Our weight. Our diet. Our health. And why it’s all so freaking hard to figure out.
It’s time to get outside and squeeze every last juicy drop from the long, sparkling days of summer. It’s time to hit the beach, hit the trails and hit the patio for a little rose or session sipping (BTW…perfect patio playlist coming Monday!!).
Summer is my absolute favourite season, making the rainy west coast an interesting choice for a permanent residence.
If the first thing you think of when you think ‘summer’ is how you are going to get in ‘swimsuit shape’, this post is for you.
We live in a f@$ked up world where weight is concerned.
Our environment is almost master-built to keep us sedentary and stuffed full of super high calorie, nutrient-poor food. And then we have the gall to suggest that the only suitable size is a zero. Which is, of course, total f@$king garbage.
We need to stop equating our size with health – and our self worth. What matters is feeling energized, well and free of health conditions that hold you back from life. A lot of crazy, unhealthy practices are taken under the guise of losing weight. Don’t waste a single breath on thinking that life will be magically different at a different weight. Life will be magically different when you feel healthy, confident and you attack life like everyday counts.
Let’s get real about weight loss
As a health professional, I also know that there is another side to this. What if you truly want to lose weight in order to regain your health? Not to be a size zero but a six, an eight…or a twelve? To not need four cups of coffee to get going in the morning, to be able to chase your kids around or to free yourself of your reflux or blood sugar issues?
I see firsthand how discouraging it can be to feel like you are doing everything right, but you aren’t losing weight. Eliminate the idea of blame. Or being ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
This sh!t is tough. And many of our central ideas about weight loss may be doing us a disservice.
If you have been struggling with your weight, here are some things to think about.
Stop counting calories.
I began exploring this idea last year, and I know it flies in the face of a lot of weight loss programs but I stand by it in my practice. Here’s the Coles Notes version:
- The way we determine the calorie counts in foods is only half right. Generally speaking, we aren’t as efficient at harnessing calories from food as a machine is. So we are going to harness less calories from more fibrous, dense plant foods and most of the calories from hyper-processed, essentially pre-digested foods like cheese puffs.
- Calories tell you nothing about the metabolic effect of the food. Which matters most, because #health.
- We have no actual idea of how many calories any one individual will need to sustain weight loss without hooking you up to a machine daily, particularly because the metabolism will adapt to a low calorie diet. It’s an (educated) guessing game.
- If you focus only on calories and don’t get smart about the type of foods you eat, you can end up starving yourself to eat a low calorie diet which pretty much means you will be slavishly thinking about food 24/7 and that’s not enjoyable or sustainable.
Circumvent the deprivation-anxiety-binge-guilt mindset by focusing on positive, additive behaviours.
Your brain is crafty. The minute you tell yourself ‘no’…it yells, ‘yes’. Permanent change requires permanent change. So if you want to lose weight and never put it back on, it’s a good idea to transform your lifestyle into one that supports a healthy (for you) weight.
And that takes time.
I want you to eat like you love your body…not like you hate it. Which means focusing on the foods to eat more of because they bring health. Greens, that support liver function and fight inflammation so you can recover faster from workouts. Berries, which have polyphenols that keep your skin healthy. Omega 3 fats that give you that glow, support brain health and keep inflammation at bay. The bone building calcium of tahini…the energizing protein in chickpeas.
Focus on the function. Make food choices that work for you. Don’t worry about the other stuff. The more you focus on feeling good and adding more plant foods to your diet, the more the other stuff will feature less and less in your daily life.
Forever is a long time. It’s not reasonable to say you are never going to have a glass of wine, a piece of cake or a potato chip again. So take the time to build a lifestyle that takes the place of less healthful behaviours without trying to wrangle your cravings like a spandex-suited wrestler.
Weight Loss is a Bio Hack
Your path to healthy weight loss is totally individual…and I don’t recommend you go it alone. At the minimum, talk to your doc. Better yet, get a dietitian…and maybe a counsellor. Because weight loss can drum up a lot of sh!t.
For some of my clients, simply shifting from a hyper-processed diet to a whole foods diet is enough. For others, they need to go further. When that’s the case, the first thing I am interested in is blood sugar control. Vegan, omnivore, paleo, no matter…you’ve got to focus on the metabolic effects of what you’re eating to shift the metabolism towards weight loss.
The reason for this is that insulin is a storage hormone (thank goodness, we’d die without it!). However, that also means that if you are constantly eating stuff like cafe muffins, big bowls of creamy pasta and frappucinos that send blood sugars soaring, you’re going to end up in a storage-starvation-carb craving cycle that makes it hard to lose weight.
If there is even the slightest bit of pre-diabetic blood sugar issues, I will recommend that you take carbohydrates down. Start easy, with small, measured portions of grains in meals heavy on vegetables and proteins. If that isn’t enough, begin eating fewer grains, perhaps just at dinner. For some, taking carbohydrates down considerably may be the answer – and I recommend doing this only with a qualified professional to monitor your nutrient status.
You Have to Accept Your Body. Even if You Desire to Change it.
I will offer myself up as a neutral (sort of) example. I am quite a healthy person although my gut isn’t always my friend. I classify as having a ‘healthy weight’. But there are things I don’t love about my body. For example, having two kids sure does a number to your tummy. However, I don’t feel bad about it. And believe me, it took me a long time to get here – I spent a lot of my twenties thinking that I would ‘look better’ five pounds lighter and really feeling bad about it. I could have had a lot more fun if I had kicked that negative mindset earlier. Ironically enough, having children really helped because I came to marvel at what my body was capable of. It has function beyond its shape…and that function is miraculous.
I might like to be fitter, stronger or ditch that varicose vein (thanks, baby number two!) but it doesn’t change how I feel about myself. And it didn’t stop me from buying a cute bikini in Hawaii last year.
In reading this, you may feel that it’s easy for me because I am a ‘healthy weight’ and that’s okay. My hope in sharing this is to illustrate that acceptance and self-love are a mental construct that has nothing to do with weight…because people of all shapes and sizes can feel it. However, somewhere along the line we may attach the two and find it hard to detach them and that attachment can cause a lot of pain.
Learning to accept your body and respect it is one of the surest ways to ensure you treat it well. Move your body and let it amaze you at its strength and resilience. Consciously try and change the script on appearance, on your own, with a loved one’s support or a trained professional.
At the end of the day, what matters is feeling good in the skin you’re in…and making each day count.
Cheers to that.