Eight Ways to Lose Your Blubber
by Valerie Early, RD, LD, CES, R.PhT, Reiki Master
"Our society's warped sense of the 'right' body image and the quest for 'perfection' have driven us to poor self-esteem and a twisted focus on diets and plastic surgery instead of health and happiness."
Eight Ways to Lose Your Blubber is actually the title of the book I'm writing and the title of a lecture I just presented in Illinois. "I'm dieting," "I'm trying to lose weight," "I'm so fat" and "The Battle of the Bulge" are all common phrases most of us have used personally or have heard someone else state. My lean 10-year-old son and another lean 10-year-old boy were talking last week about how fat they were while jumping on a trampoline. Yes, two out of three Americans are overweight, obesity has doubled in the past 20 years, and 50 percent of adolescents remain obese as adults, but health should come first. Our society's warped sense of the "right" body image and the quest for "perfection" have driven us to poor self-esteem and a twisted focus on diets and plastic surgery instead of health and happiness.
Achieving a healthy weight is important. These two facts stress this importance: "90,000 deaths due to cancer could be prevented each year in the United States if men and women could maintain normal weight"1 and obesity accelerates aging even more than smoking.2
There are eight important factors I have consistently found helpful for weight loss, especially after the age of 25, since we lose more than half a pound of muscle every year after this age. Clinical experience as a registered dietitian, as well as my own personal history, has shaped my drive to help people stay fit and achieve a normal weight for their lifetime. Coming from a very obese, unhealthy, and genetically challenged family, I decided to take a hold of my own destiny by the age of 10. Thank goodness my family has big hearts and taught me I could make my own choices in life. As health professionals, you have the ability to motivate and educate your clients. Practice what you preach and your patients will benefit.
So, what are the eight important factors?
1. Calories. Yes, they do count, even on birthdays. Keep a food diary; too little and/or too many calories will affect your outcome. However, 1,200 calories is not the magic number for everyone; otherwise, everyone following "Weight Watchers" and other diet programs would achieve a normal weight in a few months.
2. Exercise. You must do it! The only proven way to keep your metabolic rate high (burning calories) is to keep your lean muscle mass. Ladies, this means you must weight train. Keep an exercise journal and exercise 6-7 days week for 30-90 minutes. Wear a pedometer and/or use a heart monitor device to keep track of calories and your heart rate. Remember to measure and monitor your body fat, not just your weight, especially if you are over 35 years old.
Note: Exercise is not an option. It should be part of your regular schedule, like taking a shower, getting the kids to school or going to work.
3. Carbohydrate/Protein/Fat Ratio and/or Alkaline-Acidity. What is the right balance of nutrients for you? I don't know. We are not all the same. This is where a nutritionist can start to fine-tune things for you. In general, most people fall between these guidelines: 30%-50% of calories/day from carbohydrates, 10%-20% per day of protein, and 15%-25% per day of fat. Alkaline/acidity strips are a great tool to check your urine or saliva pH. The key here is that most people do not eat enough vegetables. Most people are more acidic and need more alkalinity. This usually comes down to vegetables and adequate whole-food nutrition.
4. Thyroids and Antibodies. These may need to be checked by a blood test through your physician or through a take-home blood spot test. I would say that approximately 90% of clients I see have had their thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) checked, but have never had their thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPOAB) and thyroglobin antibody (TGAB) levels tested. Dr. Lindsey Hofman, a biochemist out of Seattle, Washington, recently stated to me that "99% of hypothyroidism is caused by abnormal antibodies. If antibody levels are normal, then for the next five years, it is rare that hypothyroidism will be a problem/risk." This creates a great peace of mind when so many people have symptoms of hypothyroidism and experience an inability to lose weight.
5. Estradiol, Estriol, Progesterone, and Testosterone Saliva Testing. These tests often uncover a hormone imbalance, not only in women in peri-and post menopause but young women in their 20s and 30s. Low estradiol can often cause weight gain around the waist and high testosterone can cause increased risk of insulin resistance.
Exercise is not an option. It should be part of your regular schedule, like taking a shower, getting the kids to school or going to work.
6. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and Cortisol. These are two adrenal "stress" hormones. If DHEA is low, it can cause a loss of lean muscle mass. Low cortisol affects how carbohydrates are metabolized and high cortisol can increase abdominal obesity. Again, saliva testing is an easy and very accurate way to determine if there is a deficiency or excess of cortisol and DHEA.
7. Insulin, Fasting Glucose and Hemoglobin A1c. These are all blood tests that can indicate a problem with metabolizing carbohydrates. We all know someone with diabetes. Diabetes and pre-diabetes are rampant, even in our children. After evaluating one or all of these blood tests, an individualized eating plan can be designed for your body and health risks.
8. Genetics/Nutrigenomics. Here is my weakest link: the family history. However, through the right lifestyle, exercise, whole-food intake and over-the-counter dietary supplementation, you can beat the odds. Nutrigenomics is the study of how foods interact with the genes in your body, and how diet can alter and affect the expression of disease. I think the book Genome sums up your genetic destiny very clearly in two sentences: "Genes in and of themselves do not create disease. Only when they are plunged into a harmful environment unique to the individual do they create the outcome of disease."
New research shows there are probably many other factors that influence weight gain. One example is sleep deprivation. Getting less than five hours sleep per night can increase the hormone ghrenlin, which elevates hunger, and lowers leptin, stimulating appetite again! Leptin is an appetite-inhibiting hormone, but when you are obese, you are more resistant to leptin. Obese individuals have higher-than-normal levels of leptin.
Remember, regardless of these factors listed above and "bad" genes, a healthy weight and fit body can be chosen most of the time, if you are willing to do the work. Make one dedicated change every three weeks and you will be on your way to great health, an acceptable body fat and weight, and acquire a strong self-esteem and body image. I wish you and your patients the best in your quest!
- Thun M, et al. Overweight, obesity and mortality from cancer in a prospectively studied cohort of U.S. adults. The New England Journal of Medicine, April 24, 2003;348:1625-38.
- Hooper R. Obesity May Accelerate the Ageing Process. NewScientist.com news service, June 14, 2005: www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7514.