It is well known that yo-yo dieting typically does not result in sustainable weight loss, in fact, more often than not results in either returning to original weight or even long-term weight gain (1) Have you ever wondered why this is? Why you?
There are a number of factors at play – part psychological and part physiological. We are hard-wired to perform certain behaviours and changing these behaviours requires persistence and determination. And then there is our own unique metabolism – perhaps you have tried a low carb diet, a low fat diet, a low everything diet only to give up at the weekend when you sink exhausted and hungry into the sofa with a large glass of wine, telling yourself you wil start again tomorrow. If this sounds like you, you need to change your approach and your outlook.
The key is working out what works for both your body type and your lifestyle to make long-term sustainable changes. In a culture of stress and excess, this can be hard work initially, until new habits become ingrained and your body’s metabolism begins to adapt to new changes. Here are steps to help you get started:
- Take a long hard think about what you want to achieve (in terms of weight loss) and why. What will it achieve for you? What are you prepared to sacrifice in order to achieve it? By sacrifice I mean, how motivated are you? For example are you prepared to go out less socially or if not, are you prepared to go out and make some different choices and be immune to potential teasing from those who maybe uncomfortable with you wanting to change? If not, it is unlikely you are ready to make the changes necessary needed to achieve long-term sustainable changes to your body yet.
- What is your body type? Where is your weight gain? Did you use to be slim but now the middle aged spread has taken hold or have you never really reached your ideal weight before? This information will provide some clues as to where you body’s natural homeostatic balance is and how hard we may need to work to shift it and other areas of your health we may need to look at.
- Genetics – this will play a role (look at your parents for a clue) or you can get tested (click here for more info) but your genes are not your destiny – so do not use them as an excuse – remember ‘eating greens alters genes‘. There are plenty of people with the ‘fat gene’ (FTO- Fat Mass and Obesity-related Protein) who are slim.
- Functional Health – finding out what imbalances are going on in your body can be important. For example, candida overgrowth can result in weight gain that is hard to shift as it produces breakdown products such as tartaric acid that can block certain points in the energy cycle preventing metabolism functioning optimally (2).
- Look at your behaviour patterns. Open up your fridge and your cupboards. Be honest. Is it there for you or the children and if it’s the children, do they really need it? Are you prepared to be harsh and throw some food out or give it to your local food bank?
- STRESS. This is a big one. Cortisol, our primary stress hormone, causes sugar to be released into the blood stream. This is great if you are going to run away from a tiger, as is the evolutionary intention, but not if you are sitting at your desk or in the car and can cause excess sugar that is released to be laid down as fat. Consider if you are prepared to make a few lifestyle changes such as cutting back on rushing around to find an extra 15-30 minutes a day to cook some fresh home-made food (which can be quick if you are organised and your fridge is stocked)?
- SLEEP! Another big one. Alterations in our circadian rhythm causes changes in two key hormones related to satiety and hunger – leptin and ghrelin. When you don’t get enough sleep, it can lead to too little leptin and too much ghrelin which can result in a dysregulated appetite. As an aside, leptin is produced by fat cells and leptin resistance is a well-researched mechanism playing a role in obesity and potential inhibitor to weight loss complicating environmental and genetic factors (3).
- Don’t weigh yourself every day, this can result in your mood that day being dictated to by what the scales say but do consider weighing yourself either once a week or even better, find a nutritional therapist who can monitor not only your weight but your body composition for you. Weight on its own is a poor indicator of health – looking at total body fat, visceral fat, muscle mass, metabolic age and segmental muscle readings using a non-invasive technique such as bi0-impedence can provide much more detailed and relevant information such as (4).
- Last but not least – become educated Read up from reliable sources or find a health professional who can help you. Messages in the media are confusing so it is unsurprising that many people don’t understand what they should be doing.
At the end of the day, you need to be ready. To have clear long-term goals of what you want to achieve and why, be prepared to make changes, these can be done step-by-step if necessary, but be ready to stick with it for the journey.
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