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August 10, 2016
Old school weight management was exclusively a reflection of the “calories in, calories out” equation and has been widely disproved by research. Certainly, changes in activity levels, due to injury for instance, and changes in calories, such as indulging in sweet foods while on vacation, can shift our weight “set-point” temporarily. However, this should be easily remedied by returning to old (good regular) habits. Moving your internal set-point to reshape your body can be much trickier and involves a multifactorial approach.
If you eat well and exercise on a regular basis and are stuck at a weight that doesn’t feel right for you, or isn’t representative of your attention to health and wellness consider the following:
Weight management fads in the last few years encouraged 6 small meals/day to help maintain blood sugar levels. The problem with this is that by never allowing blood sugar levels to drop, there is never incentive for the body to draw on stored energy (namely fat) to fuel itself. 6 small meals/day is effective in preventing energy crashes and related impulse eating and/or binge eating, but it doesn’t allow the body to burn stored calories.
Shift to 3 meals per day that are 4-5 hours apart and make sure the meals themselves are designed to support blood sugar balance. Hunger within 2-3 hours of your last meal is proof that blood sugar levels rose too quickly and triggered an excess of insulin to compensate. Play with the constituents of your meal to help satiety last longer. Avoid refined and processed foods, and keep carbohydrate sources as whole and colourful as possible. Protein, high-quality fats, and fibre are all excellent at stabilizing blood sugar and delaying the return of hunger. Every meal becomes a learning experience of your hormonal response to food and gives a starting point on how to manipulate it for your greatest good.
Coconut oil is a clean fat that can promote satiety and minimize the desire to snack. It ‘s predominantly made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) compared to most plant and animal fats that are long chain triglycerides (LCTs). LTCs will break down and release energy but they require an active metabolism in order to do so. MCTs are smaller and so require less digestive effort and are able to be burned directly to release heat and energy. Coconut oil’s MCTs are ideal for dieters, body-builders, and anyone wanting quicker, clearer thinking!
Our microbiome, the several pounds of beneficial microbes that inhabit our GI tract and support our health, have now been shown to play a part in weight management. Subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics are used in animal agriculture because they promote weight gain in livestock. We inadvertently take in those low levels of antibiotics when we consume factory-farmed meat or dairy, and that can have a negative effect on our bacteria balance and thus how well we burn or store energy. Probiotic supplements and unpasteurized fermented foods help to restore a healthy bacterial population that in turn supports a healthy weight.
Digestion and liver function can also directly impact our weight. The enzymes that regulate weight require vitamins and minerals in order to function properly so digestion is as important as diet to ensure that we absorb the nutrients that we need. A healthy liver is better able to remove toxins from the blood, and promote the expulsion of toxins through the bowel than a congested liver. Probiotics, fermented foods, and liver-supportive herbs, such as milk thistle, are all an excellent adjunct to a weight management regimen.
Our weight is primarily regulated by hormones that come from the adrenals, thyroid, and gonads and all influence the distribution of fat. With adrenal imbalance, the “spare tire” around the middle is common, while hypothyroidism tends to lead to more evenly distributed excess weight. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone also play a role in the development of lean muscle mass and the location of fat stores on the body. If you feel like you have such an imbalance, it may be necessary to work with a functional medicine physician, such as a naturopathic doctor, to get a handle on hormone balance.
So there is more to healthy weight “set points” and weight management than just exercising and eating healthy. It’s complicated but with these hacks weight management should be well… more manageable.
Research related to “Calories in-out”