(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"