Weight loss is much more complicated than calorie in and calorie out.
For decades, we have been told that if we just exercised more, ate less (or at least ate everything in moderation) and practiced a bit more willpower, we would finally achieve the weight and body composition of our dreams. Even though more and more we find ourselves exercising consistently, while attempting the next fad diet, the obesity rates still manage to climb. Currently 88% of Americans are metabolically unwell – struggling with conditions including but not limited to Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and gout. About 25% of Americans who are “normal healthy” weight are also metabolically unwell. How could this be? Pretty frustrating, right?
Weight gain is not so much about how much you eat, but more about the kind of food you eat and when you eat it. And the particular types of food the majority of us eat are nutrient-empty and/or inherently addictive even if they might seem healthy at first glance. As a result, we have a population that is super sick, overweight or obese and addicted.
I want you to join me in creating a mindset shift around what the process of weight loss truly is. Weight loss for most people is an addiction recovery process. A process that isn’t going to be perfect and one that is going to be met with a lifetime awareness of how your unique emotions, behaviors, habits and genetic wiring impact how you eat, why you eat and how your body responds to that.
When we create this shift of thinking around dropping excess weight and maintaining it, you can now better understand why relapses (weight regain) might happen. There are many metabolic situations that aid in a relapse (I’ll save this for a future column), but from an addiction recovery standpoint, simply stated, relapses happen.
The most important thing to recognize is that if you have regained weight from a previous weight loss experience, it is nothing to be ashamed of and is simply part of the learning and adjustment process. A relapse is not the end of the world and only needs to be a brief setback. It doesn’t mean that you have failed and it doesn’t mean that you will never succeed in the future. It does mean that you have fallen back into old habits and behaviors that don’t serve you. If you have regained weight, you need support and accountability to learn from it and to help you move forward in the direction you know you want to go. You must also take serious measures to correct, but with this action and mindset in place, weight gain relapses will diminish in frequency and duration over a period of time.
According to Brooke Feinerman, a Ph.D. in psychology and a part of the Ph.D. Weight Loss advisory board, the most important thing to remember is that change does not happen by simply not eating specific foods; long-term change happens by committing to creating a new life that reflects your goals of living healthy in a peak state. If you do not make changes to overall lifestyle and practice them daily with fortitude, then the things that originally contributed to unhealthy habits and that addiction will eventually catch back up with you.
Feinerman suggests that if you decide to recommit to change, upon doing so, review these questions to see if there are improvements that can be made to help you succeed:
Can you set up a stronger support system or accountability partner? Can you change parts of your lifestyle to further support your healthy life goals? Have you been practicing self-care (such as journaling, a gratitude practice, exercise, enough good sleep and staying connected with loved ones)?Can you educate yourself more deeply about reasons why you might be struggling? Meaning are there additional resources you can find to support your growth and success? Can you explore if there are emotional aspects that result in not sticking with your goals?If food was used as a reward or for fun in social gatherings, can you begin to redefine what fun means to you and how you can cultivate that within your life in non-food-related ways?Can you learn from the setback and reframe it as not a failure but an opportunity for you to get stronger and more confident? Can you celebrate your resiliency and courage in starting again and not giving up? Can you focus on your strengths? Remember, you can do this if you want to, for the rest of your life, simply because you made the decision to.
Ashley Lucas holds a Ph.D. in sports nutrition and chronic disease and is a licensed, registered dietitian. She is the founder and owner of Ph.D. Weight Loss and Nutrition, offering in-office and at-home/virtual weight management and wellness services in the Four Corners. To contact her, visit www.myphdweightloss.com or call 764-4133.