If you are like me, you have had times when no matter what you did, you could not lose weight. Don’t take me the wrong way- I am not one of those women obsessed with the number on the scales. But the times when I felt my most un-fittest and most lethargic were the times I knew I was carrying extra unhealthy weight. Not the weight which comes with muscle, which is a heavier, denser tissue than fat. And at times, without doing anything overtly different in my exercise, I dropped the kilos, was at my leanest and strongest and felt energized and alive.

So what was the variable which was the game-changer? What was not working in the first scenario and what worked in the second? This article highlights the body as a holistic system, where changes in one area effect the entire system and change the way in which the body responds to exercise, and holds on to stubborn fat. For example, if your hormones are out of balance, or your lifestyle has changed dramatically, your metabolism may be adversely affected hindering the body’s ability to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Some of the main factors influencing weight loss are:

  • Diet We are all made differently, and various diets work differently according to an individual’s metabolism and food intolerances. It is important to limit consumption of refined sugars, alcohol and caffeine. Maintaining good digestive health is crucial to weight loss. This can be achieved by the intake of plentiful water, a good probiotic supplement and fermented food like ‘kimchi’ and ‘sauerkraut’. Cultivate an elimination routine and allow sufficient time to empty your bowels.

Inclusion of high quality fat, like olive oil, coconut oil, avocadoes and nuts, are important for the absorption of trace minerals and certain vitamins (A, D, E and K) which are fat-soluble. Eating small, regular meals which include protein, carbohydrate and fat keeps blood sugar levels stable and prevents food cravings.

  • Toxins Several toxins have permeated our daily lives. They are found in the plastics we use, the products we clean with, the shampoos, hair dyes and cosmetics we put directly onto our skin and even in the clothes and shoes we wear. Environmental toxins include pollution, mould, and vapors from air conditioning. Although getting rid of all toxins may not be possible in an urban environment, it is important to limit toxins as much as possible because exposure to toxins influences our bodily system greatly. Choose natural, chemical- and preservative-free, organic, fresh, local and free-range over processed and chemical-laden.
  • Stress Stress releases the hormone called cortisol, the same chemical in a “fight or flight” situation. This is the body’s natural response to a stressful or dangerous situation. However if the stress is long-term, the body cannot assess if the fight/flight response is needed. It therefore keeps producing cortisol, redirecting the body’s energy for fighting the threat it perceives as real (in our lives, these ‘threats’ could be job stress, too many competing priorities, illnesses, responsibilities, financial worries, etc.). In this situation, despite exercise and a healthy diet, the body’s effort to lose weight can be compromised.
  • Exercise Movement is the key to weight loss. However not everyone responds to exercise the same way. Some swear by cardio alone, some are addicted to lifting weights and some get all their exercise from a sport like cycling. Yoga, gardening hiking, swimming, tramping, water sports and martial arts are just some of the ways to include movement that works for you. Remember to mix up types of exercise that work a range of muscle groups to prevent injury and keep your routine fresh.
  • Sleep Tying up all the important factors discussed above, is the crucial sleep factor. If you are sleep- deprived, your metabolism, digestion, immunity and weight loss are all negatively impacted. Increasingly, the intrusion of screen time is adversely affecting sleep patterns of adults and children alike. Set up a good “sleep hygiene”- be strict about sleep schedules, try to sleep and wake up at approximately the same time every day, and turn off all screens and monitors at least an hour before going to bed.

Remember, the issues discussed above do not work separately, but in unison to create balance and holistic health. Implement good diet, sleep and exercise habits, and limit stress and toxins- and achieve sustainable health and weight loss.