By Caroline Mackey, CNP, PTS
As a nutritionist, one of the areas that I specialise in is working with clients for weight loss. It’s of course also a constant, ongoing topic just about anywhere you look online. The more you read about weight loss online, the more confusing as all heck it can get. Should you stop having carbs altogether? Or wait, is coconut oil bad for you now? Does vegetarian protein make you gain weight? What about nightshades?!? The list goes on and on (and on and on…). If you’re trying to lose weight but it’s not working very well, or have lost some weight and hit a plateau, it’s possible you may be overlooking some factors that are affecting your ability to lose weight.
Here are some major ones that I see with clients regularly:
You have a clean diet, but your environment is anything but.
By ‘environment’ I mean the things that affect you outside of the food that you eat. The two main factors in your environment that can have a big impact on your weight are sleep and stress.
If you don’t get enough sleep, the hormone that helps you feel satiated is too low and the hormone that makes you feel hungry is too high. You need to aim for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep at night, and they should be quality hours. That means a restful deep sleep. The best way to do that is give yourself a nighttime routine where you turn off all electronics at least a half hour before bed (60 minutes is even better!) and do relaxing things like stretching, listening to calming music, meditation and/or reading a book.
Stress is a major factor in most of our lives, to one degree or another. While it’s often impossible to greatly reduce or elminiate the stress from your life, how you manage stress can make a big difference with your weight. Great options to try include meditation, some sort of physical activity that relieves tension like going for a walk or bike ride, getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine, having regular dates with loved ones, and implementing strict boundaries for non-work time. I encourage you to take a few hours or a full day each week (if you can) where you disconnect – leave the phone behind, don’t check emails or social media, and allow the mind and body to calm down.
Lack of variety…
A healthy gut makes for an environment from which weight loss is possible. If you eat the same limited diet day in and day out you’re not giving the healthy bacteria in your gut all the fibre it needs to flourish, and you’re lacking the wide array of nutrients you get from different foods.
If you’re stuck in a routine, try simple changes like different greens/fruit in your smoothies; different types of salads using different vegetables each week, and change it up and try a lentil or bean dish instead of meat/fish. In addition, if you eat basically the same thing every day, you’re allowing your body to settle into a plateau. Try varying the amount of carbohydrates you have on some days; have different types of protein on different days (how many of you eat a salad with chicken every day for lunch?!); have a smoothie for a breakfast meal; try 12 hours between dinner and breakfast with no eating (6pm to 6am for example); and so on.
Avoid restrictive eating.
When you starve your body of enough nutrients, it’s much harder to lose weight over the long term as you’re starving yourself. It sounds counterintuitive, but often when my clients eat MORE not less they start to lose weight. By more, I mean more of the healthy foods in the macro categories of protein, vegetables, good fats and carbohydrates. While this varies from person to person, I often see a big lack of enough protein and vegetables in particular. I know when you’re trying to lose weight, the allure of eating less and less can become hard to control, but hitting a plateau does not mean you need to eat less, just differently. Small tweaks can make a big difference.
Following a one size fits all plan?
While there are general nutritional guidelines that work well for most everyone, the most important thing to understand is that weight loss is very individual. No general plan will work for everyone. You need to listen to your body and see what it responds best to. Have you tried low carbs but feel tired all the time? It’s not for you. Are you currently paleo but miss vegetarian protein? Add some in.
The point is there is no one way to eat, and no specific set of rules that will work. If there was, everyone would be doing it! I know that can be very frustrating, but the reality is (and studies show) the number one reason people lose weight and keep it off is not any specific type of diet but rather perseverance. You need to keep trying until you find what works for you. And when that stops working, as it can from time to time, switch it up and try something different. Most importantly, eat intuitively in a way that feels good and nourishing for your body. Enjoy your food and the food experience – life is too short to feel like food is the enemy!
Wondering if you’d like my help? Feel free to book a free 15 minute phone chat to see if we’d be a good fit to work together.
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