In my clinic I see many clients wishing to lose weight. Typically they have undertaken numerous diets in the past – some successful at the time, some not. They usually end up sitting opposite me however because even when they have lost weight, the results have been short lived. Once “normal” eating resumes the weight is regained.
They are frustrated and confused. To add to the frustration, as time goes by it feels more and more difficult to lose weight which might once have come off more easily. Some clients also have what I call a “nemesis” weight – a point on the scales which they cannot get past, no matter what they do. An accumulation of years of different diets, fluctuating calorie intake, times of weight loss and times of weight gain has confused their bodies and upset the delicate balance of their metabolism (ie. the speed at which the body burns fuel for energy). So even when food intake is moderate and exercise levels are good, weight loss still seems an uphill battle!
In such cases I aim to balance five key areas of health which are all important for boosting metabolism and achieving sustainable weight loss.
- Balance Weight Loss Hormones
The very best way to do this is to balance blood glucose levels. If blood glucose is persistently high the pancreas releases large amounts of the hormone insulin. Insulin enables glucose to enter our cells where it is used for energy. If energy needs are being met however then glucose is converted to body fat and stored in deposits around the body. In this way diets high in foods which cause glucose and insulin spikes (i.e. sugars and refined carbohydrates) lead to weight gain. By keeping blood glucose levels stable via better dietary choices, the body does not gain excess fat and is better able to burn stored reserves.
- Improve Liver Function
This may not be something that immediately comes to mind in relation to weight loss, but the liver is the major fat burning organ in the body, so it needs to be working at full capacity! An unhealthy diet can lead to a fatty build up in the liver cells, which causes them to work less efficiently. Accumulated environmental toxins in the body may also further compromise the metabolic processes of the liver cells. A diet to relieve the daily load on the liver and to support detoxification mechanisms to work optimally can help hugely to reinvigorate the fat burning process, as can some liver-supportive herbs and supplements.
- Address Inflammation
We hear a lot in the health news about inflammation, but do most people really understand what it is or what causes it? Acute inflammation is an easier concept to grasp – it is the pain, swelling and heat that occur when you have an injury. This is the immune system’s automatic reaction to trauma or foreign invaders in the body. It is a necessary reaction, helping the body to heal and protect itself.
Many people however have chronic hidden inflammation within their bodies. This occurs when the delicate balance of the immune system (i.e. tolerance versus reaction) is upset and the cascade of inflammatory molecules produced by the immune system is ongoing. Many things can contribute to this chronic inflammation – poor diet (too much sugar or the wrong types of fat), hidden infections or microbial overgrowth, toxicity and poor liver function, lack of exercise, too much stress, hidden food allergens and lack of sleep. The list of underlying causes is long, the outcome is the same! Inflammation is involved in most major modern diseases from heart disease and diabetes, to cancer and autoimmune conditions. It is also a major contributor to being overweight. It can be very difficult to lose weight unless inflammation is tamed so it is important to address any of the above causes when they are implicated.
- Thyroid, Adrenal Health & Sex Hormones
Dysfunction of the thyroid gland can cause weight gain. Other symptoms of an underactive thyroid may be fatigue, constipation, thinning hair, fluid retention and dry skin. Medication may be required to optimise thyroid function, however it may be possible to stimulate a mildly underactive thyroid back to health by improving diet and lifestyle or with targeted supplements such as magnesium, selenium, chromium, essential fats, iodine, zinc, manganese and vitamin E.
Chronic long term stress (I rarely see clients who do not have stress in their lives!) leads to long term elevation of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol encourages the body to lay down fat, especially around the abdomen. Adrenalin is also released more during times of stress. This serves to raise blood glucose levels, aggravating insulin, which may then lead to weight gain.
Perimenopause is characterised by falling levels of oestrogen. Menopause then marks the cessation of oestrogen production by the ovaries. Our bodies however like balance and some oestrogen production is still important. The adrenals are a source of oestrogen, however if they are under pressure to produce all those other stress hormones (see above!) then adrenal oestrogen production also falls. Another source of oestrogen is fat cells. They can act somewhat like a hormone secreting gland. It may therefore be more difficult to lose weight after Menopause as the body “holds on” to those fat cells as an important source of oestrogen, especially if output from the adrenals is poor. This is yet another reason to ensure that adrenal health is optimal pre and post menopause.
- Support Gut Health
There are approximately 100 trillion microbes living in the human gut! These are comprised of over 400 different bacterial species. The microbial makeup of our gut has a profound impact on digestion and immunity, and also specifically on metabolism and weight maintenance. Studies have shown that the gut flora of people who are diabetic or overweight differs from those of a healthy weight (Shen et al, 2013). There are so many things in modern life that can negatively affect gut flora – antibiotics, steroid medication, the Pill, poor diets, low levels of dietary fermentable fibre, stress, toxicity and chronic infections. Many of these factors can however be addressed in order boost healthy gut flora.
Addressing food intolerances is an important factor in boosting gut health. This is closely tied to some issues we have already discussed. If gut flora is not healthy then gut health deteriorates, digestion suffers, gut permeability can ensue and foods which were previously well tolerated may suddenly cause an inflammatory reaction in the body which then perpetuates the cycle of weight gain. I see really positive results in my clinic when clients struggling to lose weight eliminate foods which they are sensitive to.
The Healthy Approach to Weight Loss
I offer two approaches to weight loss in my clinic.
- The Metabolic Balance programme is ideal for those who like a few more rules and regulations. This is a highly effective all inclusive individualised programme. It is blood sugar and hormone balancing, low allergen, anti-inflammatory and liver and gut supportive.
- I also see clients who prefer the less strict approach. Appointments tend to be monthly and we make changes based on how they are progressing.
In both approaches I use Kinesiology muscle testing in order to assess possible obstacles to weight loss. There are of course many underlying issues that may be relevant, however I like to start by keeping things simple, focusing initially on balancing blood sugars, liver function, inflammation, hormones and gut health.
For more information or to discuss which approach may be best for you please get in touch.
Shen, Obin, Zhao, 2003, “The gut microbiota, obesity and insulin resistance”, Mol Aspects Medicine, Feb: 34(1):39-58