When it comes to weight loss, everyone responds differently to nutrition and lifestyle intervention. Weight loss should take an integrative approach. There is no one size fits all approach and it tends to be a trial-and-error process.
Here are some common factors to think about and focus on when embarking on a successful weight loss journey.
Before diving into lifestyle changes, acknowledge current lifestyle habits that have contributed to weight gain or slow weight loss. What are you willing to do, or not willing (or able) to do. Be honest, it's your life. Identifying these barriers and how to overcome them (or brainstorm other options) is vital for weight loss.
Energy Intake (Diet)
Aim to focus less on things like how many carbohydrates you ate today or how many miles you ran. Instead, focus on being consistent in your routine and eating a quality, nutrient dense diet with sufficient protein, good fats, and lots of whole fruits and veggies for fiber.
While severe calorie restriction can provide a jumpstart and some short- term results, it isn't sustainable and can backfire.
Some people like numbers, others don't. Do you, but it's helpful to have a baseline to work off. It’s good to be able to accurately assess your needs (since too many as well as too few calories can *both* sabotage your weight loss success). Going a step further, tracking and tweaking your macros of fats, protein, and carbs can make a big difference. While it's helpful to know how much energy you are taking in, it is also important to keep in mind that weight is multifactorial and energy intake is one piece of the puzzle.
When you eat
Research shows that certain eating windows and meal timing patterns may have more favorable health and weight loss outcomes than others. The intermittent fasting protocol of fasting for 14 hours (most of this is done while sleeping) and eating your last meal of the day at least 3 hours before bedtime work well for most people.
Create plans for situations that will be difficult to deal with BEFORE it happens. Be prepared. Don't depend on willpower. Choose what method of accountability works for you. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is safe, consistent, encouraging, and helpful.
When you experience high or prolonged levels of stress, your body releases more cortisol, the stress hormone. If your stress loads rise too high — and especially if it stay there consistently — it can alter a lot about how your metabolism works, including how your body regulates weight. Hence the term “stress belly.”
Sleep quality and quantity are both significant. Sleep impacts hormones that affect appetite (notable ghrelin and leptin) blood sugar (increases) energy (depletes) — all of which affect weight.
Your hormones are influenced by various factors. Hormones — including thyroid hormone, insulin, cortisol, and sex hormones — can have a big impact on your weight. Knowing if you are insulin resistant, have a less than optimal thyroid condition (such as Hashimoto’s) or have imbalanced estrogen (too much or too little) can be a key piece to correct in the weight loss puzzle.
Of course, any kind of physical activity, especially intentional exercise, may help with weight loss. Even just a single exercise session may powerfully regulate fat and glucose metabolism and result in increased insulin action.
A weekly plan that combines both aerobic and strength training is ideal.
Zone 2 training (aerobic exercise) primarily uses body fat for fuel which may also add to weight loss efforts. Exercising between 60% and 80% of your maximal heart rate may help promote fat burn. Lifting weights (or using your own body weight) helps maintain muscle mass that keeps your metabolism humming.
Look at physical activity and exercise as another lifestyle habit that will help support you on your weight loss journey. After all, getting enough activity in your day is beneficial for various reasons and can help improve your overall well-being including mental health. Walk more, play more. It all adds up!
Tackling the root causes for emotional eating, or bingeing is essential. Get proper help to develop a healthy relationship with food. This is often a common barrier to weight loss. Many, many people struggle with this, you are not alone.
A weight loss plateau is a fancy way to describe a point in time when you’ve put in all the effort, but you’re not seeing the results: in other words, your weight loss becomes stagnant. Plateaus are a normal part of weight loss. Persistence is key. Plateaus are also a sign that you are heading in the right direction. It’s just a time period for your body to recalibrate and adjust. .
Although it can be helpful to check your weight occasionally, remember that the scale doesn’t always reflect the full picture of your progress. Try shifting your mindset away from the number on the scale to what will help you become more physically strong and feel better. This can also help you develop a healthier relationship with food and exercise.
This is especially true if you’ve been focusing on building muscle and fat-burning simultaneously. If you’re working on altering body composition, you may weigh the same when you step on the scale. However, you may be improving fitness, strength, lean muscle mass, and other vital areas of well-being. You may even notice your energy, sleep, or mood is improving. So it's important to gauge your success from a broader view.
One of my favorite quotes about weight is by Dr. Sharma, an obesity specialist, says that a patient’s best weight is “whatever weight they achieve while living the healthiest lifestyle they can truly enjoy.”
Make sure you weight loss goal is realistic, healthful, and doesn't cramp your style.
*Weight is often impacted by things like family history or a genetic predisposition to certain conditions. Some may require medication or other interventions. But many people are able to maintain a healthy weight despite these factors with dietary and lifestyle changes.