Summer is the time of year in Montana when many of us start shedding layers of clothes and realize we’ve put on a few pounds during the colder months. Let’s face it, losing weight is a complex issue and I am not going to pretend there’s an easy solution.
There are no magic pills or quick-fix weight loss programs that will bring you lasting results. Neither is there a specific diet or exercise routine that will work for everyone. In spite of what we’ve been told for many years, losing weight is not just a matter of eating less and exercising more!
For example, my client Cheryl,* a woman in her forties, was conscientious about restricting calories and exercised an hour a day. Yet for the past few years she consistently gained weight no matter how little she ate or how much she exercised. Sound familiar? To make matters worse, not only was she gaining weight but she was losing muscle mass.
The main problem with Cheryl’s approach (which is fairly common with many people who have tried numerous fad diets) is that in an attempt to lose weight, she was starving her body of essential nutrients. Thus, her body flipped into survival mode, significantly slowing down her metabolism, throwing off her hormone balance, and causing her to feel tired most of the time and unable to sleep. In addition, increasing the duration and intensity of her exercise was actually causing her to burn muscle rather than fat.
Fortunately, when I met Cheryl she was open to a new way of thinking and was willing to try a different approach. We were able to work together to develop a food and exercise plan that fit her food preferences and metabolic type, as well as her lifestyle.
The nutrition emphasis in her case was to make sure she was getting all the essential nutrients her body needed, including moderate lean protein and healthy fats, such as those found in salmon, avocadoes, and nuts. In addition, she was willing to minimize her intake of sugar and starchy carbohydrates for a few weeks in order to normalize blood sugar levels and raise her metabolism. We also reduced her exercise to a more moderate level--a range of intensity and duration in which her body would burn fat rather than muscle.
It was definitely a paradigm shift for her to start eating healthy plant-based fats and not to count calories. But she did so--and magically the inches started to drop off. Within a few weeks, people she saw on a regular basis started noticing that she was getting thinner. Yes, she was losing weight, but more importantly she was losing fat, not muscle. In addition, she was sleeping better and regained energy and a healthy appetite.
*Client's name was changed to protect her privacy.
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