When you have a client who desires to lose weight, what are the areas you focus on? The typical approach is to focus on food and exercise, but studies show that there are several other areas that affect weight loss/gain beyond just food and exercise. As a fitness practitioner, it’s important to explore these other areas if you want to help your clients with lasting change.
Functional holistic weight loss simply means weight loss that is produced by taking into consideration the whole person and underlying causes of the weight gain. It’s an individual approach to weight loss.
When taking my clients’ weight loss into consideration, we look at the following areas: food, fitness, stress, rest/sleep, medical issues, biological/genetic issues and the mind.
It is impossible to compartmentalize and separate each area into its own entity. If you think of a person’s life as a tapestry, each area is comprised of threads, all intertwined with each other. As you begin to unravel one thread, it affects all the other threads intertwined with it.
Let’s briefly take a closer look at each area.
The bottom line with food is that it’s not just about eating right, but eating right for your body. You can push certain “healthy” foods on your clients, but if their body is sensitive to or intolerant of it, losing weight will be a lot more difficult, if not impossible.
Food intolerances are becoming increasingly more common. Different from immediate life-threatening food allergies, food intolerances cause various symptoms, including gas, bloating, hives, irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, acid reflux, migraines, headaches, runny nose, feeling rundown, fatigue, brain fog and inflammation.
Could that higher intensity exercise you push your clients through actually be having the opposite effect you’re going after, especially with your female clients?
Cortisol, the stress hormone, can shoot up during exercise, especially during more intense exercise. When cortisol levels are already imbalanced from chronic stress, high-intensity exercise can exacerbate the issue. This also places more stress on the adrenals, which can in turn, further aggravate adrenal fatigue.
If you’ve been pushing a client and she’s not experiencing results, try an alternative form of exercise, such as yoga, Pilates or Barre, as well as relaxation and meditation exercises.
We’ve already mentioned cortisol. This hormone is supposed to be released when we’re placed under stress so that we can engage in the fight or flight response. So while it often gets a bad rap, it does have good intentions. The problem occurs when the body is under chronic stress and rather than being used up, cortisol sort of hangs out in our bodies, encouraging body fat accumulation, especially in the belly.
Have clients track their levels of stress, giving an average on a scale of 1-10 at the end of each day. Do they average higher than 4 or 5 most days of the week? If so, they could be under chronic stress. Teach them stress management techniques, such as deep breathing, total relaxation and meditation. It’s also important to get to the root of the stress. Have them journal about what is stressing them out and then have them ask these questions:
- What exactly about that stressor is stressing me out?
- How can I change my perception of this stressor? Remember, what stresses one person out, doesn’t necessarily stress another. Is stressing out about this worth the harm it’s doing?
- How can I change my reaction to the stressor or take action in dealing with it?
Rest and Sleep
Despite the fact that the average adult needs eight hours of sleep a night, the Centers for Disease Control reports that approximately 30 percent of Americans are functioning on less than six hours of sleep a night. This can have detrimental effects on our bodies.
For starters, when we’re sleep-deprived, we tend to crave carbohydrates. Part of the reason is because we’re tired and our brains and bodies want quick energy – hence, the cookies and chips.
The other reason is that sleep deprivation also messes up the functions of leptin and ghrelin. We’re just hungrier, crave the simple carbs and just want to get to the end of the day so we can sleep–or attempt to anyway.
Encourage your clients to shoot for eight hours of restful, quality sleep each night.
Medical, Hereditary and Mindful Concerns
I’ve had female clients who seemed to be “doing it all right” and yet, just weren’t seeing results. If, after considering the areas we’ve already discussed, your clients aren’t seeing improvements, it may be time to refer them to other healthcare practitioners to see if the root of the issue is deeper.
For instance, menopause, thyroid issues, and certain female hormonal issues, such as estrogen dominance and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) all encourage body fat storage. New research is seeking to understand more than ever the role one’s genetics play in weight gain and loss. And those who have struggled with weight for much of their lives probably have some very ingrained brain patterns and behaviors that SMART Goals will not touch.
When you feel there is something deeper going on, do not be afraid to recommend they see someone who may be able to help out so that you are then more effective in helping them.
Prevent the Unraveling
As stated earlier, you can’t unravel one area of one’s health–or life–without affecting the other “threads”. For example, when you’re stressed out, you probably don’t sleep well. Sleep deprivation encourages poor food choices. And if you’re low on energy and exhausted, you’re probably not going to want to workout. All this, in turn, can cause a host of medical issues, including problems with blood glucose, cholesterol and hormone imbalances.
Weight loss isn’t just about food and exercise. Take a step back and look at the big picture regarding weight management and you’ll see that it’s really more about life management!
This article was written by Carrie Myers. The author’s opinions are their his own and ELIVATE does not take responsibility for content, statements and opinions. You should seek expert counsel in evaluating opinions, treatments, products and services. For more info see our Editorial Policies.