Weight Loss – Is There A Magic Bullet?
Some Disturbing Facts:
More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
More than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese.
More than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity.
The BMI (Body Mass Index, based on height & weight) is most commonly
used to estimate overweight and obesity. BMI of Adults Age 20+:
Normal Weight BMI : 18.5 to 24.9 – Overweight BMI: 25 to 29.9
Obese BMI: 30 + – Extremely Obese BMI: 40 +
~ U.S. National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey (2009–2010)
U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), www.niddk.nih.gov
Want to lose weight for self-esteem or health reasons? The bad news is that dieting doesn’t work and there is no magic dietary supplement that will shed your pounds quickly on its own. The good news is that, though long-term, permanent weight loss can be a challenging process, it is definitely achievable (even post-menopause and post-andropause) with a commitment to permanent lifestyle changes that include a healthy diet, regular exercise, and weight-controlling supplements.
Step 1: Make A Commitment
Weight gain occurs when calories consumed exceed those burned. Other factors can also interfere with weight-loss efforts, including: (1) many health conditions (e.g., hypothyroidism, candidiasis/leaky gut, adrenal fatigue, PMS, menopause, depression, diabetes, poor digestion); (2) certain prescription drugs (e.g., those for diabetes, corticosteroids/prednisone, psychotropics/antidepressants); (3) genetic, social, emotional, and psychological factors; and (4) elements of an unhealthy lifestyle (e.g., poor sleep, excess stress, inadequate physical activity).
While the importance of these and other health factors should not be ignored, weight loss generally begins with a commitment to investing in one’s self and positive beliefs about achieving one’s goal. Motivation based on reasons to lose weight that are truly meaningful to the individual can greatly facilitate starting and maintaining a long-term program. It therefore makes sense to list or journal those reasons and return and/or add to them on a regular basis for ongoing motivation. A lifestyle change coach can also provide any additional necessary emotional support and promote program compliance and accountability.
Step 2: Change Your Diet
It is a good idea to first detoxify the body to prime it for weight loss. There are many gentle herbal cleansing kits available, or consuming detoxifying drinks (lemon-and-water variations; green tea) first thing in the morning and throughout the day can also help remove cell-crippling toxins, boost metabolism, promote regularity, and support the body’s elimination pathways (liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, bowels, lymphatic system, blood).
During and after a detox regimen, it is critical to avoid polluting the body with highly-caloric, nutrient deficient, pro-inflammatory, and otherwise toxic foods. A healthy weight-loss dietary program, which restricts calorie intake and includes ample nutrient-dense foods: (1) excludes gluten, dairy, alcohol, processed foods, all white-flour foods, processed sugars, and saturated/ hydrogenated/trans fats (beef, pork, lamb, duck) (this contrasts with recommendations of paleo diet proponents); (2) minimizes or eliminates simple carbohydrates, legumes, and grains (sweets; pasta; bread; potatoes; rice); and (3) emphasizes high-quality organic proteins (fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, whey), low-sugar fruits (berries, apples), organic extra virgin olive/coconut oils, activated (soaked overnight) almonds, walnuts, and seeds, and dark green and cruciferous vegetables (including spirulina). Consuming a daily breakfast that follows these guidelines is critical to weight loss (those who do so are 33-50% less likely to be obese!). Refraining from eating after 2-3 hours before bed will not necessarily promote weight loss directly, but it can support restful sleep, which generally contributes to maintenance of healthy weight.
Step 3: Burn Fat & Build Muscle
Ideally, a weight-loss enthusiast will seek to lose fat AND gain muscle. Loss of 1-2 pounds/week, or no more than 1% of your total body weight, is a safe, sustainable, long-term goal. But the scale isn’t the final word. Muscle weighs more than fat, and the body burns more calories to maintain a pound of muscle than it does to maintain a pound of fat. So, the more muscle the body gains, the more calories it will naturally burn daily (1 pound of muscle burns roughly 5-6 calories/day at rest).
Some experts consider interval or burst training (20-40 minutes, 3-4 days per week) to be the best way to burn fat quickly and promote after-exercise fat burning for up to 36 extra hours, but this approach is not for everyone. The key is to start and keep moving on a regular basis, ideally daily or no fewer than five days per week, for a total of 40-60 minutes. Selecting something enjoyable (or at least tolerable) with relatively easy access is important to long-term compliance with any exercise regimen. Consider: walking 10-20 minutes after every meal (effectively lowers post-meal blood sugar); yoga (especially kundalini yoga); cycling/spinning (at home or at a gym); resistance training (even light weight lifting); or ballroom/ other dancing or dance classes (e.g., zumba).
Step 4: Include Supportive Dietary Supplements
While a weight-minimizing lifestyle is most critical to weight loss and permanent, healthy weight maintenance, certain nutritional supplements may support and even accelerate the process. Whether a product is right for a particular individual generally depends on the reasons excess weight is gained and maintained, and getting results can require some experimentation and patience. The limited scope and space of this article allows for discussion of just a few affordable options:
1. Blood Sugar Managers
Blood sugar balance is crucial to losing pounds and keeping them off because it contributes to increasing metabolism. Blood sugar level is the amount of glucose from food that becomes available in the blood to provide energy to cells either immediately or in the future after being stored. Blood sugar at high levels (excess glucose) gets stored as fat. Low blood sugar (inadequate glucose) causes the body to go into “starvation mode” and thus to hold on to fat and instead burn lean muscle. Try: (1) Berberine: a compound found in multiple plants (goldenseal, Oregon grape, phellodendron) that activates AMPK, an enzyme in cells that regulates metabolism. Since AMPK regulates various biological processes that normalize glucose, lipid, and energy imbalances, activating it can produce the same benefits as exercise, dieting, and weight loss; and/or (2) Chromium (Chromemate/GTF): a trace mineral that combats insulin resistance and facilitates uptake of glucose in the cells.
Many types of dietary fiber can assist with weight loss, but holistic practitioners view glucomannan (soluble, fermentable, and highly viscous) from konjac root as a “super fiber” because it: (1) is well-tolerated at high doses of 2-4 grams/day; (2) effectively promotes a sense of fullness; (3) prevents absorption of calories and causes their excretion by absorbing up to 50x its weight in water; (4) controls appetite by increasing the weight of food consumed without increasing calories and reducing the amount of insulin produced after a meal.
In one 2011 study, researchers examined the effect of PGX (a novel combination of konjac/ glucomannan + sodium alginate + xanthan gum) on appetite in 35 overweight and obese women consuming a 3-day structured diet. They concluded that adding 5 g of PGX to low-calorie meals reduces food consumption and increases satiety, and that PGX “may be a useful adjunct to weight-loss interventions involving significant caloric reductions.”
3. Appetite Suppressants
(1) Relora® (Magnolia + Phellodendron) – induces relaxation, reduces cortisol (the stress hormone), and combats fatigue and stress eating; (2) Garcinia cambogia (60% HCA)- some short-term, small studies have demonstrated this fruit’s association with short-term weight and fat loss by suppressing the appetite and inhibiting the enzyme (citrate lyase) that the body uses to convert carbohydrates to fat.
4. Fat Burners
(1) If Not Hypertensive – formulas that include bitter orange (source of synephrine and octopamine, chemicals in ephedra), moderate doses of caffeine/green tea-EGCG/guarana (for those with no adrenal, thyroid, prostate, anxiety, or hypertension/cardio issues); white willow bark, and/or bioperine/black pepper; (2) If Hypertensive – formulas containing fucoxanthin, a brown seaweed carotenoid clinically proven to burn fat naturally without side effects, or lactoferrin [found in breast milk; male and female study subjects with abdominal obesity who took 300 mg/day for 8 weeks showed significant reduction in dangerous abdominal (visceral) fat, body weight, BMI, and hip circumference; and (3) Whey Protein (Ideally: Grass Fed; Organic; Micro-Filtered Isolate; total 1-2g protein per pound of body weight per day) – pre-exercise whey consumption supports fat burning and may help those who exercise gain or maintain lean body mass.
With a healthy diet, daily exercise, and the appropriate nutritional supplements, you can combat weight gain and thus improve and prolong your life. Try starting with some form of enjoyable exercise and an experienced practitioner or health coach who can guide you through the healthy-diet and supplements maze and chart your progress. Once the health effects of your new lifestyle begin to kick in, you’ll crave nutritious foods and will wonder how you ever ate all those high-caloric, nutrient-empty foods!
The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to take the place of a physician’s advice. The natural remedies discussed herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Submitted by Michael Dworkin, PD, CCN, a Registered Pharmacist and State Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CT Cert. No. 232), with J. Erika Dworkin, Certified Lifestyle Educator and Board Cert. Holistic Nutrition (Cand.). Co-owner of the Manchester Parkade Health Shoppe (860.646.8178, 378 Middle Turnpike West, Manchester, CT, www.cthealthshop.com), Pharmacist Dworkin has been guiding patients since 1956. Erika is available to speak to groups.
All statements in this article are research-based and references are available upon request.