Our country is obsessed with dieting and working out. But despite having the most gyms, diet books, and exercise DVDs, we are one of the heaviest, sickest nations in the developed world.

That's why, when it comes to weight loss, I believe we've got it all wrong.

Functional medicine recognizes that weight gain is a symptom, not the cause of health problems. In other words:

We have to get healthy to lose weight, not lose weight to get healthy.
 

Weight-loss resistance is a sign that something is going on underneath the surface. And that can rarely be solved in the long term by just another fad diet. Research shows that calorie counting almost always fails when it comes to sustainable weight loss.

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We need to ditch dieting and get healthy first. Then we'll reach our goal weight and look great, by accident. It will simply be a natural by-product of radiant health.

How do we do this? By healing. Here are the four key areas — your mind, emotions, gut, and hormones — that you need to heal first in order to reach your health goals.

1. Heal your mind to break repetitive habits.

The first step to healing yourself is to become aware that we spend most of our day lost in compulsive, unconscious thought.

In fact, Stanford research estimates that a staggering 90 percent of our thoughts are actually repetitive. Think about that: Nine out of 10 of your thoughts are ones you have constantly.

How can this harm your health? For many people these thoughts are not just repetitive, they're also negative. This chronic stress can raise inflammation in our bodies and could contribute to health problems in the long term — unless it's kept in check.

Further, research out of Cornell University found that we make about 200 food-related decisions each day. The problem is that most of these food decisions, the researchers found, were made on mindless autopilot. We aren't consciously aware we're making most of them, which could be further contributing to poor eating habits.

That's why increased consciousness of our thoughts is the first step to healing and long-term health. Observing the presence of our thoughts brings us into the here and now, and breaks the addictive cycle of our past.

I recommend practicing mindfulness meditation as one way to become more aware of our health choices and eliminate negative, repetitive thought patterns. Read 11 Ways To Keep Negative Thoughts From Harming Your Health for more practical tips.

Instead of punishing your body by restricting foods, nourish it with good food medicine.
 

2. Heal your relationship with your body.

Anxiety, fear, and hate are some of the most common emotions that can keep you from reaching your health goals.

These emotions will flood the body with stress and stress hormones. And stress is linked to an increased risk of weight gain and many other heath conditions.

You can't heal a body you hate. So instead of punishing your body into submission by restricting foods, make food your friend.

The key is to eat it consciously and rationally. Your body is a gift that has taken care of you. Love yourself enough to nourish your body with good food medicine.

Further, try to pinpoint what you might be holding onto from your past that's keeping you from your goals. Forgiving yourself and others can be a revolutionary act of healing.

I consider this emotional healing to be vital in my work helping patients overcome their health obstacles.

3. Heal your gut.

Now we have to deal with the physical body itself — recovering from years of unknowingly mistreating your body.

As Hippocrates said, "All disease begins in the gut." The health of our microbiome, the trillions of bacteria that live within us, determines many facets of our overall health, including our weight.

I often see weight gain as an underlying gut problem. Your microbiome could be damaged after years of junk food, toxins, stress, and harmful medications — and you might be seeing the effects in your health.

Healing the gut is a process, which I go into more detail in other articles. But herbal medicines like slippery elm, marshmallow root, and deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) can help. Nourishing bone broth is also on my list of favorite foodie ways to heal the gut.

4. Heal your hormones.

We tend to think we crave foods or can't get healthy because of a lack of willpower. But often, it's really an underlying hormonal problem that's disabling you from making rational choices about food and keeping you stuck in a cycle.

For example, I often see brain-hormonal connection problems in my patients, such as thyroid conditions, adrenal fatigue, and leptin resistance (when your brain doesn't get the message from your hormones that your body is full).

Years of stress and poor diet can do a number on brain and hormonal health, further perpetuating hormonal dysfunctions. Many people struggling with health problems have some level of brain inflammation, which not only can contribute to anxiety, depression, and brain fog, but can also hurt your hormones.

Healing your hormones is often the first step to healthy weight loss and long-term wellness.

To find out more, check out my free guides to Heal Your Gut and Heal Your Hormones. You can also consider a free webcam or phone evaluation to talk about your specific case.

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