Motivational speaker and author Louise Hay is still going strong at the age of 88. How does she do it? In a new book, Loving Yourself to Great Health, she teams up with her go-to natural health and nutrition experts Ahlea Khadro and Heather Dane to reveal her secrets: listening to your body and living a nutrient-rich life.
Without counting calories or grams of carbohydrates, the "loving" way of eating is designed to take health, mood, and energy to a new level-and helps you shed excess weight along the way. Best of all, it's customized for you and presented here in a 21-Day Challenge style.
1. Listen to Your Body
"We are all an experiment of one," says Dane. "The best way to give your body what it needs is to listen to the signals your body is giving you." Start by keeping a food diary and noting how you react to certain foods for two weeks, tracking your energy levels, moods, how well you sleep, any physical symptoms that improve or get worse, and whether or not your bowel movements are optimum.
Every few days, review your food diary, looking for patterns and noting any foods that may be triggers of symptoms. Once you identify foods that seem to be causing problems, eliminate one of these for one or two weeks. See how you feel and decide if you should be eating that food. Repeat the process with other problematic foods, one at a time.
This learning process enables you to develop the best diet for you, and weight loss, where needed, will be one of the results. There are also some basic principles: eating whole foods rather than processed ones, avoiding toxins, and harnessing some digestive remedies.
2. Let go of Unhealthy Ingredients
Hay and her team caution against eating the following items:
- Refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners.
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG).
- Genetically modified foods (GMOs).
- Gluten, in many grains and as an additive in other foods.
- Trans fats and refined fats.
- Unfermented soy. Fermented soy foods include soy sauce, tamari, tempeh, natto, and miso.
- Factory-farmed meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy.
- Farmed fish. Opt for sustainable, wild varieties.
- Processed food and chemical additives.
3. Pick Nourishing Foods
Choose organic versions of fresh foods and try to prepare meals from scratch. In packaged foods, look for real-foods ingredients, most likely found in your local health food store. For meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy items, choose organic, grass-fed versions from animals raised humanely. Raw butter and ghee (clarified butter) are easily digested because they contain virtually no lactose or casein; other raw, organic, grass-fed dairy products are generally easier to digest than conventional ones. However, not everyone can tolerate dairy.
4. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth in a Different Way
For an instant, healthy treat, store some dates in the freezer. When you want a dessert, take out one date and eat it alone or with almond butter, tahini, a handful of nuts, or a little sea salt.
5. Eat all the Colors of the Rainbow
Emphasize dark, leafy greens, but eat all the colors of the rainbow. Tomatoes, red bell peppers, eggplant, and corn can be problematic for some people. Powdered greens supplements with wheat grass, barley grass, oat grass, spirulina, and/or algae can boost your vegetable intake.
6. Fall in Love with Spices
An infinity of flavors and aromas can be created with fresh and dried herbs and spices. Experiment, discover your own favorites, and use them liberally in savory dishes and desserts. Most vegetables, for example, go beautifully with thyme, basil, and rosemary; alternatively, you could use a mixture of turmeric, allspice, and fennel powder (¼-½ teaspoon each).
7. Use Natural Sweeteners
Unlike refined sugar, natural sources of sweetness are rich in nutrients. They include fruit, dates, raw honey, organic grade B maple syrup, and organic unsulphured blackstrap molasses. For zero-
calorie sweeteners, try monk fruit, also called lo han. Or try stevia.
8. Get Enough Water for Your Weight
Aim for half your body weight in ounces: 70 ounces of water daily if you weigh 140 pounds, as an example. And never ignore thirst.
9. Say Yes to Protein and Healthy Fats
Good protein sources for weight loss include organic, grass-fed, free-range meats, poultry, and eggs; unrefined extra-virgin coconut and olive oils; and seed and nut oils. Use animal fats and coconut oil for high-heat cooking, and olive, avocado, macadamia nut, and sesame oils for light sautéing.
10. Enjoy Grains, Nuts, and Seeds
If you eat grains, Hay and her colleagues recommend naturally gluten-free varieties, such as buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa, and white basmati rice. Also incorporate nuts and seeds into meals. Be aware that cashews, peanuts, and pistachios have been known to accumulate mold more easily and cause symptoms in sensitive people. Rotate your grains, nuts, and seeds, rather than eating just one type every day or even every week, say Khadro and Dane. As they explain, if you eat a food too often, your body could develop a sensitivity to that food, and eating a wide range of foods gives you more nutrients.
11. Drink Broth Daily
Bone broths and vegetable soups puréed in a blender are comforting foods packed with nutrients that reduce inflammation, aid digestion, improve immunity, and enhance moods. Drink them at least once daily.
12.Take Supportive Supplements
Consider supplementing with CoQ10, vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, and the Ayurvedic tonic triphala.
13. Enhance Your Digestion
Good digestion is an essential component of the loving diet, but heartburn, constipation, bloating, gas, and other digestive difficulties are all too common. Hay and her cohorts recommend:
- MINERAL BATHS: Have a warm, relaxing soak in a bath with ½-1 cup of Epsom salts; sea salt; raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar; or seaweed powder.
- DIGESTIVE ENZYMES: With meals, take a supplement with a variety of enzymes.
- PROBIOTICS: Look for a variety of beneficial bacteria, without fillers.
14. Test Your Stomach Acid
Low levels of hydrochloric acid (HCl) impairs break-down of food, which leads to digestive upset.
Test yourself this way: First thing in the morning, drink a mixture of 6 ounces of water and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. If you don't belch within 5 minutes, you likely have low stomach acid.
To increase levels: About 15 minutes before each meal, drink either half a fresh-squeezed lemon in 4 ounces of water, or 1 tablespoon of raw, unfiltered, organic apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water.
15. Control Cravings Naturally
Intensely sweet and salty tastes in processed foods provoke cravings for more of the same. But eating healthy, whole foods will gradually change your taste buds, and your body will want foods that are better for you-a little sweetness, for example, but not an overwhelming amount.
Foods and spices that help tame cravings include:
Sour foods, such as cultured vegetables
Bitter foods, such as dandelion greens, arugula, and supplements of digestive bitters
Cardamom for sweet cravings
Turmeric for salty cravings
Cloves and cinnamon for blood-sugar balance
Supplements that include magnesium and, to address specific situations, one of these:
Mood-related cravings: L-tryptophan, an amino acid, starting with 500 mg daily and perhaps working up to 1,000 mg daily, depending upon your response.
Cravings related to stress, overwork, or overwhelm: GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter and has a calming effect on the nervous system. Try 100-500 mg daily.
Caffeine cravings or flagging energy or drive: L-tyrosine, an amino acid. Follow product directions.
Craving comfort food: DL-phenylalanine, an amino acid that the human body turns into a brain chemical that influences mood. Follow product directions. (Avoid if you have phenylketonuria, or PKU, a rare metabolic disorder.)
Evening cravings: 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), a substance the human body makes from the amino acid tryptophan, can improve mood and sleep, and help reduce appetite. Try 50-100 mg daily. This supplement can cause drowsiness.
Usage Tips and Cautions: Try one of these at a time, not a combination, as some of their effects overlap. Mood-enhancing supplements are not recommended for anyone taking mood-altering drugs, such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, or antipsychotics, without supervision by a holistic health practitioner who is trained in nutrition and pharmacology, as drug dosages may need to be adjusted.
16. Change Your Thinking with Affirmations
Hay has taught millions of people to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Here are a few related to food and mealtime to try:
- I am worth the time and money I invest in my health.
- I can easily make a nutritious, delicious meal.
- Every time I prepare food, I am nourished by my connection to nature and other beings.
- This food is healing me.
- I am so grateful for this wonderful food.
- My body loves the way I choose the perfect foods for every meal.
- My taste buds are changing every day-I no longer crave foods that don't nourish me.
- Mealtimes are happy times.
17. Mash Your Veggies
It's easy to make blended vegetables with the consistency of mashed potatoes, say Khadro and Dane. Here's how:
- Chop up vegetables (any which way in large chunks).
- Boil or steam them, then drain the water, leaving about 1/3 cup of water for easy blending.
- Add sea salt, black pepper, and any herbs or spices you desire.
- Pour mixture into a food processor and purée with the S-blade. (Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender right in the same pan you cooked the vegetables in, which is fast and easy. You can even use a potato masher-just make sure your vegetables are softly cooked enough to do this.)
18. Take Digestive Bitters
Digestive bitters have been used as a remedy in Europe for quite some time and are a natural way for stimulating hydrochloric acid, which helps your stomach break down food. To aid digestion, put ¼ teaspoon (or per manufacturer instructions) in water, or some in a spray bottle. Most bitters are made of a combination of herbs, such as aloe, angelica root, manna, myrrh, saffron, rhubarb root, zedoary root, senna leaves, camphor, and others. Hay and her colleagues love Organic Citrus Digestive Bitters from Urban Moonshine.
19. Decide You Are Important Enough
Hay always teaches that once you try something and you see that it worked out for you, it makes change easier because it gives you permission to do it again. The thing is, you have to give yourself permission to try in the first place. You have to feel important enough to give yourself that permission, to give yourself the space to change, to prioritize it in your life, and to support yourself in being successful, says Hay.
20. Connect with Nature
According to Khadro, people's bodies are crying for a connection to the earth, especially those of us who live, work, and play in urban environments. So take a trip out of town, even if it's only for a day. Hike in nature, walk barefoot in the sand or on the earth, or sit by the ocean or on a mountaintop. Gardening is another wonderful way to reconnect to the earth. Get outside and dig.
21. Let Your Body Guide You
Both Khadro and Dane emphasize that they are not here to tell anyone to go vegetarian, vegan, Paleo, Primal, grain-free, or raw. Instead, their and Hay's message is simple: listen deeply to your own body and find what works for you. Rigid rules and dogma mean nothing to the body; they are only food for the mind. Be willing to explore what your body needs to heal.
Bonus Tip: Replace Soda with Herbal Tea
Nettles, dandelion, ginger, holy basil, peppermint, and chamomile are wonderful options for herbal teas. Here's how to make one of our favorite hot or iced teas: Take ½ cup loose tea and add to 8 cups water in a saucepan. Bring water to a boil, and then turn off heat and allow to simmer. Pour water through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a 2-quart-sized, wide-mouthed Ball jar or a large glass pitcher. Drink warm or hot tea, or store in the refrigerator and drink as iced tea.
21-Day Challenge Shopping List
Flora Udo's Choice
In the Raw
Monk Fruit Sweetener packets
Natural Calm Magnesium
Organic Citrus Digestive Bitters