6 Tips for Weight Management that Lasts from a Naturopathic Doctor
This blog does not intend to provide diagnosis...
In this article:
- 1. Sleep More
- 2. Stay Hydrated
- 3. Eat More (of the Right Things)
- 4. Fix Nutrient Deficiencies
- 5. Choose Regular Movement Over Intense Bursts of Movement
- 6. Limit Alcohol
When people ask me for my weight management tips, they usually expect me to say what they’ve already heard before:
- Eat less
- Exercise more
- Work harder
- Avoid sugar
But let’s be real. If these tips worked, we’d all be the exact size and shape we want to be, because we’ve heard it all before! For so many of us, this advice isn’t enough—and worse, it can even make achieving a healthy weight more challenging. Instead, I tell people the following surprising things:
- Sleep more
- Drink more
- Eat more
- Fix nutrient deficiencies
- Make your workouts less strenuous
- Limit alcohol
You’re probably about to click away, thinking “that can’t possibly work.” That’s what many of my clients think when they first hear this advice. But after they drop an average of about 10 pounds in the first 3 weeks of working with me, they’re hooked.
This advice works because it is based on my health and nutrition training, as well as my naturopathic medical education that is solidly grounded in an understanding of human biochemistry and physiology. This education isn’t trendy or widely popularized in the media because it’s based on things that can’t be patented—sleep, food, and water—so companies can’t make money from promoting it.
But I’ll tell you a secret. These are the only things that have ever worked to help people to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Before pills and potions, electricity and the internet, personal trainers and gyms, smoothie bars, or meal delivery services, these things worked—and they can work for you.
In this article, I’ll explain some of the biochemistry and physiology so you can work with your doctor, dietitian, naturopathic physician, personal trainer, or other qualified health professional to design a weight management program that works for you.
Study after study has shown that short sleep duration is linked with weight gain. Sleeping less than 8 hours deprives your body of the time it needs to repair and grow your muscles, heal injuries, and detox your brain of waste products that build up during the day. Over time, this can slow your metabolism, cause you to gain fat and lose muscle, and may even increase cravings for high-sugar, high-fat foods.
My clients report that a few weeks of having a regular sleep routine helps them drop more than a few pounds, and this is supported by the research. Some of this weight is likely related to inflammation and fluid our bodies accumulate when we’re sleep-deprived, and some of it is also fat. Losing fat and reducing inflammation by getting enough sleep promotes better health and a healthier weight. It can help you look slimmer too!
If you have trouble sticking to a consistent sleep routine, check out the tips in this article and aim to reset your sleep schedule using a calming combination of melatonin, magnesium, or sleepy tea as recommended by your doctor.
Increasing your hydration helps you manage weight both by decreasing appetite and increasing the rate at which you can burn fat.
Did you know that the chemical reaction we use to break down fat in our bodies requires water? When you’re dehydrated, you can’t burn as much fat as your diet/exercise/sleep routine should let you. This prevents your hard work from paying off. Many of my clients have adopted extreme diet and exercise routines, only to see the scale refuse to budge in part because they forget to drink at least 60 ounces of fluid per day.
It’s important to remember that hydration means more than just water. Your body’s cells absorb and use the water you drink more readily when it is mixed with electrolytes and a tiny bit of carbohydrate. That’s why sports drinks contain all three ingredients!
If you’ve heard me talk about my own wellness routine, then you know how important electrolytes and minerals are for my own personal health as well as the health of my clients. To combine minerals with your fluid, check out the many forms of electrolytes and minerals that can be added to tap water, juices, sports drinks, or any other fluids of your choice.
You may find it helpful to set alarms on your phone reminding you to drink water for the first few weeks as you build this habit. Do whatever it takes to make sure you develop this habit and that it sticks for life!
Eating food burns calories. You heard that right!
When you eat, your body expends energy extracting usable calories from that food. This principle is called the “thermic effect of food,” and every nutrition expert learns about it in their training! Because of the thermic effect of food, your body uses more energy digesting high-fiber and high-protein foods.
This is one reason I recommend eating plans for my clients that are very high in fiber and protein. Eating a high-fiber, high-protein diet allows my clients to eat more food while burning more fat than they’d burn on a lower calorie plan.
As a bonus, fiber and protein are incredibly important for health. Fiber may help reduce your risk of colon cancer and improve your cholesterol profile, along with many other benefits. And with so many delicious foods rich in fiber, like berries, nuts, veggies, seeds, and fruits, eating more fiber is easy! Learn how to incorporate more fiber into your daily routine here.
Protein provides amino acids we need to build the neurotransmitters that make us feel happy and calm. It also gives us the muscle-building ingredients we need to make our time in the gym count and to sculpt healthy, strong muscles. Learn how to easily increase the protein in your diet with this great write-up on 5 Ways Vegetarians Can Get More Protein in Their Diet.
Did you know that people with excess weight often have nutrient deficiencies that can lead to even more weight gain or make it difficult to manage weight? These include deficiencies in B12 and folate, both of which help provide us with cellular energy. If you don’t have the energy to work out, it will be hard for you to build enough muscle or burn enough calories to change your body composition.
Take a comprehensive multivitamin each day to ensure you’re not missing out on nutrients. Taking your multivitamin with a meal allows your body to absorb the nutrients adequately and helps you avoid feeling nauseous or queasy.
Many of my clients adopt strenuous workout programs when trying to manage their weight. Some of them haven’t been to the gym in years but are suddenly working out 90 minutes a day, multiple days per week in hopes of shedding pounds quickly. This is always a recipe for disaster.
Your ligaments and tendons develop strength and flexibility over time as you build fitness. But going from couch potato to gym rat without proper conditioning of your soft tissues sets you up for injury—which ultimately sabotages your plan for improved fitness and weight management. Furthermore, overtraining can lead to a drop in metabolic rate and actually result in weight gain.
In our culture, which often promotes weight loss over health, we neglect to view exercise as a long-term habit that brings joy and fun to our lives. Start slow and steady, and increase slowly over time with the help of an exercise expert like a personal trainer or physical therapist.
If you’re a regular drinker, you’ll be surprised at how your weight can shift in a few weeks just by removing alcohol from your diet. Give it a try and tell me how well it works!
If you’ve been a heavy drinker for a long time, consider adding some vitamin B1 (thiamin) to your routine during your alcohol break, since alcohol consumption depletes B1 and can impact nerve and cognitive health.
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