I've always been a curvy girl. Growing up, I was always taller and heavier than girls my age which was a huge insecurity for me. You can read my entire story here, but the short version is that I've always had an unhealthy relationship with food. By time I was 21, I was very sick and recovering from trauma, battling depression, and tipped the scale at 221 pounds.
After many, many, MANY failed attempts at losing the weight, I finally found what worked: real food. That's it. Just REAL FOOD. The weight loss didn't happen first, nor should it. Health happened first. You can lose weight by not eating much or working out a ton, but that doesn't promote health or long term results. I focused all my attention on correcting digestion, balancing my blood sugar, regulating my hormones, eliminating things my body didn't agree with, and learning to love myself again. As I did that, my body fell into it's sweet spot of manageable, sustainable, healthy weight loss (over 75 pounds!)
I didn't lose the weight to achieve the perfect body. I lost the weight to achieve a healthy body. That's the end goal. That's what gives me the freedom to travel comfortably with my husband, to run with my playful dog, to serve in African countries, to play tag with children. When we chase aesthetics, the world will change it's requirements. So let's focus on weight loss as a tool of health, not a marker of beauty.
So here are my top five secrets for losing that weight (and keeping it off)!
1. Don't count calories. Calories only tell us the energetic output of a food item, and they can be massively manipulated by food manufactures. What calories don't tell us is the nutritional value of food, or how our body reacts to it, or even if it's a healthy food. Furthermore, when we limit our calories to the "diet standard" of 1,200, we are under eating which eventually backfires. Our body won't let us lose excess weight storage if it senses a famine. Lastly, counting calories isn't typically sustainable. If your weight balances in being a slave to MyFitnessPal, you will eventually fail. We want a healthy relationship with food that relies on common sense and our body's own signals.
2. Eat fat. The demonization of fat began in the mid-1950s and has been, in my opinion, the single most detrimental food myth of all time. We fear fat and instead buy things that are labeled "fat free" or "reduced fat". The problem is that fat gives flavor and food manufacturers know this, so they add an addictive substance back in where the fat was removed. That substance is called sugar and we are hooked. The CDC predicts that by 2050, 1 in 3 Americans will have Type II diabetes, a disease built on insulin resistance brought on by the onslaught of processed foods and sugar. So why did fat get the bad rap? Well, you can read about that here.
Quality fat keeps our blood sugar balanced, our inflammation down, our brain health top-notch, and YES, our heart healthy. When we eliminate the excessive processed carbohydrates and sugars and replace it with quality fat, we stay fuller longer and with more energy too! My favorite fats come from avocados, coconut, wild caught fish, grass fed meat, pastured eggs, raw dairy, organ meats, and olives.
3. Don't overtrain. I recently saw a woman on Instagram who works out FOUR HOURS per day and is frustrated by her weight gain. This is because of cortisol health. When we send our body into a stress state, we release cortisol in order to keep up. Chronically elevated cortisol can increase your fat storage and impair insulin sensitivity (source), which is counter-productive to healthy weight loss. I recommend "short but smart" workouts like HIIT or Crossfit a few times per week. For those who are recovering from adrenal dysfunction or thyroid dysregulation, start smaller with yoga, walks, and mobility training.
4. Find what works for YOU. There is no "one-size-fits-all". Some people do better with a lower carb approach, some (like me!) do better with a higher carb approach. Some people can incorporate quality dairy, other's can't. We are all so different! The key is finding out what works with your body and what works against your body. I started with the Whole30 program, going through the full reintroduction phase. This gave me a clear picture of how my body fuels itself and set me up for long term success. I know what foods my body thrives on and can make conscious decisions about what I choose to eat.
5. Don't forget self-care. Self care is so important! It not only lowers our stress levels (remember cortisol and adrenal health?), but it gives us the space to love ourselves. We have spent so many years in a cycle of negative self talk, abusing our bodies, stressing over things we can't control, and it becomes so exhausting to our body and mind. Spend 30 minutes per day in self-care. Maybe that's a long walk with a podcast on, taking a bath, doing yoga, praying, reading, watching your favorite show, or drinking a cup of coffee on the patio. You are valuable, your journey is valuable, so treat yourself like it. Treat your body well. Love it, nourish it, use it to change the world -- you can't pour from an empty cup.
My secrets sure sound different than the mainstream advice of the low fat, calories in/calories out dogma, don't they? Good, I'm glad! That advice doesn't work and we have a nation to prove it.
So give my "secrets" a shot and see what happens! I'm here to help you and cheer you on.
Questions? Just ask!