Weight is often a part of my routine consultations.
I find that very quickly the focus becomes a number on the weighing scale, even though there are SO many other areas that can be looked at when supporting healthy weight.
Firstly, it is very important that I highlight that this blog is not about focusing on weight loss, but more about feeling well with whatever weight you are. I used to say to my patients ‘eat healthy and do more exercise’. Now three years on, with my training in Lifestyle Medicine as well as nutrition, I am able to break the advice down to what matters to the patient and what can be changed easily.
So some of the things I focus on include-
Listen to your body– How are you feeling? What are the energy levels? How is your mood? When you are hungry – what is the trigger- is it actual hunger or is it boredom, anger or stress. Reflecting on these areas can give you an idea of what is going on and then one can choose steps to address this. For example, if you know you eat out every weekend and then feel sluggish on a Monday morning, maybe that is an area that can be changed. Instead of going out every weekend, you could decide on a party at home and enjoy some homemade food.
What’s happening as a family? I often see plans fail when individual members of the family are following different health plans. If possible including everyone together can result in huge benefits. Meals can be simpler if cooked and enjoyed together, movement can be more fun if you do it with someone and even relaxing with shared laughter, emotions and goals can mean more for health than one is aware of.
Look at your environment- Look at the areas you mostly spend time in and see what you are surrounded with. For example, at home, if there is constant noise from various gadgets or people coming and going, there can be lack of down time. Or look at the kitchen counter and table top. If there is processed food all around you, it is going to be very hard to stick to eating healthy. I am a great a believer in making my environment work for me. I have arranged my kitchen where there are mostly healthy options to choose from, so in moments of stress or lack of time I easily reach out for an apple instead of a chocolate bar.
What about processed food? There is serious lack of understanding about processed food. I often ask my patients and they say ‘I eat very healthy’ however on looking with a closer focus their diet is mostly full of pasta, cereals and bread. While these can be options sometimes, they are highly processed with lots of chemicals and refined carbohydrates, both of which are not good for health. If there is one tip which can make a huge difference to health- it is this one! An area I have started spending some time on in mostly every consultation I do. You can cut out high levels of sugar, salt as well as toxins by just looking at this area.
Look at Hydration-It is something we are all aware of however mostly struggle with. I used to be one of them till few years ago. Hydration is an important pillar which supports the body to get rid of the toxins through stool and urine and plays a major role in overall health including helping with our satiety levels. Sometimes we reach out for food when we are actually needing more water. Try having a glass of water next time you are hungry and it’s not a meal time. It might help staying away from a snack a little longer.
De-stressing If I had to pick one thing which is leading to our poor choices and health, it would be this one. We have forgotten how to slow down, how to just be and the stress levels and demands of day to day living are higher than I have ever known. But the saddest part is that people are unaware of the impact of stress on health. Just look at how ‘in control’ you feel with the day? Could you plan better? Are you doing too much and feeling frazzled? Are you committing to more than you can do? Are you engaging in activities which you enjoy? Zooming out and thinking about this can help. Maybe taking a step back and choosing to add more time where you are able to relax, unwind and not worry about the next deadline can reduce the cortisol levels and support healthy weight.
Sleep- Sleep in becoming a thing which people take for granted. However, it is so deeply linked with how our hormones function in keeping our weight healthy. If we are not sleeping enough, our hunger hormones and stress hormones both are triggered. It leads to the constant need to reach out for ‘something else’ to give us a boost. Whether it is processed snacks, extra coffee or a glass of wine – it all adds up in the long run.
Movement-. Going to the gym is not the only method of movement. Start with just moving more than you currently do. This could be a dance in the kitchen while cooking, or going for a walk for 10 minutes round the block and if that is too much, how about just doing calf raised while watching TV just for 5-10 minutes. The aim is to not being sedentary, especially after a meal. Even to my elderly patients, I say to move around the house for ten minutes after their meals. It can be uplifting for the mood, help with blood sugar spikes and keep the muscles stronger.
Community- People around us can be a big influence on choices we are making. Finding your tribe and feeling inspired by them can prove to be very useful when making health changes. I often find that plans or goals are met more easily when it is shared with friends or family. A young patient of mine comes to mind, as she has improved her health with little steps she focused on over 6-8 weeks. The main reason she has been able to do this is that the whole family changed their plans to support her. The beauty is that now even her mother feels more energetic and the ripple effect has just started.
Reflecting on some of the things I have shared above can be a stepping stone to better weight management. None of them involve calorie counting, sticking to specific diets or checking your weight on the scales. What I have seen is, that when people are able to focus on one thing and they feel better-whether it’s a positive mood or a little more energy- it helps them choose the next step, and the next.
The ripple effect leads to better health, well-being and mostly healthier weight.