There are many reasons that weight loss goals can be elusive. You might be surprised to find that it is not all about will power. One of the most common goals in a New Year is to shed a few of those Holiday Pounds. There are many reasons people can have a difficult time losing weight. Eating traditional Holiday food is certainly a contributor to weight gain but having a slow metabolism is no less challenging to people achieving their optimal body composition goals.
With this typical New Year motivation of reclaiming health, I took the liberty of answering the top 10 asked questions on a google search about “weight loss tips”. The Q and A is listed below. As a Clinical Nutritionist in Pittsburgh for 23 years specializing in weight loss and metabolic challenges, it is shocking, the number of small imbalances that I have identified in the human body that can slow down, interfere with, or bring weight loss potential to a screeching halt.
• Slow or Sluggish Thyroid (not just hypothyroidism)
• Sub-Clinical Dehydration
• Poor Circadian Rhythms / Unbalanced Sleep
• Too Much Stress
• Unbalanced Sex Hormones
• Food Sensitivities (not allergies)
• Eating the Wrong Diet for your Metabolic Needs
• Not Eating Enough
• Not Balancing Macronutrients
• Toxin Exposure and Accumulation
• Hidden Infections
• Vitamin Deficiency and much more.
If you, your family members or friends have tried all of the listed information below on the weight loss Q & A and are still left with a slow or missing metabolism, scheduling an appointment to identify what is causing your system to be out of balance would be a good idea. Our practice is currently accepting new patients.
Q: What are some easy tips to help me lose weight?
A: There are hundreds of tips and tricks to shedding some extra weight. Here are a few that I have seen work well.
1. Leave 25% on the plate. Train yourself to cut back on portions of meals. You might find it does not take as much food to make you satisfied as you think.
2. Eat slowly. If you eat at a calm, slower pace this can give the satisfaction hormones time to tell the brain that you have eaten. If you gobble food you may over eat.
3. Stay well hydrated. It is important to try to drink 50% of your body weight in ounces a day of water. Many people mistake the thirst mechanism for hunger. If you are hungry, start with a glass of water and wait 10 minutes before you eat something. Many times, when properly hydrated the hunger will dissipate.
4. Get a restful night’s sleep. Try to get the amount of rest that allows you to wake feeling refreshed. This is a great boost to the metabolic potential of the body.
5. Avoid or minimize carbs. This is true for most people who want to lose some weight. Carbohydrates that are not used for energy can easily get stored as fat. Try an open-faced sandwich, use lettuce on the top. Why do you need two slices of bread on a sandwich?
6. Decrease stress. Stress is a huge contributor to weight gain, especially around the midsection. If you can allow time for yoga, prayer, meditation, mindfulness or calming breathing techniques during a stressful day it can support the ability to lose weight.
7. Use an app to track calories. Just the act of entering the foods that you eat into an app or in a food journal makes many people think twice about having multiple servings. It is like accountability to the self and can keep you on track.
8. Have a “weight loss buddy” who will cut calories, carbs, stress and start a small exercise program with you. Joining teams with someone can be very motivating when you are feeling limited. Set up 2-3x a week to chat on the phone about successes and weight in together to track improvement.
9. Don’t get on the scale every day. One of the hardest parts of losing weight is to keep the motivation high. If you weigh in every day and expect a loss every day, you are probably setting yourself up for failure. A salty meal, a stressful long day, ovulation or a menstrual period, even barometric pressure changes can make the scale go in the wrong direction. This can trigger a sabotage mechanism for many people. Off they head to the chocolate bar to make themselves feel better about the bad news of the scale.
10. Identify your weaknesses. Are you a stress, hungry, angry, bored, lonely, social, tired or pissed off eater? Sounds funny but these triggers are often sources of failure for people.
11. Have healthy low carb foods prepared. If food is prepped in the kitchen, like cut up veggies, hummus, hard boiled eggs, celery and peanut butter or a handful of nuts, it is easier not to grab the quick and easy foods that cause weight gain like chips and carbs.
12. Dangle yourself a carrot. Set a short-term goal for losing a specific number of pounds. When you reach the goal, let’s say 10 lbs, reward yourself with a massage or a spa treatment. Set a bigger goal and dangle a bigger carrot. Rewards can be motivating.
13. Find your motivation and write it down. Nothing tastes better than the incredible feeling of fitting into your favorite pair of jeans and people telling you how great you look. Use the motivational factors that drive you as a tool. Write them down and put them where you get ready in the morning so you can glance at them every day.
14. Work with a Functional Medicine and Clinical Nutritionist to optimize your metabolism. There is nothing worse than working hard for a goal and the results not working out the way you expect. Sometimes there is a change in a hormone in your body or a food that you are eating that could be interfering with your ability to lose weight. Hiring an expert to find your weak links and strengthen them can make all of the difference in the world. You will also gain that edge with accountability.
15. Don’t believe the hype. Weight loss pills and overnight schemes for weight loss are a scam. They always have been and they always will be. Forcing the body into an unnatural metabolic state can only yield weight gain once the stimulus has been taken away. Let’s not forget that aggressively modifying human physiology can have catastrophic affects. Gastric Bypass surgery carried a 1% fatality rate about a decade ago.
Q: What are the Best ways to Lose Weight?
A: The best way to lose weight is to start with the most balanced, optimized and low inflammatory diet for your individual system. The easiest way to do this is to hire a Certified Clinical Nutritionist to guide you through this process. Coupled with an optimized diet, a thorough review of a blood panel that explores the potential links to a slow metabolism will be very supportive. This Blood Work would include; Full Thyroid Panel, Stress Hormones, Vitamin Levels, Metabolic Panel, Sex Hormones and Inflammatory Markers. Once these primary foundations of your metabolism have been put in place, adding exercise, optimal hydration, stress management, a healthy sleep wake cycle and positive mental perspective will make weight loss a very healthy and positive experience. Certified Functional Medicine Practitioners are trained to manage all aspects of this care with you.
Q: Is it possible to lose weight without changes in lifestyle?
A: This is an interesting question. The answer is yes, you can take dangerous and damaging weight loss pills that stimulate an artificial metabolism to lose weight. It is pretty obvious that this is not the path to health or the ability to sustain weight loss. Following the use of stimulants, it is common to gain weight faster. When looking at reasons why people gain weight, lifestyle is behind huge percentages of it. Losing weight without addressing the root cause of weight gain is normally not going to yield long term success.
Q: How can I motivate myself to lose weight?
A: Peoples’ actions are determined by their needs. This is rooted in psychology. If losing weight is more important to you than eating your favorite bad food on the weekends you will be more likely to move the scale in the right direction. So, to find your motivation, you need to find or create a reason to be motivated. I have seen people go out and buy clothes that they love in a size smaller than what would fit to motivate themselves. Others have dangled a carrot to motivate; a trip to the spa when they lose 10 lbs, a favorite pair of shoes when they lose 20 etc… With over 20 years of clinical experience as a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and weight loss being the most common reason a patient presents to my office for care, I can report that sadly, being healthy is not always a huge motivating factor. Emotional trauma, vanity, work related weight loss challenges, getting married, cornerstone birthdays all tend to hold more power in the motivation camp than health does. So, dig deep, look for something that will take your life to the next level. There is only one person who can stop you and he or she is looking directly at you in the mirror.
Q: Can I lose weight by just lifting?
A: Yes, you can. The reality is that you have to be patient with this approach. As you start to exercise using weights, you will actually gain weight on the scale first. This is because muscle weighs more than fat and so you will gain a few pounds of muscle. You can start to feel better in your clothing and lose some inches while the scale is going up. Following this though, your increased muscle does require more calories so you will slowly start to see a scale loss over time. If you are eating a significant amount of junk food though, do not expect weight training to do the trick.
Q: How can I lose weight without running?
A: This is a great question. I will suggest to most patients who come to my office for weight loss help that exercise is not a great weight loss tool. It has been drilled into our heads over and over that more exercise is the key to weight loss. It simply isn’t true though. There is also a myth that you can take an exercise class to “pay ahead” for the Holiday meal you will have later that day. Rubbish. Diet and optimized body chemistry make up 85% of your metabolic potential. Exercise will help with the last 15%. With exercise in mind, you do need to find the type of workout that supports your metabolism. Different tools for different personalities and body types. Simply, to lose weight without running, mind your caloric intake, stay hydrated, don’t skip hours of sleep, cut back on alcohol, don’t eat a large meal right before bed, be aware of the number of carbs you consume and you should be well on your way to a weight loss.
Q: What is the best vegetarian diet plan for weight loss?
A: Vegetarians often grab carbs for a quick meal because they are avoiding animal proteins. The key to a successful vegetarian weight loss is to be very focused on balancing your plant-based proteins and consuming low glycemic index carbohydrates. Avoiding refined carbs and breads, pastas and cereals will make a huge difference. Many vegans and vegetarians do very well with plant-based protein shakes for a meal replacement. Try to find one that has carbs less than 5 and proteins around 20. Pea, Pumpkin, Rice and Hemp proteins are good sources for these shakes. Blend or mix with unsweetened almond or coconut milk for a quick breakfast.
Q: What is the best diet for fast weight loss?
A: This answer is rather unique to the individual. Current Popular fast weight loss programs often focus on Ketogenic Diets and Intermittent Fasting. Ketosis is a state where your cells do not get enough fuel from glucose and turn to use fat for energy instead. This diet has been used since the 1950’s to help control seizure disorders. Be careful though, it is easy to gain the weight back just as quickly if you completely abandon the plan over a weekend.
Intermittent Fasting is simply lengthening the time between when you eat dinner and breakfast. Eating dinner at 5:00pm and Breakfast at 8:00am is a 15 hour fast. Some people do not tolerate a fast because they have a problem regulating blood sugar. Fasting is contraindicated for people with diabetes, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, anyone with a chronic disease, the elderly, and children.
For successful fast and sustainable weight loss it is important to mind all of the supportive factors, moderate exercise, optimal sleep, clean diet, drinking 50% of your body weight in ounces of water a day, minimize stress. New genetic tests have allowed us to gain insight into what macronutrient balanced diet is best for the individual. Some people do not tolerate a high fat Ketogenic diet. These individuals tolerate a higher protein and veggie diet with moderate fat consumption. Genetic testing and scheduling with your Functional Medicine Practitioner for guidance is a good idea for finding your healthiest “fast” version of weight loss.
Q: How do I lose weight around the mid-section?
A: Mid-section weight gain, also known as Visceral Adipose Tissue (VAT), is usually related to a hormone or metabolic imbalance that is progressing. Pre-Diabetes, Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, Testosterone Deficiency in men, and heart disease are all associated with an increase in VAT. They are also called co-morbid, meaning that VAT promotes the inflammation that drives the metabolic syndrome and the metabolic syndrome drives up the belly fat, basically feeding off of each other.
Another common reason for an increase in mid-section weight gain is high levels of stress for a prolonged period of time. The stress response of the body can be a big driver for belly fat. Working with your Clinical Nutritionist or Functional Medicine Doctor to determine why there is an increase in VAT is very important. Diagnostic testing for blood sugar and diabetic tendencies (fasting glucose, insulin, Hemoglobin A1C) heart disease, (risky cholesterol levels, Homocysteine, CRP), stress hormones (Cortisol, DHEA), sex hormones (Estrogen, Testosterone, SHBG) and inflammation (Sed Rate) should all be performed to understand your risks. Addressing the root cause of this is imperative to promote the type of weight loss that is healthiest for your individual needs.
Q: Is it impossible to sustain a large weight loss?
A: Not at all. If you have identified why gained weight in the first place and how to successfully lose that weight, all you need to do is maintain focus on that version of your diet and lifestyle that afforded the weight loss. Your metabolism is your tool. If you abuse yourself with junk food, alcohol, overeating and sustain a high stress lifestyle with poor sleep patterns, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you eat within healthy limits, hydrate well, stay active and identify your hunger triggers you can easily sustain the healthy weight that you have achieved. If you have to starve yourself to sustain weight loss, there is a problem that has not been identified with your metabolism. You should call a Functional Medicine, Clinical Nutritionist to help identify and correct the problem.
Q: What is the best way to sustain weight loss?
A: Once you have achieved weight loss, the best tool to sustain it is maintaining some close representation of the lifestyle that you used to lose the weight. Some people shift from the weight loss space of eating clean and exercising every day to having one or two “Cheat Meals” a week and having a few rest days with exercise. It is reasonable to consider maintenance is easier than losing weight, but this is not true for every personality. The “All or Nothing” minded individuals, like myself, find it very hard not to fall into a very deep bottomless pit of having large servings of bad foods and spiraling into weight gain. With this in mind, many people benefit from having a support team; a counselor, life coach, a Clinical Nutritionist or a “clean diet” buddy on their side. There is a significant amount of psychology involved in the management of weight loss and maintenance. I have seen patients be successful by getting rid of any of their big clothes. Others who post a “warning weight” number by their scale and they jump into action if they gain weight to that number. If you can identify what kind of triggers you have for eating, this can be another extremely valuable tool. Hungry, bored, lonely, tired, social, stressed and pissed off eaters do well to pinpoint their weakness and be prepared for when those triggers show up.
Clinical tools to help with weight loss:
Coupled with a caloric balanced, lower sugar/carb diet, optimal hydration and moderate exercise there are a few nutritional tools that I frequently use to support the metabolism. (These tools are safe with a 150 lb individual who is on no prescription medications). Blood Sugar stability is very important. Sugar-Mend (2 capsules 2x day) and Magnesium Comp (1 capsule 2x day) help to keep sugar in a balanced space. High sugar will make you store fat and low sugar can make you crave sugar. Keeping your sugar balanced with Sugar-Mend and Magnesium can curve sweet cravings and make it easier for your body to start using fat for energy yielding weight loss. Omega-Mend (2-capsules 2X day) to control inflammation is a very helpful tool for supporting a healthy weight loss as inflammation is a very common driver for weight gain and sluggish metabolism. If stress is part of your life Adrena-Mend (2 capsules 2x day) supports the stability of adrenal hormones and improves stress response thus loss of belly fat.
There are hundreds of tools to help promote a safe and effective weight loss. The majority of weight loss success comes from understanding the best diet for your individual needs. This can be tricky to figure out but generally a lower carbohydrate, higher protein and vegetable diet is most effective. With a sluggish metabolism there are usually a few imbalances, that when put together, yield a hard time to lose weight with diet alone. Blood work is a very valuable tool to help find where imbalances are in your system. Identifying and correcting your individual imbalances while on a healthy diet should afford you a better opportunity to be successful with achieving your weight loss goals. Adding exercise on top of the combination of clinical support and balanced diet will help to fine tune results. Sustaining weight loss that you have achieved is not that complicated if you adapt some of the tools that you used to lose the weight. Making healthy choices a lifestyle in stead of a “Diet” is the right mindset for maintenance. If your system does not seem to be responding to your attempts, remember your Functional Medicine, Certified Clinical Nutritionist is highly skilled to help re-balance your system. Please remember, there is only one person standing in your way of achieving your weight loss goals, he or she is looking at you in the mirror and they are actually on your team. Good Luck and Happy New Year!