...says just about everybody. We all know what to do: eat more plants and a lot less sugar, move more, get enough sleep. We've bought the books, done the research, signed up to the programmes, followed the rules and we don't have the results we want, expect, deserve. Why not? Is there something wrong with us? Are we fundamentally broken? Why, despite our repeated best efforts, does that stubborn 5/10/20 lbs not just disappear for good?
One reason is that diets simply don't work for the majority of people. Going on a diet (restricting calories/fat), usually accompanied by over-exercising, puts the body under immense stress. Its perception is that we're experiencing a famine and, since its primary role is to keep us alive, it goes into full on damage-control mode: slows metabolism, stops building muscle, stores fat, sends out hormones encouraging us to eat high-calorie foods. The exact opposite of what we need if we're trying to shed those lbs. What we perceive as a lack of willpower is actually our body fighting to keep us alive.
Another reason is that food means so much more to us than mere calories. It can be love, intimacy, pleasure, connection, safety, company, and much more. Our relationship with it is complex, emotional as well as physical, and resists attempts to confine it to the strictures of a diet. We need to understand our behaviour when it comes to food and eating; what beliefs do we have, what stories do we tell ourselves, where might our issues come from (ever been told you couldn't leave the table until you'd cleared your plate?). Could there be a psychological reason why we are weight loss resistant?
And then there's stress. Life seems to involve almost continuous low-level stress from the moment the alarm jolts us awake (if we've managed to sleep): home life, work life, relationships, children, pets, shopping, cooking, socialising. There's always something more to be done, and more things we haven't managed to do. And the body keeps the score (to borrow the title of Bessel van der Kolk's excellent book). Excesss cortisol fizzes round our system inhibiting digestion, storing fat, breaking down muscle and bone, lowering immunity. Our lifestyle and stress-acceptance has a lot to do with inability to shed those lbs.
And, fundamentally, we need to understand what is driving our need to lose weight. What do we believe our lives will be like if we achieve our goal? What is stopping us from having the life we yearn for now? From feeling better about ourselves now?
Easier said than done and there are some practical things we can do to help us on our weight loss journey. Each of these will have a dedicated blog post so I'm just going to list them here and do get in touch if you want to know more now.
1) Relaxed eating - no more TV dinners / reading the back of the cereal packet / scrolling through social medial. Put the food on your best china, light a candle (at the approriate time of day), put on some nice music, have a date with your food.
2) Quality - eating the best quality food you can afford / procure. In season, fresh, no artificial flavours or sweeteners, no ingredients that you don't recognise or can't pronounce.
3) Rhythm - regulating mealtimes and meal amounts with the time your metabolism is working at its most efficient. Morning (stoke the fire), noon (feed the flames) and evening (dampen down).
4) Awareness - when you eat, eat. In other words, pay attention to your food (linked to (1) above) because digestion starts with the eyes. And if your body doesn't register that you've eaten, it will very quickly entice you to eat again, and again, and again...
5) Pleasure - ahhh, yes, pleasure. The look and smell and taste of wonderful food. Being turned on by your food will turn on your metabolism - really! Eating reconstituted food from a sachet, not so much.
6) Thought - what you tell yourself about the food you're eating has a direct impact on how you digest it. Feeling guilty or judging yourself for eating that ice-cream does more damage than if you ate it with relish.
7) Story - who is sitting down to eat (you as a child, as a rebellious teenager, angry adult?) and what stories are running through your mind and preventing you from fully engaging with the act of eating? Again, this can powerfully impact your metabolism.
8) Love - learning to accept / love yourself as you are now. Ah, that my dear, is the most powerful metaboliser of all.