Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge for most people. The secret for natural weight loss is largely a matter of finding a healthy diet and exercise regimen that we can stick to. This is easier said than done for most, but there are some simple tips for natural weight loss that can make things a lot easier.

In the following excerpt from Secret Food Cures by Joan and Lydia Wilen discuss natural weight loss tips and tricks that can make the difference in getting to and maintaining a healthy weight.


This “weighty” subject is close to our heart—and our hips, thighs, midriff, stomach and every other place we can pinch an inch…or two…or 10.

As hundreds of books and articles tell us, losing weight is hard—keeping it off is harder.

Most people go on a diet, living for the moment they can go off the diet.

The answer, then, is not to go on a diet. If you’re not on a diet to begin with, you can’t go off it, right?

We found some remedies that may help you lose weight without a temporary, “I-can’t-wait-to-go-off-it” diet.

So, put some motivational reminders on your refrigerator—Nothing stretches slacks like snacks! To indulge is to bulge! Those who love rich food and cook it, look it!—and start to practice “girth control.”

NOTE: As for diet pills, they can be very helpful. Twice a day, spill them on the floor and pick them up one at a time. It’s great exercise, especially for the waistline.

Weight Control Tips

Whether you’ve spent years yo-yoing your way through one diet after another and are heavier than ever, or you just need to lose a few pounds to look better in that bathing suit, here are suggestions to healthfully help you shed those unwanted pounds.

Commonsense Reducing Principles

• Try eating your larger meals early rather than late in the day. This gives your body lots of time to digest and burn off the calories.

We’ve come across an appropriate saying—“Eat like a king in the morning, a prince at noon and a pauper in the evening.” While it’s not always practical to have a four-course breakfast, you may want to eat a big lunch and a small dinner whenever possible.

Ancient Slimming Herbs

Each of these herbs has several wonderful properties—but the one component they all have in common is the ability to help you to be a weight loser. However, please try the herbs one at a time—not all at once.

NOTE: Using these herbs does not give you license to start eating as though there’s no tomorrow. They are tools that may help decrease the appetite and/or metabolize fat quickly, but they should be used in conjunction with a well-balanced eating and exercise plan.

Check with your doctor before taking any herbs or natural supplements as part of a weight-loss plan.

It probably took you a while to reach your current weight. And it will take you a while to lose it. Be patient with yourself and give the herbs time to do their stuff. You can help the process along by eliminating or at least cutting down on foods with sugar, salt and white flour.

Within a couple of months, you should be ready for the “Nobelly Prize”!

You may want to taste each herb before deciding on one to stick with for at least a month. All of the herbs mentioned here are available in tea bags or loose at most health food stores.

Herb Preparation

To prepare, add one teaspoon of the dried, loose herb (or one tea bag) to a cup of just boiled water. Cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy.

Drink one cup about a half-hour before each meal and one cup at bedtime. It may take a month or two before you see results, especially if you hardly change your eating habits at all.

Fennel Seeds

The Greek name for fennel is marathron, from mariano, which means “to grow thin.” Fennel is known to metabolize and throw off fatty substances through the urine. Fennel is rich in vitamin A and is wonderful for the eyes. It also aids digestion.


Like fennel seeds, cleavers is not known to lessen the appetite, but rather to somehow accelerate fat metabolism. It’s also a natural diuretic and can help relieve constipation. You may want to combine cleavers with fennel seeds for your daily drink.

Raspberry Leaves

As well as having a reputation as a weight-loss aid, raspberry-leaf tea is said to help control diarrhea and nausea, help eliminate canker sores and make pregnancy, delivery and post-delivery easier for the mother

Yerba Maté (Jungle Punch)

We’ve heard that South American medical authorities who have studied yerba maté concluded that this popular beverage can improve one’s memory, nourish the smooth tissues of the intestines, increase respiratory power, help prevent infection and is a tonic to the brain, nerves and spine as well as an appetite depressant and a digestive aid.

■ Recipe ■

Mexican Eggplant with Fennel Seeds

2 large or 3 medium eggplants

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 lb fresh tomatoes, pared and chopped

1″ fresh ginger, grated 4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp ground coriander

1 cup water

Salt and pepper

2 to 4 serrano or jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced

Sprigs of fresh parsley

Wash eggplant, remove stalks and cut into bite-size pieces. Fry cubes in oil for approximately five minutes or until brown. Drain on paper towels.

Fry cumin and fennel seeds for about two minutes, stirring constantly, until they turn a shade darker. Mix in chopped tomatoes, grated ginger, crushed garlic, peppers, coriander and water. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the mixture becomes thick.

Add the fried eggplant cubes to the mixture and heat through. Garnish with the sprigs of parsley and serve.


NOTE: Yerba maté contains caffeine (although not as much as coffee). We were told that, while it may act as a stimulant, it should not interfere with sleep.


This Old World herb is a diuretic and is used in cases of indigestion, colds, coughs and asthma. It is also reported to be an effective aid for weight reduction.


This blue-green algae is an ancient Aztec food that’s user-friendly. It’s easily digestible and is reported to enhance the immune system, help detoxify the body and boost one’s energy. Spirulina, taken daily, can help lift your spirits because of its high L-tryptophan content.

As for helping you lose weight, take spirulina about 20 minutes before mealtime, and it may give you that full feeling, like you’ve already eaten a meal and hardly have room for more. Spirulina comes in several forms—powder, tablets, capsules and freeze-dried. Look for it at your health food store.

Other Slimming Remedies

• We have a friend who’s a light eater—as soon as it gets light, she eats. We told her about the grape juice remedy recommended by psychic healer Edgar Cayce. Since starting this grape juice regimen, our friend’s craving for desserts has almost disappeared, her eating patterns are gradually changing for the better and she’s fitting into clothes she hasn’t worn in years.

Drink three ounces of pure grape juice (no sugar, additives or preservatives) that is mixed with one ounce of water a half-hour before each meal and at bedtime. Drink the mixture slowly, taking from five to 10 minutes for each glass.

• This Chinese acupressure technique is said to diminish one’s appetite. Whenever you’re feeling hungry, squeeze your earlobes for one minute. If you can stand the pressure, clamp clothespins on your lobes and leave them there for 60 seconds.

We wonder if women who wear clip-on earrings are generally slimmer than women without them. Hmmmmm…

Apple Cider Solution

• A woman we know dieted religiously (that means she wouldn’t eat anything when she was in church). Out of control, desperate and tired of all the fad diets, she came to us, looked in our “overweight” remedy file and decided to follow the apple cider vinegar plan.

First thing in the morning, drink two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water. Drink the same mixture before lunch and dinner, making it three glasses of apple cider vinegar and water a day.

Within three months, the woman was no longer out of control or desperate. She felt that her days of binges were over and, thanks to the apple cider vinegar, she had the strength and willpower to stick to a well-balanced eating plan as the pounds slowly came off.

• Lecithin is said to help break up and burn fatty deposits from stubborn bulges. It can also give you a full feeling even when you’ve eaten less than usual. The recommended daily dosage is one to two tablespoons of lecithin granules.

Fat’s Where It’s At

An unlikely hero in the battle of the bulge is, in fact, classified as a fat,” says Jade Beutler, RRT, RCP, San Diego–based CEO of Lignan Research LLC, a licensed health care practitioner and a foremost authority of the benefits of flaxseed oil. According to Beutler’s research findings, flaxseed oil can help…

◆  Decrease cravings for fatty foods and sweets

◆  Stoke metabolic rate

◆  Create satiation (feeling of fullness and satisfaction following a meal)

◆  Regulate blood sugar levels

◆  Regulate insulin levels

◆  Increase oxygen consumption

The ideal method of taking flaxseed oil for purposes of weight loss or maintenance is one to two tablespoons daily, in divided doses taken with each meal.

Doggy Bags

As soon as you’re served food at a restaurant, separate half the meal and ask for a doggy bag. Explain that you’re into “portion control,” and don’t want to tempt yourself to finish everything on the plate.

High-Protein Lunch

• If you eat a high-protein lunch—filled with fish, soy products, yogurt, meat or chicken— you may find yourself eating fewer calories for dinner. Protein—just two or three ounces—is said to trigger a hormone that cuts your appetite and leaves you feeling satisfied. Give it a try.

Avoid high-carbohydrate lunches—ones that are heavy in pasta, rice and potatoes—and see if a higher portion of protein (along with veggies or salad—the good stuff) helps reduce your calorie intake at dinner.

Filling Foods

• Plan on eating foods that have a high water content. Prepare meals with fruits and vegetables—soups, stews and smoothies. An apple is 84% water, which is almost four ounces of water. A 1 ⁄2 cup of cooked broccoli is 91% water, giving you 2.4 ounces of water. Look how much water it takes to make rice (spaghetti, too). High water-content foods will fill you up and hydrate you at the same time.

Soup’s On!

• In a study of 147 men and women who ate a reduced-calorie diet for a year, those who consumed 10.5 fluid ounces of low-fat, low-calorie soup twice a day lost 50% more weight than those who ate healthful but carbohydrate-rich snacks, such as baked chips or pretzels.

Although the soup had the same calories as the other snacks, the soup’s greater weight and volume made study participants feel full enough to eat less for the rest of the day.

Consume one large mugful of a broth based, low-fat, low-calorie and low-sodium soup that’s rich in vegetables and/or beans as a first course twice daily

The Salad Trick

• Large salads help you consume fewer calories. A recent study found that diners who have a large low-calorie salad before the main course of their meal consume 12% fewer total calories at the meal than those who have nothing before the main course at all.

Salad takes the edge off your appetite and helps fill you up.

Laugh Away the Pounds

• A recent study of students who watched comedy clips found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes can burn 10 to 40 calories.

This means that 10 to 15 minutes of laughing daily could result in weight loss of about four pounds a year.

Mirror, Mirror on the Kitchen Wall

• Studies were done with more than 1,000 people who were divided into two groups— those who ate in front of mirrors and those who ate without seeing themselves in mirrors. The subjects who watched themselves chow down ate considerably less fat than those who were mirrorless.

Hanging a mirror in your kitchen may be the reminder you need each time to help you decide what to eat.

Healthy Snacks

• Fruit is a great, easy-to-prepare, fibrous, health-giving, sweet treat. We could fill a book naming each fruit, its nutritional value and ways to prepare it.

Instead, we suggest that you be adventurous and creative. Go to your greengrocer or any ethnic market and find exotic fruit to add to your repertoire.

NOTE: Be sure to wash produce thoroughly before you eat it in order to reduce the risk of food-borne illness.

Yam It Up!

• Ever think of having a sweet potato or a yam as a snack? “Yam” is from the Guinean word for “something to eat.” And it’s something wonderful to eat! Yams are rich in potassium. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A. Both are good sources of folate (the heart-protective vitamin B) and vitamin C. Both are filling, easy to prepare, fat-free and worth the 100 to 140 satisfying calories.

• When you crave something crunchy, get out the finger vegetables. Chomp on baby carrots, jicama and fennel sticks, strips of yellow or red bell pepper and the old standby, celery.

On a weekend morning, prepare a bowl of cut-up vegetables. Keep them in ice water in your refrigerator, and reach for the bowl whenever you need to nibble.

Remove Pesticides and Wax From Fruits and Vegetables

In a bowl or a basin, mix four tablespoons of table salt, four teaspoons of lemon juice and one quart of cool water. Soak fruits and vegetables in this mixture for five to 10 minutes.

Exceptions: Soak leafy greens for two to three minutes…berries, one to two minutes.

After soaking, rinse produce in plain cold water and dry. An alternative is Veggie Wash. Made of 100% natural ingredients, it is available at supermarkets, health food store and online at (800-451-7096).

The Diet “Blues”

• The Wagner Institute for Color Research claims that blue food is unappetizing. Put a blue lightbulb in the refrigerator and a blue light in your dining area. Restaurants know all about people’s responses to the color blue when it comes to food. When serving food on blue plates, customers eat less, saving the restaurants money on their all-you-can-eat “Blue Plate” specials.

Slowly, but Surely

• Change your lifestyle habits gradually. The key word is “gradually.” Gradually, day by day, replace a couple of fattening foods with healthier choices. In doing so, you become super aware of what you’re eating. That’s a major step in improving your daily food intake.

• Also, gradually start exercising. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program, and start walking briskly for 10 minutes the first few days, then 12 minutes, then 15. Keep going until you work your way up to doing a supervised exercise routine that’s appropriate for you.

Be happy if you lose one or two pounds each week. In terms of keeping the weight off permanently, losing no more than two pounds a week makes sense. If you lose more, your body thinks you’re going to starve and, in an effort to protect you from dying of hunger, it will slow down your metabolism.

A loss of just one or two pounds a week will add up to a big difference in a matter of months. And that’s weight that will most likely stay off.

Calories Per Hour

• Calories burned per hour—for a 155- pound person…

◆ 281 calories: Raking the lawn, sweeping the sidewalk, leisure walking.

◆ 387 calories: Scrubbing floors on hands and knees, mowing the lawn, light stationary biking, dancing—such as jazz, ballet or tango.

◆ 422 calories: Moving furniture, cross-country skiing, shoveling snow.

◆ 493 calories: Jogging, carrying boxes.

◆ 598 calories: Vigorous stationary biking, mountain biking.

◆ 705 calories: Moderate jumping rope, swimming, judo or karate, kick-boxing, running six miles per hour.

Yoga May Minimize Midlife Weight Gain

• In a recent finding, people in their 50s who regularly practiced yoga lost about five pounds over 10 years, while those who did not practice yoga gained about 13 pounds.

Most yoga exercises do not burn enough calories to account for the weight loss, but some practitioners believe that yoga keeps people aware of their bodies and eating habits.

Cellulite Eliminator

• Former fashion model Maureen Klimt was determined to get rid of cellulite, so she started taking omega-3 fatty acids—in the form of flaxseed. Maureen grinds the seeds in a little coffee grinder, sprinkles one to two tablespoons on her oatmeal every morning and then adds a touch of maple syrup.

After eating the flax seeded oatmeal daily for months, she reports that the cellulite is no longer there. Although Maureen eats healthfully and exercises, she credits the flaxseed for the loss of her cellulite.

Firm Thighs

The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa in Sonoma, California, shared with us its once-secret treatment for jiggly thighs.

Rosemary is the key ingredient. (No, that’s not a physical trainer who gives you a tough workout!) Rosemary is an herb that stimulates circulation and drains impurities, leaving skin firmer and tighter.

Mix one tablespoon of crushed dried rosemary (available at herb and health food stores) with two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Smooth the mixture over thighs, wrap in plastic wrap and leave on for 10 minutes. Then rinse. Do this treatment at least once a week.

Leg Slimming

• Every night, while lying on the floor or in bed, rest your feet as high on a wall as is comfortable. Stay that way for about an hour. At most, your legs will slim down. At least, it will be good for your circulation.

Rev Up Your Metabolism

• Kelp is seaweed that’s rich in minerals and vitamins, especially the B family. Its high iodine content can help activate a sluggish thyroid. Dried kelp can be eaten raw, or crumbled into soups and on salads. Powdered kelp can also be used in place of salt. It has a salty, fishy taste that may take getting used to. If you really don’t like the taste, there are kelp pills. Follow the recommended dosage on the label.

One of the good side effects of kelp is that it may make your hair shinier. But if you eat too much kelp, it can have a laxative effect.

Hot Stuff

• One British study showed that adding one teaspoon of hot-pepper sauce (something with cayenne pepper, like Tabasco sauce) and one teaspoon of mustard to every meal raised one’s metabolic rate by as much as 25%.

• Before you eat dinner, exercise for 20 to 30 minutes. Just brisk walking will do. Exercise boosts your metabolic rate and it lasts through dinner, helping you digest and burn off the evening meal. For many, that before-dinner walk seems to reduce the urge for late-night snacks.

• Do not eat within three hours of bedtime. The body seems to store fat more easily at night, when the metabolism slows down.

Vitamin C Helps You Burn More Fat

• In a recent study, people who took 500 mg of vitamin C daily burned 39% more fat while exercising than people who took less. Since it is difficult to get enough vitamin C just from fruits and vegetables, take a vitamin C supplement to be sure you get at least 500 mg per day.

Why Juice or Water?

• The results of a study that was reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that drinking water or juice before a meal—rather than beer, wine or a cocktail—goes a long way with weight control.

The imbibers consumed an average of 240 calories in their alcoholic beverage and wolfed down about 200 more calories in their meals. They also ate faster. It took them longer to feel full, but that didn’t stop them. They continued eating past the point of feeling full. And all because they had an alcoholic drink before their meal. Waiter, just water for me, please!

Why Not Soda?

• It’s been reported that people who are frequent soda drinkers (either diet or regular) have higher hunger ratings than people who drink unsweetened or naturally sweet beverages. Experiment by going off soda for a week to see if your desire for food decreases.

Holiday Challenges

• Forget about losing weight during the holidays. Settle for not gaining weight. Fill up on sweet potatoes, fruits, vegetables, white-meat turkey, whole-grain bread and an occasional, tiny portion of an obscenely fattening dessert.

• Eat a portion of healthy, nonfattening food right before you go to a holiday party.

• At a holiday event, drink designer water or sparkling water with a twist of lemon. A little wine is okay, but stay away from mixed drinks and liqueurs.

• According to Alan Hirsch, MD, director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, “People who are exposed to smells of food during the day eat less at night.”

Proof that this may be so is evident during Ramadan, the Muslim holiday during which daytime fasting is followed by nighttime feasting. Muslim women’s hunger ratings dropped, but men’s hunger stayed the same throughout the month-long holiday.

Why? The women prepared food all day and, by mealtime, their hunger had abated. The food simply wasn’t as appealing to them.

Use Smell to Lose Weight

In a recent study, participants who sprinkled powders that smelled like cheddar cheese, banana and raspberry on their food lost an average of 5.6 pounds per month over a six-month period.

Added scents fool the brain into thinking you have eaten enough. Smell every food before you eat it.

The Great Outdoors

A day without sunshine is like a day without serotonin, a brain chemical that can allay hunger. Your body needs sunlight to make serotonin, so get out there every chance you get. While you’re outdoors, you may as well get a little exercise, too. Walk. Play. Skip. Enjoy yourself! And don’t forget the sunscreen.

Determining Your Weight/ Health Profile

Body Mass Index (BMI) is one of the most accurate ways to determine when extra pounds translate into health risks. BMI is a measure that takes into account a person’s weight and height to gauge total body fat in adults.

According to guidelines set by the National Institutes of Health, the definition of a healthy weight is a BMI of 24 or less. For both men and women, a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. Individuals who fall into the BMI range of 25 to 34.9 and have a waist size of more than 40 inches (for men) or 35 inches (for women) are considered to be at especially high risk for health problems.

BMI is reliable for most people between 19 and 70 years of age except women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and people who are competitive athletes, body builders or chronically ill.

To use the table below, find the appropriate height in the column on the left. Move across to a given weight. The number at the top of the column is the BMI for that height and weight. Pounds have been rounded off.

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