If you have been on the weight loss merry-go-round for a while, you’re probably familiar with the diet-exercise formula: eat less, exercise more. But is that really what the research says if it hasn’t worked for you? According to research published in the Annual Review of Nutrition successful long-term weight loss maintainers eat a low-fat diet, frequently weigh themselves, self-monitor their food intake and engage in exercise regularly.
Whereas the conventional advice is to “have the willpower and motivation” to persevere, in my clinical experience over the past 16 years it’s not willpower and motivation at all. In fact, eating a low-calorie diet and exercising has to be effortless. The good news is that there are several other things that can facilitate the weight loss process.
Identify hormonal imbalances: Several studies have found it’s important to identify whether a hormonal imbalance (not only related to thyroid issues) is present. For example, a study of male participants who were treated with testosterone treatment found that not only did they have improvements in blood pressure, blood glucose, bad cholesterol and erectile function, they also lost more than 30 pounds on average.
Assess nutritional deficiencies: You may be familiar with the conventional diet advice to avoid certain foods or limit portions but even more important is to identify specific nutritional deficiencies including iron, folate, magnesium, calcium, etc to normalise the body’s natural hunger, appetite and metabolism. This is best done through blood testing as taking a supplement without knowing what’s missing can be counterproductive and expensive.
Improve sleep: Research has found that even a single night of sleep deprivation increases the hunger hormone ghrelin and orexin, the stress hormone cortisol which inhibits weight loss, changes your metabolism and decreases the hormone leptin that alerts you to feeling full. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you sleep well. However, sleep disturbances can be caused by a variety of issues including medical (e.g. sleep apnoea, periodic limb movement disorder) but also mental health problems including Mood Disorders, ADHD, anxiety disorders including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a variety of other psychological disturbances. No diet will ever eliminate these complex disorders and neither do medications that are commonly prescribed by GPs. But correct assessment and treatment of these disorders is necessary to eliminate the root cause of chronic sleep disturbances which ultimately has the positive side effect of weight loss and successful weight management.
Improve your self-esteem, stop dieting: Research has found that poor self-esteem is associated with emotional eating, and that fad dieting, and its almost inevitable failure and link with bingeing/overeating, breaks down self-esteem even further. You need to stop dieting to stop emotional eating. Focusing on what you can do rather than noticing constantly how badly you fail at dieting is essential to recover from weight problems and chronic binge eating.
Psychologist Dr Katie Richard is the author of the new book, Weight Off Your Mind, a step-by-step guideline to stop binge eating, lose weight and improve body image. www.weightoffyourmind.net
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