Recently I have gotten a lot of inquiries related to weight loss. These questions have come from a variety of people with a variety of shapes and sizes. When I get these questions I inwardly cringe. Not because these people are being annoying or unrealistic, rather they have a misperception about weight. Our current culture perceives skinny as healthy and fat is fraught with fear about how well our clothes fit and what the reflection in the mirror is going to show.
First, I would like to say that weight is a state of being. It is not a disease or health condition on its own. Weight is an outcome that occurs as a result of how our body responds to the input from foods, beverages, medications, skin care, unknown toxins that we breathe or otherwise ingest without knowing, stress and electromagnetic fields. If our body is unable to metabolize or process one or more of these inputs, then it adapts. If one of these inputs disrupts a particular system, like the endocrine, adrenal or reproductive system, then it adapts. Often that adaptation is to neutralize the excess or foreign substance and store it as subcutaneous tissue we call fat in an effort to prevent harm.
Second, weight can often be an outward reflection of our internal health or struggles. By managing a health conditions such as diabetes, adrenal dysregulation, thyroid dysfunction, gut dysbiosis, high blood pressure, depression/anxiety and even cancer, we will by default begin to shift our weight. As our health status improves, so will our ability to metabolize and process the inputs in a way that provides us energy and vitality, while effectively eliminating that which is not functional or useful. This is true on from both a physical and mental perspective.
In order to change the weight status there must be a change to one or more of the inputs. These inputs are behaviors. For example, consuming appropriate selections and preparation of carbohydrates, proteins and fats will aid in the management of diabetes, which will therefore better control insulin production and sensitivity, and ultimately aid in weight management for people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Consuming a protein-rich diet in the morning and shifting to a more complex carbohydrate diet in the evening with food intake about every 2-3 hours, while reducing strenuous activities, including high intensity workouts will be helpful in regulating adrenal function and stabilizing energy. Eliminating gluten and dairy, while transitioning away from processed foods high in sodium and preservatives can prevent flares from auto-immune disorders including thyroid dysfunction. Timing meals, correctly, increasing physical activity, eliminating toxic exposure to alcohol, plastics, pesticides and negative attitudes can drastically improve depression and anxiety.
We are not victims of our health or weight status, rather we are co-creators. This is not to place blame or make us feel badly about our current state of health and weight. It is a statement meant to empower us to make the changes and feel good enough to sustain behaviors that are supportive to a different state of health and weight that is more supportive to our well-being and longevity.
As I continue to reflect on how I respond to questions about weight loss and weight management, I realize that my personal practice as a dietitian is much more focused on health and well-being rather than the external manifestations of these behaviors. When asked about weight management, I in turn ask the questioner a series of questions that tune me into their clinical status. Here is what I mean:
- How many of hours of uninterrupted sleep do you get each night?
- How frequently do you get up each night to go to the bathroom?
- Do you wake up energized or feeling tired?
- Do you get tired at specific times during the day?
- What is your level of stress at home with family and friends, at work and within yourself?
- Do you suffer from acne or skin irritations (psoriasis, dry skin, oily skin, rough skin, itchiness or rashes)?
- How frequently do you have a bowel movement?
- What is the consistency or texture of your stool?
- Does your stool float or sink?
- Is your stool super smelly?
- How frequently do you get gas and is it painful?
- Do you feel bloated (with or without gas)?
- How frequently, if ever, do you suffer from heartburn?
- If you are a female of child-bearing years (still menstruating):
- Do you have regular periods?
- Do you suffer from PMS? If so, what occurs and in what time frame associated with your menstrual cycle?
- Do you have a heavy flow throughout any part of your menstrual cycle?
- Do you eat processed foods more than fresh foods?
- Do you eat away from home more than you eat at home?
- Do you have distractions while you are eating (TV, computer, phone, work, stressful environment)?
- Do you eat or drink from plastic containers?
- How frequently do you consume alcohol and in what quantities?
- Do you ever feel shakey, disoriented or get headaches between meals?
- Have you previously been diagnosed with a chronic health condition or do you suffer from a regularly occurring illness (sinus infections, headaches, joint pain etc.)?
- Do you currently take medications, vitamins/minerals or other supplements?
- Have you taken medications for prolonged periods of time in the past?
- How much physical activity do you get daily (consider more than just exercise)?
- Have you had a recent, unintentional change in weight status?
The answers to these questions can all have an impact on weight management, and none of them really have to do with portion sizes, how many calories you consume or how many calories you burn off. While those issues might be a component to an overall eating pattern and nutrition lifestyle, they are not going to be the solution to weight management. Solutions to weight management with always come from changing the inputs. We can be healthy at any size, and that health, size and shape will change as we progress through life.
Need help with your health, then contact me. Want to lose weight, then be ready to answer a few questions and take a deeper look into your wellness.