So you wanna lose weight, but you don't want to go on a diet. Now what?
So you want to lose weight.
Many of the women I work with or who follow me on social media are confused or discouraged when they find out I'm a nutritionist, but I don't promote weight loss.
As a means to health. There is nothing inherently wrong with weight loss, in and of itself. It's the pursuit of weight loss- most often through dieting, that takes us away from learning what our bodies truly need and finding a sustainable place of health, through a balanced approach.
It is normal and natural, especially in the society we live in that puts so much worth and pressure in maintaining a certain appearance, that you would want your body to be smaller.
There is nothing inherently wrong with weight loss, in and of itself. It's the pursuit of weight loss- often times through dieting, that takes us away from learning what our bodies truly need and finding a sustainable place of health, through a balanced approach.
Maybe your body is bigger than it used to be, due to life circumstances, health struggles or habits that don't serve you. Maybe your doctor has recommended you lose weight and you're feeling the pressure from society.
Whatever your situation is, know you deserve to embrace and enjoy your here and now body- whatever it's size. But I also know the desire to be smaller might still be there. And that's ok.
Diets don't work in the long term, we know that. But they DO work in the short term. And that's the allure.
Drastically cutting calories or removing entire food groups may result in weight loss- at least for a time. But the question remains: how long will it last, and are we any healthier for it? (Spoiler: We know the answer).
We can lose weight and be no healthier (I am living proof). We can gain weight and be no less healthy (I'm proof here, again).
When the desire to lose weight is stronger than the desire to improve your habits, this is where I see the wheels start to fall off. Losing weight is not an automatic health-improver. Weight, in and of itself, outside of all other factors, isn't a marker, either. Weight gain outside of what has been a steady place can be a cue that something in your life is out of balance (same with unintended weight loss), but it doesn't mean pursuing weight loss is the answer.
It's like trying to put a bandaid on a bleeding cut on a broken leg. The bandaid (weight loss) will stop the bleeding (weight gain)- but it's not going to fix the underlying problem (what's going on in your life?). And, if left untreated- it's only going to get worse (the weight loss-regain-diet cycle continues). The underlying problem needs to be fixed before weight loss is ever even considered.
We can not create long-term change with a short-term approach.
We can not create long-term change with a short-term approach.
And here is the kicker: if your body is in a place that is not balanced; if you are not at your set point weight, your body will more than likely shed the weight it needs to without you having to go on a diet, at all. Notice, I said IF. There is no way for us to know what our body's set point weight is (the place where your body lives, happily, when you are maintaining healthy habits and feeling good), without pursuing health outside of dieting.
Notice also, I didn't say if you quit all attempts at living a healthy life and adopting a cookies-and-ice cream diet the weight will fall off and life will be good. There's nothing wrong with cookies and ice cream. But I think we can all agree: only eating cookies and ice cream isn't going to create long-term healthy habits that will sustain whatever weight your body finds to be safe and healthy for you.
Finding your beautiful balance and intuitive eating is about more than ditching diets. It's about finding healthy habits that fit your life, and allowing your body to gently fall into place, rather than vehemently pursuing weight loss in a way that isn't sustainable, only to end up defeated, again and again. Let's get off the diet train and create real habits to find the perfect weight, for us.
How to find your set point weight, without dieting:
1. Ditch the idea of diets and adopt a habits mindset. Warning to avoid the 'wellness' label here, too. Wellness is great- TRUE wellness. But there are a lot of 'plans' out there promoting wellness, that still only produce the same short-term results as diets. Adopting a habits mindset means you start with one simple change at a time, whether it's tuning into your hunger and fullness cues or eating more veggies- and allow them to build on each other. The small changes ARE what create big change.
2. Swap meal plans for meal planning. Meal plans can be a great jumping off point, for some people, in adopting a healthier lifestyle. But I have seen time and time again how meal plans don't create sustainable change- instead, they create a reliance on following an outside meal plan to create a false sense of 'doing something' for your health, without actually learning to tune into what YOUR body needs. I shared why I stopped creating meal plans, here. Meal Planning means you can set yourself up for a healthier week by choosing meals that serve YOUR body and family (allow for flexibility by leaving meals open-ended if you are new to intuitive eating and/or meal planning).
3. Focus on real food. If you're chomping at the bit to 'DO SOMETHING' for your health, do this one thing: focus on including more real foods in your life. Real, whole foods: fruits, veggies, meat, fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains, whole dairy, healthy fats. Diet drinks and fat-free substitutes leave us unsatisfied and wanting more- often setting us up for overeating, or even bingeing later on. Not to mention many fat-removed foods are loaded with sugar to be appealing to our tastebuds, creating a blood sugar roller coaster which is no good for our heart, our weight or creating peace with food.
4. Honor your hunger (and fullness). Denying your hunger or only eating according to calculated portions will almost always backfire. How easily do you make decisions when you're hungry? So why do we think staying in a constant place of low-level hunger is going to be beneficial to our health? Eventually, we'll need to eat. And when we do, we often decide we're so hungry we might as well eat all the things we weren't allowing ourselves before. The more we honor our hunger the more we can approach our next meal in a calm space where we can make choices that serve us. It's also near impossible to honor our fullness when we are eating according to portions or coming to meals over-hungry-- not to mention the starvation mode stress our body endures when we are consistently under-fed, physiologically preventing our bodies from shedding excess fat in an effort to keep us alive. Let that sink in, for a minute.
5. Stress Less. Yeah, I'm going there. Easier said than done, I know-- especially for us mamas who live go-go-go lives and worry about ALL THE THINGS on a daily basis. Just me? I know it's not. But listen here, mama: stress causes inflammation. The number one thing getting in the way of your health and reaching your body's set point? You've got it: inflammation. And this doesn't mean adopting an anti-inflammatory diet plan (eating anti-inflammatory foods is one thing, dieting is another). The diet backlash will likely put you right back where you started.
Cortisol, our body's major stress hormone, is secreted in times of stress. It's what comes after that adrenaline rush. It's supposed to slowly go down after the stressor in our life is gone. The problem? Our stresses aren't going away- and disregulated cortisol can be a huge culprit in why we feel constantly exhausted, bloated, brain-foggy and tired-but-wired. When our bodies are consistently under stress, no wonder we're not feeling good or fitting into our jeans! Dealing with stress isn't a weight-loss plan: it's a life-gain plan. Whether or not your body changes, learning to cope with stress in a healthy way is a game-changer.