Recently a reader on Instagram asked me, “How do you stay so slim?” Which made me think it might be time to write about a closely related topic —How to Lose Weight.
When it comes to losing weight, the new year is often a time for resolutions of weight loss as well as enthusiastic energy around dieting.
Somehow, by Valentine’s Day, if not sooner, our resolve fades. Then the warm weather rolls around and we start thinking about weight loss again.
Forget about yo-yo dieting, the psychology around losing weight can be an emotional roller coaster in and of itself. And if you’re wondering, what is yo-yo dieting, it refers to the cyclical loss and gain of weight, resembling the up and down motion of a yo-yo.
People ask how to lose weight quickly, and for me, that isn’t the way I approach weight loss. I like to think about lasting lifestyle changes overall, rather than a short-term weight loss plan that is so severe it won’t ultimately be effective.
I was naturally thin when I was younger. Given this, I had no need to think about how to lose weight.
In the last few years though, my metabolism has become sluggish. In 2021, I turn 54. Between aging, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism (and a TSH level that has reached 20 at times) my metabolism slowed, significantly.
Still, I’m at a healthy weight and remain on the slim side. Because of this, I’m often asked how I stay in shape while cooking and testing recipe after recipe on my website. And people also frequently ask me how to lose weight.
Below, you will find my strategies for boosting your metabolism and maintaining your weight, or, for losing weight if you’ve put on too many pounds.
Let’s start with sleep. If you’re wondering, “Does sleeping make you gain weight,” it’s actually quite the opposite. According to the National Sleep Foundation:
People who sleep less than five hours a night are almost a third likelier to gain weight (30 pounds over the course of 16 years) than those who get seven hours of shut-eye a night.
I believe that sleep is more important than exercise when it comes to losing weight, and is especially critical in the quest for overall health.
Human growth hormone is secreted during sleep which heals inflammation and also speeds up the metabolism. Sleep deprivation is not only linked to weight gain, one study demonstrated that “short sleep duration may be associated with the development of obesity from childhood to adulthood.”1
When confronted with the choice between sleep and exercise I choose more sleep. Every single time. While seven to eight hours of sleep is generally recommended per night, I get eight to nine hours nightly. Given that poor sleep is a risk factor for obesity, think twice about losing sleep to work out.
I’ve written several helpful posts on sleep, including:
If you’re wondering, “can stress cause weight gain,” you are absolutely correct. When we’re stressed we may secrete excess cortisol, which can lead to weight gain.
This happens because increased cortisol levels can cause higher levels of insulin, which causes your blood sugar to drop, leading to feelings of hunger. That’s where the habit of stress-eating can come from. You’re not hungry because you need more fuel, you’re hungry because your blood sugar plummets when you’re stressing out.
Too much stress, resulting in higher insulin levels may also lead to insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes. The stress-weight connection is real, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I have a decent amount of stress in my life. We are empty-nesters, so it is not the stress of running after, and around with, our boys, which was great fun as you can see above.
My stress is comprised of health issues including Multiple Sclerosis, Celiac Disease, Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis, osteopenia, the BRCA gene, and the MTHFR genetic mutation which is likely partially the cause of many of the aforementioned conditions.
To reduce stress I sleep, meditate, hang out with my darling cat, snuggle or hold hands with my husband, and spend time with friends.
When we exercise, we use our muscles. Exercise builds muscle mass, a very good thing since muscle tissue burns twice as many calories as fat tissue when at rest.
Not only does exercise boost your metabolism and burn calories, but it also releases endorphins that improve your sense of well-being. If you’re wondering, how much do I need to walk to lose weight, the answer is –everybody’s different and start slow. I walk two to three miles a day, every day, rain, snow, or shine.
When it’s hot out I walk in the morning or early evening, and if it’s still uncomfortable I wear my ice vest. Staying cool is critical if you have MS so that inflammatory cytokines do not increase to unhealthy levels.
Walking is my go-to exercise, but that’s not where it ends.
When I’m not walking, I like to do gentle stretching and yoga, at home, along with very light weight lifting to maintain muscle mass. All of these are things you can do to lose weight at home during quarantine.
I’ve been on a low-carb keto diet for over two decades. That means no alcohol (ever), no grains (ever), and no starchy vegetables like rice and potatoes (ever). Yes, that’s a lot to cut out, but it makes my life easy. I’ve summed it up in 10 Easy Keto Recipes to get you started.
I know what to eat to make my body burn fuel in a clean way that optimizes my performance both mentally and physically. What many view as a diet, for me is a habit that has turned into an easy lifestyle.
It works so well that my husband now eats the way I do –no starchy foods for either of us, which is not a problem since I have the Best Low-Carb Healthy Swaps for the Keto Diet.
According to weight-loss researcher and New York Times bestselling author Gary Taubes, it’s not fat that makes us fat, it’s carbs.
Carbohydrate-rich foods create a hormonal milieu in the human body that works to trap calories as fat rather than burn them for fuel…if we want to avoid being fat or return to being relatively lean, we have to avoid these foods.
I began intermittent fasting in 2014, and it’s a key component of my healthy lifestyle. Intermittent fasting can be as simple as skipping breakfast or not eating any food after dinner.
I wrote a helpful post on intermittent fasting benefits and how it contributes to weight loss and much more, called Intermittent Fasting for Beginners. It’s a great starting point if you’re thinking of adding intermittent fasting into your routine.
Staying well hydrated by drinking water can be helpful for weight loss. First, thirst often presents itself as hunger. Once you’re hydrated you’ll likely find that your hunger diminished, if not eliminated. Water is fantastic for these reasons and more::
Further, a recent study found that staying hydrated increased participants’ metabolism by 25%.3
Now and then I mix up my hydration strategy with a batch of my Strawberry Lemonade. This low-carb drink is so amazing that I used to serve it to the boys and their friends at our parties and no one was any wiser to the fact that it was sugar-free lemonade. The only thing they said was, “more please!”
You can also experiment with these fun flavored waters:
In the end, it is my belief that weight loss and healthy weight come from healthy habits, not binge diets, cleanses, or temporary plans to restrict food intake.
For me, healthy habits have established a healthy lifestyle that has become part of my day-in-and-day-out routine, actions that are so automatic I no longer need to think about them.
Finally, to recap, here are my favorite lifestyle weight loss tips that work well together:
That’s what works for me, but we’re all biochemical individuals. What’s working for you? What are you struggling with? Leave a comment and let me know!