Weight loss is NOT black and white.
While some will argue weight loss comes down to calories in versus calories out, we believe that weight loss takes a whole-body approach. In today’s post, we are discussing what we believe to be the six pillars of weight loss: diet, sleep, stress, hormones, movement, and mindset.
Food is ENERGY, but not all foods are created equal. Focusing on whole and high-quality foods, rather than depriving yourself of food in general
is key for successful and long-term weight loss, as well as overall health and wellbeing.
In fact, eating too little food can quickly sabotage your weight loss efforts as it stresses the body out and signals to the body that there is a lack of energy resulting in the metabolism slowing down.
At Isabel Smith Nutrition and Lifestyle, we never want to deprive you of food or leave you hungry. We suggest your plate for weight loss looks like this:
1-2 cups of non starchy veggies (think green leafy veggies, carrots, zucchini, eggplant)
½ cup of starch (sweet potatoes, potatoes, brown rice, fruit) OR 1-2 TBSP of fat (think: avocado, nuts and seeds, olive oil)
~4 oz high-quality protein (wild fish, pasture-raised eggs, free-range chicken, organic beef)
Sleep is essential for every system in our body to function properly. Yet, sleep is under prioritized and often one of the first things to be shortchanged. During sleep, our bodies clean up/detox and refuel for the next day. When your sleep is inadequate, your whole body is affected, ranging from mood to metabolism.
Sleep is heavily linked to changes in weight and metabolism. An ideal night’s sleep is between 7-9 hours with minimal to no disruptions in sleep.
Poor sleep (less than 7 hours, or wake-up throughout the night) often leads to:
Increased appetite and cravings (increased caloric intake of 385 avg kcal per day)
Insulin resistance (increase in blood sugar interrupting metabolism and weight loss)
Decrease in resting metabolism (decrease in overall calories burned throughout the day)
Less desire to exercise
Improving your sleep quality can be tricky (but completely doable) because of the variety of factors impacting sleep. We like to address diet, movement, use of electronics before bed, stress, and sleep environment.
It seems like sleep and stress go hand in hand. The more stressed you are, the more insufficient quality sleep you get and vice versa. Regrettably, stress is almost impossible to eliminate these days, which is why figuring out how to manage stress is imperative for both your physical and mental health.
Stress has systemic effects and the body and can lead to:
- Poor sleep
- Poor eating habits
- Adrenal fatigue
- Hormonal imbalances
These negative impacts sabotage weight loss by not only affecting your decision-making but disrupting your metabolic processes as well. Managing stress is extensive, from breathwork to exercise to foods and nutrients that help balance stress.
Hormones are chemical messengers in the body that control and affect your major metabolic processes, including metabolism, reproduction, mood, blood sugar regulation, sleep, and more. Therefore, hormones are directly related to our overall health!
There are a TON of hormones, but there is a select handful that we find most commonly impacts your weight:
Cortisol is one of the most (if not the most) important hormones in your body when it comes to energy levels and weight. Cortisol is released as part of the stress response, helping our bodies cope with acute and chronic stress. While cortisol helps us short-term in our fight or flight response by having a rush of sugar to be released in the blood, the long-term effects are detrimental. Under constant stress, cortisol levels are increased, resulting in consistently elevated blood sugar, elevated blood pressure, hormonal imbalances, depression/anxiety, and sleep disruptions. This undermines weight loss efforts and more often than not contributes to weight gain.
Estrogen is one of the main female sex hormones. Imbalances in estrogen, also known as estrogen dominance, may lead to weight gain, among other symptoms. Possible causes of estrogen dominance include hormonal birth control, toxin load, gut imbalances, food and water supply, excess body fat, and chronic stress.
The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system, which secretes hormones and helps to regulate body temperature, brain development, the nervous system, menstrual cycle, and energy levels, among others.
The thyroid has a HUGE impact on metabolism. When the thyroid becomes underactive, it is called hypothyroidism. This manifests as fragile bones, weight gain, low energy, and sensitivity to the cold. When the thyroid becomes overactive, it is referred to as hyperthyroidism which causes increased appetite, weight loss, hair loss, and nervousness.
Note that if your hormones are out of whack, they can become balanced again! Working with a health professional to address the underlying causes of your hormonal imbalances is critical. We like to take a whole-body approach and evaluate your sleep, exercise, stress, and diet.
Movement is imperative in one’s health. Movement not only decreases your risk of disease but benefits your mental wellbeing. Although engaging in exercise burns calories which can aid in weight loss, we suggest exercising for other reasons.
For one, exercise is actually key for hormone health. For example, exercise can help prevent Estrogen dominance and help stimulate Testosterone and Human growth hormone, which play a role in muscle building and fat metabolism. Too much exercise can actually stress out our bodies and negatively impact our hormones, specifically spiking cortisol, leading to burnout! This is why we suggest finding a balance between both high-intensity and low-impact workouts and focusing on the quality of your workout over the duration.
Additionally, moving your body is a great stress reliever. Movement releases chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and endorphins, which help boost mood and decrease stress. A better mood can mean less cortisol circulating, which can also help with cravings, sleep, and general health.
Lastly, your mindset plays a role in your weight loss efforts. Weight loss starts within, and trying to lose weight with a poor mindset will not get you very far. Going into weight loss with negative self-talk, deprivation, or following a fad diet will not yield long-term results.
Rethinking weight loss is key – going beyond the number on the scale and digging within. Asking yourself why you want to lose weight (really why), how you can achieve a healthy lifestyle, and how you will feel (think both physical and mental benefits) after is important.
Remember that you are creating a new lifestyle, one that is filled with choices and habits to benefit your mind, body, and soul. Perhaps most importantly, honor yourself and your body where it is now.
Weight loss is tricky! With so many factors directly or indirectly affecting weight, it is no wonder people struggle with weight loss! In taking a holistic approach to weight loss, looking beyond the nutrition label, and analyzing your quality of diet, sleep, stressors, hormones, exercise, and mindset; you can get to the root cause of what is getting in the way of your weight loss and build a new lifestyle conducive to your goals.
Struggling to lose weight or just want to level up your health and lifestyle?