25. März 2022

Healthy and Sustainable Weight Loss

There are countless methods and diets that promise rapid weight loss results. Most of these are not healthy, not tailored to personal needs, and are difficult to maintain long term. We spoke to nutritionist Anne Petersen Costa to get her expertise on healthy and sustainable approaches to weight loss for achievable and lasting results.

Healthy and Sustainable Weight Loss

Weight loss is one of the most researched topics on the internet. How to do it best, what to avoid, best ways to achieve results and how to make it realistic and sustainable. Most of us have probably been on a diet of some kind. Whether this was to lose weight, identify an allergy or intolerance, or just to try and better understand our dietary habits, the motivations behind pursuing a diet are diverse. Anyone that has researched this topic knows that the amount of information available is overwhelming. It seems like every day there is a new fad, cleanse or diet that promises amazing results. 

Weight loss however, is a highly personal topic and different for everyone. There is no one size fits all. We all have different motivations as well as goals when it comes to our health. What works well for some, might not work well for you at all, and vice versa. This is important to keep in mind.

No matter what your goal or approach is, it’s important to be healthy, realistic and to do what feels good to you. Weight loss is a personal challenge that involves understanding your body intimately. Furthermore, there is no universal goal. Achievements look different to all of us. So it's important to remember what makes you feel good, healthy and happy inside and out. 

Slow and Steady 

So if your goal is to actually lose weight, what’s the best strategy? Keep in mind that weight loss is a marathon, and not a sprint. There are countless diets that promise fast results through often radical change. These fad diets and weight loss trends come and go, but rarely lead to long-term change and healthy results. These diets also often involve depriving yourself of key food groups that our bodies need for optimal wellness. Ditching carbs or cutting out fats is damaging to our bodies. We need a steady supply of good fuel and a variety of macronutrients.

Is counting calories a good solution? The “calories in-calories out” logic is surely compelling, but it can be time-consuming, soul-sucking and create an unhealthy guilt-fuelled relationship with food. In the short term, it can be helpful to keep track of your overall calorie consumption, via a journal or an app, just to recognise eating patterns and identify where tweaks can be made. If you also make note of your moods and feelings alongside what you’re eating, you may also pick up on non-hunger related snacking, such as reaching out for a quick sugar fix when you’re tired, stressed or sad, for example. 

We believe that the key to healthy and achievable weight loss is not to radically change everything, but rather to adopt small habits that can amount to real change. This doesn’t mean depriving yourself or following an unsustainable low-calorie diet plan. Rather, it means filling up on high-fibre (preferably plant-based) whole foods that are nutrient-dense. Think fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Maximise ‘real’ food and minimise processed foods. Processed foods are high on refined ingredients, artificial chemicals and additives with little nutritional value. They certainly don’t satiate you so you’ll feel hungry again in no time.

Workouts for Weight Loss

No amount of exercise will help you lose weight if you’re not making the right food choices. In fact, as a rule of thumb, weight loss is considered to boil down to 75% diet and 25% exercise. Of course, exercise and movement in general is highly beneficial for our physical and mental health. However, if you train hard and then eat whatever you like, you may not see the results you’re hoping for. As for the best exercise to support weight loss? Again: there’s not one size fits all, but our advice is to find a form of exercise that you enjoy. This increases the likelihood of building a routine out of it and integrating it into your daily life. Whether you prefer light workouts like walking or yoga, or more intense versions like running or swimming–liking something is crucial for developing it into a routine. Consistency and sustainability are key! 

Inflammation 101

Inflammation has become a bit of a buzz word in recent years for good reason. A high percentage of us are living with chronic inflammation and there’s a strong correlation between inflammation and weight gain. Inflammatory foods to cut out include processed meats, fried and fast foods, artificial preservatives, sugar, refined carbs and dairy products. Rather, load up on anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, beans and legumes, healthy fats and whole grains. If you cut out sugar and other inflammatory foods completely for 21 days then settle at a more sustainable 80/20 rule, your body will thank you.

The Roles of Sleep, Stress & Social Interaction

Put simply, sleep deprivation contributes to weight gain, hinders weight loss and encourages overeating. There’s no shortage of research out there that supports the importance of adequate sleep but ultimately, if you tune in to your own body’s needs, you’ll figure out what works for you. 

Whilst our sleep needs all differ, a healthy adult generally requires between seven and nine hours per night. The body's circadian rhythms control the sleep-wake cycle, causing us to feel sleepy at night. When we fight this natural urge, for example by staring at blue light from our devices, we end up in a vicious cycle of sleep disruption with additional symptoms like weight gain, heightened stress and hormonal havoc, to name just a few examples.

Many of us exist in a constant state of ‘flight or fight’. Even though you may not feel that you’re in danger (a tiger isn’t chasing you), but the combination of daily deadlines, multi-tasking, digital demands, personal stress all on top of a pandemic, most of us are actually in a state of chronic stress. The association between stress and weight gain is clear so if you want to combat those kilos, it pays off to try and reduce your stress levels first, and then focusing on tweaking other behaviours. When it comes to social interaction, whether introverted or extroverted, we are all made for connection and thrive best in a sense of community. We are in a better mental and emotional space when we feel loved and valued or when we enjoy positive social interactions with others, which of course has a great impact on all our choices. Diet included. We recently published a paper on the mind-gut connection which highlights how impactful our food choices can have on our mood, happiness and general mental health. 

Consistency is Key

A key element of healthy weight maintenance is consistency. Crash diets and radical changes may be effective short term, but if you want long lasting change, adopting habits that are realistic and that you can stick with is essential for achievable and satisfying goals.

We work closely with Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Anne Petersen-Costa from Your Optimal Health. Munich-based Anne is passionate about supporting and empowering others to achieve their maximum health potential and to help discover optimal wellness through nutritional support, exercise, movement, healthy habit-building, as well as sleep and stress management. Anne supports clients in all four corners via one on one coaching, group programmes and ad hoc online events.

We’ve covered a big topic here - consider this a weight loss 101 article. Our hope is to arm you with the basics on weight loss and the contributing factors that help or hinder your efforts. We’d love to answer any questions you have so don’t be shy and drop us a comment in the Every. Facebook Community group!