Weight loss is one of those issues that so many people are interested in; I am asked about this more often than anything else. I also feel as though this topic is near and dear to my heart because this is a battle that I’ve walked through as well. I enjoy learning about nutrition, I loved nutrition school, and I enjoy sharing with anyone interested. I’m not sure if it’s learned from years of writing papers for school, or if it’s just my style, but I find it much easier to write about a topic that I’ve researched and fill it with lots of information. It is far more challenging for me to sit and write from my heart: to be honest, not about facts, but about feelings.
I doubt my story is different than most, I struggled with my weight as a teenager. By struggled, I literally mean I struggled with obesity and I fear for what my future could have been. As a teenager, my concern was far from heart disease, type II diabetes and high cholesterol; however I am so glad that I felt motivated for whatever the reasons where to make some changes. I will be eternally thankful for my forgiving youth that has allowed me to be successful with my lifestyle changes, the education I’ve been able to get as well as the endless list of supporters and cheerleaders along the way. And although my previous obese life has been laid to rest, unfortunately there are emotional scars that come back to haunt me, sometimes I wonder if, for the rest of my life.
When I talk about nutrition, or more specifically weight loss, I can assure any friend, family member, blog reader or stranger that it truly makes up a huge portion of who I am. I don’t take it lightly, and I think it may be the absolute most difficult and potentially lonely journey anyone can go on. In the long run, it was worth it for me, the rewards were far greater than the sacrifices. Perhaps my initial motivation was to fit in to the western world’s idea of beautiful, but my rewards included a journey to conquer a lot of inner demons, and a better understanding of what beautiful should actually mean. I know what it’s like to be overweight and miserable, I also know what it’s like to have an obsessive weight loss motivation to the point of physical illness, also miserable. I know what it’s like to feel hopeless and loath my reflection in the mirror. I know what it’s like to avoid social gatherings, to eat in private, to feel shame. Until I found a practical, long term (permanent) lifestyle that was motivated by health and happiness, I was incapable of finding success. Perhaps coming across the perfect motivation only comes by trial and error, in my case anyways, but it was worth every detour I took on my journey. We all follow a different pathway in our lives, but I say all of this just to share that I do understand emotions – and this journey is likely the most emotional journey that I know of.
Instead of writing about some well planned out concept, instead of researching the chemistry and nutritional needs behind something, let me again write from my heart. Although these may be things I did learn in nutrition school, I researched in a text book, they are largely based on experience. Here is a list of changes you can make in your lifestyle to support your weight loss journey:
Water: It’s so interesting how more than half the world is dehydrated because they have no access to clean water, or any water, yet the people who do have an endless supply are equally as dehydrated. 8 glasses of water a day is a good start, but more accurately, take your body weight (in pounds), cut it in half and this is the amount of ounces your body needs of water as a baseline (me: 125 lbs, 62.5 ounces – 8.4 glasses of water). Add another 16 ounces of water for ever hour of exercise. Add another 16 ounces of water for every 8 ounces of alcohol, coffee, black tea or soda you have.
Sodium: We eat way too much of it! Packaged food is full of sodium, and very few people even know what the recommended daily limits are. Sodium intake has a huge list of consequences. The average standard American diet consumes 4000-5000 mg of sodium daily (that’s average!), the average British diet consumes 3500 mg of sodium daily, Health Canada recommends no adult should exceed 2200 mg of sodium daily, however many health care practitioners recommend that dietary sodium should not exceed 1300 mg in adults and 1000 mg in kids.
Sugar: Another killer. It’s refined, it’s acidic, and it messes with our energy, blood sugar, appetite, mood, digestive system and defense system. The average American diet consumes 46 teaspoons of sugar daily, and in theory, the amount really shouldn’t exceed zero (or very close to that).
Portion sizes: Learn to read your labels. There are some great laws that require food labels to list ingredients, calories and nutritional content per serving. Serving sizes vary with manufacturers; a package and a serving size are very different. Do your math; it’s worth it, and likely very enlightening. Caloric intake is easy to get hung up on, healthy choices are far more important than low calorie food, however this is a simple way to calculate your calorie needs: Your “ideal” body weight (be practical!) in pounds, multiplied by 10 (me: 125 lbs x10 = 1250 calories). This is basal metabolic needs, as in, what you need to live and breathe each day. Then take your activity level on a scale of 1 to 10, this is subjective, but a good start at estimating (me: 12 hour shifts, marathon runner, I say activity level of 9 or 10), multiply this number by 100 (me 900 – 1000 calories), this is your caloric needs for energy. Calculate the total (me: about 2250). This is one formula I like, there are others, but the important thing is deciding on your ideal body weight. If you are 200 lbs and you choose and ideal body weight of 100 lbs, you will be very miserable, you can readjust your ideal body weight over time (start at 175 lbs, then 150 lbs, etc).
Sleep: SO important for our bodies to recover and regenerate, and can only be done during REM sleep. Life is what it is, but we need 8 – 9 hours of sleep per night, and kids need 9-10 hours a night. Make it a priority, or else all that hard work might not reap its benefits if the body cannot recovery and start anew. The Respiratory Therapist in me also wants to point out that many people have disrupted sleep and do not spend enough time in REM sleep due to a condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea. If you are tired due to disrupted sleep, you may want to talk to your doctor about this; it is easily treated with CPAP therapy. OSA is common in overweight people due to obstruction (large necks) on their airways, their sleep is disrupted, they feel more tired and sluggish, energy levels are low and weight loss is further challenged.
Stress: Another killer. Hormonal issues cause so many problems and so much fatigue on our body. Stress causes all sorts of hormonal releases, fatigue on our adrenal glands, effects our sleep, which effects our body’s recovery that is already hindered from weak adrenal glands and an over abundance of destructive hormones. I’m not sure what the answer is to this problem for everyone, but it’s worth exploring.
My list ends here, it would be easy to go on and on, but this is the starting the point. The above list excludes no one, each of the suggestions above are completely practical and attainable by everyone. You don’t have to be young, fit, or love to cook. But above all else, before you tackle anything on this list, you need to confirm that you are being practical. Unless your goals are realistic, and unless you can plan to make changes that will become permanent, sadly, you will fail. Living life is so important, and that involves social events, busy lifestyle, desserts, “off days” and a million other factors. However be conscious that living life and making excuses should be two different things. It is never too late or too difficult to start, in fact, every day that you delay, you could be missing out on something great. This is a long hard journey, but worth every painful step.