Many people I talk to are focused on losing weight. We tend to say things like “I want to be skinnier”, “I want to look better in my clothes” or “I want to lose weight for my daughter’s wedding” . We are focused on how we look, which is totally understandable. What we don’t understand is that we can’t truly be slim and stay slim, unless we address the underlying health issues that cause excess weight. A repeated pattern of weight loss, followed by regain of the weight (also called yo-yo dieting) sets our body up for a host of health issues that actually make losing weight even harder. What’s more, many people actually regain more weight than they had before. The answer is to focus on improving your health and wellness slowly and sustainably….the weight loss will be a welcome side effect!
Here are a few of the issues around losing weight “just to lose weight”:
1. Losing and regaining weight triggers our ancient survival instincts, which told us that in order to survive periods of famine (like in the winter), we needed to fatten up. If we keep gaining and losing weight, we actual signal our bodies to retain the weight.
2. Yo-yo dieting changes our hormones in a way that actually increases our appetite.
3. Focusing on weight loss instead of lifestyle change often ends up in frustration, poor self-efficacy and increased dissatisfaction with our lives. When we change our lifestyle and improve our wellness, maintaining a steady, healthy weight, we increase our feelings of confidence and competence.
4. Yo-yo dieting creates insulin resistance, leading eventually to diabetes. Rapid weight loss can lead to fatty liver disease which is where fat accumulates around the liver, potentially causing scarring or cancer.
5. Strict dieting often leads to dehydration, a serious wellness problem.
Here’s a better way:
1. Focus on improving your health (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, inflammation etc) and wellness (more energy, clearer thinking, more emotional resilience etc). I promise you will lose weight in the process and maintain the weight!
2. Make very small lifestyle changes that you can maintain for the rest of your life. Some important ones are reducing your intake of sugar/processed foods, eating a rainbow of veggies and fruits, moving your body.
3. Prioritize sleep over everything else!! We cannot restore and repair if we don’t sleep well!
4. Manage your stress! “Stress” is a mental/emotional and physical reaction to a situation. Learn to respond better to situations. I use Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction techniques for myself and clients, to help respond to stress with self-compassion and healthy tools.
5. Find some kind of purpose, joy and connectedness to others in your life. Nature, spirituality, creativity, joining a club, volunteer work are all ways to do this.
If we can shift our perspective from “I want to lose weight” to “I want to be healthy, energetic and joyful” you will be amazed at how much weight you can lose and best of all keep it off. Reach out to me here if you would like help with any of these suggestions, or have questions about this blog. To your health!!