If you’re like the majority of Americans — one of your New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight and get in shape. And now more than ever, it seems like everyone is looking for the magical formula to lose weight, shed fat, and build muscle. Every year, there’s a new diet book… product… pill… plan… or exercise gadget promising quick and easy results. And much to the dismay of the majority, every year the weight seems to end up right back where it started!
So the age-old question keeps returning to me from patients who ask: “How can I lose weight — and keep it off without starving myself?” I love this question because it opens the door for me to counter with questions about the patient’s lifestyle — and how they’ve personally contributed to the weight gain. I get to inquire about their emotional triggers and wounds, about their lifestyles, patterns of exercise and nutrition, and about their willingness to change them. It gets very revealing!
How Much Should You Weigh?
As part of the process of adopting a healthy lifestyle and improving your health and well-being, it’s important that you aim to maintain a healthy body weight. However, a lot of us get really hung up on that number on the scale. But did you know that a lower body weight doesn’t necessarily translate into improved health? It’s true! In fact, your weight doesn’t necessarily tell you much about your health and fitness status, or even how you look! Let me explain…
A crucial part of determining how much you should weigh has to do with what makes up that weight. Take for example, my friend Chris. He stands 5? 9? tall and weighs over 210 lbs — this makes him clearly obese according to the Body Mass Index (BMI) chart. But, Chris lifts weight and keeps in shape, so he won’t carry the health risks of someone who is sedentary, weak and eats foods that promote obesity. Thus, knowing if your weight is made up of a healthy ratio of muscle, bone and fat allows you to much better interpret your scale reading — and even give you peace of mind!
Most physicians and researchers rely on the Body Mass Index (BMI) chart to calculate body fat and its related health risk. The BMI number is derived using height and weight measurements alone and indicates whether or not your weight falls within a healthy range. For an adult, a typical BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight and may indicate an eating disorder, malnutrition or other serious health problems. On the other hand, a BMI greater than 25 is considered overweight and above 30 is considered obese. Although this method has been the gold standard for determining obesity-related disease risks, new research has challenged this method, regarding it as badly flawed and outdated.
In an August 2006 Lancet article, researchers from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., looked at data from 40 studies covering 250,000 people with heart disease. They found that patients with a low BMI had a higher risk of death from heart disease than those with normal BMI. This is just the opposite of what you would predict. To bend old beliefs even further, they also found that overweight patients had better survival rates and fewer heart problems than those with a normal BMI!
Lead researcher Francisco Lopez-Jiminez clarified their findings this way, “Rather than proving that obesity is harmless, our data suggests that alternative methods might be needed to better characterize individuals who truly have excess body fat compared with those in whom BMI is raised because of preserved muscle mass.” Furthermore, in the same issue of Lancet, Maria Grazia Franzosi from the Instituto Mario Negri in Milan, Italy reported on a 52-country study comparing four different tests to determine excess weight in relation to health. The results? Waist-to-hip ratio — not Body Mass Index — was the best predictor of heart attack and other health hazards!
That’s right folks, how big your belly is tells more about your health risks than what the scale reads! Put simply, people with more weight around their waist are at greater risk of lifestyle related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes than those with weight around their hips. So, to decrease your risk of serious disease — and even death — healthy weight loss is the key.
If you’re fighting the “battle of the bulge” and can’t seem to keep the weight off — I’ve got great news! By treating a few underlying factors, you can lose weight and KEEP it off! Read on for a few strategies that are guaranteed to help you keep your resolution to lose weight this year!
The Real Reason You’re Overweight!
Some say genetics… others say over-eating… still others point the finger at laziness as causes for weight gain. The fact is, for each person, there are a variety of reasons why you gain weight and can’t get it off! However, no matter who you are or how overweight you may be, in order to avoid the “yo-yo” effect of the weight loss-weight gain cycle, you must first determine the underlying factors that contribute to your weight gain.
It’s a well-known phenomenon: what you think and how you feel about yourself is the driving force behind what you create in your life. So, on the road to a truly healthy recovery, you must be willing to own up to your attitude and true feelings about yourself. Then, you need to be honestly accountable for the kinds of foods you eat as well as your exercise habits.
Furthermore, there are sometimes underlying medical conditions that greatly contribute to your weight gain. In order to develop an effective plan of attack, these need to be addressed as well. I’ve come up with a list of hidden conditions that may be contributing factors to your weight gain. Take a look at each one, along with the natural solutions in each category. Most of the commercial products I have suggested below can be purchased at a natural health food store where herbs are sold. If you carefully follow the outlined steps, you’ll be on the fast track to truly healthy living!
Glandular, Hormonal, and Blood Sugar Imbalances
Your thyroid hormone may be under-producing or it may be impaired at the hormone receptor site of the target organ tissues (such as muscles and nerves, for example). This results in the condition known as hypothyroidism. When blood levels are tested, I always aim to see my patients at the high end of the reference range, since the reference range of “normal” was derived from generally unhealthy people. I use Free T3 levels in addition to the TSH test to determine this. Another test is to apply a tincture of iodine (Lugol’s solution) to the inner arm and if it is absorbed rapidly (in less than 12 hours) it speaks to being low in iodine — a contributor to low thyroid production.
Other hormonal, glandular and blood sugar imbalances contributing to unwanted weight gain include:
* Adrenal gland stress. This gland releases adrenaline and cortisol, which interfere with normal sex hormone regulation, if in excess.
* Decreased pancreatic enzymes. These impair digestion of nutrients adding to weight gain. The body of an obese person is actually “under-nutriented,” even though they appear to be “over-fed.”
* The hormone insulin (made in the pancreas) may not be effective at the target cell receptors where glucose is brought into cells. The illness this creates is either type II diabetes or the more common condition known as metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a pro-inflammatory state with similar metabolic pathways to abdominal obesity, also called VAT (visceral adipose tissue). These are the apple-shaped overweight men and women.
Therefore, to evaluate underlying hormonal, metabolic, and blood sugar imbalances contributing to overweight states, the following blood tests may be used:
* Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and Free T3
* Free Testosterone
* Progesterone and Total Estrogen
* DHEA-Sulfate (adrenal function)
* Fasting Lipid Panel
* Fasting Glucose
* Highly-Sensitive C-Reactive Protein
(marker of inflammation)
What You Can Do for Glandular and Hormonal Conditions:
* Armour thyroid, compounded thyroid, or Westhroid (naturally-derived thyroid hormones) along with Kelp to feed the thyroid gland with bioidentical iodine.
* Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy with estradiol and estriol, progesterone, or testosterone for men or women at appropriate doses in a cream or troche.
* Herbs to balance estrogen and progesterone: Vitex-agnus castus (Chaste Tree), Dioscorea (Wild Yam) or Blue Cohosh which promote a more progestogenic effect; Black Cohosh, False Unicorn Root, Red Clover and White Peony to promote a more estrogenic effect.
* Herbs to support the adrenal glands so they can normalize androgen levels: Glycerrhiza glabra (Licorice) and Eleuthrococcus (Panax ginseng).
* Herbs to promote androgenic activity: Rehmannia or Sarsaparilla; Tribulus terrastis daily increases testosterone and decreases estrogen levels in men; Chrysin increases testosterone by blocking testosterone’s conversion to estrogen.
* Supplemental DHEA. This hormone has multiple beneficial effects, with mild weight loss being one of them. Five percent of women may get new acne or facial hair with DHEA supplementation, which is reversible.
* Strict lifestyle of nutrient-rich foods and drink. This is a diet-plan that is critical to learn and keep.
Losing weight is never easy and you don’t want to set yourself up with a resolution for the New Year you can’t keep. Don’t shoot for the moon. Start out with a commitment to lose 10 pounds… 20 pounds, and go from there. Take baby steps. And I believe you can do it!