Weight (fat) loss has been in the forefront of my mind for as long as I can remember. I grew up with a mom who felt she always needed to lose weight. I cannot remember a time when she was not attempting the newest fad diet program in an attempt to finally look the way both she and society felt she should. I also struggled with my weight in my early teenage years and mom introduced me to many of the “diets” she was trying. These diets always left us feeling deprived and hungry – and while they worked to lose some weight, it never lasted as we had not learned how to eat when we were not dieting.
Fast forward many years later and I found a love for fitness, and especially nutrition, which led me to study Holistic Nutrition and then teach the canfitpro Healthy Eating and Weight Loss Coach (HWL) program. This course provides many tools that demonstrate how to eat, not only to lose weight (fat), but also to help prevent disease.
The Pyramid of Integrated Nutrition, which is one of the foundations of the HWL program, is one of these tools. It shows us that the more food we eat that is closest to how we find it in nature (whole, unprocessed), the healthier we will be and the more successful our journey to fat loss will be. This is demonstrated in two ways.
Firstly, the shape of the pyramid – a triangle – shows us that it is the foods at the bottom (largest part) that we need the most of and the foods toward the top (smallest part) is what we need the least of.
Secondly, colours are used to represent a traffic light – green means GO, orange/yellow means CAUTION, and red means STOP. The green section is our “must haves” which are water, vegetables, plant proteins (legumes, nuts, seeds) and healthy fats. The orange/yellow section encourages us to eat unprocessed or lightly processed and includes animal proteins, fruits, and grains. The red section suggests we reduce or eliminate both moderately and highly processed foods.
When counselling clients, I have found the best strategy is to determine what they are lacking, in reference to the pyramid. Many clients are usually not getting enough of the “must haves” – in particular, water and/or vegetables. Instead of focusing on what the client needs to take OUT of their diet, I will instead focus on adding IN. Since most people consider diets to mean deprivation and hunger, which has a negative connotation, I want my clients to learn the habit of ADDING in first. I have used this technique with my children as well – “you can have the chips, but first have some veggies.” This way, they are less likely to eat a lot of the highly processed food since they have filled up on whole foods first. This still allows room for them to have their treat, should they want it. Following this method will help them learn to build a new, healthy habit. In the weight loss process, we want to develop habits that we can stick with for a lifetime – habits that lead to eating for health.
Another tool in this program is the Wheel of Integrated Nutrition. The wheel utilizes the same traffic light colour concept as the pyramid. It demonstrates how to make better food choices by looking at the food’s origin (food production), its processing and preparation, as well as its ultimate consumption.
I compare the wheel to a dart board. When playing darts, we aim to get a bullseye in the center of the board, and with the wheel we are aiming to make choices that are closer to the middle (green) of the board, more often.
The wheel is made up of four quadrants – two are what we refer to as “Industry Options” (food processing and food production), meaning you have less control over how these foods are made, but you can choose which types of foods in these categories you will consume. For example, in food processing, you can choose lightly processed or unprocessed over heavily processed foods which are high in calories and low in nutrients.
The other two quadrants are about food preparation and consumption. These are “Consumer Options” which we have more control over. If we prepare our own food, we can choose lightly cooked or raw over overcooked – think steaming broccoli over boiling water. When it comes to how we consume our food, we have control over how and where we eat it. For example, we can choose to sit at a table without distractions to eat our dinner – this way we are being present with our food, eating slower and listening to our body’s signals, telling us when we are full. If we eat while distracted, we tend to over consume which can lead to weight gain.
I honestly wish a program like this had been around while my mom was alive. The weight loss journey for her was a long one, riddled with many obstacles which left her feeling like a failure. The problems she encountered had nothing to do with her and more to do with the diet industry, which sets us up for failure. This program sets our clients up for success, in both the weight loss journey as well as in eating healthy for a lifetime.