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Posts Tagged ‘weight loss’

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Do you keep trying weight loss diets but can’t seem to drop the pounds? Are you instead exhausted and frustrated by an ever growing layer of fat?

Calorie-restricted diets have been popular for decades as a way to lose weight, but clearly more is at play as many people under eat and still can’t lose weight or keep it off.

If you’re doing everything right and the fat isn’t budging, the culprit may lie in underlying health issues slowing metabolism and blocking fat burning.

Feast or famine? Dieting slows metabolism for years

For most of human history, life vacillated between feast or famine, with plenty of bouts of famine. The human body body has smart coping mechanisms to get us through hungry times — lowered metabolism and increased fat-storage hormones.

As far as the body is concerned, a low-calorie diet is a famine and it employs the same measures to save you from starving. As a result, each low-calorie diet can add weight in the end when you resume normal caloric intake.

This dieting-caused metabolic slow-down can last for years. The phenomenon was recently documented in participants from the The Biggest Loser reality TV show. Six years after participating, contestants’ metabolic set point was below what it was when they started. They burn up to 800 fewer calories per day! After all that hard work, most of them returned to their pre-show weight and have to under eat in order to prevent weight gain.

Dieting disrupts key hunger hormones

Conversely, if you have a history of overeating or eating too much sugar, you may suffer from leptin resistance, which hinders fat burning.

Leptin is a hormone that controls appetite, satiety — that feeling of being full and satisfied — and whether your body burns or stores fat. A diet is high in starches and sugars causes frequent swings in blood sugar. This leads to chronic insulin surges, which, in turn, cause cellular resistance to leptin. With leptin resistance, you’re constantly hungry and you store fat.

Lowering intake of processed carbohydrates and exercising regularly help sensitize the cells to leptin so your hunger cues and fat burning abilities return to normal.

Underlying health issues hinder weight loss

For most people, weight loss is not as simple as “calories in, calories out.” Sometimes inflammation and other metabolic factors can be a driving factor behind the inability to lose weight.

Many people are surprised to find unwanted pounds drop away when they follow an anti-inflammatory diet. These nutrient-dense diets void of inflammatory triggers are used to manage pain, digestive problems, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, depression  anxiety, and other health issues.

Why do they work? Excess weight can be a symptom of underlying health imbalances that slow metabolism and block weight loss. Systemic inflammation, leptin resistance, hormonal imbalances, stress, leaky gut, blood sugar imbalances, food intolerances, and hypothyroidism are examples of factors that block weight loss.

How do autoimmune protocols and diets fit in?

The autoimmune diet and protocols are effective for people suffering from various chronic illnesses. Anti-inflammatory in nature, special attention is given to gut health and food reactivity.

While highly effective for many in not only managing autoimmunity but also dropping unwanted pounds, sometimes people take these diets to low-calorie extremes. Even if you’re eating healthy foods and avoiding the inflammatory ones, it’s still important not to starve the body and trigger the famine response that holds onto fat.

In fact, increasing healthy fats, protein, and nutrient-dense foods encourages the body to drop pounds. Meeting your nutritional needs, providing healthy sources of fat to remind the body it’s not a time of famine, and enough protein to keep blood sugar stable are key for helping the body increase its metabolic rate and drop extra weight.

Functional medicine has effective ways in working with underlying health issues that hinder weight loss.

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Want to get fat? Go on a diet

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It’s an addiction to insanity in our culture, one of the most overfed populations in human history — the weight loss diet.

Despite plenty of scientific evidence that diets don’t produce lasting results for most people and despite countless numbers of dieters, most of them women, thrown into a lifetime of damaging despair, low self-esteem, and self-hatred thanks to failing diets, our culture still blindly adheres to the low-calorie diet as the panacea for all life’s problems, including those extra pounds.

The reality TV show The Biggest Loser provided the perfect high-profile platform for scientists to showcase what millions of Americans have learned the hard way: diets make you fatter in the long run.

Why dieting makes you fat

For most of our species’ history, meager food supply and bouts of famine have been the norm. As a result, the body prioritizes conserving fat and energy through altering its metabolism and fat-storing hormones.

Metabolism slows dramatically for years

Eating fewer calories to lose weight significantly slows your metabolism and causes you to regain the weight quickly and easily. The body will fight for years to get back to its previous set point. Contestants on the Biggest Loser learned they now burn between 400 and 800 fewer calories six years after their televised weight loss journey. In other words, they have to under eat just to not continually gain fat.

Satiety hormones skewed for years

Diets also skew levels of leptin and other satiety hormones. These hormones control hunger and food cravings. All of the show’s contestants had normal levels of leptin prior to losing weight. After losing weight their leptin levels plummeted to near nil. A follow-up study showed after they had regained the weight leptin levels were at about half of original levels. Other satiety hormones were also out of range.

This caused contestants increased hunger and cravings.

Televised torture for weight loss

The weight loss program The Biggest Loser contestants were put on not only ultimately damaged their metabolisms, it was unrealistic, tortuous, and exhausting. Contestants ate too few calories and exercised many hours a day, needing to quit their jobs to meet the weight loss demands. Maintaining the weight loss required exercising two to three hours a day and continued under eating. They were also left with mounds of loose skin.

Understand how the body works to lose weight

Fortunately, sustainable weight loss is possible for many people who understand functional medicine approaches to metabolism, satiety hormones, and the effects of stress and inflammation on weight. Unfortunately, those who have lost and gained weight repeatedly during their lives will have a bigger battle. It is also important to manage underlying causes of weight gain, such as emotional and addiction issues, PTSD, and chronic stress. For instance, one study showed many overweight women have been sexually abused as children.

Although portion control and regular physical activity are important, so too are managing the types of foods you eat. For instance, processed carbohydrates and sweets trigger the mechanisms that cause cravings and weight gain. On the other hand, consuming ample vegetables can alter the composition of gut bacteria in a way that fosters weight loss. Eliminating foods that are inflammatory, such as gluten in the case of gluten-sensitive people, can reduce stress on the body, thus facilitating fat burning.

And lastly, ditching the self-loathing and shame that accompanies diets can also reduce fat-promoting stress.

Ask my office for ideas on how to release weight in a way that is sustainable and healthy for the body.

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Eat breakfast to lose weight

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If you’re like most Americans, you eat a high-carb breakfast packed with grains, dairy, and sugar, or you don’t eat breakfast at all either because you’re too busy or you want to lose weight. Either way, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Breakfast is exactly what it sounds like — the breaking of a fast. After 8-plus hours of no food, your body needs fuel to bring its systems up to speed and maintain even energy for the day. As it turns out, eating a solid breakfast is one of the best things you can do to lose weight. It also helps assure a clear mind, steady emotions, and plentiful energy throughout the day.

Skipping breakfast can actually make you gain weight!

We’ve all been taught the “calories in vs. calories out” theory for weight loss. In an effort to cut calories, we skip breakfast because it’s the easiest meal to do without, especially if we tend to wake up with no appetite or we’re always in a rush to get to work. But while calories can matter, skipping breakfast can actually lead to weight gain:

When you wake in the morning, your blood sugar is already low. Skipping breakfast (or any meal) allows it to go lower and impairs insulin sensitivity, which leads to weight gain.

Chronic low blood sugar creates a cascade effect in your hormonal system that directly affects your body’s ability to deal with stress. This can result in increased inflammation throughout your body, which can lead to weight gain. Low blood sugar also causes brain fog, mood issues, insomnia, decreased brain function, and other health issues. None of these symptoms will help you stick to a healthier eating plan.

Skipping breakfast has interesting behavioral effects; research shows that people who skip breakfast tend to reach for higher calorie foods once they do eat, leading to higher total daily calorie consumption than those who ate a solid breakfast. This is partly because missing meals causes the brain to become primed toward higher-calorie foods like it would during starvation or famine.

Skipping breakfast makes you more likely to binge on sugary foods that result in an energy crash later in the day—making you less likely to go out and get that much-needed exercise. (PS: A big sweet, milky coffee drink with whipped cream is not a breakfast.)

Eat a protein-strong breakfast for weight loss and steady energy

You know you need to eat breakfast. But eating traditional carb-heavy breakfast foods such as cereals, bagels, muffins, and fruit smoothies isn’t a great idea; they sabotage your weight loss goals by destabilizing blood glucose and insulin after the night’s fast, as well as kicking cravings for quick-energy sugary stuff and junk foods into high gear.

Eating a nutrient-dense, lower carb breakfast with plenty of protein and healthy fats provides the brain and body with proper fuel, balances your blood sugar and insulin, and gives your metabolism a boost for the day.

Studies show a protein-strong breakfast can also reduce hunger hormones, increase the chemical that tells your brain to stop eating, improve your sense of satiety, and reduce evening snacking.

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fitness not fatness predicts mortality

We’ve long been told if we want to be healthier and live longer we need to drop the pounds, but turns out being fit is the best predictor for longevity, even if you’re overweight.

A team of researchers examined a collection of studies that together looked at thousands of people for as long as 16 years.

They divided study subjects into three groups: normal weight, overweight, and obese. They then divided them into fit and unfit groups based on endurance tests, typically running on a treadmill.

Their analysis showed that the subjects’ performance in the endurance tests determined their mortality risk in the coming years, not their weight. In fact, the unfit people had twice the risk of dying as the fit people, regardless of their weight. Overweight and obese people who were fit had the same mortality risks as fit participants who were normal weight.

In a nutshell  A thin unfit person is twice as likely to die as an obese fit person. This is great news to those who have struggled much of their lives, unsuccessfully, to lose weight. As long as they keep exercising, they can expect to live a longer, healthier life.

A big downside to the study was that the majority of subjects were men, so we can’t say for sure how the results apply to women. Also, it would be interesting to look at a study like this in relation to diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and other chronic health risks. The researchers only looked at length of life and not occurrence of disease.

So what does being fit look like?

Fortunately, enjoying these benefits of being fit does not require you to be a warrior at the gym or at Crossfit. In fact, in functional medicine we know that over exercising (which varies from person to person) is a great way to tax your health.

Most of the “fit” study participants were evaluated for an average of eight to 12 minutes on a treadmill. This falls in line with federal guidelines that suggest as little as two and a half hours of exercise a week, which can be done in increments as short as 10 minutes at a time, qualify you as fit.

Ways to meet those weekly goals can include parking far enough away from your destination that you have to walk 10 minutes to reach it, using a standing or stationary bike desk at work, and taking regular brisk walks.

Exercise is about much more than living longer

The promise of a longer life does not actually provide much motivation for many people, especially those who are younger. Instead, it’s important to look at other benefits of regular exercise.

Regular walking and other exercise have been shown to improve brain function, ward off depression  and boost self-esteem  and even curb cravings and addiction.

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After studying dieting for 20 years, a researcher concluded diets simply don’t work, a fact countless Americans have spent 20-plus years of their own lives validating.

Why? Dieting is constructed around faulty principles that defy human biology and psychology. The “calories in versus calories out” model fails to account for hormonal shifts during weight loss, the psychological consequences of deprivation, and the futility of willpower when it comes to eating.

In a nutshell, the human body has mechanisms in place designed to compensate for starvation.

Three things that cause diets to fail

The researcher found three key reasons why diets fail:

  • The deprivation of dieting wires your brain to notice food more and to make food appear more appetizing, tempting, and harder to resist.
  • Weight loss through calorie restriction causes hormonal shifts that decrease satiety hormones and increase hunger hormones. As a result, you feel less full on the same amount of food than you used to.
  • Calorie restriction slows down your metabolism so that you become more efficient at storing fat and less efficient at burning it. This is why people actually become heavier after each diet.

In essence, dieting is starving, and your body responds to a diet just as it would to a famine — with these responses that have kept humans alive throughout the ages.

What’s worse, the dieting industry has spun this built-in failure into a $61 billion dollar industry that preys on insecurities and hopes while ignoring some basic tenets of human function.

What about willpower?

When it comes to dieting, willpower is a poor tool. For example, if you use willpower to avoid Facebook during a two-hour work project and succeed except for during the last 10 minutes, that last-minute lapse does not undo your previous success. However, if you sit in front of a platter of donuts during a two-hour meeting and resist them except during the last 10 minutes, that last-minute lapse has undone your previous success.

The study found that the slightest distractions can trigger overeating in those who are dieting. It also concluded that the paltry 5 percent who do succeed at maintaining their weight loss devote their lives to their weight, living like a starving person.

So does this mean I can never lose weight?

Thankfully, no. The key is to eat consciously with a focus on health and nutrition, not to starve your body and trigger binges and rebounds. Many people who follow a functional medicine approach to health find weight loss is just one of the many benefits they experience.

For instance, your excess weight could be the result of low thyroid function, food intolerances, blood sugar imbalances, sleep deprivation, and even over exercising. Excess weight is typically a symptom of a deeper problem and addressing the underlying cause can result in gradual, healthy, and hunger-free weight loss. And not everyone is meant to be rail thin — you may need to adjust your expectations to honor your body’s set point and not society’s.

Also, many people have dug themselves into a deep hole of self-loathing because of their many dieting failures. This causes chronic and sometimes severe stress that can impact your biology and serve as another barrier to weight loss. It’s important to honor your physiology and rewire your belief systems around eating and your body to facilitate more positivity and relaxation.

Ask my office for more advice on the proper care and feeding of your body.

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Where does fat go when you lose weight?

434 where fat goes when you lose weight

If you’re like most people you are hoping to start the New Year by losing a few pounds. However, did you ever stop to wonder just where those pounds go when you lose them? Turns out most experts don’t know either, and the answer may surprise you.

Most people think that when we burn fat it creates heat and energy, but that’s not true. Instead, the majority of the fat we burn leaves through our lungs when we breathe – the more you breathe the more fat you can burn (providing of course you’re eating consciously). And what’s the best way to increase respiration? That’s right, exercise! So although exercise promotes weight loss by boosting metabolism and building muscle, simply increasing the number of breaths you take is going to help release those unwanted pounds from your body.

A recent Australian study was able to show exactly where our fat goes when we lose weight. For every 22 pounds of weight lost, more than 18 pounds are exhaled as carbon dioxide. The rest leaves as water through urine, sweat, tears, and other bodily fluid. The extra breathing you do when you exercise unlocks the carbon atoms found in fat, thus breaking the fat molecules down. The carbon then leaves through your lungs.

On average, people breathe about 12 times a minute when at rest, which takes with it 10 milligrams of carbon. If you’re completely sedentary and not going above that 12 breaths a minute it will put a cap on how much fat you can release.

And in case you’re wondering, losing weight is not contributing to climate change. It is simply returning carbon atoms that previously had been trapped in food to the atmosphere.

How you gain weight

We gain weight when we eat more food than we need. Those excess carbohydrates and proteins are converted into triglycerides (compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen), which are stored in lipid droplets inside fat cells. Losing weight requires breaking down those triglycerides to access their carbon.

Making triglycerides is an energy demanding process. Do you ever feel sleepy after a high-carbohydrate meal, like a big plate of pasta, a bowl or rice, a large dessert, or maybe simply too much food? That tired feeling stems in part from the energy your body requires to make triglycerides that can be stored as fat.

Other weight loss tips

Naturally, you want to avoid that sleepy feeling, not only because naps are inappropriate at your work desk, but also because you’re making fat! Try reducing the amount of carbohydrates you eat and/or the amount of food to avoid that fat-promoting sleepy feeling. If you still feel sleepy after eating a healthy meal of moderate portion size and sensible carbohydrate content, you may need nutritional support to address insulin resistance. Ask my office for advice – some nutrients and herbs are very effective at helping stabilize blood sugar.

Regular exercise not only helps you breathe away excess fat, but it also better sensitizes and regulates cell function to be fat burning rather than fat promoting.

The key to promoting fat burning is to keep your blood sugar stable by not overdoing carbohydrates or portion sizes and by keeping your body active.

Ask my office for more advice on how to turn your body into a better fat burner.

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How gut bacteria make you thin or fat

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Obesity has long been blamed on laziness and lack of will power, but exciting new research shows the composition of your gut bacteria, which may have been set since birth, can play a deciding role in whether you’re thin or fat. In mice studies, mice that received bacteria from an obese person became obese. What’s more exciting is mice studies show that transplanting bacteria from thin humans into obese mice causes the obese mice to lose weight. This is a promising discovery for those who cannot lose weight despite diet and exercise.

It appears these bacteria affect the mechanisms that promote leanness, one of the more notable being insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance is typical in obese people. The most common culprit is a diet high in sweets, soda, and starches (breads, pasta, rice, corn, potatoes, etc.) This diet consistently raises blood sugar levels, which in turn requires the body to secrete high levels of insulin to lower blood sugar. Eventually these insulin surges exhaust the body’s cells and they refuse entry to insulin. Insulin resistance promotes chronic hunger, obesity, inflammation, and a host of other health disorders.

It also appears the gut bacteria in obese people are more efficient at breaking down and absorbing food, particularly fat, so that obese people obtain more calories from their food and put on fat more easily. Likewise, eating more calories promotes the growth of these particular bacteria. Obese people also have fewer bacteria that promote an anti-inflammatory effect than do thin people.

Compared to lean people, obese people show fewer bacteria from the Bacteroidetes group and more from the Actinobacteria group. Studies show Bacteroidetes numbers rise in obese people who lose weight. Obese people also show less diversity in gut bacteria than thin people.

In studies the bacterial switcheroo is performed through fecal transplants, an approach that has also proven beneficial in treating Clostridium difficile infections. However, scientists are working to identify and isolate the specific bacteria that affect weight so that fecal transplants, the idea of which makes most people squeamish, are not necessary.

The weight-loss effect of transplanting thin bacteria was shown to work only when accompanied by a high-fiber, lower-fat diet  which affects bacterial composition in the gut. It has also been shown a healthy, whole foods diet based on plant fiber—vegetables primarily—can help promote the growth of “thin” bacteria in humans as well.

Eating a plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables not only provides more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but these studies show it also fosters the composition of gut bacteria to promote leanness and prevent obesity.

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