Losing Weight and Keeping It Off: Recipe For Success

Losing weight is hard; Keeping it off may even be harder.  For years, the mantra has been, “Eat less and exercise more,” but that has done little in the way of helping people to overcome the challenges to weight maintenance.  A famous talk show host used to say, “when you know better, you do better” and she’s got a point.  I don’t think people engage in risky health behaviors because they don’t know what to do, but rather they don’t know how to do it differently.  Obesity is not a disease of willpower and so the treatment can’t simply be, “try harder.”  I have had the honor and privilege of working with so many men and women who have fought hard to get healthy and I can tell you that their willpower isn’t lacking.  It’s not willpower, but as Dr. Pamela Peek says, it’s “wellpower” strategy.  Instead of relying on willpower, which is limited, use that willpower to develop strategies that provide lasting results. So what’s the secret to losing weight and keeping it off? It’s actually more straightforward than people might realize, but it’s not easy. Let’s look at the formula for success.

The 4 tenets of weight loss success are nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management.  

Nutrition

If you want to lose weight, you must cut calories.  This is paramount.  In terms of weight loss, calorie reduction is more important than exercise. Surprised? It’s a shocker for most people because we’ve all been told we’re sitting too much (which is true), but to lose body fat a person has to burn more calories (energy) than they are consuming.  I won’t go so far as to say it’s simply a matter of calories in and calories out, but creating an energy deficit must happen for weight loss to occur and the best way to do that is through energy restriction. Eat more nutrient-dense foods; Eat less high-calorie foods.  There’s a famous saying that holds true for most and it’s worth repeating: you can’t out exercise a bad diet.

Exercise

Exercise is EXTREMELY important for health, but in terms of weight management, it’s role is most important in the weight maintenance phase.  Exercise is wonderful medicine and it’s totally free for anyone to use.  To prevent weight regain, the ACSM recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week, but stresses that some individuals may benefit from > 250 minutes a week to prevent weight regain. Exercise helps to prevent muscle loss that can occur with weight loss, which is important since a decrease in muscle tissue would mean a decrease is resting metabolic rate (slowed metabolism).  This is why we do body composition testing for all of our clients.

One overlooked side effect of exercise can be an increase in appetite.  Pay attention to how exercise affects your appetite and your thinking.  Does exercise lead to increased hunger and eating?  Do you find that hard workouts leads to rewarding yourself with food?  Pay close attention to how exercise affects your eating. It’s not uncommon for people to overestimate their calorie burn with exercise.

Sleep

The role of sleep in weight loss is getting more and more attention, and for very good reason.  If a person is not getting enough sleep, they likely won’t have the energy to spare towards meal planning and exercise.  Under stress, they are more likely to succumb to food cues in their environment and also tend to crave sugar and high-calorie snacks.  Chronic sleep deprivation impairs your decision-making ability and affects your appetite regulating hormones, ghrelin and leptin.  This means you tend to feel hungrier and remain less satisfied when you do eat.

Stress Management

Chronic stress affects weight both directly and indirectly.  A person under stress rarely has time or energy to think about planning nourishing meals and they certainly don’t have time for exercise. The biological effects of stress creates a strong drive to eat highly processed food-like substances (aka, junk food).  Junk food is cheap, legal and a socially accepted way of soothing emotions.  If you want to get a handle on your food choices, you’ll first have to identify and eliminate sources of chronic stress in your life.

Losing weight for life requires a complete transformation in all areas of mind, body and soul.  Long-standing habits and behaviors must be challenged and replaced with life-giving behaviors.  People who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off are determined to get at the root behaviors.  They are persistent and tend to surround themselves with people who are also committed to improving their health.  There’s a special quote from author Steve Maraboli and he says, “if you hang around chickens, you are going to cluck and if you hang out with eagles you’re going to fly.”

Are you a successful loser?  Join the national study at the National Weight Control Registry:  http://nwcr.ws/

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Eat More Plants!

It seems we love our dietary extremes.

Contrary to what you may have heard, plant-based eating is not radical. In fact, eating plant-based doesn’t even necessarily mean you give up eating meat or animal products. My definition of plant-based eating is a diet that is centered around plant foods that may or may not be seasoned with meat or animal products.

A plant-based diet is one that focuses on plants–one that is plant-centric.  It’s exciting, colorful, tasty and with lots of texture.  It does not necessarily mean that someone adopting a more plant-based diet abstains from meat all together.  There are different types of plant-based diets ranging from Vegan (no animal products), to a more flexible approach such as the Flexitarian diet.  Often times I promote a Flexitarian pattern which seeks to incorporate more plant-based foods into your existing diet.  So instead of subtracting or cutting out, we focused on foods to add—a concept known as crowding out.

Benefits associated with plant-based diets are too many to mention, but here are the most notable:

  • Lower body weight, weight loss
  • Eat more, weigh less (plant-based diets are typically lower in calories)
  • Decrease risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases
  • Reversal of atherosclerosis
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Healthy gut microbiome
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduce risk of cancer
  • Better brain health
  • Increased intake of important nutrients and fiber
  • Cost-saving

If you would like to learn more about the benefits associated with plant-based eating, visit http://www.nutritionfacts.org which is a website dedicated to providing evidence-based nutrition advice. Adopting a more plant-based diet is exciting and fun, but can undoubtedly be intimidating to some. Below are some practical and simple suggestions.  I’d encourage you to start gradually and build your culinary skills as you go.

 

 

 

Too busy to prepare your own plant-based meals?  Have our chef and culinary team do it for you! 

Click for our chef-prepared meals

 

 

 

 

 

Exercise Is Medicine

What if there were one pill you could take daily that protected against disease, cancer, aging and a host of other maladies?  In addition, it might cure depression and counter the harmful effects of stress and anxiety.  And then, what if I added that this pill was super low cost, and without any unwanted side effects?  As it turns out, exercise is that magic pill.

Exercise:

  • Improves memory and cognitive function
  • Improves mood, induces happiness and sense of well-being
  • Reduces risk of colon, breast, lung and endometrial cancer (and likely many others)
  • Improves cognitive function by enhancing neurogenesis and neuroplastisty (new brain cells and synaptic connections)
  • Improves function of endocrine system (naturally balances hormones)
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Reduces risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s dementia
  • Improves self-confidence
  • Reduces pain
  • Reduces blood pressure naturally
  • Promotes blood sugar control/increases insulin sensitivity
  • Reduces inflammation in the body
  • Improves immune function (get sick less frequently)
  • Increases muscular strength and flexibility
  • Prevents weight gain

Most people understand that exercise is good for them on a surface level, but they’ve heard the same recycled message over and over.  Simply knowing that exercise is good for health doesn’t automatically translate into someone adopting it as a health behavior.  So the question we all need to ask is, how specifically is exercise good for MY body?  The challenge here is that oftentimes we won’t know the answer to this question until we have been practicing the behavior for some time.  For example, you wouldn’t appreciate the mood-boosting effects of running until you were 20 minutes into the run, and you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the full health benefits until running became routine, instead of something you did just once or twice.

It’s worth pointing out that exercise should ultimately be something you enjoy, and it certainly doesn’t need to be complicated.  If you have been inactive for some time, there will be discomfort as your body adapts to the new physical demands.  But once you build an aerobic and fitness base, you will come to need physical challenge much the same way you need to eat and sleep.  Movement and physical activity is natural.  Being sedentary is not.  Bodies are designed to move and not sit for 8 hours at a time.  At its core, exercise should work the cardiovascular system and the musculoskeletal system.  This means cardio + building or maintaining muscle and bone tissue.  Bone, by the way, is living tissue.  Incorporating resistance training into your exercise routine helps protect against sarcopenia and osteopenia.  Translated, this means strong muscles and strong bones—a sturdy frame that you have the privilege of using while on this earth.  This body is the only one you have, so take good care of it.

Finally, keep in mind that it’s not all or nothing and any exercise is better than no exercise.  Find some movements and activities that you can do and just start doing them.  Get creative with your exercise and try new things.  One of the most important things you can do in the beginning stages is to surround yourself with others who are committed to an active lifestyle.  Try some group fitness classes or hiking groups.  Spend money by hiring a personal trainer who can encourage, inspire and push you to do more than you thought you could.  Whatever you do, just get moving and stay moving.  Practice.

“The most effective way to do it, is it to do it.”–Amelia Earhart