men's health Movember

Six healthy ways to lose weight and boost your mental health

Mental health and weight loss are strongly linked, and the benefits of exercise and healthy eating go far beyond physical aesthetics.

If you are clinically overweight, losing a few extra pounds can give you extra energy, and a new sense of confidence. Maintaining a healthy weight is known to help prevent severe health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and reduce your risk of cancer. In short, it can drastically improve your quality of life. However, it is important that you lose weight by adopting sustainable, manageable and healthy lifestyle changes, and not by following fad diets or extreme detox plans. 

Below, six health and nutrition experts give their top tips for how you can sustainably lose weight, improve your mental health and become the happiest, healthiest and most empowered version of yourself.

Don’t listen to social media

Image courtesy of Natassia D Souza

Dubai-based behavioral weight loss coach Natassia Dsouza encourages her clients to eat intuitively. She advises them to listen to their cravings, and not to be confused by what all the thousands of fitness and healthy lifestyle influencers are preaching on social media. 

“People have started denying themselves what they want and need because they think that someone with over 200,000 followers knows better than they do.  They don’t listen when their body is hungry or thirsty as they think they shouldn’t be feeling like that. Then the moment they have a cupcake, the binge and restrict cycle begins. Intuitive eating is about ditching diet culture and learning to trust your intuition. We’ve been falsely taught that cravings are bad. But I want to teach people how to accept and trust these feelings.”

Focus on good health, not weight loss

Suzan Terzian Livehealthy Festival
Suzan Terzian speaking at the Livehealthy Festival

Suzan Terzian is a nutritional consultant and holistic health coach based at Bodytree yoga studio in Abu Dhabi. She believes that the key to maintaining a healthy weight is focusing on feeling happier and healthier, not losing aiming for a goal weight.

“I feel like we should just drop all the diet language and resolve to gain better health instead. If you focus on that, then your weight loss goals will happen, too. People who take a long-term view, and focus on adding knowledge and good habits one step at a time are bound to create lasting change. It’s a far more empowering way of approaching weight loss.”

Remember that every body is different 

Maria Abi Hanna
Maria Abi Hanna

Licensed dietician Maria Abi Hanna is the founder of Nutrition Untold, a wellness clinic based in Dubai. She notes that every individual is different when it comes to nutrition, and not one eating plan works for all.

So much of how we eat is on autopilot. We’re told to eat five meals a day to speed up the metabolism, even though research shows that snacking is not right for everyone. Some do better eating just twice a day with one snack. We’re told we should eat breakfast but some people just don’t want to. They get hungrier toward evening so the worst thing you can tell those people is to eat a light dinner. There has also been lots of research on personalized nutrition according to your genetic make-up. Whether you prefer sweet over sour has to do with your DNA. The most important thing is to know your body and what works for you. Something like 95 percent of diets fail specifically because they put you in deprivation mode.”

Be kind to yourself 

Livehealthy Festival
A panel discussion at the Livehealthy Festival 2020: from left editor Ann Marie McQueen; Pakistan’s first plus-sized television reporter and self-love coach Arfa Shahid; Danae Mercer, body positivity influencer and livehealthy.ae writer and Suzie Curtis, founder of Kymoo Sport.

Lima Fazaa, Chief of Nutrition at AIG Clinics & Part-time Clinical Dietitian at Dubai London Hospital, reminds us to be mindful of the way we speak to ourselves. She says that being too self-critical can damage your self-esteem and reduce your motivation. 

“Judge yourself based on your actions, not your weight. After all, your value as a person goes far beyond the number on the scale. Your thoughts are a powerful part of what drives your daily behaviors and actions. When the numbers on the scale refuse to budge, it’s easy to fall into self-criticism and guilt. Thoughts like “My weight is my fault” or “I don’t have enough willpower to lose weight” can swirl. However, berating yourself does more harm than good. These negative thought patterns are also associated with an increased risk of depression and dysfunctional eating patterns.”

Focus on non-scale victories 

exercise goals
Photo by Logan Weaver/ Unsplash

Fazaa reminds us that the positive effects of moving more and eating better are most noticeable away from the scales. 

As much as weight loss plays a role in improving your mental well-being, the non-scale victories such as feeling more energized, sleeping better, fitting into different-sized clothes, walking more comfortably, or simply feeling more confident are arguably more important. These victories are not just milestones, they are tangible proof of the positive life changes you’re making.”

Recognize your emotional eating triggers

emotional triggers
Shutterstock

Emotional eating is one of the most common challenges associated with weight loss. For people suffering from emotional eating, Fazaa suggests that people try to identify the root emotions behind their urges to overeat. 

“Acknowledging the feelings that trigger your emotional eating can help you to develop a healthier response to them.  Tracking your emotions, eating habits, and food intake can be a great first step to being more aware of how they interact. Over time, as you learn new ways to manage your emotions that do not necessarily involve food, it gets easier to handle difficult emotions.”

Livehealthymag.com is for every body and mind in the UAE. This magazine is all about moderation, making small changes, little additions and the odd subtraction.

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