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Weight Loss that Works
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about six out of 10 Americans were either overweight or obese. Furthermore, the prevalence of obesity has increased dramatically in recent decades. One in 50 people is now severely obese. Obesity leads to increased deaths from diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer, increased prevalence of osteoarthritis and physical injuries.
Scientists and doctors use a measure called BMI, Body Mass Index to take lean body as well as fat body mass into account. A BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight and one of 30 or more reflects obesity. Having a BMI of 40 or greater is equivalent to having approximately 100 extra pounds of fat.
Why are You Overweight and Why is it so Difficult to Lose Weight?
Many individuals find that starting an exercise program and strictly maintaining a reduced calorie diet results in very little or very slow weight loss. To address this, one needs to recognize and address the contributing factors to weight gain and the specific difficulty in losing weight. Some common ones include:
Correcting Low Metabolism and Low Energy Conditions for better Weight Loss
The thyroid gland regulates metabolism throughout the body. An under active thyroid gland is called Hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism causes a reduction in basal metabolic rate. This means that energy is produced in the body more slowly, calories are burned more slowly, the individual has less energy and it is more difficult to lose weight. Addressing low thyroid activity is one of the strategies employed by professional weight loss clinics. The article on Hypothyroidism on this web site describes the symptoms of hypothyroidism and describes a simple test for thyroid activity that you can do at home. It also discusses natural therapies that you can use and monitor yourself. It is not correct to say that hypothyroidism causes obesity, but the two are often associated.
Do you have an under active thyroid?. The blood tests for T3, T4 and TSH have improved over the years and are useful diagnostic tools. In some cases, the blood tests may appear normal or near normal and the patient still has hypothyroid symptoms. Because of this, Dr. Broda Barnes developed the basal temperature test as an alternative method of detecting hypothyroid function. This is a simple test that you can do yourself.
Remember that the basal temperature test is a measurement, not a diagnosis. There are other factors that can alter the results of the basal temperature test. These include hypoadrenal function, illness (which can elevate temperature) and menstruation (which elevates temperature).
Consuming too many Calories and Weight Loss
Fast food marketing often portrays big portions as a bargain, but a supersize soft drink can contain as many as 800 calories, which is about a third of the daily caloric requirement of a large man.
American independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock made a documentary film in 2004 called "Super Size Me" in which he eats only McDonald's food. The film documents this lifestyle's drastic effects on Spurlock's physical and psychological well-being, and explores the fast food industry's corporate influence, including how it encourages poor nutrition for its own profit. Spurlock dined at McDonald's restaurants three times per day, eating every item on the chain's menu. He also always "super-sized" his meal if given the option—but only if it was offered. Spurlock consumed an average of 5,000 calories per day during the experiment. As a result, he gained 24½ lbs. (11.1 kg), a 13% body mass increase, a cholesterol level of 230, and experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and fat accumulation to his liver. It took Spurlock fourteen months to lose the weight gained from his experiment. You can watch the documentary on youtube Here .
Another experiment conducted by Johan Groundstroem in Sweden documented the results of eating only hamburgers for 90 days. In 90 days, he lost weight steadily from 127.7kg at the start of the diet to approximately 90kg. Professor James Painter of Eastern Illinois University's School of Family and Consumer Sciences made the documentary "Portion Size Me". The film follows two graduate students as they ate a fast-food diet for a month but in portions appropriate for their size. Both students lost weight and their cholesterol improved by the end of the experiment.
The most important thing about losing weight by eating sandwiches or hamburgers is that the people who lost weight eating them had a regulated calorie intake and a calorie intake that was consistent with their metabolic needs. The problem with most fast food is that it makes it far too easy and relatively cheap for people to consume too many calories. The second most important thing is that meat is low glycemic (bread is medium on the glycemic scale) while fries, soft drinks and sweetened foods are high glycemic and more prone to deposit fat. They are, in other words, the wrong kinds of food.
Eating the Wrong Kinds of Foods and Weight Loss
Since 1960 fat intake hasn't changed much. During the same time sugar intake has increased dramatically. According to the USDA, sugar and sweetener consumption has climbed from 113 pounds per person in 1966 to 147 pounds per person in 2001.
Some researchers point to high- fructose corn syrup, which is an inexpensive, commonly used sweetener, as a culprit in the obesity epidemic. The sheer availability of high calore, high glycemic food has led people to graze throughout the day on foods that are largely nutrient-poor and calorie-rich.
The glycemic index is one term one should be familiar with. The glycemic index is a measure of the body's physiological response to a particular food in comparison to glucose. Glucose is the form of sugar carried in the blood and used as fuel by all of the cells in the body. The glycemic index is a number betweel 0 and 100. The glycemic index of glucose is 100. High glycemic index foods are rapidly digested, converted into glucose and absorbed into the body. Rapid consumption of high glycemic index foods causes a rapid increase in blood glucose forcing the body to store the excess as fat. Good dietary planning emphasizes low glycemic index foods.
In reviewing the scientific data it is clear that a low-glycemic-index (GI) diet appears to promote weight loss more effectively than other types of diets. Those following this type of diet feel full faster, more satisfied with what they have eaten and have better glucose tolerance. Their weight loss is more likely to occur as fat loss. That's because low-GI diets do not trigger the metabolic switch that increases fat storage rather than fat burning. It is important to realize that this type of diet is not simply a low-carbohydrate diet. Treating all carbohydrates the same still allows dieters to consume high-GI carbohydrates, which will throw the metabolic switch to store more body fat.
People who follow a low-GI diet can consume carbohydrates that do not elicit a high-GI response such as beans, lentils, barley, yams, sweet potatoes as well as a host of other foods. Even most fruits such as apples, oranges and grapefruit, all high in pectin, are low to moderate on the glycemic index, which makes them permissible on this diet plan when consumed in moderation. Just as simply restricting carbohydrates is not an effective weight loss strategy, simply restricting calories has not resulted in the preferential change in body composition of losing body fat rather than muscle mass.
Insulin Resistance and Weight Loss
Insulin resistance is a condition in which cells, particularly those of muscle, fat, and liver tissue, display "resistance" to insulin by failing to take up and utilize glucose for energy and metabolism. Insulin normally promotes take up and utilization of blood glucose from the blood stream. In its early stages, insulin resistance is asymptomatic, but may develop into Type II Diabetes. Insulin resistance is associated with obesity, arteriosclerosis, coronary artery disease and many other degenerative diseases.
The presence of insulin resistance may make weight loss more difficult. Accomplishing weight loss may help prevent insulin resistance, type II diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and the degenerative diseases associated with them.
Type II diabetes was recently called adult onset diabetes. It is now afflicting teenagers. Researchers have found that overweight, Type II diabetic adolescents have arteries that are as stiff as those of healthy 50- to 60-year-old men. Obese children are more likely to have high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, liver and kidney problems and other health problems. Untreated, this condition is likely to result in early heart attacks and other complications.
Physical Exercise and Weight Loss
We have become an increasingly sedentary society. More people have sedentary jobs, walk less, and plop down behind a TV, video game or computer rather than engage in sports or physical recreation. These habits are established early in life.
Exercise triggers physiological changes that go far beyond simply burning calories. Exercise is essential for achieving effective and long term weight loss. Aerobic exercise increases heart, lung and circulatory system capacity. Weight training and calisthenics build muscle mass which increases metabolism, even when at rest. All forms of exercise increase growth hormone levels and trigger endorphin release. The most important part of an exercise program is consistency.
Exercise does more than burn calories. It releases endorphins, changes hormonal blance and builds muscle mass. Muscle, unlike fat, uses fat and glucose to produce energy. Muscle mass increases metabolism. Maintaining muscle mass decreases the tendency to deposit fat.
It is important to incorporate exercise into the program to significantly improve body composition. Walking, dancing, cycling and using treadmills are all examples of aerobic exercise. Some extremely overweight and obese people may have pain even when walking, so often water aerobics may be a better place to start. Everyone should start slowly if they are out of shape and start with 20 minutes three times each week building up to 30-45 minutes three to five times each week. Strength training can be added to further preserve and improve body composition.
Individuals who lose weight by diet alone may lose more lean muscle than fat. While they may weigh less, they are weaker and no more healthy than they were before weight loss. Exercise helps with weight loss in three ways. First, it burns calories. Second, it increases lean muscle mass which increases your basal metabolic rate, the number of calories your body burns while you are at rest. Third, exercise increase anabolic hormones which promote lean body mass while decreasing hormones that cause fat deposition.
Inflammation and Weight Loss
Chronic systemic inflammation has been identified as a significant contributor to most degenerative diseases, including heart disease, cognitive decline, and depression. Chronic inflammation may also be making it more difficult for you to loose weight. Just being overweight is in itself a risk factor for inflammation, because fat cells are potent producers of inflammatory chemicals. This is one reason that being overweight increases your risk of things like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Inflammation can be triggered by a variety of factors including:
To decrease inflammation:
Low-level inflammation also makes your cells less responsive to the hormone leptin, which can make losing weight even harder than it already is.
Fat tissue secretes Leptin. High Leptin levels signal the hypothalamus to decrease appetite, decrease food intake and reduce fat accumulation. So, normally, lean people have low Leptin levels and fat people have high Leptin levels. As the amount of stored fat increases, so do the Leptin levels. So, why isn't the rising Leptin level triggering appetite reduction?
The answer is Leptin resistance. The neurons in the hypothalamus lose their sensitivity to Leptin resulting in a lack of satiety and appetite suppression. As the size and number of fat cells increase with weight gain, they pump more and more Leptin into the circulation in an attempt to send the message to the brain that fat stores are adequate, and appetite needs to be reined in.
Reducing Leptin resistance requires reducing Leptin levels which requires reducing fat which requires weight loss which requires calorie restriction and exercise. Both calorie restriction and exercise cause a shift in metabolism and several hormones. Resetting the hypothalamic regulation system may not occur quickly. Persistent and sustained lifestyle change rather than short term or yo-yo dieting is required. Fortunately, improvement in the risk factors for Metabolic Syndrome and improvement in insulin resistance occur much more quickly than significant weight loss.
In addition, there are some supplements which may assist in the correction of Leptin resistance. Two of these are Glabrinex™ and LeptinX™ from Vitamin Research Products.
Age Related Hormone Imbalances
All hormone levels are affected by aging including Growth Hormone, Testesterone, Estrogen, Thyroid Hormone, DHEA, Cortisol and others. Some increase and others decrease. The summary is that age related hormone changes, in general, make it easier to gain weight and harder to loose it.
Both the shift in hormones and weight gain can be minimized if we develop good lifestyle habits at an early age and maintain them throughout life. If we wait until we are aging, overweight and facing health issues, it is more difficult to make a course correction. More difficult does not mean impossible. To the contrary, research has shown that there was marked improvements in the risk fastors associated with Metabolic Syndrome three weeks after a lifestyle shift to fewer calories, more exercise and better food choices.
Stress Related Hormone Imbalances - The Cortisol Connection
Chronic Stress causes sustained increased cortisol levels. The hormone Cortisol is produced in the adrenal cortex in response to adrenal cortical stimulating hormone (ACTH) produced in the pituitary gland. Cortisol plays an important role in regulating blood sugar, energy production, inflammation, the immune system and healing.
If you have too little Cortisol, you may suffer from fatigue, chronic fatigue, exhaustion and a disease of the endocrine system called Addison's disease. If your adrenal glands are producing too much Cortisol, you may develop conditions such as weight gain, especially around the abdomen, depressed immune function with all of the consequences, accelerated aging and stomach ulcers.
To correct high Cortisol levels:
Diet and Weight Loss
Most diets work most of the time for as long as the individual sticks to the diet. To lose weight, one must reduce the total calorie intake to a level below the number of calories burned. Research suggests that the total calories consumed is far more important than whether they were derived from carbohydrate, protein or fat. There is considerably more to designing a good diet than simply reducine calories, however.
The basic principles of weight loss are straightforward, yet many individuals find losing weight difficult. One of the difficulties is in making changes in food choices, eating habits and exercise habits. Expensive weight loss programs, weight loss clinics and personal trainers provide the guidance and discipline to change lifestyle. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes that do not also involve health risks. The other difficulty is the hormonal changes that are the result of aging, pollution, stress, reduced exercise, poor food choices and of the excess fat itself. You may have tried dieting and exercise and discovered that taking off pounds and inches was very difficult. That may be the result of hormonal changes that make the task difficult.
A total program, therefore, is one that would incorporate diet and exercise with supplements that will help improve metabolic control. When choosing a weight loss plan, it's important to seek out diets that preserve muscle mass. Crash dieting and fad dieting that induce "quick" weight loss generally promotes muscle and water loss and less fat loss. This results in the "yo-yo" syndrome since when patients gain weight back they gain it as fat-not muscle. The best plan to follow is one that targets the change in body composition and preferentially enhances the loss of body fat rather than muscle mass. Such plans incorporate exercise as an essential component.
When our bodies detect a decreased calorie intake, they respond by reducing metabolism to conserve body mass and fat reserves. It is a built-in survival mechanism to protect against starvation and famine. Significantly cutting calories in an attempt to lose weight can decrease energy expenditure by 10 percent and during re-feeding by as much as 15 percent. The solution is to engineer a complete lifestyle change that includes a strong exercise component and maintain it.
Our bodies don't know we are cutting calories just to lose weight. Some of the survival mechanisms of our ancestors are still in place directing our bodies to reduce our metabolism to adjust for food shortages. Crash dieting leads to further slowing of metabolism since most of the weight is lost as muscle. Muscle breaks down into glucose and maintains blood sugar levels, fat does not.
In other words, restriction of calories and/or carbohydrates per se does not ensure that high-GI foods will be eliminated from the diet. High-GI foods can cause a metabolic switch that preferentially stores protein, fat and carbohydrate rather than promoting oxidation of these nutrients. Low-GI diets also improve insulin resistance and other risk factors for coronary artery disease, such as elevated blood lipids. Unlike other diets, a low-GI plan can be followed indefinitely.
Additional Articles Related to Weight Loss
Using Supplements to Aid in Weight Loss
The basic principle of cutting calories and increasing exercise is required for successful weight loss. How long does one have to maintain this pattern? The answer is indefinitely. That is why it is important to look and treat a weight loss program not as a diet, but as a lifestyle change. Once the reduced calorie and increased exercise program is established, using certain nutritional supplements may be helpful. They can not, however, offset or replace the necessary lifestyle change.
Certain kinds of supplements should be on your "food list." Your diet and basic grocery list should include broad spectrum vitamin, mineral and trace mineral supplements This is important because many of these vitamins and minerals act as catalysts and components of enzymes which are responsible for converting blood sugar into energy instead of into more fat. Having high energy generally means less appetite and food cravings.
Warning: Using these supplements can increase your insulin sensitivity. If you are taking insulin, your dose may have to be adjusted accordingly.