Sustainable Weight Loss – Is It Possible?

So, it’s a Monday… it can be any random Monday really, a day filled with goals and good intentions. Unfortunately, we soon realize that the “big plan” we made in our head Sunday night, is a little harder to execute than we thought when we were watching Netflix and eating our bowl of chips. “No big deal. Im having a “last snack” before tomorrow hits… because when it hits, watch out! I will be an organic, yoga-loving, home-cooking, green smoothie sucking goddess”. Right?

Wrong. Trust me, for those who know me, I am not a pessimist by any means. Actually, I am normally a little left of the realists and can occasionally be found sitting in amongst the dreamers. However, when it comes down to the science and medicine.. I can be a bit “matter of fact” about it. I want to know what works and I want my patients to reap the benefits.

So here goes... lets go over some ground rules before you make that intention and set the plan in your mind that “I will love myself when __________ “ (fill in the blank).

P.S – we need to circle back to those thought patterns sometime soon. However, I’ll chat about that another day. Okay, so here goes…

1. Stop Dieting! Give Your Body the Calories It Needs!

Let me guess... the last time you were on a diet, things went well until you started to feel yourself becoming moody, tired and possibly even “burnt out”, right? Right. What’s happening at this time is that your metabolism is actually becoming more sluggish. Essentially, the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. Your body slows down functioning to conserve energy because you gave it the message that is isn’t getting properly fuelled anytime soon. Once this begins to happen, it prompts what we would consider to be a catabolic state or “starvation mode”. This “state” causes a whole host of hormonal and cellular changes that drive up your hunger and thirst, while slowing down your fat-burning abilities and muscle growth. So as you can see, it’s not exactly what we were hoping for. So lets begin to shift our focus on what works. Lets change our mentality from the dreaded word calorie and focus on nutrients. Dare I go as far as to ask you to stop counting calories and instead focus on something called “nutrient density”? (Gasp). I dare.

Nutrient density is basically choosing foods based on their nutrient profile. For example, chocolate contains fat and so does an avocado. I’m sure we can all guess which one is more nutrient dense. If we focus on unprocessed whole foods, wonderful things happen. All of a sudden we notice shifts in our cognitive, hormonal, sexual and digestive health. Well fed people, feel well.

Another bonus you’ll experience through eating enough “good” calories daily is that you’re much more likely to have a healthier relationship with food. I cannot stress this one enough. I want you to wake up and nourish yourself. Not wake up feeling like food and all associated thoughts consume you, to the point that your self worth and value is determined by your level of “will power” and the numbers on the scale. Letting go of this mind game will not only free you, but also lead to sustainable shifts in your weight and more importantly, your overall wellness (less mood fluctuations, sustainable/stable energy and better digestive function).

2. Sleep!

There’s a proven link between a properly functioning metabolism and getting adequate sleep and rest – lack of sleep can mean lack of weight loss. “Running on fumes” can seriously slow down your metabolism since the body works to conserve energy when it’s fatigued. Make it a priority to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night in order to keep hormone levels in check, including cortisol, which leads the body to store more fat. High cortisol levels are associated with a lack of sleep and tied to poor mental functioning, weight gain and insulin resistance.

Another way to maintain hormonal balance is to rest enough between exercise days. Overtraining repeatedly causes fatigue, muscle loss and a lower metabolic rate. Exercise impacts your hormonal status, and intense workouts without rest elevate cortisol levels (not good, re-read above). This winds up impairing insulin sensitivity, stalling the body’s ability to recover from workouts and damaging the processes that repair and build healthy muscle tissue.

3. Avoid Inflammatory Foods

Certain foods slow down digestion and increase free radical damage, which is the cause of accelerated aging. You can think of these as “metabolism destroying foods.” The body recognizes processed and inflammatory foods as toxins, and therefore consuming them triggers the innate immune system’s “fight-or-flight” response. This initiates a cascade of increased stress hormone production (cortisol) and leads to a slowed metabolism.

Unfortunately, even foods that are generally considered “healthy” can be the culprit and cause of weight gain, fatigue, hormonal imbalances, digestive concerns and thyroid dysfunction. So after all that is said, I have a proposition for you.

Lets try this…

Avoid the following as much as possible:

  • Sugary drinks (including juice). My rule of thumb is – don’t drink your calories. Stick with water, herbal teas and coffee (if you are not bothered by caffeine).

  • Processed foods (especially heavy carbohydrates – breads, pasta, cereal, crackers, muffins, desserts, flours, chips and granola bars). Carbohydrates break down into sugar. A bowl of sugar and a bowl of frosted corn flakes are the same below the belt. Please remember that.

  • Refined vegetable oils (canola oil etc) – very inflammatory.

  • Artificial sweeteners and ingredients – they actually increase your appetite and cravings.

  • Low-quality dairy and animal products – very inflammatory.

4. Focus on Metabolic Power Foods

So now that we have eliminated the offenders, what do we have? Well, certain foods out there may actually help the body use and expend energy better. This phenomenon is considered to be the “thermic effect” of food. The body essentially works harder to break down and metabolize them. Harder work = increased metabolism.

Protein – Eating enough protein, for example, is tied to a strong metabolism. However, I do want to make a note for all you “go getters” because too much protein actually impacts your glucose levels and can backfire on you. Stick with moderate amounts of protein daily in meals and snacks – this can be in the form of: wild caught fish, eggs, grass fed beef, well sourced poultry, clean dairy products or nuts and seeds. Protein is beneficial for keeping energy, appetite and blood sugar stable while also helping build calorie-burning lean muscle mass.

Green tea – is another healthy addition to your diet, since its consumption has been considered a natural metabolism booster for centuries thanks to special antioxidant compounds in addition to low levels of caffeine.

Water – I cannot stress this one enough. Water is necessary for every chemical reaction and process in our body. If we want to optimize our health, optimize the basics!

Garlic – this is another food that has thermogenic properties in the body, which rev up the metabolism’s heat-producing effects. It is also tied to lower blood sugar levels and less fat accumulation thanks to a compound called allicin.

Naturally warming foods like cayenne pepper, chilis and other spicy ingredients are also known to increase heat in the body thanks to an active compound called capsaicin. There’s evidence that warming spices like cinnamon, pepper and ginger aid in lipid oxidation, which is the process of burning fat for energy – obviously highly desirable when weight loss is the goal. These antioxidant-packed spices also might help decrease appetite and slow the growth of fat cells.

Lastly, let’s not forget about apple cider vinegar, one of my favourite ingredients for digestive health and balancing blood sugar. Side note – it can also be great as a toner (cut with water) for problem skin! I’ll get to that another day.

In closing, I want to stress one thing. You do not have to do this alone. At the end of the day, if you are still struggling with cravings, excessive appetite and motivation, perhaps there is something deeper going on. Something that requires a bit more investigation. Or perhaps you just simply do not know how to take the first step or what that should look like. If any of this sounds familiar I would strongly suggest you seek assistance from your local naturopathic doctor. They can help you formulate an individualized plan, tailored specifically for you!

We just need you to make one healthy choice. Then another.

Dr. Mallory

Mallory Ryan