Over the years I’m sure I’ve lost over 100 pounds — the same 10 pounds, 10 times! This is the kind of thing I hear from my patients all the time, and it makes me wonder how many American women are on a diet on any given day. Collectively, we spend billions of dollars a year on diet and weight loss products, yet nearly two thirds of women in the US are overweight– a trend that’s steadily inching upwards along with our waistlines!
The problem is that most of these weight loss efforts don’t actually work. We are putting ourselves through hell to get nowhere. I’ve seen women willing to sacrifice just about anything to lose weight – even their health and well-being.
Now, here’s a spoiler: you can’t achieve healthy weight loss without taking care of your overall health!
But when I tell women I have a solution for them that doesn’t involve suffering or a magical pill, many say, “Oh, come on, Marcelle, can I really lose weight the natural way?”
The answer, I assure you, is “Yes!” I wholeheartedly believe you can lose weight, and that you can do it naturally without starving yourself, without eating food that doesn’t resemble food, without gimmicks, drugs or fad diets. You can do it and create balance, health, and well-being in your life while you’re at it.
I’ve worked hard on this issue in my practice, and in over 30 years of clinical experience, I’ve developed a highly effective way to help women unravel the stubborn knot of issues surrounding unwanted excess weight.
5 Keys to Unlocking Natural Weight Loss:
- Investigate and fix underlying, systemic imbalances
- Give your body the right raw materials (such as enough pure water and real, natural food that contains vitamins and minerals your body can use)
- Exercise in a way that feels good for you
- Take care of your emotional health
- Make time for restoration
Key #1: Investigate and fix underlying imbalances to overcome weight loss resistance
One of the reasons why so many of my patients are skeptical when I first start to talk about natural weight loss is that they feel like they’ve tried it already. They’ve tried to eat healthier, cut out junk food, and exercise regularly, but they’re still struggling. That frustration is what often drives women to try more extreme or gimmicky diets.
Actually, the solution lies not in the next fad diet, but in getting to the root cause and understanding why your body is resisting weight loss.
Weight loss resistance is usually caused by a systemic imbalance, and that systemic imbalance is what should be targeted naturally in order to pave the way for weight loss and better overall health.
These are the systemic imbalances I see that most often undermine weight loss efforts and create weight loss resistance:
- Hormonal imbalances, including low DHEA
- Adrenal fatigue or dysfunction
- Neurotransmitter imbalances
- Thyroid imbalances
Weight loss in one word: balance
Think of your body like your home. When everything is organized and running smoothly in my house, I can create delicious meals in a well-organized kitchen; I can entertain and enjoy my guests; I can feel the sunlight beaming through the windows. I feel at peace, yet poised to resolve a crisis if one should arise; and I feel spontaneous and generous. Even my family seems to get along better when the house is in order.
This is also true of our bodies. When all of our major systems are in balance, we not only feel good, but our adrenal glands are able to help us cope properly with stress, our nervous and endocrine (hormone) systems communicate smoothly, our digestive system works well, and we can efficiently get rid of or detoxify from the things we don’t need. All of our systems depend on one another, and if one is out of balance, the others are likely to suffer. This can make weight loss a miserable uphill battle.
Discovering if you have a systemic imbalance in your body may be the missing piece to your weight loss puzzle. Whether it’s a hormonal imbalance, adrenal dysfunction, neurotransmitter, digestive, inflammatory, or detoxification system imbalance, correcting it is key to natural and lasting weight loss — and to your overall health. Because once your body is restored to its natural balance, excess weight will come off.
Key #2: Get the right raw materials — nutrients your body can put to good use
Most of us were raised to think that if we only ate less and exercised more, we could easily lose weight. I found out the hard way that the calories in/calories out concept just doesn’t work for everyone. When I was just 19, I joined Weight Watchers to lose weight and followed all the rules — counting calories religiously and exercising vigorously — but only lost a half pound! It wasn’t until years later, after learning that I was gluten-sensitive that I was able to solve my personal weight loss puzzle.
No doubt we’ll continue to hear that it all comes down to calories and willpower. But the reality is, if you eat 1,200 calories of junk versus 1,200 calories of balanced nutrition, the messages your body receives are drastically different — no matter how much you exercise. Make that a lifelong pattern and over time — no matter what the Twinkie diet guru says — it’s going to make a huge difference for your wellness and your waistline.
What’s more, you can have the discipline of a saint, but if you are sensitive to a certain food and continue to eat it — whether knowingly or unknowingly — you are perpetuating a whole cascade of negative messaging throughout your body that contributes further to weight gain and illness.
But all this is just the start of why relying on restricting calories to lose weight can get you into trouble down the road (check out my top 5 weight loss myths to learn more).
To put it simply, food is a form of information, so the kinds of calories you eat really do matter. Make them worthwhile and eat as well as you can 85% of the time. This leaves room to treat yourself every once in awhile.
To make sure you get the right raw materials:
- Strive to eat whole, natural foods. Load up on vegetables and fruit, emphasize plant-based proteins like nuts and legumes, use whole grains in moderation rather than refined flours and sugars, and select high-quality meat and fish — the less processed the better.
- Help your metabolism operate at full capacity with a high-quality multivitamin/mineral complex and a combination of nutrients to specifically support your metabolism and burn fat. This micronutrient and phytonutrient support will help ensure that your cellular pathways are continually supplied to function well each day.
- Explore herbal formulas to help you get to the bottom of your weight loss resistance. If you have tried everything to lose weight, you may have a systemic imbalance blocking you from your best natural weight. Look into targeted phytotherapeutic herbs to bring your body back into balance.
- Drink plenty of filtered spring water, mineral water, or freshly brewed or iced herbal tea or green tea each day, to help flush any built-up “clutter” from your system.
Here’s one of my favorite simple recipes to help you get started: Avocado & Pear Dip
Adapted from The Core Balance Diet
- 2 fresh ripe avocados, peeled and mashed
- 1 fresh ripe pear, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 fresh green onions, white and green parts finely chopped
Mix all ingredients until well-combined, season to taste, and serve.
Key #3: Exercise in any way that feels good to you
Just as supplying your body with the right raw materials helps weight loss efforts and benefits overall health and longevity, so does exercise – but there’s no need to knock yourself dead to get results. My patients are so sick and tired of hearing they should join a gym or make time every day for aerobic exercise.
I just have two guidelines for exercise: try to fit some in four times a week and for goodness sake, do something you love to do! There are so many ways to exercise — some women I know fold exercise into their daily routines by biking or walking to work or playing with their children, while others prefer to set a specific time aside from their busy lives to exercise. Whether you go dancing with your partner, climb trails with your kids, train at the gym, attend a yoga class, or simply take a walk with your dog, find a way to make exercise feel as wonderful as it is essential for your weight loss goals.
For those who are already in the habit, consider bursting — taking your heart rate way up with increased physical exertion — a few times throughout your workout to get maximum benefits.
Sound nutrition combined with regular physical activity automatically keeps our body weight at a healthy set point: a predetermined body fat ratio within a 10–15-pound range. Your metabolism is designed to vigorously defend your set point by speeding up or slowing down if those thresholds are threatened.
For more information, see our articles on healthy weight, metabolism, and hunger hormones.
Key #4: Pay homage to your past and present emotional health
We often subconsciously equate food with love, and turn to the warmth of a hot meal or a lift from something sweet. I’ve seen hundreds of women whose weight loss issues stem back to childhood relationships with food and the family members who served it. These layers run deep, and may very well change the neurochemistry of the brain if unhealthy connections between food and love are reinforced over the years. This issue is so profound that I’ve written several articles about emotional eating, with suggestions to help you move past these blocks.
Another important piece to the natural weight loss puzzle is having adequate support. I’ve heard so many success stories from women who start their new weight loss program with a friend. They share recipe ideas, talk about what works and what doesn’t, and find encouragement when they need it. And it helps to know someone is there for you, someone who not only knows how to listen, but also who has the experience and training to help you with your personal weight loss challenges.
Key #5: Restoration — refill your cup daily!
The fast-paced lifestyles women lead these days offer us very little down time. This can set us up for weight gain – even those of us who love being on the go. We all need between six and eight hours of good quality sleep every night to heal from the stress of the day, and we also need to make time for rest, relaxation, and mindfulness.
Recent studies have linked sleep to weight loss (and lack of sleep to weight gain or difficulty losing weight).
And, when we’re overtired, overstressed, and not finding enough time to rest (trust me, I get it!), we are likely to struggle even more due to adrenal fatigue.
I already mentioned adrenal fatigue and dysfunction earlier, as it is one of the most common underlying, systemic issues I see that leads to weight loss resistance.
Healing from adrenal fatigue won’t be instant, but it is definitely worth it if you want to lose weight, have more energy, and feel better in general! One way to start? Dedicate some time for yourself every day to simply relax or practice mindfulness– even if it’s just for 15 minutes.
Start your transformation now
You don’t have to wait until you lose weight to alter the way you look and feel. If you can, treat yourself to a couple new pieces of clothing — they don’t have to be big-ticket items — just things that make you feel wonderful the moment you put them on.
Give away any clothing that doesn’t make you feel good. Consider a trip to the hair salon or a restorative massage or retreat.
The better you feel, the more likely you are to stick with your natural weight loss plan. Even such small changes can provide the momentum you need to make bigger ones!
Your body needs to feel safe — emotionally and physically — in order to shed the extra padding it’s using to “protect” itself.
Adrenal dysfunction– which influences not only our stress response but our hormonal balance, blood sugar, and more– is a physical effect of our high-stress lives.
I’m the first to admit it’s difficult to slow down, to sleep, and restore ourselves the way we are meant to. This means stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol run high, putting our adrenal glands in constant crisis mode. When stress hormones are high, the body feels anything but safe, and holds onto fat in preparation for crisis.
Restoration is a very personal thing. What refills your cup may very well drain that of your friend or sister. Make a list of the things that help you feel more rested, relaxed, and at peace in your life, and try to practice at least one thing on your list every day. Naps count!
Come home to your body
Over the years I’ve learned that trying to apply the same old equation to every situation usually ends with women feeling badly about themselves. I sincerely believe that if women understand how to support the unique needs of their bodies, there should be no hindrance to naturally maintaining a healthy weight throughout their lives.
I hope you can get off the dieting merry-go-round and embrace our natural solutions to weight loss. Above all, I encourage you to accept yourself for who you are right now — not the woman you once were or the one you hope to be. Support your body and work with it, rather than fighting it. If you’re having trouble losing weight, your body is probably trying to tell you something important. Listen to your body, explore what may be out of balance, and be gentle with yourself as you work on it. And no matter what the scale says, let yourself feel– and be– beautiful today!
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD