Throw away the scales! Nutritional biochemist Dr Libby Weaver shares her top three, most effective weight loss strategies that often get lost amongst the ‘dieting hype’.
In my 20 years of clinical practice, I’ve never weighed a client.
Body weight (or BMI) isn’t the best indication of an individual’s health, and so I don’t focus on it, knowing that weight shifts (if it is healthy for it to do so) when health is in order. Plus, for so many people—women in particular—aiming for some arbitrary number on the scales doesn’t inspire them to take great care of themselves. Instead, they judge themselves harshly for not being that number already and the judgement usually fosters lousy food choices. Not to mention that focusing on this can lead to a poor relationship with food and their body.
That said, I do understand that many women have ongoing challenges with body fat they can’t seem to shift—no matter how they move or what they seem to eat. So while I encourage you not to focus on your weight, below are some sustainable strategies that can help you to improve your health—which is ultimately what will help your body find its most comfortable weight and allow you to get to the heart of your struggles.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.
#1. Stop dieting and start nourishing
The dieting mentality teaches us that we have to lose weight to be healthy but I’ve always maintained that it’s the other way around—we will begin to lose any excess body weight when our body is healthy. Health starts with nourishment. Our trillions of cells need nutrients in order to thrive and for far too many people, nourishment isn’t their focus.
When we are focused on restricting our calories or following a specific way of eating (such as low carb, keto, vegan or even an intermittent fasting way of eating), we tend to restrict our opportunities for nourishment by either cutting out (or down on) certain foods/nutrients or skipping meals.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to eat in a way that works for your body and if following a particular way of eating works for you, by all means continue it—just make sure you’re consuming mostly nutrient-dense, whole real foods, including plenty of plants. If you are omitting certain foods, be sure to include alternatives (or consider if supplementation is necessary) to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.
The thing is, in the long-term, diets tend not to be sustainable so many people find themselves reverting back to the eating habits they engaged with beforehand once they feel like they can’t stick to it any more. So, if you find yourself jumping between diets and old eating patterns that you know aren’t serving you, I encourage you to simply shift your focus to nourishment. It takes so much fuss out of ‘what should I eat?’ because it simplifies food since the majority of us understand nourishment comes from whole, real foods.
#2. Look at your stress levels
Sometimes our weight loss challenges can have less to do with what we eat and more to do with how much stress we perceive in our everyday lives. If stress is persistent and ongoing, it can change our stress hormone production so that our long-term stress hormone, cortisol, increases. We also tend to make cortisol when we ‘starve’ ourselves so if you’ve been a constant dieter, this could also be driving higher cortisol levels.
Cortisol, when produced in excess, sends the message to our body that we need to store body fat, particularly in the tummy. So, if you feel like it doesn’t matter how much or little you eat, one sustainable weight loss strategy is to focus instead on reducing your stress hormone production.
The ripple effects of this can be significant. You may like to explore a daily diaphragmatic breathing practise, meditation, tai chi, Stillness Through Movement or some restorative yoga. You may also benefit from considering whether your perception of pressure and urgency needs to be revised.
#3. Focus on your health, not your weight
Our body weight is not really an accurate depiction of what’s going on in our bodies. When we jump on the scales, we don’t actually know how much of that number is body fat, how much might be excess fluid or how much makes up our muscle mass and bone structure. It’s really common for there to be fluctuations related to fluid, for example, particularly in relation to our menstrual cycle.
So when you weigh yourself and then freak out because you’ve seemingly put on three kilograms in a day and restrict your food intake to counteract that—even if you do have noticeable losses in that number in the coming days, you actually don’t know what you’ve lost. You may have lost fluid or muscle and zero body fat. I can tell you that it isn’t physically possible to put on three kilograms of body fat in a day so if you are weighing yourself every day and then adjusting how you nourish yourself (or punish yourself) based on that number, you’re actually just giving yourself a hard time for no reason.
You are so much more than just your weight and if you’ve linked your worth to your weight, you’re doing yourself an immense disservice. Are you really just weighing your self-esteem? Truly think about that question and consider whether it might be helpful to your health and how you speak to yourself in your own head, to get rid of your scales for good. You can see changes in your body by how your clothes fit you.
Plus, as I’ve already mentioned, weight loss tends to be a natural byproduct of great health, so when you begin to restore your health, weight loss can become effortless. Add to that, with better health, your energy and quality of life improves. And I don’t say any of this lightly.
I can’t encourage you enough to make that subtle, but significant, shift from weight to health. It is truly liberating.
Dr Libby is a nutritional biochemist, bestselling author, speaker and founder of the plant-based supplement range Bio Blends. You can find out more about her books and courses at drlibby.com.