There is more to weight loss than counting calories and exercising like a maniac. Find out how you can eat more and exercise less to maximize weight loss while keeping your sanity!
Sorry, Weight Watchers. There is more to weight loss than counting calories. The old “Calories In vs. Calories Out” method of thinking will only get you so far. You may lose 20-30 pounds (some of my patients have lost as much as 60 lbs. following Weight Watchers) but good luck keeping it off once you resume your old eating habits. Therein lies the fundamental flaw in calorie-counting—it’s not a permanent solution to weight loss!
Note: for a brief 30-second explanation of calories click here.
So let’s go beyond the calorie-counting and “if I eat this pretzel stick it’s only 2 points!” mentality and develop some concrete thoughts about what it takes to lose weight. But before we do, let’s get one thing straight. A lot of people are trying to “lose weight to get healthy”. That’s incorrect. You need to get healthy. The reason you’re overweight is because you’re not healthy. If you were you wouldn’t be overweight. But losing weight won’t suddenly make you healthy. If you shift your focus from losing weight to living a healthy lifestyle then your body weight will go where it’s supposed to.
There are only 4 things you need to know about losing weight and keeping it off:
1. You need to sleep.
2. You need to restrict your carbohydrate intake.
3. You need to balance your hormones.
4. You need to digest your food properly.
Let’s look at each of these points in detail.
You Need to Sleep
Sleep is the time when your body heals itself. Remember we said you’re overweight because you’re not healthy? Well, when you’re not healthy your body needs to heal. It does this at night when you’re sleeping. Heart, lung, liver, kidney, eye, muscle, ligament, and epithelial cells that are damaged during the day by inflammation, oxidation, etc. are repaired at night when we reach the deeper phases of sleep.
The other miraculous thing that happens when you’re sleeping is that your fat-burning and fat-storing hormones are balanced—in favor of fat-burning! In fact, your most potent fat-burning hormone, HGH (or Human Growth Hormone) is only released in the first 3-4 hours of sleep, and only if that sleep occurs before midnight! We’ll discuss how to unlock the potential of your fat-burning hormones in more detail later.
Sleep is also the time when your body’s fight-or-flight response is completely turned off. At least if you reach the deeper (Phase 3 & Phase 4) stages of sleep. This is important because when this fight-or-flight response is turned off, your stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, etc.) are turned off as well. These hormones in small amounts during the day are fat-burning. But when they run rampant during the day because your boss is yelling at you and your spouse is driving you nuts and your kids are driving you nuts and then the hormones don’t turn off at night and you don’t reach deep sleep they become fat-storing hormones—especially around your belly.
You Need to Restrict Your Carbohydrate Intake
Did you know that cholesterol is stored sugar? It’s true. When your cholesterol levels are high it’s because you’ve eaten so much sugar that the sugar holding tanks in your liver and muscles are filled to max capacity any additional sugar you eat spills over into your bloodstream and gets stored there—as cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fat. So your body takes excessive sugar that you consume and turns it into fat. So stop eating so much of it. The sugar that is.
Dr. Atkins was right. Whether you agree or disagree with any of his other principles, he was right about the fact that excessive sugar consumption leads to disease. How much carbohydrate (sugar) is too much is an individual consideration. Some people might have to restrict their carb intake to 50g/day or less to meet their weight loss goals while others can enjoy up to 100-150g/day and still lose the weight they want to. The wide range depends on individual factors such as metabolic rate, activity level, insulin sensitivity, etc.
Here’s our link to sleep. When you stay up late the artificial light from your lamps, TV screens, computer monitors and iPads stimulates the part of your brain that determines day and night. These lights trick your brain into thinking it is still day time. During the day your stress hormones (fat-storing) are produced in higher amounts. Further, your appetite for sugar goes up. Ever notice how your chocolate cravings get worse at night after the sun has gone down?
We’ll cover this more in-depth in Why We Get Food Cravings and 100 Ways Sugar is Destroying Your Health.
You Need to Balance Your Hormones
Hormones are by far the most important factor in weight loss. The beneficial fat-burning effects of exercise and diet are achieved through the hormonal balancing they create. Specifically, if you want to burn fat, you need to maximize your fat-burning hormones while minimizing your fat-storing hormones. The calories and fat you burn during exercise are miniscule compared to the fat-burning effects of the hormones that were released if that exercise was done properly.
Here’s a breakdown of your fat-burning and fat-storing hormones and what you can do to trigger their release:
Estrogen – Estrogen is one of the worst water-retaining and fat-storing hormones in the body. Not to say that it doesn’t have its’ uses (a woman can’t ovulate without it) but from a fat-burning standpoint we’d like to minimize its’ effect on weight gain/loss. There are two important things to consider with estrogen.
1) Its’ clearance on the body depends on healthy liver, gallbladder, and intestinal function.
2) Commercial milk contains higher amounts of estrogen than any other food you’re eating.
Insulin – Insulin is released by your pancreas after you consume sugar and promotes the storage of that sugar in the muscles and liver.
Cortisol – Cortisol is our main “fight-or-flight” stress hormone and is produced by the adrenal glands. Chronically elevated cortisol levels leads to fat-storage. The remedies for cortisol are calcium and deep sleep when the body turns off the “fight-or-flight” response and cortisol levels drop.
HGH – Human Growth Hormone repairs ligaments and tendons and is the most potent fat-burning hormone your body has at its’ disposal. The trick to producing as much of it as you can: eat a low-carb diet and be asleep before 10 pm. HGH is only released at night, and mostly before midnight.
IGF-1 – IGF-1 is your second most powerful fat-burning hormone. Like HGH, it is produced only when you’re on a low-carb (50g of carb per day or less) diet and when you’re getting adequate amounts of sleep at the right time of the night.
Testosterone – Testosterone doesn’t just build big muscle and create strong bones, tendons, and ligaments, it is also a very potent fat-burner. Testosterone production is shut down on high-carb diets, and stimulated during intense exercise (140 heart beats per minute or more).
Adrenalin – Our strongest “fight-or-flight” stress hormone. Like cortisol, this hormone is best in small doses, like those sustained during intense exercise. Try to keep the intense exercise (140 heart beats or more) to 40 minutes or less. Less is more when it comes to a high heart beat!
You Need to Digest Your Food
I have yet to meet someone struggling to lose weight whose digestive system was working perfectly. What’s the connection to weight loss and digestive function? Your digestive system is in charge of taking in nutrients from your diet (fat, protein, sugar, vitamins, minerals, water) and converting them to useable energy. If the digestive system is not working properly, your body will not have enough energy coming in. It will want to hold onto your “energy reserves” (i.e. fat!).
For example, let’s say that lowered thyroid function, over-production of estrogen, or too much fried food over the years has congested your gall bladder. Your gall bladder is in charge of digesting incoming fat from the diet. If the gall bladder is congested then your fat digestion/absorption is compromised. Your body senses that there is no incoming fat, so it will be less likely to burn the existing fat you already have, wanting to save it for a “rainy day” so to speak.
Our Wellness Center
In our wellness center we perform Heart Rate Variability Testing to determine whether your body is healing itself during sleep. We provide nutritional counseling to help you make an easy transition to a lower-carb lifestyle, and Male and Female Hormone Panels through saliva analysis to determine proper hormone balance.