The Truth About Nutrition for Weight Loss from a Dietitian’s Perspective
Let me ask you a couple questions: Where are you with the term ‘weight loss’? Happy with your weight? Want to lose? Want to gain? What’s your history of dieting? What’s in it for you if you are successful at changing your body weight? Is it the number on the scale or is it something more? Do you understand the connection for you between nutrition and weight loss? Let me share the truth about nutrition for weight loss from a dietitian’s perspective. Bottom line: it’s much more complicated than what you’re reading online and hearing from friends.
As a registered dietitian, I get a LOT of questions about weight. Clients wanting to lose weight and clients wanting to gain weight. Body weight is a challenging subject – it’s hard to make your body get to a different weight because there are so many factors at play, many of them critical to survival. For example, in ancient days (or even now when so many people in the world actually don’t have enough food), the body has to be able to survive fasts and times of the week, month or year with little to no food. This is the reason we’re able to go into ketosis and this is the reason that metabolism slows down when our bodies think they’re starving (aka: dieting). There are some amazing adaptations in place regarding nutrition and weight loss – the body is incredible – but in order to purposefully change your weight now, you have to understand what you’re up against.
I get asked almost daily, “well isn’t it just calories in vs calories out?” If you eat 3500 calories you’ll gain a pound and if you burn 3500 calories you’ll lose a pound, right? Nope. Not so fast. It’s much more complicated. I also get asked “isn’t there a pill I can take?” Again, no – you’ve got to do the work and I’m here to help! And guess what? Sometimes helping isn’t actually supporting your weight loss. Sometimes it’s working on body image or relationship to food. Sometimes it’s pointing out unhealthy dieting patterns or even eating disorders. The way I practice is to meet each person exactly where they are so we can have a conversation and move forward together. Let’s discuss.
The truth about nutrition for weight loss from a dietitian’s perspective
This topic deserves a lot of discussion as well as individualized, personal care. If you or someone you know needs support with their weight and has questions about the subject, I’m here to help – just hit me up here on my contact page.
As far as nutrition for weight loss, I sure wish I had a simple answer for you….but it really depends on your body – how much muscle mass you have, how much fat mass – and it depends on your level of physical activity and how much you naturally move in a day. It depends on genetics (and guess what? You can get genetic testing here!) and it depends on hormones. Hormones regulate how hungry or full we feel all day, every day. Finally, it depends on your metabolism and guess what? The more you diet and restrict calories, the more the body digs in its heels and hangs on desperately to fat stores, worried it might be going into a time of food scarcity. Yup: metabolism actually slows down greatly every time you diet or cut calories. If you’ve lost weight or dieted throughout your life, we should talk about what that means for you now and how you can get off that rollercoaster.
If you and I ate the same amount of calories every day for a year, we’d be different weights -not exactly the same – and that’s because of all these factors. Changing your weight is a lot of work; nutrition and weight loss is complicated. The first thing I want to know when I’m working with a client is why? Why do you want to lose weight? Do you have a positive relationship with your body and with food or could that part use a little work? Can you be healthy at the weight you are now? What else needs to change in your lifestyle whether or not your weight ultimately changes? These are important aspects to explore because, as a registered dietitian, I’m all about your health ultimately. And I see weight as a bit of a different subject than health, which is measured by more than a number on a scale. Diet culture has us believing our value is tied to our weight, food choices or the number of hours spent on a treadmill, but that’s simply not the case. All shapes and sizes can be healthy and this can be achieved by fueling your body with nutritious food and adopting healthy lifestyle practices. I’ve seen people lose weight successfully and I’ve met others who haven’t been able to achieve a change in their weight but found happiness in other ways.
What’s a dietitian’s role?
No: our role is not the ‘food police”. Everyone wants to know what’s best for them regarding nutrition and weight loss but the answer is: it depends. As a fitness professional in addition to being a registered dietitian, I always talk about exercise in the weight loss conversation. This is absolutely critical for weight changes (hey – both losing AND gaining!). And as a dietitian who practices with an integrative perspective, you’re not getting out of a consult with me without discussing your sleep and stress levels, too, because these also make it nearly impossible to change weight if they’re not addressed. There’s SO much to discover when it comes to you and your weight. If you meet anyone who says it’s easy or simple, run the other way.
I do a lot of interviews about nutrition and weight loss so here are some of my favorite and most recent if you want to read up on what’s going on out there in the media right now and to get a better feel of my appraoch:
- Food Network – Staying on track with your health goals on the weekend
- The Daily Meal – uh oh – what’s really in hotdogs?
- GQ – one man’s miserable weight loss journey (it doesn’t have to be this way!)
- The Daily Meal – Hidden side effects of popular diets
- Reader’s Digest – weight loss plans specifically for men
- Prevention– carb cycling: how to cut carbs without eliminating them
- Plant Powered Dietitian – irresistible summer veggie platters
- Today’s Dietitian Magazine – Weight Bias and Health at Every Size; can you be healthy without losing weight?
This is a complex topic so please drop me a question or a comment about nutrition and weight loss below so we can continue the conversation. If you want more updates from me at Champagne Nutrition that include my monthly themes, make sure to join my very non-spammy mailing list.
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
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