The Ins and Outs of Weight Loss
Weight loss, obesity, diabetes… we hear these words on a daily basis. While only ⅓ of Americans exercise regularly, exercise is one of so very many factors that play a part in losing weight and actually NOT GAINING those undesirable pounds.
There are many reasons for weight gain and we usually go right to the outdated concepts of calories in (by way of food) and calories out (by way of exercise). This is far too simplistic and most people are aware of the fact that, although they have the best personal trainer, they still can’t lose the weight.
Let’s look at some other reasons that play a significant part in this.
Stress: Even when we are eating well and not more or less, stress can cause us to gain weight. Even if we are exercising, we can still gain weight. When we are stressed the adrenal glands will release cortisol. When cortisol is released, your blood sugar levels will go up. When that happens, the pancreas is signaled to release insulin which is the fat storage hormone. This will then bring the sugar to the cell for fat storage. This is the same mechanism that occurs when we wake up at 2-3 am and can’t get back to sleep for 1-2 hours.
Many people view ongoing stress as part of modern day life, but our bodies react to this. Running from one activity to the next and inadequate or broken sleep due to stress wreak havoc on the body in many ways, fat deposition being just one.
However, we have a myriad of ways that we can deal with this stress which can help you stay on track with your weight loss goals. Allow yourself transition time between your work day and your evening. Take time to read a book, journal, go hiking, practice yoga, or just sit quietly. It is wise to make the choice to relax a few minutes each day to help you shed the weight.
Gut Health: Many years ago in school I learned, when it’s a hard case to figure out, start with the gut. Most people think that gut health means that they don’t experience flatulence, bloating or gas and they have one bowel movement per day. We aren’t really what we eat. We are what we digest and assimilate. Equally important is elimination. Healthy eating is only part of the story. Gut health is influenced by artificial sweeteners, medications like Nexium and Prilosec, antibiotic use, lack of sleep, ingesting inflammatory foods such as gluten or foods we are allergic to, and even stress. The bacteria in our gut help with energy metabolism, vitamin synthesis and digestion. Our body weight is influenced by the type and amount of bacteria we have. Thus, we may absorb more or fewer calories than those around us from the same foods. Certain bacteria in the gut are linked to a decrease in a protein called FIAF (Fasting-Induced Adipose Factor). This protein suppresses the storage of fat. This bacteria will elevate fat levels by decreasing this protein. So, with greater gut absorption, higher caloric benefit from foods, and lower levels of FIAF we can understand why studies show that with normal bacteria vs. few bacteria we can actually store fat.
And not all bacteria are the same. When a bacteria called Firmicutes is at a high level and Bacteroides is at a lower level, we will tend to gain weight. Lean individuals tend to have the reverse. Firmicutes are very efficient at breaking down starches. Therefore, we need fewer calories of the starches and the unused remainder becomes fat. Diversity of bacteria is also associated with weight gain. Those who are lean tend to have higher diversity of gut bacteria.
A Comprehensive Stool Analysis should include this information as just one means of assessing gut health. This can be done through a Functional Medicine practitioner.
Sleep: Very few people these days are getting the recommended 7-9 hours per night of quality sleep thanks to our busy, chaotic lifestyles. Sleep is even a luxury to some. Research suggests that a lack of sleep will cause greater concerns than just fatigue or crankiness. If we do not have enough sleep, our immune systems become weakened, we may develop insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes, and hormone imbalances as well. Sleep helps to keep our hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin in balance. Furthermore, if we have mold exposure (mycotoxins), we also may produce melanocyte stimulating hormone, which will decrease melatonin production in the brain which helps us to sleep. If we are taking certain medications such as Claritin for seasonal allergies, we can develop chronic trouble sleeping and increased hunger, further feeding this weight gaining cycle.
Many people do, in fact, eat all the right foods at the right time and still toss and turn all night. Or they might only get 5-6 good hours of sleep per night. Worse yet, they are in the “calories in, calories out” frame of mind and exercising in the evening. It’s completely counterproductive to lose sleep to exercise when a slightly longer sleep can actually help you to lose the pounds.
The best snack to have would be something consisting of fat and low carbohydrates to regulate blood sugar. A pear sauteed in coconut oil is a good choice. Berries with a little coconut milk is another option. Carrots with a little guacamole is an excellent choice. Magnesium can also help, but for some with adequate levels, it may cause morning drowsiness.
These are only a few NON-FOOD related considerations that are certainly worth investigating so you can get closer to your desired and healthy weight!