If you believe you can lose weight by eating less and engaging in an extreme exercise program, think again. Have you noticed those who eat frequently but don't gain any weight? Or the ones who don't torture themselves with a grueling exercise program but still appear slim? I know at times you get frustrated and just want to curse them or you justify it by saying they must have skinny genes. You are absolutely right in thinking that genes play a role in weight gain, but more often than not it is a lifestyle issue.
In my clinical practice I haven't seen a single person who can maintain a low calorie diet or an extreme exercise program for a long period of time. Eventually those people give into temptation and return to their old habits. This kind of lifestyle is just not sustainable. In fact the body is programmed so when it doesn't get enough calories it goes through a starvation mode. The body makes sure the vital organs get the nutrients first and will break down muscles to do so. As the body gets used to the low calorie diet, it will quickly store any thing beyond your usual calorie intake as fat to utilize in case it goes through another starvation episode. This could even happen with a one time binge. So, what ends up happening is that you lose muscle mass and gain more fat. This is exactly the opposite of what you had intended to accomplish. Now don't start hating your body for this mechanism. This is really a survival mechanism that was programmed into our genes to save our ancestors from any type of famine. We still carry those genes.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards indicate that women need a minimum of 2,500 calories/day and men need at least 2,800 calories/day. The World Health Organization (WHO) has established that STARVATION begins at under 2,100 calories per day. WHO uses this calculation as a basis for determining the organization's guidelines for emergency food aid. To get an approximate idea of what your calorie needs are visit this website:http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/discretionary_calories_amount.htmlt
The following 6 steps will help you lose weight and maintain it. It does come with one side benefit though; it will make you feel good and will become a lifestyle habit which is sustainable.
1. Clear all the can, boxed or otherwise packaged food from your cupboards and pantry. Eat fresh foods. No more junk food, especially any foods with hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, and fake sugars. All you need to work with are fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts/seeds, whole grains (no more white foods), legumes, and some meat (fish twice a week and 1-2 more servings of lean meat of your choice per week). Try your best to eat as much Organic food as possible. The extra money you will spend on organic food is far less than what you would be spending in the long run on your health if you kept eating foods high in pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Your meals should consist of 40% Carbohydrates, mostly from Vegetables and whole grains; 30% protein, mostly from legumes, lean meat and fish; and 30% fat such as avocados, nuts, seeds, cold water fish, olive oil, flax seed oil and etc. The rest of your required daily fruits and veggies will be eaten in the form of snacks between meals. One fact to keep in mind is that you should not eat the same kind of foods every day. Vary your food selections from day to another in order to prevent developing sensitivities to one particular food. Food sensitivities can create inflammation in the body and promote weight gain.
2. Dispel the myth of low calorie dieting from this point on. You don't ever want to feel deprived. Please stop counting calories. Remember what I said about the starvation mechanism that is ingrained into our genes! After a period of starvation, any normal size meal will be stored as fat. Also, during low calorie dieting/starvation, the body is breaking down muscles to produce ATP, the body's source of energy. More fat and less muscle isn't anyone's recipe for weight loss success. Eat a good, hardy breakfast to get your metabolism revved in the morning and snack between your meals. Snacks should consist of nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies and occasional dips. Then remember portions of your carbs, protein and fat as was mentioned before. Also remember it is not the number of calories but the type of calories which lead to weight gain.
3. Engage your body in some form of movement 45-60 minutes, 3-5 times a week. The key is to alternate your workout routine, otherwise your body will get used to the same exercise and won't maintain the same benefit. Don't forget strength training. Remember muscle uses twice as many calories as fat (they are metabolically more active). So build up those muscles. Once you reach your desired goal you can maintain by exercising just 3 times a week, or 5 times a week but for a shorter period of time. Exercise needs to become a lifestyle habit, so make it fun.
4. Eating fat does not lead to weight gain. Please don't fall a victim to the media propaganda. The medical community has accepted this fact; it is time that you embrace it also. When high triglycerides and cholesterol were determined to cause heart disease, without any research to back it, it became a common belief that eating fat raises your cholesterol and triglycerides. This belief has been dispelled since. It is a well known fact now that simple carbohydrates are the culprit in this case. Eating good fats with high Omega 3 fatty acids will actually increase your satiety so you eat less. So eat real butter, coconut oil, flax seeds, and lots of nuts and seeds. These fats are anti-inflammatory and can improve digestive and liver function which will support weight loss. Please avoid hydrogenated fats, fake fats, and avoid frying your foods.
5. Having a positive mental attitude can do wonders to help you lose weight. Give yourself a positive affirmation every morning before you start your day such as "I love my complexion this morning" or "I feel confident today" and go through your day with that positive mental attitude. Creating a quiet 5-10 minutes meditation time in the morning can help you feel more positive. When you feel positive, those feel-good neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine get released in your brain, which play an essential role in weight loss. It is a positive feedback cycle; you loose weight because you feel good, and then you feel great because you have lost the weight, and it spirals up to a healthier and slimmer you.
6. Having a partner or a group of friends to bounce off ideas, cook together, or exercise together helps keep the motivation up. People who join a program or work with a partner with the same goal in mind do much better losing the weight and maintaining it. We all need someone to cheer us on and help us get on track. So it is crucial that you find a partner who has your best in mind, is positive and won't let you feel down.
If you try the aforementioned plan and still don't lose weight, chances are you have a metabolic/hormonal issue. A few blood and salivary tests can determine these imbalances and guide the direction of treatment. Once your body is in balance, weight loss is inevitable.
I extend a 15 minute complimentary consultation to all my new patients to discuss symptoms and the approach I would take towards the individual's treatment.
Good luck on this wonderful life-long journey.
Dr. Vida Talebi, Naturopathic Physician, 2bwell Clinic