What is holding you back from losing weight?

(In this article I cover the basics of the underlying mechanism beneath weight gain as well as the confusion regarding choosing the right "diet". In the second part of this article, I will share some of the simple and effective ways that can help you focus on the right "diet" for you which is an integral part of the weight loss process)

 

I had done a recent survey about the health and wellness goals that people have these days. The objective was to uncover the most common goals that people want to work towards as well as the major obstacles that usually come in the way of meeting them. While the sample size was small (under 50), this was the first time I had directly reached out to people like you so that I could fine tune my services and offerings in line with what most of you are struggling with.

Once I analysed the results of the survey, I realised that I had seen similar issues being raised in many other groups and communities that I am a part of around the world. The health issues that we are facing in our societies and communities are not really unique to any particular country or location. Weight loss (in a healthy and sustainable manner) came out as the number one issue on most people's minds everywhere. This is also corroborated by the fact that there is a multibillion-dollar global industry with different "diets", "pills", books, gym memberships and other resources to help us lose weight.

However, as most of us may realise, inspite of all the awareness about exercise and "healthy" diets, there is something missing here, something that is not right. This approach is simply NOT working for most of us. Otherwise, there would not be more people (including children) who are overweight and in many cases, chronically ill.

There would be much less!

Weight loss is usually NOT what I focus on with my clients as the main objective since there is always an underlying reason why your body is holding on to the weight. For our bodies weigh gain is usually a protective as well as a defensive mechanism in order to survive in the environment in which we are asking it to live in.

Many of us are leading a life that is inherently stressful due to

  • poor lifestyle choices like lack of restorative sleep and relaxation practices
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • poor food choices like sugary foods  including beverages, refined carbohydrates and edible food like substances

Is it any wonder that our bodies are struggling to keep us healthy given the circumstances?

In fact, one of the main reasons (there are others as well) that we put on weight in the first place is often a diet that is full of refined carbohydrates containing empty calories (think pasta, breads, pizza, sugary foods and beverages) due to the mechanism of a critical hormone called insulin.

You may not know that insulin

-is released from the pancreas when blood sugar rises

-escorts the sugar out of your blood and into the cells for energy

-promotes limited storage of glycogen (it provides the body with a readily available source of energy if blood glucose levels decrease) by the liver

-triggers fat storage in the body

As a result of the poor food choices mentioned above, many of us have chronic blood sugar spikes leading to cells becoming "insulin resistant" over a period of time making the pancreas work harder and harder to secrete more insulin to FORCE the cells to accept more sugar. Meanwhile, your cells suffer from both low energy and too much sugar as insulin ensures that first the excess glucose is converted into glycogen and stored in the liver and muscle tissue and the rest (excess sugar) as fat. What used to be a life saving mechanism in the distant past when food was scarce and sugar consumption was negligible is now working against us due to our modern lifestyle and diet.

Once you are able to grasp this concept, it becomes that much easier to work WITH our bodies to lose the excess weight rather than AGAINST it. When we finally understand that our body has been only trying to protect us all this while and needs to be given the attention and support that it needs to lose the excess weight, we can start going beyond fad diets and exercises that may not be suiting our unique body types and circumstances.

There is no ONE right "diet"

I come across many people in my practice and elsewhere who are thoroughly confused about what to eat (and what to feed their children). I cannot really blame them given the often contradictory views that are shared on the same topic by different experts and nutritionists. For eg. there is much controversy regarding whether ghee and coconut oil is good OR bad for you; whether we should be on a low carb, high fat or all the other combinations possible in this space and many more. No wonder many people simply give up trying to even make sense of it all! 

Going into all the reasons why there is so much of controversy is beyond the scope of this article, but I will share a few things that are foundational to figuring out the approach that is RIGHT for you. Our individual weight loss journeys are and always will be unique to each of us and needs to happen from a place of strength rather than deprivation or at war with our own bodies and selves. Nourishing our bodies and mind depends on focussing on fresh, plant based foods, healthy proteins and fats which contributes to our optimal weight leading to long term and lasting changes. There is no "calorie counting" which is required.

Please keep in mind that sustainable and healthy weight loss 

is NOT about starvation or deprivation but actually about maintaining good gut health so that our microbiome supports our weight loss endeavour by moving from a fat and sugar processing machine to a fat burning one (read this article to learn more)

depends on addressing chronic underlying inflammation due to insulin resistance and other health conditions; inflammation can also be due to hidden food sensitivities which creates chronic inflammation and prevents our body from shedding excess weight

depends on eating consistently instead of restrictively (calorie wise), our bodies may get the message that food is scarce and become more efficient in extracting more calories in order to ensure our survival

depends on good quality sleep since lack of sleep can increase hunger and food intake primarily due to the effects of the hunger-regulating hormone ghrelin

is difficult when there are nutritional imbalances due to a calorie rich and nutrient poor diet; low nutrition status leads to suboptimal metabolism due to lack of nutrients 

is difficult when we are constantly bombarded by environmental toxins which act as "obesogens" like BPA, phtalates, PFOA and PFTE (found in non stick coating)

What else is holding you back?

There may also be some other more subtle reasons some people are unable to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable manner. You may find that these mental traps are true for you as well.

You are looking at ways to hasten and shorten the process without actually putting in the time and effort required. Infact, I remind my clients that this kind of goal is like a marathon and not a sprint and takes patience, hard work and is best viewed as a transformative process where you are no longer the person you used to be

You dislike or even hate the body that you have right now. Due to the constant bombarding of messages conveyed to us by our society, advertising and media about having the perfect shape, size, skin tone etc many of us struggle with low body image and self esteem

You are trying to lose weight for the wrong reasons. Do your reasons for losing weight align with your internal value system and things that are important to you in your life? If you are losing weight to simply fit into some clothes or to become a "perfect" body size, you may not be able to sustain the weight loss. But if you want to lose weight to finally be able to do what you really want in life as you become healthy and vibrant, it frees you to explore endless possibilities available to you. As a result, you are able to consistently put in the time and effort required to reach your health goals

At the end of the day, a happy and healthy weight is so much more than a mere number on your weighing machine. It is an indication of a body and mind that lives in harmony 

Here is some food for thought which can help you figure out your "WHY"

why is it important for YOU to lose weight?

what is the ONE or TWO main things that have held you back from losing weight before?

What is the FIRST step that you can take today to get you started on your own health journey?

 

I would love to hear from you!

Please make sure that you take out some time to REALLY think through these questions and write them down. Better yet, you can either share your thoughts in the comment section below or connect with me on my FB page "Nourish Heal Connect"  

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Webinar “Are our children overfed and undernourished?

As a mother of two children and as a health professional, I am quite concerned about the nutritional value of the foods that children today are having on a regular basis. There are many things that are worth emulating the Western countries for but their modern diet is not one of them. Unfortunately, as more and more international food giants look for newer markets and launch their highly processed products along with highly refined marketing campaigns in India, it is difficult to resist the allure of what they seem to be offering us. We have the same problem with Indian manufacturers peddling their processed foods products to our children.

What do these highly processed foods seem to offer us?

Convenience- YES

Taste- YES

Affordability- YES

Nutritional Value- MAYBE (or in some cases MINIMAL and/or HARMFUL)

Should you be concerned with the impact that these may be having on your child? ABSOLUTELY!

While childhood obesity is one of the most obvious manifestations of this worldwide epidemic, there are less obvious health issues that our children are facing today and which can all be traced back to their diet (as well as other causes)

ADD, ADHD and behavioural challenges

Digestive disorders

Fatigue or low energy levels

Inability to concentrate and lack of focus

Poor immunity (having constant colds and cough) and prolonged recovery from an illness

Diabetes and kidney disease

Our normalising of chronic illness of our children is another cause of concern. Somehow, chronic health issues in children like recurrent headaches, skin rashes, eczema, allergies, anxiety, depression, behavioural problems in many children have become the "new normal".

And one of the main reasons is that our children are simply NOT getting the nutrients that they need to grow up to be healthy adults.

We all need to stop making excuses about what our child "likes to eat" (read junk and processed foods like pizza, soda, chips) and take back our power as a parent from the clutches of the food industry. We need to educate ourselves about the foods that we are giving our children and the impact it is having on their health

Register for my LIVE webinar "Are our children overfed and undernourished?"

Date : 29th March, FRIDAY

Time: 1230 pm

In this webinar I cover the following aspects children and nutrition

true health is NOT the absence of disease

"a healthy child" needs proper nourishment

food and nutrition

toxins in our food

how we are allowing the food industry to shape our children's health

YOU are the expert on your child

Happy, healthy eaters

JOIN ME on 29th March, Friday at 1230 pm for a live webinar "Are our children overfed and undernourished?"

REGISTER for the webinar by clicking HERE

Why an elimination diet is usually the starting point for embarking on your health journey

Do you suffer from any of the following?

Allergies

Muscle and joint pain

Headaches and migraines

Eczema and rashes

Stomach aches and pains

Bloating

Indigestion

Constipation or diarrhea

Acid reflux

Fatigue

Sugar cravings

Skin disorders like eczema, hives and acne

Weight gain or weight loss resistance

Sleeping issues

You would most likely notice allergic reactions which can cause a noticeable type of immune response which can also be life threatening types of immune response and or at the very least are mildly irritating. An allergy is a damaging immune response to a substance to which one has become hypersensitive and is what we are likely to be most familiar with. Allergies are caused by exposure to certain substances like foods (like nuts, eggs, dairy, soy etc), organisms (mould, dust mites), plants/pollens (ragweed etc), chemicals, medications and others. Symptoms can appear within a few seconds to a few hours.

Food sensitivities and intolerances, on the other hand, are often what we miss out on. The symptoms present themselves in so many different ways and you could experience any one or more of the symptoms listed above or not notice anything at all. How your body reacts to different foods and triggers is highly individualistic in nature. Food intolerances usually occur when the body is unable to digest certain foods (such as dairy, artificial food dyes, artificial sweeteners, MSG) or when your digestive system becomes irritated by them. Enzyme deficiencies are usually the cause in many cases of food intolerances.

Please keep in mind that for some people, there may be no digestive symptoms whatsoever inspite of having food sensitivities! That is a major reason why we are not able to connect the dots between what we eat and the health issues that we are suffering from.

Why you need to do an Elimination diet

There are trillions of commensal bacteria in our gut (large intestine) and whose health is crucial for optimal gut health. These bacteria along with other microorganisms are collectively called our “microbiome” and are directly responsible for our weight, health and disease. An emerging body of research shows that any alterations in our microbiome play an important role in the development of food allergies and sensitivities. Once there is an imbalance in the number of beneficial bacteria, it can impair immune tolerance in allergic sensitisation or food sensitivities. You can read about this in details in a post that I have written earlier on this topic here.

Food remains the most important piece in the puzzle and the first step towards improving our gut health. By eliminating certain trigger foods which are causing your symptoms by creating chronic inflammation in your body you can begin working on healing your gut. The best way to discover your food sensitivities is to complete an elimination diet where you take out the most common inflammatory foods like for a period of at least 6 weeks (preferably 3 months) and then add back the foods  to your diet one at a time to see if you have a reaction.

The most common food sensitivities are to the following foods

Gluten containing grains like wheat, rye and barley (including products like maida, rava, suji and baked products like breads, biscuits/cookies, pastas etc)

Dairy products like milk, dahi (yogurt), paneer (cottage cheese), butter (ghee is usually not an issue)

Corn

Soy

Shellfish

Oranges and citrus fruits

Eggs

Yeast (baking yeast, vinegar)

For this reason, elimination diet remains a cornerstone in my practice of guiding my clients towards better health.

An elimination diet...

  • Helps uncover hidden food sensitivities- It uncovers your hidden food sensitivities and is considered the gold standard for uncovering food sensitivities so there is no more second guessing about which foods are causing your symptoms. During the reintroduction phase, you'll bring back the foods you eliminated one by one, so you notice exactly what foods don't agree with your system.
  • Helps calm inflammation- Many chronic health problems, from weight gain to fatigue, involve one common cause: inflammation. An elimination diet, by taking out triggering foods, gives your body a chance to calm inflammation in your body and help it to heal.
  • Supports a healthy microbiome- By taking out inflammatory trigger foods, the elimination diet helps by providing healthy and wholesome foods. This is the first step towards healing your gut by providing your body with foods that are rich in anti oxidants, vitamins and minerals
  • Boosts your energy- By removing the trigger foods and lowering inflammation in your body, your body gets a chance to reach its optimal energy levels
  • Is not an anti food programme- On the contrary by consuming nourishing, healing and wholesome foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, you are nourishing your body while at the same time having delicious foods.
  • Allows you to customise a food plan that works for YOU- Once you have completed the elimination phase and start reintroducing foods once again, not only do you uncover your food sensitivities, you also realise which foods your body thrives on. This allows you to customise a food plan that is right for YOU and frees you from ever having to follow a "diet" again.
  • Increases body awareness to food- During the elimination and most often in the reintroduction phase, many develop an increasing awareness of foods that trigger symptoms in the body. Being on the Elimination Diet for even a few weeks can lead to changes in the taste buds and a greater level of sensitivity about which foods cause changes in the body. This helps us to become more mindful of the foods that we eat and also learn how to make certain changes from time to time depending on our body's requirements.

Food can be both problematic or healing depending on how you handle it. When you learn to identify the foods that are good for you and crowd out the ones which are a problem, you are on your way towards creating health.

As you learn to love and have foods which are good for you, you start seeing the results- losing excess weight, eliminating aches and pains and increase in energy levels.

Webinar on “Elimination diet- the beginning of your healing journey”

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THIS WEBINAR

I covered the following in my webinar 

Basics of an elimination diet

Why you should be doing it if you want to improve your health

How it can help uncover the hidden food sensitivities that are behind many of your symptoms

How an elimination diet helps lower inflammation in the body

Foods that need to be eliminated in this diet

What comes after an Elimination Diet

 

Book review- “Hold on to your kids- Why parents need to matter more than peers

I read a TON of books on various subjects including parenting for both professional and personal reasons. But very rarely does a book grab my attention the way that this book has. As the name itself suggests, this book is about parenting but it differs from the other books I have read on this topic in a very important way. It brought to my notice a phenomenon many of our children (especially in the urban areas) are facing today but mostly goes unnoticed and under the radar by their parents. It is the phenomenon of "peer orientation".

Before I delve briefly on what "peer orientation" is about I would like to highlight a few of the other points that the authors make in this book. Parental influence has always been well established over generations and is considered indisputable and irreplaceable, but sadly that is no longer true in many ways in today's world. The problems that our children face today has reached epic proportions both in terms of mental and physical health. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety, lack of self control, bullying, suicide, loss of resiliency, stress have increased exponentially. If these issues had not been there and our children were well adjusted, settled and positively grounded and content we would not need to worry much, but that is not the case in many societies across the globe. Parents have as much love, concern and good intentions for their children as did the preceding generations and there is a lot of parenting literature to help them. Inspite of this, something has shifted fundamentally and this book should serve as a wake-up call for you are much as it did for me.

As the authors have pointed out, the entire context in which parenting takes place has changed. As a result, the role of the parent is being undermined by forces that most parents are not aware of and are not ready to deal with. The critically important attachment relationship between parents and their children which is at the foundation of parenting is in danger. The authors put forward powerful reasons why this is so and show in this book why the main and the most damaging reason is the competing attachments that children today are developing with their peers.

The authors call this "peer orientation". This competing attachment is undermining parental authority and also diminishing the attachment that the child needs to have with the parent as long as the child needs to be parented.

The book brings about a few critical points about "peer orientation"  and some of the important ones are

  • children like any other warm blooded mammals have a natural instinct for orientation; they need to be guided and nurtured by someone
  • children cannot be oriented both towards adults and their peers at the same time; they must necessarily CHOOSE between the two
  • even though this phenomenon is now becoming "normal", it is not "natural" or "healthy" and has negative consequences in the long run

We need to become conscious of this need for attachment that all humans have (adults and children). This is what creates communities, families and keeps us all connected emotionally, psychologically, behaviorally and physically with each other. This connection could be taken for granted in many ways in the preceding generations. But that no longer holds true for us today.

The book describes in details the six different ways of attaching- senses, sameness, belonging and loyalty, significance, feeling and being known. If these bonds of attachment are strong and development is healthy, these facets are interwoven closely into a strong bond and children will find ways of staying close and holding on even when physically apart from their parents. However, peer oriented children live in a world filled with severely limited and superficial attachments driven by the least vulnerable way of attaching- sameness. This explains their need to resemble one another in look, behaviour, thoughts, tastes and values.

The other disturbing revelation for me was the false independence that a peer oriented child portrays and which seems to be a good thing. On the contrary, they are still dependent but now they depend on their peers for guidance - a set of people who are NOT truly dependable, mature, appropriate, responsible or compassionate. 

Many parents do intuitively know and sense that something is just not right with their relationship with their children but may not know what is exactly wrong. Beneath many parent's anger and frustration of failing to connect and parent their children lies a sense of hurt and betrayal. This intuitive feeling is usually ignored and pushed under the carpet by relegating this to "normal teenage issues" or some other such cause. This works for many parents till it stops working at all. In an extreme situation, this can end with a teen committing suicide as she is unable cope with or has problems getting along with her peers. Usually though, this plays out in the forms of rude behaviour, name calling, increased aggression, bullying, precocious sexuality all of which are discussed in details in this book.

Collecting and reclaiming our children

The good news is, however, that this book also discusses in details how to "reclaim our children". For those children who are not very far down the roads with peers can be "collected" and the attachment relationship can be strengthened in four simple ways- get in the child's face or space in a friendly way, provide something for the child to hold on to, invite independence and act as the child's compass point.

For those children who are too insulated by peer attachments will need additional efforts which are explained in the chapters towards the end of the book-

Preserve the ties that empower

Discipline that does not divide

Don't court the competition

Recreate the attachment village

The last chapter also deals with the role that technology plays in our children's lives and in the parent- child relationship. I am very wary not about the digital revolution per se but about the negative impact it has on children who are too young to handle it. Timing is everything and it is as true in the case of digital gadgets or video games as it is in the case of alcohol or sex with regards to children.

I love this quote from the last chapter

"We want children to be fulfilled with what they truly need before they have access to that which would spoil their appetite for what they truly need"

I hope this book review has opened your eyes to the issues that you may be facing yourself with your children or some other family you know may be facing. Let this serve as a wake up call for you (as it has for me) and also give you HOPE that there is a lot that can be done to undo the damage. We need to be aware of this if we are to raise children who mature into compassionate, genuinely independent, resilient adults who go on to lead purposeful lives and contribute to society.

I had written about raising children who are resilient in my earlier post "To Raise Resilient Kids, Be a Resilient Parent" and you can read it HERE. I had also conducted a Facebook live on this very topic which you can watch HERE.

I have an upcoming free webinar next Thursday, 29th November at 1 pm on "Mindful strengths parenting"  for which you can register on my Facebook page "Nourish Heal Connect".

Webinar- "Mindful strengths parenting"

Mindful parenting does not mean being a “perfect parent” and is not something you can fail at. It is not easy and like many other things needs practice before we can get better at it. At the same time, strengths based parenting can provide our children with 2 vital psychological tools- optimism and resilience. Infact, helping our children connect to their strengths during difficult times is one of the most important things we can do for them. I will be touching on "peer orientation" briefly in this webinar as it very relevant for us as parents to be aware of.
 
Date: Thursday, 29th November

Time: 1 pm

Venue: "Nourish Heal Connect"

 

 

Selfcare- Getting to know yourself (Take back the power to heal yourself Part 3)

This is the last post on the "self-care" series that I have been writing this month. You can read the first part on self care here and the second part on finding your own self-care routine here.

This last post focusses on self-discovery which is an integral part of taking care of yourself. If you do not really recognise who you are any more, how can you expect that you will be able to accept the person that you are today? Not ten years ago, not twenty, but TODAY. Whether we realise it or not, we are all shaped and moulded by our life experiences and we are constantly changing. This is nothing to be scared of as it is a completely natural process; on the other hand, it is something to embrace!

Without this self-awareness and self-acceptance, we rarely find the strength to prioritise self-care.  As you go on a journey to rediscover yourself, you start becoming comfortable in your own skin and learn to show up as you are, without feeling the need to don any masks.

"As you become familiar with yourself once again, you may find within yourself what you have been seeking from others"

In many ways, this has been the most important lesson that life has taught me over the recent years of my struggle. I have had to confront the reality of who I am and initially, I had trouble accepting those parts of me that did not live up to my expectations. For me, it was a combination of expectations around what I SHOULD have achieved in terms of my professional life and my feelings of GUILT around my daughter's health issues (whether it was justified or not is not the point). It will be different for everyone as we all have our own demons.

But, over time as I have consciously spent time with myself in different ways (solo breaks, meditation, relaxation) I have learned to accept myself as I would another person.

I have learned to forgive my imperfections and embrace who I have become and what I stand for and be proud of it. Isn't it wonderful and liberating at the same time to become comfortable in your own skin? 
I invite you to do the same!

This means that you may need to

get over the fear of really connecting with yourself even if it means facing those parts of yourself that you are not comfortable with; these are usually our feelings of fear around shame and unworthiness. Please show yourself the same love and compassion much as you would a child or someone who is hurting, maybe these hidden and neglected parts of you have been waiting for your attention all this while

say "no" to situations and people that don't serve you well at this time; this also makes it easier to say "yes" to those things that really matter in your life and you would like to pursue

find a meditation practice that will help you to practice paying attention; attention to your life, your body and your relationships with everything around you. Being mindful helps you to take part in your life fully and accept all feelings of joy, gratitude, anger, shame and love without any judgement

let go of expectations as you start on this journey of self-discovery; you may even feel the need to forgive and many times you may find that the person you need to forgive the most is yourself

become curious about your likes and dislikes; when was the last time you did something that you TRULY enjoyed doing and not because you had to do it or it was expected of you? Do you still enjoy hobbies, activities and even play like you used to? Find out what your likes and dislikes are at this point in your life by trying out different things

find a way to recognise your strengths so that you can consciously and effectively use them to enhance your life and overcome challenges; (you can use the "best possible self" narrative or even a survey like the VIA character strengths- I will be writing more on this in another post)

meet yourself with a sense of humour; everything in life does not need to be an emergency, you may need to learn to laugh at yourself or at situations at various points in time

explore the reasons behind your need to be "busy" at all times; is there something that you are trying to avoid facing in your life?

As you get to know yourself, you may also realise that

you are "whole" and worthy of being loved just as you are

the love that you desperately seek is right there deep inside of you. And as you start accepting yourself unconditionally, the craving for respect and approval that you seek from others loses its hold over you and social media becomes just another tool for connection and nothing more

your self-worth is not linked to anyone else or any external circumstances (which are usually not in your control); it has been there with you all along, you just needed to find it

you are and always will be a unique "work-in-progress" and that's ok; so is everyone else! The "perfect" body/job/partner is an illusion that we need to recognise and face up to  

With time, the compassion that you show for yourself can turn into unconditional self-acceptance. With this, we realise that most of the times, we need to find the strength to simply show up and be ourselves and know that IT IS ENOUGH. When this happens, we feel connected to ourselves and to everyone else in a way that ultimately gives our life meaning and helps us find our purpose.

As we become comfortable with who we are, we turn outwards because we feel that we are a part of a bigger whole; a realisation that makes us stop feeling isolated and lonely. This is a liberating and joyous realisation and makes life truly worth celebrating. This feeling of being connected to ourselves and others can help us in many different ways. We can find the strength to focus on healing ourselves in more ways than one even if our condition is beyond a "cure". And sometimes, we may find that through our own struggles and pain, we can ease the pain of others.

So I invite you to join me on a journey towards self-discovery. And if you have a need for it, this path that will ultimately lead you towards self-care and healing.

(I would love to hear your thoughts on this and the ONE way that you have decided to embark on this journey of self-discovery. Please share in the comments section below)