Weight loss is as simple as eat less and exercise more, right? That is certainly the messages we hear in the media. And it sometimes may seem like an easier solution. But unfortunately, it doesn’t always work.

A surprising weight loss journey
Janet (not her real name) is a client of mine who came to me to lose weight. She had tried everything and currently was exercising intensely twice per day to try to make the scale budge. And it wasn’t budging!

Janet’s friend, Claire, came to me months earlier to address her symptoms of joint aches and pains and digestive issues. Though weight loss wasn’t her goal, by creating an eating plan for maximum nourishment and gut healing Claire healed the aches, pains and digestive issues and lost 15 lbs.

So Janet came to me looking for a solution to weight loss and considered that perhaps her gut was part of the problem. In addition to Janet’s struggle to achieve a weight she felt good about, she was also experiencing chronic fatigue, heartburn, stomachaches, constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating. Her focus was on weight loss, but there were so many other symptoms all tied together! Within 1 month of creating an eating plan specific for nourishing her body and healing her gut, she had lost 10 lbs. and said her stomach felt amazing – better than it had in years.

Neither Janet nor her friend tracked their calories or counted grams of fat or carbohydrates. Janet had actually decreased her exercise because I believed the intensity to be a stressor on her system. So, why did they describe the weight loss success to be easy?

Heal your gut, lose the weight
There are many components to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Not only do emotions play a role, but the current environment poses a significant challenge towards healthy living. In addition, optimal functioning of the human body including the very important gastrointestinal system or “gut” is crucial.

In recent years, research is giving attention to the impact that the trillions of microbes in the gut play in health, illness and weight management. In the future, we will be able to identify specifically each individual’s microbiome and how to promote optimal gut bacteria. The ability to manage and prevent illness will be impacted tremendously!

Research published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology in 2012 looked at the gut microbiota and its impact on the development of obesity in animals. Researchers stated that evidence strongly suggests that the bacterial balance of the gut may play an important role in energy balance and weight. In research published in Nature in 2006, scientists focused on two specific groups of bacteria in the gut – Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes showing that the proportion of these two groups of beneficial bacteria were different in obese versus lean individuals.

We will continue to learn the clinical relevance in weight management of the bacterial balance of the gut. But what we do know is that creating a healthy gut microbiome is yet another reason for nourishing your body well each and every day.

Steps to take today
In my practice, I see clients who have damage to their gut and resulting symptoms for a number of reasons including medication usage, poor diet or excess stress. So what can you do to heal that damage that may be occurring each and every day or may have occurred many years before?

Eat real food
I believe one of the biggest challenges facing us in achieving an optimal diet today is not necessarily too many carbs or too much fat or all the twists that have been described to create the “right” diet. The challenge for so many of us truly comes down to real food vs. foods that are highly processed. Take a look at your diet. How many times per day do you eat a food that has strayed significantly from it’s natural source? Once, twice, ten-twenty times per day? If you do one thing today it is cut out an option that is highly processed and substitute it for a real, whole food – fruit, vegetable or lean source of protein.

Feed your gut what it needs
Your gut needs good bacteria and it needs food for bacteria – probiotics and prebiotics. People may often reach for a supplement, but there are also great food choices. Probiotic foods include fermented foods such as yogurt or kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi or kombucha. Prebiotic foods include foods rich in fiber – think fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. And remember – real food! Look for these options that also have little to no processing. Fresh or frozen (without added ingredients) fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds with at the most minimal salt added, yogurt with little added sugar and artificial ingredients.

Rest and relax
We live in a highly stressful environment. You can’t always eliminate the stressors in your life, but consider where you can minimize stress and find ways to manage it better. Can you say “No” to some of the commitments that are filling up your schedule? Can you take 5 minutes each day to simply breathe – close your eyes, shut off your phone and buzzing e-mail and let your body and mind rest? And remember – sleep is important for stress management and a healthy body too! Chronic sleep deprivation which so many Americans live with today is a significant stressor on the body. Get at least 7 hours every night for your best health!

Take steps today to promote a healthy body and a healthy gut. I believe the results can be tremendous!

If you are ready get your life back so you no longer have to miss out on the things you enjoy – to end the cycle of feeling sick, bloated and being overweight – click here to contact Lynda to learn how to create healthy eating and healthy living that will work for you.

There is no one size fits all approach to nutrition and healthy living. Recommendations given are not intended to replace the personalized guidance of a health professional.