Dear Journal, this year, I will weigh (plug in your goal weight range) and maintain it for good.
Does that sound familiar each January, but becomes hard to achieve around mid-February?
I hear you, I was you, and I’ve spent the last five years as a health and weight loss coach helping many who struggle with the same thing. I'm here to let you in on a little secret. Weight loss is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Pardon the pun.
Statements people can say like, "Why can't you just put your fork down, eat less, move more,” are unhelpful. It's never that simple. The sooner we realize that, the better off we’ll all be.
You can change your life once you have the tools. You are all you need. Coaches are mere facilitators and can be extremely valuable, but ultimately, you call the shots. You choose how your life will look.
There’s not one weight-loss solution that’s best for everyone. I'm here to let you know what has and hasn't worked for my clients and me — I’ve lost 15 pounds and have kept it off despite hormonal imbalances.
This is what’s worked for me:
Intuitive eating and mindfulness
Habits that stick
Since many factors affect weight loss, I’ll start with how biological factors such as hormones, gender, and age, may impact your weight.
Why Women Can Struggle With Weight Loss (Hint: Hormones!)
You've seen it before; you can't shed the weight you want, but your guy friend loses it without really trying. Research shows that women are more likely to struggle with obesity than men and seek behavioral, pharmacological, and bariatric surgery treatments more often.
I’ve seen it so many times. Women are more likely to seek weight loss guidance or treatments, and they have a harder time losing weight. This can be due to hormonal changes throughout their lives. Menopause is a high-risk stage for weight gain, for example.
Women who suffer from hormonal imbalances at an earlier age or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) also have an increased risk of weight gain. About half of women with PCOS are overweight or obese, and 50–70% of them are insulin resistant. Hormonal imbalances may also contribute to leptin resistance. Leptin is a hunger hormone that signals to your brain that you’ve had enough to eat.
Animal research conducted on rats shows that reduced leptin sensitivity may cause excessive weight gain and obesity when leptin-resistant rats ate a high-fat, high-sugar diet even if they didn’t eat more calories than the rats in the control group.
I’ve suffered from hormonal imbalances and weight gain for years, most of my teenage years to my mid-twenties, and there is no clear-cut answer for everyone. I can tell you what I’ve seen for the women I’ve coached, and what’s worked for me. Weight always came on easily for me growing up. Since I’ve implemented certain habits, I’ve lost 15 pounds and kept them off for several years.
For me, acupuncture was a life-changing experience that worked wonders at regulating my hormones. The ancient Chinese practice helped me start taking charge of my weight. It was a combined effort of diet, movement, and mindset, but I believe the balance of everything was paramount.
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a complementary treatment that originated in China, where acupressure points stimulate the central nervous system and release chemicals into the brain, muscles, and spinal cord that may promote the body’s natural healing capabilities.
Acupuncture can be helpful for many ailments, and it’s different for everyone. Because I needed natural hormonal balance, I went once, sometimes twice, a week for 30 minutes to an hour for one year. My acupuncturist also recommended an herbal formula for hormone balance along with the treatment. Most acupuncturists will recommend herbs to compliment a treatment if there’s a specific issue in the body. You can visit The American Society of Acupuncturists to find an acupuncturist near you, and many community acupuncture spaces are available at a lower cost.
This practice can help to regulate hormone production, which I believe was the first step in my weight loss. Acupuncture is not something I require any longer, which is why I know it was just the first step. While acupuncture can assist weight loss just like medications, it’s not a long-term solution alone. For me, it was a matter of regulating my hormones up front. Many other habits as well as mindfulness, movement, and nutrition were essential to keep my weight off long-term.
Strict diets tripped me up and left me more depleted in vital nutrients than I'd ever been. But finding a balance between food and lifestyle through many tactics we'll discuss today was fundamental.
Finding Balance With Food
Mindfulness plays a role in weight loss due to its powerful effect on daily habits and life-long progress. I’ve seen many people have great success with mindful eating. A great example is rethinking where you eat. Do you eat more in front of the TV or at the table? Are you eating too fast? Are you eating nutrient-dense foods at each meal?
Intuitive eating can also be helpful if you are often yo-yo dieting. Practicing intuitive eating can have significant positive effects on unhealthy weight control behaviors and binge eating.
Intuitive eating is a lifestyle decision as opposed to a diet. It has allowed my clients to listen to their bodies by tuning into what they crave. Is it a little movement? Vitamin J (Joy)? Diving into what is missing from your overall health can make the difference between losing weight and keeping it off after. There are a few principles to intuitive eating that can be helpful to start. Some intuitive eating principles include:
Ditch strict diets
Honor your hunger
Address your emotional health and feelings without using food
Respect your body
Recognize societal influences around food
Learning the difference between hunger and many other emotions or needs is another example of eating mindfully or intuitively. Those emotions or needs could be boredom, sadness, anger, or even quenching your thirst before eating. When you do eat, stay mindful that it takes about 20 minutes after eating for the brain to signal satisfaction.
Another important area is movement. Although moving more is far from the only answer, exercise is necessary to manage weight and stay healthy overall.
Finding Joy in Exercise
Many of my clients get turned off from going to the gym or doing everything on their own, and the good news is, you don’t have to.
Health coaches and trainers can be helpful resources to help you determine what exercise brings you the most joy so you can maintain consistency and motivation.
Most of my clients have benefited from adding a little Vitamin Joy. What did you enjoy doing as a kid to move? Maybe it was climbing the monkey bars on the playground. Perhaps your trainer can help you master pull-ups in a new way. Maybe you loved to dance as a kid, and a new Zumba class is on the horizon.
I worked with one client, Emily, who had no motivation to move because she didn't know what activity to choose or how to enjoy it. I asked her, what brings you joy or decreases your stress levels? She said visiting the lake near her house and taking pictures. Then I asked if there was any physical activity that she thought might bring her joy in that location. She responded that walking may be the best thing for her right now.
The good news is that all movement counts! Perhaps Emily starts with walks, then after a few weeks, takes hand weights with her to reap the benefits of aerobic and strength training for weight loss. Once you find joy in movement, you’re almost there. Support via trainers and coaches can be invaluable to get you started and provide the accountability to stay on track.
Adopting Weight Loss Habits
There are many habits you can try out to see what resonates the most with you, but here are a few that have worked well for me and my clients:
Drink a glass of water when you start to feel hungry and before a meal. Many times hunger can creep up when you are, in fact, thirsty instead.
Stick to the rule of three at each meal. That means including a healthy protein, fiber, and fat at every meal. Example: Grilled salmon with asparagus and olive oil.
Stand up every few hours while working. The good news is, any movement counts. You could do 20 air squats, climb a few flights of stairs, or take a five-minute dance break. Feel free to get creative here!
Schedule time in your calendar for joyful movement. You could schedule a day out with your best friend to walk in the park or try a new hike. Broadening your activity horizons beyond the usual sedentary ways we socialize, like at the movies and happy hour, can help expand your mind and shed weight.
Honor your sleep schedule. Quality sleep is an essential way to make sure your body is functioning at its best. Maybe you try to wear a fitness tracker to monitor your sleep or get into a wind-down routine to catch some more zzz’s.
Practice mindfulness. The more you unplug from your everyday routine, the better your chances will be not only to lose weight but also to keep it off. Chronic stress can contribute to elevated cortisol levels and weight gain.
There are so many factors involved in losing weight. If you’re having any trouble implementing these weight loss habits, you’re not alone. See what can help you implement these habits.
Reexamining your choices and habits takes time, commitment, and brutal honesty. I didn’t want to do that for a long time, but I know if I had a coach in those times of uncertainty, my success would have skyrocketed.
One-on-one coaching for weight loss provides you with support, accountability, and perspective — often things you don’t get consistently from friends, workout buddies, or yourself. Coach trainers at Kickoff are a great example of how you can take an honest look at your habits and change them for the long haul. Staying motivated is a life-long process. Whenever I coach a client or even talk to myself about my goals, I refocus on the why. Knowing and understanding your motives is a crucial element to keeping your weight-loss goals top of mind. It can also be so helpful to reexamine your why every few months or whenever it feels necessary for you. Your why can change, and there is nothing wrong with that. Changing your why means you’re evolving, and your continued evolution is half the battle to weight loss.
There are a few vital questions I make sure my clients say yes to before we complete our time together to make sure they feel good. Are you now well-rested most nights, getting between seven to nine hours of sleep? Do you feel good about your food intake most days? Does movement bring you joy instead of frustrating you most of the time? Do you feel you can manage your stress with healthy coping mechanisms beyond eating?
A Quick Word About Weight Loss Medications
Everybody wants a silver-bullet weight loss pill. Some research has shown promising results for new weight loss medications, and even some celebrities allegedly lost weight using Ozempic.
I used to work for a company that offers weight loss medication as part of their program. It gave me many insights. There are many medications used for weight loss, including Phentermine, Metformin, Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1s), and more. Phentermine is solely an appetite suppressant, and while I haven’t worked with anyone taking it, many of my clients had tried it in the past and were looking for other solutions. It didn’t work for them because, after they got off it, their appetite came right back.
Often, GLP-1s are used in combination with Metformin as a booster, but not always. I’ve seen many people benefit from using GLP-1s to lose weight, and there is a ton of research to support the claims.
But, the only people I’ve seen keep it off after taking the medication are those who are committed to their overall health and well-being in several categories. That means: they reexamined their sleep, emotional behaviors, daily habits, exercise routines, and diet. And, they committed to their coaching sessions. In my experience as a coach, treating any one method of weight loss as the sole solution can lead to regaining the weight lost.
The long and short of it: Weight loss medications may help some lose weight initially, but maintaining the weight lost requires healthy nutrition, joyful exercise, and habits that optimize your health.
The Bottom Line
The most important thing I tell my clients is to find what works for their unique bodies and minds. No one person is the same in what they need to be well. One reminder I tell myself daily is to listen to what feels best for my body on any given day. Life is ever-changing, and so are you.