Elsa Pataky's five strategies for healthy weight loss that work when everything else fails


When diet and exercise aren't showing results, it's clear that's something's off. But don't throw in the towel just yet — these small adjustments can make a real difference

Spanish actress Elsa Pataky.
Spanish actress Elsa Pataky.SHUTTERSTOCK

Elsa Pataky can boast about many things, and one of them is her fitness level. At 47, the actress maintains a toned physique that would make anyone jealous. The secret lies in a balanced diet and diverse workouts, including yoga, surfing, and strength training. She shares her routines on social media and through her latest project, Centr, the wellness app she created alongside her husband, Chris Hemsworth, which aims to promote healthy lifestyle habits and details her favorite dinner — grilled white fish loaded with proteins.

To debunk the myths that hinder weight loss even with exercise and diet, the experts at Centr urge people to "not give up, even if the results aren't showing". On Pataky's platform, nutrition expert Angie Asche explains how to make "five small adjustments" to get out of this rut and start to see changes.

Managing your carbohydrate intake

Giving up carbs in pursuit of weight loss is a mistake. "You don't need a low-carb diet to shed pounds," explain the Centr experts. "While many dieters try to cut carbs, a more realistic goal is controlling carb intake on days when you're resting from workouts." Like them, other nutritionists advocate for these often-demonized carbohydrates. "They're at the base of the food pyramid, which I consider as a reference," explains nutritionist Terica Uriol.

Like Uriol, Centr's nutritionists advocate for including carbs in your diet but at specific times of the day. Because it's not just about what we eat, but also when we eat. A study from Harvard Medical School asserts that dinner is the meal that has the greatest impact on our bodies. The rationale is simple: being the last meal of the day, it takes longer to digest than others. Published in the scientific journal Cell Metabolism, the study indicates that nighttime rest and inactivity result in slower digestion.

Daily Weigh-Ins

"Weight loss isn't a straight line," say the Centr experts. "Various factors affect it each day. Hence, avoid constant weighing." It's better, they explain, to weigh yourself just once a week or even once a month. In fact, daily weigh-ins have detrimental effects on our health: "They lead to inevitable comparisons with previous day's weights, losing perspective on the weight from a week or month ago, and associating results with what we've eaten or how much exercise we've done. This triggers an obsession and excessive need to control food and physical activity," says Isabel Campos Del Portillo, a nutritionist. Furthermore, "if the result doesn't meet our expectations, it leads to frustration, demotivation, guilt, and shame regarding our body, habits, and even our self-control or regulation." The bottom line? For your physical and mental well-being, stash away the scale.

Up your protein

When it comes to weight loss, not any old method will do. In fact, the most common mistake is losing weight at the expense of muscle, not fat — an action that sets the stage for a rebound effect. The goal is to gain muscle mass, and for this, diving into cardio exercises alone isn't enough; it must be combined with strength training, preferably involving weights. But in what order? "Doing weightlifting before cardio to gain muscle mass promotes muscle development, preventing fatigue from prior aerobic exercises," state experts from the International Institute of Sports Sciences, referring to scientific evidence gathered in studies like those published in the European Journal of Sport Science.

In this mission to build muscle, proteins play a pivotal role. "They're an essential macronutrient in muscle growth, actively involved in various physiological functions: actively participating in the immune system, significantly influencing physical performance, and also playing a structural role in muscle tissue," says Clara Muñoz, a dietitian-nutritionist. She recommends high-biological-value proteins like eggs or milk protein. And for those avoiding animal-based foods — legumes, best when combined with grains.

For those aiming to up their protein intake, Centr recommends this smoothie recipe — a blend of apple and berries. The ingredients include 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup vanilla protein powder, 1/2 apple chopped into large pieces, 1/2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 4-6 ice cubes. To prepare, blend everything at high speed until smooth and creamy, and drink.

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) in bed

Knowing when to stop is just as valuable when trying to lose weight as doing exercise itself. "Not getting enough sleep harms any workout," assert Centr's personal trainers. Apart from preventing muscle recovery, it also affects our appetite, driving us to eat more, they explain. "If you're not sleeping seven to nine hours at night, head to bed," they recommend.

Fran Sabal, a graduate in Nutrition and Dietetics with expertise in chronic diseases, focusing on obesity and author of Emotional Nutrition, advocates for the critical role of sleep in our weight loss journey. The book promotes "a new way of understanding eating habits and achieving your ideal weight," allowing us to comprehend and experience nutrition from a holistic perspective. "Our body and weight are the result of the interaction of all our parts," she explains. "Lack of good sleep can lead to weight gain due to hormonal imbalance caused by insufficient rest."

Fruits and Veggies for All

"Fruits and veggies are our allies for weight loss," explain Centr's trainers and nutritionists, offering a tip to increase their consumption: "If you're not eating enough, remedy it by introducing a new one each week."

Dietitian and nutritionist Laura Isabel Arranz also shares this sentiment: "If they're not prevalent in our diet, we're not giving our body what it needs, making it impossible for it to function well. By increasing vegetable intake, we aid our body on multiple levels, especially in weight regulation and gastrointestinal well-being." Spinach, pumpkin, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, asparagus, and cucumber are optimal foods for weight loss.