The weight loss industry – a mine field of regimes and plans, all claiming to get you to, and to maintain, your ideal weight. For the average person wanting to lose maybe a couple of pounds or more, this can suddenly become a massively overwhelming task. It can be difficult to decide which plan to follow, what will work, and which information is even based on scientific evidence.
Reality? Many of these methods are incredibly difficult, very strict and psychologically can be very damaging as well as setting you onto a path of ‘yo yo’ dieting where you are either being ‘good’ or rebelling against the eating plan. Did you know that in 2014 the global weight loss industry was worth a whopping £140 billion with many companies wanting a slice of this big money pie (low calorie of course).
But what do we do? We want to feel good, we want to be healthy and yet, with lots of conflicting information available and many diets being very hard to maintain, it can leave us feeling very lost. There is also the danger of feeling like a failure, especially given the difficulties of trying to fit it into life with a young family…
Well, hopefully this blog might help answer a few of the simple questions you might have, but also help to empower you going forward to believe in yourself and who you are. Hopefully it will help you to realise that you should not be defined by the size that is written in your jeans, and instead focus on being healthy and learning to love yourself.
My name is Jennifer and I am a qualified Nutritional Therapist. My job is to work with individuals; look at their current health profile, understand their health goals and design tailor-made eating plans for individuals to help achieve their goals. However, I also ensure one major thing – your body is going to be as healthy as possible.
The simple concept of what food is used for has been really lost – fundamentally food is used by our body as either energy, to keep our cells healthy, or to create a chain of reactions. What we want to achieve is health and longevity, and for some people this might involve losing a small amount of weight. IF this is something you need to do, then let’s quickly look at a few myths that are floating around to try and answer some questions for you:
The best diets help you lose weight quickly. Myth. Did you know physically, it is impossible to lose more than 2lbs of fat a week? If you lose anymore then I am afraid this is highly unlikely to be fat and instead will be fluid, muscle, tissue or bone. Have you heard people say they suddenly put all the weight back on after their diet? Chances are, if it was a starvation type diet, their body is simply replacing the lost tissue, fluid and muscle that was lost, and not putting fat on, because only a small amount of fat was ever lost. Slow and steady wins the race here.
We need to eat low fat foods to lose weight. Myth. Fat got bad press a number of years ago because, per gram, it has the highest calorie content. The reality is that fat has numerous health benefits including normal growth and development. Dietary fat also provides energy, protects our organs, maintains cell membranes, and helps the body absorb and process nutrients. Science now shows that if we include fat from plant sources such as olives, olive oil, nuts, seeds avocados and oily fish, these can help put us into a fat burning mode.
If you eat less calories then you burn you will lose weight. Part myth. Obviously calories are the amount of energy that food gives our body. By having more energy than we need we can store it as fat, but did you know that not all calories are created equally? That’s right. Some foods can put us into a fat burning mode, and some foods can put our body into a state of storing fat. What can put us into fat storage mode? One simple hormone. Insulin. This is released when we eat refined carbohydrates and sugar and promotes our body to be in a state of storage. Reducing intake of sugary foods will reduce your insulin response, and move your body out of fat storage mode.
To lose weight you need to be hungry, write down everything you eat and stick to a rigid regime. Myth. Food should be part of life; it should be enjoyed, your body should be nourished, you should feel full. Food should be enjoyed as part of family life, not as a strict, unrealistic, short term challenge.
There is one diet that will suit everyone. Myth. Your body is unique. Your needs are different to the person standing next to you. Where there are some generic guidelines that can be applied but don’t think there is a single diet that will suit every human on the planet, it’s just not true.
So what do we do?
Well, as a trained Nutritional therapist, here are some secrets to losing weight (IF you need to) but also, thinking about long term health and well being.
Step 1. Do you have an underlying imbalance?
This one is really important. Before making any changes to your eating you need to do a body MOT to check if everything is working as well as it should. If you have an underlying imbalance or part of your body that is sluggish, losing weight can be impossible no matter what programme you follow. An example would be a hormone imbalance – PCOS, PMT, menopause etc.
If your oestrogen levels are low, it means your ovaries are not producing the levels of oestrogen your body needs. Your body then has two back up sites it can try and produce this. The first is your adrenal glands which are responsible for your stress response. If you are stressed e.g. looking after a young family, working, tired, then your adrenals will be burdened.
Our body’s final backup manufacturing site for oestrogen? Fat. Yep that’s right, thanks mother nature. It will encourage our body to put on layers of fat to produce oestrogen.
Solution? Naturally balance your oestrogen level. Once oestrogen levels are restored our bodies become happy and will lose the excess weight naturally, without needing to follow a strict eating plan. This isn’t just true for hormone imbalance, but any imbalance in your body, by simply addressing this, your body will easily do the rest.
Step 2. Are your bowel movements regular?
Yes that’s right, even here you can’t escape the world of Pooh, because our bowels are so important. If you go less than once a day or you are the opposite and need to rush to the toilet then this may be a sign that you need to regulate what is happening here.
Our bowels aren’t just responsible for getting rid of waste, they actually do so much more. They are where we absorb most of our nutrients, can have a direct impact on our emotional health and also where we have around 80% of our immune cells.
If your bowel movements aren’t regular you can retain a lot of fluid – anywhere up to 10lbs! It may also mean we may not have enough positive bacteria in our guts – new research has shown that having the right bacterial balance in our gut can speed up our metabolism!
Step 3. Do you have an underlying food intolerance?
If you are eating foods that don’t agree with your body you can become bloated, retain fluid and become very tired. This can mean exercising becomes challenging and you can develop internal inflammation, all working against any weight loss goal. Addressing intolerance can reduce internal inflammation and weight loss can be achieved much more easily.
Step 4. Are you getting enough sleep?
Sorry Mamas! Sleep is really important to help our bodies in all sorts of ways. My best advice here, is that if sleep is something that is out of your control, try and accept it for what it is and do the best you can. If you aren’t getting enough sleep because you are out partying until the early hours (I know chance would be a fine thing) or because you are staying up watching a box set, then maybe consider changing this to get some more shut eye.
When you have answered these questions, you will get a much better idea of the best way to nourish your body, feed your cells and then, ultimately lose weight (IF you need to). But always remember, health should be at the heart of any changes you make.
A general positive rule of thumb to ensure your body is well nourished is to roughly follow this food plate 80% of the time:
- 50% of your meal coming from above the ground vegetables – the non-starchy kind
- 25% of your meal coming from good quality protein – remember this can be as simple as adding some nuts and seeds to your breakfast cereal
- 10% of your meal coming from plant based fats
- 15% coming from complex carbohydrate foods – if you are going to be using up a lot of energy during the day you can always increase this by adding some root vegetables into your vegetable portion.
This is a very general rule of thumb but this will flood your body with the nutrients, cofactors, antioxidants and phytochemicals it needs, whilst keeping your insulin response low.
So, where does it leave us? If you know you are nourishing your body, eating lots of nutrient dense foods, are relaxed and enjoy your food, and have looked at any potential imbalance that you might have…. Have you ever considered just accepting, that maybe, you are perfect?
Honestly. In this world, there will never be another you. So, rather than comparing yourself to your next door neighbour, the mum at the playdate, or your sister in law, could you maybe look at yourself in the mirror, accept what you see, and be really proud to be you? I know this can be a really hard concept to some people, but it really shouldn’t be.
Perfect doesn’t mean being 6 foot, size 8 with legs up to your ears. Perfect is being who you are, loving yourself, nourishing your body and getting out there and living your life. Don’t waste your precious time and energy beating yourself up and thinking you will only be good enough when you are a certain number on the scale.
Trust me, if you have to starve yourself to get there, it won’t be maintainable, you will become tired and exhausted and the chances are you won’t be giving your body the nutrients it needs to thrive. Maybe accepting being a few pounds heavier is the healthiest thing for you to do. The philosophy I have for my company is a pretty positive way to look at how to care for your body in a positive way for life.
Educate your mind – know what you are doing and more importantly why you are doing it, so you make any changes positively, with health in mind and without any guilt.
Nourish your body – use food for nutrients, enjoy the tastes and flavours, knowing you are giving your body the chance to thrive and be full of energy and vitality.
Nurture your soul – remember the whole you is so important. You are more than just what we physically see, your gifts and self is more than what the numbers on the scales say. Be healthy and try to break away from the self-deprecating cycle of valuing yourself against the number that the scales tell you.
A Guest Blog from Pillar of Health
Jennifer is a qualified Nutritional Therapist and mum of two young children. Being a mum to two young children, she understands nutrition in the real world – the advice she provides is with a real head on, whilst also trying to compact the most nutrient dense foods into your body in the easiest way possible.
Having trained to BSC level in generic nutritional therapy, Jennifer decided to do some specialist training in the field of cancer and nutrition, but also in women’s health having completed a specific diploma in this area. Jen is on a mission to empower women and educate them on how important nutrition is for their health and well-being. As well as running a private practice, Jennifer is also one of the Nutritional Therapists working at Maggie’s Cancer Charity as well as working with Shine, a charity for women with post-natal depression and also delivering corporate workshops. Her business is growing, along with her thirst for knowledge… she plans to undertake her next degree in biochemistry next year.
You can visit Jennifer’s site, Pillar of Health , you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter. Or even use the old fashioned telephone and drop her a line on 07766 015161.