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The honest truth about weight loss, from a Nutritionist

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“I want to rock a bikini”. “I want to look good naked”. “I want to wear a size 12”. “I want to have abs”. “I want to be healthy”. “I want to feel good about myself”. “I want to be happy”.

There are all legitimate wants that many of us have. I have some thoughts about the societal norms and pressures that drive us to want these things, but at the end of the day there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good in a bikini, be confident in the nude, wear smaller clothes, love the skin you’re in, experience good health and be happier.

The problem is, most people feel that in order to achieve these wants, that they need to lose weight.

I actually believe that you can do many of the things above without losing weight, however, if weight loss is a goal for you this year, then you are not a bad person for wanting it.

And, I can help you do it. I know exactly what you need to do. Plus, I can help you do it while you eat carbs, enjoy your favourite foods and socialise. Bonus!

Before you crack out the sourdough, however, there are some caveats. The truth is, you can’t have everything you want. Stay with me.

If you want to lose weight AND eat carbs AND enjoy your favourite foods AND socialise and not ride the latest fad diet train, then there are five important things that you need to know.

You need to keep LIVING! Don’t put your life on hold just because you’re losing weight

I fundamentally believe that weight loss won’t make you happy. Relationships, connection, giving, loving. These things make you happy.

I also believe that you can rock a bikini no matter what your body looks like and I believe that you can be healthy without losing weight (another article).

This doesn’t mean that wanting to lose weight is wrong, it just means that I want you to put it into perspective. It’s not the be all and end all. Don’t put 95% of your life on hold to weigh 5% less.

Lose weight if you want to—but keep living! Achieve your career goals. Buy your dream home. Start that business. Pursue that hobby. Tell that person you love them. Just because you’re losing weight doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy all the other parts of your life as well.

But if you do want to lose weight, you need to make a meal plan that suits your life AND contains weight loss principles

Weight loss will come down to your ability to consistently create an energy deficit and stick to it over weeks and months on end.

This means that you will need to think about food regularly and make a plan to help your diet do three key things at the same time. They are:

  • Contain the right amount of energy for you to be in a calorie deficit, but not so strict that you’re starving, undereating and prone to binging.
  • Contain sufficient nutrition (vitamins, minerals, fibre) to keep your immune system functioning (especially given the current pandemic and flu season around the corner), your gut thriving and your body running at its best.
  • Contain your favourite foods so that you’re still enjoying what you’re eating.

Like I said above, the plan needs to ensure that ALL three of the conditions above are satisfied to set you up for success.

Getting help from a qualified professional is a good way to do this.

You need to have good food awareness so that you can keep track of how consistently you’re sticking to the above plan

One of the problems I see regularly is that people’s intentions don’t align with their reality. They intend to make healthy choices, eat in a deficit and make a food plan to help them do that, but of course sometimes things don’t go to plan. Life gets stressful. Stuff pops up that’s out of their control and their food choices are affected.

What happens without awareness is that you can think you’re making good choices, because you intend to, but in reality you’re buying lunches, skipping meals, drinking four coffees a day and recovering with copious glasses of wine. Totally normal and you’re not a terrible person—you’re just not losing weight as a result.

Awareness comes from planning and tracking, so ensure that you can prioritise this throughout the day and stay accountable with your food choices. No need for food judgement and self-loathing. Food awareness works best with kindness and curiosity. Let it show you where you need to focus your efforts more so you can be consistent.

You need to endeavour to find the balance that works for YOU

Balance is that annoying word that health professionals use. Basically, it’s how you can have your cake and eat it too, but with boundaries. Let me frame it this way:

You’ve come to me for weight loss help. You tell me that you want to wear a bikini this Christmas and achieve your goal weight. You also tell me that you like cake and don’t want to stop eating it. “Kate, can you help me lose weight by Christmas AND eat cake?”

Me: “I can, however, there needs to be some boundaries set and some balance struck so that the cake eating doesn’t make the weight loss impossible.”

There is only a certain amount of cake eating compatible with weight loss and weight maintenance, so balance is finding the amount of cake (and any food) that works for you and it takes into account your physiological and psychological needs.

You need to have realistic expectations of weight loss and how fast or slow it should be

Weight loss—or I should say fat loss—is slow. It takes time. This means that you have to be patient and that you need to do it in a way that feels realistic and sustainable. Strict diets and programs are hard to stick to long term because they aren’t compatible to real life.

Also, because you know it’s slow, it means you shouldn’t give up after one or two weeks because you can’t see results. Body weight fluctuates 1-2 kg per day which will mask up to 2-3kg of fat loss on the scales.

If you stacked up 2-3kg of fat (think blocks of butter), it is A LOT. If you give up and eat ‘all the things’, then you’re definitely not getting results.

So be patient, commit to the process. If you got steps one and two right, it will work if you stick to it.

If you’re keen for support, myself and my team of dietitians can help put the five steps above for you in motion!

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