As we recover from the fun and festivities of the season, it’s natural to think about making some healthy dietary changes. As many as half of us resolve to lose weight in January and yet less than 1 in 10 of us succeed. And it’s not just the new year period that sparks desires to shed weight; almost two thirds of women are on a diet most or all of the time. We would like to you about moderation and changes to lifestyle rather than the term 'weight-loss'.
Excess body fat is generally attributed to a positive energy balance and it is therefore commonly believed that being overweight is simply a consequence of eating too many calorie dense foods and not engaging in enough physical activity. Some health professionals and commercial diet plans however, stress that overall diet composition is more important than total calories because different foods have different effects on body systems involved in controlling energy balance such as satiety, our gut microbiome and the liver for example. Confusing the issue further is that scientific and popular opinion on which foods to eat and which to avoid for successful weight management is constantly changing. For decades, fats were vilified but more recently, simple starches (i.e. white breads and pastries) and sugars are in the spotlight.
Sleep, stress and weight gain.
We must also remember that other factors such as sleep (or a lack of!), stress, medication, natural bodily cycles and chronic health conditions such as hypothyroidism (under active thyroid) all effect our food preferences and exercise motivations as well as the body’s systems involved in weight maintenance. For women especially, our hormones can seriously sabotage our best efforts to keep a healthy weight, from increasing our appetite to up-regulating systems which encourage fat storage.
Diets don't work
Perhaps the most important message to highlight when it comes to weight loss ladies, is that diets don’t work. Study after study shows that whilst diets may lead to some initial weight loss, we invariably put the weight back on, and worse, risk gaining weight overall.
10 POINT PLAN
So, let’s forgo drastic attempts to lose weight such as calorie counting, downing cabbage soup or cutting out complete food groups and engage in some simple and positive strategies which promote overall health and well-being as well as supporting weight maintenance.
1. Eat mindfully. Try to sit down to eat and spend at least 20 minutes consuming your meal, engaging in and enjoying every mouthful. Also stop to think about what you’re choosing to eat, rather than picking food on autopilot.
2. Plan ahead. Try to recognise when you are more likely to reach for something unhealthy and prepare something healthy ahead of time to take its place.
3. Swap food for something else you enjoy. We often seek out something sweet or stodgy when we need a ‘pick me up’. Going for a walk, calling a friend or dancing around your living room might be just as effective at lifting your mood as that chocolate cake.
4. Stay hydrated. Drinking water may curb your appetite and help promote fat burning.
5. Focus on real food. Choose unprocessed natural foods wherever possible and cook from scratch as much as you can to limit added preservatives, sugars and hydrogenated fats from your diet.
6. Incorporate pro-biotic foods or supplements into your diet. There is emerging evidence that our gut microbiota (the colonies of bacteria and fungi in our guts) can influence our weight by affecting how energy is used and stored.
7. Reduce your consumption of sugar and highly processed starches such as pastries and white bread. These foods are digested and absorbed into the blood stream very quickly, causing insulin spikes and sugar crashes, the consequence of which is extra fat storage and further cravings for these types of foods!
8. Aim for regular sufficient sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause changes to hormones that regulate appetite and energy expenditure so try to get your 7-9 hours where possible.
9. Reduce stress. Stress can also mess with our hormones and consequently increase our blood sugar levels and encourage fat storage so find something that helps you relax whether that’s getting on the mindfulness band wagon, exploring your creative side or simply reading a good book.
10. Have fun! Life is for living, do a movement practice you love, whether its walking, pilates, running or yoga, connect with your body and mind.
At anatome, we are big advocates of personalised nutrition. Due to the complex and varied causes of weight gain, it is important to isolate what is relevant to each individual.
So what worked for a friend or relative may simply not work for you. anatome’s Wellbeing and Lifestyle appointments can help put you on the right path to your optimum health.