Secrets of successful weight loss
Let’s start with questions. When you see clues in the parentheses below, it means that THAT very well might be a reason you’re not losing weight. They are things you likely have yet to consider. If you have, it’s maybe one or two of them, certainly not everything in this must-read article. Anyway, after I ask you some questions, I’ll give you the solutions and “explanations”!
I bet by the time you’re done reading this, you will have a full explanation for why you have weight issues! Many people simply need solutions. There is not one solution for successful weight loss and maintenance for life that a “diet franchise” will give you. Why? They would prefer you be a lifelong customer, that’s why. Now, let the questions begin.
Are fast foods and/or highly processed foods a part of your diet? (Inflammatory eating).
Have you been “really good,” doing everything right? Are you eating healthfully, exercising, going the whole nine yards and just can’t budge the weight or worse — just keep gaining weight? (Untreated “low thyroid” or amylose issue and very likely a leptin issue as well).
Do you have irritable bowel syndrome or any GI issues? (GI microbiome disturbance).
Do you crave sweets or “starchy carbs”? (Neurotransmitter meaning brain chemical deficiency- serotonin and dopamine).
Do you eat when you feel stress? (Neurotransmitter deficiency-GABA).
Do you feel as if you are always hungry? (Ghrelin issue-likely low dopamine and GI tract issue as well).
Do you find that it’s hard not to “eat too much?” (Ghrelin and leptin issue).
Do you use food to get energy when you feel sluggish, or to entertain yourself when you get bored? (Neurotransmitter deficit: dopamine).
Do you have a history of yo-yo dieting? (Multi-issue: GI tract, inflammation, leptin, ghrelin).
Does eating make you feel better when you’re depressed? (There go those neurotransmitters again: serotonin and dopamine).
Do you find you are “good” for a week or two and then “over-indulge” to the max when dieting, causing you to abandon efforts for a while? (This turns out to be cravings or hunger you have been fighting=neurotransmitters, leptin, ghrelin).
If you answered yes to any of these questions no wonder you have struggled to achieve successful weight loss! If you have not, you likely have an eating disorder which is (most of the time) a serotonin deficit with a sprinkling of some psychological issues which are beyond the scope of this article. However, here is one quick note about even that. Binge eating disorder might indeed be resolved with the resolution of leptin-grehlin-serotonin issues so if in doubt, just read on. There is something here that most of you “chronic dieters” will find new and useful.
Let’s discuss inflammation:
Inflammation-meaning chronic internal inflammation- impedes weight loss. The explanation is boring so just trust me on this and a few other things to come (I’ll leave references for you at the end). I daresay that every single weight-challenged person has chronic internal inflammation for two good reasons. First, body fat is inherently inflammatory, and then there’s your diet.
The overwhelming majority of Americans eat an inflammatory diet. Examples of highly inflammatory foods are all foods containing sugar or HFCS, and/or highly-processed carbohydrates. These include cake, cookies, pie, all bread, pasta, and gluten containing crackers and fried chips. Of course, other than the salad (bring your own dressing!), fast foods are “big time” on the list, too.
The solution for this is to eat a whole foods, anti-inflammatory diet. The Mediterranean diet and the Paleo diet (but toning down the quantity of meat in that one) are two examples of healthy, whole-foods diets. The addition of a good omega-3 fatty acid and a strong curcumin supplement will help as well.
As a footnote to the “inflammation discussion”- yes, there’s more. Things such as poor sleep, stress and athletic over-training can increase internal inflammation so just get those things under control for obvious weight and health reasons. Oxidative stress (mostly not eating enough colorful fruits and veggies) can increase inflammation too. If you are aware of the term “insulin resistance,” that’s a cause too, and insulin is a bio-marker for inflammation. In fact, the two go hand in hand.
Why don’t we talk about your GI tract health:
The bulk of our immune system tract is in the gastrointestinal tract. When your GI tract is unhealthy, so is your inflammatory regulation.
A bad GI “microbiome” is pretty much of a guarantee by the time you hit the age of 18. If you have taken medications such as allergy pills, heartburn medications, or antibiotics you have what is called a disordered GI microbiome. However, eating the typical American diet will do it too. A disordered microbiome causes a slower metabolism, and can also affect your mood as well as your immune system and brain health. The “fix” for this is a dietary clean up along with prebiotics and probiotics.
Next, let’s talk about leptin and ghrelin:
Ghrelin and leptin are the two “hunger hormones.” Ghrelin is more of the “I want food now” hormone. Ghrelin levels are supposed to fall after you eat a meal. This decrease tells your brain “I’m full.” Conversely, an increase in ghrelin, tells your brain “I’m still hungry.”
Many people with poor GI microbiomes and/or low dopamine levels have higher levels of ghrelin. This is the main reason many people are “always hungry.” Obviously, the start of the solution is in the GI tract and usually dopamine levels (to be discussed). Other solutions are for lowering both leptin and ghrelin so stay tuned.
Leptin’s most important role is it controls how your body stores fat. When you gain weight, the extra fat produces more leptin that is supposed to tell your brain “too much extra fat here!” Then your brain is supposed to respond by making you feel satiated. However, people with weight issues eventually become “leptin-resistant,” through over-exposure to high leptin levels. When this happens, your brain allows you to remain hungry. You then store even more fat. A seriously vicious cycle here, right?
You start fixing this leptin situation by fixing inflammation and your GI tract health. Other possible solutions for high leptin and ghrelin are numerous. Well studied fixes include ketosis which is why I have my weight loss clients on my anti-inflammatory diet, alternating with its ketotic form. Other ways to reduce levels include intermittent fasting, stress reduction, deeper sleep, cold temperatures (as in cold showers and cold weather), adding more protein and fewer carbs to your diet, exercise, and reduction of inflammation and stress.
Evidence exists for reduction of levels with bioidentical estrogen as well as supplements containing forskolin, EGCG from green tea, berberine, alpha lipoic acid, Vitamin D, lycopene, resveratrol, nicotine riboside, curcumin, fish oils, and quercetin. Non-stimulant metabolism enhancers (forskolin, EGCG) do double duty.
Now, speaking of metabolism-rule out medical issues:
If you do everything “right” and are still at a standstill in 10 days, see your doctor. In fact, I should advise everyone to check with their doctor before undertaking a weight loss program. I just said 10 days because if you haven’t gone, now is the time. A hidden case of hypothyroidism, a brewing inflammatory or auto-immune disorder or early diabetes can thwart your best efforts. Weight loss during menopause or “andropause” is a whole ‘nother set of issues which I cannot address here. Suffice it to say hormonal drops definitely impact weight gain and weight loss.
What about cravings? Brain chemicals!
Dopamine-deficient: Low-dopamine people have the following characteristics. They might be depressed or “depressive,” irritable, low energy and always hungry. They also tend to crave sugar.
Serotonin deficient: Low-serotonin people also tend to be either/or/some/all-depressed or “depressive,” anxious, sleep disordered, a bit constipated and have cravings for sugar and starches, sometimes salty foods.
GABA deficient people tend to be anxious, have a hard time falling asleep and reach for “comfort food” under stress.
The solutions are to take the precursor supplements (eating enough of the “right foods” is too hard) so that your brain makes more of the neurotransmitter you need. Examples are 5-HTP, L-tyrosine and pure GABA in chewable or sublingual form. Drugs are not the answer for much of anything, in my opinion.
And what about what you’re eating?
What if you’re not losing weight on a whole-foods anti-inflammatory diet? Now, let me clarify some things first. I am assuming that everyone reading this is a pretty “seasoned dieter.” This means you know that calories are nowhere near as important (if at all) as what you eat. You cannot lose weight and keep it off using commercially prepared diet foods; you all “get that” I hope.
I also hope you are adding exercise to the equation and know what you need to do. Recent studies reveal that, for weight loss, food choices are more important than exercise. However, exercise is needed for optimal health. In addition, studies show exercise is indeed equal to food choices when it comes to keeping weight off. Now onto the diet variation called the low-amylose diet.
This variation of a basicis for those of you who have stubborn pounds that just won’t come off, no matter what; or it comes off so slowly that it’s hardly worth the effort; or you quickly gain every pound right back. It reduces the “efficiency” of your body’s ability to store fat. It’s the low-amylose diet.
It’s becoming reasonably well known that low-fat is dead wrong for weight loss. “High carb” is also not going to work. You have likely heard of “high glycemic carbs” such as potatoes and bread, but I doubt you have heard of amylose, a starch found in certain foods. When it is broken down by salivary amylase, it puts sugar right into your bloodstream and guarantees the manufacture of fatty acids which get stored right where you don’t want them.
Here’s the diet plan:
All meats and fish, limited dairy: So that you don’t lose muscle, you should eat a good 12-16 cooked ounces of meats or the equivalent in eggs, whole fat cottage cheese, whole fat yogurt or legumes.
Fruit: You can eat all whole fruits other than high-glycemic, high-amylase bananas. No fruit juice on this or any anti-inflammatory diet, by the way. Vegetable juice is fine and quite healthy, in fact.
Vegetables: An extremely little-known fact is that all vegetables which grow below ground are high amylose. The exceptions are onions and their relatives. So, you can eat all vegetables EXCEPT root vegetables. Can’t name ’em? Then you won’t miss ’em! You cannot eat potatoes, white or sweet. You cannot eat beets or carrots. Lastly (the ones you seriously won’t miss): no radishes, turnips, rutabagas, or parsnips. I actually like a lot of these things, so I apologize if I’m taking something “dear to you” away for a bit.
Nuts: All are fine, in reasonable amounts. No peanuts as they grow underground and are full of amylose. Sorry!
Grains: If you “eat Paleo” you’ll be fine with knowing that since your body treats grains as sugar, no grains.
Alcohol and caffeine: Here’s a perk-wine, beer and coffee in “reasonable amounts” (2 cups or glasses/day) are allowed.
Good luck to all! May you all have successful weight loss and maintenance for the rest of your life! “Dr.Kim.”
The Gut Microbiome and Its Role in Obesity. Nutrition Today: 2016 Jul-Aug;51(4):167-174, Davis CD
Gut microbiota and obesity. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences: 2016 Jan;73(1):147-62, Gérard P