The following strategies focus on setting aside calorie obsession and fat-gram fixation and identifying underlying health issues – a more holistic approach to eating and how food impacts your overall health and body balance.
1. Reduce Inflammation:
Chronic systemic inflammation is driven by an immune response can often lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and much more. One side effect of inflammation in your gut ( leaky gut ) is weight gain. If your gut gets inflamed due to excessive alcohol, processed foods, antibiotics or NASID’s the gut wall gets inflamed. When the gut gets inflamed, calcium and sodium enter surrounding cells – causing them to attract and hold water. “The extra water causes bloating and lowers the function of the cells mitochondria, making the body feel sluggish,” explains Elson Hass, MD. Hass calls this tissue swelling and abdominal bloating ” false fat” or water logged tissue. The biggest offender of inflammation-based weight gain is processed foods which are highly refined and loaded with chemicals. Foods that reduce inflammation include onions, turmeric, red grapes, green tea, berries, dark leafy greens and cold water fish.
2. Balancing Blood Sugar:
Simple sugars and carbs drive weight gain more than calories consumed. They lack nutrients ( fiber and protein) which slow digestion and balance blood sugar. When glucose enters the body quickly blood sugar soars. The pancreas releases insulin – a fat storage hormone, to balance the sugar levels. Blood sugar stabilises momentarily, and if insulin is overproduced, energy levels fall and hunger returns. If we ingest more carbs the cycle resumes. The long term consequence is weight gain and insulin resistance which sets you up for type 2 diabetes and and other inflammatory diseases. To balance your blood sugar and maintain a healthy weight you need to consume more nutritious proteins, healthy fats, fiber-rich vegetables and reduce your intake of refined sugars and grains and avoid artificial sweeteners!
Healthy Fats: avocados, sardines, organic cage free eggs, coconut, organic full fat dairy, extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts, almonds, macadamias, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
3. A Healthy Microbiome:
A heathy and balanced microbiome is essential to creating and maintaining a healthy weight. Your microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms ( bacteria, yeasts and fungi) that live in the gut. A healthy gut is actually cool and digests and metabolises food more efficiently. Pathogenic bacteria and yeast ( such as candida which feeds off of sugar) creates an inflamed and possible leaky gut! Culprits include gluten, processed sugars, artificial ingredients, preservatives, hydrogenated vegetable oils and conventional dairy and meats.
Add cultured and fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso – all natural sources of probiotics, enzymes and prebiotics (soluble fibers that feed healthy probiotic microbes) as well as berries, dark greens and nonstarchy vegetables and legumes. Other gut friendly foods that support your digestive system include bone broth, kombucha and apple cider vinegar.
4. Elevate Your Mood:
Depression and anxiety often leads to weight gain. In fact, many anti depressants can actually lower metabolic function. Lowered moods lead to carb cravings! When serotonin ( which is mainly housed in the gut ) is low this often triggers these carb cravings. Serotonin, also known as the happiness chemical, is made of amino acids – the building blocks of proteins. As such, you need to focus on healthy proteins. The most important amino acid for making serotonin is tryptophan. Tryptophan deficiency has been linked to depression and poor sleep. Since the body cannot make its own you need to get it from food – organic dairy and poultry, soybeans and cashews.
Bottom Line – processed sugars and foods lead to nutrient deficiencies that impact your mood and metabolism!
5. Manage Your Stress:
Hormone imbalances can wreck havoc on your metabolism. Specifically, insulin and cortisol.
Insulin – insulin’s job is to transport sugar from your bloodstream into your cells. Food controls insulin. Keep insulin balanced by eating small, regular nutrient-dense meals.
Cortisol – balancing cortisol ( the stress hormone) is vital to maintaining a healthy weight. Cortisol is made from cholesterol. When stressed ( real or perceived) your body produces more cortisol but your cholesterol supply stays the same. Your body has to divert cholesterol away from making hormones that help maintain a strong metabolism. This is referred to as a “cortisol steal.” This in essence, explains how stress hampers your metabolism. If you are constantly stressed your cortisol levels and rhythms get out of whack as you over activate your sympathetic nervous system.
A low calorie diet can also stress your body. Insufficient caloric intake needed to fuel your resting metabolic rate causes your brain to send messages to your body to slow your metabolism. Consequently, cells cling to calories rather than burn them quickly and your metabolism slows.
You can counter cortisol effects by activating your body’s relaxation response ( parasympathetic system) by getting better sleep, mindfulness/ deep breathing and practicing meditation.
6. The Right Type of Exercise:
Interval based and high intensity training seems to have to greatest impact on metabolic function and weight control. Adjusting your workouts to meet your individual needs and level of fitness is important. If you have any questions regarding this or any of the above suggestions please reach out to me.