When I started out on my wellness journey, like many others, my goal was more related to my physical appearance than anything else and it was all about ensuring that my calorie intake was low and I exercised very hard. Exercise was seen as punishment, and food as a source of energy to fuel the exercise. As I grew more knowledgeable, lived through various issues that stemmed from my erratic food and lifestyle habits and eventually took the route to educate myself, I gained the awareness that wellness is so much more than just looking a certain way. It is about nourishing yourself – body, mind and spirit. It is about nurturing yourself, paying close attention and listening to the cues your body gives you and honouring yourself enough to follow through.
While food is foundational to wellbeing, there are other factors that also work in tandem with food to work on your weight and overall well being. What are they and how do you control them?
- Staying on top of stress: As humans, we are hardwired to respond to stress – good and bad, by the release of cortisol and adrenaline, our fight or flight hormone response.
This is perfectly healthy and required in a real emergency, say when you are being chased by bear, but if you are constantly getting stressed out by interpersonal relationships, work, finances etc. over time you will burn out and wreak havoc in your body !
Ever notice how in stressful situations you are more likely to reach for highly palatable carb and sugar rich foods ? As a result, stress can drive weight issues, mental well-being, sleep and overall physical well-being. It’s all connected !! Look to incorporate mindfulness, active relaxation such as breathing and meditation, listening to your favourite tunes and anything else that relaxes you and increases the happy hormones!
- Inflammation : We have an inflammatory switch that either gets turned on/off with every food we eat. This makes food powerful enough to not only prevent, but also reverse and undo increased chronic inflammation, and as a result the chronic disease and conditions it causes.
Refined, processed, nutrient deficient foods are pro-inflammatory which turn the switch on, and whole nutrient dense, antioxidant, micronutrient rich foods turn it off. So be more mindful of what you are ingesting, not only would you be setting yourself up for long-term health and wellbeing but weight loss would automatically be a nice by-product of an anti-inflammatory style of eating.
- Hormonal imbalance : Hormonal imbalances especially in women, can cause you to gain and hold on to weight. Specially the thyroid hormone which helps in metabolism and overall energy, the female reproductive hormones when not in balance can cause PCOD which also is another factor which makes it difficult to lose weight. Stress hormone cortisol as mentioned about is another one to look at. All of these can easily be detected through lab testing, and once determined can be balanced by making corresponding nutritional & lifestyle shifts.
- Gut dysbiosis : Did you know – 70% of your immune system lies in your gut? What is happening in your gut therefore is directly related to what is happening with your health. Poor immunity could be related to gut issues which stem from yeast, bacteria, parasite overgrowth or dysbiosis and/or food allergies even.
Food allergies can be a big contributor to a poor immune system. You might be on a so called healthy diet, eating kale smoothies for breakfast and quinoa for dinner, but for all you know you could be sensitive/ allergic to these healthy foods, which in turn does more damage than good to your system. Which was exactly the case with me!
Your body is constantly battling these foreign substances which lowers your immunity over time and leads to increased inflammation as your body is constantly at war.
If you have issues such as difficulty losing weight, brain fog, skin issues, hormonal imbalances it is very likely that your gut is in dysbiosis.
Common food allergens include Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Eggs and Nuts. One can follow an elimination diet to test these and other suspect foods or even do a simple IgG antibody Allergy test to know for sure.
- Your mindset : Without consciously realizing it, sometimes your biggest roadblock of be you ! You leaf through instagram and see perfect bodies and hear of unbelievable transformation stories, you do the same thing but it doesn’t work for you! You get demotivated and go back to eating chocolate cake with a vengeance. Sounds familiar?
You need to focus on you! Don’t let comparison steal your joy. The only comparison you should be making is with yourself to see how far you have come whether in terms of energy level, making better food choices, exercising 4 times a week instead of 3, finding joy and peace in situations you would not have before.. they all count! It’s these small changes that will add up to give you the biggest change of all – You!
Start paying closer attention and figure out what’s holding you back, it could be so much more than what you think!