In a recent Forbes’ article titled, “Is Overweight A Fact Or A Feeling?”, published in January of this year, a Gallup Poll reported that 42 percent of Americans self-report as being “overweight”. Journanalist Michael Durkheimer was trying to determine whether “‘overweight’ a fact or a feeling”.
If you fall into the “fact” category and are considering how to go about shedding those extra pounds, there are two proven methods to choose, based on your personal needs and preferences.
The first option – Lifestyle Tweak – starts and ends with yourself, so if you really want to keep weight off, it requires permanent lifestyle tweaks. There are no quick fixes, otherwise, the weight loss is temporary.
To get started on your weight loss journey, you need to take a look at four areas of your lifestyle that are likely to require change: food, exercise, sleep and stress management.
For example, you might start eating more fibre-rich vegetables and aim to drink more water. Or being more physically active might involve simply getting up every hour if you have a desk job, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking your car farther from an entrance. If you’re living in Monaco, all you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and stay away from anything that transports you without you having to move your legs.
Going to the gym regularly is helpful, but don’t expect it to make up for those morning pancakes. Generally speaking, the amount of exercise required to burn off calories is massive: two hours of brisk walking to work off a 500-calorie piece of cake). This is why we say weight loss is 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise.
Then there’s lifestyle factor #4: sleep. Since sleep impacts hunger and satiety hormones, getting enough shuteye can make or break your weight loss efforts.
I have clients who are doing all these great things with their eating habits and going to the gym, but they don’t realize that a lack of sleep is really shattering their goals. Sleep is critical for weight loss.
The majority of adults require seven to eight hours of sleep, some need as many as nine. A lot of people are walking around sleep-deprived – but the less sleep you get, the higher your weight tends to be.
Last but not least, stress is also a big hurdle when it comes to losing weight. A steroid hormone, cortisol release under enduring stress can make weight loss difficult for a couple of reasons. High levels of the hormone attack muscle mass, slowing metabolism as the muscle burns calories to simply exist. Additionally, unwanted cortisol release results in the storage of fat mostly in the abdominal area as emergency storage.
Other signs of elevated cortisol levels are high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure and fatigue.
Experiencing stressful situations causes the body to undergo a variety of hormonal changes, including the release of adrenaline and cortisol. Under enduring stress, these cravings can lead to unwanted weight gain due to high level of cortisol release in the body. When a stressful situation is over, the release of cortisol results in an increase of appetite.
If you’re not seeing any results after a couple of months, meeting with a professional who is aware of your health history and can personalise a plan based on your habits and food preferences can be enormously helpful. For those with medical conditions, it’s especially important to avoid fad diets or diets that eliminate food groups and seek the expertise of an experienced registered practitioner.
Applying behavioural changes and strategies to help you achieve your goals can help you. Set mini-goals that are specific and measured on a weekly basis, like taking a daily 15-minute walk before dinner.
For many, the simple notion of just “eating less and moving more” in order to lose weight might seem oversimplified – and a hard nut to crack. In fact, there is a physiological basis for why it is so difficult. Once you lose even a few pounds by reducing calories, your body fights to preserve your “original” weight, in part by slowing down your metabolism and increasing your appetite. This can lead to frustration and the desire to give up, which can cause us to regain the weight we’ve lost, and more, despite our best intentions and effort.
If despite making changes to your diet, exercising, sleep patterns and managing your stress, you’re not seeing results after a couple of months, meeting with a professional who is aware of your health history and who can personalise a plan based on your habits and food preferences can be enormously helpful. For those with medical conditions, it’s especially important to avoid fad diets or diets that eliminate food groups and seek the expertise of an experienced registered practitioner.
If you are unable to lose weight or you hit a plateau, and you’ve ruled out other possible causes that might prevent weight loss – such as hypothyroidism, Cushing Syndrome or medications associated with weight gain – it might be time to consider medical options such as weight loss medication or surgery. More on that next time.
Udi Gon-Paz is a Clinical Nutritionist licensed in Monaco and specialising in stress management for holistic wellbeing. Article first published May 7, 2018.