Approximately 70 million Americans are overweight.
Thirty five to forty percent of our country is obese, according to the Center for Disease Control. Not just overweight, but obese. The vast majority of these people have been on a variety of diets and regimens, often with some initial success.
Unfortunately, the good results are usually temporary, and dieters typically end up weighing more after going off the diet than they did prior to starting. This cycle can continue through life, which leaves many people feeling disempowered, cynical, and depressed about their ability to maintain an optimal weight. In my practice, I have helped many people lose weight and keep it off. This is because I educate my patients that they are NEVER to diet again. Instead, what they need to do is find a healthy way to eat that truly works for them and then stick with it as long as they live.
The problem with dieting is that we think it’s OK to revert to the way we were eating after the diet is over.
Dieting implies that for a short period of time we will use will power to shed weight, and then return to more or less the same eating patterns once the diet is finished. At the end of the diet we usually say, ‘phew, I’m glad that’s over!’ This method of weight management is doomed to fail. Will power is undependable, and we can easily be derailed by stress, fatigue, holidays, etc. Sustained deprivation is just not sustainable. To make it even worse, when undergoing a diet that restricts calories, the metabolism slows down to compensate, and we end up getting nowhere.
I also tell my patients that there simply is no magic bullet for losing weight.
There is no pill that will effortlessly make the weight melt off. Having a healthy body takes some work; there is no way around that. The key is to have a healthy relationship with ourselves so we can make changes that are not based on will power. We have to learn how to enjoy taking care of ourselves. We have to find the balance between immediate gratification and harsh discipline.
This means that we are proactive about our health; we aren’t using food to beat ourselves up or to take away the pain in our lives. Instead, our food choices reflect a very strong commitment that we have made to ourselves to heal our bodies and minds with nutrition. Every one of us is entitled to this relationship with food and it is definitely possible. We can actually enjoy the hard work it takes to live well.
The truth is that we will never have the body we want until we are educated about making the right choices with food, healing the underlying emotional imbalances that make us crave unhealthy foods, and generally make a commitment to achieving optimal health.
Let’s take a look at each of these in closer detail:
Making the right choices with food:
This means becoming informed about nutrition. There has to be a basic understanding of the effects of various foods on our health if we are to use food as medicine. (And that is what we are getting at, using food to heal ourselves rather than as poison). Our knowledge of food must go beyond, ‘eat your fruits and vegetables.’ Here are a few basic guidelines for getting your on track with your food choices.
This advice is simple to follow and will drastically change your food choices:
- Eat organic foods– If you aren’t already doing so, start shopping at your local health food store for the majority of your daily meals. Yes, it is a bit more expensive, but you have to look at this as an investment in your health. 95% of the foods that you buy over the counter at regular grocery stores have no nutritional value whatsoever. Instead, many conventional foods are pumped with additives, refined sugar, herbicides and pesticides, genetically modified ingredients, transfats, and hormones. Do you really want these kinds of things in your body?
- Eat whole foods– Eat foods in their natural state, in season, as our ancestors did. Meat, eggs, vegetables, healthy fats, some nuts, possibly some low sugar fruits and berries, small amounts of grains and dairy (if tolerated). In a nutshell, prioritize protein and healthy fats, eat them till satiated, add in some greens and berries, and you’ll lose weight.
- Reduce your intake of refined sugar and carbohydrates–– These are the foods that will make the weight pile on. Muffins, pasta, cereal, white rice, candy, soda, bread, bagels, etc. are the culprits in weight gain and water retention.
- Drink 6-9 glasses of water daily– Hunger pangs are often a sign of dehydration. Reach for water before you reach for food. Sparkling water with lemon or lime can be very satisfying.
- Consider eating within a window of time. Eating within an 8 hour window, for example between 11 am and 7 pm, greatly increases insulin sensitivity and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Healing Our Emotions and Food Cravings:
Food is definitely a drug for many of us. To make it worse, it is a socially accepted drug, which means that it seems OK because everyone around us is indulging, so why shouldn’t we? We are surrounded by images of food all around us. The marketing gurus for major food corporations are masters at making us feel deprived if we don’t indulge our desires for immediate gratification.
Many of us are overweight because we use food to fill an emotional void.
Our deeper needs in life are not being satisfied and we don’t know how to nourish ourselves appropriately. Healing our relationship with food is often dependent upon our ability to satisfy ourselves in our work and play. When we are engaged with our lives and know how to handle the various stresses that come with adult responsibilities, then we will not turn to food compulsively. We will discuss how to go about healing ourselves in these ways in a bit.
I strongly recommend using EFT to address the emotional issues and cravings that interfere with realizing our highest potential, and use it with great success with many of my patients.
Making a Commitment to Enjoying Optimal Health:
Most of us are conditioned into believing that other things in life are more of a priority than our health and happiness. We only make our health a priority when we experience symptoms that alert us to the fact that something is wrong. Committing to optimal health means that our health becomes one of the top priorities in our lives right NOW, even if we feel fine. This means taking the time to eat nutritious foods, exercise, and keep stress at bay with techniques such as meditation or yoga. When we make this commitment and truly live by it, our weight will naturally be more balanced. This commitment is can only be genuine if we deeply respect and value ourselves.
An often over-looked aspect to optimal health is that it can be fun. It’s certainly way more enjoyable to be healthy than ill, and getting healthy can be fun. Experiment. Be curious. Be playful. Look at your life with “Beginner’s Mind”. Achieving optimal health and a balanced weight doesn’t need to be a burden.
Try different forms of exercise until you find something you really like. This doesn’t mean that it will be easy, but it certainly can be enjoyable. If we don’t have a basic enjoyment for exercise, then the only way to get through it is by using will power, which will run out sooner or later. Many people find that exercising in community is much better for them than exercising alone. I prefer pickle ball, running (high intensity interval training), walking, resistance training (using my x3 bar), and stretching/yoga. You’ll find what suits you if you look for it.
Herbs and Supplements
Like I said, there are no magic bullets for weight loss. However, since weight gain can be associated with high cortisol levels (due to prolonged stress), it can be useful to take natural products that help reduce stress levels. Obesity is also usually accompanied with chronic inflammation and other health issues, and herbal formulas can help the body heal.
There are also many acupuncture points and protocols that reduce cravings, stimulate metabolism, reduce water retention, and optimize digestion.
I typically recommend to my patients that they make it a goal to lose 1-3 pounds per week as they transition to a whole foods diet, increased exercise, and the combination of acupuncture, herbs, and supplements. This may not seem like a lot compared to crash dieting, but it certainly is a more balanced approach. It may take 1-2 years to lose all the weight you’d like, but the odds are that you will keep it off if you do it in a gradual and sustainable way. My goal is to give you the tools to lose weight so you can use them forever. This is not a diet; it is living and being healthy forever.
Call 360.943.0306 to set up your first appointment today!
Jim Stegenga, L.Ac.
Serving Olympia, Lacey, and Tumwater, and the South Puget Sound