Nutri-Know: Why it’s hard to lose weight?

I’m asked by friends, family, and clients why they cannot lose weight when it seems easy for others.  The bottom line is that everyone has different body chemistry and different things going on in their lives that affect their health and body composition. 

There are so many factors that can cause weight gain – and by weight gain I mean fat gain.   I’ve talked about “The 5 ASPECTS of Whole Health™” as described by the National Institute of Whole Health (NIWH).  In order to achieve Whole Health, each of these 5 aspects needs care. 

The following description of these aspects is from the NIWH Website.  [My comments are in brackets.]

The 5 ASPECTS of Whole Health™ are:

PHYSICAL – STRUCTURAL – The physical aspect involves the material physical body and all that impacts it; including congenital issues, DNA influence; any insult such as trauma, infection, hormonal disturbance, lack of sleep, over exertion and other similar impacts on the physical body.  [Physical activity and exercise are critical to helping maintain the physical body.]

EMOTIONAL – MENTAL – One’s conditioning, feelings, beliefs, values and worldview make up an individual’s emotional profile. There can be triggers that are occur that interfere with sustainable behaviors that improve health or prevent disease.  [We’ve heard people say, “I’m an emotional eater.”  Make time for YOU with meditation, time with friends and family, improving relationships.  It goes a long way to keep yourself in check.]

NUTRITIONAL – CHEMICAL – Both the chemical and energetic components of consumed foods are taken into the body and utilized as fuel to nourish bodily processes and functions. As with any machine, the materials used to run and operate it contribute to the quality of its’ function. [Our diet is filled with artificial food-like substances. Treat your body well with good quality calories that nourish your body – the only one you have.]

ENVIRONMENTAL – The environment we live in exerts one of the most critical influences on the quality and quantity of life we live. Air, water, weather, noise, pollution, energetic emissions, politics, war, economics are some of the many environmental issues we can face. [Control what you can control in your environment whether at work or home.  Take care to create a healthy environment around you.]

 or WORLDVIEW – How one views the universal order, how we answer the three (3) Big Questions – “Why am I here?”, “What is the meaning of my life?”, and “Where do I go when I die?” [This to me is a complicated one! You can get wrapped up in these questions, but acknowledging a higher power or universe goes a long way – whatever it may be in your life.] 

If one or more of these aspects is out of balance, it can have a negative affect on our health including weight gain.  Take a look at your life and see where these aspects are out of balance.

In addition to the simple concept of eating good quality, healthy food, and exercising hard on a regular basis, I present 8 factors that can be contributing to your stubborn weight management.  These are not all inclusive but an effort to give you some ideas that will help if you pay attention to them.

  1. Skipping breakfast

    We tend to eat our biggest meal at the end of the day – when we don’t need it.  Your body does not need a huge meal before you go to sleep!

    You must eat full healthy breakfast higher in protein and fats (yes, fats help you stay satisfied and you also need fat to process many vital vitamins and minerals). When I was a kid, my Mom typically gave us Cheerios for breakfast.  All carbs and I was starving by 9am.    

    Try:  Eggs, whole fat low-sugar yogurt (Greek style comes to mind), avocados, good quality peanut butter on a sprouted grain muffin.

  2. Manage stress

    Easier said than done.  There are 2 main types of stress – acute and chronic.  Acute stress is when your body responds because you are being chased by a grizzly bear or you have just put your body through a hard workout.  Those are good stress responses.  Chronic stress is the silent killer because it is elevated throughout the day.  This causes your body to release cortisol which is a major contributor to excess belly fat.

    Try: Meditating.  Seriously – Make the time.  Do something fun by yourself or with a friend or family member.  Something to get your mind off what is causing the stress.  Elevated stress can cause all kinds of imbalances.

  3. Keep moving throughout the day

    If you have a job where you are sitting all day, get up!  Stand up, take a walk (go the restroom just to wash your hands even!) If your body sits all day, it gets used to it.  I call it sedentary adaptation.  Your body decides you are not going to move so it does not burn any energy (calories). 

    Try:  If you sit a lot – stand up and sit down 10 times every 30 minutes just to get moving.  

  4. Portions, portions, portions (including healthy foods)

    Just because it is healthy or organic food does not mean you can eat it endlessly.  Calories are good calories – which contribute to whole health and are used more efficiently by your body, and calories can be bad calories –  which your body does not use to benefit your health.  But if the number of calories in is far greater than the number of calories out, you will store it.  This is not to say I am an advocate of counting calories but use reasonable portion sizes of healthy foods to control calories in.

    Try: Two things.  One, use your fist as an indicator of portion size and two, if you want a second helping of something stop and think:  is it my stomach that needs more, or my mouth that wants more? If your mouth is overruling the stomach, have a drink of water and wait for your mouth to catch up to your stomach before taking more.

  5. “Leisure eating”

    By this I mean, you are eating while you are doing something else and not using your meal as a way of refueling your body.  For instance, a business lunch, going out to eat with friends, eating while watching TV or doing homework.  All activities that can distract you from eating.  This is not to say that you cannot do these activities while eating but you must be aware of the food choices that you are making.  Additionally, add alcohol and you are not only increasing calories but forget about being able to pay attention to how much and what you are eating!

    Try: When eating out with friends or for business, remember the main reason for eating – to refuel.  Be present in your choices and aware of your portions.  Ask the waitress if you want something prepared specifically.  Most restaurants will do it!

  6. Not enough greens

    Michael Pollan, author of “In Defense of Food”, says “Eat food, mostly vegetables, not too much.”. It’s a simple concept.  Learn how to prepare a meal of mostly vegetables that will satisfy you.  People say “But I don’t like veggies”.  Some veggies have a “learned taste”.  I ask you “If you drink beer or coffee, did you like it the first time you had it?”

    Try: Gradually shrink the meat portion of your meal and increase the veggie portion of your meal to the point where there are more veggies than meats on your plate.  Leafy greens along with plenty of water will help you lose fat weight!

  7. You think exercise is all about cardio

    The rule of thumb for weight loss used to be elevate your heart rate to 80% of your max heart rate and keep it there for 20  minutes most days of the week (steady state exercise).  This helps you burn fat calories while you are exercising.  This is a less effective method of changing your body composition.  Strength training and interval training is much more effective because it causes your body burn calories after the workout as you recover from it. It is also much more functional than steady state exercise (think about it, when you go upstairs your heart rate goes faster.  When you are at the top, it slows down. )

    Try:  If you like to walk for exercise, try walking fast between telephone polls or for a defined period of time i.e. 30 seconds.  This interval walk is much more effective and fun that steady state walking.

  8. Be consistent and patient

    For most people who have gained too much fat, it did not happen quickly.  It may have taken years to add fat.  There is no quick fix, whether it is a fad diet, starvation, diet pills, supplements, surgery, or exercise alone.  It takes time, patience, and consistent real lifestyle change to re-balance  your metabolism and body chemistry.  You must be committed to making the change.  No one will do it for you and YOU can do it. 

    Make small changes each day or week (see my blog on Kaizen).  Many small changes along with patience, add up to big changes!  It will not happen fast but it will happen!