It would be nice if weight loss was as simple as the old directive to “eat less and exercise more.” But it never quite works that way, right?
That’s because while there’s some truth in the basic premise of the idea, there are many other factors that complicate the formula. (Of course!)
At Nutritious Life, our approach to healthy living has always involved eight pillars that emphasize a whole-person (and whole-lifestyle) approach. You can read more about how Keri developed them while working with her nutrition clients and how they interact and impact all different aspects of wellness, here.
How does each pillar influence weight loss, specifically, though?
That’s what we’re diving into, below.
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8 Factors that Affect Weight Loss
Diet isn’t the be-all, end-all, but it’s definitely the starting point, whether you’re setting out to lose pounds or simply maintain a healthy weight. After all, there’s a reason even trainers say “abs are made in the kitchen, not at the gym.” Whole, nutrient-dense foods fuel your body. Unhealthy foods like sugar and trans fats wreak havoc on your weight in many ways, from simply being stored as fat to messing with hormones that regulate appetite. How you eat also matters, which is why we advocate listening to your body and eating consistently throughout the day—to prevent emotional and overeating.
Establishing a regular exercise routine helps you maintain a healthy weight in a few ways. You burn calories when you work out, obviously. If you incorporate resistance training, you’ll also build muscle, which in turn increases calorie and fat burn. Research shows regular exercise also reduces stress and improves sleep, and you’ll find out in a minute why those impacts really matter.
When it comes to drinking up, what you do and don’t drink matters. Drinking water is a must: It promotes what’s known as a thermogenic state, which increases your metabolic rate. People also often mistake thirst for hunger—so staying properly hydrated will help you avoid eating for the wrong reason. On the flipside, many of the other “drinks” people sip on—like soda, energy drinks, and fruit juice—can lead to weight gain. Stick to good ol’ H2O, coffee (without tons of cream and sugar!), and tea.
How much quality sleep you get directly impacts what happens when you’re awake. If you get seven to eight uninterrupted hours, you wake up energized and are more likely to hit the gym. And here’s the crazy thing: Research shows sleep deprivation is associated with choosing foods that promote weight gain because it actually affects your brain’s ability to regulate appetite.
Ever heard of cortisol? Stress and weight gain go together for a few reasons. First, stress affects hormones; it increases cortisol, for instance, and high levels of cortisol lead to weight gain. It also leads to emotional eating, which can totally sabotage your healthy routine. Just think about the tropes: In stressful situations, the expectation is you grab a pint of ice cream and a spoon for comfort, you don’t whip up a green smoothie.
One way to reduce stress for weight loss? Self-care! Practices like massages, aromatherapy, and reiki can help you manage stress and sleep better. And choosing healthier beauty and self-care products can also help you avoid endocrine-disrupting chemicals that mess with your hormones, and therefore, your weight.
GREAT news: While stress increases cortisol production, sex produces oxytocin, a health-boosting hormone that sends cortisol packing. In other words, you can write “more orgasms” into your weight loss plan. (You’re welcome.) And it’s not just sex: Research shows strong social connections (AKA loving relationships) can also counteract the cortisol-boosting powers of stress. Spread the love.
Finally, living mindfully, or what we call “consciously,” can also influence weight. Meditation experts often point to the practice as a weight loss tool, and while further research is needed, some studies have showed mindfulness interventions can be effective for weight loss. Plus, being mindful of your actions is going to help you do better on all of the other seven pillars.