Wanting to lose weight is a common request from many people and one which often causes much stress about how best to achieve this. So let's try and work through a few sustainable ways to help you achieve your goals and maintain a healthy weight for you.
Why do we gain weight?
Our bodies have the fantastic ability to utilise food in such a way that means in the developed parts of the world and today's modern and ultra convenient society we are rarely ever hungry.
People have adapted their bodies to such a way from mindless eating of higher calorific yet nutritionally poor food choices which means that hunger is not often felt. This in turn causes a problem not only nutritionally but also wreaks havoc with hormones, metabolic processes and both chemical and cellular functions within the body.
Our body is designed to maintain homeostasis or stability within every cellular environment whether that be temperature control, blood pressure, water content, blood sugar levels, weight and much more. It requires constant adaptation of both biochemical and physiological pathways and when this is constantly bombarded with poor lifestyle habits or deprived of necessary nutrients, it will let you know one way or another that it is not happy!
One of the most noticeable ways is through our weight and one which many people concern themselves with the most.
There are many various causes for weight gain and the bigger picture needs to be looked at to find the actual cause. Some of the most common causes are:
Hormonal changes (puberty, pregnancy, menopause, ageing)
Hormonal disorders (thyroid imbalances, diabetes)
Sedentary lifestyle/inactivity (remember though - you cannot out train a bad diet)!
Medications (antidepressants, steroids, diabetic medications and many more)
Overeating/nutritionally deficient food consumption
Inflammatory and immune responses
As you can see, sometimes it is not always as simple as just a poor diet and inactive lifestyle.
Some simple tips to a healthier weight?
1. When looking to lose weight it is important to do this slowly. Remember that word homeostasis, the body will always try to revert to its familiar state if you don't give it time to adjust slowly. Don't chase unrealistic numbers, be consistent with chasing down small amounts. These are more achievable, provide a feeling of positivity when reached, are more sustainable long term and are less likely to be negated by the body once you have reached your goal weight.
2. Eat mindfully and slowly, give your mind and digestive system time to process and taste what it is being fed. This will kick in the appetite suppressor hormones of the complex feedback loop such as cholecystokinin (CCK), glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and leptin.
3. Choose foods wisely. Prioritise whole foods, foods/ingredients you can recognise, foods that are fresh not packaged and foods that are nutrient rich not calorie rich. Think Mediterranean Diet - fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
4. Learn to feel hungry and recognise the cues of 'actual' hunger. Remember hunger ebbs and flows, you need to train your body to feel hunger (which can and does pass). Try a glass of water if you feel hungry first. Don't just eat for the sake of eating.
5. Reduce portion sizes, a big way to help reduce food intake. Most of us do not need large portions of food as we are not out toiling in the fields all day or hunting/gathering or doing strenuous activities which require a higher food intake. Try a smaller plate and reducing the amounts you eat at each meal.
6. Add more vegetables to your meals. The fibre helps regulate bowel movements, reduces blood cholesterol, increases satiety, bulks up meals and studies have shown a positive effect on body composition, glucose, and insulin in recent trials.
7. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Water plays a pivotal role in metabolism, it helps detoxifying organs such as the liver and kidneys process toxins and flush them from the body, and by drinking water your body is less likely to retain water (again think homeostasis) if it is always replenished. In conjunction with the other weight loss tips, water will help your body's cellular and metabolic processes function well.
8. Take refined added carbohydrates out of your diet! This alone will help your body reduce inflammation, rebalance blood sugar, reduce hormonal fluctuations/imbalances, and more often than not, the foods that contain refined carbohydrates have little to no nutritional value or fibre and are highly processed eg; lollies, biscuits, cakes, soft drinks. Refined carbohydrates have no essential nutrients and therefore really have no place in a healthy diet. There's no reason though to avoid foods such as vegetables, whole grains and some fruit or dairy as these foods contain other nutritional benefits such as fibre, vitamins and minerals.
9. Create achievable habits, sustainable habits, conscious habits and positive habits! Make better food choices, incorporate some daily exercise and reduce stress. Once you achieve a good habit and it becomes an unconscious way of life, give yourself a pat on the back or a reward (not food related), it could be a massage, a piece of clothing you've had your eye on or a good book, just something small to reward yourself.
10. Invest and commit to your health. You are the one who needs to decide what results you want, if you can envision it and keep the amounts you want to lose small and achievable, you will be surprised how it can all add up over a period of time. Doing it this way will also ensure your body is less likely to revert back to gaining that unwanted weight!
Enjoy healthy food x