Wanting to loose weight is one of the most common health issues clients mention when they visit us at Live Well. We often associate loosing weight with having more energy, feeling more attractive and even having a more positive outlook on life so the allure is understandable.
Weight gain can be a concern for good reason, as we know being overweight leaves us with greater chances of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. In fact obesity is the leading preventable cause of death worldwide so its little wonder it is so prominent in our minds and in our media.
It is important to distinguish where a person is on the scale between “morbid obesity”, where weight gain has placed undue stress on our organs and structure thereby placing our health at critical risk and being a bit “overweight” where there is a desire to loose an extra few kilos of weight in order to feel good, restore confidence and a nurture a positive self image.
When you assess yourself or someone else, it’s also wise to take into account our cultural obsession with thinness, whereby thinness is so often equated with attractiveness. It’s common for people, women especially, to feel pressure to achieve an unnaturally svelte form in order to have a positive self-image. So if weight loss is on your agenda, be mindful of setting up healthy and achievable goals.
Diets don’t work!
Studies have consistently shown that dieting doesn’t work. For the vast majority of people who go on a diet, the weight they have lost is put back on within 12 months and typically added to. Even worse, the cycles of weight loss and gain actually place significantly more strain on the body. So in other words dieting can actually be harmful.
Some managed weight loss programs show evidence of being mildly successful beyond the short term. People undertaking structured weight loss programs do usually loose weight and after 5 years on average maintain around a quarter of the weight loss they achieved in the first 12 months. In other words, if the average person lost 12 kg they would have put 9kgs back on after 5 years. A large study compared the 4 most common diet programs in the US and saw little difference between them for results. Interestingly the aspect of the programs that showed the most benefit was the regular contact with the weight loss counselor or program manager. So in other words being educated, supported and encouraged to stick to doing what is working was the crucial aspect rather than the specifics of what to eat or not eat.
Let’s check the basics
Before we go any further, lets confirm a few general principles for achieving weight loss.
1/. Awareness of what you put in your mouth. This is both an issue of quality and quantity.
Eating food low in nutritional value actually places a burden on your vital organs, essentially food without nutritional value (junk food/fast food/refined food) is toxic to the body, it might taste good and fill you up but not only does it lack anything of value to the body it actually forces the body’s organs to work extra hard to get rid of it. Weight = waste is a simple yet profound understanding that comes from Ayurvedic medicine (the ancient Indian medicine). Carrying excess weight is a sign that your body is storing excess “waste” or toxicity. When we understand that principle it makes sense not to put junk or poor quality food in your mouth! (Note that ‘diet’ drinks are toxic and nobody who cares about their health should ingest them, let alone anyone who is thinking they are going to help them loose weight!)
Here we are talking about learning what we need for real nourishment. We eat for so many reasons other than nutrition such as: for comfort, to allay boredom or fatigue, to soften disappointment or stress, anxiety or depression. Sometimes we eat just out of habit.
A simple and very effective strategy is to keep a written journal of what you eat and notice what you find yourself doing. Try also, to observe what emotions arise as you eat, so bringing more awareness to your process. You might be surprised at how your mood dictates your appetite. Food can be comforting but it can also be very numbing, a tub of chocolate ice cream is a powerful anti-depressant! The key here is not to judge yourself but to observe honestly and compassionately what you notice and make more conscious choices about what you want to eat. Remember you don’t have to be perfect, just bring more awareness to the choices you make and make choices that are more consistent with what you want to achieve.
Another suggestion to bring more awareness to what you eat is to bless your food. Now that might sound a bit wacky to you at first but give it a try! After all, so many people who want to loose weight actually feel guilty when they eat which brings a very conflicted and counterproductive attitude to every meal. Its like saying I’m going to put this food in my mouth but I’m going to also reject it and feel bad about doing it – which to me is whacky! Instead try bringing a positive intention to every meal and snack. Pause for a moment before you eat and consider each plate or bowl of food reflecting the skill of the farmers who grew it for you, the patience of the land that nurtured it and the grace of Mother Nature who bestowed it upon you. Food eaten with such an intention of gratitude is especially nutritious.
2/. You can’t loose it until you move it!
Being active is critical to sustaining a healthy weight. As far as weight loss is concerned it used to be considered that low intensity exercise done for longer periods is the most effective type. This is not necessarily accurate, as all activity is helpful and the broader truth is that any exercise is good for you, the trick is to make it consistent and enjoyable.
It helps to incorporate exercise into your every day routine, such as walking or cycling to work, using the stairs and not the lift or catching up with friends over a walk and not a coffee.
If you know yourself to have good intentions but to be lacking on the follow through then it’s important to enlist some help to stay accountable or it becomes too easy to go back to old habits. Exercise with a friend, have a weekly (or more regular) session with a personal trainer, join a boot camp program, or simply draw yourself a chart and tick off each day’s activity so you can see the consistency of your efforts.
Also distinguish between lousy excuses and real issues, if you have an injury and it is exacerbated by exercise you need to be patient whilst it heals. If it lingers get expert advice and treatment.
Do something active every day, remember it is consistency which is the key, walking for 3 hours once a week is not as effective as 30 minutes a day.
Are you trying hard but getting nowhere?
What I find when talking to many people who are trying to loose weight is that they are following the accepted wisdom of lowering their intake of calories and increasing their activity levels and yet frustrated with their lack of results. When something is not working the only option seems to be to try harder, so they try to exercise more and eat less. If you have found yourself trying harder and not getting anywhere you are probably suffering from low level “burn out” or adrenal fatigue. If that is the case your efforts to try and loose weight by eating less and exercising more are most likely to be futile. Lets first examine the symptoms and effects of adrenal fatigue and see how, for many, trying harder can actually make it more difficult to loose weight and lead to feeling more exhausted, frustrated and defeated.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue can be caused by any ongoing stress and is especially common in those who are constantly on the go, striving or pushing themselves. It can also be caused by an unexpected emotional stress or trauma, for example: loss of a loved one, accidents, loosing one’s job or any other big stress that one can not control.
Common symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue are:
- Tiredness for no particular reason
- Having trouble getting up in the morning.
- Needing coffee, salty foods or sweets to keep going.
- Feeling continually run down.
- Difficultly switching off.
- Poor quality sleep/waking feeling tired
- Excess body fat – especially around the abdomen
- Low sex drive
It’s important to note that it's easy for these symptoms to creep up on you as you can get used to feeling tired and run down until it begins to feel “normal”. Most people who are dealing with adrenal fatigue have excellent coping skills, so they can, and generally do, push themselves therefore making them more susceptible.
Adrenal fatigue and weight loss
When you're battling adrenal fatigue, your body is essentially stuck in coping mode and is unable to switch off. In this state of chronic stress your body’s hormones and blood chemistry can’t normalize and in the confusion your body decides to store rather than utilize the energy that we derive from food.
Not only are you exhausted and lack the physical energy to exercise the way that you might have been able to previously, but those suffering with
adrenal fatigue also crave sweets and salty food, as they use food to drive their worn out adrenal glands. The combination of being less active, having no energy and eating chips and sweets makes it seemingly impossible to lose weight, but there is hope, and it can be done without worsening your already delicate state of health, and without feeling famished.
What is the solution?
The solution is to include rest and relaxation into your daily routine. It may seem counterintuitive to consider that lying down and relaxing can help you loose weight but I consider it to be an essential part of a balanced program and THE essential ingredient if you, like many are suffering with adrenal exhaustion.
Again, like with exercise, one big sleep in is not as effective as a daily practice of relaxation. I highly recommend listening to a recorded guided relaxation as it will occupy a restless mind as the body is progressively relaxed more and more deeply. An optimal time is around 20 to 30 minutes, lie down rather than sit, make sure you are not going to be disturbed and give your body what it is craving and you will begin to feel better and have more energy within a month of consistent daily practice. (Although sometimes you will feel more tired for the first week or two.)
Another point about adrenal fatigue, if you are not sleeping well, consult a professional herbalist as herbal remedies are fantastic at restoring a restful and rejuvenating night’s sleep which, along with daily relaxations will restore your exhausted adrenal back to health.
So I hope you have gained some new insights into achieving and sustaining a healthy weight. If you have your own experiences or tips you would like to share please leave a comment as I would love to hear from you. If you have further questions you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org