Let’s start by saying, reaching and maintaining one’s ideal weight is a journey that has less to do with the number of calories consumed in a given day, and more with the quality of the foods, and the daily habits that support a healthy weight and overall wellbeing.
For about 2 decades I struggled with my weight and, just like most of the people I work with, I was stuck in a cycle of restrictive dieting and food obsession that was causing a number of imbalances in my body. People often ask me what I did not only to lose weight and keep it off for years, but also, to free myself from the damaging cycle of dieting. So, I started giving a lot of thought to how I actually did it and what has changed for me.
While my relationship with food has evolved significantly over the last several years, here is how things begun to shift for me:
- I got honest about what and how much I was eating: the truth is my diet was full of sugar and I was consuming much more processed foods than I thought;
- I switched to whole foods and focused on drinking tons of water: my main goal was to ditch processed foods and eat as much as I wanted/needed as long as it was real food;
- I took a very close and honest look at my lifestyle habits to see what else was off beyond my food intake. Here’s some of the things that came up:
- My sleep: I was simply not sleeping enough and the quality of my sleep was poor. Improving the quality and quantity of sleep was essential;
- My exercise routine: I was exercising way too much and too intensely and as a result gaining injuries and raising my cortisol level (another reason why I wasn’t sleeping well). Cutting back exercise was scary but I’ve learnt to exercise smarter;
- My stress levels: they were definitely up the roof (and hanging in my mid-section) so I had to learn to manage my stress and build habits around this priority;
- My excuses and self-sabotaging behavior: I had quite a few going on so I realized I needed to take responsibility. This step made me feel empowered and motivated to carry on, especially when things got difficult (aka “I’m too busy”);
- My overall mindset: I started taking notice of my thoughts, and it became more and more clear that in order to become a lighter person, I need to correct some of the internal dialogue I had going on. An example of this is having thoughts or even using language such as this: “I just can’t seem to lose weight” or “I fail every time”. This kind of thinking does not contribute to solving much, on the contrary, it makes one feel frustrated and hopeless.
- I had to give up the idea that a quick fix was going to create long term results. I became willing to keep at it day in and they out. As my body and my life changed throughout the years, I have also made adjustments and grew more willing to switch things up and try new things. This are some of the things that are now part of my approach:
- I gave up the scale and now rely on how I feel in my body to know whether I’m standing in my best possible weight;
- I stopped being overly restrictive and quit harsh diets; if it doesn’t feel right, I simply don’t do it, I find another way;
- “Kind yet honest” became my mantra when looking at my eating habits and lifestyle. I ask myself often: am I eating too much sugar? Is my gut off-balance? Does my liver need a break? How are my hormones doing? and finally
- I started reaching out for help. I no longer try to solve everything on my own. I’m getting more comfortable with asking for help and doing it often. I ask family members and friends for support; I rely on the expertise of my Naturopathic Doctor, fellow Nutritionists other health care professionals when things feel outside of my scope or when my vision gets blurry.
If you are struggling with your weight as I did, take this as an invitation to look at the whole picture and explore what’s really holding you back. In my personal and clinical experience, I notice that while food is absolutely important, it is also our habits, mindset and fears that may be getting in the way of the change we seek.