Losing weight can be a tricky thing. Over the years it has been simplified down to “burn more calories than you take in,” but does that really tell the whole story? Ask almost anyone who has tried to lose weight, and chances are they will say “no.”
If it were as simple as that, wouldn’t we all be lean, mean, beach-ready machines?
The truth is that the ultimate goal of reducing calories in and boosting calories out is just the tip of the iceberg. Real success is about more than just food and counting the calories we take in versus the calories we burn. The healthy weight loss equation also includes several other key factors that are now being explored more in depth. If reaching a healthy weight is on your to-do list, start with a healthy diet (calories in) and regular exercise (calories out), but don’t forget about the following as you put together your formula for success:
There is no doubt that food is tied to our emotions. Certain meals and foods flavor our celebrations, call to mind powerful memories and offer us support during difficult times. Unfortunately, this may work against us when it comes to weight loss, especially when we don’t recognize the importance of this factor. In fact, according to a recent national survey, 90 percent of respondents discounted the mind as a barrier to weight loss. Diane Robinson, PhD, a neuropsychologist and Program Director of Integrative Medicine at Orlando Health, the organization that commissioned the survey, stated that, “In order to lose weight and keep it off long term, we need to do more than just think about what we eat; we also need to understand why we’re eating.” Getting real about why you’re eating may be your first step to achieving your weight loss goal.
More and more research is now coming out linking the speed at which we eat our meals to calories consumed. Findings indicate that slowing down to savor and enjoy your meal can be an effective weight loss strategy because it allows the body time to release satiety or fullness hormones, reducing the risk of overeating. If your eating is in overdrive, consider adopting slow-down strategies such as eliminating distractions like the television and your cell phone, or setting down your fork in between bites to savor the flavor and avoid extra calories.
It’s not just beauty sleep anymore; it’s total health sleep. Getting the recommended amount of sleep per night can help lower your risk of high blood pressure, reduce stress, boost immunity and achieve a healthy weight. Studies are consistently linking sleep deprivation (and in some cases, excessive sleep) to increased weight and risk of obesity. Researchers believe this lack of adequate sleep may influence weight through its effects on appetite, physical activity, and/or thermoregulation. In other words, skipping Zs may make you eat more and move less.
One of the most common objections to the calories in/calories out statement is that not all calories are created equal. High quality foods, such as lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, are nutrient-dense options that can help support your weight loss efforts. The calories in a donut do not promote weight loss, even if they do fit into your calorie-tracking app. For lasting weight loss, aim for filling your diet with high quality, fiber and protein-rich foods, with some room here and there for the not-so-quality foods you enjoy.
This factor is one of the newest to be studied and the results are really making us think. Dr. Brian Wansink and his team at Cornell University’s Food & Brand Lab has been delving deep into everything from where we sit in restaurants to the size of our plates and how these factors unconsciously affect what we eat. Take a look at some of their key discoveries to begin using them to your advantage for weight loss success.
Weight loss is about more than just food. The weight loss equation can be a complicated one, requiring a more holistic strategy for lasting success.