How to lose weight naturally – my #talkhealth interview
How to lose weight naturally – my #talkhealth interview with the talkhealth Partnership.
talkhealth is a team of like-minded individuals, who are keen to provide the latest health information and support that is currently available. The team’s primary aim is to make health support easily accessible to everyone, offering interactivity between health professionals, charities and fellow patients and their caregivers.
I was recently invited to talk about non ‘diet’ holistic approaches to weight loss, resilient health and body positivity on ‘Instagram Live’ – @talkhealthonline. After a great start… a huge tech failure and power cut got in the way – so here’s what we would have talked about.
Miranda: How did you come to holistic health coaching? What’s your story?
Izabella: I have a passion for health creation and I see health and wellness coaching to be at the very centre of this! I’m currently the Professional Standards and Development Director at the UK Health Coaches Association, but actually, I’ve been in the health space for over 30 years, originally as a health research psychologist and then as an NHS Training Directorate clinical programmes manager.
However, it was an exhausting health struggle with a progressive autoimmune condition and that really got my butt into gear. I was desperate at the prospect of facing a future on aggressive immune-suppressing medication, so I resurrected my health research head, applied it to the scientific literature and began a journey into the world of real food, nutrition and lifestyle medicine.
It changed my health and the course of my life.
Coming from a European family, food has always been at the centre our culture, so I embarked on a culinary diploma at the unique Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland; studied for a Diploma in Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaching with the Institute of Health Sciences; wrote a book to help people make food choices for better health: The Real Food Solution – A Treasury of Wisdom for Energy, Vitality and Better Health for You and Your Planet; and set up my whole-health, real food nutrition and lifestyle website and coaching practice at IzabellaNatrins.Com.
Along my journey, I became a Trustee of the British Association of Holistic Medicine and Health Care; a co-founder and manager of its Real Food Campaign UK; and a Director of Fordhall Organic Farm Community Land Initiative. And then, in June this year, I stepped into my role with the UK Health Coaches Association.
I divide my time between my whole-health, real food nutrition and lifestyle medicine coaching practice and my role with the UKHCA – which is becoming more and more of a passion because it’s a great privilege to be able to contribute to the continued development of a profession that really does change the quality of people’s lives!
Losing weight vs losing fat
Miranda: Lots of us think that weight loss is simply a matter of expending more energy than we consume. Is that wrong?
Izabella: Firstly, the human body is much more than a calories-in-calories-out ‘thermo-dynamic’ machine.
- Calories are packets of energy – when we take in more than we need to meet our immediate energy needs, a proportion gets stored short-term in our muscles (as glycogen) and the rest some gets stored longer-term as fat.
- Biologically, yes – to lose weight we need to eat fewer calories than we burn.
BUT: Each body metabolises and responds to calories from different foods sources differently.
- As individuals, we all respond to proteins, fats and different types carbohydrates differently, both in how efficiently we use them and what nutritional benefits we draw from them.
- Simple sugars and highly refined carbohydrates (like bread and flour products) are high in calories and need little breaking down in the body… so are utilized very quickly but they leave us wanting more and more!
- It’s an over-fed and undernourished syndrome which leads to simultaneous weight gain AND nutritional deficits.
Secondly, some diets – e.g. low carb – at least initially, encourage water loss which can look like overall weight loss.
Thirdly, let’s be clear on the difference between losing ‘weight’ and losing ‘fat’. When we stand on the scales (or slide into those jeans) we want to be sure we are losing fat, not losing muscle mass. This is what I call intelligent weight-loss. When a diet is too restrictive and doesn’t provide enough calories to support an individual’s energy requirements, the body will break down muscle for energy. This is really detrimental to many aspects of our health as muscle plays a variety of important roles in the body.
Izabella: Our gut health and the relationship between our gut and brain is at the very centre of every aspect of our physical, psychological and emotional health.
The composition of our gut bacteria impacts our feelings of hunger and fullness, our digestion, metabolism and our mood.
The makeup of each individual’s microbiome is influenced by what we eat and in turn, this impacts on how we process food (and even what we crave) and it drives our emotions. Our gut microbes are really in the driving seat!
Miranda: How important is sleep to weight loss/healthy weight maintenance?
Izabella: Timely, quality sleep is absolutely fundamental to our ability to create and maintain health and that includes managing weight. Just a few days of sleep deprivation (i.e. poor-quality or insufficient sleep) will wreck our body’s hormone production and balance.
Poor quality sleep reduces our ability properly to use the hormone insulin. When insulin is functioning well it helps control fat storage; sleep deprivation compromises this function, promoting fat storage in all the wrong places.
Sleep deprivation also disrupts the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which signal hunger and fullness – so we feel hungrier, less full… and choose bigger portions.
Poor sleep also promotes the stress hormone cortisol – strongly associated with weight gain.
And if that wasn’t enough, sleep deprivation leads us to crave high-calorie, sugary foods… back to those empty calories!
Resilient health to lose weight naturally
Miranda: You’re big on ‘resilient health’. What exactly does that mean?
Izabella: For me, resilience is the ability to respond and adapt to our environment and make positive gains in our whole health.
Resilience is the ability to ‘bounce-back’ – a concept that has traditionally been associated with psychological and emotional health. Now, we are seeing it applied to our physical body and physiology too – this includes the food we eat, the air we breathe, how we move, the objects we touch, the relationships and emotions we experience and the broader socio-economic factors that impact on our health.
Miranda: How can we work towards being more resilient, mentally and physically?
Izabella: For me, creating resilient health means acknowledging and paying attention to all these factors and committing to taking small steps to make the nutrition and lifestyle choices that bring positive gains.
Take movement – we hear that if we eat less and exercise more, then we’ll lose weight. In part, it’s true – but again it’s how and where we move that matters…
- Weight training. Weight training increases muscle mass. The more muscle mass we create, the more calories our body utilizes in movement and at rest. BUT, heavy weight training is a huge drain on our nervous system and provokes the cortisol stress response. If our nervous system is already over-stimulated (too much work, poor sleep, anxiety and so on), a heavyweight workout will, most likely, be too much. If this is you – doing less, going lighter and avoiding heavy weights until you are in better health is the way to go.
- Walking (especially in the sun). A brisk walk, while getting sun, gets you a good dose of vitamin D while supporting mitochondrial production. Mitochondria are the energy production engine in each and every cell of our body, the more of them we have and the harder they work the better! But again, if you are in the beginning stages of healing, keep the walks short and at a slow to moderate pace and build up from there.
- Yoga/stretching. (NOT hot!). A good yoga class can engage the parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and relax system) and focusing on breath, stretching and going ‘inward’ brings down the stressed body and supports a healthy metabolism.
- Doing the fun stuff – frisbee, juggling, dance, tennis, volleyball, swimming, paddle boarding – even engaging with TicTock – helps us move, de-stress and have fun!
Positive body image – we deserve it!
Miranda: What are your thoughts on the body positivity movement?
Izabella: I believe that everyone deserves to have a positive body image, regardless of how society and popular culture views ‘ideal’ shape, size, appearance. The medics have fed us a mythical ‘ideal’ body image which has become deeply ingrained and is damaging. Dispelling this myth is important – there is no ‘one-size’ to fit all and the reality is that we come in all shapes and sizes. Structurally and physiologically each and every one of us is uniquely different. What may be ‘ideal’ for one person is not ideal for another.
That said, I also believe that everyone deserves to live a long life in good health. When body size – particularly fat-to-muscle ratio – impacts health markers like
- raised blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels,
- high blood glucose, and excess body fat around the waist
- factors that increase risk for type 2 diabetes and associated conditions and cardiovascular disease.
If we value our health we’ll probably want to take steps to address or reduce the risks by making nutrition and lifestyle choices that create better health. In my experience with clients has always been that when their body gets healthy it sheds its excess weight … without you even trying!Poor quality #sleep reduces our ability to properly use #insulin. When insulin is functioning well it helps control fat storage; sleep deprivation compromises this function, promoting fat storage in all the wrong places. Click To Tweet
Miranda: How can we work towards better body positivity while we also concentrate on becoming more healthy?
Izabella: I believe it starts with our ‘WHY’ and a vision. Getting clear on your ‘WHY’ is fundamental. What vision do you have for your life, for your health? We need to ask ourselves: “What do I want my health for”?
Then, developing a purpose will bring meaning to our lives. Purpose builds self-esteem and helps us to keep motivated when life throws us curved balls… which it will! A sense of purpose is individual – there’s no right or wrong purpose – there’s just your purpose. One of my favourite quotes is this powerful question from Mary Oliver:
“What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”
Next, let’s remember that health is never a ‘destination’ it’s a process and a journey; sometimes the path will be clear and smooth and sometimes it won’t. And for some, the journey will be longer. This is when patience, acceptance and nurturing your vision are so important.
And then it’s about committing to take, track and celebrate the small, consistent steps that really do bring the big wins.
One size does NOT fit all
Miranda: Is health defined by weight? Can you be healthy and heavy, for e.g.?
Izabella: I think it’s very individual… as I said, no ‘one-size’ judgement can possibly fit all. At the end of the day, if your nutrition and lifestyle is health-supportive, your energy and vitality high and your emotional state is good, then it’s likely your biomarkers will be healthy too. However, as I’ve said we do need to acknowledge and respect the science that shows us the many and serious health issues associated with long-term weight issues and obesity.
Miranda: When clients come to you for weight advice and help, where tends to be the place you start in terms of therapy or practical measures?
Izabella: We always start by building a sense of purpose and vision (usually with a health vision board) and then we do a comprehensive nutrition and lifestyle audit – which looks into their nutrition, sleep, movement, stress, rest, relationships – and we figure out which of these elements they feel they’d like to tackle first.
Often, clients can’t wait to start a ‘diet plan’ and sure, from the get-go I’ll guide them to food choices which support a healthy metabolism, but honestly – we start with the vision, their lifestyle priorities and then a strategy to ditch processed foods and incorporate real, whole foods. Building muscle through strength training is an important first step too to burn energy and help with fat loss.
Support is key
Miranda: What tend to be the most common blocks for your clients (i.e why do they struggle to lose weight)?
Izabella: Gosh… it can be for many reasons. For some of us it can be completely unconscious – perhaps from unresolved past trauma which, despite our best efforts, results in self-sabotage.
And, at this troubled time in the world events, it’s really worth taking a moment to think about our emotional response to issues Covid, lockdown and to information about the impact of climate change. All of this has the potential to bring us into and keep us in a state of fear. Now fear is a powerful, hard-wired emotion and it keeps us alert for and safe from threats, but chronic fear puts our body into a state of physiological stress where cortisol – the ‘stress’ hormone associated with weight gain, will be chronically elevated. So taking steps to manage our responses to world events is as important.
Often though, people feel unsupported in a struggle to lose weight and they don’t have ‘coping’ strategies in place. And this is where health and wellness coaching really comes into play.
The role of a Health Coach is to act as a supportive ally who will listen and not judge us, help us to clarify our thoughts and motivations, keep us accountable and help us to develop self-accountability. This is why I’m so passionate about my own work as a Health Coach and my work with the UK Health Coaches Association developing a professional progression framework for health and wellness coaches in the UK and Ireland. This is a movement that will change people’s lives.
I’ve also found that group coaching is really powerful. This does not mean calorie counting, diet plans, weigh-ins and prizes and other gimmicks. It does mean building a supportive community, experiencing a sense of belonging, learning from each other, peer support and accountability and actually, having FUN. It’s so powerful!
Miranda: What are your 3 top pieces of advice for anyone wanting to lose weight but may have struggled in the past?
- Be clear on your ‘WHY?’ Develop a health vision, make it concrete with pictures, words and artefacts and put it somewhere you can see it.
- Forget losing weight! Focus on making nutrition and lifestyle changes that support building resilient health. The weight will take care of itself.
- Stop stressing and start loving! Make no mistake, stress hormones will sabotage your health and your ability to manage and lose weight intelligently. Instead, look into the mirror frequently and cultivate a sense of love, wonder and gratitude for this amazing body of yours which will take you through your one wild and precious life!
Real food builds immune resilience
Profits go to support The Real Food Campaign UK
If this resonates with you, health coaching can make the difference between wishing life was better and creating a much better life.
✅ A mentor, helping you to understand why food-is-medicine and why education comes before medication; teaching you how to put the nutrient-dense traditional foods that kept generations of our grandparents fit, lean and free from chronic diseases, back onto your table.
✅ A coach, helping you to get clear on your health goals and priorities; supporting you with information, inspiration and the motivation to take small, actionable steps for the wins – the diet and lifestyle changes that get you into the driving seat and put the pedal to the metal for more energy, vitality, control and much better health.
✅ An ally, on your side, encouraging you to gain the confidence to manage your own health. An ally in allowing you to shine and make the REST of your life the BEST of your life.