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How to lose weight

As we age, our metabolism slows, along with our level of activity, meaning we need less food. Unless we adjust for this, we will gain weight. Today many people are overfed and overweight, yet under-nourished, through excess consumption of poor quality food. Get out some photos of yourself in earlier times – they could be the wake-up call you need.

Diabesity by Dr Francine Kaufman demonstrates the links between diabetes and obesity. She estimates there are two billion severely overweight (obese) people in the world, with hospitals under pressure to provide special facilities for them.

Because a person could have high levels of fat in their body yet not appear overweight, certain body-fat measurements are important. The average male body contains 15% to 20% fat (over 25% is high) and the average female body contains 20% to 27% fat (over 35% is high.)

Fat tests include the Body Mass Index (BMI), calculated by dividing a person’s weight (kg) by the square of their height, in metres. Refer to the BMI table below to check how you rate, bearing in mind that research in 2012 suggests this tool may underestimate how much fat you are carrying.

 

Sex

Desirable BMI Overweight BMI Obese BMI
Female 18.7 – 23.5 23.6 – 28.2 >28.2
Male 20.5 – 25.0 25.0 – 30.0 >30.0

Another fat test is the ratio of waist to hip measurements where women above 0.85 and men above 0.9 are high.[i] Portable testing machines are also available.

Dr G. Gaesser (PhD in exercise physiology) suggests that body weight may not be as significant an issue as most think. He says, “You can be fit, yet fat, and that we need to focus more on fitness and reduce what some people call ‘yo-yo’ dieting, i.e. losing and gaining weight on a cyclical basis. What we eat and how much we exercise causes blood vessel plaque, not obesity.”

He believes it is possible to reduce risk factors, without losing weight, and suggests population information about obesity may be misleading, because much relies on self-reporting surveys. Thin people have heart attacks, too, and fitness may be easier than losing weight. However, do not get smug about this, as being overweight is a risk factor for a number of diseases.

The ability to put on weight when food was plentiful and get by in times of famine was a key survival trait in prehistoric times. Today modern man has access to a wide variety of quality foods from around the world, throughout the year, giving rise to a diet that has changed more in the last fifty years than the previous 1,000 years, with the human body struggling to adapt. With food so readily available, many people are storing fat for a famine that will never come.

Recent research shows disruption of hormones can play an important part in eating habits, e.g. ghrelin makes us hungry, with levels in some who are overweight remaining higher than normal, so they are continually hungry. During eating, levels of the hormone leptin rise to lower motivation to eat. Again, in the overweight, the rise may be less than normal. Dr T. Spector at King’s College, London, is currently studying groups of twins that have contrasting weights, to find some answers.

Ongoing research, highlighted by G. Weston, surgeon and author, and Dr C Le Roux of the Imperial College, London has found gastric bypass operations not only shrink the size of the stomach (and the amount of food absorbed), but somehow affects the brain (as recorded  through MRI scans), to improve eating habits.

Research reported in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2011 confirms that if we significantly cut back on food, the body switches into preservation mode, and stores as much energy as possible, as fat. Ghrelin levels spike and metabolism drops after the cut, so most dieters regain the weight they have lost.

Researchers at Melbourne University (Proietto et al) have even detected what they call the ‘post-diet syndrome’ whereby, a full year after significant weight loss, patients remained in a ‘biologically altered state’ with their bodies acting as if they were starving, with high levels of ghrelin and low levels of leptin. They also found the human body continues fighting against weight loss for a long time, with muscles becoming more efficient and able to burn 25% less calories doing the same amount of work.

There may even be a link between obesity and microbes in the stomach, where certain bacteria cause release of nutrients in food that would have remained undigested in lean people.

Dr N. Barnard, a USA nutritionist, believes overeating is an addiction to salty, sweet and fatty foods that trigger release of dopamine in the brain to make us feel good. Some people have fewer dopamine receptors, so eat more to get that same feeling.

Research now suggests a link between obesity and ADHD disease, possibly due to adult sufferers having less ability to plan healthy meals.

As these ideas gain acceptance, we will see changes in attitudes from unfortunate situations where some health professionals will not deal with overweight patients, because they see them as lazy gluttons who cannot help themselves. Clearly, it is much more complicated than this.

I trust your mind is now open to the fact that weight control is not as simple as many believe, but please do not use this as an excuse to do nothing. There is no magic bullet, but admittedly we can be tempted into thinking there is, when research suggests low levels of a type of hormone called adiponectin are associated with being overweight [www.realdose.com], and magnesium in foods like pumpkin seeds corrects this. The danger is when people grasp at ‘a magic bullet’ like this, but ignore other important aspects of their health in the process.

The self-image you have about your weight is important. Visualise yourself with your ideal body weight and repeat this until it becomes a habit. Beware of your sub-conscious sabotaging your efforts, which may require treatment like neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Aim to eliminate emotional eating, where food is used to numb low self-esteem, inactivity and stress, and remember weight loss is all about lifestyle change.

Go to www.betterhealthforyou.co.nz and register to receive a software program that shows what nutrients you are getting from your food, to get you started.

Aided by your mentor, be realistic and think about who you are, what you want and why you want it. Ask yourself, why am I overweight? Why do I want to lose weight? Why have I been unable to maintain weight loss in the past?

Healthy food is not only nutritious and filling; often it requires extra chewing that helps to avoid overeating. This is because there is a time delay of about fifteen minutes from when you eat food to when your brain registers what you have eaten. Eat your food slowly and take breaks between courses. Not only will this aid your digestive enzymes, it also makes it easier to know when you’ve eaten enough.

Beware of old habits like eating everything on your plate, influenced by times of food shortages. Know the importance of stopping when you’re satiated. Turntables are one way of letting people select small portions at a time. Be careful, though: research suggests some people eat up to 25% more than they need, if food is there in front of them.

Simpson and Raubenheimer of The Nature of Nutrition suggest higher costs means more people are eating less animal protein and over-eating fats and carbohydrates in the process. Moreover, not all calories are created equal, so after eating the same calories of nuts or French fries, you will likely eat more food at your next meal after the fries, as the nuts take longer to digest and the fries stimulate insulin release, making you feel hungrier earlier.

This underlies growing evidence that being overweight has much to do with consumption of highly processed, high GI/GL man-made carbohydrates, leading to insulin resistance and increased conversion of carbohydrates to fat.[ii] Fat around the stomach associates with Syndrome X; Type 2 diabetes; cancer; heart disease and high cortisol levels and stress – that leads to a craving for carbohydrates, high blood sugars, reduced fat metabolism and the breakdown of muscle.

Focus on low GI/GL foods. Eat anti-inflammatory foods like whole grains, olive and fish oils with varied pace exercise, done at high intensity for short periods. Fat on thighs, arms and buttocks is better than having it around the stomach area, but is harder to reduce.

If you significantly reduce food intake, glycogen converts to glucose for energy and releases roughly 2kg of water (attached to the glycogen.) So most of the initial weight loss is water. Weight regain may occur, because the body tends to store a larger amount of glycogen and water. This illusion of easy weight loss, followed by a demoralising weight gain, highlights the importance of not relying on scales, but initially concentrating on increased activity and healthy eating.[iii]

Market surveys suggest most of us think in terms of what we eat, not how much we eat, so we start with swapping to healthier foods without thinking about portion sizes. Obsessing on measurements may lead to disappointment and cause some people to give up.[iv] Because muscle is denser than fat, it’s possible to gain weight as you increase activity and replace fat with muscles, that burn energy, which is good.

Children who eat at least three meals a week with their family at the dining table are more likely to eat healthily, maintain an ideal bodyweight and display other health benefits.[v] A UK study found 40% of pregnant women had an inadequate diet, with some researchers believing an overweight mother could be the cause of an overweight child.[vi] Fat cells developed in childhood and teenage years remain, seeking fat, which explains why there is a tendency for overweight children to be overweight adults. In addition, an overweight person is much more likely to have an overweight spouse.[vii]

Nudge factors are environmental factors such as how food is displayed that affect behaviour. In one study, researchers found positive effects on the type and amount of food selected from a breakfast buffet, when healthy food dominated the display, and mirrors gave diners a reminder of their body shape.

Many a time in the pharmacy I have listened to customers complaining about painful knees and hips and long waiting lists for surgery. Often I was tempted to suggest they take a good look in the mirror and consider how much their being overweight contributed to the problem.

I mentioned this to a doctor friend who said, “You couldn’t do that.” Maybe political correctness holds us back from saying things that are in a patient’s best interest. Interestingly, research suggests that if you are obese, losing 5kg could reduce your risk of developing arthritis by 50%.[viii]

Anyone with fewer taste buds (shown by low sensitivity to hot chilli peppers) tends to eat more to stimulate them. Keep your tongue sensitive by replacing some fats with herbs.

Some people overeat when the food is bland, so tastier food could lower consumption.[ix] Childhood ear infections can damage taste nerves that may lead to overeating.

Enjoy three meals a day, selecting from dishes that encourage you to eat plant foods and fish, with little or no deep-fried food.

Eat fewer foods high in fat, added sugars, preservatives and salt, e.g. cakes, cookies, ice cream, sweets, sweetened drinks, pizza, sausages, bacon and hot dogs.

Use only small amounts of fats and oils, sugar and salt when cooking and preparing meals, snacks or drinks. Choose ready-prepared foods low in these ingredients.

Other key points:

You should be hungry before you eat. If it is not natural, do not eat it.
Avoid crash diets as your body can only lose about 1.5kg fat per week. A tightening waistband may be a warning sign for action.
Beware of oversized ‘man-size’ portions and the number of portions per pack. Consult a health professional before undergoing a weight-loss program.
Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper. Thinner people taste fat before others, so therefore eat less of it. (Deakin University, Australia)
Do not skip meals regularly as you are likely to make up for it later. Lack of sleep leads to low metabolism and increased appetite.
Link food to your body make-up or metabolic type, e.g. a muscular person may need more protein. Some bodies seem programmed for a particular weight, but that setting can be changed. [x] [xi]
Beware of overeating at buffets. Some medicines cause weight gain.
Deficiencies of trace minerals like manganese and chromium may cause over eating. The gluten-free diet originally devised for those diagnosed with coeliac disease may be helpful for other conditions like diabetes.
Significantly cutting back on food makes us hungry, which can lead to reducing activity to compensate. It might be that vegetarians who are overweight think they can eat more treats because they are on ‘a healthy diet.’

Modern day diets

According to many experts, the Western diet, focused on refined, fatty, salty and poor nutrition foods, is associated with many serious health issues including diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease and is an example of what eating should not be. Noticeable drops in health occur when there’s a change from traditional healthy diets to this.

Now let us see what we can learn from some of the multitude of diets (eating plans) on the market. Most are devised to help with weight loss; some are intended to treat specific conditions through clinical nutrition. Remember, you are unique. Go for ideas that could help you achieve your goals.

Dr D. Ornish of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute promotes a low fat, plant-based wholefood diet combined with daily half-hour walks, stretching and relaxation through yoga, meditation, group sessions for emotional support and no smoking. For this he claims a 75% drop in artery clogging.

Dr Oz’s approach is to increase metabolism. Start by knowing your basal metabolic rate (BMR), based on age, activity, height and weight. Set goals, make minimal cuts in carbohydrate intake, add more protein to reduce hunger, avoid being hungry by eating healthy snacks, e.g. nuts or dried fruit between meals up to 8pm.

Other tips: three iced drinks a day helps the body use more energy in warming them. Take zinc, because leptin that reduces appetite depends on this mineral. Exercise in bursts to wake up the muscles. Metabolic boosters such as white bean extract, L-Arginine and pickled peppers may help. Chris Powell, a guest on his show, promotes alternate high and low carbohydrate days. Tim Ferris, also a guest, suggests a 3-minute cold shower in the morning to activate brown fat, which burns calories.

The Diogenes (Diet, Obesity, Genes) Group Study compared high and low protein and low GI/GL diets and concluded high protein, low fat, low GI/GL diets work best. [xii] In Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Caldwell and Esselstyn recommend wholegrain cereals, breads and pastas; fruits and vegetables, with little or no oil, meat or dairy products.[xiii]

The ‘DASH’ diet – Dietary approach to stop hypertension (high blood pressure) recommends low fat and salt, ten servings of fruit and vegetables per day, three servings of low fat dairy, wholegrains, poultry, fish, a little red meat and few sugary foods.[xiv]

The Macrobiotic Diet avoids processed foods in favour of natural, organic food traditionally cooked. Microwaving is prohibited and slow eating and thorough chewing advised.

The Atkins Diet discusses the fact that too many highly processed carbs leads to insulin resistance with conversion to fat and that the body burns fat when carbs are replaced with fat and protein, ideally for a short time.[xv]

The Alkalinising Diet – In 1931 Nobel Prize winner Dr Otto Warburg came up with the idea that weakened cell respiration (due to a lack of oxygen at the cellular level) results in fermentation. The lactic acid produced lowers cell pH and destroys the ability of DNA and RNA to control division, leading to cancer.

Focus on relaxation and alkaline foods like dark leafy greens, most fruit (including citrus) and nuts rather than foods that produce acidic cell conditions such as phosphate in soft drinks, excess sugar, refined grains, saccharin and aspartame. R. Young in The pH Miracles advances the idea of testing your saliva pH, where the ideal is 6.8 to 7. The Healthy Food Guide says, “Eating more fruit and vegetables increases the intake of vitamins, antioxidants, fibre and increases the alkaline-forming balance in your diet.”

You can also live and eat according to your Blood Type Diet.[xvi] The Seventeen-Day Diet, devised by Dr Mike Moreno claims to reset the body’s weight-control hormones.[xvii] The Change One diet advises one change at a time with recipes.[xviii] The Coronary Health Improvement Program (CHIP) is a vegetarian diet.

An Australian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM) paper refers to a ‘Low Stress’ Diet that is gluten and dairy-free, contains no caffeine or alcohol, and is supplemented with multivitamins, essential fatty acids from fish oil, good bacteria (probiotics) and potent antioxidants.

The Pritikin Diet recommends unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrains such as brown rice, starchy vegetables, lean meat and seafood, with an emphasis on at least thirty minutes of aerobic exercise such as brisk walking and weight training two to three times weekly, with daily stretching.

Don Tolman suggests that shape gives a clue to the benefits of specific foods for parts of the body, e.g. a cross-section of a carrot resembles the retina of the eye; a celery stalk looks like a long bone and a shelled walnut looks like the brain.[xix]

The Cronies Diet (Calorie restriction and optimal nutrition) focuses on low calorie, nutrient-dense, high protein food, (i.e. 10% to 30% calories below normal) with an emphasis on thorough chewing. It claims the diet results in lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol and younger hearts compared to the average USA citizen. Proponents claim it adds up to eight years to a lifespan, through slowed shortening of telomeres in DNA, associated with the ageing process.[xx] Along these lines, more attention is focusing on fasting, e.g. alternate days of normal and limited eating. Research is ongoing.

The Food Hospital in the UK, staffed by a surgeon, doctor and dietician, is an example of clinical nutrition in action. These professionals have developed a range of eating plans to treat specific conditions, e.g. an anti-inflammatory plan for psoriasis, low carbohydrate plan for ankylosing spondylitis, an antioxidant plan for acid reflux caused by stress, and a low carb, low GI/GL plan for fatty liver.[xxi]

The Gerson Diet is natural treatment, developed by Dr M. Gerson in the 1920s, using organic foods, juicing, coffee enemas, detoxification and natural supplements to activate the body’s ability to heal itself.[xxii] A typical juice consists of 3 to 4 carrots, one apple, half a beetroot and a small piece of ginger and possibly a citrus fruit and/or a kiwifruit, to be drunk up to ten times a day. Juicing, that removes most fibre and concentrates nutrition, requires less energy for absorption, so is ideal for seriously ill patients.

The popularity and validity of some weight loss diets (not detailed here) may be exaggerated and expensive or based on false assumptions, e.g. that there was only one caveman/hunter-gather (Paleo) diet.

For more detailed information click on the Amazon link to my Ebook, Better Health for You, or click here https://www.amazon.com/author/denistoovey or for paperback copies  http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/betterhealthforyou or contact us via this website.

i]         Hyperhealth Pro CD-ROM

[ii]        Taubes G. Why We Get Fat and What to Do About it. Readers Digest (2012)

[iii]       Kreitzman S et al. American Jnl Clinical Nutr 1992:56 292S-3S

[iv]       Greene B. The Best Life Diet Book

[v]        PubMed http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21291433

[vi]       Gluckman, Dr P., Government science advisor (2010+)

[vii]       New England Journal of Medicine

[viii]      Disease Free, Readers Digest 2011 www.readersdigest.co.nz

[ix]       New Scientist June 2008.

[x]        Why are Thin People Not Fat, documentary, www.bbc.co.uk

[xi]       Dubner S and Levitt S. Freakonomics www.freakonomics.com

[xii]       Worth the Weight, Listener magazine April 23, 2011 page 16-21. www.diosgenes.org

[xiii]      Esseltyn CB Dr Prevent Reverse Heart Disease

[xiv]      ‘Cardiovascular quality and outcomes’ Circulation Journal (2010)

[xv]       Taubes G. Why We Get Fat and What to Do About it. Readers Digest

[xvi]      D’Adamo P Dr Eat Right for Your Blood Type. www.4yourtype.com

[xvii]     Dr Oz.com. 17-day diet and Resetting hormones, with Dr M Moreno

[xviii]     Change One. Australia, Readers Digest. (2004)

[xix]      Tolman D. www.dontolmaninternational.com

[xx]       Fontana, St Louis Uni., USA and Italy. New Scientist, 29/5/10 p36

[xxi]      Food Hospital www.foodhospital.channel4.com

[xxii]     Gerson Institute, www.gerson.org/