Weight is that tricky little number that most people associate with good health. Let’s be more balanced in the way it’s approached.
BY: MARCY GASTON, MS, RD, CD
More often than not, weight management is looked at as a battle. Not only are you fighting against food cravings and urges, but you are also fighting against genetics, your metabolism, your gut microbiome, and your body in general, which might be happy at the weight you are currently at.
Researchers have many theories on why weight is so difficult to maintain, with one being the “set point theory.” This theory uses the idea that our bodies are comfortable at a certain weight and even if you lose weight, you will eventually gain it back to the point where your body is most happy. Resetting your set point is not an easy one and it deals with metabolism.
Researchers have even studied contestants from popular weight loss TV shows, who often regain their weight back after the show has ended. On the show, the drastic weight loss achieved in a short amount of time is great for TV ratings, but in the long run, contestants struggle to keep it off. They end up exercising 7 hours per day and eating a limited amount of calories, which is not sustainable. As a result, their metabolism slows way down and they gain some of the weight back.
Needless to say, weight management is not an easy thing for most people. That being said, men have an easier time losing weight than women. Seems unfair, right? And then there are those who have a higher metabolism where they can eat anything and not gain an ounce. Again, seems unfair. But instead of focusing on the negative view of weight loss, it’s time to shift the focus into a more positive light.
Here are a few tips on how to do it:
1. Focus on nourishment.
Eat your veggies and fruit each day. Drink plenty of water. Eat protein at each meal. Don’t skimp on the fat. Make sure you you have complex carbs, protein, and fat at meals, which will help you feel full more quickly and in turn, help you to eat less. If you eat a lot of simple and refined carbs, you will eat more. Why? It all has to do with how fast the body digests the food. Count calories? You can if that’s what you’d like, but the focus should always be on nourishment and healthy eating.
2. Eat until you are almost full.
Don’t eat until you burst. Pay attention to your body’s cues on when it feels full. If you eat more slowly, you will have an easier time listening to your body. While you are eating, your body releases a hormone that tells your brain “Ok, we’ve had enough to eat,” but you need to listen for this cue.
3. Change your cooking habits and cook more from scratch.
Eating a lot of processed foods, i.e., anything in a box or can that needs to be heated up. I’m not talking canned tomatoes, pasta, or beans. I’m talking about those “Helper” meals and convenience foods that prevent you from actually cooking. Taking control of your cooking and meals will help you appreciate food, which you will start to see in a positive light and appreciate the goodness it provides.
4. Stop looking at food as the enemy and allow yourself a treat.
Food is food. Even though some foods are healthier than others (carrots vs. pretzels), stop putting labels on food. If you want that piece of cake, then have the cake and don’t feel guilty about it. Now, with that being said, don’t eat the whole cake. Remember – everything in moderation.
5. Don’t “diet.”
Get rid of that word. If you want to try certain “diets” like Paleo or “clean eating”, then go for it. However, most of us don’t want to drastically change our eating habits to ban certain foods or food groups. The word “diet” has a negative connotation for most of us. Again, it goes back to the “everything in moderation.”
6. Take small steps to change your eating habits.
This is where it might be good to speak to a dietitian about food habits and healthier eating options. We can give you attainable goals for changing eating habits and adopting a healthier lifestyle.
7. Focus on being active.
Go on a walk after dinner. Go on a hike. Ride your bike to the store. Get up and move. Don’t feel the pressure to join a gym if that sounds like torture to you (like it does to me). Be active throughout the day.
8. Get plenty of sleep.
Your body needs sleep each night. Aim for 7-8 hours per night and take a 20-30 minute nap in the afternoon if you need a re-charge. The more well-rested you are, the less likely you will want to eat sweets and foods with many refined carbs.
9. Don’t focus on numbers and get discouraged.
Starving yourself and exercising like crazy will bring the weight off but for only a short period of time. Instead, ask yourself how you’re feeling. Tired? Fatigued? More energy? Focusing on how your body feels is a better indicator that you are on the right track than the number on the scale. You will feel better about yourself and the weight will come off eventually. Remember, weight loss is journey, not a sprint.
10. And… learn to love yourself.
Maybe you’ll never be the weight you were at in college, and that’s OK because you know that you are doing your best to live a healthy lifestyle. No matter where your weight is on the scale, you will feel good simply by loving who you are.
Marcy Gaston, MS, RD, CD is a private practice dietitian and chef based in Whidbey Island, WA. With a focus on integrating cooking and sustainability, Marcy guides individuals towards healthy eating habits that mutually support the food system in order to protect future generations to come.