Now that Memorial Day has passed, officially kicking off the summer season, I'm getting more and more patients in my clinic asking how they can get bathing suit ready, and fast. I tell them that there is no quick fix for weight loss. They didn't pack on the pounds overnight, and it's not going to come off overnight. What worries me about the "quick fix" methods is that they don't teach someone how to change behavior. We've become all too familiar with the "yo-yo" effect -- rapid weight loss on a diet followed by rapid weight gain when someone inevitably goes off it. And obviously it isn't working, since 34% of Americans are obese. This is not just a crisis of individuals, it's a national crisis. Obesity is the major cause of the number one killers and most expensive diseases burdening our healthcare system, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Most weight-loss programs fail on several key points: they don't teach people how to eat to promote their health, they don't promote exercise and they don't correct the underlying biochemical abnormalities that trap people into cycles of sugar cravings, fatigue and depression. Instead, they teach people to be dependent on the diet program. People must eat healthy, nutrient dense foods and exercise. They also need to learn how to eat to promote overall health and not merely focus on short-term weight goals.
Eating healthy and exercising are talked about in the diet debate. What's completely ignored but essential to long-term success, is the need to realign the body's biochemistry in order to reach a healthy weight. Biochemistry is simply how the body uses vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins to do its job, and how things like infections, allergies and environmental toxins can interfere with proper biochemical function. The premise is very simple. Symptoms, like difficulty losing weight, are biochemical in nature. When the body has the raw materials to do its job, people feel good and are able to more easily maintain a healthy weight and energy.
There are four basic concepts that I think about when trying to help patients lose weight. First, do they have the raw materials required to burn fats and sugars for cellular energy? People must have the amino acid L-carnitine, B-complex vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5), alpha lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and minerals such as iron and magnesium to be able to metabolize fats and sugar. If they don't have these nutrients in sufficient supply, then they can have a difficult time losing weight and regulating their blood sugar. People struggling with their weight also frequently experience depression, fatigue and sugar cravings, which can sabotage their weight-loss plans. Frequently they blame themselves and feel their inability to stay away from sugar or carbs is their fault. But there are real and correctable biochemical explanations for these symptoms.
Sugar causes a direct release of serotonin in the brain, providing a short-term elevation of mood. However, the sugar also stimulates a release of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps drive sugar out of the blood and into cells where it can be use to produce cellular energy The insulin then drives down the blood sugar and can produce low blood sugar, called "reactive hypoglycemia," which then can produce symptoms of fatigue, more sugar cravings, irritability and depression. The person then reaches for sugar again for a quick fix, and they are caught in a vicious cycle.
Second, are they under chronic stress? Stress releases cortisol from the adrenal glands, a hormone that raises blood sugar by stimulating the breakdown of stored sugars. The problem is that once the sugar is released, it can't be stored again as sugar. Instead, the body converts it to fat, which tends to be deposited around a person's middle and upper back. This also further exacerbates the poor blood sugar control issues mentioned above. Third, are they exercising? Our bodies are meant to move, and exercise is important for any healthy lifestyle. And fourth, are they eating healthfully? The topic healthy eating and how the Standard American Diet (SAD) is the major cause of all chronic degenerative diseases in this country is vast enough to for another post entirely devoted to my thoughts on this. Look for this in a future blog.
Most diets focus on what a person's eating and, perhaps, how much he or she is moving. Yet if people are deficient in the nutrients required to burn fat, simply improving diet and exercising is not enough. The most precise and fastest way to help people maintain a healthy weight and keep the weight off is to create customized programs based on each person's unique biochemical testing results. These comprehensive programs teach people how they can take better care of themselves while at the same time replenishing any nutritional deficiencies with dietary supplements. With this approach, you may not get in your bikini in two weeks, but you'll achieve good health, be more likely to reach and sustain your healthy weight and be liberated from the yo-yo effect. Now that's a beautiful thing.
John Neustadt, ND is medical director of Montana Integrative Medicine and the co-founder, with Steve Pieczenik, MD, PhD, of Nutritional Biochemistry, Incorporated (NBI) and NBI Testing and Consulting Corp (NBITC). The doctors created Osteo-K, a dietary osteoporosis supplement formulated by physicians from Harvard, Cornell, MIT and Bastyr. Read more on the Nutritional Biochemistry website about alternative osteoporosis treatments, bone health, calcium supplements, and decreasing risk for osteoporosis and fractures. Their latest books, A Revolution in Health through Nutritional Biochemistry and A Revolution in Health Part 2: How to Take Charge of Your Health, are available on Amazon.