Since we are having summer-like weather, and people are starting to think about pulling out their swim-suits, I thought I would talk a little about what everybody is beginning to think about—weight loss!
The formula for weight loss – Modern lifestyle + genetic predisposition = obesity. Modern lifestyle includes processed, refined and highly rewarding and palatable foods, excess fructose, unprepared grains (especially flour), industrial seed oils, environmental toxins, sedentary behavior, stress, infections and dys-regulated gut flora.
But the modern lifestyle doesn’t cause obesity in all people. We all know someone who eats a horrible diet, doesn’t exercise, is under tons of stress and lives a shockingly unhealthy lifestyle – but doesn’t gain a single pound. That’s where genetics comes in to play. Researchers have discovered genes that regulate blood sugar tolerance and insulin sensitivity, and other genes that impact how we respond to modern foods. Some of us are simply better adapted to the modern lifestyle, while others are more susceptible to being harmed by it. Those are very likely the ones that become obese when exposed to a Western diet. This explains why you may have become overweight eating the Standard American Diet, while your friend who eats even worse than you, doesn’t exercise and drinks like a fish is skinny as a rail.
That being said, there is a tremendous amount you can do to combat obesity. Here are the most important steps in any weight loss program:
1. Eliminate omega-6-containing oils, replacing them with butter and coconut oil; reduce omega-6 fats by getting protein from beef, lamb, and seafood; cut fructose intake by eliminating added sugars and getting carbs from safe starches.
Excessive intake of omega-6 fats, fructose from added sugars, and toxins from grains are primary causes of obesity. Eliminating these foods will go a long way toward fixing a weight problem. In their place eat:
- Meats: beef, lamb, salmon, shellfish
- Oils: coconut milk, butter
- Safe starches: white rice, potatoes, sweet tomatoes, taro
2. Restrict carbohydrate intake to 50-100 grams per day.
Once you become overweight and leptin resistant you may have difficulty metabolizing glucose (one of the simple sugars, together with fructose, that all carbs are eventually broken down into). Limiting carbohydrate intake to 50-100 grams can be an effective strategy for losing weight for this reason. I would not recommend an extremely low-carb diet (i.e. less than 30 grams) or zero-carb diets over the long-term because they tend to decrease thyroid function and cause associated problems (hair loss, cold hands and feet, low energy) in certain people.
A. It is also important to note that every time you ingest carbs (which convert to glucose) there is a release of insulin. Insulin is considered THE FAT STORING HORMONE. The more insulin released, the more a person stores fat. Cutting down sugar/carb intake is an essential step in losing weight.
3. Don’t snack – Snacking messes with the fat regulation machinery.
4. Don’t eat after dinner – Finish eating dinner at least 3 hours before bed, and allow a full 12 hours between dinner and breakfast.
5. Lift weights – this has nothing to do with food, but it’s so important I wanted to include it. Studies consistently show that strength-training assists with weight loss by preserving muscle mass and improving metabolic parameters.
6. Do intermittent fasting – 3 times per week confine your food intake to an 8-hour feeding window. Inducing autophagy by fasting will help defeat any obesity-inducing bacterial and viral infections and will also promote metabolic adaptations. During the sixteen-hour fasting window, allowable foods are:
- A spoonful of coconut oil when hungry
- A bowl of tomatoes and greens in bone broth
- Calorie-free beverages such as water and coffee
7. Restrict fat intake – Fats are stored in the body – it’s all that stored fat that you’re trying to get rid of – so don’t eat much fat. If your diet is fat-deficient, any needed fats will be pulled from adipose tissue. As long as you continue eating some seafood for omega-3 fats and liver and egg yolks for fat-soluble vitamins and choline, you can reduce fat quite a bit with no risk of malnourishment. To lose weight simply:
- Instead of using 2 to 4 tablespoons of fat or oil in cooking and sauces, use at most 1 tablespoon per day. Instead of a large scoop of butter or sour cream on a baked potato flavor it with a small pat of butter plus vinegar and salt.
- Replace fatty meats with somewhat leaner meats. When you have ribeye steak, instead of eating attached fat, trim excess fat.
In cases of obesity, it’s essential to optimize health, and not look for speedy weight loss. Rapid weight loss from excessive calorie restriction leads to malnourishment and yo-yo weight loss and regain. A few markers that will show that you’re on the right track:
- Absence of hunger. Hunger indicates malnourishment, so if you’re hungry you’re doing something wrong. Calorie restriction may bring a mild appetite, but it should be easy to resist, and it should go away with some exercise or a spoon of coconut oil in hot water.
- Increasing pleasure in physical activity. As your health improves, exercise and movement will become more enjoyable. It should become easier to gain muscle.
- Improved sleep. Sleep is a marker of circadian rhythms. If your sleep is better, you’re improving your rhythms.
As these markers improve, odds are the weight on the scale will drop.
Also consider utilizing ear acupuncture as a support therapy for weight loss. The auricle is a microcosm of the body and all organs, glands, and anatomical structures have nerve pathways that run to the ear. Embryologically, our eyes and our ears develop first, and we grow out from these structures. Use your imagination to envision how our neural pathways expand and follow the development of subsequent anatomical structures. The ear is rich in reflex points that can influence and deeply affect the function of many of systems in the body. Appetite suppression is achieved by stimulating a combination of points in the ear including the vagus nerve.
Treating weight loss is something I have avoided in the past, even though the number one question I have gotten the past 20 years is, “do you treat weight loss”. I have recently come to reconsider my stance on this, and feel it is essential to address in today’s world where obesity is becoming such a huge health risk. Therefore, I am now including weight loss as a major focus of my Center’s preventative health emphasis, and will be including auriculo-therapy and nutritional guidance for people interested in losing those un-wanted pounds, and taking a pro-active approach with regard to their health. Call the Center for more information and to see if your health insurance covers acupuncture care.
Yours in health,
Rick J Bernard, L.Ac.