Holistic Nutrition and Weight Management

Ali Holden

by Ali Holden

Can Holistic Nutrition Help with Weight Management?

If you struggle with weight management, you’re not alone. However, as you’ve most likely concluded, yo-yo diets and calorie counting are never the answer. The good news is that there are strategies that can help, like holistic nutrition. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the things that can contribute to weight gain and give you some tips from a naturopathic, holistic approach to get you on your way to sustainable weight loss!  

What is Holistic Weight Loss?

Holistic weight loss is an approach that considers many factors that can contribute to a person carrying extra weight. Not only do we consider diet and exercise, but crucially, the spiritual, emotional and mental components that play a huge role in the body’s ability to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Where to start?

Begin by asking yourself why you want to lose weight, eat healthier and exercise. Find your motives – your personal “why,” as this will motivate you to make long-term lifestyle changes. If your first thought when you look in the mirror is to judge, criticise and generally give yourself a hard time, it’s no wonder your weight loss journey is filled with unpleasant feelings and thoughts about yourself. It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Become your own cheerleader

If you struggle with this, as most of us do, take a look at the High Five Habit by Mel Robbins, she gives a host of practical advice that can help you switch from being your own worst critic to being your own personal cheerleader. 

Everyone has reasons for wanting to be healthy, so take some time to find yours and write them down – look at them morning and night and place them somewhere you’ll see them often. At the end of the day, it’s not comparing your body to others or feeling guilty that will keep you truly invested in your health.

Perhaps this is ageing gracefully and being able to play with your grandchildren, staying energised and performing well at work, improving your mood, being a better parent or partner, feeling confident and sexy in your skin, or something entirely unique to you.

Why is weight management so difficult for some?

Weight management is difficult because so many things can impact your weight. While many people believe that weight management is as simple as calories-in, calories-out (i.e., if you eat fewer calories per day than what you expend, you will lose weight), it’s often much more complicated than this. Before you begin (or continue) to blame yourself for your struggles with weight, consider this: 

  1. Food is a big player in weight management, but it’s not the only puzzle piece.
  2. Medical conditions and medications can impact your weight. 
  3. Heavily processed foods are designed to taste good and to create food addicts, they are developed to keep you coming back for more, and these foods are everywhere. 
  4. There is a lot of information online about weight management, and it can be very difficult and confusing to navigate. 
  5. Nutrition advice from health care professionals can be vague and generic, which isn’t helpful (e.g. it may sound like, “Eat a healthy diet.”)
  6. Nutrition and other health advice change regularly (as we learn more), and while this is a good thing, it can also be frustrating when you discover that your efforts have been wasted. 

What conditions cause weight gain?

There are so many conditions that can contribute to weight gain. These include (but are not limited to): 

  • Hypothyroidism (e.g., Hashimoto’s thyroiditis)
  • Congestive heart failure 
  • Kidney disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Insomnia 
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome 
  • Cushing syndrome
  • Depression
  • Menopause or changes in hormone status

In addition to these conditions, some medications can cause weight gain, including: 

  • Oral contraceptive pills 
  • Steroids 
  • Some medications used for depression and other mental health disorders 
  • Some diabetes medications
  • Some medications used for blood pressure

It was never about ‘willpower’ or ‘calories after all’!

Does Holistic Nutrition work for weight loss?

Yes! At The Nutritional Healing Foundation, we have a naturopathic approach to nutrition and cleansing the body/mind, which is very effective for weight management because it uses a holistic, root-cause approach to determine the underlying cause of weight gain. Weight management will look different for everyone, so generic dietary advice is not enough. Our practitioners will dive deep to identify the contributing factors of weight gain and work collaboratively with individuals to optimise all aspects of their life to support weight loss. 

For example, the health of the gut microbiome (the trillions of microbes that live in our gastrointestinal tract) is the cornerstone of each care plan, and given that gut bacteria can contribute to obesity by controlling inflammation as well as energy and fat storage, this is a key component in any weight loss journey.

What is our holistic approach to the food you eat?

When it comes to diet (or anything else for that matter), there is no one-size-fits-all approach. That said, our approach will involve a shift towards an organic, whole-food diet. A healthy diet will look different for every person, so we can work within many different templates to help individuals find a healthy eating pattern that allows them to manage their weight better – whilst correcting the root causes of weight gain.

What are five healthy weight management strategies?

No matter the cause of your weight gain, there are several things everyone can do to optimise their health and, as a result, better manage their weight. Here are five strategies for weight management that you can implement today: 

1. Stay Hydrated

Staying well-hydrated serves multiple purposes when trying to lose weight. First and foremost, it’s common to mistake thirst for hunger. The signal for thirst and hunger reaches the same place in the brain, so dehydration can easily lead to overeating.

Shoot for at least 4 pints (2 litres) of room temperature water daily. 

Ideally, drink one pint of warm, still water immediately on waking and then take one pint 30 minutes before each main meal. This prepares your body for food and reduces internal stress on the body. Always opt for pure, clean water whenever possible.

2.  Get into the Zone

Manage stress levels to reduce cortisol, which, when elevated, can contribute to cravings. Stress can, of course, be from an external source, such as money or relationship worries. It can also stem from an internal stress. Examples of internal stresses include dehydration, constipation, the regular intake of stimulants such as caffeinated drinks, alcohol, damaged fats and sugar etc., plus negative thoughts and bottling up our emotions.

Both internal and external stress have a significant impact on the body’s ability to lose weight. So, find ways to get into your zone of peace, calm, and presence. This might mean connecting with nature, interacting with friends, journaling, going for a walk, meditating, creating art etc, whatever plugs you into the source. These activities put your body into the parasympathetic nervous state (rest and digest) that your body should be in while cooking and eating meals.

3. Aim to eat meals made up of organic, whole, unprocessed foods most of the time. 

Studies show that eating more vegetables has a positive effect on weight loss, and most people don’t get nearly enough; in fact, a U.K. study by the National Diet and Nutrition survey, showed that 70% of adults eat less than five portions of vegetables a day (let alone the seven potions recommended by researchers at University College London).   

Eating your greens creates the fibre factor, which helps you feel full and will keep you satiated and less likely to overeat. Dark green, cruciferous vegetables also provide essential vitamins and minerals that help hormonal balance…this is essential for weight loss.

Get at least 1-2 cups of dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables daily. Dark leafy greens include lettuce, Swiss chard, bok choy, spinach, and arugula. Common cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage.

Another way to manage weight loss includes balancing your blood sugar. Eating a palm-sized portion of protein with each meal is crucial for satisfying your body and foods that release energy slowly. This can help to keep blood sugar levels steady. Low GI foods include whole foods such as whole grains (quinoa, amaranth etc), activated nuts and seeds, green vegetables and legumes. 

4. Focus on getting high-quality, restorative sleep to keep hormone levels in check. 

Honouring that you are from nature and have a circadian rhythm that syncs with the rising and setting sun plays a more significant role in weight loss than you might know. Thyroid, oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and insulin are all hormones that profoundly impact metabolism and other processes related to weight management – they are produced at night. When you sleep before 11 pm, you benefit from the body’s sleep hormone, melatonin, which is the body’s most potent self-made antioxidant.

Especially if you work from home, separating work and relaxation can be challenging, and sleep hygiene becomes even more critical. For a good night’s rest, be sure to turn off electronics at least an hour before bed, avoid working from your bedroom, and find activities to help you wind down. You can read DaVinci’s Sleep Benefits White Paper for more detailed sleep hygiene and supplementation information.

5. Incorporate movement in your everyday life, no matter how much or little you can accomplish at the start.  

There’s a saying, “you can’t exercise away a bad diet”. Conversely, you can’t balance an inactive lifestyle with a healthy diet.  You need both for great health and well-managed weight. 

Regular physical activity plus good dietary habits go hand in hand regarding your long-term health, longevity and weight management.  Here are some ideas to help you increase your movement at the beginning of your health journey:

Make exercise a regular part of your daily routine

The easiest way to start exercising is to find ways to fit physical activity into your day:

  • Skip the lift and take the stairs.
  • Park far away from the entrance.
  • Sit on an exercise ball at work to strengthen your core and back muscles.
  • Go for a walk at lunch or after work.
  • Use hand weights or resistance bands while you watch TV.
  • Turn on some music and dance.

Increase your activity to lose weight

To get started exercising, follow a few simple tips:

  • Start slowly. If you haven’t been active for a while, ease into your new exercise program and give your body time to adjust to the activity.
  • Do something you enjoy. Take in the scenery as you walk or bike through a neighbourhood. 
  • Exercise with a buddy. Connecting with others can keep you motivated to exercise more.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you exercise.
  • Change your workout routine from time to time. A variety of physical activities helps you stay motivated and prevents boredom. Pilates and yoga work well with other activities and keeps you well-stretched to help avoid injury.
  • Wear a fitness tracker. Health apps and fitness trackers can help you set goals. Keeping track of your progress can be motivating.

If exercising is your Achilles’ heel, consider hiring a personal trainer to help you figure out the best workout for your specific health goals.

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