Every single one of my clients wants to lose weight, and my goal is to help them replace the habits that keep them overweight with new habits promoting better health and a leaner body. I have been reading about why 69% of adult Americans are now overweight and it is a complicated issue.
What I have concluded is that, unfortunately, it is very hard to take weight off and especially challenging to keep it off. Our bodies fight to keep fat on, because our biology is still very much like it was thousands of years ago, always wary of famine. It has not adjusted to the new reality that in the United States the bigger danger to humans is overeating. Therefore, when we lower our calorie intake in an effort to lose fat, our metabolism senses the lack of food and automatically slows down to compensate. This is why many lifelong dieters complain they have such a hard time losing weight: their metabolism has slowed down drastically.
It is, however, possible to lose weight and keep it off, but it takes prioritizing our health, a change in lifestyle and consistently good habits. According to a speaker at the Harvard Medical School 2005 Obesity Conference, we need to exercise for at least half an hour daily for our health, one hour daily to maintain our weight, and 90 minutes daily if we have lost weight and want to maintain that loss. Nancy Clark, sports nutritionist, says that we should only reduce our calorie intake by 20% to lose weight – any more than that slows metabolism and the denial leads to binges and failed dieting.
In our culture, our lifestyle makes it very hard to move a lot and eat healthy, whole foods: we drive too much, sit all day and have machines do most physical labour for us; we are surrounded by processed foods full of addictive salt, sugar and fat. Yet, all of us knows someone who has lost a lot of weight and kept it off, so it is possible. There are no quick, easy fixes, so they undoubtedly were extremely disciplined about their diet and exercise.
As much as we want to fool ourselves into believing there is a magic pill or painless diet just around the corner, the truth is less rosy. I love being a health coach because most people cannot lose weight on their own and have been struggling to get healthier and feel better about themselves for years. This new profession has come along when Americans need it most, and I am honoured to be part of it.