You’d love to shed a few pounds, but you’re hesitant.
You know that eating regular meals is one of your best strategies for preventing migraines.
Cutting back on calories has never worked out, because you just end up with a migraine.
So you’re worried that any change in your diet will just make your migraines worse.
Are you ready to suffer more migraines just to fit into that new outfit? Maybe it’s not worth it.
Before you give up on the whole idea and bury that outfit like the rest of your dreams, try these 7 tips to create a weight loss plan that will keep your migraines at bay.
Tip #1: Avoid Diet Foods
Grocery stores are well stocked with foods that claim to help you lose weight. Low fat, low carb, and low calorie foods seem very tempting when your goal is to lose a few pounds. Maybe you could just replace your regular meals with their diet-friendly equivalents.
All these foods are loaded with chemically-based food substitutes that are likely to trigger migraines. Low-fat foods contain extra salt, sugar, starches, and thickening ingredients to make them taste like their “high-fat” counterparts. Low calorie foods usually contain aspartame, a chemical that causes spasmodic firing of neurons, which can trigger or intensify a migraine.
To prevent migraines while dieting, you are better off choosing whole, natural foods and preparing them yourself. It takes more time and creativity to make your own meals, but gives you better control over what ingredients are making it into your body.
Tip #2: Feed Your Brain with Fat
Fat has an undeserved reputation as the cause of obesity and chronic disease. Studies from the 1970s and 80s responsible for this belief have been discredited, but this misconception has become ingrained in our culture over the past 5 decades. Low fat remains a common theme in many weight loss programs.
There is a growing body of evidence that some fats, such as the omega-3 fat in fish oil, are actually essential to good health. Recent studies have shown that consuming certain fats improves brain function and builds resistance against neurological disorders. That doesn’t mean you should include french fries and doughnuts in your diet plan, as vegetable oils are inflammatory in nature and are still considered detrimental to your health.
In addition to the brain benefits, fat helps you stay on track with your diet because it keeps you from feeling hungry. Consuming a small amount of healthy fat such as nuts, avocado, oily fish, or olive oil with each meal makes you feel satisfied and reduces food cravings. Of course, you should avoid any of these foods that are on your triggers list.
Tip #3: Sugar is the Hidden Enemy
The true culprit in the obesity epidemic is sugar. It is used to enhance the flavor of all kinds of processed foods, even those we don’t consider sweet. Sugar is hiding in nearly three-fourths of packaged foods, including many health foods and low-fat foods.
Excessive sugar consumption is the main cause of serious health problems including diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Eating excessive amounts of sugar leads to metabolic syndrome, a condition that stresses and eventually damages critical organs, including the liver. For migraineurs, this is a serious concern. Any irregularities in your metabolism are going to make your migraines worse.
Sugar has no valid purpose in any weight loss program. It adds calories while providing no other nutritional benefit. If you are cursed with a sweet tooth, eliminating sugar will be your biggest challenge in sticking to a healthy weight loss plan. Check nutrition labels for sugar content and avoid any food with more than 10g of sugar per serving. Use fresh fruit to satisfy any cravings for something sweet.
Tip #4: Eat Less, More Often
If skipping a meal has triggered your migraines in the past, restricting the amount of food you eat can be a terrifying prospect. Migraines due to skipped meals are believed to be caused by hypoglycemia, a condition where the level of sugar circulating in your bloodstream falls to critically low levels.
Eliminating sugar from your diet is actually the first step to avoiding low blood sugar. Although this seems counterintuitive at first, it makes more sense when you add insulin to the equation. Insulin controls the amount of sugar in your blood. Reducing your sugar intake means that less insulin is released, so your blood sugar levels remain more constant over time.
Frequently consuming small amounts of protein and foods with a low glycemic index throughout the day prevents your blood sugar from dropping. Protein and complex carbohydrates break down slowly, providing a steady supply of blood sugar to prevent hypoglycemic migraines.
Tip #5: Fill Up on Water
It’s really tempting to reduce your water intake when you’re trying to lose weight. Water is heavy, weighing 1 pound per pint, so reducing the amount of water you drink will quickly show results on your bathroom scale.
Cutting down on water is a huge mistake when you’re susceptible to migraines. Drinking plenty of water is essential to keeping your body chemistry in balance. This is crucially important as your body starts to break down fat deposits to burn as energy. Water flushes any toxins created by this process out of your body.
Drinking plenty of water has an added benefit of filling up your stomach to reduce that feeling of hunger. Instead of reducing water consumption to see fast results, increase the amount of water you drink to make your diet more bearable.
Tip #6: Keep a Food Journal
Keeping accurate records of the foods you eat is a key factor in successful weight loss. Studies have shown that people who keep a food journal while dieting lose up to twice as much weight as those who don’t use one. They also keep the weight off longer.
Using a food journal works because it creates awareness of what you are actually eating and when you are eating it. The records you keep can help identify areas of improvement, to further fine-tune your diet plan. The journal holds you accountable to following your weight loss plan.
The food journal is an invaluable tool when you are concerned that your diet could increase your risk of migraines. Since you are already recording everything you eat and drink in the journal, simply add information about any migraine symptoms you experience. Then, if you do trigger a migraine, you have a plethora of information readily available to help you understand whether anything you’re eating (or not eating) could have triggered it.
Tip #7: Consider Mono Meals
Food sensitivities play a big part in migraines. These can even include foods that you eat regularly and don’t trigger migraines for you, but put your body into a state of increased susceptibility to other migraine triggers.
Controlling your diet for the purposes of losing weight helps you identify hidden food sensitivities. Keeping track of what you eat in a food journal will give you a clear picture of any foods that are triggering migraines. You can get even more detailed diagnostic information from this process by adopting a strategy of mono meals, where you eat exactly one food at each meal.
To make this work, you will need to break down your small, frequent meals into even smaller meals, eaten approximately once every hour. For example, if you were going to have eggs and a banana for breakfast, eat the banana first, then eat the eggs one hour later. Make note of how you are feeling in your food journal; also take your pulse and record it with each food you eat. Record this information before each meal and 15-30 minutes afterwards, comparing the results. Any substantial change in your mood, energy level, or pulse indicates a potential food sensitivity.
Can You Prevent Migraines While Dieting?
Avoiding migraines while you lose weight isn’t going to be an issue if you design your diet around these simple guidelines. In fact, you can learn a lot about your condition by planning your diet carefully and sticking to the plan for a few short weeks.
You’ve got a few pounds to lose, and so much knowledge to gain. Why not give it a try? That fabulous new outfit is just waiting for you!