We’re going to look at some of the things that can hinder weight loss. There is nothing more frustrating than making the commitment to lose weight and making dietary changes but not seeing significant results. Equally challenging is achieving your goals only to regain the original weight loss, and sometimes more, after a short period of time.
Supermarket shelves are packed with low calorie and low-fat foods as well as meal replacement drinks and shakes. You can join slimming clubs, subscribe to meal and exercise plans and dedicated weight loss programmes. So if there are so many solutions available to help us lose weight why are we not achieving our goals of weight loss? Why is chronic illness still increasing?
Perhaps it is worth looking at how we arrived at our current position in the first place and that can help us understand where we might be going wrong. It is important to look at both the food we are eating and our lifestyle behaviours.
Starting with food, if we eat too much or the wrong type of food it can result in weight gain and resistance to weight loss. The rise in processed and convenience food alongside busier lifestyles has changed the standard diet.
Eating a diet of freshly prepared food is no longer commonplace and has been exchanged for one that is prepared for us full of preservatives, additives, inflammatory vegetable oils and simple sugars.
Convenience is now the priority whether that comes in the form of packaged supermarket food or takeaway meals. Unfortunately, that convenience can be detrimental to our health.
Simple sugars have no nutritional value and when blood sugar levels are high glucose is transported into the cells to be used as an energy source. However, cells have an upper ceiling on the amount they can intake and any surplus is converted into and stored as fat. Vegetable oils and spreads result in inflammation and chronic disease.
Ironically, ‘diet’ or ‘weight loss’ food is mainly processed. Rather than choosing these foods, focus on eating a real food diet, preparing as much as you can yourself. This will help you reduce simple sugars and processed vegetable oils.
What about the quantity of food we eat? Weight loss programmes are often focused on calorie counting and restriction rather than the type and quality of the food. They can leave you hungry, nutrient deficient and uninspired!
Food should be enjoyed. Repeatedly eating the same food or meal replacement is not interesting or sustainable.
It is true that if we eat more food than needed for our metabolic needs we will gain weight. It is easy to overindulge in foods containing simple sugars however when you eat a real food diet focussed on protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates it is hard to overeat.
Let’s compare having access to an unlimited amount of meat, fish, vegetables, beans and pulses with an unlimited amount of processed foods i.e. cereals, bread, ready meals, pizzas, pasta, biscuits, crisps.
It is unlikely that you will overeat on real food. It is irrelevant whether the processed foods are labelled as ‘low calorie’ you will still be able to overeat and not feel satisfied.
What about if you are eating a real food diet, you aren’t overeating for your metabolic needs and you are still struggling with weight? In this case, it is important to look at your lifestyle. Just as our modern-day lifestyles have driven us to convenience foods they also commonly result in chronic stress, impaired sleep, and lack of exercise.
We are constantly bombarded with information, emails, social media and social activities and it is difficult to take a breath to assess our lives. Stress results in the release of glucose from the liver to provide energy to deal with the stressor. This is good when we are faced with acute stress and need an immediate burst of energy.
However, the same mechanism occurs when you are chronically stressed sitting at your desk, driving the kids from one activity to another or burning the midnight oil. The constant release of glucose into the bloodstream results in chronically high blood sugar levels above your metabolic needs with consequential fat storage and inflammation.
Chronic stress and a busy lifestyle often result in inadequate and impaired sleep. Sleep deprivation impacts the hormones, insulin, leptin and ghrelin leading to an increase in appetite and food intake, a lack of energy and a sugar craving.
Consistent sleep deprivation can result in weight gain, poor blood sugar management and the development of fat in the abdominal cavity.
Exercise is important but that does not mean you need to start pounding the streets or turning up at the gym at 6 am. If you enjoy those activities then, of course, they will be beneficial. However what is more important is that you exercise in ways that are enjoyable, supportive of your health and sustainable within your lifestyle.
Exercise is often thought of with the sole aim of burning calories enabling you to eat. This is not a good mindset and can drive disordered eating. Instead think of exercise as increasing insulin sensitivity, improving mood and positivity and building muscular strength. When we are insulin resistant we are unable to efficiently take glucose into the cells for energy and consequently convert it to fat.
Everything you do to achieve weight loss should be sustainable; it should be a lifestyle change to avoid subsequent weight gain.
If you set yourself unrealistic exercise goals then you may grow to despise the exercise. Also when we are beginning our weight loss journey we may be self-conscious about being unfit and wearing fitness clothes.
Find an exercise that you enjoy as well as ways of moving more within the day. Walk instead of getting the bus, take the stairs rather than the lift, walk to the park and eat lunch instead of working at your desk. There are lots of ways of incorporating movement into our day.
Of course, for most of us, there isn’t a single answer. We need to address both food and lifestyle and make changes. If you are stuck in a rut, take the time to assess the whole picture; food, stress, sleep and movement and see what changes you could make to help you on your weight loss journey.
Ideas for exercise that fits with your lifestyle. ‘Get active your way’.