In theory, it seems simple enough: if you want to lose weight, you eat less, you move more, and you keep doing that until you reach your ideal weight, right? Actually, it’s not usually that straightforward.
While "calories in/calories out" has been the prevailing advice for how to lose weight for decades, it isn't necessarily scientifically sound. Bodies are so much more complicated than a simple equation can account for, and your weight can be affected by intangible factors such as your ancestors' experiences with food (or famine), where you grew up, the balance of your microbiome, and even your inherent belief systems—and we're learning more every day.1,2.3
The long and the short of it is, there is no miracle cure, no quick fix, and no fad weight loss diet that will ensure you reach and maintain your ideal weight with certainty. In fact, the vast majority of adults who lose a significant amount of weight by dieting gain it back within several years.4
Why is this? It's clear that we're missing some significant elements when it comes to weight loss––and the latest research indicates that it all starts with your mindset.
Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life
What beliefs do you have about your body and your ideal weight? Sometimes, when we have a goal to shed those extra pounds we perceive to be holding us back, we end up telling ourselves a really negative story about our bodies, the foods we “have” to eat, and wonder endlessly if it will all pay off in the end so we can feel like our healthiest selves. No wonder weight loss can be such a struggle.
Weight loss is almost always a long-term, holistic journey that involves every part of your, body, mind, emotions, and spirit.
Weight loss is an inside job, and that means that you have to take responsibility for your mental and emotional care just as much as you do your physical care. In fact, research indicates that focusing on self-compassion, celebrating even the smallest wins, and concentrating on having a positive body image before you lose the weight are some of the crucial keys to reaching and maintaining your ideal weight.5,6,7
Of course, you can't forget about the physical side of things, too. You probably already know that working out, eating well, getting enough sleep, and drinking plenty of water can aid your weight loss efforts––but did you know that you actually have a secret weapon for weight loss in your gut?
Indeed, your gut microbiome is one of your best allies when it comes to maintaining your weight, due to its effects on your hormones, your ability to absorb nutrients, and your energy levels. What's more, it's one of the only elements of your body that can have a positive impact on the majority of physical, mental, and emotional factors that affect your weight, making it a critical foundation of any effective weight loss effort.
Slow but Steady Steps to a Healthier You
The research couldn't be clearer: if you want to lose weight, the best thing you can do is to go slowly, take consistent action, and focus on your mindset and your gut health as first priorities, not as afterthoughts. While everyone's weight loss journey looks different, here are three good pillars that anyone can benefit from:
1. Focus on self-love first.
Any lasting change to your body has to start with an appreciation of where you are now. Consider creating a daily routine of self-care and gratitude to keep you feeling fulfilled, supported, and energized enough to do the things that keep you healthy. If you've fallen into the habit of thinking negatively about your body, just pause for a moment and consider all it does to keep you alive.
Your lungs expand and contract nearly a thousand times an hour to keep you supplied with air. Two hundred and six bones keep your body upright and protect your delicate internal organs. Your heart will beat more than three billion times in your lifetime, and your nose can recognize a trillion different scents. No matter how you feel about your appearance or your body right now, it really is amazing, and deserves appreciation. And let's be honest: if you don't appreciate yourself when you're carrying a few extra pounds, that's not going to magically change when you lose them.
Creating a habit of gratitude and appreciation for yourself won't just help you feel better; it also has beneficial effects on your gut. You see, the relationship between your emotions and your body is a two-way street. When you physically feel better, you tend to feel better mentally and emotionally, too.
But thanks to the gut-brain axis, you can also encourage your gut microbiome to be healthier by deliberately choosing to focus on the positive.12 A happier mood can translate into lower stress levels and higher levels of feel-good hormones like oxytocin, which keep your body in "rest and digest" mode, creating conditions that favor the growth of beneficial bacteria that can in turn support healthy weight loss.
2. Eat a diet that's high in prebiotic fiber and healthy fat, and focus on enjoying your food.
Our bodies evolved to need a lot of prebiotic fiber. In fact, our ancestors ate 50 to 100 grams of fiber a day, which is a far cry from the recommended 25 grams most of us struggle to consume today! Prebiotic fiber feeds your beneficial bacteria, helping them thrive so they can edge out the bad guys and keep you healthy.
Fat plays an equally important role. While it's gotten a bad rap over the past couple of decades, it's actually crucial for your health, and despite what you may have heard, eating fat doesn't make you fat. Focus on getting more healthy fat in your diet from high quality, grass-fed meat, high vitamin butter, and responsibly sourced fish. It will help your brain function, encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria that protect your gut lining, and can help curb cravings that can lead to overeating.
Finally, do as much as you can to enjoy the foods you're eating. This may sound like a nice-to-have––after all, so called "health food" historically hasn't always tasted the best––but it turns out that getting your mind on board with what you're eating can make it healthier for you. When you look at food that you want to eat, your brain signals your body to release more digestive enzymes into your saliva, making it easier for your body to fully break down the food you're eating and get nutrition from it.13 So try to eat a little more mindfully, savoring the food you eat and giving your brain a chance to get in on the game. With so many delicious gut-healthy options, it's never been easier!
3. Develop habits that support your gut so it can support your ideal weight.
It's become almost a cliche to say that weight loss requires a lifestyle change, but it's true. No one thing can address all the factors that play into your weight; it has to be a whole life effort. Get the most bang for your healthy habit buck by embracing habits that support your gut microbiome, so it can support all your other weight loss work.
Some really good places to start include:
• Practicing good sleep hygiene. Not getting enough sleep wreaks havoc on your gut microbiome, reducing numbers of the beneficial bacteria that produce and regulate the hormones and brain chemicals you need to get your zzz’s. Make it as easy as possible for your body to get to sleep and sleep well by avoiding blue light for an hour before you go to bed, going to bed around the same time every night, and keeping your room relatively cool, as a cooler temperature is more conducive to good sleep. If you have trouble winding down, why not make the evening your gratitude practice time? Thinking about the good things in life can help you relax and send you off to sleep with a smile.
• Spending time with your tribe. Being with people you care about lowers stress, encourages the production of beneficial hormones, and allows you to pick up some new strains of bacteria, all of which can help nurture a healthy microbiome. Loneliness, on the other hand, can cause a low mood, stress, and even bouts of inflammation that can then go on to affect your microbes, your overall health, and your weight.14 So whether you do it over a family dinner, a Facetime call with faraway loved ones, or simply by hanging out and having a fun evening with friends, make spending time with your tribe a priority.
• Embracing mindful movement. As you may have noticed, a big theme here is mindfulness. While you can force yourself to do all kinds of healthy things, if you're not doing them mindfully from a place of self-care, you're almost certain to burn out on them and find yourself right back where you started. Exercise is no exception, and since it's so beneficial for your overall health, not to mention your gut microbiome, it's well worth finding a kind of exercise you can really fall in love with. Don't be afraid to think outside the box, and remember, you'll almost certainly see better results if you're involving your brain in your training and really being aware of what's happening in your body, instead of mindlessly forcing yourself through it.15
• Rebalance your gut microbiome so it favors beneficial bacteria. If you're hoping to tip the scales towards your ideal weight, then you'll need to make sure that you give your body the bacterial allies it needs to get there. Besides avoiding things that deplete beneficial bacteria (including overzealous hygiene and cleaning habits, not sleeping enough, and being exposed to antibiotics in food and medication), try to also stay away from things that feed undesirable bacteria (like a diet high in sugar and processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle where you spend a lot of time indoors).
You may also want to consider going straight to the source of weight loss support by repopulating your gut with beneficial bacteria. If you've never really thought about your bacterial balance before, it's almost certain that your microbiome is out of balance––there are just so many aspects of modern life that deplete the good guys.
One of the easiest ways to repopulate your gut while supporting your optimal weight is with a premium probiotic specifically designed to naturally remove barriers to weight loss, like Hyperbiotics Better Body. Formulated with prebiotic Orafti P95 to help beneficial bacteria set up shop in your gut and white kidney bean extract to reduce the impact of carbs, Better Body also includes six targeted strains of bacteria specifically chosen to mitigate the effects of modern Western living that can be so challenging for weight maintenance.
The truth is, the best weight loss program isn't a program at all. It's a journey, and one that you have to be in for the long haul for it to work. But there's a big difference between trying the same old things and hoping they work this time, and going into your weight loss efforts knowing how your body works and the practical steps you need to follow to give it the tools to perform the way it was naturally designed to.
Having the tools, the knowledge, and the self-care plan to truly support your body as it works towards reaching your ideal weight can really make all the difference. With the right blend of self-love, good habits, and quality probiotic support, you might see all those weight loss efforts start to pay off sooner than you think!
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Rachel Allen is a writer at Hyperbiotics who's absolutely obsessed with learning about how our bodies work. She's fascinated by the latest research on bacteria and the role they play in health, and loves to help others learn about how probiotics can help the body get back in balance. For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.