What are the factors involved in maintaining healthy weight ?
It is often said that the difference between people that are slim and people that are overweight is that people who are slim tend to eat when they are hungry and stop eating when they are full, whereas people who struggle with their weight think a great deal about food, eat when they aren’t hungry and are less aware of when they are getting close to being full. I would add that a significant piece to knowing when we are full/satiated and “complete” is aided by having a healthy relationship and content connection to our body (being out of pain is huge!) and being “in our body” — exercise, movement (yoga, tai chi, dance, stretching) all facilitate this fine awareness of how we are truly feeling. There is also of course the issue of emotional eating. I do entire workshops/talks on this foodmood/connection. Women Food and God by Geneen Roth is an excellent book that explores this topic well.
All this said, I don’ t believe there is one way of looking at this complex and broadly impacting issue.
In the media in general we tend to hear about the most basic factor for weight loss: ie. that it is all about how many calories going in (diet) versus how many calories getting burned (exercise), physiologically speaking there are actually MANY factors involved in maintaining healthy weight.
If it were as simple, as “diet and exercise” , then reducing food intake and increasing “work outs” would work for everyone. We know this is not the case. I have seen many patients over the years who have struggled with weight loss, and have tried many different diets, and fitness regimes to no avail. This is because there are many systems in our body that can affect how our metabolism works. And I am going to talk about a few.
Our endocrine system has a huge role to play — hormones –from adrenals (cortisol, DHEA), thyroid (TSH, T3) , pancreas (insulin) and sex organs (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) to just name a few– these all impact how we use blood sugar, how we use energy, burn fat for fuel, store it for later use (fat cells).
As an ND, here is where I ask about stress levels, sleep, menstrual cycles, energy, mood– these all give a clue as to what system may be out of balance and look into testing (blood or saliva hormones) to dig deeper for the underlying root cause of which systems are not functioning optimally and look at ways to a) remove the obstacles or b) provide the nutrients (food, vitamins, supplements, botanicals or medications) to allow for restoration of function.
Our digestive system is another very big player. It isn’t always WHAT we eat (although quality and quantity IS important) but it is often HOW we eat. So here is where I like to look at :
What mode our nervous system is in:
- Is it “Rest and Digest? (parasympathetic= digestive juices flowing for proper breakdown and metabolism of food) OR
- Is it “Stress Mode” (sympathetic= elevated cortisol, shutting down digestion)
I also ask if there symptoms of dysbiosis: gas, bloating, reflux, burping, fatigue after eating? that would suggest a deficiency in HCL or pancreatic enzymes, a food sensitivity ?
Lastly the LIVER is the organ at the intersection of both these systems (endocrine and GI) . This is my favourite EMUNCTORY -(organ of elimination).
I would say the Liver is the It organ of our century where pesticides, xenoestrogens and detoxification are part of our common lexicon.
All of our hormones and toxins must get metabolized through the liver . And all of our food that we consume is broken down and then carried via the portal vein from our GI tract (small intestine) to this very same organ –the LIVER to get filtered.
Our liver transforms and metabolizes all of our nutrients (vitamins and minerals, carbs and fats, into energy, storage or usable forms (energy!)
This is why “cleansing” and “detoxification” are so popular, and many people report weight loss during and after cleanse. Anytime we decrease the load on our liver, we are “cleaning up” our act and lightening up indeed. More on this next month. Stay tuned.
If you want to learn more:
This coming week (FEB 16, Thurs- 6:30-8:30 pm) I am offering a 2 hr course at the YMCA which will cover more on Sustainable Weight Management.
In addition to more on how to support the organ systems I touched on above, we will be talking about how the quality (proteins and good fats) can lead to healthy metabolism and energy doing some whole foods prep and snacks with interesting nutritional tasty ingredients !
As we near Spring, I will be offering a class on Spring Cleansing, (March 15, Thurs 6:30-8:30pm , same venue.
Looking to immerse yourself in a gentle 5 day cleanse to get you started? Come join a 5 day retreat that brings you the rejuvenating benefits of a clean diet – and gives you tools for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. June 10-15, 2012, I will be leading a 5 day CLEANSING FOR WHOLE HEALTH workshop with Dr. Thara Vayali, ND and yoga teacher at Hollyhock on beautiful Cortes Island.