I stumbled on a highly effective hunger-free weight loss program 15 years ago. It was 1998 and I was twenty-two years old when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). At the time I was diagnosed my neurologist at the University of Miami suggested a change in diet and lifestyle could make me feel better and help slow the progression of my disease. I quickly learned that MS was a disease made worse by inflammation and that I would need to do absolutely everything I could from a lifestyle standpoint to reduce inflammation, which primarily meant changing my diet. I was a fitness instructor at the time and I had always been slim, so the whole concept of “dieting” was foreign to me.
My husband, Andy Larson, M.D., is a surgeon now, but at the time I was diagnosed he was in medical school and I asked for his help in researching the best anti-inflammatory diet to follow. Even though Andy was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, which is consistently ranked one of the best medical schools in the country, nutrition is not something that was emphasized in medical school, so he pretty much had as much learning to do as I did.
The more we learned together about anti-inflammatory nutrition and disease the more we realized that the common link between MS and many seemingly unrelated diseases (asthma, allergies, heart disease, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, arthritis, etc.) was inflammation. Andy decided to start the anti-inflammatory “MS diet” with me because he figured it was a healthy diet to follow even if you don’t have MS or any other inflammatory condition. Although he was not overweight when he started, Andy promptly lost 15 pounds without even trying (he was not restricting portion sizes or trying to count calories, etc.) and reduced his borderline high blood pressure down to a normal healthy level. That was sort of an “ah ha” moment for both of us.
Andy and I then took our anti-inflammatory nutrition and lifestyle program to the public in order to see what results other people would get. We started teaching 5- and 8-week anti-inflammatory health and body makeover programs and although most people who enrolled did so because they had an inflammatory condition, the number one “side benefit” almost every single person experienced was hunger-free weight loss. We soon made the connection that reducing inflammation helps you lose fat, which then helps you reduce inflammation even further (that’s because fat cells promote inflammation!)
In our recently released book, Clean Cuisine: An 8-Week Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Program that Will Change the Way You Age, Look & Feel, we provide plenty of anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle tips that will help you gain health and lose weight. Here are seven of the most important anti-inflammatory steps you can take right now:
Power Up on Phytonutrient-Rich Plants. Clean Cuisine is not a vegan diet, but it is absolutely a plant-forward way of eating. The bulk of your diet should consist of unrefined “whole” plant foods including an abundance of fruits and vegetables in addition to beans, non-flour whole grains, nuts, seeds and “whole” soy.
Clean Up Your Protein Act. Most Americans consume far more protein than they need. Excess protein is the equivalent of eating empty calories. Protein should be pushed to the side of the dinner plate: one serving of animal food per day is more than enough.
Drink a SuperGreen Smoothie Daily. The more fruits and vegetables you can eat the better and one of the best ways to ensure you are getting an abundance of these super anti-inflammatory superfoods is to enjoy a daily SuperGreen smoothie from fruits and greens (spinach, parsley, kale, cilantro, etc.). Making SuperGreen smoothies is very easy; you simply add a handful of greens, a cup of fruit and a cup of water and process everything in a high speed blender.
Balance Your Omega-6/ Omega-3 Fats. Most people eating a modern day diet consume far too many omega-6 fats and way too little omega-3 fat. The best way to balance your omega ratio is to eliminate omega-6 rich processed vegetable oils such as corn, soybean oil and pure vegetable oil and to get your omega-6 fats from “whole” food sources such as avocados, nuts, seeds, etc. And, because omega-3 fats are not abundant in very many foods, you need to consciously make an effort to eat omega-3 fats from vegan sources such as chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts as well as from fatty fish.
Carb Clean Up: The most anti-inflammatory carbs include fruits, veggies (both non-starchy and starchy), beans, legumes, flour-free whole grains & potatoes! (Yes, potatoes are not a dietary evil on Clean Cuisine!)
Fit in 30 Minutes of Full Fitness Fusion Exercise. A workout that fuses full body strength training with oxygen-demanding exercises that keep your heart rate elevated will reduce inflammation and can help you strip fat in as little as 30 minutes. The Clean Cuisine book includes four workout routines and a Full Fitness Fusion workout DVD that can reduce inflammation.
Supplement Right. Certain key nutrients (EPA, DHA, GLA, vitamin D and a phytonutrient booster are essential to reducing inflammation and not found in great enough quantities from food alone.
Author Ivy Larson is a nutrition, fitness and wellness expert. She is the founder of the Clean Cuisine product line, author of Clean Cuisine: An 8-Week Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Program that Will Change the Way You Age, Look & Feel and the creator of Full Fitness Fusion: The 30 Minute Solution workout DVD. Find her at Cleancuisineandmore.com and on Twitter @clean_cuisine.