Author: Dr. Gary Huber
5 Factors beyond diet & exercise that underlie your ability to lose weight. These issues are stopping you from realizing the weight loss you deserve.
This is the battle cry for far too many people. So many of us have played by the “assumed rules” yet failed to reap the fruits of our efforts. This blog exists to support healthy habits and help teach you how to navigate some of the tricky decisions and dilemmas that await us in today’s synthetic world. We tend to focus on diet, exercise and other more healthy practices but I would be doing you a disservice if we didn’t stop to address some of the metabolic issues that often get in the way of maintaining a lean body.
There are 5 major issues that can derail any attempt to lose weight:
- Insulin resistance,
- Adrenal stress
- Thyroid abnormalities
- Hormone imbalance
Yes there are many other elements that can effect weight loss but these are the major categories. Check your status in each of these areas and you will advance your health while reducing your pant size. Lets get started.
Insulin resistance. If your fasting blood sugar is above 84 then you are trending into the waters of insulin resistance and eventually toward full-blown diabetes. For every point above 84 on your fasting glucose test, you are 6% more likely to become diabetic. If your fasting glucose is 92 then (do the math) you are 48% more likely to become diabetic and your vessels are already incurring destruction by plaque formation. Insulin resistance is a pre-diabetic state that means your body’s ability to remove sugar from the blood and place it in the cells is compromised, resulting in a higher insulin level. Insulin sends the signal to all cells to STORE FAT. That's right. Every time you eat a piece of whole wheat toast, eat gluten free crackers or get a Macchiato with extra carmel you are giving the body a high sugar bolus leading to a burst of insulin that tells the body, “STOP ALL FAT BURNING for the next 6 hours”. Lack of exercise, eating high glycemic foods like bread, rice, potato, pasta will drive glucose up rapidly and with it goes insulin. Many of us are in this category yet may be painfully unaware. The good news is that this is a reversible state and can be remedied by lifestyle and diet changes, along with a few simple nutritional adjuncts like magnesium and a mineral called chromium. Making your insulin receptors more responsive will reverse this trend and aid your efforts to lose weight.
Adrenal stress/cortisol. Now this is a monster of a topic and too large for this article but stress is a killer in many ways. Mental, emotional, physical, environmental, toxins, dietary, and other forms of stress are all important and will converge to place demand on our body as a system. If gone unchecked, this stress will lead to thyroid dysfunction, hypertension, diabetes, cognitive decline, immune decline, and yes weight gain. This is one of the most frequent issues that I see causing disease in my patients. It causes more heart attacks than cholesterol. A proper history by a qualified clinician can help you uncover and reverse this dangerous issue.
Thyroid abnormalities. Low thyroid function is a very common disorder that often goes undiagnosed. Many general practitioners will check a patients TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and tell then their thyroid is normal, leaving patients to wonder why they feel so bad, lethargic and gaining weight. Looking at TSH or even total T4 is not adequate for thyroid evaluation. Anyone with chronic stress, chronic disease, illness, aging, or inflammation (have I left anyone out) will not have a normal TSH response and require a more thorough evaluation which would include a freeT4 and a freeT3 as well as a check for antibodies against the thyroid. If you have symptoms of low thyroid such as cold hands and feet, weight gain, sluggish brain, feeling “creaky”, sore muscles, dry skin and hair, depression, headaches, constipation, or poor digestion then you need a complete thyroid lab evaluation, not a scant screening. People with low functioning thyroid that goes undetected have more than a 2 fold increased risk for heart disease. Mild thyroid dysfunction is a contributing factor in 60% of all heart attacks. A low functioning thyroid makes it nearly impossible to lose weight. See the video on thyroid lab discussion found on this website in the Educational Videos section listed under the “Thyroid” heading.
Hormone imbalance. Roughly 50% of all women over the age of 35 have estrogen dominance. That means your progesterone is declining faster than your estrogen. Estrogen, when not balanced with the appropriate amount of progesterone leads to weight gain. Need proof? Ask any women what happened to their weight when they started on birth control pills (they block progesterone production) and they will tell you . . . all together now . . . I gained weight. Progesterone drops very aggressively after the age of 40. Ask any women when they noticed a change in their weight gain and a large percentage will tell you . . . in my 40’s. Yet many doctors still do not measure their patient’s hormone levels. It’s an easy and simple blood test, so ask your doctor for assistance here and if indicated, start some progesterone (NOT PROGESTIN). You do NOT want a synthetic drug replica of progesterone. You want bio-identical PROGESTERONE (note the exact spelling). In every study ever done on the planet earth, progesterone has been shown to reduce breast cancer risk. Progesterone has never been shown to cause cancer. If you are being told otherwise then simply ask to see ONE study showing it. It doesn’t exist. Most doctors know nothing about Progesterone, they are only taught about Progestins, a synthetic drug that attempts (poorly) to replace progesterone. Be careful here and seek out a board certified integrative physician who specializes in bio-identical hormone replacement. (OK, yes that would be me.)
Sleep. So simple, yet so often a problem. Walk into any group of women over the age of 25 and simply say “raise your hand if you fall asleep easily and stay asleep for more than 7 hours each night”. You will see heads turning as they all look to see if anyone there has the answer to a good nights sleep. If you don’t sleep you will have high stress, elevated cortisol and weight gain. One study showed that people who get less than 5 hours of sleep per night are 73% more likely to become obese. Declining sleep or interrupted sleep patterns lead to big pants. Take your sleep cycle seriously. Exercise will reduce stress hormones and promote a good sleep cycle. Meditation will also do the same. Simple natural elements such as melatonin each night will help promote a restful night sleep. Get off of your computer at least two hours before bedtime. The bright light of the computer is telling your brain “it’s day time” so when you turn it off it takes a couple of hours for your brain to recognize night fall and begin preparing melatonin for sleep. Watch you caffeine intake and avoid it after 2 PM. Chocolate and soda pop are also big sources of caffeine.
Each of these topics truly require more discussion but I wanted to present this list to you now so that you can begin to explore any metabolic issues that may be blocking your progress. I see so many people who throw in the towel and accept the mutiny that their body is engaged in and just proclaim, “well, I’m getting older”. Bullpucky! Yes your body is changing but addressing the changes with a healthy response can get you back on track and feeling good. Don’t settle for anything less than outstanding. Lets explore your daily habits and redefine who you are. Lets make a few simple changes so that you can enjoy every day of your life and not just look in the rear view mirror lamenting how you used to have energy and joy in your life. These are the kinds of issues I deal with every day in my practice. There are solutions.
Your life can change for the better in a single day or a single hour if you only decide to seek something better. You are in control of where your body is going so take responsibility and redefine your expectation. Its empowering and its contagious.