If you’re like everyone else in the western world, you’ve probably used the last week or two to think about things you want to do differently this year. If losing those extra pounds is on your list of new year’s resolutions, you’re also not alone - weight loss is one of the most talked-about subjects in my clinic every January.
As a naturopathic doctor, I’m certainly not opposed to my patients losing extra weight - provided they do so in a healthy, sustainable and holistic way.
There are four crucial elements to consider when planning for healthy weight loss: food, hormones, exercise, and sleep. Each plays an essential role in dropping excess body weight and living a vibrant life.
Curious if you’re missing the mark on any of the elements while planning your new year’s health regiment? You’ll find details of each below.
Element #1: Food
There are a couple of basic rules about food I’d suggest everyone follow, regardless of whether they’re trying to lose weight or not.
- Eat good fats. It seems counterintuitive to eat fat when you’re trying lose fat, depriving your body of healthy fats will make it much harder to shed extra pounds. Include healthy fats like avocado, wild fish (salmon), coconut oil, grass fed butter (in moderation), nuts & seeds, which are essential to brain function, making hormones and supporting healthy cell membranes.
- Eat the right type of carbohydrates. It’s been the war on carbs in dieting for almost a decade, but your body needs some carbohydrates for energy! The trick here is choosing the complex carbohydrates like veggies – dark leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy. Including root veggies (carrots, yams, squash, parsnips, artichokes) instead of simple carbohydrates may also be beneficial for adequate fibre, antioxidants and curbing those sugar cravings. Grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats may be beneficial for some as well. The refined, processed breads and pastas - they convert to sugar too quickly in our bodies and leave us feeling hungry & depleted not long after we’ve eaten.
- Beware hidden sugars! Refined sugar is probably the biggest culprit in weight gain currently, but it’s not because we’re scarfing down loads of chocolate and baked goods. Processed products like bottled pasta sauce, canned soups, salad dressings, flavoured yogurt and other sauces are simply loaded with added refined sugar. Your best bet? Make things at home, from scratch, or read labels and spring for packaged products that contain ingredients you can pronounce without a dictionary!
- JERF. If all of this is starting to feel overwhelming, you can always fall back on one of my favorite acronyms: JERF, or Just Eat Real Food. Try to stick to food that comes to you in the grocery store how it was grown in the farm (aka vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, etc.) and you’re probably going to eat very, very well.
- 80/20. And, finally, remember: moderation. The healthiest way to eat is to aim for healthy, whole foods 80% of the time… and not beat yourself up for the other 20%. Baked goods, restaurant dinners and the occasional glass of wine don’t have to spell the end of healthy eating - just don’t let them creep over the 20% line.
Element #2: Hormones
If your eating is on-point but you’re still unable to shed extra weight, there may be something equally significant going on with your hormones.
Hormonal imbalances run rampant today due to the number of environmental toxins in our cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and food. These toxins mimic estrogen in our bodies, which can lead to a host of health problems - including weight gain that’s seemingly impossible to shake.
While there are some steps you can take to regulate your hormones on your own, if you think you might be hormonally imbalanced, I highly recommend visiting a healthcare professional. Ask them about your thyroid, your adrenals, blood sugar/insulin, estrogen dominance and perimenopause - any one of which may be having a negative effect on your weight.
Element #3: Exercise
This one comes with a caveat: it is important to exercise to lose weight.
You will lose very little, or potentially no weight at all if you only exercise.
Research shows that exercising three to five times a week in an interval fashion (with a fluctuating heart rate and strength training included, as opposed to straight cardio) has a positive impact on your metabolism, the kinds of food you crave, and how you process your calories.
However, exercise alone will not contribute to weight loss. You must combine exercise with the other three factors listed in this article, most importantly healthy diet, in order to see your weight change.
Element #4: Sleep
Sleep may be last on this list, but without it, very little of what I’ve described above is possible.
Our body depends on sleep to rebuild, recover and revive. If you regularly suffer from lack of sleep, you know how challenging it is to maintain good mental, physical and spiritual health.
If sleep is your achilles heel (as it is for so many people), try these tactics and natural supplements: