This essay was published on Finews.com. Please find the links to the language versions and the English text below.
Many of us believe we could shed our extra pounds if only we managed more discipline with diet and exercise. Health coach Patricia Ordody offers a different view to take into 2021, in an essay for finews.com.
January is rife for diet schemes and exercise programs – this year perhaps even more so due to the unusual circumstances. There are a host of reasons why, no matter how hard you try, your efforts aren’t leading to the desired results. Here are some different ideas to consider for the new year:
1. Are You Eating Enough? Our body is incredibly intelligent and complex. It protects us by constantly regulating its many processes in order to maintain homeostasis. So when you cut calories significantly, your metabolic rate decreases to burn fewer calories – otherwise you do not have sufficient energy for all life-sustaining processes to be carried out.
Your body will also cling to whatever you feed it and most certainly not let go of anything you wish it would – like excess weight – to protect you from “perceived famine.” Last but not least, without sufficient nutrition, your body will start breaking down muscle tissue, which only further decreases your metabolism. I don’t have to mention the fact that the constant calorie-counting and restriction leads to negative emotions, lower motivation, less happiness and more stress. 2. Too Much Exercise Stress in whichever form – social, emotional, professional, environmental, and even the stress you put on yourself from following a diet and exercising every day – will mess with each and every one of our bodily functions, if not brought under control. Long-term stress will disrupt the body’s ability to regulate itself. Under stress, it will focus on what it needs to do when threatened – things like digestion and metabolism will not be the priority, sabotaging your desired weight loss.
You may feel running 10 km per day or doubling up on a high-intensity workout are what you need to lose weight, yet they may actually be part of the root cause. Sometimes we subconsciously, or knowingly, use exercise as an excuse to eat or drink more than usual. Also, if basic cortisol levels are elevated due to stress, vigorous exercise will increase these levels further. The body will not break down fat in the presence of steady elevated cortisol. 3. Ingesting the Wrong Things We all have unique food and lifestyle needs. Habits, activity level, state of health, personal preferences, geographic area, age, body type, culture, season, stress level and sleep, all play a role in what nutrients we require on a daily basis. Diets are theories that do not take these crucial elements into account. While general nutritional guidelines, such as the Swiss Food Pyramid, set the foundation, we need to learn when how much of which foods works for us personally and to respect our “bio-individuality.”
4. Too Much Food Focus We are what we eat: food and drink forms our blood, hair, tissue, cells, and nails, as well as our thoughts and emotions. But we consume more than just liquids and solids: lifestyle factors are our primary food. We are nourished by relationships, physical activity, our environment, career and everything else we see, hear, feel, breath, and interact with.
When our lives are in balance, we generally do not feel a need to compensate through food. It becomes a secondary source of nourishment. Most of us have learned to attach emotion to what we eat: ice cream when sad, a burger to celebrate a tennis match, a fine bottle of red wine to unwind from a stressful day. 5. Calories In Is Not Calories Out You cannot balance out calories just by expending more than you take in. Two-hundred calories of a Snickers bar will lead to different biochemical reactions in your body than 200 calories of broccoli, lean meat, or quinoa. Our bodies are complex and intelligent, with many factors to find the optimal nutrition, physical activity and balance for you.
You also cannot out-run a bad diet with nutritional supplements and protein bars, and not every supplement helps. Quality, quantity, and most importantly a healthy nutritional foundation are instrumental. There are of course countless other reasons, including sleep quantity and quality, medical conditions, medications, hormones, food intolerances, and many more that need to be considered, which is why a holistic view on health and weight management is indispensable.
Some tips to set yourself up for success in 2021:
Drink 2 liters of water per day (just water, or with a bit of natural lemon flavor; no Coke Zero or any other artificially sweetened beverage)
Walk whenever, wherever you can: Combine it with a phone call to a friend or check off your to-do list (pharmacy, grocery store, etc.)
If you want to start exercising, aim low: Plan ten to 15 minutes, three times per week. Most likely you will do more, but starting is the hardest part. Even if you only do ten minutes, you want to set yourself up for success in order to maintain a habit.
Try not to focus on what you cannot have but simply focus on adding in healthy foods. This means a salad before the piece of cake and a glass of water before the hot chocolate. Telling yourself not to have something, will only make you want it more.
Get support: By age 40, we have consumed around 40,000 meals: These habits can’t just be undone overnight.
Be clear on why you want to get healthier: to enjoy playing with your kids more, to fit into a particular pair of pants, to perform better at work, or to get a second date. We do not change based on what we know; instead, we change based on how it makes us feel.