Surely many of you have declared 2012 the year to make the change and drop some weight. You will find no shortage of opinions and resources available to you claiming quick results with minimal effort on your behalf. But what truly is the best way to lose weight? Just like most issues in medicine, the best long-term solution is to correct whatever caused the problem in the first place and then let the body do the rest.
There are several factors that can contribute to the body creating and depositing excess fat. The most common clinical reasons we see keeping people from maintaining a healthy weight are glucose/insulin dysregulation, hormone imbalances, and a sedentary lifestyle. Often, many of these go together, creating a weight-gaining spiral.
Maintaining consistent blood glucose levels is critical for optimal health. Simple carbohydrates like bread and pasta are broken down to glucose quickly by the body, making energy instantly available. That readily available sugar will feed your cells for a short period of time but will quickly become depleted, causing a drop in your blood sugar. That cycle of spiking and plummeting blood sugar often leads to decreased insulin sensitivity and deposition of fat.
A diet that helps correct this problem includes a balance of healthy protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates with every meal. Whole foods like vegetables, healthy meats, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and whole grains are broken down to glucose slowly by the body, creating a steady supply of fuel for your cells that keeps insulin levels stable.
Eating smaller quantities more frequently throughout the day will also help keep glucose levels consistent. A general rule to follow is to eat meals about the size of your fist (which approximates the size of your stomach) about five or six times a day.
Hypothyroidism, including subclinical hypothyroidism, is incredibly common and often overlooked as an underlying factor for why many people have trouble losing weight. Your thyroid gland controls the metabolism of your entire body. You can eat like a bird and exercise all day long and never lose weight if your thyroid gland is not functioning optimally. To learn more about subclinical hypothyroidism, please see my previous article in FBN.
The adrenal glands secrete a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol works closely with insulin and thyroid hormone to regulate blood sugar and metabolism. Chronic stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, which can contribute to blood sugar problems and dysfunctional metabolism. It is not uncommon for a patient with adrenal fatigue to report they feel like a new person when they receive adrenal support.
Daily Movement, Not Exercise!
Moving your body daily for a minimum of 30 minutes is really all you need to keep your metabolism running efficiently. The benefits of daily movement are so well documented that it is hard to find any medical problem that will not benefit from it.
For my patients who are trying to lose weight, I recommend starting with walking outside (if weather permits) 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back every day. That’s it! As endurance builds, I encourage longer walks or other activities that are enjoyable. Daily movement should never be a stress but instead something you look forward to.
Diets that promise quick results will often lead to temporary weight loss, but usually end with gaining the weight back again. Healthy weight loss happens gradually and naturally by addressing the reasons why the weight was gained in the first place. A healthy diet, balanced hormones, and daily movement are the three steps needed to make that happen. FBN