December 07, 2021
Honestly, it's hard to lose weight, and then actually keep it off; however, science shows there's a proven strategy that works.
What you eat has a lot to do with weight loss, and we'll cover that below. But, it's important to note that there is a lot more to successful weight loss, than what you eat. In fact, sustainable weight loss is a lifestyle - not a trendy diet, according to scientific evidence.
Research shows physical activity, smoking, and sleep can impact how successful you are at losing weight. Even watching television may impact your weight – a study suggests it could possibly cause you to gain 0.3lb per hour of television you watch. To achieve optimal health, including weight loss, a whole lifestyle approach has been shown to have the best results.
The National Weight Control Registry, the most comprehensive study on long-term weight loss, found people who followed a healthy lifestyle program. The healthy lifestyle program focused on eating lots of foods discussed above (don't go hungry), regular physical exercise that included a variety of cardiovascular and weight-bearing movements, and working on a positive mindset (reducing stress, and finding joy). In the study, on average, participants lost 66 pounds over 6 years. That's impressive - and, if they were able to keep these habits up for 6 years it's proof that there are sustainable ways to lose weight.
Yes, stress management could help you lose weight, but the true measurement of weight loss success is whether you can keep it off. In a clinical trial, researchers had two groups of individuals start a weight loss plan. One group exercised and ate well. The other group added onto this plan some mindfulness-based stress reduction activities. In the end, both groups lost weight. However, what was so impressive was how long after the diet study ended, the weight loss was maintained by the group who had practiced stress-reducing habits.
Stress, especially the chronic stress so many of us are tackling in today’s society, impacts the way the body functions. When stressed, the body creates different hormones than when it is relaxed. Stress-related hormones can alter appetite and metabolism. For some, stress can lead to weight gain.
When researchers looked at the incidence of binge eating among university students who practiced more mindful techniques while eating, evidence suggested this simple lifestyle habit is helpful. Starting to be more mindful when you’re eating can be as simple as putting down the cell phone, television, and other screens.
Stress management can help you steer away from the sugary, salty, and fatty foods linked with weight gain. In their place, what should you eat to lose weight? Researchers found that eating whole foods (vegetables, fruits, and whole grains) was associated with long-term weight-loss.
As for keeping the weight off, according to the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial increasing one’s intake of fruits and vegetables was associated with weight-loss, as was the inclusion of low-fat dairy (a source of protein). Evidence points to vegetables, fruits, and good protein* as important foods to include in a healthy meal plan for weight loss. Need a little motivation to eat more fruits and vegetables? They are linked to better overall health, according to leading health experts.
*Good protein sources are those that contain lots of the nutrients you need. For some people, that’s nuts, seeds, beans, tofu and legumes. Others, may do better with some forms of animal protein, such as fish, poultry, or lower-fat dairy.
It simply isn’t helpful to count calories. Why did we ever start counting calories? The idea was that by stopping to identify the number of calories in a food, people would be able to choose lower-calorie foods, and promote weight loss. That equation may work on paper, but when applied to human biology it doesn’t work! The body is dynamic. There are many factors that influence your appetite. If you cut back on calories, your body adapts. Uh,oh! It actually conspires against long-term weight maintenance. Instead, focus on foods that help you feel satisfied and full - such as vegetables, beans, seeds, legumes, tofu, fruits, whole grains, and good proteins. Oh, and don't forget the good fats! The body needs omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy fats to function optimally.
It is possible to lose weight and keep it off while eating delicious, satisfying foods. The main thing is to listen to your body - if it's hungry, feed it. When choosing what to eat, let vegetables and other plants be the stars of the show. Let those vegetables shine on your plate - they are truly worthy of centre stage! Other plants, such as beans, tofu, legumes, seeds, and fruits are other great characters to invite on stage for your meals. These foods are packed with flavour, and are very filling. As for nuts, if weight loss is your goal, these are best consumed in smaller amounts - like a sprinkle of glitter on your show set. Try a handful of nuts with an apple for a quick snack, or sprinkling a few nuts on your salad, along with hemp hearts, and pumpkin seeds for some awesome protein to keep you feeling full.
The benefits to exercising go beyond the scale. Exercising actually helps your body create more energy, helping you feel more energetic. You can thank the cool process by which your body naturally creates of mitochondria (battery packs that produce energy) in your cells when you exercise. Cardiovascular exercise, the kind that gets your heart rate up, helps the muscles of your heart stay strong. Plus, if you exercise with weights, which can be as simple as holding hand weights while doing lunges or squats, your build more muscle which in turn burns more calories. That's right! If you build more muscle, you can burn more calories. It's one of the biggest helpers in sustainable weight loss - exercise and build your muscles up!
Interestingly, experts have shown exercise appears to help you keep the weight off! According to a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women who exercised as part of a weight loss program were less likely to regain weight. It’s important to find a way to enjoy physical activity, and get advice on how to exercise without pain.
Perfection isn't a goal, but progress is. Set your sights on something more tangible than a particle number of pounds, to help keep you motivated through the ups and downs of weight loss. Let's say, you'd like to be stronger and have more energy. Each week, as you do as much to move, eat well, and smile more, you're moving towards your goal. The progress is happening. There will be hiccups along the way, such as friends birthday party where the food might not include your typical star characters (vegetables, beans, etc). There may be a day where you have to miss a workout. That's okay. With a mindset that progress is the goal, not perfection, the next day after a hiccup you will feel motivated and find yourself back into your healthy routine. You've got this!
Mindfulness in eating is inversely related to binge eating and mood disturbances in university students in health-related disciplines. Nutrients 2020 Feb; 12(2): 396.
Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. N Engl J Med 2011 Jun 23; 364(25): 2392-404.
Keeping weight off: mindfulness-based stress reduction alters amygdala functional connectivity during weight loss maintenance in a randomized clinical trial. PLOS One 2021 Jan.
Impact of a stress management program on weight loss, mental health and lifestyle in adults with obesity: a randomized controlled trial. J Mol Biochem 2018; 7(2): 78-84.
Dietary intakes associated with successful weight loss and maintenance during the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial. J Am Diet Assoc 2011 Dec; 111(12): 1826-1835.
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