As I stood on the scale, my heart sank. It hadn’t budged. All the gym sessions. The obsessive counting and recording calories. I hadn’t even touched the low-fat ‘treats’ stashed in the cupboard for moments of weakness. What was I doing wrong?

Turns out I should have been doing the TOTAL OPPOSITE.

But firstly, let me tell you what led me here, and how I later shifted 26 pounds using 5 strategies that unlocked the key to my weight.

Years of chronic dieting through my twenties got me nowhere except feeling frustrated and deflated. My weight went up while my self-esteem went down. The red, angry acne on my face, sugar cravings and mood swings I experienced daily, were symptoms of my underlying hormone imbalance – but of course I didn’t know that at the time. I tried desperately to deal with them separately with harsh creams, diet pills and anti-depressants. I pretended everything was OK despite just wanting to just curl up and stay in bed.

My a-ha moment was when I was later diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome – my symptoms finally made sense. Relieved to have some answers, I went on the contraceptive pill and other medication to get things back under control.

End of story, right? Nope. The relentless yo yo dieting, self-inflicted deprivation and punishment went on. What I was doing clearly wasn’t working – but what would?  

The turning point for us was the birth of our son. The struggles we faced due to his chronic digestive issues saw him heavily medicated and waitlisted for surgery. At our wits end, I became obsessed with researching and learning everything I could about gut health.

Public health research was my background – so I geeked out on every book and article I got my hands on. We sought advice from multiple specialists and then turned to a more holistic approach to turn things around. And we did successfully. But what does this have to do with dieting?

To heal my son, we looked at the root cause of his condition – and it was a wake up call that I needed to do the same for myself.

I didn’t need to lose weight to get healthy – it was the other way around! To release the weight with ease, I needed to reduce inflammation and insulin, and nourish and support my body to bring it back into balance.  

So – here are the 5 strategies that have helped me shift the weight.

MORE, not LESS! I ate MORE real food with nutrients, fat and protein – LESS empty carbohydrates and snacking. Often relentless cravings and appetite is our body calling out for nutrients. When our bodies are well nourished, they crave less. Having adequate healthy fats and protein in our diet helps us feel more satiated and fuels us for longer.  Ever noticed how hard it is to stop eating once you start on a packet of crisps or biscuits? Yep, it’s those starchy, processed carbohydrates that switch on our insulin, which drives our appetite and signals to the body to store fat.

Body Wisdom – it was time to stop following the latest celebrity diet. No more calorie counting or listening to experts on what was best for my own body, which only led me to feel deprived. I followed my own intuition and tuned in to what my body’s inner cues. Was I actually hungry? Have I had enough? I learnt to trust myself and give myself permission to enjoy foods I actually wanted, instead of mindlessly eating bland ‘diet’ foods. This meant I felt more satisfied and craved less. And would you believe, I actually started to crave and enjoy salads! Yep, our bodies know what they need – we just need to listen.

Better self care – the way we feed ourselves is the ultimate act of self care. When we make choices from a place of self love and nourishment, rather than punishment or deprivation, it is much easier to choose wisely.  Over the years, I’ve shifted my relationship with food and became more conscious of the little voice in my head. I’ve replaced thoughts of criticism and deprivation ‘You can’t have that/look at my thighs’’ to kinder, more helpful self-talk like ‘’I’ll feel great/have more energy after eating this’’.

Another self-care practice is to notice the connection between feeling stressed and your food choices. We are biologically wired to reach for sugars and starches when under stress. But it’s possible to teach ourselves to cope in healthier ways. What non-food solution can you turn to, when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed? Instead of turning to chocolate to fix my problems, I gradually learnt tools to feel better and cope with stress, like deep breathing and aromatherapy. Our bodies release cortisol and adrenaline when under stress, as we enter ‘flight or fight’ mode. Too much cortisol increases body fat, or at best, makes it almost impossible for us to lose weight. When we feel calm, our nervous system and stress hormones are in balance, and our bodies can more easily digest food and burn fat.  

Happy movement – we stick to what we enjoy – so why not have fun when being active? I said goodbye to punishing gym cardio schedules, and hello to Zumba, pilates and walks. I also added in weights to feel stronger and more energetic. A kinder exercise regime meant more ‘feel good’ hormones, less stress and more balanced nervous system – this was my goal.

Healthy home detox – the last missing piece to my weight loss puzzle was a home detox – and switching to healthier, more natural products.

When it comes to weight, what we put on our skin and clean our homes with seems totally irrelevant. But here’s the thing – it matters!

The products we use at home get absorbed into our system, add toxic load to our liver and mess with our hormones.

Chemicals in everyday household products like deodorant, perfume or air freshener are shown to contain chemicals that disrupt hormones (and mimic estrogen). Why does this matter? Excess estrogen encourages fat storage, and affects our appetite, metabolism, mood, fertility and more.  

The good news is it’s easy to switch products and you don’t need to do it all straight away!

So there you have it, the 5 things I did to lose weight by ditching diets – by taking an approach that’s holistic, more fun than dieting – and actually works!

Want an easier way to feel better, get healthier and live a natural lifestyle? As a Health Educator featured in The Leader, Sofia Potente teaches simple ways to relieve everyday problems naturally and take their wellbeing to the next level. Take her free mini class here