Weight Loss, The Right Way: A Naturopathic Perspective

    Have you tried the Keto diet? What about vegan or raw vegan? We’ve all heard of these various types of diets and some of us may have even experimented with these specific diets. But let’s admit it: this approach to weight loss is not the right way to go about it. Maintaining such diets is not a sustainable and holistic way to lose weight. Food is something we eat at least three times a day, and will be for the rest of our lives. As a certified naturopath, I honestly feel that it is essential that we learn to uncondition what we’re taught about what food, specifically our relationship to food and what a perfect healthy body should look like.

    Everyone’s body is built differently. Some of us have a larger bone structure than others. Part of this is also genetics. Our weight-loss journey can have a physical impact, but more importantly, a psychological one. Asking yourself “what is the reason I want to lose weight” is something that you should do when beginning your weight loss journey then right way. Having a plan and support for your weight loss journey, such as working with a qualified nutritionist or a naturopath who can better guide you, can be extremely beneficial. Many people who have struggled with losing weight need to address the many underlying causes.

    7 Underlying Reasons Why You Can’t Lose Weight

    1. Hormonal imbalance

    Insulin, cortisol, thyroid hormones, leptin and high oestrogen levels are some of the hormones largely responsible for your metabolism. When these hormones are out of balance, the body has a more difficult time shedding excess weight. 

    • Insulin: is responsible for balancing our blood sugar levels. It does this by moving glucose out of the blood into the neighbouring cells where it can be used directly as a source of energy. High levels of insulin prevents fats from being broken down into sources of energy. This is one of the common symptoms amongst women who have been diagnosed with Polycystic ovarian syndrome.
    • Cortisol: our stress hormones stimulate your fat and carbohydrate metabolism for energy production. Although this is essential during flight/ fight situations, cortisol also increases our appetite. Elevated cortisol levels can induce cravings such as sweet, high fats and salt foods. High levels of cortisol reduces the production of testosterone hormones which can lead to decrease in muscle mass, simultaneously affecting our metabolism.
    • Thyroid hormones: your thyroid glands play a significant role in regulating your metabolism & body temperature. An underactive thyroid such as hypothyroidism, when the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormones, this leads to weight gain, slower metabolism & fluid retention in the body. 
    • Leptin: Our fat cells produce leptin hormone, which regulates our metabolism and determines how much fat is stored in our cells. Altered levels of this hormone can cause a surge of cravings, overeating & constant hunger. This tends to occur from being on restricted calorie diets or history of eating disorders when the body thinks it’s on starvation mode, it starts to produce more leptin. One of the main causes of binge eating. 
    • Oestrogen dominance: High levels of oestrogen can cause several health conditions for women. This includes breast pain, period pain, weight gain and more serious conditions such as endometriosis. Too much oestrogen causes build up of fat cells and cellulite especially around the highs, thighs & the buttocks.
    2. History of eating disorders / fad diets

    Going on a fad diet can have a significant impact on our metabolism. When the body is in starvation mode for a long period of time, your metabolism can slow down. A history of restrictive eating patterns goes even deeper, as it has a negative impact on us psychologically. Finding a therapist to work with can help identify emotional triggers and patterns. This will help you get started down the right path to weight loss.

    3. Poor dietary choices

    Skipping carbs, avoiding fats, not eating enough quality protein, and inadequate fruit and vegetable intake all negatively affect our bodies. Brain function and muscle recovery requires carbohydrates. Our body needs good fats for balancing hormones and supporting cognitive function. Adequate quality protein intake is essential for muscle building and recovery, and for the production of essential neurotransmitters. Skimming over any of these macronutrients is not a holistic way to lose weight. It’s choosing the right kinds of carbohydrates, such as simple vs complex carbs. Carbohydrates are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, and are essential sources of phytonutrients, minerals & vitamins.

    4. Poor liver and digestive function

    These are the two main body systems responsible for processing the foods we ingest and elimination of toxins. Poor liver and gut function means more toxins and unwanted fats being stored in the body. A history of heavy antibiotic use or conventional medications like acetaminophen can significantly impact our liver and gut function.

    5. Too much or too little cardio & no weight-bearing exercise

    Overdoing cardio can increase muscle loss and, over time, leads to lack of motivation and burn out. Failing to prioritize weight-bearing exercise is one of the biggest weight-loss mistakes. Weight-bearing exercise helps build muscle mass, which can have a direct effect on our metabolism.

    6. Not prioritizing sleep

    Our body repairs itself at night, and when you’ve worked out at the gym, this is the time when the muscles recover. There is a link between lack of sleep and making other poor dietary choices, such as relying on stimulants or cravings for simple carbohydrate rich foods.

    7. Lack of a support network

    A qualified practitioner can help uncover any underlying reasons why you may not be losing weight. The practitioner can then suggest your treatment plan accordingly.

    8 Dietary Recommendations For Weight Loss, The Right Way

    1. 80/20 rule

    Removing all your cravings, such as chocolates, wine, and bread, completely out of your diet is not a holistic way to approach your weight loss journey. Instead, adopt an 80/20 rule. This means 80% of the time, you are eating a diet rich in  wholefoods, fruits, vegetables, quality proteins, and fats. The other 20% allows you to have desserts or foods you enjoy that aren’t necessarily considered “healthy.” This mindset and approach prevents you from binging on your favourite foods later on.

    2. Don’t skip the carbs

    The base of your meals should contain at least 50% vegetables. You can find carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables, and not just breads or pasta. These groups of foods contain phytonutrients, essential minerals, vitamins, and fiber, which are required to balance your blood sugar levels and keep you feeling satiated. Also, choose brown rice or chickpea pasta over white rice, as both have extra fiber and nutrients.

    3. Healthy fats

    Good cholesterol is needed for healthy manufacture of your hormones. Incorporate healthy fats with each of your meals. Consider adding half an avocado, or using tahini or almond butter as a dressing. This will help keep you feeling satiated and prevent blood sugar imbalance

    4. Address your gut and liver function

    Adequate fiber intake from a variety of fruits and vegetables helps keep your colon and liver functioning properly. Include bitter leafy green vegetables, such as kale and collards, as well as  cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, to enhance liver detoxification and promote elimination from the gut.

    5. Avoid over seasoning your meals with too much oil or salt

    Instead of salt, use spices such as turmeric, cumin, and basil to flavour your food. Try  your food with water or vegetable broth instead of oil. This can dramatically reduce the amount of sodium and calorie-dense oil in your diet. For example, whole fats from an avocado is better than avocado oil.  

    6. Sip on herbal teas

    Green tea can boost your metabolism, as it is considered an appetite suppressant. Aim for two cups of green tea after meals daily. Alternatively, incorporate bitter herbs, such as dandelion root or milk thistle, in tea-form to promote digestion of fats and enhance liver detoxification.  

    7. Avoid skipping meals

    Skipping meals causes blood sugar imbalances that can cause havoc on your hormones. Instead, prep healthy snacks in advance, such as protein balls, chia seed pudding, rice crackers with avocado and sauerkraut.

    8. Keep healthy foods in sight

    We are more prone to reach out for foods that are in our sight. Create a meal plan in advance and have healthy foods on hand. Instead of sugary snacks, leave fruits out on the table, or healthy snacks like the ones mentioned above.

    6 Lifestyle Recommendations For Weight Loss

    1. Food preparation

    Food prepping in advance enables you to have healthy food on hand. Home-cooked food is better than eating out, as we’re trying to reduce unnecessary seasonings and oils that can derail your weight loss journey heading in the right direction. Once a week, do a food prep. For example, cook your brown rice in advance, or prepare a batch of roasted vegetables.

    2. Food as a sensual experience
    • Engage the five senses by savouring each taste, texture, and smell. Also, bring aesthetics to the table: dim the light, play soft music, light a candle.
    • Chew your food at least 30 times in one mouthful. Digestion starts in the mouth! But oh, it actually starts the moment you can smell the food (and you start salivating)!
    • Eat with family. It can increase your emotional well-being by creating feelings of happiness, security, and satisfaction.
    • Swap the big plate for a smaller plate size. Drink from a narrow glass rather than a wider one. Avoid eating out of the packet.
    3. Keep a food journal

    Food journaling helps identify and keep track of your emotional triggers. What you’re actually eating during your day will surprise you.

    4. Exercise

    Even though most of weight loss is through nutrition, 20% of weight loss should come through movement. Include weight-bearing exercise at least 4 times per ,with 2-3 sessions of cardio to help build muscle mass and strength.

    5. See a psychologist

    Seek a professional’s help, especially if you have a history of eating disorders. Psychologists can better advise you about different tools and techniques that you can implement, and help get to the root-causes of your triggers. This will allow you to build a better relationship with food and healthy body image.

    6. Sleep

    Aim for 8 hours of quality sleep each night. This allows your nervous system and muscles to recover and repair themselves.

    We all know deprivation doesn’t work. Following a specific type of diet is not sustainable. The right approach to weight loss must be holistic and long-lasting. This means that the diet you implement in your weight loss journey must be something you can do consistently so it becomes your lifestyle, and not a “diet.” Addressing underlying issues is crucial to beginning your weight loss journey. Consider consulting with a qualified practitioner who can evaluate your hormone testings from a doctor, and make diet and lifestyle recommendations specific to your needs. There is a huge psychological impact when it comes to weight loss, so always seek a therapist if you have a history of eating disorders. Lastly, be patient with yourself. Practice compassion and self-talk. Aim to be healthy and don’t let the numbers of the scale define you.

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