June 2, 2021
Rethink your weight loss game
by Mona Jauhar RDN, LD
Balanced meals? check!. Portion sizes? check!. Daily cardio? check!. Calorie count. check!. You think you have everything under control when it comes to managing your weight and yet things don’t go as envisaged. Reason? No one size fits all. What works for your friend may not work for you. While you stress over curbing fat content in your diet, the problem could be something else. There might be a missing link or two in your weight loss trajectory that could change the narrative.
Start with unlearning
Forget what you’ve been told. Start breaking the rules, and you might just start making some headway. We must forget about finding instant fixes and miracle cures for what are essentially pathological lifestyle habits.
- All calories are not created equal. The nutritional quality of calories plays a big role in how many calories your body burns. This is why eating “diet” fare (or foods selected exclusively on the basis of their low-calorie, low-carb, high-protein or low-fat characteristics) tends to work against long-term weight-management goals. To make the most of the calories you consume, switch to foods and food combinations with a low GL and a high PI, including vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, olive oil, whole grains, teas, herbs and spices.
- Eat healthy not less. The deprivation mindset of dieting – “just until I lose this weight” thinking – is another enemy of weight loss. That sets us up to have an unhealthy relationship with food that can turn weight management into a miserable, lifelong struggle. Just eat healthy for life and you’d be happy.
- Don’t ban fats. We have taken fats too literally all these years. But all the research on ‘good fats’ states they can be our good friends. Taking in an adequate supply of healthy fats is essential to proper body composition, whole-body health and long-term weight management. Eating a moderate amount of good fats found in whole foods helps in controlling blood-sugar levels and appetite.
- Fit inside out. Losing pounds alone isn’t a prescription for happiness. When people struggle for thinness, they can sometimes emerge unhappier, and often just see the weight come back. The realization is setting in that a fit body harbours a fit and healthy mind. Exercising for improved fitness has many weight-loss benefits that go beyond per-session caloric burn. Body-mind fitness approaches (like yoga, Pilates and tai chi) can also be helpful in creating a more self-respecting, self-aware mindset that supports healthy lifestyle goals. In the end, if we don’t have psychological health, we simply won’t have the drive to lose weight – or to keep it off.
The missing links
With weight loss, as with so many things, the reason is highly individualized. So much varies from one person’s physical, mental, and emotional status to another, that could either stall or spur the progress.
- Sleep: Even one night of insufficient sleep can cause weight gain. When we’re short on sleep, we tend to eat more (often late at night) and feel less satisfied by what we eat, so we eat more. In addition, the blood-sugar crashes that follow late-night eating can interfere with sleep and the cycle repeats itself.
- Stress: Stress elevates cortisol and blood-glucose levels — and that triggers the release of insulin, which promotes fat storage. Then there is stress eating too!
- Blood sugar balance: High blood-sugar and insulin levels wreak havoc on weight-loss efforts, but not everyone responds in the same way to the same foods. Figure out which healthy, whole-food meals satisfy you while keeping blood sugar steady and work well with your metabolism.
- Thyroid function: A vast majority of the estimated 60 million American adults with thyroid problems don’t know they have them and hence the problem. Since the thyroid gland is our metabolism and calorie regulator, it plays an essential role in helping us maintain a healthy weight.
- Strength training: While strength training may not give you the instant heart-pounding, sweat-dripping satisfaction of a cardio workout, in the long run, building lean muscle definitely works in favor of your weight-loss goals. In short, having more muscle means your body burns more calories at rest.
- Toxic exposure: One troublemaker gets little attention when it comes to weight loss: toxins. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) — plasticizers like bisphenol A, or BPA; dioxins; phthalates; and pesticides like DDT — disrupt the endocrine system. These chemicals have been so strongly associated with overweight and obesity that they’ve been dubbed “obesogens.”
- Microbiome: Gut microbiome affects the insulin resistance, inflammation, and fat deposition in the body. Environmental factors alter the gut microbiome and that can lead to changes in metabolic function and, as a result, cause obesity.
Put fitness over fat loss. Seek health over calorie burn. Say no to extreme, fad and quick-fix diets. Don’t fret if your best friend seems to be shedding weight at a faster rate. Just keep your eyes on the goal: healthy weight loss and whole-body wellness for life!