to press out the excess water in the salad.

The nutrients in greens are encased in a cellulose-like bond that is difficult for our digestive fluids to dissolve. Heat dissolves this bond just as it will quickly crinkle any piece of cellophane passed over an open flame. Many may ask, "Don't you lose some of the nutrients through this flash-heating method?" Yes, but the loss is very little compared to what you will now absorb. The experiential test for this is how comfortable and good your stomach feels when you have your salads prepared in this way as opposed to greens that are raw.

Certain herbs will greatly assist the detoxifying weight loss process you are trying to accomplish with this fast. For this, I recommend Planetary's Triphala Garcinia Program, two to three tablets taken with the apple juice three times daily. This formula combines the legendary balanced detoxification properties of the three Ayurvedic fruits of Triphala with the thyroid supporting effects of kelp and L-Tyrosine, which all purify the blood and lymph. Also included in the formula are burdock and cleavers, which increase the elimination of excess fluid; Chinese white atractylodes, astragalus and ginger to help raise metabolism; and dehydrated apple cider vinegar, which regulates acid-alkaline.

It is important to note that no herbal formula will directly result in weight loss. Stimulants are used medically and do suppress the appetite to some degree, but should not be exclusively relied upon in place of dietary and lifestyle solutions such as the ones I discuss on this and previous posts.

This being said, a formula such as Triphala Garcinia Program can be a powerful aid to all the elements necessary for balanced weight loss. It can be safely used in an ongoing manner to assist the body's normal digestive, assimilative and eliminative processes.

After an initial four-day fast like the one mentioned above is a good time to implement or renew your New Year's diet principles and resolutions.

dhal © Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.comKicharee Fast

For those whose diets are not so extreme in indulgences but still would like to detoxify and cleanse, a 10-day diet based on whole grains and beans with the judicious use of spices is recommended.

The most ideal fast that has been used for millennia is based on the Ayurvedic food called kichari or kichidi. This is one of the most satisfying and healing foods. It can be taken as a complete food for detoxification, purification, weight loss, weak digestion or recovery from illness. You may modify it as you wish, adding vegetables, using chicken stock, adding fish, and so on. However, it is pretty complete unto itself. Depending on the type of fast you would like to do, you may choose to have it once, twice or for all three meals of the day.

With the addition of some cooked vegetables, one can live on kicharee. Here is the recipe:

Kicharee (Indian Dahl and Rice)

You will need the following ingredients:

  • Split yellow mung beans (dahl)
  • White Indian basmati rice (or other white rice)
  • Ghee (clarified butter)

Spices are important to kicharee and have their own healing properties:

  • Ground turmeric
  • Ground coriander seed
  • Ground cumin seed
  • Sea or rock salt

The final product will be very soupy and not like normal rice and beans. You can choose to make it thicker or thinner by using more or less water in the beginning.

In a saucepan, cook one part rice and mung beans (can be a quarter to a half cup of each) in 7 to 10 parts water until rice is tender.

In a separate large skillet, heat a level tablespoon of ghee. Add and sautee 1/4 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground coriander seed, ground cumin seed and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

This should only takes a few minutes to lightly brown so that the wonderful aroma of the spices begins to arise. Then mix in the precooked mung beans and rice.

During your fast, have a bowl as often as you like. The ancients said that if one eats only kicharee for 10 days, it can cure all diseases. True or not, it is certainly a wonderful foundation to healing. To enhance the detoxification process, take three triphala tablets twice a day with water before or after eating kicharee.

While it is best to make a fresh batch everyday during your fast, kicharee will keep refrigerated for three or four days. Don't forget that you can add vegetables or small amounts of organic meats to the above basic recipe to make it more like a stew.

I look forward to hearing what your experiences with either of the above fasts are in the comments section.

Dhal image by ©
Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com

CakeIt's the new year and guess what's on (almost) everyone's minds: Losing weight and dropping some of the pounds they put on, especially during the holiday season.

Of course, there are a number of those 'airy' thin, yin, fiery types who seem to be able to eat as much as they want and hardly put on a pound. You might guess that these types have a high metabolism. This is correct, but is that the whole story? Could be, but these preternaturally skinny types might also be using that high metabolism to digest a diet that's actually helping them to stay lean and healthy. Read on:

Refined Sugar: The Enemy!

I'm going to have to assume, perhaps wrongly, that most people who might visit my site and read my blog already know most of the problem foods and activities to avoid. But just to be clear at the onset, just as money is sometimes called the root of all evil, sugar would be considered the root of all gustatory evils. And just like money, sugar is not necessarily bad in itself, especially if in unrefined forms like honey, agave and maple syrup which contain minerals that our bodies need.

Traditional medicine classifies foods in terms of flavors and therapeutic effects. The sweet flavor is practically ubiquitous in the foods we commonly eat. These foods contain the kind of carbohydrates and proteins that the body needs to function at optimal levels. From the perspective of traditional herbal medicine (THM), this means that if we crave and overeat sweets, some part of us is malnourished.

When we overindulge in sweets made with white sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners derived from corn and refined grains such as white flour, our insulin spikes which causes our bodies to quickly store the unwanted calories as fat. Instead of being satisfied, our bodies feel even more deprived, because like a child promised a present that he did not receive, the body acts up with even more cravings for sweet, rich foods. Ever notice how one indulgence in a refined sweet like candy leads to another? I offer that this fierce internal need is the root for all addictions.

This may not be easy, but if you're really serious about achieving optimal health and weight, the first order of business is to eat, whole, organic pure foods. If you have any suspicion that you may be not eating the optimal diet, check out the latest issue of Men's Health Magazine's 20 Worst Foods In America. If you think you are in this category of individual seeking to lose weight, you may have to start with the basics.

Basic steps to achieve optimal health and weight:

  • Eat whole, pure foods, avoid 100% of the foods sold in the center aisles of grocery stores, and for that matter so-called health food stores as well. Learn the dozens of ways to identify refined sugar on labels.
  • Plan your meals and either prepare all your own food or hire someone to prepare your food for you.
  • Regularly exercise - a half hour of most exercise maintains weight; at 45 minutes of continuous exercise is where one begins to lose accumulated fat stores. One can practice a more aerobic type of yoga, Qi Gung (and don't fall for the myth that slow Asian exercise that doesn't increase your pulse and cause you to break a sweat isn't going to do anything to dissolve fat). Running or walking are great options too. For the winter, I like to use my Nordic track while watching my favorite TV show. (And please, guys, how can you allow yourselves to lie back on the couch, slugging down pizza, beer, nachos, sodas and other fattening snacks while watching your football heroes who are fit as can be get such a great work out? Let them inspire you to get on a stepper, glider, stationary bike, or trampoline for at least for 30 to 45 minutes during the game.)
  • A special reminder for computer addicts (I'm one!): Try to make it a point to get up and get physical for 10 minutes or so every hour.

OK, so those are the basics. Screw up any of these and I guarantee you will fail to achieve optimal health and weight.

Refined Foods, Alcohol and Emotional Eating

Refined foods in general are trigger foods that just make you want to eat more. Even refined salt increases our salt craving because the naturally occurring minerals in salt have been removed mostly to enable more convenient dispensing. Avoid refined foods like the plague. In fact in our society they are a plague and the major underlying cause of all disease.

As for alcoholic drinks, everyone should know that alcohol is a byproduct of fermented sugar. Therefore, as alluded to previously, alcoholic addiction should be considered from one perspective as another form of sugar addiction. (If you think this is hyperbole, check out the sugary snacks always present at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.) From that perspective, it is really trading one terrible self-destructive addiction for another.

If you want to preserve even a semblance of health while indulging, make it a point to consume alcohol that has no added refined sugar. In the old days, cheap alcohol made from refined sugar was called "rot gut." In my clinical experience, I have seen that it is so much easier for an alcoholic to recover if he or she only drank good quality alcohol rather than one who drank booze spiked with sugar to cheaply increase its alcohol levels.

Emotions are a big part of our food cravings. Tell an Italian to give up pasta, or an Irishman to lay off the whiskey, and it's tantamount to denying a cultural inalienable right! (As for you pasta lovers, did you know that cooking pasta al dente lowers the glycemic index so that the carbs are not so quickly stored as fat? Al dente means "to the tooth" -- in other words, the pasta should not be too soft, still giving your teeth some work to do when chewing. For healthier, less fattening pasta, it should be put into the a pot of rolling, boiling water and cooked, depending on the type of pasta, no longer than 5 to 8 minutes. Test your pasta toward the end of cooking time to be sure it is not too hard nor too soft -- just al dente.)

It's really hard to completely overcome our associations with food that stem from the most festive and happiest remembrances of our childhood and young adulthood (whether these are pasta, beer, wine, desserts, ice cream, candy -- you know what they are), and now that we are grown think of all of those things as "bad" for us. I bet most of you are rejecting that thought as you read it here. It's the same little voice that creeps up in our moment of tiredness or weakness that says, "Aw, that can't be completely bad" or "Just a little bit can't hurt." Well, a little bit may not hurt, but let's face it: it's awfully hard to have just a little bit!

Making Responsible, Principled Choices for Diet and Health

I have found that categorically rejecting anything in life (food or otherwise) either drives one to a state of overblown opinionated insanity (where you find yourself shunning certain foods and indulgences as if they were going to be instant death), or else eventually one caves in and indulges to excess in moments of stress, tiredness and weakness.

Have you ever noticed that living in community makes us just as vulnerable to the healthful foods others offer us as we are to the not-so-healthful foods? Think of the last time you were at a potluck gathering or party, standing before a spread of sugary treats that would never find their way into your own home, let alone your mouth. (It's funny we call them "treats"; is it really a "treat" if it makes you sick? In my more lucid moments I have to ask myself that.) The same goes for liquor or even other things like drugs. What are we to do in such situations apart from extricating ourselves from them entirely and becoming an antisocial rogue animal?

To be honest, I really don't have a reasonable suggestion for that one because we would all like to think of ourselves as being gregarious and open, but then we all have our weaknesses. Forging a set of principles around diet can help. Principles are contracts that we agree with ourselves to live by and they are simply not open for discussion. Remember, a principle is not a "rule" -- rules are more fixed. Some principles can become close to a rule, but by definition they are ideas that we choose to live by.

If you are committed to losing weight and becoming healthier this new year, you may find yourself having to make some serious adjustments not only in terms of diet and exercise, but also in terms of who your friends are and what your activities with them are. Try to create a team of friends and a tool kit of exercises, foods and principles that will support your goal.

Stay tuned for next week's blog post when I'll share some ideas about fasting for weight loss and health!

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