Holistic Weight Loss for Gardeners

Support Your Body, Mind, and Soul for Healthy Weight Loss

Looking for holistic weight loss strategies? While there’s a whole psychology around weight loss, there are a few simple tricks that you can implement right away.

The first is sleep. As any health practitioner will tell you, if you aren’t sleeping properly, you can kiss your weight loss goals goodbye (yes, it has everything to do with cortisol and adrenal health).

The second is stress. And your food can be a major part of your daily stress management. Eating is a time of rest and digest. It’s a time to sit down and replenish. Enjoy your food, and chew it thoroughly.

The third is appreciation. Being grateful for your food helps you to appreciate all that you have right now. If you are thankful for the food, then you will be thankful for the person who worked hard to grow the food, and guess what… that person is you! You’re eating healthy food, celebrating an accomplishment, and you’re starting to feel better already.

When you’ve got the basics down and you’re ready to really shed some weight, your garden is a great resource for weight loss.

Here are 8 weight loss strategies that should fit right in for home gardeners. Think home grown veggies, fiber, and water. And, of course, some exercise too.

8 Holistic Weight Loss Strategies for Gardeners

The 80-10-10 Rule

One of the best tips for weight loss is to follow the 80-10-10 guideline: 80 percent of each meal is comprised of low glycemic veggies with the other two 10 percent portions being protein and fat. Note the word guideline here, because you can play around with the numbers.

For example, one person might choose to eat 50% low glycemic veggies and 30% medium or high glycemic veggies (e.g. carrots, squash, potatoes, etc). Another person might use this rule and eat 60% low glycemic veggies and 20% medium to high glycemic fruits. Yet another person might up the protein or fat, perhaps to 15% each, with 70% being low glycemic veggies. And still another person might not make much fuss about the glycemic index and just eat a combined total of 70-80% veggies.

Generally speaking, making half of each meal with low glycemic veggies is a good rule of thumb to follow. Here’s what that might look like: a green smoothie for breakfast, soup with veggie “buns” for lunch, and steamed veggies with protein and a salad for dinner.

Having snacks on hand to curb hunger and prevent you from eating something not-so-healthy is also a really good strategy. Keep low glycemic fruits like Granny Smith apples; cut up veggies like carrots, celery, and bell peppers; or a handful of seeds and nuts, or trail mix, on hand for times when you have the munchies. Fruit leathers, fruit chips, veggie chips and kale chips are some other healthy snacks that you can DIY for cheap.

Read about several healthy DIY snacks here: 5 Dehydrator Recipes for Home Grown Fruits and Vegetables


Swap out the Carbs

A great way to follow the above rule is to out swap out high glycemic foods like bread, pasta and cereal with low carb veggie options. There are also many snacks and desserts you can make where veggies are the main ingredient. Look for recipes of this kind in Paleo cookbooks. If you’re the kind of person that says you just have to look at carbs and you’ll put on the pounds, you’ll really benefit from incorporating this eating strategy. Looking for a few ideas right away? Get the scoop and a slew of recipes in my article 8 Ways to Replace Carbs with Home Grown Veggies.

Think Liquid Nutrition

Does your green smoothie make you feel like voguing? It should! Green smoothies feature fiber-rich, low glycemic greens married with sweet fruits and blended to a smooth puree.

Some people have an issue with downing a green colored drink. They wonder whether or not green smoothies taste good. The answer is unequivocally yes!

Green is the new black, folks. Greens are hot, and they are always in style. Not only are greens low in calories, but they are a good source of protein. Green smoothies make an excellent choice for breakfast, snack time, or as a pre-/post- workout energy boost.

The secret to making an outstanding green smoothie? Finding that perfect balance of sweetness from the fruits to smooth out any rough edges from the bitter greens.

Everyone’s taste buds vary, but as you get used to that healthy taste, your body will actually crave a more bitter tasting brew; in other words, more greens and less fruit.

The bitter taste is actually the most underdeveloped taste here in the West. That’s a shame, because bitter foods and herbs are great ways to stimulate the production of bile from the liver to help with digestion.

Here’s a fun recipe to try that boasts minerals and vitamins by replacing the water in a green smoothie with an herbal weight loss infusion:

Banana Kiwi Nettle Silk-y Smoothie Recipe

  • 3-4 handfuls chopped red kale
  • 2 oranges, peeled & seeded (or manually juiced if you prefer)
  • 2 apples, cored (peeled if you prefer)
  • 2-3 cups corn silk* and nettle infusion**, for consistency
  • 2 bananas, peeled
  • 2 kiwis, peeled

Instructions: Add all ingredients to a high speed blender and whip to a smooth consistency.

Variation: Juice the kale, oranges and apples first. Add the juice to a high speed blender with the rest of the ingredients and whip to a smooth puree.

Variation of Herbal Infusion: Use 1/3 ounce each corn silk, nettle and lemon balm.

*Corn silk can be purchased at Asian markets, but you can also collect those corn “strings” when you eat fresh corn on the cob (simply let silk dry out by spreading  on newspaper or on mesh sheets in a dehydrator before making the infusion). Corn silk is used as a diuretic and weight-loss aid.

**To make the infusion: place 1/2 ounce each corn silk and nettle in a 1-liter mason jar. Add in boiling water to the top. Place on lid and screw cap, let sit 4 hours, then strain out solids and use in recipe.

Here are some ideas for making juice and smoothies from some items you might not have thought about: 9 Ways to Eat Commonly Wasted Seeds, Stems, Peels & More

More Options for Liquid Nutrition

Other options to get you thinking liquid nutrition? Freshly made green and veggie juices, soups and congees.

While juices don’t have any fiber, they offer up a quick rush of energy packed with antioxidant power and they help alkalize your system. And while green juices – which boast leafy greens and low glycemic fruits like apples – are low in calories, veggie juices like carrot and beet juice are excellent to help the liver flush toxins out of the body. You can also use the psyllium tip below before gulping down that juice to help keep you feeling full for longer.

When it comes to soup, have you ever noticed that pureed veggie soups are similar to green smoothies and juices, except that the veggies are first cooked before being pureed? Carrot, broccoli, leek and potato soup, all make for light liquids (or meals) that fill up the stomach. Yet to help keep you satiated for longer, consider trying this hack: add water to a one-pot meal and puree it into a soup. For example, take rice, chicken, and veggies and add sufficient water to turn it into a puree. Make sure to add your fave herbs and spices, warm it up and done! The trick is that because you’ve added water and your belly can only hold so much, you’ll actually be eating less food than had you eaten the one-pot meal by itself.

Congees are similar to soups, and like soups they offer up lots of water with few calories: the usual recipe is 1 cup rice to 5-7 cups water (although I’ve seen recipes for as much as 8-9 cups water). Place both in a crock pot and let cook overnight. You can do this with brown rice or white rice and even some whole grains like rye and millet. To add taste to your congee, replace the water with chicken, veggie or mushroom stock and add in your fave herbs and spices to taste. You can also add in 1-2 tablespoons of miso or hoisin sauce to add flavor; add in chunks of chicken, fish, or tofu; and add in 1-2 bunches of chopped green onions or shallots. In Chinese medicine, congees are seen as a nourishing “porridge” for those under the weather or who have weak digestion, but they also serve as great comfort food during the colder winter months. Here’s a simple and tasty recipe to help you out with this idea:

Easy Ginger & Tempeh Rice Congee Recipe

  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 package tempeh, diced
  • 2 bunches spring onion, chopped
  • 2 TBsp freshly grated ginger

Instructions: Add all to a crock pot and place on low for 6-8 hours or overnight. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Fill Up On Fiber

When we think of fiber, we often think of fruits and veggies.  But while fruits and veggies offer up insoluble fiber – mucilaginous seeds like flax and chia, as well as psyllium husk, offer up soluble fiber that not only helps to regulate bowel movements but that helps keeping you feeling satiated for longer. To help keep you full – and hence, to help you eat less – take 1 tablespoon psyllium husk with a glass of water, half an hour before meals. You can also use 1 tablespoon ground chia or flax seed as well.

Green Goddesses of Weight Loss

Most of the herbs that are used in weight loss tend to be stimulants that work on metabolism, or diuretics that help flush water out of the body. A simple green goddess herb for holistic weight loss is Chickweed (Stellaria media) – it grows wild, is easy to grow, self-seeds readily, and is shade-loving. Chickweed contains saponins and natural lecithin that mop up fat and allow for better absorption of nutrients and minerals.

You can make a standard infusion of 1 ounce dried herb to 4 cups boiling water in a mason jar, let sit 4 hours, then strain and drink 2-4 cups a day.

A daily dropperful of tincture will also work: chop fresh chickweed with scissors and slightly pack to fill a mason jar (size depends on how much herb you have). Fill the jar with 100 proof alcohol (50% by volume), put on lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks. Strain and pour into sterilized amber bottles. Chickweed can also be juiced, added to smoothies, tossed into salads and cooked like spinach. If you don’t happen to have any on hand, Mountain Rose Herbs has both dried chickweed and extract.

Another green goddess herb for weight loss is parsley – this known diuretic might already be growing in your garden. Nothing could be easier than giving this spritely herb a rinse and juicing her with other fruits and veggies to partake of her weight loss benefits. Here’s a simple and refreshing recipe that doubles as a green juice and green smoothie:

Parsley Rules – Juice or Smoothie Recipe

  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 bunch celery, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped

Instructions: Juice all ingredients and drink up! Alternatively, add all to a blender with enough water for consistency. And a third option still: juice the fibrous celery and parsley. Add to a high speed blender and blend in the zucchini and cucumber.

Variation: You can add a cored apple or two for sweetness. You can either juice the apples or add them directly (peeled, if desired) to the blender with the rest of the ingredients.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) is another diuretic and lymphatic system stimulant that is a superior ally in breaking down cellulite and encouraging the kidneys to release metabolic waste. Drinking 2-4 cups daily of this nourishing infusion will also supply you with a host of nutrients that support overall health, including adrenal health, such as chlorophyll, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, and Vitamins A, D, and K. To make a nettle infusion, follow the directions above to make a chickweed infusion but use nettle instead. For a recipe idea using nettle infusion, try this nettle soup recipe:

Nettle, Asparagus & Broccoli Soup Recipe

  • 3 cups nettle infusion
  • 2 bunches asparagus
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 handful broccoli florets
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup water
  • 3-4 tsp Chinese 5-spice or Moroccan marinade mix, to taste
  • 3-4 TBsp olive oil

Instructions: Blend nettle infusion with veggies and water in a high speed blender. Add soup to pot with spices to taste and warm up. Place in soup bowls, add in oil and serve.

Timing Counts

A very important rule for weight loss is not to eat after 7 PM. This is not only a “secret” known in bodybuilding circles, but is a truism known in Chinese medicine that eating late at night puts a strain on the liver that impinges weight loss. As I’m sure you’re aware, the liver is a major organ in the body that plays a crucial role in fat digestion and in detoxification, and does a host of 500+ jobs in the body.

From a nutritional or naturopathic perspective, not eating late at night also makes sense: eating a heavy meal at night (e.g. protein and fat) that can take up to 5-6 hours to digest will impede the process of rest and repair during sleep. If you are hungry after 7 PM, make it something liquid, such as a green juice, or something easy to digest like a small piece of fruit. I can’t tell you how many people have followed this simple rule of timing and have seen weight loss results (plus have been helped with their liver issues).

Polar Bear Skinny Dipping

If this sounds like you plunging into cold water in your birthday suit, you’re spot on! It’s also called cold water immersion therapy, cold therapy, cold thermogenesis and cryotherapy.

To do: fill your bath tub with cold running water. If it’s winter weather, the water will be cold enough. If not, add in a bag of ice or two to get that water really cold. Get in and sit in the tub for 5 minutes.

The first time is the worst, I’ll warn you now. It’s darn cold, but your body will go into thermogenesis, a fancy term which means that your body will kick start its metabolism to conserve heat and you’ll start shivering. During this process, your “brown” fat (brown adipose tissue) which is found in your sternum, collarbones, neck and upper back will start to burn up the white fat that hangs around hips, thighs, buns, and bellies – the stuff that everyone wants to get rid of. You can do this every day or every second day. Try to add 5 minutes each time you do it until you reach 30 minutes.

In case you’re wondering if this is healthy, this technique has been shown to boost the immune system, improve sleep quality, enhance hormone levels, improve sexual performance, lower blood sugar, and help with food cravings.

Does it work for weight loss? Many people swear by this technique, although it is a little extreme.

If you’re looking for a much more gentle approach – which will work on the lymphatic system – you can play with the cold and hot water taps during your shower. After washing up, adjust the water to a cool temperature that is kind of cold but that you can withstand. Do this for 30 seconds up to 1 minute, then put it back to warm for another 30-60 seconds. Do this for a minimum of 10 times. With time, your body will be better able to tolerate the cool water, and you’ll be able to adjust the water so that it’s much colder. This technique will help you to flush toxins out of your body, as well as to support your weight loss goals.



We all know that exercise is important, and the great news is that you don’t have to pay a cent to lose weight. The cheapest and easiest? Walking. It costs nothing and you can do it anywhere, anytime, right from your front door. Snowstorm or not, there’s just no excuse (in fact, you actually get a better workout walking in the snow because of the resistance). Other free workouts include gardening, dancing, and shoveling snow. Gardening is especially good exercise, because the more you do it, the more your diet improves.

There’s a plethora of free instructional videos on YouTube – everything from barre classes, belly dancing, and pilates to high intensity cross-fit and sandbag training – that you can do in the comfort of your home.

Two other dirt cheap ways to shed pounds? Skipping and rebounding. For a few dollars, you can buy a jump rope and walk-jump on a pedestrian path, along a track field or in a park. Skipping burns more calories in less time than running; although if you have joint issues, you’re better off going for a jog in the pool or jumping on a rebounder. Jumping on a rebounder is a great way to stimulate the lymphatic system, helping your body with detoxification. It also boost the immune system, increases mitochondrial production (provides energy), and improves balance and coordination. It makes very little noise (great if you live in an apartment) and a hand rail can be used for those with mobility issues. Rebounding is used by astronauts to help with bone mass and density – which goes to show you that something as simple as rebounding can have a profound effect on your body.

So get moving already!

Read more: The Secret to a Long and Happy Life is in the Garden

Finding the Right Diet and Exercise for You

So what’s more important, diet or exercise? How about both?

Finding the right types of food and exercise for your lifestyle and your specific body type are a much better prescription for holistic weight loss than any of the latest diets du jour.

To help you discover what’s best for you, you can refer to some existing classification systems that recommend eating strategies according to body type. You might be interested in learning about eating for your metabolic type (see Dr. Mercola’s website), your dosha type according to Ayurvedic medicine (see Nature’s Formulary), or your blood type (see Dr. Peter d’Adamo).

For specific types of weight loss exercise (as well as dietary recommendations), see either Dr. Eric Berg or Dr. Abravanel for your hormonal body type.

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This post was written by Cat Wilson


  • B.L. Harris says:

    I like this! thank you!

    1. Catherine says:

      You’re welcome! Enjoy 🙂

  • doug says:

    Hi Cat,

    I sent this to all my overweight friends.haha(just kidding),

    I just sent it to my ex-wife,,,(just kidding again)haha

    Really I will try this.i am sure it will be good even if I am not overweight!


    God bless


    1. Catherine says:

      Thanks for your kind humor, Doug 🙂

  • Debbie Czech says:

    However, for those of us with Thyroid concerns, including Goitrogenic (is that a word?) veggies such as Kale (one of my faves) and broccoli, as well as chard and beet greens, these can be a concern. However, a light saute’ or dipping them in boiling water quickly, can prevent that goitrogenic affect, from being a problem. So, no reason to not eat your greens. . . .

    1. Catherine says:


      When it comes to thyroid issues, the waters get a bit muddy as there is a difference between hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, the latter of which is an auto-immune disease. In general, someone may have problems with certain foods from the Rose family (which is a large family), however it tends to be foods from the Brassica family that have been more associated with causing problems. Lightly steaming to full out cooking can be helpful to neutralize these foods called goitrogens (as you mentioned, kale, collard, chard, broccoli others include mustard greens, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and cabbage). Once steamed or cooked, you can most certainly add these greens and veggies to your smoothies. Do note that some people with thyroid issues don’t have any problems when these greens are juiced, so it really depends on the person.

      Thanks for bringing up this issue. You’re right, though, greens can be enjoyed by everyone 🙂

  • Dee says:

    Hi-I think there is a lot to consider from all information out there. I have been hearing about the “brown fat” reduction therapy for a few years, but wow, it seems difficult! Through all of the crazy diet suggestions in the last 20-30 years the worst was to cut fat. I’m not sure how your percentages work out for fat but it is becoming increasingly important to get enough of a percentage of your calories from fat.

    1. Dee says:

      In regards to my above comment: also a great way to get foods to be more satiating is to add fat.

      1. Catherine says:


        When it comes to weight loss and the amount of fat a person needs, there are many different strategies and diets out there. The key is to find the strategies that work for you. Some people do well with low fat, some medium fat and some high fat. There is no “cookie cutter” recipe for any one person (thank goodness!). Do what works well for your unique body and your body will be most thankful 🙂

  • Lynne says:

    What do you mean by ‘goiterogenic’ effect? I have trouble with raw broccoli, kale and chard. Wondering if that’s indicative of thyroid weakness.

    1. Catherine says:


      Some people who have thyroid issues experience problems with goitrogenous foods, which are foods which interfere with proper thyroid functioning and can lead to goiter, however some don’t. The best way to know if you have an issue with your thyroid is to see your doctor and get tested. Best of luck to you 🙂

  • Arista says:

    I both liked and enjoyed your approach. I am not overweight but liked your ideas.

    1. Catherine says:


      Glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for taking the time to comment and give your feedback 🙂

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