What is the healthiest way to lose weight? I've tried so many diets from Weight Watchers to Isagenix Cleanses to Paleo to Vegan and just feel like nothing works. I know that I need to lose 30 pounds to feel good and be healthy, but I either lose it and then spend my whole thin-existence freaking out about gaining it back, or cheat and don't lose at all. -Losing Hope
Dear Losing Hope,
I'm sorry to hear that you've been struggling so much. This is a question that I've had to sit with a bit to decide the best way to answer. It's a topic that I hold close to my heart, as I've also struggled with body image and weight gain. I could give you an eating plan or a cleanse that would help you take off a few pounds, maybe even 30 pounds. But it sounds like you know how to do that; actually, it sounds like you're an expert in dieting! I get the feeling that you're asking for something different, and I think this is the perfect time to acknowledge to yourself that diets do not work. You haven't failed. Dieting has failed you.
Weight gain can be as simple as being too busy to get to the gym and prepare quality food for yourself. But it can be so much more. It may be a way to set boundaries where you are otherwise unable or a way to avoid looking at other areas of your life that might be unfulfilling. Examining what your weight is doing for you, on a subconscious level, can help you discover a lot about yourself.
Most people today have some idea about what they should be eating. But a shift to bringing more awareness to how and why you're eating can help you lose weight and keep it off. For me, healthy eating means eating with consciousness. Some days I choose to avoid gluten and dairy and opt for detoxifying clean protein shakes and veggies. Some days I warm up with nourishing bone-broths. Some days I choose to savor the sh*t out of a croissant. Whatever it is, I refuse to feel guilt about any food choice. Feeling guilt is simply a wasted opportunity to explore what other emotions you might be feeling.
On a purely physical level, the most healthy diet in terms of reducing inflammation (which can lead to cellular damage and weight gain) is to eat foods as close to nature as possible (vegetables, fruits, organic animal protein and healthy fats like avocado, coconut and olive oil) and to reduce sugar, anything in a package, dairy and grains. GMO foods can act as antibiotics in your gut, which may hinder weight loss, so it's important to avoid foods that are genetically modified.
However, our physical being is just one aspect of who we are. There's also the spiritual and emotional components, which I believe play a far larger role in the struggle with weight. If you've "done" a ton of different diets and have either "cheated" or lost and then regained the weight, the likelihood is that there's another area of your life, besides your weight, that would be beneficial to explore. Has excess weight become a way to avoid intimacy? Is focusing on your weight taking your mind off of how miserable you are in your job? In your marriage? What are you really craving when you over-eat? I have a friend who was going through a divorce and put on 30 pounds. Even though she felt miserable in her body, being heavier felt safer than opening herself up to being vulnerable with a man again. Once she recognized why she was over-eating, she was able to make the conscious decision to do some self-exploration before getting into another relationship.
You probably recognize that all the diets in the past haven't worked for you. Now is the time to try something different. A few books that I can recommend to you are Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth, Women, Food and Desire by Alexandra Jamieson and A Course in Weight Loss by Marianne Williamson. Good luck! Please keep me posted.