Ah, weight loss. If there is one topic that is both heavily and emotionally charged, and at the same time talked about like it is no big deal, weight loss would be that topic.
There are a million and a half theories out there on what the best method for losing weight is, and to be honest, most of them have their valid points. There is no shortage of weight loss information – you could spend the rest of your life reading books, listening to lectures and chatting with experts, learning all there is to learn on the subject.
But even with this abundance of information, for many weight loss is still a really tough endeavour. I think we have all come to the conclusion that calories in versus calories out is only a very small fraction of the puzzle that is long term healthy weight loss, and I believe that most of us now understand that there is so much more to it than what you eat.
What You Eat Matters
Of course what you eat matters – and there are several ‘experts’ out there that are going to try to tell you that their diet is the best. I am not here to shove food facts down your throat, or to try to convince you that there is one sure fire way to lose weight and keep it off for good.
The reason? I don’t really believe that there is any one ‘diet’ or ‘lifestyle’ that is right for everyone.
I believe that the real secret to long term healthy weight loss is for you to tune into yourself. For you to tune into your innate wisdom.
I believe that your body is designed to be healthy. Your body is designed to naturally exist at a weight that allows you to live life to the fullest.
I believe that if you are to truly tap into all of the information that exists in your physical vehicle that you will have no problems finding a diet and lifestyle plan that serves you and your health.
Tap Into YOU!
You do not need a ‘health expert’ to give you a diet or exercise plan. You can totally get ideas and inspirations from people, but in truth the most effective route to personal health is tapping into your own intuition and body knowledge.
So with that, if you are struggling to lose weight, here are five questions you can ask yourself that may help lead you in the healthy direction you wish to go.
Question 1: Are You Really Listening To Your Body?
You have have most likely heard health experts tell you that you need to ‘listen to your body’ so many times, that now it probably feels cliche. Which is really sad because the act of really tuning into your body and listening to what it has to say to you is so profoundly healing. But what does listening to your body actually, practically look like? This is one of those areas where I feel that there is a huge difference between understanding a concept, and actually following through with a concept.
Truly listening to your body means that:
- You are not on any sort of rigid routine or set pattern.
- You sleep when you are tired.
- You get up and move when you feel like moving.
- You listen when your body asks for a particular food AND you notice how that food makes you feel after you eat it.
- You pay attention to your body and its communications with you.
- You eat what you are craving, trusting your body to lead you to the right foods.
I know that many people feel like if they really listened to their bodies and ate what they felt like eating, that they would end up eating buckets of ice cream and thousands of chicken wings.
The truth is, if you are truly listening to your body, you are tuning into how you are feeling before, during and after you eat. You may think your body is craving ice cream – but the subsequent stomach ache and feelings of lethargy are a good sign that it was not your body that was asking for the ice cream at all.
Learning to trust your body, to actually eat when you are hungry, stop eating when you are full, sleep when you are tired and move when you feel like moving will set you up for weight loss and health success for the long term. It may take some time to re-open the lines of communication between your mind and your body – but it is time well spent.
Take Home Tip:
For one day, commit to following your body’s guidance. Commit to eating when you feel hungry – not when you are bored, restless or tired. Commit to sleeping when you are sleepy. Commit to moving when you feel energized. Then commit to noticing how it feels when you do these things. This one day will show you that your body is trustworthy, and that you just need to tune back into it to access its knowledge.
Question 2: Are You Conscious When You Eat?
It is really easy to eat mindlessly now a days. In fact, I would say it is way easier to eat mindlessly than it is to eat mindfully. There are so many things to distract you from fully engaging in your meal – TV, driving, work, your cell phone, children, friends and even your own thoughts.
When you eat while distracted, many things are happening:
1. You are impairing proper digestion because you are most likely not going to be chewing your food properly. Digestion starts in the mouth, and your stomach does not have teeth. Your stomach acid and digestive enzymes are designed to process food that has been liquified – not large chunks. These un-chewed pieces of food will pass through your digestive tract un-digested causing gas, bloating, and may even lead to damage to your intestinal tract.
2. You are not going to be aware of your satiety signals. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full. If you are mindlessly mowing down your meal, there is a high chance that you are going to eat beyond your hunger, and will end up feeling overly full and uncomfortable by the time you get the message that you are satisfied.
3. You will be mentally missing your meal, meaning you are going to be much more likely to walk away unsatisfied, even if you eat enough. Remember that the ritual of eating is a complete sensory experience – you are meant to look at your food, smell it, notice its textures, enjoy its flavours – not just pile it in.
4. You will most likely miss any signs from your body about the food you are eating and whether it is something that is serving your health or not. You do not need to eat an entire bag of cookies before you notice that they did not make you feel good. If you are paying attention, you can eat a few bites of a cookie and know that it is not optimal for you. When you are paying attention you can avoid future pain.
All of the above can lead to weight gain, difficulty losing weight and other health problems.
Take Home Tip:
Next time you eat, do so with as few distractions as possible. Turn off your phone and the TV. If you are going to listen to music, choose something calming and soothing. Have light conversation or no conversation at all. Just experiment with this and see how it makes you feel.
Question 3: Are You Processing Your Emotions?
You may not think that your emotions have anything to do with your weight, but the truth is all of your unprocessed emotions have an effect on you.
This is not some hippy dippy, airy fairy idea either. The idea that having unresolved emotional pain can cause you to create habits that lead to weight gain actually makes a lot of logical sense.
Food Is A Numbing Agent
Food is our nations number one numbing drug.
There are millions of neurone like receptors in your gut – this is where your ‘gut feelings’ come from. What this means for your eating and your weight is if you have filled your digestive system with lots of food, those neurone like receptors are going to be so busy orchestrating all that must occur for you to digest your food, that you literally will not be able to experience any intense emotions at the same time. Essentially the more you eat, the more you will be dulling any intense emotions that may be causing you distress. If you have a lot of unresolved pain, there is a good chance that you will be turning to food to help you cope more often than your body can compensate for – which will lead to weight gain.
Food The Mood Moulder
The other reason that emotional issues can lead to weight gain is because food can alter your mood. We all know that refined sugars will give you an energy boost that may make you feel happier for a period of time. Caffeine and other stimulating foods can help pump up your energy when you are feeling down. Rich and fatty foods that help to mellow you out and take the harsh edges off of life.
Your emotional state will drive your eating habits if you are not consciously aware of what is going on within you. Also remember that in our society we are basically taught to use food as a way to avoid our emotions. We are given ‘treats’ as children when we are sad to make us feel better. We are taught that yelling, crying, throwing a tantrum or otherwise expressing negative emotions is bad and that we need to repress these things. Learning to actually deal with and process what is going on within you may be a bit of a daunting task at first, but remember that it is going to improve your life in so many ways – including your waist line.
Take Home Tip:
Next time you feel a strong negative emotion, set a timer for 30 seconds, and allow yourself just to sit in it. Do not try to distract yourself with food or the TV. Just sit with it. Allow it to be and see if you can just observe yourself in the moment, rather than attaching to the feeling or reacting to it. This simple allowing is the first step in the process of processing. After the 30 seconds is up, you may carry on with whatever you feel is best to do. Try this every time you feel a negative emotion.
Question 4: Are You Killing Your Metabolism With Exercise?
Here is the deal – exercise doesn’t make you thin. Exercise wont make you lean, healthy, toned and/or ripped. Exercise will make you fit – meaning it will improve your muscle strength and size, it will decrease your resting heart rate, it will help mobilize lymphatic tissue, it will help to move toxins out through your skin, it will help to increase your lung capacity – all of which are amazing things, but it won’t make you skinny.
There are a few reasons for this.
1. The amount of calories you burn during exercise is generally not enough to have any significant effect on your overall calorie balance. You have to workout pretty hard in order to make any significant gains.
2. The foods you eat are the real heavy weight hitters when it comes to your body weight. Have you ever heard the saying that you can’t out exercise a bad diet? This is totally and completely true. You can be a marathon runner that still carries extra weight if you are not eating properly.
3. If you are over-exercising or otherwise stressing your body beyond a natural, normal level, you are going to cause your adrenal glands to start creating stress hormones. These stress hormones will mess with your blood sugar levels, and they will cause your body to go into protection mode. For example, they will cause your body to go into a ‘fight or flight’ state, which over time actually leads to a reduction in your metabolic rate and storage of body fat. This is also going to lead to things like inflammation, the destruction of body tissues, depression, excess fatigue, mood swings and a whole host of other issues.
Basically, killing yourself in the gym is not going to help you get thin and may in fact lead to weight gain.
Take Home Tip:
Choose activity that you actually enjoy doing, and only do it for as long as it feels good. If that means starting with a 10-15 minute walk, start with a 10-15 minute walk. As your fitness increases you will most likely gain the motivation to walk a little longer. Making your fitness routine fun is going to ensure that you stay motivated to move your body for the rest of your life. This will lead to you gaining all the amazing benefits of exercise, without leading to any of the pitfalls that come with over-exercising. In the long run this is going to have a much more desirable effect on your body weight and your health overall.
Question 5: Are You Finding Joy Each Day?
Lastly, if you are stressed to the max, working yourself to the bone or otherwise not finding time each day to do the things that make you happy, you are most likely not going to achieve your ideal weight. As with over-exercising, living in a perpetually stressed out state is going to cause your body to over produce stress hormones, which do lead to weight gain as a way of protecting you.
Your stress hormones are actually an ancient tool your body used to use to protect you from the dangers of living in the wild. Adrenaline and Cortisol both work to mobilize stored blood sugars so that they are usable for your cells, they move blood away from your digestive organs out to your arms and legs, they reduce digestive function, increase inflammation and give you what you need in order to effectively fight or run away from danger.
If you are constantly producing stress hormones in today’s world, you are most likely not burning them off through the physical activity of fighting or fleeing, nor are you likely to be resting and recovering after the stressor has ended. This means that you are going to be throwing your whole hormonal system out of balance, decreasing your bodies ability to digest your food properly, and throwing your blood sugar levels out of whack – all of which will cause cravings and weight gain.
The second reason that not having joy in your life can cause weight issues is because of the fact that as a human, you are wired for pleasure. It is in your DNA to seek out pleasurable situations. If you are not getting your pleasurable needs met, then food may become your one and only source of pleasure. When this happens, food takes a disproportionally large place in your life, because now it has to fill two roles – the role of nourishment and the roles of pleasure and entertainment. It is this issue that tends to cause things like food addiction.
Take Home Tip:
Add fun to your life that has nothing to do with food. Choose an activity you really enjoy doing -like reading, playing sudoku, snuggling with your kids or whatever else brings you joy, and commit to doing it every day for at least 15 minutes. Then really take note of how it makes you feel, and how it affects your desire to eat.
So what do you think? Do any of these ideas resonate with you? I would love to hear your perspectives and experiences!
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