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The #1 Key to Weight Loss, According to Experts

FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The #1 key to weight loss isn't just counting calories or eating the right foods. It's about your mindset. And by the end of this article, you'll be in the right mindset to lose the weight you want, on your own terms; that's because we talked to two of the nation's top nutritionists to discuss the secret to safe and effective weight loss. Once achieved, you'll feel free—of the weight and the guilt. "As you get closer to your goal weight, doesn't it get harder?" people ask Ilana Muhlstein M.S., R.D.N." No, it actually gets easier, because once you've figured out" the secret, "it's really consistency that's key." 

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The Key to Focus on Your Relationship with Food—and Here's How

"When focusing on nutrition and the root cause of obesity, it's important to look past the obvious 'calories in vs calories out' and focus on our relationships with food," says Lorraine Kearney BASc, CDN, CEO New York City Nutrition and Certified Dietitian Nutritionist. "Some factors to take into consideration are gut health, stress levels, sleep schedule, medical conditions, food and taste preferences, financial resources, accessibility to food, and even self-esteem. Nutrition education (based on scientific evidence) is the best way to improve our relationships with food and achieve the long-term sustainable results they desire. Our relationship with food is driven by a biological need as well as a psychological need. The Biological need for food is related to the benefits nutrition has on our overall health as well as our energy levels. The psychological need for food is related to taste, texture, smell, cultural food and food cravings. If we do not tap into the relationship with food on the psychological level, the average person will not understand their food cravings and why they want to make changes to their diet."

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So how to tap into that? Ilana Muhlstein, for one, knows how.

The M.S., R.D.N., is one of the most sought after weight loss coaches in America—and for good reason. She lost 100 pounds using her own methods. When she was a kid, "I was custom ordering size 20 jeans and jean skirts online because they didn't have them in stores," she says. "And when I had to go to a wedding or an event or had anything fancier, my mom would take me to a fabric store, try to find something that didn't look like a couch and we would go to a seamstress or a tailor to piece it together for me because I wasn't going to shop in Lane Bryant as a 13 year old kid, so I had to change my mindset. I needed a better way. I was being so bogged by my weight. I was appearing confident, but I was internally struggling. I had 100 pounds of extra weight on me as such a young person."

In her book You Can Drop It!, she described how she took off the weight. She prescribed drinking water before meals, eating your vegetables first and other essential tweaks to your meal plan—but the crux of her strategy is about changing our mindset. Her years of training taught her that. Working with clients, "I really started understanding where everyone is coming from in their weight loss struggles and how I can best help them overcome them so they can keep losing weight happily and learn to keep it off for good." (She even called her program the 2B Mindset.)

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There May Be Medical Issues, Too

Kearney agrees with Muhlstein; you can't live in fear of your own body: "Many people who are treated by a doctor are simply told to lose weight, but this is not always an easy thing to do. There are many aspects to focus on when people are working towards their health goals, such as underlying medical conditions. Two common causes of obesity are related to thyroid disease and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome that can affect metabolism and hormone balance that may hinder a person from reaching their weight loss goals. The root cause of these disease states need to be determined first and the correct nutrition protocols need to be established before a person can work towards their goals. So telling a person to just lose weight will not be helpful to their healing process; it may create a person to develop negative self body image and fear living in their own body as they are not getting the support they need." And to get through life at your healthiest, Don't Take This Supplement, Which Can Raise Your Cancer Risk.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is Founding Editor of Body Network Read more about Alek