It’s such a great feeling to step on a scale and find that you’ve met or (dare we say it?) exceeded your weight loss goal. All the healthy choices and decisions to get up and exercise instead of pulling the covers over your head paid off! Then how is it that those pesky lost pounds seem to find their way back and settle on our hips and bellies like they never even left?
Overeating and lack of activity are most often blamed for excess weight, but they aren’t the only causes; in some cases, they’re not the reason at all. There are many factors that contribute to how we lose, gain and maintain weight. It’s not only how much we eat, but also what we eat and when we eat it. In addition, medications that we use and genetics play a role in our body shapes. Other factors that we don’t often consider can also heavily influence our behaviors, such as marketing and education. While we can control some of these factors, there are aspects of weight that are beyond our control. So don’t beat yourself up for having a second cookie or glass of wine (or both!).
To achieve and maintain weight loss, let’s consider what’s happening inside that helps or hinders our progress. A balanced diet should include the nutrients our body needs to exist, including protein, carbohydrates and, yes, some fat — especially healthy fats like avocados or almonds. This fat provides the energy we need to get through the day. The average person burns 1,500 to 2,000 calorie per day, so if we decide to have French fries instead of a side salad, we need to burn off those extra fat calories through more activity and exercise. If not, it gets stored in fat cells, and we’ve all seen where they go!
The body’s automatic response to protect itself also contributes to the ability to lose weight. When we lose weight, especially after an initial weight loss, our metabolism slows down. The body recognizes the signs of reduced food intake and sends out a message, “She’s doing it again! Slow it down and hold on to those calories!” So even if you eat the same amount that you used to, you won’t lose weight at the same rate.
We also have hormones that affect our energy balance. Two of them, leptin and ghrelin, are linked to obesity. Ghrelin makes us hungry by stimulating appetite and telling the brain to eat, while leptin suppresses food intake. Many people with obesity are leptin-resistant, which can lead to overeating. While it would be reasonable to think that people with obesity also have higher levels of ghrelin, in many cases it’s actually lower. In fact, people with obesity who lose weight and keep it off often have higher levels of ghrelin. This, too, is likely the body’s way of attempting to store fat and energy. Unfortunately, these hormones don’t seem to recognize that we already have enough fat to allow for weight loss and that it is safe to do so.
Don’t be frustrated, though, because we can make some changes to what we eat to help limit or reverse leptin resistance. Fruits, whole grains, seeds and other foods with higher soluble fiber are good food choices because they improve gut health and help prevent obesity. Proteins are also a good option, especially beans, which are also high in soluble fiber. Conversely, processed foods compromise gut health. They should be avoided.
The best way to address any weight loss challenge is to have a plan that works for you. We’d all like to be beach-beautiful in 10 days — but if it takes 10 months, so what? Time is a gift that allows us to incorporate changes not only to what we eat, but to how we think and behave. When you’re making intentional changes to your body and your mind, time is an asset and investment in your future, and you are certainly worth that!