Dubai: The struggle of weight loss is one of the most real struggles in the world. As someone who grew up constantly hearing about how she needed to lose weight, (although I would not be classified as an overweight person), I perk up every single time I overhear advice on how to lose a few extra kilos.
And, boy, have I heard it all. Someone once told me that weight loss is 70 per cent of what you eat and 30 per cent how you move. So I wondered: Am I giving exercise way too much importance? Should I be focusing on eating less? Should I even bother with exercise?
I go to the gym four to five times a week and I sweat during those sessions! Luckily, I am one of those people who really loves exercising. There’s something amazing about feeling strong, being able to lift things and to run up the stairs without losing your breath. But for someone who works out as much as I do, I don’t really look like the "oh wow, she really trains." kind of girl. I look like the "oh, she looks athletic but can also devour a plate of tacos" kind of girl.
Realisation 1: You can't disregard exercise
I remembered my meeting with Dr Marilyn Glenville, PhD, a leading UK nutritionist specialising in women’s health. She told me, “Contrary to popular belief, I believe you can lose weight without exercising. Simply by changing your diet. However, weight-training exercises are helpful in the process of losing fat faster. As building muscles takes up five times less space than fat, you can change your body shape quicker while you look and feel thinner.”
The benefits of regular exercise cannot be exaggerated. The older we get, the more important exercise is for our health. Regular exercise has been linked to a lower risk of cancer, dementia, type 2 diabetes, depression, heart disease and higher tolerance to stress.
Exercise can have a powerful all-round positive effect on your health. Moderate exercise performed during the day improves sleep quality and can also soothe insomnia. Exercise also helps to keep your bowels working efficiently and eliminates waste products your body doesn't need effectively.
It also improves the function of your immune system, your lymph system and the ability of your body to keep blood sugar in balance. It stimulates the thyroid gland hormone production and helps to improve thyroid function, together with improving your metabolism. This is especially important if you have an underactive thyroid.
Realisation 2: Tracking is extreemly effective
I became obsessed with tracking everything. I got a Fitbit to track my movement and my calories burned. I loved knowing all this information about my body. Whether I properly slept through the night, whether I need to stand up and move around. I learned that I burned 1,300 calories a day on my non-workout days and around 1,600 when I do workout. That's a prettly low basal metabolic rate, which means my calorie intake had to be restricted, if I wanted to notice a difference.
I track my food intake on MyFitness pal and honestly acheieve the best results, when I obsessively add everything, evem just a stick of gum. Knowing what goes in and out of your body is so important, because that is when you start really paying attention and making smart decisions.
Realisation 3: Make movement not feel like a workout
But calorie restriction was so hard for me. Especially when I love food so much. I wanted to eat more because I was always hungry. So I got myself a bicycle. A road bike more specifically, so I could ride around the neighbourhood and not get bored and increase my cardio, which is good for my heart and burning fat. My bike was a basic one I bought off Amazon.
That's always a risk. Buying your bike online and everything about it great, except the fact that I probably need to change the seat, as it gets uncomfortable to ride for a long time. But I realised that cycling has become so therapeutic to me. Not only do I feel my speed increasing and my legs getting stronger, but I learned so much about my neighbourhood.
To make my bike ride even more fun, I got myself the Bose Frames. They are basically these speaker sunglasses, that are engineered specifically for outdoor workouts — like biking, running, and climbing. In my opinion, they are the coolest invention because you don't have your hearing completely blocked by the music, so you can still hear what's going on around you (important when you're out on the road). There’s nothing in your ears or over them. And because the speaker system is configured and directed towards you, whatever you are listening to is isolated in an audio bubble that you can hear, but others can’t.
Realisation 4: Healing my psyche can allow my body to let go of fat
I had the most eye-opening conversation with Dalia Halabi recently who explained like no other nutritionist ever has why I am struggling to get rid of the extra fat on my body. "I exercise, I never eat junk food and I've been on a diet for basically all of my adult life. Why can't I shed those kgs off my body?" I asked her.
Dalia is a Counselor, Life Coach, Healer, Yogi, Reiki Master and Nike Trainer just to name a few of her areas of expertise. She is a big believer that emotional issues can prevent you from losing weight. During our conversation, she explained that many of my emotional issues, whether anxiety or deeper rooted negative emotions are causing my body to protect itself by holding on to fat as a way to keep it safe and warm.
There are plenty of studies that show, psycological blocks can slow down your weight loss. Weight loss is an uphill battle for most people, but if you are dealing with emotional struggles to top it off, you may have a more difficult time reaching your goal.
Repressed emotions can affect the body in many different ways. So the emotions that you don't process end up stored somewhere in your body, which could be why your fat just does not want to leave its place. To make matters worse, studies have found that overeating can become a coping mechanism for managing stress in life. The strategy may be more common among those who are already overweight.
"I don't believe in calorie restriction. Your body is asking for a certain type of food for a reason, something is missing there, whether it is the hunger receptors or something deeper," Dalia said, "But you have to listen to your body, proccess the emotions and heal yourself from within and you might notice the fat shedding much easier than it has before.
You need ro proccess emotions, look deep within and as yourself the hard questions. According to Dalia it's "What am I unwilling to feel?" and allow yourself to delve deep into your heart and head and figure out why your negative emotions are stored in your body.
Conclusion: What you need to do
Although we are dying for it, there are no shortcuts.
You CAN lose weight without exercising, by decreasing your calorie intake and incorporating healthier foods into your diet, however, I really recommend that you do not discount working out. Exercise speeds up the process and has an incredible amount of long term benefits.
You can also NOT lose weight, even if you are doing everything possible, including exercising and eating well. You have to make sure your stress levels, emotions and your psyche is in a good place. You need to process emotions. Because a healthy mind truly allows the opportunity for a healthy body.