How many diets have you been on in your lifetime? If you’re like most women, it’s a lot. Dieting ranges from companies like WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) and Jenny Craig to crazy fad diets like the grapefruit diet and the cabbage soup diet.
Then you’ve got the eating style diets — Atkins, paleo, keto, etc.
Our culture values thinness. So for decades, people have gone to extreme measures to match that ideal. There was even a diet trend a few years ago where people took human growth hormone and basically starved themselves to trick their bodies into losing weight.
Let me be clear. I’m not a fan of risking your health in an attempt to reach a nebulous cultural ideal. Please don’t do that.
But I understand the desire to shed a few pounds, especially if your weight is affecting your life in an adverse manner — whether physical or emotional.
So if you want to lose weight, I support you. But I want you to do it in a way that is safe and healthy. It is possible to lose weight AND improve the nutritional status of your body. And it most definitely doesn’t involve the cabbage soup diet.
For the next few weeks we’ll be talking about weight loss — how to do it safely, how to lose weight while navigating therapeutic diets and gut issues, and how to gain weight if you need to.
This week, we’ll cover my top 5 tips for successful and healthy weight loss.
We all know it. The whole start-the-big-diet-on-Monday thing doesn’t work. If you go from living on fast food and ice cream, and then all of a sudden dive into a rigorous diet and exercise program, you’re very unlikely to stick with it.
There’s a reason gyms are so crowded in January, but usually clear out by February or March. Making huge changes all at once generally isn’t sustainable.
For my clients, I recommend making no more than 1 – 3 changes at a time. Focus on small habits you can build on.
? Next time you go to the store, buy 1 or 2 healthy snacks (like fruit, nuts, veggies + hummus) to keep on hand. This way when your afternoon low hits, or you find you’re starving, you’ll have a better chance of skipping the processed, sugary snacks.
? Add 1 serving of veggies to your day. This will provide you with nutrients your body needs + fiber to help with digestion and fullness. So wherever you’re at — whether you eat 5 servings or 0 — start by upping your veggies by one serving per day.
? Pick a time to add in a 10-minute walk. This can be before you eat lunch, after you do the dinner dishes, or some other time that works for you. Consider “anchoring” it to another activity (like finishing the dishes) to help you remember to do it.
? Start meal planning. If this is new to you, start by planning one or two dinners each week. Having a plan (and the right ingredients on hand) can make a big difference in your dinner game.
? Start carrying a water bottle with you. Hydration is important for both health and weight loss — especially if you’re adding exercise to your routine. Always having your water with you can help you stay hydrated. This is another habit you can anchor to something else. Maybe every time you get a notification on your phone, you take a sip of water before you check it.
Don’t try to do all of this at once. Seriously, just pick a couple of things to add to your routine. As you get comfortable with those new habits, add another one or two.
I know once you decide you want to lose weight, you want it all gone NOW. And if you’re restricting calories or whole food groups, this will be magnified because you feel deprived. But your best bet is to make small, sustainable changes that benefit your health overall. If you’ve not sure how to do that, please reach out. I’m happy to help.
Losing weight isn’t as simple as the diet industry — or even many doctors — would like us to think. For decades we’ve been told that it’s all about eating fewer calories than you burn. But doing that is not always so simple.
Our bodies are amazing. And their #1 priority is to keep us alive. Your body doesn’t know that the calorie deficit produced by your diet is intentional. If you reduce your caloric intake, the alarm bells will sound and your body will take action to make sure you don’t starve.
And the first way it will do this is to slow your metabolism. This is one of the reasons why you have to keep reducing your calories as you lose weight. Your body will stubbornly hold onto every calorie you give it when it thinks there might be a food shortage.
Remember the show The Biggest Loser? Scientists studied the contestants over time and discovered that their drastic diet and exercise practices dramatically reduced their metabolisms. And the damage didn’t repair itself after they got off the show.
One contestant — who lost over 200 pounds — had to stick to an 800 calorie per day diet to maintain that weight. And that was after gaining 100 pounds of her weight back.
So if you’re working on losing weight, it’s vital that you go slowly and protect your metabolism. Not sure how? The rest of the tips will give you some ideas on keeping your metabolism up to speed.
At each meal or snack, include a mix of these macronutrients. Eating some carbs with each meal or snack will give you a quick energy boost, while the protein and fat will keep you full and satisfied longer.
Protein foods like meats, eggs, and dairy products will reduce cravings, boost your metabolism, and increase fat-burning.
Whole food carbohydrates like fruits and veggies will provide you with quick energy, help maintain muscle, and provide fiber that can help with digestion and fullness.
Healthy fats like olive oil and avocados, can help your body burn calories efficiently, support cell growth, absorb certain nutrients, and produce hormones.
By having a balance of these macros at each meal and snack, you are providing your body with needed nutrients and helping yourself stay fuller longer.
Dramatically reducing your caloric intake will cause you to lose some weight. But as I mentioned before, it will also damage your metabolism making it harder to continue losing weight and keep it off.
I’ll say it again. Do this slowly. I know you want the weight to come off quickly. But in the long run, you’re much better off losing it slowly. This way you can build sustainable habits that will help you not only look better, but feel better too.
Instead of focusing on reducing your calories, think about fueling your body more efficiently. Look at the foods you’re choosing to eat. Are they providing you with the nutrients your body needs? Just because something is low in calories doesn’t make it good for you.
If you do restrict calories, don’t shoot for any more than a 500 calorie deficit — and take into account any movement that burns calories.
If you focus on whole foods like meats, eggs, nuts, legumes, and produce, you’ll be able to lose some weight while still nourishing your body.
When it comes to weight loss, food is Batman and movement is Robin. In other words, intense exercise will not magically melt away the pounds.
✔ Improve your mood — including depression, anxiety, and feelings of stress.
✔ Build and maintain strong bones and muscles.
✔ Improve heart health — including blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
✔ Help you sleep better.
✔ Increase your metabolic rate — another way to protect your metabolism.
✔ Improve insulin sensitivity — an important aspect of blood sugar management.
I’m not saying you should run out and join a gym with a plan to work out 2 hours a day. Please don’t do that. I encourage my patients to find enjoyable and sustainable ways to move their body regularly.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or grueling. Adding in a daily walk or bike ride can do wonders. Too hot for that? Look into classes that appeal to you — dancing, yoga, tai chi. Swim some laps or download a yoga app. Or even dance around your house to your favorite music.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that exercise only “counts” if it’s hard or if it happens at the gym. But this is just not true. A little movement is better than no movement. A little movement is better than too much movement. Find what works for you and make it fun!
Losing weight can be hard under the best of circumstances. And if you’ve got imbalances, systemic inflammation, or ongoing health issues, your body will want to hold onto the excess weight. If you’ve tried to lose weight healthfully and naturally and it still hasn’t worked, you likely have something else going on.
I’m happy to help you with this. In my practice, I specialize in getting to the root cause of your health concerns. I often uncover issues like food sensitivities, microbiome imbalances, and digestive issues that many of my clients didn’t even know they had.
Once you uncover and correct these issues, your body will be much more likely to release the weight that’s bothering you. And you’ll feel better in the process!