As a private practice functional medicine dietitian, my job involves helping people reverse ailments using personalized nutrition and often helping them lose weight. We focus more on their health conditions than on weight loss but many of my clients have hit 50 and need support in boosting their metabolism. I recently realized how strange it feels to help people in the way that I do when currently, my jeans do not button. This blog post is less traditional because I’m highlighting my personal journey rather than teaching you about the research!
I recently shared my story about gaining 20 pounds in the last 6-9 months. Click to read. The weight slowly added up and I did not realize how much I had gained because I do not own a scale at home. I discovered the 20 lb weight gain at a recent doctor’s appointment. Of course, I could feel that my jeans were fitting less and less comfortably, to the point that they did not button or fit past my thighs. And it was at that time that I chose to switch up my work-from-home wardrobe to just yoga pants! I carry most of my weight in the bottom half of my body so when I look at myself in the bathroom mirror, it’s like it’s not even there!
Talking about my own weight feels uncomfortable for many reasons:
1. As a functional medicine dietitian, I preach that your internal health matters more than your weight.
And I still stand by that. I never want the sole focus of nutrition to be weight loss because I truly believe that when you limit food’s ability to simply changing the number on the scale, it completely undervalues the way that food can heal your body, change your gene expression, microbiome and very directly impact your risk of disease. But it hasn’t been until the last few months that I have realized that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being motivated by your internal health AND losing weight. After all, your weight does influence your internal health and risk factors for most chronic diseases.
2. More recently, the movement around body positivity has really taken off as people, women especially, advocate for embracing fat and cellulite and taking an ‘anti-diet approach’ to health. While I am absolutely a huge advocate of loving your body, I personally feel that it’s easier to do so when you are at a weight that you feel comfortable.
I see my dietitian friends advocate for body positivity on social media, while posing in their bikinis and showing a trace of cellulite on their thin legs. And while I think it’s so empowering for them to have reached a point that they don’t judge themselves, I also think it’s confusing. It feels like if I were to take the popular advice, that would mean accepting my weight gain and enjoying whatever I want so that I don’t stress about food. This makes me ask myself: does wanting to focus on losing weight mean that I do not accept and love myself enough? Is there more internal work to be done? Is it in my best interest to eat whatever and hope that listening to my internal hunger cues will set me on the right path? I don’t think so. You can still accept yourself and also strive to be stronger and faster.
Here’s What Body Positivity Feels Like to Me:
Your body is a God-given gift. No matter what size it currently is, it’s an incredible blessing. It’s up to us to be grateful for such a beautiful gift and celebrate it. I often think about patients that are at the hospital currently battling for their lives and it quickly puts things into perspective, making me grateful to have my health and minor issues like the desire to lose weight.
Your body is also your home. It’s the place that you will spend every second for the rest of your life. Treat it better than you would your actual house that you live in. Invest in it, fill it with love and create beautiful memories in your amazing body home. And like your physical house, keep up with your body home. That’s where eating well, moving your body, practicing self-care, and taking your supplements comes into play. The maintenance part of being a home owner! It’s not always fun and sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to. But it’s all in the interest of maintaining the environment in which you call home.
Your body can only be as strong as you allow it to be. If you don’t feel strong in your body, commit to making it stronger. You are capable of anything that you set your mind to. And by showing up for yourself and getting stronger, you give others permission to make that same investment in themselves.
Body positivity is also honoring that everyone is on their own journey. Your journey is completely unique to you. And if you feel like you would be more comfortable losing 5-10 lbs, then great! Go for it! But make sure you are coming from a place of loving and respect for yourself, rather than feeling like you need to lose weight to ‘fix yourself’.
Here are the things that I am focusing on for myself that might work for you:
1. Set a goal to get to a weight that I am more comfortable but focus first on acceptance for myself and where I am at. Aka: I’m not going to stop working out in sports bras in the middle of the Florida heat just because I’m concerned about a few extra fat rolls.
2. Remember the beauty is in the process. So many before and after pics are shared on the internet after a person loses the weight. It communicates that there is a destination that you are trying to get to and until you get there, you are not worthy. But I’m focusing on loving myself and the process.
3. Eat well without expectation. I still am not going to buy a scale because I don’t care very much about the number that faces back. Here’s the key: eating well and working out without any expectations. Of course, your body will even itself out if you give it the right inputs. Focus less on the expected results and more on the process of nourishing your body.
4. Avoid snacking. The snacks can easily add up throughout the day, especially when working from home, so I have implemented a no snacking policy and filling up during each of my three meals. This also helps with eating more whole foods and less snack foods.
5. Prolon 5 day fasting mimicking diet. This is a very research based nutrition program that many of my clients have done. It can be very beneficial for weight loss but it does much more, like reducing risk factors of aging and age-related disease. Similar to intermittent fasting, it also induces autophagy, which is when your body can clean up damaged cells. You need a healthcare practitioner to order the program for you. Here is an interview that my friend, Julie Foucher did with Prolon’s founder, Dr. Valter Longo. If you are interested in learning more, email us at [email protected].
6. Join a Crossfit gym 2 days per week. Ever since spending more of my time in Florida, it has been difficult to find a good workout routine that sticks like my workout routine in Cleveland. I’ve committed to going to Crossfit two days per week because I love the community environment and that it is like a playground for adults. This is also something that my boyfriend and I can do together, which is important to me.
7. Do yoga one day per week. Yoga has always felt like heaven. It’s the most effective way for me to tap into my body. I also think it is extremely effective for toning and leaning.
8. Do a home workout 2 days per week. I’ve been doing an at home workout with free videos from Whitney Simmons in our garage gym. This works well because our garage gym has a lot of the necessary equipment that she recommends for the workouts.
9. Stay very hydrated. With it being summer in Florida, I am carrying a water bottle around with me all day so that I am mindful of how much I am drinking. I also drink Nooma, the organic electrolyte drink featured in this picture after every workout. With spending a lot of time in the Florida heat, replenishing with an organic electrolyte drink that provides sodium and potassium is essential for me. And of course, you do not need Gatorade! Also, this is their new flavor, Lemonade-it tastes like a lemon drop candy!
10. Avoid eating foods unless they are in a bowl or on a plate
It’s easy for food to mindlessly find its way into your mouth when snacking directly from the bag of crackers or nuts. Instead of eating straight out of the bag, I am requiring that the food be pre-portioned on a plate or in a bowl so that I have some concept of how much I have eaten.
11. Still enjoy a small treat, if I feel like it
I really do not eat a lot of sugar at all. But every few nights I do enjoy having two squares of >70% dark chocolate with 1 tsp of cashew butter. If I don’t have that then I have 10-12 frozen cherries or applesauce with 2 drops of stevia, 1 tsp peanut butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon and salt. Tastes like apple pie!
12. Filling half of my plate with non-starchy vegetables
This is key! I always start with filling my plate with half of it as non-starchy vegetables. I am very visual so seeing the food divded off in front of me helps. This is also a very easy way to get more fiber-filled foods in your diet that will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
I would love to hear about what you are going through with your own weight and whether this article brought up any new way of thinking for you. Please email us at [email protected] or message me on instagram!