Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc (Hons), ND
“I’m in such poor shape overweight, arthritis everywhere. How can I reverse all this and reverse the aging process?”
There is no quick and easy answer to this problem. I’m sure it’s taken a number of years to get into the shape you are in and so likewise it may take a number of months or years to reverse it. It can be done though and seeking help is an excellent first step! Know too that you are not alone. Millions of other Americans struggle with the exact same issues as you. The weight problem will contribute to the arthritis so an important first step for you is to lose some weight, easier said than done, I know!
Here are the components of successful weight loss, I’m sure you’ve heard all this before but we’ll talk about the general steps and then try to make a plan for how you can tackle them.
Exercise! Exercise is a vital component of any weight loss plan. It helps in so many ways: reduces stress, burns more calories, lowers insulin, builds muscle and reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. The key is to find something you enjoy, start slowly and keep building on to it in either intensity or duration. Take a brisk walk, climb some stairs, swim, bike, hike, dance, ski, canoe, fitness classes, play a sport or anything else that you enjoy that involves moving your body. You want to be a little out of breath, but still able to carry on a conversation. I know your arthritis will make this a bit more challenging, but adding whatever exercise you can manage, even if it’s only 5 minutes per day will help!
Focus on the quality of what you eat, rather than count calories. Ideally, at least 50% of what you eat in a day should be vegetables, about 6-8 servings, that’s 2-3 servings of veggies per meal. Don’t like to cook? Buy prewashed Spring Mix salad or baby spinach and drizzle some balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and/or olive oil on top. Buy baby carrots, peppers, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and hummus. Frozen vegetables are fine too, they’re quick and easy to prepare. Have 2 servings of fresh fruit per day. Add a good quality protein with each meal: nuts, seeds, eggs, nut butter, legumes, tofu, fish, poultry and red meat (once per week). Eat whole, unprocessed grains sparingly, reduce them gradually to once per day or less. Feeling hungry all the time eating like this? At first, your body may need to adjust to eating less starchy food, give it 2 weeks. Adding healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, nuts and coconut oil to meals can help you make the transition so you feel fuller..
For the arthritis, weight loss can help, so can reducing your intake of inflammatory foods. Foods to limit or avoid include dairy products, sugar, and processed grains (bread, pasta, cereal). Sometimes a strict 3 week elimination of common food intolerances can help clarify which foods are causing your joints to be inflamed – dairy products, sugar, gluten, and beans are some of the most common food sensitivities.
Lastly to reduce aging, what ages us fastest is spikes in our blood sugar which is caused by consuming foods that break down into sugar in our bodies. This includes bread, pasta, cereal, rice, potatoes and anything that contains sugar. Sugars bind to proteins impairing their function and causing wrinkles and greater risk of injury. Reducing these foods and exercising is the best way to turn the aging process around.
- Exercise – even 5 minutes or one flight of stairs per day, add one minute each day or two to build up to 20-30 minutes per day.
- Start cutting back on your starchy and processed foods and increasing your vegetable intake.
- Add a bit of protein and a vegetable to each meal.
- Take it slow, but aim for steady forward progress.
- Celebrate any improvements and don’t beat yourself up over setbacks, just regroup and keep pushing forward.
Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND has been in practice as an ND since 1999 and previously worked for 20 years as a
medical laboratory technologist. She is Clinic Director of Forces of Nature Wellness in Toronto and was twice voted “Best Naturopath in Toronto”. Pamela maintains a busy, diverse practice with particular expertise in naturopathic treatment of PCOS, PMS, menopause, acne, infertility, uterine fibroids and endometriosis. Pamela’s interests include fitness, triathlons, yoga, healthy cooking, tennis and volleyball.