Getting to a Healthy Weight: Why Is It So Hard?
Achieving a healthy weight may be one of the most difficult goals that I help people work toward in my practice. On the one hand, there are those folks, usually non-overweight folks, who say “you just have to eat less and exercise more!” On the other hand, there are the vast majority of us who know it is not that simple. If getting to a healthy weigh was a simple eat less/exercise more proposition there wouldn’t be sky-rocketing rates of obesity in this country and a 68 billion dollar a year weight-loss industry.
So, what gives? Why does it have to be so hard? Here are my thoughts on the main barriers to weight optimization.
- You eat too often, or too late in the day. For quite some time we have been hammered with the advice to eat every few hours. I think this is ok if you are eating mainly low-glycemic index snacks (very
low sugar, higher in fat and protein). However, if your every 2-3 hour snack is a piece of fruit, or a 100 calorie pack of Oreo cookies, or a yogurt with 25 grams of sugar, your body will never go into fat burning mode. Not if there is a constant source of carbohydrate fuel available. Snack carefully.
Also, your metabolism is more active at the beginning of the day and slower in the late evening and overnight. Your body clock says it is better to eat heartier meals at the beginning of the day and lighters meal in the evening. Many folks do just the opposite.
- You don’t measure, or you measure too much, or you measure the wrong thing. I have a confession to make, I do not know how much I weigh. I know that my clothes are fitting OK, but getting on the scale from time to time will let me know that I am not creeping up. Some monitoring is good. However, weighing-in every day is a bad idea. If you are down a pound you will celebrate with a treat, if you are up a pound, or not losing, you will console yourself with a treat. My suggestion is to pay close attention to how your clothes fit (Unless you have an all yoga pants kind of wardrobe, btw I love yoga pants), and how you look and feel on a daily basis. Weigh yourself weekly or less. Finally, measure the right things. The number on the scale needs to be considered in the context of BMI, body composition measurements. It is also great to know your lean mass and body fat percentage. Many bathroom scales have the ability to evaluate your fat mass percentages, or many gyms and fitness trainers have the technology to check. You cannot legitimately use the muscle-weighs-more-than fat excuse if you don’t actually know that your muscle mass is growing.
- You don’t really know how much you eat. I am not a fan of ongoing, daily food journaling. That is a little obsessive. However, periodically, it can be valuable to journal or use an app to chart your eating habits. I hear time and time again from my patients that they did not realize how much they were eating, especially in snacks, until they kept track.
- You eat the calories you burn. If you’re trying to slim down do not treat yourself to a 300 plus calorie Grande Mocha after power yoga. Just don’t. If you’re extra hungry because you are working out you might be dehydrated. Sometimes the body confuses thirst for hunger. I recommend drinking half your body weight per day in ounces of water. SO, if you weight 180 drink 90 ounces per day. And being active, as in “I am on my feet all day at work,” is not the same thing as exercise. Exercise is something above and beyond your normal daily activities.
- You eat a pro-inflammatory diet. In one of my most-recommend books, The Ultrasimple Diet, Mark Hyman MD points out that the things that make us toxic and inflamed will also make us overweight, bloated, etc. A short period avoiding pro-inflammatory foods – gluten, dairy, corn, sugar, eggs, alcohol, nightshade vegetables – can bring on a rapid change in body weight. This is the so-called “water weight” that some people say is not real weight loss. Water weight is inflammation, it comes off quickly when the irritation substance is removed, and getting rid of inflammation is good.
- You need a “pattern-interrupt.” I think daily life has just too many variables; what we eat, and when, and how much exercise, etc, etc. It is so easy to make daily, minor errors in judgement that over the long haul impact your body in a negative way. It can be exasperating work so hard to change your habits and not get results. Many of us live, especially eating, in auto-pilot mode. A pattern-interrupt is a way to quickly change that auto-pilot state so other habits or strategies can begin. For weight loss, a pattern-interrupt would be a program that drastically changes the day to day routine. I have has many patients that swore up and down there was nothing in their lifestyle responsible for preventing them from releasing excess weight, but there was. I recommended a program to radically change diet and that was the shift they needed.
I am wishing you all the success in the world on your healing journey! And if you have a tip or success story you want to share I hope you will post in on The Healing Center’s Facebook page or Tweet it with the #HealingSTL hash tag.