10 Lessons I've Learned About Healthy Weight Loss
Whether or not you are battling any kind of chronic illness, losing weight can seem like the most difficult thing in the world. If you suffer from thyroid issues, it can be even harder to lose weight since your thyroid is in control of your metabolism and digestion. It is even more frustrating when your doctor's solution for your concern about weight gain is to eat less calories, and exercise more. I mean really, you think we haven’t thought of that? I have struggled with my weight most of my life. I can recall always feeling like the biggest kid in the group and wearing all black in an attempt to look smaller. I remember not wanting to eat in public for fear that people would think I am a pig, and then raiding the cupboards as soon as I got home. I have been there. After losing nearly 100 pounds, these are the top ten things I have learned about losing and maintaining weight.
1. “Eat Less Calories” is Not Good Advice
Eight million people in America suffer from an eating disorder, so the notion of needing to eat less calories to lose weight is not only completely invalid but it is also dangerous. The truth is, to lose weight in a healthy way you need to eat less of the foods that are negatively affecting your individual body, and eat more of the foods that are nourishing and essential for your health. In fact, I probably eat more calories now than I did before I lost weight. Calories are not all equal, and the biggest dieting myth is that calories are bad for you. Some calories make you gain weight, some make you metabolize faster, some give you energy and some are highly dangerous and addictive. It is not the calories you should be worried about, but the ingredients that shape your body.
2. “Bad Foods” are Unique to Each Individual Person
I have my own opinions and theories on what foods are healthy and what foods are not. For instance, I do believe that the wheat and grains we consume today are highly processed and are making us sick. I also believe that most of our dairy products contain loads of sugar and hormones. The truth is the food industry has turned seemingly healthy foods into processed, industrialized profits. You have to decide what works for you.
3. Leave the Diets and Crazy “Cleanses” Behind
I once tried a cleanse that consisted of eight bananas and eight glasses of milk per day. I was the queen of liver detoxes, and kidney cleanses. I had weight loss supplements that claimed to “clean out my system” but really just contained caffeine, laxatives and soy fillers. I thought this was the answer to healthy weight loss but instead I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. To be fair, dieting and pills were probably not the main culprit to my diagnosis but it was most definitely a factor in destroying my gut health (which leads to autoimmunity). If you want to be healthy, lean and fit, you have to adapt a healthy lifestyle, not a fad-diet.
4. Why you Might Want to Consider Ditching Grains if you Have an Autoimmune Disease (or not)
Firstly, if you have an autoimmune disease already, you are more susceptible to other autoimmune illnesses such as Celiac disease. More importantly there is plenty of research supporting the idea that proteins in gluten and grains are causing Intestinal Hyper-permeability, otherwise known as “leaky gut” in people with sensitivities. Leaky gut is a factor in developing autoimmune diseases. If you have an autoimmune disease it is highly encouraged that you ditch gluten and even gluten alternatives like rice and corn. The proteins in gluten loosen the tight junctions in our intestines causing our gut to become “leaky”. When this happens the proteins leak into our blood stream signaling an attack on our tissues. Gluten has also been proven to cause inflammation in the body. Don’t you find it interesting that the root to all disease is chronic inflammation?
5. Why Exercising More is Not Always the Right Answer
I was exercising six days a week back in October of 2017. I would do one to two hours a day of strength training, lifting weights that were much too heavy and running on a treadmill until I felt as though I could no longer feel my legs. The truth is, cardio and strength training are great for your health but pushing your limits can also be dangerous. After about two months of intense training I noticed that I had extreme fatigue, more hair loss and had gained fifteen pounds. It made no sense to me. How could I be working out so hard and still gain weight? When I talked to my naturopathic doctor about this she mentioned that my cortisol was extremely high, and that my adrenal glands had “flat-lined”. It turns out, my workouts were causing my body stress and so my body was releasing too much of the stress hormone, Cortisol. Stress in the body is associated with famine, and Cortisol stores fat in the body as a way of protecting us from starvation. After switching my exercise routines to light strength training, moderate cardio, and yoga/stretching three to four days a week, I have lost the weight that I had gained, and more.
6. Why Our Ancestors Were Lean and Fit
Our ancestors did not eat packaged foods. Sugar was not introduced until about 200 years ago, and we did not pump our animals full of hormones. Our ancestors ate a diet rich in vegetables, grass-fed meat and poultry, healthy fats, fermented, raw dairy, nutritious carbohydrates like squash and sweet potatoes, as well as local, fresh fruits. These are the foods we are genetically programmed to consume. Back in the day, there was no packaged or canned foods, there was no quick and convenient drive-thru food stops and there was certainly no man-made fats created in factories and put into our food supply. We have completely lost track of the way our bodies were designed to eat.
7. You Have to Accept That Everyone Will Have Their Own Opinion
Everyone is going to have an opinion. If you tell someone you are a Vegan you will probably get a few eye rolls, or a comment about how you do not get enough protein. If you tell someone you eat a diet rich in fats and protein you will probably have someone tell you that fat makes you fat and too much protein makes you bulky. If you eat all foods in moderation you will probably have someone tell you that you should restrict or limit certain foods. The truth is, although I strongly believe in a paleo/primal diet, the right way to eat is whatever way works best for your body. Find the foods that work for you, the foods you can easily digest, the foods that make you happy and the foods that make your skin glow.
8. Weight Loss and Healthy Living is a Mental and Physical Choice
I cannot stress this enough. If you do not change your attitude to a healthy, positive mind-set you will not be able to lose weight, and keep the weight off. You have to develop a relationship between your mind and your body in order to make permanent changes. The relationship between you and your body is the most important and long-lasting relationship you will ever have.
9. Your Lab Tests Should Be In Optimal Ranges
Autoimmune patient or not, proper blood work and optimal ranges is extremely important and is a huge factor in losing or maintaining weight. As a thyroid patient, I understand the importance of good blood work. Without optimal levels I would still be gaining weight rapidly, and my symptoms would continue to get worse and worse. Part of living a healthy lifestyle means taking responsibility for your health. See a doctor, a practitioner or holistic, naturopathic doctor, just be sure to find someone who listens to you.
10. The Lifestyle Plan That Works For Me
Here is a look into how I lost and maintain my weight in a healthy way. When I was fourteen years old I weighed 209 pounds. I was fatigued and miserable most of the time. I had horrible acne, hormonal issues and mood problems. Finally, after years of trying I gave up wheat and gluten against my doctors wishes. I didn’t eat gluten-free alternatives other than the occasional rice cracker. After about eight months I had lost 87 pounds. Once I started eating more gluten alternatives like rice pasta, gluten-free bread and crackers I had gained about 10 pounds back. However, I found my weight rather maintainable. Fast-forward to last-year I had gained an additional fifteen pounds, and it did not seem to be stopping. In order to maintain my weight I had to starve for days at a time, drinking only smoothies and eating minimal amounts of fruit. I knew it was time for another change. I now eat a mostly primal/paleo lifestyle. I eat lots of berries, meats, raw, goat’s dairy, nuts, nut milk, seeds, and vegetables. I eat foods high in protein and naturally occurring fats, keeping me full and satisfied all day. I eat very minimal amounts of sugar, no refined sugars at all. I do not eat any grains other than complex grains like quinoa, and I do not eat any cow’s dairy or soy products. Since beginning this lifestyle less than six months ago, I have lost twenty-five pounds and feel fantastic. My symptoms have decreased dramatically and I finally feel like me again. As I have mentioned above, finding a lifestyle that works for you is essential to losing and maintaining your weight. Listening to your body is the number one thing you can do for your health.
Thanks for reading! Everything that has happened in your life has led you to this moment.
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