The 5 Ws of Weight Loss (aka Food Habits)

Let’s open the can. Let’s talk about the proverbial elephant in the room. Something which, in the day of self-love and banishing the body shame, has become a bit of a dirty word. Let’s talk about weight loss and the food habits that support - or inhibit - them.

I’d be lying if I said weight loss isn’t one of the top five concerns I see in my private practice. And I’m not just talking about folks who are obese and need to lose weight to reduce their risks of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. I’m talking about a variety of people, such as:
  • folks who need help shifting their last five kilos
  • women with PCOS or hypothyroidism who need guidance
  • and even athletes who want to lean down so they feel lighter on their run, bike, or in their kayak

What does working with me for weight loss look like?

So, what about weight loss in a private practice setting?

As with any case or health concern I see in clinic, if a client comes in with weight loss as a goal somewhere on their list, I need to take a whole health history.

You may know there are some pathological reasons that can be a hindrance to weight loss. Some conditions, such as Hashimoto’s and PCOS, as well as some medications, can make it harder to shift weight.

So, as part of my case taking, we need to uncover if any of these concerns are adding to the mix.

Then, once we sort through any underlying barriers from a medical perspective, we need to dive into the food you are eating.

Obviously, we'll look at WHAT you’re eating. But here’s the clincher -  your diet and your road to weight loss are so much more than just WHAT.

It’s the who, what, when, where, and why. By unlocking and knowing your answers to each of these questions, you can overcome plateaus and roadblocks in your weight journey.

WHERE (... abs are made)

There’s a meme that I see around every now and then with the caption,
“Abs are made in the kitchen”
First of all, I need to find that kitchen! Whoever has the kitchen packing abs like school lunches, please let me know!

But in all seriousness, the sentiment is true.

Yes, exercise is so important to our health on so many levels. Exercise can improve our mood, improve our cardiovascular function, support muscle and skeletal tissue integrity, as well as help us keep lean and trim.

However, exercise isn’t the only key to weight loss; your diet and food habits can make or break your efforts in the gym!

WHO (you are the sum of the 5 people you are most around)

Regarding the WHO of your food intake, we’re looking at who you’re eating with.

Do you ...
  • eat alone?
  • share meals with loved ones?
  • spend mealtimes delegating and bargaining with children?
  • or eat at your desk in the office?
Who you eat with can overtly or covertly affect how much you eat and may determine if you’re in fight or flight mode, as opposed to rest and digest. Being stressed when we eat can result in overeating and not absorbing our nutrients.

You can read a bit more about the impact of stress and digestion here.

WHAT (we all know our 'what' - or do we?)

Next, we want to look at WHAT we eat.

Most people think this is the be-all and end-all to weight loss. Clients will often show up to a consult with a smart phone app, meal plan, or food diary they’ve religiously been keeping. They know what they’re eating, but they might not know what is best for them.

Depending on your genetics, epigenetics, and anthropometry you might do fantastic on a high carb diet, but instead, you’re trialling keto.

Likewise, you may be smashing a Paleo type diet when your body might favour one higher in protein.

Part of what I love doing in clinic is using various tools to assess what body type you are, and therefore what food philosophy or food groups might be better for you overall.

WHEN (chronobiology)

At this stage, we dive into WHEN you’re eating.

Again, different body types will do better on different food timings. Even when trying to lose weight, some bodies need snacks, whereas others can skip the snacks.

If you’ve read my blogs for a while, you may recall some articles where I talk about the timing of meals, especially around training. One of my biggest golden rules when it comes to weight loss is the timing of starchy carbohydrates in the diet.

For folks looking to lean down, it’s all about choosing to have your starchy carbs around your exercise and limiting them at all other times. You can read up a bit more about this idea here.

WHERE (yes, again)?

Then, we dive into the WHERE - again. Because the where of weight loss is twofold.

In the first WHERE, we looked at where you are physically eating, i.e at your desk, in the car, at a nice calm dinner table, etc.

The second WHERE is all about where you source your nutrients.

For a while, there was a big push on eating to your macros. Everyone was using apps that tracked macronutrient values and compared them to recommended diets.

This can be either extremely helpful or extremely detrimental!

I’ve seen serious gym goers come in with diets rife with chocolate bars, pizza, and takeaway meals that - while it keeping them within their macronutrient ratios and caloric recommendations - was causing inflammation, anxiety, and low vitamin and mineral intake.

Bang for your buck with foods is something I often talk about. This idea is about what foods will give you the most health benefits with a lower impact on the energy transaction.

Where can you get a great hit of B vitamins or magnesium, without ‘costing’ too much calorically?

At this point, I'll ask you to think about where you’re getting your energy from.

WHY (the biggest question in weight loss)

Lastly - and this is often a driver in many people’s weight loss journeys - is looking at your WHY.

Why do you want to lose weight?

Without a clear why, you’re less likely to stick to a task. And having a blasé why isn’t helping you. A why such as ...
“I want to look leaner” or “I want to feel lighter”
Isn’t necessarily going to help you when the cheeky latte, glass of wine, or cheese platter is calling you.

Having a steadfast, firm why can really help you stay on track. But what does that look like?

A clear, strong why may be along the lines of ...
“I want to lose weight so I’m no longer at risk of Type 2 diabetes.” or “I want to lose weight so I have a kilo less on the bike and can improve my speed for my next race.”
If weight loss is something you’ve been working on, I ask you to take a moment and really think about your why. Has it changed since you started your journey? Is it enough to keep you on track?

WHY (the second)

Just like the WHERE, there are also two WHYS.

The second WHY I look at with clients on a weight loss journey is, “Why do you eat the way you do?”

This is often about the less than best foods we find ourselves sneaking. But it can also be about food philosophies or fads such as veganism, paleo, or 'I quit sugar.'

So my question is, why do you do things like eat half a packet of cookies at 3:30 every day?

Let’s look at that why. Is it because:
  • you’re bored?
  • your blood sugar is crashing because you didn’t eat enough carbohydrate and protein after your training session in the morning?
  • you have afternoon tea with a co-worker every day and find yourself mirroring their behaviours?
Understanding the answers to questions like this are important because you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

So, if you’ve got some food habits you’d like to change or you feel you’re overdoing it in the snacks department, it might be worth looking at the why behind your actions and choices.

A good place to start is to keep a log of any food cravings you get, and the activities you’re doing or the time of day you get them.

For example, you might find a pattern of having a whole meal for afternoon tea that might stem from poor after-training fuel.

Changing Your Food Habits

Okay folks, the challenge has been set. If weight loss - for whatever reason - is something you’re working on this year, I encourage you to look at your:
  • WHO
  • WHAT
  • WHEN
  • WHERE(s)
  • and WHY(s)
When you take the time to really understand your motives and behaviours, it can make the ‘doing’ part a lot easier.

Keep an eye out for my next blog which dives into some practical tips on foods to eat and foods to limit to help you on your journey.

As always, if you’re keen to work with me, head over to my new store full of ebooks, short and longer courses to help you help yourself.

Or, if you’d like to dive deeper into your health with me, book a private consultation here.