Getting the “Whole You” Involved is Key to Weight Loss Success

Author: Pamela Riggs

Image of Pamela RiggsBy Pamela Riggs, MS, RD - Outpatient Nutrition Coordinator, Center for Integrative Health & Wellness at Marin General Hospital

GREENBRAE, CA — January: The time of year when the gym is packed, the bookstores are stocked with the latest diet books, weight loss programs are heavily advertised, and the grocery store’s produce aisle seems to be busier than ever.

It’s also the time of year, when we’ve finally have had it with the “holiday excesses” and feel ready to get back to healthier habits. Did you know losing weight is one of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions? You can probably also guess that within a month or two, the promises we made to ourselves at the beginning of the new year lose their urgency and are soon forgotten. 

Weight loss is simple right? Eat less, move more, or do a combination of both. Sounds easy enough, but the truth is many factors stand in our way, including age, body composition, genetics, cultural practices, and medications, to name a few. Add to that adage for the most part, “weight loss diets” don’t work. When we diet, we decrease our calories, often by too much, which signals the body’s famine response. Our “survival mode” is turned on – we lose muscle, slow our metabolism, and make more enzymes that store fat. Then, when we’re tired of feeling deprived, hungry, and unmotivated we return to our usual eating habits, gaining back the weight we lost, and then some.

Losing weight, exercising more or eliminating unhealthy habits are all worthy New Year’s Resolutions, but to make these changes permanent, we need more than just good intentions.

To start, let’s acknowledge that making and sustaining lifestyle changes that lead to long term weight loss is hard. It’s possible, but it will take more than the latest fad diet book, super food trend, wearable exercise device or big doses of willpower.

To start, it needs to really matter to you. It’s important to ask yourself why you want to lose weight. What benefit will you get and what are the consequences if you choose to do nothing? Second, you need the “know how”, the skills to make it happen. It can matter a lot, but if you don’t know how, you won’t make progress. And third – you need to believe you can! Building upon the healthy habits you already have and setting realistic and achievable goals will help build your confidence.

Weight loss efforts that incorporate behaviors that increase self-awareness (keeping a food diary or using a diet tracking app) and practicing mindfulness (deliberately paying attention and being aware of your body’s signs for hunger and satiety) lead to a better chance of success.  Plans that work also include a support group as well as some way of being held accountable such as showing up for weight check visits, having a diet or exercise buddy, or even posting updates on social media.

And of course there’s no shortage of weight loss tips, just read any health magazine, scroll through Facebook and Instagram feeds or listen to Oprah’s latest advice on commercials for Weight Watchers.  

My own tips are fairly simple. First, realize that your weight is influenced by “the whole you” – your body, mind, and spirit.

Make changes in diet and exercise habits that are realistic and sustainable. Remember to eat, not too much but not too little. Make sure to get plenty of lean healthy protein. You’ll feel more satisfied and give your body what it needs to retain lean muscle and a healthy metabolism. Don’t deprive yourself. It’s not “all or nothing.” Work towards balance. And don’t forget to seek support from family, friends, and coworkers to help you maintain your progress and your motivation.

If achieving a healthy weight is still one of your New Year’s Resolutions, it’s not too late to start. The Center for Integrative Health & Wellness at Marin General Hospital offers a unique approach to weight loss, using evidenced-based weight loss strategies along with principles of treating the whole person, body, mind, and spirit.

The Healthy Weight for Wellness program is an integrative lifestyle program offer to individuals and small groups. It’s led by nutrition and weight loss expert Pamela Riggs, MS, RDN.