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Do you ever wonder why some people, no matter how hard they try, just can’t seem to achieve their healthy weight goals?
It doesn’t matter which diet and exercise program they follow or how diligent they are — the weight just doesn’t budge. Or worse, they add more fat rather than burning it. What’s going on?
For some people, a wholesome diet and regular exercise can help them reach their weight goals in good time. But for many others, there’s more to the story. The truth is that healthy weight loss often requires an in-depth look at issues such as hormone balance, stress, digestion and mitochondrial efficiency, inflammation and other factors that play roles in determining how the body metabolizes and utilizes fat.
These issues are best assessed with an integrative practitioner who can recommend the right protocol for each person’s individual health goals. To start however, there are simple ways to support overall health that can also go a long way toward balancing the scales.
1. Target inflammation
Chronic, low-grade inflammation damages cells, organs and tissues, leading to loss of function, immune dysregulation, and a host of other problems. Chronic inflammation is also a major culprit in weight gain, mainly because it leads to insulin resistance which causes the body to store glucose as fat, instead of getting it into our cells for energy. This is a key issue with the development of metabolic syndrome, diabetes and obesity.
One of the most effective ways to fight inflammation is with diet. Certain foods are shown to drive inflammation — mainly sugars and processed foods, but also dairy and some grains including wheat and other gluten grains. On the other hand, foods such as green vegetables, low glycemic (low sugar) fruits, certain botanicals and others offer targeted nutrients that help control inflammatory processes. In general, a low-glycemic diet emphasizing unprocessed foods, organic meats and produce, and healthy fats can help reduce inflammation and support overall vitality.
In addition, the supplement Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP), derived from citrus peels, is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent shown in research to support numerous critical areas of health. MCP works by controlling the rogue protein galectin-3, a key driver of chronic inflammation and fibrosis (uncontrolled scar tissue build-up) leading to organ failure and chronic disease, including heart disease and obesity.
2. Take probiotics
Probiotics play key roles in digestion by helping break down food, eliminate waste, improve the lining of the digestive tract and more. They control inflammation, support immunity and keep harmful bacteria at bay, while producing numerous enzymes and nutrients we need for digestion and overall health. Emerging research over the last few years shows probiotics also play key roles in healthy weight management, influencing how our bodies store and utilize fat. One probiotic species in particular, Lactobacillus gasseri, is shown to reduce visceral fat (the dangerous fat around your midsection), by up to 9% after three months.
3. Reduce stress
Ongoing stress raises inflammatory proteins in the body, reduces immune function, and impacts metabolism, among other negative effects. Cortisol, one of the primary stress hormones, raises blood sugar levels and can inhibit insulin production, causing the body to store glucose as fat and increasing the risks of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
One of the most effective ways to reduce stress is daily mediation practice. Even just ten minutes a day can offer clinically significant benefits for numerous areas of health. While there are countless styles of meditation practice, one of the most profound is the ancient Tibetan practice of Shamatha meditation. Shamatha is Sanskrit for “calm abiding.” The technique involves focusing the breath on a specific object and letting go of all other thoughts, as attention is consistently trained on the process of breathing.
Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit, and pick a small object such as a pebble to place on the ground in front of you. Focus your eyes and your breathing on the object. As thoughts inevitably arise, simply acknowledge and then release, letting them slip away with each out-breath. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breathing, visualizing each inhalation and exhalation going to and from the object.
4. Improve sleep
Poor sleep habits (such as lack of sleep, sleeping during the day, with lights on or right after a huge meal or too much alcohol) can raise the risks of chronic disease, including diabetes and obesity. Disrupted sleep patterns interfere with our natural biological clocks, or circadian rhythms, which in turn affect hormone balance, immunity, repair processes and much more.
So what can we do to promote better sleep? One important recommendation is to avoid bright lights and electronics a few hours before bed, and be sure to sleep in total darkness. These measures allow the pineal gland to optimize production of melatonin, a powerful anti-inflammatory hormone that influences our circadian rhythms and supports key areas of health including metabolism and weight.
5. Embrace healthy fats
Of all the food groups, fats are the most commonly misunderstood. We’re taught to believe that our obesity problems and related conditions come from eating fats. As a result, many people avoid any kind of oils or fats in their weight management programs. However, the truth is that in moderation, fats are crucial to numerous areas of health and can help the body reduce unhealthy weight. They just have to be the right kind.
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs): These fats are generally liquid at room temperature, and can be found in many common oils such as flax, sesame, olive, sunflower and others, at various ratios along with polyunsaturated fats and saturated fats. Some studies suggest that consuming a moderate amount of foods with MUFAs can support healthy cholesterol, balance insulin and control blood glucose.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs): These are found mostly in vegetable or grain oils as well as some fish oils. They demonstrate benefits similar to MUFAs, and essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 and 6 fats also fall into this category. They’re obtained from foods such as flax seeds, chia seeds, fish oil and other sources. However, a balanced ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 is critical for preventing chronic illness. Our modern diets are laden with Omega-6 (abundant in many commercial vegetable oils) and deficient in Omega-3s — a dangerous ratio which can lead to chronic inflammation, free radical and oxidative damage, and related conditions. A good solution is to supplement with additional Omega-3 oils to balance this ratio. Some nutritionists even recommend a completely balanced 1:1 ratio of Omega 3 and 6 to address inflammation, cardiovascular health and more.
The dangers of trans fats: The worst fats are trans fats and their newest relatives, “interesterified” fats. These industrial fats are created from a chemical process designed to give oils and processed foods a longer shelf life. Trans fats should be avoided completely as they fuel inflammation, disrupt cell signaling and interfere with numerous critical functions. Furthermore, the body doesn’t recognize them and has a difficult time processing and eliminating them. As a result, these harmful substances build up and contribute to weight gain, unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels and arterial plaque
These fundamental wellness practices have ripple effects across all areas of health, not just weight. The first things you’ll notice from these simple steps are increased vitality and a better sense of overall well-being, offering greater energy and momentum to help keep you moving forward with your healthy weight management program.