Weight Loss- A Holistic Approach
By Sarah Axtell, ND • December 27, 2016
Weight loss is a complex subject. No two individuals gain weight for the same reason and no two individuals lose it the same way. That is why an individualized approach is ideal. My approach to weight loss is not calorie counting nor is it implementing a fad or starvation diet. It is a sustainable approach that may take a bit longer than your average diet, but it treats the cause as to why you gained weight in the first place and leaves you feeling lighter and healthier than when you started.
The underlying root of excess weight is inflammation. Excess weight creates a chemical-based inflammatory cascade, and excess weight then creates inflammation….so it is a viscous cycle that must be broken. This is addressed by an anti-inflammatory diet. This diet is primarily composed of vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Drinking 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water also decreases overall body inflammation. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil is also anti-inflammatory.
Minimizing carbs, primarily in the form of grains, is the next step in my approach to weight loss. The first 4-7 days of the elimination of carbs promotes the burning of glycogen stores. Patients may temporarily feel fatigued and moody for these 4-7 days, but this is a sign that your biochemistry is changing to burn fat.
In addition to inflammation, toxicity is another area to address. Toxins are stored in adipose tissue (ie. fat tissue). A toxic body wants places to store toxins so there will be more of a tendency toward fat storage. The goal is to mobilize toxins out of the body by optimizing organs of elimination (specifically liver, gastrointestinal system, kidneys, lungs, and skin). This is accomplished primarily through biotherapeutic drainage (a gentle way to detox the body by discharging accumulated toxins), saunas, exercise, and detox-promoting supplements.
To address cravings, it is important to acknowledge WHY we have these cravings. Our bodies are wise at giving us messages, and cravings can give us some insight into our particular biochemistry. Cravings have less to do with willpower than they do with physiologic imbalances. For example, sweet cravings at night (ice cream, anyone?) are likely due to low serotonin levels. Serotonin is our feel-good hormone, and when your serotonin is low you feel sad or depressed. Sugars and simple carbs release short bursts of serotonin, making us feel good temporarily when we take that bite of ice cream but then leading to a crash. It’s a vicious cycle. For more information on cravings, see my previous post on what your food cravings reveal about you.
Appetite must be regulated if you want to lose weight. There are two hormones involved in appetite control. First, leptin is a hormone made by fat cells that tells us to “put the fork down.” It takes 30 minutes for the fat cells to produce leptin once you have started eating. Therefore, people who finish their food in 10 minutes and are still hungry have not yet reaped the benefit of this hormone. Believe it or not- fat is an intelligent tissue, giving us signals to stop eating. Try chewing each bite of food 30 times to maximize digestion and to slow down and allow your body to get the signal that you are full.
The second hormone involved in weight regulation is ghrelin. I like to refer to it as “grehmlin.” This is the hormone that is produced in the stomach and makes you hungry. It fights for common receptor sites as leptin and often wins, making you feel like a bottomless pit. To promote leptin sensitization and down-regulate ghrelin:
- Try 1-2 tsps of apple cider vinegar in water 15- 30 minutes before meals.
- Mix 1 tbsp of coconut oil in warm water and drink 15-30 minutes before meals.
- Exercise daily.
- Get good quality sleep-if you are not sleeping, you will not make leptin. The hormones that regulate weight. appetite, and metabolism are inter-twined with ability to sleep. Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night in a completely dark room. Try to go to bed no later than 11pm.
Emotions surrounding food and weight must also be addressed. Ask yourself these 4 questions:
1. What are the costs of losing weight? Ex. Medical visits, supplements, time
2. What are the costs of not losing weight? Ex. Poor health, more medications down the road
3. What are the benefits of losing weight? Ex. More self esteem, better libido
4. What are the benefits of not losing weight? Perhaps this question has stumped you. But when you really truly think about it, there has to be a reason that is preventing you from losing weight. Maybe its because you will receive more attention that you don’t believe you deserve? Or maybe the weight is your source of protection shielding your from harm? Maybe people will have higher expectations of you when you lose weight? Whatever the reason, there is some emotional connection to your weight that is then preventing you from losing it for good. It is my goal to help you realize this potential obstacle and overcome it for good.
Lastly, an important concept to understand regarding weight loss is that calorie counting is not sustainable. All the popular weight loss programs, such as Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, etc, are based on calorie counting and can lead to temporary weight loss. However, the success rate of actually maintaining this weight loss is slim to none. This is because when the body is deprived of energy (or calories), it starts to think that it is starving. This leads to muscle break-down (because the body obtains more energy from muscle as compared to fat). When the body is in starvation mode, it starts to store fat. Low calorie diets cause disturbances in your metabolism, particularly slowing it down.
Vicious cycle of Diets: DIET (minimal calories)- -> decreased muscle mass--> decreased metabolism--> weight gain.
All of these areas are equally addressed in my weight loss program. The focus is primarily on achieving a higher state of wellness through intuitive eating and healthy lifestyle habits. This will lead to lifelong wellness rather than a temporary drop in a number on a scale.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.