Healthy Body Composition Not Weight Loss
We say “I want to lose weight” but what we really mean is “I want a healthy body composition.”
People often ask me to present a ‘Weight Loss’ talk. I, however, prefer a ‘Body Composition’ discussion. Weight only describes your mass; body composition, in contrast, conveys information about fat, water, and lean body tissue.
How to get a healthy body composition
Weight loss may seem like a more attainable goal, but here’s why it’s better to set increased health and vitality as your goal:
- More joy, less effort and pain
- Increased health with possible increased muscle mass, decreased fat mass
- Decreased disease risk: cardiovascular, diabetes, stroke, gallstones, breathing problems, certain cancers (colon, breast, endometrial, gallbladder)
These goals are achieved with slow, manageable, adaptations in food choice, movement, stress management, and sleep.
If you’re done with “yo-yo” dieting, (which increases your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gallbladder disease, depression), and are willing to commit to some lifestyle changes, then increased health can be yours.
Move your body a little every day
Every body is different, and while aerobic exercise may be right for your best friend, it may not be the best type of exercise for you. Try a variety to see what works best, and more importantly, what FEELS best. The key is to move and use your muscles every day. Why? Muscle is more metabolically active than fat; it burns 3-5x more calories at rest. As you see an increase in muscle, you’ll probably feel an increase in health.
Take time out
It’s a vicious cycle: stress leads to elevated cortisol which leads to abdominal fat storage, blood sugar dysregulation, obesity, and diabetes which leads to more stress….
To stop the stress cycle do at least one of these things right now:
- Connect with others: fun, intimacy, family, friends
- Connect to yourself: meditation, alone time, yoga, Tai chi, down-time
- Connect to something higher: nature, humanity, prayer, meditation, yoga
Another cycle that most of us need to break is sleep deprivation. Besides keeping you from your ideal body composition, lack of sleep can lead to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, memory loss, osteoporosis, and shorter life span.
If you can only focus one thing to get healthier, it should be to average 8-9 hours of sleep per night. Adequate sleep will balance your appetite; regulate levels of hormones ghrelin and leptin, which control feelings of hunger and fullness.
“You are what you eat” has never been more important. When we live on foods that don’t agree with us, irritation can develop. This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect at all; just mindful of what makes us feel good! Irritation (infections, smoking, gum disease, etc.) triggers an immune response, or inflammation. Inflammation causes our aches, pains, dis-ease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, hay fever, arthritis, diabetes, -itis, depression, and cancer, and is therefore directly related to what we eat.
Eating habits are sometimes the most difficult to change, made even more challenging by the many choices available. Just like exercise, time out activities, and stress reduction methods, results may vary, and you need to find what works best for YOUR BODY. The easiest way in is to remove the foods that are causing the inflammation…
Focus on the good stuff
- Vegetables, fruits, foods high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, omega-3 fats, and phytonutrients (plant nutrients)
- Wide range of bright, natural colors
When your body feels satisfied and full from real foods, and fulfilled on an emotional level, it is less likely to have cravings for foods that your don’t feel well when you eat.
A manageable approach to food
- Eat at least 2 foods each day that nourish you
- Introduce a new, whole food per week to rotate in to daily nourishing foods
- Identify irritant foods (red flag lectins, allergens, energy zappers) that you eat daily, find replacements for these & SWAP them out
- FOCUS ON WHAT YOU “CAN” EAT!!
- Enjoy the foods that feed & nourish your body well
- www.nourishingmeals.com is my favorite blog resource for whole food, yummy recipes
Get healthier with just one focused change per day
There are a lot of options here and your brain may be overflowing along with your “teacup.” Relax, this is a process, a marathon, a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. Pick one thing a day, do it for a week to make it a habit, then add another thing the next week.
- Sleep 8 hours at night
- Take a 5-10 minute walk
- Eat breakfast!
- Create a large leafy green salad at lunch
- Sauté garlic, greens in olive oil for dinner
- Skip the bread at a meal
- Call a friend to blow off steam
- Learn to meditate
- Pause and take deep breaths throughout the day
- Learn what exercise drains you and what fills you up
- Do 10 reps or 10 sec of strengthening: plank, squats, wall push-ups, etc.
Overall, please remember that your body is designed well!
Work to focus on and adjust things within your control: your lifestyle choices, movement, and mental outlook to promote your natural daily rhythms. When the body is supported and well, health often falls into place.