Weight loss – it’s a hot topic with anyone and everyone. Everyone wants to lose some amount of weight, even if it’s just that “last 5 pounds,” which – fun fact – often doesn’t exist.
However, whether its 5 pounds or 50 pounds, the same principles apply when it comes to losing weight in a healthy, sustainable, maintainable way. In today’s post, I hope to break down those variables to help you along on your weight loss journey, no matter where you are!
You can’t talk about sustainable and healthy weight loss without talking about nutrition. You literally are what you eat, so if you eat lots of junk or “healthy” junk, you will not have as easy of a time losing the weight you want to lose!
Typically, for weight loss, I like to start my clients off on a real food plan. No counting, points, or calories – just start eating lots of real, whole food. This means having a source of protein, fat, and carbohydrate at each meal from good, wholesome sources. For protein, this typically means animal protein from well-raised animals such as beef, chicken, turkey, or pork, or other sources like eggs and seafood. Healthy sources of fat include avocados, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, coconut butter, avocado oil, nuts, and seeds. It is also critical to avoid inflammatory fats as well – trans fats, vegetable oils, and margarines. Optimal carbs, on the other hand, include all the veggies along with limited fruit and starchy veggies like sweet potatoes or butternut squash.
Once you have established a diet free from added sugars, processed grains, packaged foods, vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, and sweetened beverages, then we can start to tweak and manipulate other variables. But first, just start eating real food and avoid the junk! If it has a label with too many ingredients, claims to be “super healthy,” or is light/low-fat/low-calorie, don’t eat it!
I just wrapped up a four-part series on sleep, so you know that I mean business when it comes to getting enough QUALITY sleep. Just because you sleep a lot doesn’t mean it’s good sleep! When we get enough quality sleep, our body is able to heal and rejuvenate the functions it needs to in order to function properly. When the body is functioning optimally, that means inflammation is lowered (and inflammation is critical in weight loss!) and that your body can heal. If you are skipping out on sleep because of a busy life or aren’t able to stay or fall asleep, it’s time to make some changes. No weight loss journey can happen without decent sleep! You can find more in my four-part series on sleep here:
Part 1: The Importance of Sleep
Part 2: Building a Sleep Routine
When we are chronically stressed, we overproduce the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol is out of control or chronically high, our body senses that we are in a stressed state, meaning that we need all the help we can get when it comes to protecting our body and our organs. How does it do this? By storing fat around our midsection to protect our most vital organs. And it’s that type of fat that will not budge no matter what you do!
So, with that in mind, it is critical to reduce stress in every single way that you can. Stress comes in so many variables, it’s hard to name them all. But here is a list to get you started:
Work or home environment
Poor gut health
Too much exercise
Too little exercise
Toxic beauty or cleaning products
Poor body image
The best ways to reduce stress are the ones that work for you! Everyone responds to stress reduction techniques differently. It’s all about finding what works for you and the stressors in your life. For me, acupuncture, massages, regular workouts, and walks outside are my go-tos. For others, it might be yoga, meditation, deep breathing, calling a loved one, reading a book – the list goes on and on! However, you must try some different techniques to find out what works best for you. Even if you THINK you aren’t stressed, if you are carrying extra weight around your midsection that will not move, it most likely will come back down to cortisol.
Exercise and activity is important in any weight loss journey, but I would say that the first three factors – nutrition, sleep, and stress – are almost MORE important that exercise. They are that important! But yes, exercise does have a role in weight loss and maintaining that weight loss.
When it comes to exercising for weight loss, it is important to have a balance of strength training and interval training. Strength training at least 3-4 times a week is crucial in building muscle mass that will burn more calories at rest and boost your metabolism. Focusing on total body movements or multi-muscle group movements is also key, as the more muscle groups you recruit, the greater the calorie burn!
Interval training is basically periods of all out effect/work followed by periods of rest and recovery that lasts a total of 5-15 minutes. That looks different for everyone, but could be something along the lines of 30 seconds sprint, 1 minute walk, repeated 5-10 times. Or, it might be 30 seconds of burpees, 30 seconds of jump squats, 30 seconds of rest repeated 5 times. Basically, any interval of intense, all-out effort for a period of time, followed by a rest and recovery period with any cardio that you enjoy.
Regular steady state cardio is okay once or twice a week for 30 minutes or so at a time, but you will definitely see better and FASTER results from regular strength training and interval training.
Of course, there is so much more that goes into building a weight loss plan – your gut health, diet history and past, hormones, etc. But, what matters in the present is figuring out what changes you can start making now with your nutrition, sleep, stress, and exercise. Remember, every journey starts with a single step! Pick one area to work on (the one that you feel needs it the most) and go from there. For some, it might be easier to head into the gym first and tackle the nutrition second. Others might be more likely to clean up their diet first before heading into the gym. That’s fine! Move at your own pace, but just know that all four factors are what create the sustainable, healthy weight loss. You can’t leave one out and expect the best results!