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Ask Dr. Casey – Weight Loss on Mind, Body, Soul

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Ask Dr. Casey – Weight Loss on Mind, Body, Soul

By: Dr. Casey Carr, Naturopathic Medical Doctor

Hi Dr. Casey,

I am wondering if you have any tips on weight loss. I seem to be in a cycle of temporary success and then gain it all back again. Any help with a more permanent solution?

– Judy C

Hi Judy,

This is a highly relevant question to many! I see it often in my practice. Ideally, I try to help my patients get to the root cause of why. Whether it is why weight is stubborn to come off or is gained right back, doing a comprehensive intake helps to set a foundation to better understand where the gravity of the case may be. Because I am such a believer in whole-person care in body, mind, and soul, I will frame the conversation around these three tenets for what I most commonly see in my practice.

In addressing the body first, I first take stock of physiology. Is a low or slow thyroid (hypothyroidism) making weight loss difficult? How about high cortisol levels? When cortisol, a primary stress hormone, is high, the body will do everything it can to retain all resources (including fat tissue) to ensure it can make it through the stressful period. In addition to taking a look at basic labs, I also take stock of what and when a patient may be eating. I often see that in women who only eat one meal per day and are under high stress, their bodies really think it is a time of famine and hold onto every ounce, despite feeling (and being) starved. Ironically, adding meals and quality nutrition can actually help with weight loss by giving the body adequate food intake. Additionally, I assess how much and what type of movement they are getting per day. My requirement is that it first must be a joyful form of movement or at least a stress relief. Adding stress on top of more stress is not the goal – adding a way to relieve stress + increase heart rate is.

Secondly, for the mind aspect, I try to get a better sense of why the desire to lose weight. Overall health and longevity, being able to achieve a desired look, reducing joint pain? Gaining a deeper understanding if the goal is related to internal motivation or external influences can make a big difference in success rates (hint: internal is the most powerful). I also assess the patient’s support system: do they have an environment conducive for helping them in their goals? What feels realistic to them? I also encourage patients to read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. He has some really great insight on how to make long-lasting change. One example is he says to “win the majority” vs. the all or nothing mentality. I often see the all in, all out trait promotes weight cycling, frustration and more of a net negative impact on the body. One pound of weight loss per week as a general trend is the low, slow and sustainable way to lose weight. Making small lifestyle shifts that can be sustained is much better than a weight loss program that will last 8 weeks. It is truly a journey, and even after arrival to the “destination” of goal weight, it continues to be a process to keep it off. Small lifestyle shifts overtime, such as increased fiber, decrease in sugar consumption, increased movement, walking after meals, can add up to make a meaningful, sustainable difference over time.

Lastly, and often most tricky: soul. What exactly does that mean, anyways? I leave it up for interpretation based on person-to-person, but there are a couple of common themes with weight loss and weight cycling. If appropriate, I will inquire about self-sabotage patterns with my patients. Is it a theme in other areas of their lives? The reason for self sabotage may be different for everyone, but if it is a resonating theme, I may suggest getting support on board to help gain a deeper understanding. Other themes I may explore with my patients related to weight loss and weight cycling include self-trust and self-love. Sounds cheesy, I know. But if neither of those are in place, it will make the process a whole lot more difficult, and likely not sustainable. Author Louise Hay queries in one of her books, “what are you protecting yourself from?” if weight gain happened quickly – traumatic event, a feeling of not being safe? Additional weight aids as an additional cushion to possibly protect from past harms. I thought this was an interesting viewpoint, and have found some inciting event to be true for some patients.

Judy, it is evident: weight loss is complex. Often, our society addresses it from purely a body or physical standpoint. I think this is why it is often so unsuccessful for people. The whole person must be taken into account, not just the physical body. There is a mind and a soul encompassed within the physical, too. While I may not be offering some easy or alluring weight loss solution, I would argue most of them are marketing ploys anyways. The deeper inquiry is really where sustainable weight loss is at, and that is something that cannot be so easily marketed and sold.

You can check out more of Dr. Casey’s writings through the local Natural Wellness magazine publication and sign up for newsletters at her website,