Weight loss can be frustrating and daunting especially when you carry significant excess fat.
You’re not alone! The latest research says that adults in the United States are hovering at 40% overweight or obese and those numbers are not declining.
As a nutritionist in San Antonio, TX, one of the fattest cities in the country, I’m often asked how people can lose weight in a healthy sustainable way.
That’s easier said than done! The human body is programmed to gain weight and keep it on, even despite our best efforts. In order to lose it, we have to “trick” ourselves in one way or another to consume some of that extra fat.
While there is no one size fits all approach to weight loss, there are a few unifying principles that make weight loss more successful for most people. Here are my top tips for weight loss:
This is the biggest one, the most important intervention you will ever make for your health and your weight: eat real food.
Don’t buy things that come in a package, don’t buy things that come in a box. With some very small exceptions (like olive oil, almond butter, and oatmeal) most of what you should be eating should come from the edges of the grocery store.
When you “shop the edges” you automatically eat real food. Most of your shopping cart should be filled at the produce and butcher sections of the store, anyway.
REAL food means foods that you make yourself. If you’re going to have muffins, you make them from scratch. If you’re going to have oatmeal, you sweeten it yourself. If you’re going to make pot roast or lasagna, you don’t buy it from the frozen or pre-prepared section and heat it up, you take out that crockpot or instant pot and make it yourself!
P.s. never heard of an instant pot? They make preparing food MUCH simpler. Find out more here.
Eating real food accomplishes two things: first, it gives you insight in what you’re eating. Every teaspoon of sugar you add, you watch yourself adding it. If you do that for a time, you’ll start to realize how much you’re eating and will naturally begin to look for ways to cut back.
Second, eating real food removes residues, chemicals, artificial flavors, dyes, and colors from your food.
Whether you choose to go low-carb or Mediterranean, if you want to have success on any temporary diet, you have to stick with it to see results. The research says that different people are successful in different ways.
Some people do better with a more moderate, low sugar approach like a paleo or Whole30 type diet. This limits the amount of macronutrients they need to count while still having them focus on whole foods.
Some people do better on lower fat approaches, while some simply do better when they limit carbohydrates.
Here’s the key: everyone is different! If you are focusing on whole foods in your program and aren’t seeing the results you want, it could be for many reasons, but a big one is that you aren’t on the best plan for YOU.
A nutritionist is trained to help you discern the best program for you, which is why you save time and money when you see us.
Regardless, the only real way to see long term, dramatic results is to stick with the program, day in and day out, for a long, long time.
The most common causes of slower than wanted weight loss in my practice are caused by overindulgence in alcohol, dairy and sweets.
Alcohol, while delicious, taxes the liver and forces the body to put weight loss on hold while it is focusing on processing the drinks.
Although a glass of wine with dinner may be healthy overall, wine still contains alcohol which takes time to process. I find that clients on weight loss journeys do poorly when they include regular alcohol consumption, whereas a moderate approach of one glass every couple of weeks or complete abstention is much more effective.
Dairy is also delicious but two things make it difficult for weight loss. First, most adults are lactose intolerant to some degree, whether they realize it or not. Consuming foods you are intolerant to taxes the gastrointestinal system, making weight loss difficult.
Remember, the body only wants to lose weight when it feels calm and de-stressed, otherwise it will hold on to it just in case.
Dairy also contains something called insulin like growth factor, which causes a larger than normal insulin release with each bite. Although dairy is usually “low carb” the insulin it causes us to release makes it behave as if it isn’t a low-carb food, making weight loss difficult.
Finally, sweets come in small packages but they pack a big caloric, fat, and carb punch!
I see this often with clients: they eat healthy whole foods all week, but have dessert on the weekends and their weight loss derails.
It’s a disappointing thing! Sweets not only can throw you off track, they trick your taste buds into craving hyper-palatable foods. That makes sticking to your plan very difficult!
This recommendation goes for diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as well.
Taking a multivitamin (this is one I like), Vitamin D3, Magnesium, a probiotic, and fish oil help round out your nutritional needs.
Sometimes, cravings come from being low on certain vitamins or nutrients or feeling tired and worn out.
For example: chocolate cravings and peanut butter cravings may signal a magnesium deficiency. Since most adults don’t get enough magnesium, and since it is so important for over 300 cellular functions, I often recommend supplementation with magnesium (this is magnesium I like).
Being low on Vitamin D (think fall/winter!) can cause feelings of exhaustion which you might try to fix with comforting foods. Same goes for being low on serotonin, but testing is the only way to know for sure there!
I recommend a few drops of this Vitamin D supplement every day during the fall and winter.
I also really like people to incorporate a protein shake once a day. Why? It’s filling and satisfying, is a great way to hide extra greens, and it helps incorporate more fat-burning protein! This is a good protein powder, but I also sell an even better one in my office.