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  • Dr. Sheldon Bjorgaard, ND

I Can Lose Weight, But Just Can’t Keep It Off!

You’ve been on numerous diets, low carb, low fat, cabbage soup, you’re a dieting professional. You lose weight every time, even though in the past few years it’s a little harder than it used to be, you can buckle down and get the job done. 6 weeks, no problem, you lose weight and get out of the “danger zone”. You start feeling more comfortable, more mobile, and more happy.

Until…you gain it all back again…and then some extra…

Why does this happen?? Are you doomed to get stuck on the dieting Ferris wheel from hell for the rest of your life?

Absolutely not, even if you’ve tried “everything”.

You’re not alone, studies show that most “diets” (south beach, ideal protein, Atkins) “work” about the same, meaning they all allow you to lose weight. Unfortunately, they all also “don’t work” because the vast majority of dieters (up to 97% in some studies) gain the weight back (often ending up higher than before). The Frankenstein-ish social experiment TV show called the “Biggest Loser” is proof of this concept.

Why is this happening??

1) Biology:

Our bodies attempt to maintain homeostasis by creating weight “set-points”. Our bodies are experts at conserving energy so that it is prepared for times of famine. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) for us, we don’t have famines anymore.

2) Psychology:

When we “diet” by definition we are thinking about doing something temporarily. Whether conscious or unconscious, our brain is waiting until the diet is over so that it can go back to “normal” eating. Dieting is a stressful event, every time we do it we tell our brains we are going “all in”, only to go “all out” when it’s done. It may not end in an all you can eat buffet, but over time we revert to our old habits, because they are our habits.

In addition, certain foods (processed carbohydrates and sugars) act as powerful endorphin releasing agents that make us feel calm and numb emotional stress (comfort food anyone?). Just like smoking, drinking, and drugs, they provide an escape from difficult emotions, even though we know they are hurting our health. Unless we have the strategies and tools to manage these emotions without food, we will always have the tendency to reach for the same comfort foods and gain the same comfort weight back again.

3) Social Factors:

Humans are social creatures, we have never throughout history eaten food alone in isolation. Farmers farmed together, Hunter-gatherers picked fruit and hunted together, and together enjoyed the spoils. We are by our nature inclined to dine and feast together. We don’t like having to do something “different” than everyone around us, especially at larger gatherings like holidays.

So, are we doomed? What can we do about it?

1) Biology:

While we can’t change our genetics (yet :0) we can coax our bodies into accepting a new set-point over time. We do this by providing more nutrient density to the diet, and more volume for the same or lower caloric density. Our bodies sense hunger and fullness by the stretch receptors in our stomach, and the presence of nutrients in the bloodstream, by making sure we are fully satiated in this manner our bodies will naturally settle at its ideal weight, where it doesn’t feel the need to carry around extra energy stored in the form of fat. In addition, certain intermittent fasting protocols allow us larger meals that are more satisfying rather than feeling a little bit hungry with smaller meals and snacks throughout the day. Essentially, this helps mimic our ancestral eating pattern in a modern way.

2) Psychology:

This starts with thinking long term. I mean loooong. If you don’t have a clear vision of your future health in 3,5, and 10 years from now you are bound to re-lapse. Short term thinking produces short term results. Past traumas or insecurities that have led us to turn to food for comfort can be healed with the help of a good psychologist, but one thing that can make a big difference is a simple re-framing activity where we choose to see past hurts as things that have the potential to help us. Instead of thinking about things as happening “to us” we can choose to think that they happened “for us” and find the positive in every situation.

3) Social:

We can choose to surround ourselves with people who support our goals and want to see us healthy and happy. It is easy to stick to a routine of not snacking in the evening if no one else around you is doing it, and in an environment where healthy food and regular exercise is the norm. On the other hand, if at the end of your “diet” your friends are thankful that you can eat out again and your family is having chips and ice cream every night beside you it is going to be an almost impossible struggle to maintain a healthy weight. Since we can’t always avoid our family and friends, it is important to have a 3-fold strategy of communication, healthy alternatives, and as a last resort portion control.

In the Nourish Health Weight program we do a “deep dive” into these 3 areas and more in order to create and implement a lifetime nutritional strategy that allows you to lose weight, keep it off, live your healthiest life, and be an inspiration for others.

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