Did you know the dieting failure rate is a ridiculous 95-99.4%? ??
Sadly on average, no more than 5% of the population will sustain their weight loss for over five years.
No wonder the consensus is that dieting doesn’t work. ?
What is it about diets and weight loss that prevent us from maintaining our results? ??
In theory, if a leaner body is a healthier body with potential for greater vitality and health biomarkers, shouldn’t being lean reinforce the ability to stay fit?
Yet, what we often observe is the complete opposite. Weight regain is especially prevalent in multiple sport disciplines where we see drastic changes in body composition between a competitive in-season and off-season athlete.
As an ex-competitive rhythmic gymnast and competitor in four physique competitions, I feel like I have spent much of my life seeking strategies to optimize body composition.
Over the last four years running a busy private holistic nutrition practice, attending numerous courses taught by top coaches, and completing two nutrition certifications, I’m ready to shed some perspective on managing weight loss outcomes.
Here are three primary considerations I consider paramount to sustainable weight loss:
1. Consistency Drives Sustainability
The bottom line is that virtually everything works for weight loss.
Paleo? Yes, it works.
Keto? Yes, it works.
Low-fat eating? Yes, it works.
Plant-based eating? Yes, it works.
Intermittent fasting? Yes, it works.
Counting macros and calories? Yes it works
Get my drift?
What truly works best, however, is what you will stick to in the long term.
In the same breath, here are three reasons you should avoid a strategy or paradigm:
- It doesn’t make you feel good.
- You can’t picture yourself doing it for the long term.
- Blood biomarkers have shifted to suboptimal ranges.
What is the point of losing weight via [insert eating strategy here] if you feel like crap the whole time and can’t wait to stop eating that way??? When someone begins fantasizing about the day they no longer have to live according to [insert eating strategy here], the concept of sustainability becomes futile.
2. Stress Management is Primordial
I believe weight loss in and of itself is a stress to our physiology and psychology. We can see that this evaluated in some animal models.(1)
At the current time, studies reinforcing this theory in humans is still very much in its infancy. Most who have tried to diet long term would agree that dieting can induce the physical sensation of bodily stress. One pathway stress may compete with our ability to lose weight effectively is by modulating our HPA axis function.(2) Stress also can negatively alter our appetite.(3) Therefore, if we don’t address what is contributing to our internal stress load, we may struggle to progress in our weight loss attempts.
Here are some everyday stressors to our physiology:
Gut dysfunction or gut dysbiosis
Aggressive weight-loss strategies (chronically low calories, excessive training, etc.)
Low nutrient status
Sluggish endocrine function
Mental health concerns (poor self-image, negative self-talk, etc.)
Addictions (alcohol, illicit drugs, gambling)
Obsessive behavioral patterns
Excessive work hours
One can attempt to follow the “perfect” nutritional and training strategy, but if every other aspect of their life is falling apart, results might be lackluster at best.
Thus, if the goal is to be lean all year, one must seek to address their stress load consistently.
3. Reinforce a Sound Nutritional Foundation Regardless of Paradigm
Just because you follow a nutritional discipline such as paleo, keto, plant-based eating, low carb, macro-counting, carb-cycling, fasting, or eating without discretion or titles, the question is, are you doing it optimally?
More specifically, how can we organize our food selection to ensure we are making the most health-supportive choices?
To explore the strategy behind creating a foundational outlook on our eating choices, we first have to answer the question, what exactly is food?
In a more specific context, how would you define ‘food’ to an extraterrestrial life form without a digestive tract?
Food, by my definition, is a conduit for the intake of beneficial macronutrients and micronutrients for the human body.
With thousands of available options for foodstuffs, how do we know we are making the best options for our health?
From a logical perspective, if food is a vessel for the intake of beneficial compounds, then theoretically, the most diversified approach, which offers us the highest nutritional density, might also confer the most potential benefit. Every food has a unique nutrient profile. If we choose to eat only a limited selection of foods, we then also limit the total nutrient influx.
Think of it this way:
Think of our body as a bank account for nutrients. Our chequing account is what we use frequently and therefore, would be represented by macronutrients in our diet: proteins, fats, carbs. We spend from this account often. Our savings account would be micronutrients. The more vitamins and minerals we consume, the bigger this account gets, and the sooner we can begin using this account for our needs. The standard North American Diet tends to fund the chequing account frequently while neglecting the savings account. It’s simply not enough for a truly vital life. For those looking to have robust mileage from their bodies, the expectation would be to have a continual investment in both bank accounts. The primary aim is to become nutritionally rich.
Interested in learning how to create a sound nutritional foundation? Check out Part II of this article “Seven Guidelines for a Sound Nutritional Foundation”Seven Guidelines for a Sound Nutritional Foundation
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