Fast and unhealthy weight loss is one of the most widespread obsessions in our culture today. Why wouldn’t it be? On a daily basis, we’re bombarded with unrealistic body messages in the media, we’re part of social conversations and judgments focused on physical appearance, plus we put pressure on ourselves to be a size “perfect” every time we see ourselves in the mirror.
I know how harmful this can be. In my teens, I was a hardcore ballet dancer. At dance school, my weight was constantly scrutinized by teachers and peers. I became so obsessed, I weighed myself twice a day, cut my calories in half and developed an eating disorder. Those scars and my unhealthy approach to dieting stayed with me long past my dancing career. It wasn’t until my cancer diagnosis inspired me to take care of myself—inside and out—that I healed my relationship with food and my body and started building a positive self-image.
How many of you were raised in a family or environment where people were constantly dieting, saying they were “fat” and putting themselves down because of the numbers on the scale?
Raise your hand if you start sweating when you think about how you’ll look at an upcoming high school reunion, wedding, holiday party or beach vacation. The pressure we put on ourselves to drop pounds fast is not only bad for our hearts and minds, it also takes a toll on our bodies. Frankly, the lose-weight-quick promises on books and products are ridiculous and dangerous.
Let’s get one thing straight before moving on: You are gorgeous, valuable and amazing just the way you are. What I’m about to share is for those of you who want to lose weight in a healthy, balanced and realistic way. The weight loss process can actually be a healing experience when you focus on your overall wellness and accept that it will take time to reach your goals.
When it comes to sustainable, long-term weight loss, slow and steady is the name of the game. Last year, about 3,000 people participated in my 21-Day Total Wellness Program, Crazy Sexy You (CSY). And, they lost over 10,000 pounds, but more importantly, they became healthier, happier, more connected folks who reached countless other health goals—beside weight loss.
That said, the average weight loss was about 6 pounds over the course of those three weeks. SIX! That may not sound like a lot to you, but keep in mind that these pounds are far more likely stay off. And, that’s because Crazy Sexy You includes healthy whole grains, plant-based protein, fruits and veggies, lots of water, proper rest, meditation and simple exercise.
Now, some people lost significantly more than the average, but that often depended on how much the person had to lose and generally settled into the range I’m describing. The point is, if we want to get healthy, we need to do it in a sustainable way that works for our bodies and lives.
I’ve kept up with our program participants and those who continued to follow the principles of the plan are still losing weight in a healthy way. No deprivation, harsh inner critics, yo-yo dieting or obsessive weight checks. Just good food, self-care and movement. You can actually hear their inspiring stories first-hand by watching their transformational stories unfold in these videos.
So, if you’re ready to approach weight loss with a self-loving, body-nurturing attitude, read on…
How to Lose Weight in a Healthy and Sustainable Way
1. Shoot for no more than 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week
Again, I know it might sound like a snail’s pace, especially if you have 50 or 60 pounds you want to lose, but shedding 1-2 pounds per week is going to get you to your goal and help you stay there. One pound is equivalent to 3500 calories. So if you lose 1 pound in a week, that means you’ve eaten 3500 fewer calories that week or burned an extra 3500 calories (or a combo of the two). Here’s a fun way to think about it: If you were to hold a pound of fat in your hand, it’s about the size of a small butternut squash. Oh, my gourd! At that rate, you will have lost 25 squash in six months. Bravo!
2. Switch your weight loss mindset
Slow it down and be gentle with yourself. Take the pressure off and open your mind. Let go of the all-or-nothing beliefs, fads and myths you’ve picked up along the way, especially when it comes to carbs. Sometimes we can feel like a big failure when it comes to weight loss if we slip up and eat the “naughty” foods. If you’re feeling caught up in the stress, then I’m handing you a free pass to forgive yourself! Focus on all the other areas of your life that you’re successful in.
Instead of striving to just drop a certain amount of pounds, shift your mindset to improving your overall wellbeing with healthy foods, exercise you like, and self-care. When you do, the weight loss will inevitably follow.
3. Weigh yourself no more than once a week
To be honest, I stopped weighing myself long ago. But if you’re curious (and hopefully not obsessed) here are some things to keep in mind. Your weight can fluctuate 3-4 pounds from day to day due to sodium intake, water loss, dehydration and even hormone levels. If you’re stepping on the scale each morning, you may feel on top of the world one day, only to find yourself frustrated the next. Avoid this roller coaster by picking one morning a week to weigh yourself, and do it before you eat or drink anything. These numbers will be much more reliable. There’s a caveat, though. Don’t panic if you’ve been eating a veggie-loaded healthy diet, guzzling H2O and exercising regularly and your weight is going up. You’re likely building muscle. Just keep up the great work and read tip #4. In time, the number on your scale will shift.
Our Nutrition Director, Jen, also recommends skipping the scale altogether, especially in the beginning. Instead, wait until your clothes start fitting more loosely. In the meantime, just focus on getting in touch with your body’s hunger and satisfied cues, as well as your energy level. Since you know that eating healthy plant-powered foods, skipping the junk and alcohol, prioritizing sleep and exercising more will get you to your goal, it’s helpful to create habits that will support sustainable weight loss and health first. The scale can come later when you know you’re moving in the right direction and just need a motivational boost.
4. Consider taking your body measurements and tracking body fat percentage weekly
As we just discussed, it can take a few weeks for the scale to reflect overall weight loss, especially if you’re exercising and eating a balanced, non-fad diet. Again, this often means that you’re building muscle. So, your fat cells are decreasing in size while your muscle cells are growing and getting more dense. If you’ve taken your “before” hip, thigh, waist and arm measurements, as well as your body fat percentage, you’ll likely see all those numbers drop on a weekly basis. This lets you know that you’re on the right track at a healthy pace. Plus, seeing improvement through this lens boosts your confidence and commitment. Crash diets and fad diets typically result in fast weight loss, but you’re losing muscle, not fat. So, you may be getting thinner, but your body is less toned. And, I assume that’s not one of your goals!
5. Beware of the things that can hinder weight loss success
Stress is probably the biggest block to weight loss, and being stressed about your weight can really slow down your progress. If you’re feeling this way, consider using some relaxing essential oils, routinely getting a good night’s sleep and meditating daily. Practices like these will help calm your nerves and promote balanced and long-term weight loss. And stress can often be the result of the pressure we place on ourselves. Sometimes when we stop trying, things happen naturally—even weight loss. Make a promise to yourself that for 3 weeks you’re only going to focus on healthy foods, movement, and getting rest. Without unhealthy expectations, you’ll feel better, stress less, adopt healthier habits and focus on your wins, instead of a number.
A slow metabolism can also make weight loss more of a struggle. Check out my metabolism-boosting tips here for ways to help your metabolism work in your favor. Most of them are easy things you can incorporate into your everyday life. Calorie cycling—eating more calories on some days than others—does the trick for some people. And it can be incorporated into your life in a healthy way (keep in mind that I’m not promoting eating a large cheese pizza one one day and only rice cakes the next!).
For example, you can plan to enjoy a special healthy treat every other day. Or because you know that the weekends will probably include more calories, you make smarter meal choices Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If you follow these guidelines, cycling calories can rev up your metabolism and give you the weight loss edge you need in a nourishing and balanced way.
If you feel bummed out by the idea of taking a slow approach to weight loss, take this into consideration. Rapid weight loss is—believe it or not—a weight loss killer. Losing more than 3 or 4 pounds a week is OK for a week or two if you have a great deal of weight to lose, but keeping up this pace not only lowers your metabolism significantly and permanently, it also lowers your nutrient reserves. This often leads to energy crashes and cravings, but it can also mean that your weight will be quick to return and more difficult to lose next time.
Creating a clear-headed and well-paced approach to weight loss is the first step in developing a healthy relationship with your body. Now that you have the building blocks, I hope you’ll shift your attention to giving yourself more love and giving your body more time to achieve its goals.
Your turn: If you’re looking to lose weight, how will you honor your body and approach it differently and more mindfully this time? Let’s support each other in the comments below.
Peace & patient pounds,