I think it's safe to say that January is traditionally a time of year when people are ready for a change or re-vamp in their diet and lifestyle routines. December is often full of parties, gatherings and lots of food! Exercise programs may fall to the side as we become busier, food choices may fall away from our healthier routines, and alcohol consumption may also increase. The holidays can also be a tough time of year for people that are grieving the loss of a loved one or caring for an ailing loved one. The holidays can also be a lonely time, especially for those that are away from home, are isolated, or are experiencing other personal hardships. Stress-eating is a common vice for “feeding” those feelings of emptiness. Whatever your reasons are for wanting to lose a few (or a lot of) pounds, one of the most successful ways to achieve your goals is to work with a health coach, such as a Naturopathic Doctor (an ND). Working with an ND to achieve your weight loss goals is beneficial for a number of reasons: 1. Maintain accountability for your actions; 2. Provide support – answer questions, set new goals, chart your progress; 3. Recommend specialized diagnostic testing applicable to weight loss; 4. Recommend supportive and safe therapies, complimentary to diet and lifestyle changes. When you consult with an ND for your weight loss goals a full work-up can be done to see where the issues lie in your challenges with losing weight. Some tools your ND may use: detailed health journaling, physical examination, comprehensive blood work (either reviewing copies from your medical doctor or ordering new blood work), food intolerance testing, and salivary or urine steroid hormone testing. Some extended health care plans will cover the cost of tests ordered by an ND (check your plan for details.) The initial consultation is typically 90-minutes – this appointment (or the first follow up appointment) may result in your own personalized health plan. At the conclusion of the initial consultation, you may be referred for further diagnostic testing. Follow up appointments are an opportunity to review your test results, check-in and chart progress, or discuss a change in your treatment plan. Follow up appointments can be as short as 15-minutes, up to weekly if that is required. These consults can be done in the clinic or by phone.
Here are my Top 10 Tips for Weight Loss
1. Get supports in place. Let your close family and friends know that you are looking to start a new health program. Find a health care provider (such as an ND) that can support you through your program.
2. Drink enough water. Aim for a baseline of half your body weight (in pounds) is the number of ounce of water you should drink per day, between meals. This formula works to a maximum of 250 lbs of body weight. Drink more water if you exercise, sweat, or plan to consume alcohol.
3. Get enough sleep and rest. Lack of sleep tells the body it is in a stress-state, making it more difficult to lose weight. If you have trouble sleeping (insomnia, waking, night sweats) be sure to work on this before expecting your body to shed pounds easily.
4. Eat 3 meals daily and avoid snacking especially in the evening. Most people do best with eating a hearty breakfast, a moderate-to-hearty lunch, and a moderate-to-light supper.
5. Consider intermittent fasting. Although not suited for every person, intermittent fasting can be an excellent practice to take weight off. A beginner's approach may plan on fasting from 6pm-8am (14 hours).
6. Meal Planning. I repeatedly say this to all my patients, PLAN YOUR MEALS, especially for the work week. With a plan in hand, it will save on time spent in the kitchen (especially after work during the week) and will potentially prevent food waste (and save you money!) Choose a day during the week to prepare lunch and supper for at least 4-5 days.
7. Balance hormones. Women commonly experience trouble losing weight at certain times in their life, most notably postpartum and in their menopausal years. Furthermore, those struggling with a thyroid condition or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may also find it challenging to lose weight. Diagnostic testing recommended by a medical doctor or naturopathic doctor can help reach a diagnosis. With a better understanding of your personal hormone picture, naturopathic doctors can treat any imbalance using a combination of diet changes, supplements and herbs.
8. The right diet for you. No one way of eating is right for every person! The trick is to find an approach that gives you results, but also is adaptable to your lifestyle. No one said this would be easy, so expect a bit of a learning curve if you are trying a new approach and new recipes. Three diet approaches I see that bring about weight loss fairly consistently would be the elimination diet (removal of “reactive” or intolerant foods – this can be determined through a blood test or through removal/reintroduction); the Paleo Diet (removal of grains, legumes, dairy, and processed sugar from the diet); and “The Plan” (a book written by Lyn-Genet Recitas, which uses a version of an elimination diet). I'm a HUGE fan of “The Plan” and have seen it produce results for myself, my husband and my patients.
9. The right exercise for you. Similar to the food you eat, not all forms of exercise are ideal for each person. Some of my patients that join boot camps or join the gym, find that after weeks of training that they have hardly lost any weight or may have in fact gained weight! If you find the scale not budging with your current exercise routine, then you may be doing too much for your body. Stress and inflammation are notorious for preventing weight loss! For beginners, look to walking, swimming, yoga, lifting light weights, elliptical, cycling or other low-impact forms of exercise. Start off with just 15-minutes every 2-3 days, gradually increasing the length and intensity. You can also look for guidance on this topic by checking out the book “The Metabolism Plan” by Lyn-Genet Recitas – her follow up to “The Plan”, which provides additional information on lifestyle factors that affect weight loss, such as exercise.
10. Supplements tailored to your needs. While taking supplements isn't necessary to lose weight, they can be used as a tool to address deficiencies, improve energy, improve sleep quality, improve digestive function, control cravings, and address hormone imbalances. When the body is functioning better and energy is improved, there is more motivation to keep at a healthy lifestyle. But buyer beware! There are many weight loss products that claim to increase weight loss, while much of the time they are either just laxatives or stimulants...and these qualities do not necessarily set you up for weight loss success in the long run. It is important to maintain perspective when looking to lose weight. A slow, steady weight loss is better overall than a short-term crash diet. Make small, achievable goals, that focus more on creating new healthy habits which you can continue in the long run. And of course, let me know if I can help you!