How to find your natural weight - those words make it sound so simple.
If it were that easy we'd all be our ideal weight, so it will be interesting to see what suggestions there are.
I've noticed that my toddler grand daughter eats as much as she needs - and then she stops, usually throwing her bowl and spoon on the floor. Whilst I'm not advocating throwing our plates away when we've had enough to eat, stopping when full is a good idea, and one we often forget, especially when eating something we enjoy.
When I was born rationing was still in force after the second world war - and there were very few overweight people in those days. So, although many people my age weigh more than they should, we don't have to be much heavier than we were 40 years ago. Well, perhaps half a stone or stone more than in 1975 would help to hide a few of the wrinkles!
Sarah Wilson, author of the best selling 'I Quit Sugar' books and website says:
- Eat like you mean it: eat three meals a day while sitting down. Spend time one each meal, focus on the food and consume it properly. Achieving your natural weight comes from eating in a way that means your body feels satisfied with the food you eat to you stop craving more.
- Eat protein. Every meal I eat contains a protein such as meat, fish or eggs, some vegetables and a source of fat. Even for breakfast I’ll eat something like eggs, feta and spinach or cooked frozen peas. This combination is like putting a log on your metabolic fire. It will stay burning for four or five hours. Sugary snacks and refined carbohydrates are like adding a bit of kindling – no wonder if you eat these your energy fades after a few hours and you are hungry again.
- Don’t be afraid of hunger. We have become partly addicted to food – not just sugar, but the idea of eating. Before the 1990s no one really snacked, but we have ended up eating in a way that means our blood sugar see-saws and we are hungry all the time. We have forgotten that it is good for our stomachs to rest between meals. If you eat well you don’t need to snack. Eat only when you are hungry, stop when you are full. If you are eating the right foods, that should be three times a day.
- Don’t be afraid of fat. Protein needs fat to be absorbed, so do a lot of the nutrients in your vegetables. It satiates us. I don’t mess with my food any more – I eat chicken with the skin on, eggs are eaten whole and yes, I do sometimes cook my vegetables in butter.
- Stop thinking about weight. You are aiming for a state of food freedom, a place where you eat to nourish yourself, and that won’t happen if you’re worrying about the scales. Focus on noticing the other benefits of eating well. For example, the first thing people often see on the I Quit Sugar plans is how good their skin starts to look. The next thing that changes is their energy levels. At this point they start to feel more positive and they actually stop talking about their weight. That, to me, is where we should aim to be.
Geneen Roth is a specialist in eating and emotions, and is the author of nine books including the bestselling “Women, Food and God”
- Dieting will not help you find your natural weight. It’s too externally driven. Unless you learn to deal with the internal feelings that cause you to turn to food in the first place, you will revert to that behaviour and your old weight.
- Find the good in your life. People often feel that who they are and what they have is not enough, and eat to try to make that feeling go away. The more you identify the good in your life, the less you feel the need to fill the gaps with food. This exercise can help: a couple of times a day sit and take a moment to think of five things that are good in your life right at the moment. Even the smallest thing can help you appreciate that overall your life is good.
- Silence your inner critic. To tackle a weight problem you have to know how and when to eat, but you also have to look at how you talk to yourself when you are not eating. The more critical you are of yourself the more likely you are to soothe yourself with food. Phrases such as “You’re so stupid”, “When are you ever going to learn?” all chip away at the idea that you deserve to be kind to yourself – and eating more healthily is a type of kindness.
- Don’t be afraid to feel. People think they are supposed to be happy all the time, or that if they have bad feelings it will destroy them, but it’s not feeling that does that. Often we eat because it’s easier than tackling an issue – food can’t hurt you with its reaction, it won’t leave you, it doesn’t argue back – but unless you work out your feelings rather than eating them, you will always have a weight problem.
- Never eat while you are distracted. We spend much of our lives not paying attention – we focus on what we could or should be doing and not what we are doing. If you are not present when you are eating you will eat too much. On my retreats, when people become present during meals, not only do they eat less, sometimes they also find that they have been eating a lot of foods they really don’t enjoy.
James Duigan is the founder of the Bodyism gym and a personal trainer to the models Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Lara Stone
- Know what “natural weight” means. To me it’s a place where you feel comfortable and healthy. It’s not a body-fat percentage or a number. We often get hung up on what the scales say, but if you are at a place where you feel comfortable, where you have good energy levels, can do what you want to do and sustain that without fighting, you are at your natural weight and should embrace that.
- Know the difference between information and knowledge. Weight control is often governed by information – “Eat this 80 per cent of the time”, “Diet two days a week”, “You have to do weights to get a good body”. That is all information, but the key to finding your natural weight is knowledge. Discover exactly which of those bits of information actually work for your body and your life, as one size doesn’t fit all.
- Move, in some way, every single day. It’s what your body is designed to do. Even if you never set foot in a gym, if you are moving in some way every day you are exercising. Going for a walk, playing with the kids, taking the dog out – the more of that you can do the better. And if you truly enjoy whatever it is you do, it’s better still. I would, though, suggest exploring yoga – it can help you tune in to your body’s needs and become more comfortable with yourself.
- Learn the “art” of exercise. Anyone can run or lift weights, but the art is balancing everything so you do what your body needs, when it needs it. Ask yourself what you need from your work-out that day – does it need to feel challenging, do you need to be energised, are you trying to clear your head? Equally important is if you feel you don’t want to go. Why is that? Do you genuinely need a rest or are you just being lazy? Using exercise in the way your body needs it each day is key to getting the right results.
- Don’t eat foods that fight you. If you are eating portions that make you stagger away from the table feeling uncomfortable, if you are eating foods that don’t nourish you but fill your body with chemicals, or foods that make you feel bloated, gassy, tired, cranky or hungry within minutes – these are all foods that are fighting your system. If they are in your diet, your body will never perform at its best, and finding your natural weight will be harder.
Susan Hepburn is a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist based in Harley Street, London
- Appreciate that you’ve been there before. No one is born with a weight problem, but over the years our beliefs, confidence and self-esteem – and those of others – chip away at what helps us maintain a natural weight. Recognising that at some point you have been the weight you want to be now is key to ensuring you get there again.
- Use your subconscious. I tell my clients to remember a time when they were the shape they want to be now and visualise it happening again. Often, while they do this, a doubting voice starts to speak up. Hypnotherapy can take you past this voice and into the subconscious, a place where failure is simply not part of the process. If you don’t want to be hypnotised, try this exercise: get the image in your head and focus on it for a minute or so. Close your eyes and breathe slowly in and out 12 times. Relax your whole body from your head to your feet and now visualise yourself at the shape you want to be again. Do this for five minutes every day.
- Enjoy your meals. If something is pleasurable, surely you want it to last longer, but I find people who have weight problems tend to cram their meals down as fast as possible – particularly if it’s something they are going to feel guilty about later. Stop, slow down and enjoy every mouthful. Be more mindful about the food you put into your body and what it’s going to do for you – if it’s not going to be beneficial then don’t eat it.
- The key to changing weight is to embrace the lifestyle changes you need to make for it to happen. If exercise isn’t enjoyable for you, you are not going to do it. You have got to look forward to your work-out, and timing can play a huge role in this. If you tell someone they have to go to the gym for an hour a day and they are dreading it, they are not going to go. If 20 minutes sounds manageable, you are going to put your shoes on and head out of the door. Any work-out is better than no work-out.
- Put getting to your natural weight at the top of your to-do list. So few people do this, and because it’s not a priority it’s easy not to go to the gym or make healthy choices. Ask yourself how much you want to change things. Once you know, make it a priority.
Petronella Ravenshear is a nutritional therapist and Stella columnist
- Only ever strive for the best body you personally can achieve. I still remember my father telling me I would never be tall and thin no matter how many diets I went on. Now I realise how liberating that discovery can be. You can only achieve the best physical outcome for your body type, and recognising that is key to being happy with your natural weight when you do find it.
- Sleep well. Poor sleep adversely affects the appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin. After a restless night leptin, which makes us feel full, goes down, and ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, goes up. On a regular basis that leads to overeating. Good sleep hygiene is one of the first things you should consider. Your bedroom needs to be quiet, dark and warm, and there should be no electronic devices. Wind down before bed with something like an Epsom salts bath, which supplies magnesium, an important mineral for relaxation and stress-reduction.
- Fight inflammation. Stress releases the hormone cortisol, which leads to fat storage around the middle of the body. It also causes inflammation, which is increasingly being linked to obesity. If you are stressed and have inflammation, any weight problem is going to be harder to solve. There are supplements that can fight inflammation but it is also easy to do it by introducing more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet. Green tea, turmeric and resveratrol, found in red grapes and red wine, are all good options.
- Balance your insulin. Whenever you eat something you send a surge of insulin into your bloodstream, and insulin is a fat-storage hormone. If you snack or graze all day you are constantly flooding your system with insulin, and you will find it very hard to lose weight. Get back into a rhythm of eating three meals a day, with no snacks. It can also help to take chromium supplements to balance blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Hydrate. A lot of the time we think we are hungry when in fact we are thirsty. Taking in more fluid, be it via drinking water or more nutritious sources such as increasing fruit and vegetable intake, is such a simple tip but I find it can really change things for many of my clients. The body sees dehydration as a danger sign. It slows everything down if it feels it. That’s never going to help your body perform well