The weight loss industry has many buzzwords. One of them is holistic weight loss. What does this involve and will it work for you?
What is holistic weight loss?
Holistic weight loss comes from a way of thinking named “holism”. Holism is a mentality in which you view systems as a whole of interconnected small parts.
In simpler words and in the context of weight loss this means that everything you do has an impact on everything else in your body and weight. In medicine, this would mean not just trying to fix the symptoms but finding out what caused the symptoms in the first place.
Thinking about weight loss this way involves eating more whole foods. You don’t completely know how food impacts your body. By eating food humans evolved with chances are higher that you’re eating the right things.
A holistic weight loss approach usually also involves changing the underlying thoughts that led to habits that made someone gain weight.
Does a holistic approach help you lose weight?
There are 2 main parts to every succesful weight loss journey. The right plan and sticking to that plan.
You need to know what foods and habits can help you lose weight. If you consistently do the wrong habits you won’t lose weight and maybe even gain weight.
Even if you have the best weight loss plan in the world you need to implement those changes to see results. Just thinking about the right habits won’t get you anywhere.
Approaching weight loss in a more holistic way can help you lose weight but sometimes the guidelines are a bit vague.
Benefits of holistic weight loss
The first benefit of looking at weight loss through a holistic lens is eating more whole foods. Clean eating, which is focusing on eating whole foods, helps people lose weight in most cases.
Most fattening foods you can come up with are processed foods. Some examples are pizza, donuts, sodas,… By eating less of these foods you almost inevitably lose weight.
The next benefit is that the holistic point of view on the health of your body seems to hold up. There are many interesting connections between the state of someone and what they eat.
The mindset part of holistic weight loss can be helpful too. Humans are not robots. Getting yourself to do something is not as simple as knowing what to do.
By changing underlying beliefs and thought patterns you can make it so you apply your plan more consistently. This in turn leads to more weight loss if your plan is good.
Disadvantages of holistic weight loss
The first disadvantage of holistic weight loss is that eating more whole foods or intuitively eating doesn’t guarentee a leaner and healthier you. Not all whole foods are as good for losing weight or as healthy.
Most people need to pay more detailed attention at their diet than just eating holistically to get to their weight loss goal.
The second disadvantage is that implementing holistic weight loss can take up more time. You might have to spend more time preparing food, you might have to spend some extra time to implement the mindset part of weight loss,…
Some people feel that holistic weight loss requires too much time to stick to.
The third disadvantage is that it’s not always entirely clear what habits are best for the whole system. Even if you start looking at your body as one interconnected system, you still have the question “what are exactly the best habits for this system?”.
Not all “natural” habits have an equal impact on your weight and health. Trying to lose weight holistically is not enough to know what exactly you need to do.
Finally, this way of life might feel too restricted to some people.
5 holistic ways to lose weight
Now you know what holistic weight loss is from a high-level you can try some techniques and see how they work for you. Here are 5 holistic ways to lose weight.
The first popular “holistic” method to lose weight is self-monitoring. This is basically observing and noting down your own habits, like what you eat and how much you exercise.
You can get yourself a seperate journal, a simple noteblock or an app for the monitoring.
Simply being aware of exactly what you’re doing helps some people automatically implement better lifestyle habits.
The goal of meditation is basically to be more aware of your own thought patterns and having more control over them. Meditation can help you lose weight for example by controlling emotional eating (3, 4) or avoiding eating out of boredom.
If you want to combine meditation with some physical movement yoga might be what you’re looking for.
Visualization involves imagining yourself doing certain things or achieving your goal.
By visualizing yourself saying no to a snack before you need to make the choice in real life can help you with making the right decisions when it counts.
Seeing yourself in your dream situation can also motivate you to push through when the times get tough.
Affirmations are statements that you say out loud or read. You can use weight loss affirmations to change the way you think about certain habits and losing weight in general.
For example you might have the belief “healthy food can’t be tasty” or “food has to taste good for me to eat it”. If you believe these 2 things your weight loss journey won’t go very well.
By doing your affirmations you can help yourself get out of unhelpful thought patterns.
5. Positive reinforcement
Whether you want it or not, you are constantly getting trained to do things by your environment. If you do something and get a reward for it it’s more likely you’ll do it again.
You can train yourself to make the right choices with positive reinforcement. That means giving yourself a reward when you do something good for weight loss.
When you’re trying to lose weight it’s most likely smart to choose non-food rewards or at least healthy food rewards.
Should you lose weight holistically?
The definition of holistic weight loss is very wide.
There is enough scientific evidence to conclude that something like calorie counting is not the complete weight loss story. Many foods and lifestyle habits influence your weight loss and health in unexpected ways.
Another benefit of holistic weight loss is that it acknowledges that just having a weight loss plan is not enough. You need to stick to the plan to see results.
On the other hand, some principles of holistic weight loss are not specific enough. Yes, whole foods are generally better for weight loss but you have differences within that category too.
Some “holistic” habits are also part of other weight loss plans.
All in all, for most people adapting a more holistic approach will help them lose weight.