How to win at weight loss

Published 8:55 am Saturday, January 20, 2018

Last week, I wrote about how I had gained weight and was ready to (re)adopt some healthier lifestyle habits without dieting.

Diets don’t work long-term and destroy your metabolism in the process.

So, if dieting fails, how in the world do we win at weight loss?

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It’s less complicated than the diet book industry would have you believe. I follow one eating rule.

Eat real food, mindfully.

Real food used to be alive and comes from the air, sea or land. It’s something your grandmother would recognize as food. It has a short shelf life and spoils or must be refrigerated.

The best foods contain just one ingredient (the bag of carrots in my fridge read, ingredients: carrots). But most “ingredients” listed on our foods are unpronounceable chemicals (compare “carrots” to whatever is in my almond milk pictured above). These are additives and preservatives, things that have been added to our foods to lengthen their shelf life.

The problem is, if we can’t pronounce it, our body can’t really digest it. And since many of these added ingenious are fat-soluble, our bodies store them in fat cells instead of using them for energy or cell repair.

In the fat cells, they often change their cellular structure, causing really bad things to happen over time (from obesity or poor digestion to cancer).

Remember I said preservatives lengthen shelf life? They do that by killing bacteria. Picture a cut apple browning. That’s oxidation and bacteria in action.

The human body normally contains between three to five pounds of bacteria. In fact, bacteria cells outnumber human cells 10 to one. The vast majority of this bacteria is beneficial, helping to keep the internal body balanced.

Preservatives cannot distinguish between good and bad bacteria, so they basically wipe out all bacteria, leaving you with a belly unable to digest any food well. That means, if you eat enough potato chips and “sports drinks,” your body becomes unable to get nourishment from any food, even when you do make healthy choices.

Simply put, if you destroy the healthy, balanced internal bacterial, you destroy your digestive system.

The digestive workhorse in the body is the liver. It’s first job is to break down chemicals. It’s second job is to metabolize your food.

If your body is busy breaking down toxins, it cannot successfully absorb your food. So you can either drink a soda or you can free your liver up to burn off fat from your belly.

Become someone who discriminates when it comes to ingredients. Eat real food and stop ingesting crap you can’t pronounce (I like to say that crap stands for carbonated beverages, refined sugar, artificial colors and preservatives).

The next rule is to eat mindfully. This simply means to slow down and be fully present as you eat. Mindful eating helps us truly experience our meals, free from distractions.

We too often exist in a state of stress, living with an overly engaged nervous system. When you are under stress, your body releases hormones that signal it to store fat and burn off muscle; this is the “flight or fight” state.

Cortisol specifically minimizes the thyroid’s effect on metabolism, slowing it way down. When we are stressed, our cells die off more quickly than they can be repaired or replaced.

When we manage our stress, we engage the parasympathetic system, also called the “rest and digest” state, where we build new cells faster than they are dying off. Managing stress is literally the fountain of youth!

This calm, focused state tells the brain to release serotonin, which elevates the mood and stimulates the thyroid to burn fat and lower leptin levels (a hormone that makes you hungry).

A diet is a temporary food plan; they don’t work in the long run because they don’t touch on the deep-rooted beliefs, patterns and behaviors we each have about eating. It becomes just surface (eat this, avoid that) but doesn’t challenge us to consider the unique how and why of our food choices.

Further, being overweight is often not the main problem, but instead a solution to the problem. Overeating isn’t just a lack of self-control, but often an attempt to deal with pain from depression, anxiety or stress.

Mindful eating creates an opportunity to notice your beliefs surrounding food. When we can observe our innate reactions, we can cultivate healthier habits.

We often eat too quickly without regard for how we feel or from a place of guilt and punishment by labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” We are in such a hurry some days we eat from a place of stress or anxiety and then misinterpret our body’s signals. We eat when we actually might be thirsty, anxious or exhausted.

Mindful eating is the opposite of this. It is eating with intention and attention.

Want to join me in creating a healthier you?

I’m accepting a few people for a wellness coaching program that runs during February. Contact me at to learn more.

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness for Women” and the online host of a yoga and mindfulness channel for Eppic Films.Send her a shout out at or play along at