Calories are not created equal
There is no secret to losing weight – achieving a negative energy balance – meaning “burning” more than we consume – is an absolute necessity when needing to shed those pounds. Modern research has taught us, however, that calories are not all created equal and that some calories are worse than others when promoting weight gain. Calories from carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates, are particularly good at triggering a strong insulin response. Insulin helps our body cells absorb sugar from carbohydrates (rice, pasta, noodles, sweet items) and also favours the production of fat in our fat cells. The amount of carbohydrates a person can eat before starting to put on weight varies vastly from one individual to another. Some people have an exquisitely low daily carbohydrate threshold, while other can eat as much as 150g of carbohydrates per day without putting on weight. Discovering your own threshold requires a bit of trial and error and is very much a personal journey. The more one exercises, the more carbohydrates are consumed by muscle cells, allowing one to consume more carbohydrates in one day.
Hormones and weight
We now know that overall hormonal triggers play in important part in weight management. For post-menopausal women, fighting weight gain typically becomes increasingly difficult. In men, it is after middle-age that one’s metabolism may seem to shift. Cortisol, a hormone produced in excessive amounts in times of chronic stress, also tends to encourage the storage of body fat, especially in the abdominal area. This is particularly unhealthy fat as it is not only underneath the skin but between organs as well (“visceral fat”) and is an important predictor of one’s risk of cardiovascular disease. People who are overweight are in general more at risk for a number of health issues including breast and prostate cancer and non-alcoholic liver disease (“fatty liver”).
Knowing that, however, does not make it any simpler to lose weight. It requires a great deal of discipline and sometimes help getting enough exercise and movement for one’s metabolism. Your naturopathic doctor can be your personal coach in your weight loss journey, helping you develop a customized nutritional plan, recommending nutritional supplements which help curb cravings and discussing tools to overcome “comfort eating” in times of stress.
In women, hormonal imbalances such as polycystic ovarian syndrome can hinder one’s ability to lose weight. This is where naturopathic interventions would be geared mostly at blood sugar balance and achieving optimal hormonal health as a way of speeding up weight loss. Thyroid issues such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (“slow thyroid”) can also be an obstacle to weight loss and assessing thyroid function is an important first step to any weight management plan.
Digestion & food intolerances
Another important factor in weight management is the identification of one’s food intolerances. Those contribute to low-grade inflammation in the body with water retention and feelings of bloatedness. Food intolerances are usually hard to identify as they do not provoke any immediate and obvious negative allergic reactions in the body as typical food allergies might. The easiest way to find out about one’s food intolerances is through an IgG food intolerance blood test or by doing an elimination-challenge diet, through which your naturopathic doctor can guide you. Modern research is currently actively investigating the role of intestinal bacteria in weight management. Although this is a relatively new area of research, we know that intestinal health is crucial in maintaining a healthy weight and this is where digestive support nutrients might be helpful. Depending on your presenting symptoms, your naturopathic doctor can recommend a customized treatment plan which includes digestive support.