It’s a new year. That means millions of Americans are hitting the gym, dieting and doing their best to get fit and stay healthy. Undoubtedly, New Years resolutions are hard to stick with long-term and it’s especially frustrating when you’re not seeing the results you want. So why is it so hard to lose weight and maintain that loss?
There are many factors that play in to weight management. Some of these inputs are psychological and some are physiological. For one thing, your brain plays a leading role in determining your weight. Hunger and energy use are controlled entirely by the brain. It secretes hormones that tell you you’re hungry or full in response to the body’s signals. In addition, your body likes to be at a certain weight within a 10-15 pound range called a set point. And guess what. This weight range is also determined by the brain and it takes a lot of work to get out and stay out of this range. This system is like a thermostat. You can change the temperature in your house by opening a window, but that doesn’t change the setting on the thermostat.
If you lose a lot of weight, your brain reacts as if you are starving – no matter what weight you start at. Losing weight will usually cause you feel hungry frequently and your muscles will burn less energy. Set points can go up, but they rarely go down because your brain will keep trying to make you gain it back. If you have gained or lost weight and have stayed at that current weight for several years, your brain may have decided that your current weight is the new normal. Research has shown that someone who has lost weight and intends to keep it off may need to eat up to 250 calories less each day than someone of the same weight who has never dieted. That also means, that same person will have to eat 250 calories each day less than they used to.
The science may be a bit disheartening, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. It’s good to know what you’re up against and it’s critical to acknowledge where you are in the journey of weight loss. Successful and sustainable weight loss is a journey of patience and perseverance. Weight loss has much more to do with lifestyle habits than short-term diet fads, counting calories or power of will. The typical outcome of “dieting” is that you’re more likely to gain weight after the fact, than to keep it off long-term. That’s why I take a more lifestyle-centered approach with my weight loss clients. I have developed a method that has been uber-successful for me personally. I want to share with you how I lost 60 pounds and still got to eat the food I love!
8 Foundational Habits for Weight Loss
1. Love yourself and love your body. Even if you have to “fake it ‘til you make it,” compliment yourself every day. Say, “Hey, you’re lookin’ good today!” or simply, “I am whole and complete and beautiful.” It’s so important to recognize that weight is a number and it doesn’t define who you are. Having an ideal weight should be about how you feel in your body, rather than what the scale says. There’s no sense in starving yourself or using negative self-talk as a motivator. They don’t work and you won’t be happy. You only have one body and I firmly believe that only positivity and love will get you to where you want to be.
2. Practice mindful eating. Learn to understand your body’s signals so that you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Give yourself permission to eat as much as you want, and notice how you feel. Sit down to regular meals without distractions. How does your body feel when you eat and when you stop? Work with your appetite instead of fearing it. Don’t reprimand yourself or try to punish yourself for “messing up.” We all have a story about food and our food-body relationship tends to be complicated. Remember that your body is wise. It’s for you, not against you.
3. Eat as many fruits and vegetables as you want! At least half your plate should be made up of fresh fruits and vegetables. And I don’t mean fruits and vegetables smothered in sugar and butter. Use herbs and spices to flavor your foods. The simpler the preparation, the more satisfying your veggies can be! A plant-based diet has been associated with marked improvements in almost every aspect of health. It’s a great idea to try Meatless Monday or Whole Foods Wednesday! Most importantly, enjoy the food you’re eating. There’s no point in spending your time and money on things you don’t like because they’re “healthy.” Make small changes, and as time goes by, your taste buds will change and so will your body. Aim for lots of color and variety!
4. Get rid of processed foods. Eat as many whole, fresh foods as possible. Packaged and manufactured foods are full of sweeteners, poor quality salts, synthetic nutrients, dyes, flavorings, binders, fillers, lubricants and all sorts of yucky toxins that you really do not want in your body. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. And purchase foods that have fewer than 3 ingredients as much as possible. You will feel a lot better and your body will thank you for it!
5. Please don’t smoke. There are so many reasons not to smoke, and not the least of them is that many smokers gain weight within a year of quitting. One study noted that those who have a comorbidity, high nicotine dependence and have quit smoking gain an average of 7.7 pounds within one year of quitting. In addition, smoking puts undue strain on your cardiovascular system and respiratory system, as well as increasing the body’s toxic load.
6. Move! I would say exercise, but that word comes with a lot of baggage and I actually think it’s a rather limiting term. Exercise, for most, means going to the gym, doing that buns of steel video, jogging or playing a sport. It omits healthy practices like walking, hiking, biking, yoga, dancing, jumping on your trampoline and hula-hooping! Movement can even be your daily commute on foot or by bike. Your muscles were made to be used! I say, find multiple forms of movement that you can enjoy with loved ones and make it a part of your daily routine. For improving fitness and aerobic capacity, exercise four to five times a week for just twenty minutes. For you weekend warriors, know that it puts a lot of stress on your body to exercise vigorously every once in a while because your heart and other muscles are not equipped to handle the intensity. It’s much more effective to be consistent and work less intensely. In fact, you burn about the same number of calories walking and running the same distance.
7. Drink alcohol in moderation. Red wine contains the antioxidant resveratrol, which may help to prevent damage to blood vessels and reduce inflammation. Great! The problem is that over-consumption of alcohol has many damaging effects on the body including weight gain and liver damage. Alcohol has almost twice as many calories per gram as either protein or carbohydrates. Oh, and it can also impair judgment. I recommend either avoiding alcohol or only drinking socially. Research suggests that women should limit alcohol intake to one glass a day and men should enjoy no more than two drinks per day.
8. Drink only unsweetened beverages and avoid “diet” drinks. The amount of sugar in beverages is obscene, and the beverage industry has tried to quell our concerns by creating “diet” drinks loaded with artificial sweeteners. Sugared drinks and soft drinks have high correlation links to type 2 diabetes and other diseases.
So why weight? Schedule a complimentary call with me to discuss your vision for your health and how we can work together to make lasting change in your life. Or, if you’re ready to make lasting change, schedule an appointment today!