Understanding Healthy Weight Loss

Renée Naturally Qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist & Western Medical Herbalist

A successful weight loss program must be consistent with all four cornerstones of good health: a nutritious diet, adequate exercise, a positive mental attitude, and the proper support for the body through natural supplementation measures. These components are holistically interrelated, and no single component should be seen as more important than the other. 

The basic equation for losing weight never changes. It is believed that for an individual to lose weight, energy intake must be less than energy expenditure. This can be achieved by decreasing caloric intake (dieting) or by increasing the rate at which calories are burned (exercising). The vast majority of people will begin to lose weight if they reduce their calorie intake to 1200 calories per day and do aerobic exercises for 15 to 20 minutes 3 to 4 times per week. However, a lot of other factors come into play when it comes to wanting to lose weight and most importantly, maintain a healthy weight. For effective long-term weight loss, some of the key areas to focus on are;

A Healthy Diet: Eating meals that consist of a balance of proteins, complex carbohydrates, and some fats is essential to a successful and healthy weight loss regime. Proteins can increase your metabolic rate by as much as 30% and help to regulate the release of insulin. Avoid consuming white flour products, white rice, and processed foods as these foods trigger the release of insulin, which then activates enzymes that promote the passage of fat from the bloodstream into the fat cells. Eating unprocessed foods, with a primary focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and quality protein sources. Avoid alcohol, as it not only adds unnecessary calories, but it inhibits the burning of fat from fat deposits. Increasing the amount of dietary fiber we eat also helps to promote weight loss. 

 A lot of dieters fall into the trap of skipping meals, and while all meals are important, for most people, eating breakfast is important as it kick-starts your metabolism for the day. Skipping meals can only intensify hunger and food cravings, so if you’re skipping meals because you feel like it is the best way to reduce calorie intake, you will likely be doing yourself more harm than good. Finding out what causes your food cravings is really important as a craving may actually be an indication of an underlying condition such as a mineral deficiency, food allergy, hypoglycaemia or hypothyroidism. The main focus should be on tuning into your body’s real hunger, and never ignoring that. But it is equally important to tune into emotional hunger. Am I actually hungry, or do I feel like eating because I am sad, nervous, angry, bored? Try lining up other pleasurable activities to turn to when you think you are turning to food for emotional comfort rather than nutritional nourishment. 

Positive Mental Attitude: Understanding our relationship to food and exercise is an important step to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. That’s not to say that suddenly switching on a healthy attitude towards your health and wellness is going to see you miraculously achieve your goals. All the positive affirmations in the world won’t do the work for you, but when we have a greater understanding of our why for achieving health goals, and our possible triggers that potentially send us backward, we can work in a more holistic way that generally sees people achieve more sustainable results. Working on deeper level to uncover beliefs, habits and roadblocks to achieving a healthy weight should be the first focus. Reaching out for help, be it through paid counselling or psychologist session or speaking to trusted family and friends, or reading well-rated self-help books in this area, or listening to popular podcasts on the topic and doing the deep inner work that may be set out for you. Ultimately, carve our emotional space for yourself when making any dramatic changes to your health plan. 

Insulin Sensitivity: Insulin plays a key role in maintaining proper blood sugar levels and stimulating thermogenesis (fat-burning) in the body. Enhancing insulin sensitivity can therefore go a long way towards re-establishing effective thermogenesis and consequent weight management. Chromium plays a key role in increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Without chromium in the body, insulin’s actions are blocked, blood sugar levels are elevated, and thermogenesis is inhibited. Chromium levels can be depleted by consumption of refined sugars, white flour products and by a lack of exercise. Chromium as a supplement is easily accessed through supplementation available at pharmacies or health stores. Always speak to a professional in-store to find out if it is right for you, and what the recommended dosage may be. 

Regular Exercise: A necessary component of weight loss programs, due to the following factors:

  • When exercise is increased, there’s an improvement in body composition due to an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in body fat. Muscle tissue is the primary user of fat calories in the body so the greater your muscle mass, the greater your fat-burning capacity. Consider upping your weight training or switching out some cardio sessions to weight sessions.
  • Moderate to intense exercise may have a suppressing effect on the appetite.
  • People who exercise during and after weight reduction are better able to maintain their weight loss than those who don’t exercise. 
  • Exercise promotes the development of an efficient method to utilize insulin and burn fat. 

When it comes to weight loss, or maintaining a healthy weight, it is not actually as simple as a basic math equation and many factors have to come into play for healthy success. If you are looking to make significant changes to your wellness routine in the name of achieving a healthy weight, I suggest speaking to your GP, a dietician, personal trainer or Nutritionist to help create a personalised holistic plan suitable to help meet your individual needs and goals.

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