Fast and unhealthy weight loss is one of the most popular obsessions in our culture today.
The pressure we put on ourselves to drop pounds fast is not only bad for our hearts and minds, but it also takes a toll on our bodies. Raise your hand if you start sweating at the thought of how you’ll look at an upcoming school reunion, wedding, party or beach holiday.
Frankly, the lose-weight-quick promises on books and products are ridiculous and dangerous.
Let’s get one thing straight before moving on: You are amazing just the way you are. What I’m about to share is for those of you who want to lose weight in a healthy, balanced and realistic way.
When it comes to sustainable, long-term weight loss, slow and steady is the name of the game. The weight loss process can actually be a healing experience when you focus on your overall wellness and accept that it will take time to reach your goals.
We are going to explore & bust the misconceptions and myths around weight loss. We’ll look at two major mistakes people make when trying to lose weight, learn why changing the type of food you eat is the real solution and finish with the one thing you need to understand to make everything fall into place.
So, if you’re ready to approach weight loss with a self-loving, body-nurturing attitude, read on…
Mistake #1 Thinking that you will reach your ideal weight by sweating your butt off in the gym
Popular belief is that a lack of exercise & movement is driving the obesity epidemic. However, as a population, we are actually moving more than ever before. So why is this not making a difference?
If you are confused about whether diet or exercise is more important when trying to lose weight you are not alone. In a survey of people who were asked about this, 70% of respondents believed both diet and exercise were of equal importance when it comes to losing weight.
However, this belief is actually wrong.
This can be put into perspective when you consider how much effort is required to work off the extra food that we are consuming every day.
To exercise away the extra calories most people eat per day, it would require exercising for 130 minutes per day every day.
The average person finds it a struggle to exercise for 30 minutes three times a week.
There is no doubt that exercising is not only good but vital for our health. Having a good level of fitness brings many health benefits. But if you want to lose weight there’s a risk that it might actually be hampering your progress.
Before you think ‘this lady is losing it,' ask yourself if you have ever exercised like crazy but didn’t lose weight or you even put on weight?
Studies back up these claims and even show results that suggest exercise without dieting can cause weight gain. In one study, 81 overweight women were told to exercise but not change their diet for 12 weeks. At the end of the period, 70% of the participants gained weight and this was from fat and not muscle, while others did not lose any weight. Even though they improved their cardiovascular fitness, they did not lose weight.
Shocking right! Let's explore how this is possible.
- Most people calculate calorie intake and exercise output incorrectly, over-estimating the calories they have expended by as much as four times their calorie input. In one study, participants did not successfully compensate exercise for a number of calories consumed, eating 2-3 times more than they were able to output.
- Another factor to consider is how easy it is to intake calories and how hard it is to exert them. It takes minutes to eat a 500 calorie slice of pizza but hours to expend 500 calories.
- Also, when people exercise, for many, it causes them to feel hungry, and so they end up eating more, cancelling out the calories burned by exercising.
- There is also the psychological game that many of us play on ourselves where we feel deserving of a reward for working out. If that reward is an unhealthy 'treat,' then it too can reverse the weight loss benefits that come from exercising.
Don't get me wrong exercise will tone your body, it will make you feel younger, relieve aches and pains, it will boost your mood and your self-esteem, it will keep your heart strong, it will help you detox, it will give you energy, it will even build new brain cells and improve your memory but by itself it will not make you lose much weight.
Let’s be clear, losing weight is 80% diet, 20% exercise.
So if you are currently exercising with the sole aim of losing weight, you need to know that there is an effective way to exercise for weight loss. There are two critical factors to consider;
- The time of day you work out
- The muscle groups you use
The time of day you work out
If you want to lose weight the best time to exercise is in the morning before you eat anything, because that way you're burning the calories from the fat stored in your body rather than the calories you consumed during the day in your meals. By choosing to exercise after all of your meals, it will be difficult for you to tap into your body's fat reserves. This is because your body will always burn calories from sugar (from the food you ate today) first. When that resource is empty, then your body will start to burn fat.
The muscle groups you use
If you want to lose weight, you have to use the large muscle groups in your body. You will never lose weight from doing bicep curls. You'll build up muscle underneath the fat cells, but you'll never lose that fat. A lot of equipment in gyms only train small groups of muscles such as the abs or arms, but to lose weight you need to engage the large muscle groups, meaning the legs, the back, the glutes, etc. For this reason doing crunches to lose belly fat simply will not work.
Don't get me wrong; you're not off the hook when it comes to exercise.
If I have given you the impression that it's not important concerning weight loss that's because I want you to get results fast. I want to you to reach your ideal weight without struggling. I want you to experience a natural increase in energy.
I want you to want to move more.
If you’re already an avid exerciser that’s amazing, keep it up! But if you aren’t then attempting to implement a new exercise regime and change your eating habits may be overwhelming.
This is where eating the right kind of food trumps moving your body.
Exercise should really just be a complement to your weight loss efforts and not a substitute for eating right.
But don’t get this confused with ‘dieting’!
Mistake #2 Restricting your food intake (AKA ‘dieting’)
I say ‘dieting’ in the sense that food intake is being limited. The fact is, restrictive calorie-controlled diets simply don’t work. Your body has some amazing evolutionary tactics which are designed to keep us alive during long periods of food scarcity. This has been vital to the survival of the human race but not so useful in today's society where most people are overfed and undernourished.
Let’s look at the reasons why diets fail for most people:
Reason #1: Dieting Causes Weight Gain
Yep, it's true. People start a restrictive, calorie controlled diet with the intention of losing weight, and the result at the end for most people is that they end up being fatter than before they started, and the weight is even harder to lose on the next attempts.
The reason why this happens is due to the effect of weight cycling where calories are consumed inconsistently over periods of time. While calories are being restricted, the weight that is lost comes from both fat and muscle, but weight that is regained once the diet is over is almost all fat because muscles are harder to restore.
Not only is weight cycling frustrating when all you want to do is keep the fat off your body, but it is also harmful because the fat that is regained is abdominal and visceral fat which increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
So not only is a restrictive diet difficult to follow, but it is also even more dangerous when you are unsuccessful with keeping the weight off.
Reason #2: Dieting Messes with Your Hormones
There are several hormones which are involved in regulating fat storage in the body and removal from the body, namely insulin, and leptin.
Leptin is important for suppressing appetite. It is released by fatty tissue from the body when there are fat stores on the body, sending messages to the brain that it isn't necessary to eat as there is plenty of energy stored. However, people become resistant to leptin when it is always being released, which usually happens when you have been overweight for a period of time.
Leptin can remain problematic even after you start losing weight, as leptin levels can drop once weight starts to be released during a diet. This results in lowered thyroid activity and a lower basal metabolic rate. When this occurs, fewer calories are burned while resting.
Insulin can also be affected by cycles of weight loss and weight gain. When there is excess body fat, it acts as a barrier to correct insulin function, meaning that the insulin levels of the body increase more and more. High amounts of insulin in the body cause the body to hold onto fat.
Reason #3: Dieting changes your metabolism
If you have ever restricted your calorie intake, then you have activated a process in the body whereby the enzymes which promote weight loss cause the body to hold onto calories in the tissues. This happens so that the body can slow down the rate at which it burns the food you eat, triggered by scarcity of calories from the restrictive diet. These enzymes, once activated, prevent the loss of fat from the body, and will store any calories you consume as fat even after you go back to eating enough calories. Another amazing survival tactic! Albeit a frustrating one for dieters in today’s world!
Reason #4: Dieting causes insulin resistance
For people who have gained and lost weight many times, it is common to have higher fasting insulin levels, even if BMI is in the normal range for height. This causes the pancreas to work on overdrive to maintain balanced insulin levels which over time may cause diabetes if the overworked pancreas fails to keep up with the high insulin demand from the body.
Reason #5: Dieting is harmful to long-term and short-term health
If you are trying a high protein, severely restricted carbohydrate diet, you may be successful in losing weight by putting the body into a state of ketosis. Ketosis happens when the body lacks in glucose to act as fuel for the cells, brain, and tissues. Fat break-down releases ketones which replace the missing glucose in the body. While ketosis does mean the body is releasing fat, it comes at the price of a range of health problems:
- Increase acid in the bloodstream
- Calcium is leached from the bones
- Mineral deficiencies occur
- Electrolyte imbalances that can lead to kidney damage
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Increased levels of visceral fat
Why Thriving on Plants?
The key to losing weight is to keep it off by following a lifestyle rather than a short term restrictive diet. The changes you will implement in Thriving on Plants are not restrictive and are easily maintained because you will feel full and satisfied.
One of the biggest reasons we are faced with an obesity epidemic is due to the proliferation of fast foods and a society where it is totally acceptable to eat junk food, drink soda and consume fried foods and sugary sweets.
To be frank even the popular perception what constitutes a ‘healthy’ food is often wildly mistaken!
This mindset needs to change, so that instead of looking for a quick-fix solution, we start normalising the consumption of a range of colourful plant foods, where real food fills our plates and bowls, instead of foods that make us sick and overweight.
3 Reasons Why a Plant Based Diet May Be the Solution
People following plant based diets tend to weigh less. A whole food plant based diet naturally means you are eating food with a high nutritional density, which makes them satisfying and satiating, but which are low in calories. This is great for good health as well as weight loss.
This solution is not complex; it doesn't require calorie counting, drinking shakes or following the latest diet gimmick.
But before you start thinking that this is too good to be true, let’s look at why eating a whole food plant based diet works in helping us to lose weight and to keep it off.
1. Increased consumption of fibre
The first element that makes this method successful for people who follow it, is due to the growing consumption of dietary fibre that comes from eating plant foods. Fibre is a nutrient that is essential for good health. It contains little to no calories, but dilutes the caloric density in the foods we eat as it pulls water through the intestines.
It also helps to create the feeling of satiety and fullness that decreases appetite and stops us from consuming too many extra calories. Dietary fibre is found in abundance in plant based foods, especially fruits and vegetables, beans and whole grains.
2. Plant based whole foods contain fewer calories
The second factor that makes eating a whole food plant based diet so effective in managing weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight is due to eating fewer calories despite eating more food.
Fruits, vegetables, and grains are less energy dense than animal foods and refined oils so that each cupful of food eaten has fewer calories.
Even if you eat a lot of fruit, vegetables, and grains, you will be consuming fewer calories than if you ate other foods such as animal or processed foods.
Do not think for a second that I advocate calorie counting. 100 calories from, for example, refined white bread does not equal 100 calories from whole grain oat porridge.
Focus on quality, not quantity.
This point merely illustrates the difference of calories required to feel ‘full' on a plant based whole foods versus the amount required when consuming processed or calorie dense foods such as all animal and processed products.
The third and final secret ingredient to the success of this lifestyle is down to thermogenesis. This refers to our production of body heat during metabolism. Studies on vegetarians have found that they have a slightly higher resting metabolism, so vegetarians have an ability to burn more calories from the food they have eaten as body heat, rather than to hold onto the calories as body fat. Even though the amount of calories burned while resting are small when looking at an hour of time, when this accumulates over a 24-hour period, it amounts to a large number of extra calories being burned.
Combining a Whole Food Plant Based Diet with Exercise for Optimal Health
Thriving on Plants provides a solution that is entirely do-able and doesn't require restriction, starvation or limiting the amount of nourishment our body receives, making it not only sustainable but it will also support your long term health rather than damaging it like other popular diets do.
All you need to do is switch to a whole food plant based diet and introduce moderate daily exercise at a pace you are comfortable with.
This really is the straightforward key to sustained weight loss and reduced risk of acquiring disease.
And this is how you get the quick wins!
As you embark on following a whole food plant based diet, you will first notice your energy increasing and mood improving. As you begin to lose the pounds guess what happens then…….you actually want to move more!
Now you can use exercise as a complement to your weight loss, not as a substitution for eating well.
Remember that the adverse effects of a poor diet cannot be overridden by exercise.
Fortunately changing your diet, when you have the right information, can be pretty easy. With delicious, nutritious recipes your meals can be satisfying and filling.
The days of deprivation and despair to lose weight are behind us!
However, the key to making this switch successful is to focus on consuming plant based whole foods and to avoid plant based foods that have been overly processed such as refined carbohydrates or oils.
If you are already very physically active, don’t be concerned about how your performance will be affected by switching to a whole food plant based diet. Just look at how some of the world's top sporting athletes are doing on a plant based diet……..
- Scott Jurek, a seven-time winner of Western States (a 100-mile endurance race), follows a whole food plant based lifestyle.
- Michael Wardian, who ran 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents -- maintained a whole food plant based lifestyle the whole time.
A few notable Olympic athletes who follow a whole food plant based diet:
- Venus & Serena Williams -- no intro needed here!
- Carl Lewis (Track & Field) -- 10 Olympic medals
- Murray Rose (Swimming) -- 6 Olympic medals
- Martina Navratilova (Tennis) -- #1 player in the world for 322 weeks
- Bode Miller (Downhill Skiing) -- 6 Olympic medals
And if that isn’t enough...
- Heather Mills -- holder of 5 world records in winter sports
- Novak Djokovic -- world #2 professional tennis player
- Fiona Oakes -- Marathon & ultra-distance runner
- David Haye -- UK heavyweight boxer
- Patrik Baboumian -- Germany's strongest man in 2011
- Nate Diaz -- professional mixed martial artist
The ONE Thing You Need to Know If You Want to Lose Weight
I want to finish this article by imparting a piece of knowledge that will make everything you have just read make sense.
Have you ever thought about how you actually lose weight? I mean how does weight actually leave your body?
Most people think that you must sweat it out through your skin. Yes, you can, but that requires a lot of work with a whole lot of toxicity coming out through your skin.
In fact, it's a lot easier to lose this extra weight and toxicity by putting it into the loo! 'Is she talking about poo?' I hear you cry. Yes, I am!
Your bowls are your bodies main channel of elimination and the standard western diet, full of difficult to digest food has yours all clogged up, causing you to hold onto toxicity and extra weight.
One of the first things you'll notice after switching to plant based whole foods is a change in your bowel movements. You'll learn to really appreciate this stroke of Mother Nature genius, when you literally feel the pounds shifting every time you go to the loo!
Your turn: I want to hear about what you're struggling with when it comes to your weight loss and making lasting change. Comment below with your insights and tips.
Peace & patient pounds,