Patients come to see me for a variety of reasons, but weight loss is often in their top 3 list of priorities. If you feel you have tried everything you can to lose weight and nothing has worked (or it worked in the short term but then you put all the weight back on again – I’ve been there too), then this blog is for you.
1. Your nervous system controls everything
Please don’t underestimate this. If you are always on the go, juggling commitments and telling yourself and others that you are coping when you really aren’t, then you are likely to be in a constant state of fight-or-flight. You sympathetic nervous system affects everything from digestion to hormonal balance to weight gain to sleep. If you are trying to lose weight, it will make little difference how clean your diet is, how many fantastic supplements you take or how much exercise you do if you don’t deal with chronic stress. Slow down. Switch off your screens and go to bed early, aiming to get 7-8 hours of restorative sleep. Stop being a perfectionist. Learn to delegate and take time out for yourself.
2. Typical approaches to weight loss often don’t work
Most people will have been on a ‘diet’ at some point. Whilst they may work in the short term, more often than not the weight comes back (and then a few more kilograms for good measure too). Why do they fail? Because they don’t address the root cause of your weight issues, they are usually unsustainable in the long term and they aren’t tailored to you. One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to weight loss and health programs and you should always look for a professional who will work with you to develop a program that is specific for you. Remember, restricted eating and over-exercising are a recipe for adrenal burnout and eventual weight gain.
3. Approaches to weight loss that DO work
The key to success is finding balance in all aspects of your life. When your hormones are happy, your weight will be too. Of course diet is an important factor too. Dietary approaches that have a strong evidence base include the 5:2 diet, intermittent fasting, the Mediterranean diet and the Ketogenic diet. This is because they are all antioxidant-rich, naturally anti-inflammatory, will balance your hormones and are sustainable in the long term because they don’t leave you feeling deprived. It is essential that you work closely with your Naturopath to work out which approach is best for YOU.
4. Your liver is your best friend
If you are carrying some extra weight, so is your liver. When it is overworked, it can get sluggish and make weight loss even harder to achieve. It is essential that you avoid rapid weight loss at all costs, as your liver will struggle to keep up with detoxification and this will leave you feeling tired, sluggish and generally unwell. Work with your Naturopath to support your liver and ensure gradual weight loss that is both healthy and sustainable.
5. Look after your microbiome
If you struggle with gas, bloating, irregular bowel movements, heartburn or reflux, then you are likely to have an imbalance in your gut flora. Some people may have no digestive symptoms but suffer from allergies, lowered immune function, mood disorders including anxiety and depression, all types of inflammatory conditions or even thrush. If you eat a diet that is high in refined carbohydrates or fats, drink coffee or alcohol, or if you have taken antibiotics, then you may have dysbiosis. And guess what? This means it’s going to be tough to lose weight. Ensure you are eating a fibre-rich diet, with pre- and pro-biotic foods and work with your Naturopath to determine whether you could benefit from a probiotic supplement.
6. Avoid or minimise stimulants
This almost breaks my heart to tell you this, but coffee and alcohol are not your friends, at least not in the quantities we tend to consume them. Coffee can be good or bad for you, depending on YOU. For most people though, especially if you are stressed, it can wreak havoc on your nervous system, adrenal glands and hormones in general (see point 1). If you simply must drink it, stick with organic freshly ground coffee beans, skip the sugar and milk and limit your coffee to 1-2 cups a day. Make sure you drink it away from meals so it doesn’t interfere with digestion and nutrient absorption. Alternatives worth considering include roasted chicory root and herbal tea (seriously, it’s delicious). Alcohol is detrimental to health for numerous reasons,however many people don’t know that it elevates oestrogen and can contribute to weight gain. If you have PMS, bloating, breast tenderness, period pain and abnormal cycle length, then you absolutely need to minimise alcohol consumption. Again, if you can’t live without it, organic red wine is your best choice. Limit your intake to one glass and always drink with a meal. Make sure that you have at least two alcohol free days per week.
7. Eat mindfully
This means sitting at your dining table with no distractions and taking the time to really ENJOY your meal. Step away from your desk, switch off the TV, phone and/or laptop and concentrate on your meal. Chew slowly, savour each mouthful and stop eating when you are 80% full. It is amazing how much doing this alone can improve digestion, absorption of nutrients and contribute to weight loss.
8. Move your body
This doesn’t mean you need to do run a marathon or enter a Tough Mudder competition. In fact, for most people, especially if stress is an issue, this can be the worst thing you can do for your health. Walk daily, walk mindfully, connect with nature and ground yourself. Use the time for YOU and you will benefit immensely. Yoga might just be the answer for you too. Yoga switches on your parasympathetic nervous system, putting you in rest-and-digest mode, thereby helping to manage stress and hormonal balance. And you don’t need to join a gym or a class to do it. There are many free videos available on www.youtube.com or you could buy a monthly subscription to www.gaia.com (highly recommended) and do it in the comfort of your own home. Start with restorative yoga or beginner classes and build up. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you for it.
9. Don’t change everything at once
This will set you up for failure because ‘it’s all too hard’. Choose three things that you can change now and do them consistently. Research shows that after 21 days it becomes habit and is more likely to stick. Remember change doesn’t happen overnight so don’t put too much pressure on yourself and elevate those stress levels. Congratulate yourself on the small wins along the way. They will all add up to a happier and healthier you in the long run.
10. Get extra support
Consider employing a health or wellness coach, see a counsellor or try hypnosis (highly recommended) or acupuncture. Changing habits is difficult and people often require additional support to make lasting change. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, above and beyond the support that your Naturopath will provide. You need to be able to work on the emotional reasons beyond your weight. For example: Are you comfort eating? How do you feel about yourself? What is stopping you from losing weight successfully? You may need ongoing support to make sustainable change. And a 12-week program just won’t cut it. Find what works for you and go for it.
At Tolle Totum Therapies, we offer individualised treatment plans that can help you to achieve your health and weight loss goals. Book an appointment here.