How Important is Nutrition for Weight Loss?

Is nutrition essential for a weight loss regimen? In a word: Yes. Nutrition is everything. In fact, most people only view nutrition in the sense of weight loss and not for actual health. The advice is “calories in/calories out” or “workout more, eat less.” Now while that may be partially true, it is a huge oversimplification of how important good nutrition is to our bodies. Weight gain is actually just a symptom of the underlying health issues that a bad diet can cause. Eating too many processed foods or undereating both cause immense amounts of stress on the body which can affect our hormones.

And the current advice is a fad diet that is not dealing with the root issues. The internet searches and commercials on TV tell you to eliminate a handful of ingredients or build an eating plan around a single food. Or maybe it’s about assigning points or calculating calories or carbs, then making decisions based on numbers instead of nutrients.

The truth about these over-simplified diet options is that they may be effective, but they’re not sustainable. More to the point: they’re just not good for you. Not if following a diet plan means neglecting the nutritional balance your body needs. You may lose the weight and then gain it all back.

If you want to lose weight, keep the pounds off, and feel better, you need to follow a balanced, healthy diet. Here’s why.

The Effect of Stress on Weight 

Our hormones tell our bodies when to store fat.  This goes back to our defense mechanism as hunter gatherers.  When the weather was warmer and food was more abundant, we would be able to store up weight for the winter.  Higher levels of cortisol due to stress can spike insulin (also higher levels of insulin spike cortisol).  When we are in a “fight or flight” state, the insulin stops the body from burning excess energy as fuel and storing it as fat. 

Now, many things cause stress in our lives such as: work, relationships, past trauma, day to day events. Nutrition can play a huge part in being one of the pillars that help hold up these other stresses. Undereating, overeating in an unstable pattern, consuming too many processed chemicals, and an unhealthy gut can all lead to this stress.

Undereating is extremely common and most people do not realize they undereat.  Because people skip meals when they get busy and then binge later, they do not realize that the total number of calories they consumed is under what their energy requirement is for the day. Being in “starvation mode” can only last so long until this pattern becomes unsustainable and your body overcompensates to keep you safe, particularly by hoarding in the belly in order to allow the liver to have easy access to fat to make cholesterol and then make hormones. You know how when you try a diet, it works and then you gain it all back? And then eventually those crash diets stop working all together? That is because this principle of overcompensation applies.

Overeating the wrong foods in an unstabilized manner can also cause weight gain. The issue is not the number of calories but what type of calories.  For example: you can never have too many vegetables. Eating in a stabilized pattern reduces stress.  And an excess of sugars cause an insulin spike which then raises the cortisol levels.

An overbearance of chemicals and toxins on the body can cause stress if we are not able to dispel them and filter them through our kidneys and liver fast enough.  When we are overwhelmed with these compounds in the body, they are “oxidizing” or causing damage to cells and stopping cellular reactions and tissue repair.  Also, not having enough micronutrients can have the same effect, with the body having to either stop functions or continue the functions with the wrong ingredients.

Healing Starts in the Gut (Healing from Inside Out)

Our gut health is directly related to our nutrition and overall health.  Certain foods, stress, or a round of antibiotics can affect the gut flora as well as inner intestines.  When food damages the inner lining of the tissue in our gut, we have an inflammatory response, foreign particles can enter the body through the damaged areas and we can have an allergic reaction.  Inflammation can cause us to carry extra water weight as well as being in a stressed state caused by your immune system. Also, having a healthy gut bacteria can help with weight loss.

Of course, we would recommend things like being hydrated, a proper night's sleep, meditating, exercise that suits your body and stress levels as well to help us get out of the “fight or flight” state.

You Cannot Lose Weight Through Exercise Alone

Sometimes people fantasize that they can slim down just by living a more active lifestyle. This is the dream scenario, right? Keep eating what you want and let the weight slip away when you join a touch football team or finally start yoga.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. While physical activity is important for a successful weight loss plan, what you eat has far more bearing on your success. In fact, we’ve found that even when the rate of physical activity increased in the United States, incidents of obesity did not decrease. Why is that?

Now, this isn’t to tell you not to exercise.  As a matter of fact, we love exercise! Exercise, helps you with mental clarity, strength, flexibility, getting your blood circulating, increasing energy, and improving sleep! It is possible to lose weight through exercise but it is most effective with a diet that actually feeds you the calories you need and then some to account for your physical activity.  Exercising without eating can have the effects of undereating (as mentioned above) and put your body into starvation mode. 

Exercise also makes us sweat out important minerals that need to be replaced with proper nutrition and even possibly some supplements to make sure you are getting what you need every single day.  

Also, muscle weighs more than fat.  When you gain muscle, even if your clothes are looser it might not reflect that on the scale.  Now, at PH2 Nutrition, we would consider that a great thing because we don’t believe the numbers on the scale are 100% accurate in measuring your health and body composition.  However, sometimes if you see that your weight is going up even though you are putting in so much weight at the gym, it could cause you to give up, self-sabotage, eat even less/workout harder, or just binge eat.  We believe it is more important to assess how you feel, how you sleep, how much energy you have, and how well you are digesting.

A great benefit is that proper nutrition can also increase the effectiveness of workouts and actually speed up the process of reaching your goals.

Proper Nutrition Reduces Cravings

First, let’s be honest. Any dietary adjustment is likely to cause cravings. Sometimes it’s hormonal and sometimes it’s psychological, but either way, you will feel the pull toward old habits when you start a weight loss plan.

Setting that pesky fact aside, let’s take a look at the long term. When you build a dietary plan around nutritional values, you ultimately find that you feel more satiated. That’s because your body is getting what it needs, including macronutrients like fiber and protein that help you feel full.

In fact, a study from the National Institutes of Health suggests that people are inclined to eat more calories on a diet of processed foods than on a diet of whole foods. One likely explanation is simply that whole foods contain higher quality nutrients. You may even already be aware of this difference, even if you haven’t thought about it. How do you feel after a home-cooked meal of chicken and vegetables? And how do you feel after a “low fat” frozen dinner? Which meal leaves you craving more calories?

Better Nutrition Promotes Sustainable Weight Loss

If you’ve ever tried a fad diet, you know they’re nearly impossible to maintain. Any dietary plan that requires you to eat a single food twice a week for the rest of your life or cut out an entire food group isn’t going to work. Sustainable weight loss is about making practical lifestyle changes you can maintain in the long term. You need a strategy that doesn’t turn every dinner party into a minefield and every special event into an exercise in self-deprivation. You need to be able to eat responsibly without feeling punished.

Good nutrition helps you accomplish this. You develop a mindset of health and balance rather than a perspective of discipline. You learn to make smart choices, and you can occasionally make a less-than-healthy choice without derailing your entire system. Most importantly, you feel better. A nutritionally balanced diet makes you feel more energetic, promotes deep sleep, and can even give you glowing skin. The benefits go deeper than simply shedding pounds, which gives you more motivation to keep up the good work.

I like to view weight loss like landing a plane.  We want to gradually reach the ground safely rather than crash landing! As our body slowly adjusts to a new “normal” we are less likely to overcompensate in both our habits and physiological response.

How to Find the Right Nutritional Balance for Weight Loss

So, now that you’re onboard, what does “good nutrition” actually mean? Which foods should you be choosing? What’s the right balance of carbs, proteins, and fats?

While there are some universal truths to creating a balanced diet, each person’s dietary needs are a little different. You have a unique metabolism, health history, and genetic makeup. Plus, no nutritional plan can be fully effective without considering your specific lifestyle and objectives.

To find the best nutritional balance for weight loss, we recommend reaching out a nutritional counselor. A professional looks at every physical, psychological, and practical consideration that affects your dietary needs. They work with you to determine the right path for balancing your diet and establishing a sustainable routine.

If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend reaching out to us at PH² Nutrition. We specialize in helping you finally lose weight safely, no matter what your individual challenges are. Please let us know how we can help.