Question: I’ve started eating like you recommend in your books and online, but I haven’t lost any weight yet. How long will it take?
Amelia’s Answer: I am going to start by saying that this is the million dollar question, and one that I’m afraid really doesn’t have a simple answer. We are all beautifully unique individuals, with totally different life contexts, physiology, psychology, habits, metabolisms, genetics and microbiomes. So while the information I share may well help some people lose weight straight away, it is not going to be the same for everyone. Also, it’s important to point out that many people that I write for don’t need or want to lose weight.
I would say, therefore, that my focus is very rarely on weight loss directly. There is so, so much more to good nutrition and a balanced and healthy lifestyle than the numbers on a scale. Not least because there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that short-term ‘diets’ are highly ineffective for long-term weight loss. What I try to do instead is to promote a balanced and moderate way of eating, that is sustainable, seasonal and joyful – alongside being healthy. That builds the nourishing foundation upon which further tweaks can potentially be made to help weight come into a healthy range. But success here is all about small course corrections maintained for years. Not rapid diets that cause pounds and kilos to shed for a few weeks only for it all to come back in the future. And it absolutely must be supported by a hefty dose of self-compassion.
Do you even need to lose weight? Remember that a healthy body is NOT necessarily the same as the bodies you see in the media, on Instagram and on TV. A healthy body has all the nutrition it needs to flourish, and is not about being the skinniest person you know or see online. Be kind to your body.
Become mindful of your patterns. How do you eat, really? Making notes can be helpful to bring more gentle reflection to this question. So often I’ve found, excess weight is an emotional issue, not just a nutritional one. Are there underlying feelings that you are trying to avoid or distract yourself from with food? If so, what alternative options could you consider to reward, soothe or distract yourself with instead? Check out my list of Non-Food Treats for ideas.
Be consistent, not perfect. This phrase allows us to be relaxed around food when the moment is worth it and absolutely not feel bad about it. However, most of us can’t eat ‘just a little bit’ of junk food every single day or multiple times a day and get away with it. So while the odd fun food is fine, a daily drip feed of sugary or ultra-processed food isn’t going to support weight loss – nor our general health and energy.
Do keep a watch on your portion sizes. This doesn’t mean calorie counting or measuring out ingredients, but huge portion sizes can hinder weight loss. Use your hand as a simple portion size guide (see this article for more information).
Be conscious of carbohydrates. I do not recommend cutting all carbohydrates out of our diet. Chosen wisely, they offer a lot of beneficial nutrition and fibre. BUT, there is a big difference between having 1-2 moderate portions of minimally processed carbohydrates in the context of balanced meals each day, and snacking throughout the day on white, processed carbs and sugary snacks. Remember that fruits and vegetables also provide carbohydrates, so we don’t have to have bread, potatoes or other grains at every meal.
Make sure you’re not drinking your calories. The best food choices are often hindered by several daily lattes with sugar, or endless cups of tea or fizzy drinks or a couple of glasses of wine every night. Keep your drinks simple; filtered water is best, with the odd coffee, tea or herbal tea.
Keep moving! Although weight loss is more about nutrition than it is about exercise, it is still important to keep moving to maintain your cardiovascular fitness and develop muscular strength and endurance. Remember, muscle is a metabolically active tissue – it burns more calories at rest than fat tissue does.
Sleep well. Good sleep is essential to support good food choices. It resources us with energy and helps regulate our hunger and appetite. Poor sleep can be a big ‘hidden factor’ in weight gain over the years. The same goes for stress.
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