by: Richard Walker, MD
Dr. Walker is an obstetrician/gynecologist with a background in environmental medicine and toxicology. His focus is natural hormone replacement, detoxification, nutraceuticals and weight management.
This is a brief article about a complicated problem – weight gain/loss. It gives an overview of the issues involved in weight gain/loss and recommends solutions to solve the problem. The reader should understand that the issue of weight gain/loss as presented here is not the simple ‘one product fits everyone’ as is generally presented by so many commercial products and vendors.
It is a complex problem with an often long term solution, sometimes complex, sometimes simple. However, it can be done and done successfully so that when addressed appropriately you can get results - and keep the weight off. Our discussion addresses using only natural means to accomplish the goal. However, the reader must understand that a problem with this complexity cannot be fully addressed in one short article therefore, you are encouraged to seek the advice of professionals (medical and naturopathic doctors, pharmacists, nutritionists), preferably those who’ll only use natural means to help you.
Weight loss in the U.S. is at epidemic. The body mass index is the technical term used to describe weight gain. The annual cost to the U.S. health care system is about 93 billion dollars per year due to all the consequences of excess weight such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, strokes, diabetes (types I and II), renal insufficiency/failure, etc.
The cause of weight gain is simple yet complex. Weight gain and obesity involve three basic things: exercise nutrition and life style. The American life style, simply put, is sedentary and excessive. We sit during most of the things we do at work, home and play, and eat in excess of what the body needs to function daily. This is probably not new to anyone reading this article. It takes about 3200 calories a day to gain 1 pound if these calories are not burned off by exercise. To put this into perspective, popcorn at the movies has about 2000 calories in 1 medium bag - that’s just a snack!
We haven’t even discussed our regular meals and the other snacks that are eaten during the course of one day. This is fueled by watching TV. Not only because while we’re doing this non-activity, we also are bombarded by commercials about eating, eating, eating and drinking everything that’s loaded with high levels of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are sugars that the body needs for energy that we measure in the form of calories. The body then stores all excess calories as fat, a means of stored energy for reserves. Add to this problem that the type of foods eaten are the absolute worse given that the best vitamins, minerals and fatty acids are, for the most part, missing.
Now, what about exercise, where is it? Good question! It’s essentially non- existent in most of our life styles. Why? Because we’re to busy doing everything else then we try to “fit it” into the daily schedule. Fitting exercise into your life style will never work. There’s never going to be any room for exercise because its not “part” of your life style.
Here’s the difference: being a part of your life is the same as your car, your family, your job or your bed being part of your life. They just are and everything you decide revolves around it or them. You don’t have to figure out how you’re going to fit them in, they’re already in! Similarly, one must do the same with exercise. More on exercise later!
The Metabolic Problems
This is just the beginning of the cascade of metabolic problems now in play. Let’s add to the problem of excess calorie storage other things that are occurring metabolically. In our life style we generally find ourselves under much stress from work, family, finances, children and other things. Stress causes the production of a hormone called cortisol, which is secreted normally from the adrenal glands at high stress levels for short periods of time. However, in our modern society with constant stress the levels of cortisol remain elevated for extended periods causing increased production of additional glucose that the body doesn’t need. Therefore, the newly manufactured glucose gets stored as fat.
Next, we should understand that the lifelong process of consuming increased calories, as simple carbohydrates (carbs) or simple sugars, e.g. white granulated sugar and the all the sweets, breads, pastas and potatoes (not the good complex sugars as in cabbage, broccoli, etc.) has altered all kinds of normal bio- chemical and hormonal reactions. We can start with the hormone insulin, which is responsible for the entry of these sugars into cells to be used as a source of fuel. However, over time, the excess amount of sugar in the blood has caused the excess production of insulin. This insulin excess renders cells relatively insensitive to its signal and effects. Thus, the body now requires very high levels of insulin for cells to respond. The problem with this is that high insulin levels also gives a cell a different type of signal which is to store fat - rather than burn fat! Over time this becomes type II diabetes. Furthermore, high releases of insulin after eating carbs, causes a sudden, very rapid surge of sugar entering the cell making the blood level of sugar drop rapidly. Consequently, this sudden drop causes one to be hungry again, and for what type of food, more carbohydrates. So you’re always hungry and for what - carbs! Now we have a vicious cycle occurring.
Here are some other things which add to the metabolic mess. As we age we produce less DHEA, which is known to precede the slowing of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland controls the rate of metabolism meaning that here’s another trigger for even more fat storage. Our sex hormones also begin to decline starting at about the age of 35 for both men and women. Declining estrogens and testosterone contribute to the storage of fat in cells by reducing the type and amount of enzymes required for fat to burn. We begin to notice when we no longer loose the fat as easy as when we were younger. Furthermore, the fat begins to shift to the abdomen and we can’t get this fat off. We try harder, eat less, and start to get stressed even more. Finally, we start to eat comfort foods out of our frustration, because they make us feel better by stimulating the production of serotonin, a hormone which makes us calmer. We don’t realize that these comfort foods have no nutritional benefit and add to the weight gain - but they make us feel better. We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg, but you’re beginning to get the picture.
What To Do
None of the answers are available in one pill, one product, one method, or one anything for everyone. The answer lies in understanding what’s happening to your body and your world. We’ll develop this model of help systematically.
1. Make a Decision - You must make a decision if you really want to do something about your weight. If you’re not really committed to work on it, then don’t! You’ll get even more frustrated, spend more money, and get more frustrated because its not working. You’ll then quit, eat more comfort foods, and gain even more weight.
2. Get Help Now you need to find a professional who will tell you the truth. Then you should be prepared to attack each issue causing your problem. Avoid taking pharmaceutical preparations - they are not needed.
3. Unravel the “Metabolic Mess” I refer you to safe, balanced, and well-substantiated nutritional recommendations from pharmacist /author/ educator, Jerry Hickey, R.Ph.
4. Exercise – Assuming that you’ve read this article because you want to lose weight, then you’ve also decided to change your life style. Exercise now becomes an integral part of your life. Your goal should be at least 30 minutes of exercise, 4 days a week. When your weight begins to decrease and you get to a plateau - don’t quit. The plateau is because your body is making metabolic adjustments.
This article although very brief and without much scientific detail attempts to give you an idea why one plan, one product, or one method can’t be used for everyone. Weight loss must be individualized and be consistent. Avoid using pharmaceuticals which generally add to the problem long term. The products recommended here are safe and effective, have almost no side effects or long term bad consequences. However, it is strongly recommended that you undertake this with the assistance of an InVite health care professional.