My client Lisa* just returned from 11 days in Paris. When she called me for her monthly check-in session last week she was absolutely amazed that she not only maintained the 18 pound weight loss she has achieved while working with me for the past 4 months, but even after all the bread and cheese and wine and relatively few vegetables she consumed the entire time she was gone, her digestion didn’t go crazy the way she expected it would. (Lisa has a history of IBS, fluctuating between constipation and diarrhea- no fun.)
I asked her what she did while she was in Paris. “Oh,” she gushed, “we went to Sacré-Cœur and the Eiffel Tower of course. We went to the Louvre twice! I shopped a little since so many more clothes fit me now!”
She went on and on and I was whatever the happy version of jealous is of course, because I love Paris and I haven’t been there since 2004. Also because I’m nursing and so everything I wear either has to lift up or button down, and so I haven’t worn a dress in nearly two years. But I digress…
She told me the food was delicious but that veggies were hard to come by, mostly sad little salads. The cheese was amazing, the wine was cheap and fabulous, and she decided it was worth it to see what would happen to her skin and her mood if she indulged in pastry or two.
She felt fine. Soon, she was having a fresh croissant every morning from the patisserie across the way from their rental apartment.
“And,” she said, “we stayed in the Marais district. We walked everywhere. All day. I was so tired every night, I slept like a rock.”
Okay! Now we’re getting somewhere, I’m thinking. Sure, she avoids gluten and dairy most of the time when she is at home. After doing a two-month elimination experiment with me at the new year she discovered that too much cheese makes her digestion go haywire and that too much wheat makes her eczema flare up and her mood turn instantly sad. As she has been slowly adding foods back that she eliminated for those two months, she has also been working hard to repair her digestive health. We have her on a solid regimen of bone broth and gelatin, probiotic supplements and fermented foods, and real food diet that is low in inflammatory substances such as vegetable oils and processed foods.
So while she was surprised that her digestion was so strong, even after her visits to the cheese counter and her daily dalliances at the patisserie, I wasn’t shocked at all. Her diligent work in healing her digestion has paid off. And the fact that she maintained the weight loss she has achieved since starting to work with me? Easy- she walked everywhere for 11 days.
You could also point out that portion sizes are famously smaller nearly everywhere outside the US, Paris included. Also, Parisians are known to sit down, pay attention, and savor their food slowly rather than eating on the run (Venti mocha frappucchino no whip and a scone, to go!) as Americans often do. This is important. It’s hard to recognize when you feel full if you’re eating and walking and checking your email, all at the same time.
We know that stress impacts weight. Stress leads our bodies to release cortisol, and too much cortisol increases fat storage. The fact that Lisa’s trip was fun and low-stress, and that she was walking during the day and sleeping a lot at night meant that her hormones were functioning properly and her metabolism was humming along.
I think a really important piece of the puzzle was that Lisa was having so much fun that she didn’t stop to snack like she often felt a desire to do at home. Lisa and I have worked a lot on her emotional eating. She has discovered that her triggers are stress and boredom. With stress out of the way, having a fabulous time, and no time to be bored, Lisa’s snack habit was totally gone while she was in Paris.
Lisa not only returned with cute clothes, a functioning digestion, and a body she feels happy in, she got off our call with a renewed commitment to working with her cravings and emotional eating. Avoiding emotional eating was easy for her in a new city full of fun and free time and no stress. But home and “real life” come with some stressful work deadlines, relationship questions and self-esteem issues she is still working on transforming. So we know a bit how we will be spending the next month of our coaching together.
What works for one person won’t work for everyone, but here are 5 things to think about when you think about weight loss:
- Ample sleep and low stress = healthy hormones and healthy weight.
- Heal digestion and your food sensitivities may diminish. And something you are sensitive to when you eat it often or in large quantities may be fine for you if you indulge infrequently or eat it in smaller portions.
- Heal metabolism and healthy weight won’t be a struggle.
- Moving your body helps. Move every day. A lot.
- When we feel happy and fulfilled we don’t need to turn to food for comfort or entertainment.
We can’t all jet to Paris this month (I blame you, my two kids) but we can learn a lot from Lisa’s experience of maintaining weight loss, even in the face of (delicious, delicious) bread and wine and cheese.
Au revoir for now,
*Names are always changed when I write about my clients.
Kirsten Quint Fairbanks is health coach and holistic living expert who loves offering real-world holistic coaching for people who want to consciously cultivate big lives that get them totally fired up. Kirsten lives happily, works gratefully, home-schools secularly, dances inexpertly, paints badly, cooks traditionally, and nurses on cue in the San Francisco Bay Area. She believes that good food can change your life. Read more about her here.