Weight Loss – Strategies That Really Work – And Dieting is NOT One Of Them!
When it comes to losing weight I draw on my 17 years as a Clinical Nutritionist in Southern California. This is a place where clients will come to me to lose as much as 150 pounds or as little as 3 pounds. When a client comes to me for weight loss I always give them a complete health history, a symptom questionnaire, and usually a mood type questionnaire, and I use blood testing, if they have one, to help me pinpoint what they need.
In my practice there have always been 2 types of weight loss clients. Those that have just not ever been taught to eat correctly: correct portions, what to eat, when to eat and healthy eating habits. And then there are those who have one of a few common metabolic issues. Once I educate each client, and fix any of the metabolic issues that apply, the weight comes as an easy side effect of balancing the body. It is then more likely to be permanent rather than the “on- again, off- again” diet roller coaster that many people ride.
As a Nutritionist, my job is to educate my clients as to what their own unique biochemical needs are, and teach them how to get that for their body in a way that is compatible with their lifestyle. Many in the billion dollar “diet” industry count on the fact that a particular fad diet, supplement, diet pill, hormone shot or other gimmick, will work for a short time and the person will be back soon to spend more money as soon as the weight gets put back on.
I am here to say that you don’t have to break the bank to lose weight. The right book and or the right Nutritionist should be enough to help you get off the weight loss ride for good and to keep your body healthy as well.
Many still believe the old adage “calories in and calories out” as is still taught in many dietetic programs today. My education was not in dietetics, mine was in clinical nutrition and biochemistry. Instead of the “four food groups” and the “US RDA” and “The Food Pyramid”, all of which I have found to be fairly useless, I was taught and have learned over the years that while calories should be generally taken into consideration, and it is smart to not consume many more calories than you use, calories are not the end all and be all of weight loss. I see many people come through my office eating less than 1900 calories a day, exercising daily, and still not able to lose a pound.
The things that matter most in losing weight are:
- Blood Sugar Balance
- Macronutrient Ratios
- Endocrine/Hormone Health
- Mood and Emotional Health
Blood sugar balance means that your body is able to balance the amount of sugary foods you eat and to keep your levels of insulin, glucose and glucagon in a fat burning rather than fat storage mode. It also keeps your adrenal glands stable and your cortisol (a fat storing stress hormone) levels even. In order to do this you must eat the right amounts of high quality protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats together, every few hours. Eating every 3-4 hours, either a small meal or snack, and not skipping meals is crucial. And any “diet” that cuts out one of these Macronutrients is bound to fail.
Cutting out Certain Macronutrients – A Huge Mistake for the USA
It started in the early 70’s with the heart disease epidemic and Dr. Pritikin. Our nation’s low fat trend was started to treat the severely ill heart patients at the Pritikin Institute and wound up turning into a fad diet and then an unhealthy way of life. We quickly became a fat-phobic nation and we had a dieter’s nightmare on our hands, as many turned to carbohydrates (mostly sugary low fat foods) in an effort to cut the fat. Suddenly, fat was the culprit in obesity and heart disease…………or was it?
Former Pritikin Nutritionist and health writer Anne Louise Gittleman, PhD, in her book “Beyond Pritikin” said that many of the heart patients at the Pritikin Institute did achieve initial weight loss and blood test improvements in the beginning. However, many of those same people, on the same low-fat regimen, gained back at least the weight they had lost.
While their heart problems cleared up (by sticking to meal portion sizes, exercise, and removing the saturated and hydrogenated fats most likely), according to Dr. Gittleman they all began to regain unneeded weight and developed new health problems, such as arthritis, chronic yeast infections, and increased PMS. We now know this was a by-product of the low-fat and high carbohydrate diet.
As fats were replaced by carbohydrates, our weight as a nation went up and our fat consumption (and protein along with it) went down to dangerously low levels. This is when the mood epidemics of anxiety and depression started really taking off and many people were scrambling to find antidepressant medications to replace the brain chemicals that our bodies were no longer creating for us.
Was this a Coincidence?
Our next diet obsession was the Atkin’s type diet. Tell any overweight person that they can eat all the bacon and burgers they want and lose weight and you’ve got a diet that at least 30 million people have tried.
I have personally never seen one person (on Atkin’s) keep the weight off for longer than 6 months but that doesn’t mean it didn’t work at all.
The Atkin’s diet demonized carbohydrates and basically said you could eat all the fat and protein you wanted, just no carbohydrates. The “induction phase” lets you eat less than 20 carbohydrates per day. At that rate you can handle it until your brain runs out of the “feel good” neurotransmitters that come from the amino acids in protein. These brain chemicals can cause us to crave carbohydrates and sugars when we are low in them.
Serotonin is a brain chemical that makes us feel calm, safe, secure and happy. When we are low in Serotonin, we feel irritated, restless, anxious and unable to calm down and sleep. It is then that we are most likely to binge on sugary carbohydrates and more likely to crave them in the afternoon and evening.
It is no surprise here that alcohol is sugar. In fact alcohol is more sugary than sugar. Once a person who has been on such a restricted carbohydrate diet for so long gets a few bites of sugar into them, all bets are off. Almost everyone will develop an overwhelming urge to overeat sweets, breads and all the other things they have been depriving themselves of for so long.
Sounds a bit like an alcoholic huh? Sugar is a drug in my opinion!.
Depleting our brain chemistry of the feel good chemicals like serotonin by cutting out carbohydrates is just asking for mood trouble besides the inevitable gaining back of the weight in my opinion. I have seen many an eating disorder begin with a diet such as this. It is not poor will power or lack of self-control. It is simple biochemistry. A couple of great books on this subject include “The Diet Cure” and “The Mood Cure” by Julia Ross, MA and the newer “Anti-Anxiety Food Solution” by Trudy Scott, CN.
The way to keep your blood sugar balanced and maintain a healthy weight can, and will continue to be, battled out by the NIH, the AMA and the billion dollar diet book and gimmick industry. In the mean time I can tell you what works. Good sensible eating the way that our bodies were designed to eat.
Protein – “Of Primary Importance”
Eating the right amount of healthy protein for your body keeps your muscles, brain and blood sugar all in balance. It also helps balance moods as all of the feel good brain chemicals come from amino acids which come from protein.
Protein should be the basis of your meals.
In Julia Ross’s groundbreaking book “The Mood Cure” she says, “The word protein actually means of primary importance in Greek”. She goes on to say that “without protein you cannot feel optimistic, enthusiastic, calm or comforted”…the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals), that send out all of these positive feelings can only be made by the amino acids found in protein. “Most people need 20-30 grams of protein for each meal. That is at least a palm of your hand size portion of protein 3 times a day”. I have my clients add even more for at least 2-3 smaller protein packed snacks. That is usually 10 to 20 grams per snack, depending on size, weight, activity level and health.
The next Macronutrient you must have is a moderate amount of slow acting or complex carbohydrates.
Think of these slower acting carbohydrates as being the way that they were made and found in nature. We are better off eating a food as close to its original source as possible.
For example, to eat a whole apple instead of apple juice, gives us the enzymes, the fiber and 5-10 times less sugar than a glass of juice. Eating any carbohydrate in a less refined state is healthier for us. So a small baked potato will be much better for our body then a cup of traditionally processed mashed potatoes or French fries. Even if we put butter on the potato, it’s still less processed than the traditionally made typical American made French fries or mashed potatoes. I prefer to use unrefined coconut oil and sea salt on them, but we will get to that in fats.
The carbohydrates that should be eaten most often are vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. I recommend 2/3 to an equal amount of carbohydrate to protein when a person is first starting to try and lose weight. This would be about 15 to 30 grams, depending on your size and activity level. This is a good amount to keep your blood sugar stable and start to get rid of food and sugary carbohydrate cravings. A typical serving size would be a half-cup (that is not a lot take a look) of brown rice or potato or 1-2 slices of a whole grain, sprouted bread.
The vegetables like salad veggies, cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower and cucumbers, onions, spinach, parsley, zucchini and most other non-sugary or starchy vegetables are fine to eat as much as 2 cups with any meal. This along with a generous serving of healthy fats will fill up a plate nicely and will not put weight on you.
That brings us to the healthy fats. Fats are another food group that has been given a bad rap, and has been almost completely cut out of the American diet at times. Yet, as fat levels in our diets have gone down, obesity has gone way up. The trick here is to eat the right kinds of fats.
Healthy fats are fats that your body can digest and assimilate. The healthy fats are unrefined, extra virgin, and ideally cold pressed types of: olive oil, coconut oil, flax oil, fish oil, grape seed oil, avocado and in small amounts butter or clarified butter also called Ghee or unrefined pure nut butters with no additives.
Note: Do not cook with flax oil but it’s great on salads or in smoothies. The unhealthy fats are: hydrogenated, processed fats such as peanut, safflower, and soybean, coconut (hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated or processed is the bad part here), lard and fats from meats that are not clean or organic.
Hydrogenation means that the food company has added hydrogen molecules to the fat so that the food will not go rancid on the supermarket shelf. Unfortunately, our bodies are not equipped to deal with an unnatural fat like this.
While the unrefined coconut and other fats are used for energy and help us to have beautiful hair, skin, fingernails, and to burn more calories, the refined fats just get stored in our fat cells and in our arteries and can cause problems like heart disease and obesity. These processed fats just like the processed carbohydrates can cause food cravings as well.
When you are getting the healthy fats that your body really needs you will see that your cravings for more food than you need or unhealthy foods will disappear.
I recommend that my clients lightly braise their vegetables in water and then finish them with a small amount of olive and/ or coconut oil with spices and sea salt. This is much healthier than steaming vegetables as it helps us to digest and assimilate fat soluble vitamins found in those yummy vegetables. It also makes them taste much better so people will eat more veggies. Much of the nutrients in steamed veggies wind up getting thrown out with the water. Try watering your plants with that water and you will see your plants flourish. Better yet, add the healthy fats to your veggies and watch yourself flourish!
Healthy snacks should be eaten between meals and before bed if you are up 3 hours after dinner. I know, Oprah says don’t eat after 6pm, but I ask you, does it look like she has a handle on this dieting thing? Or… is she caught up in the roller coaster ride too?
It’s important to keep your blood sugar stable, trust me; I do this for a living. A healthy snack can be anything from a half a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with avocado, to a handful of dry roasted almonds with a half cup or half a piece of fruit. Balance your protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats with each meal and snack if possible. You especially need this night time snack if you find yourself waking up at 2 or 3am every morning.
By following this easy plan, you will stop gaining weight, cravings should disappear, and you should start to lose a few pounds a month easily and without being hungry.
If you add in exercise and the right supplements which can be figured out based on the assessment paperwork and a good nutritionist or a good book, you can lose even more, even quicker.
If you are following this plan and not losing weight, than you may have a metabolic or an endocrine issue such as clinical or subclinical hypothyroid (regardless of your blood tests which can easily be interpreted wrong), a hormone imbalance, a Candida or chronic yeast problem, hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, an adrenal problem, lack of neurotransmitters that cause food cravings, anxiety, depression, stress, emotional eating or eating disorders, nutrient deficiencies (a need for vitamins or minerals), food allergies or intolerances, immune or digestive issues, or other issues which should be figured out by a nutrition professional.
Note: many of these issues can be all intertwined, but can be fixed as well.
Weight loss is not a mystery although, I know, it can seem like it. Try applying these sound nutritional principles, picking up a good book, or getting a good Nutritionist. But most of all stop dieting!
Dieting doesn’t work.
A healthy eating plan works 80% of the time and the other 20% it will work once you figure out if you have an endocrine or metabolic problem and get it straightened out.References
- “The Diet Cure” Julia Ross, MA Penguin Books 1999
- “The Mood Cure” Julia Ross, MA Penguin Books 2002
- “The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution” Trudy Scott, CN Harbinger Press 2011
- “Beyond Pritikin” Anne Louise Gittleman, PHD, CNS 1988
BIOGRAPHY JULI KEENE, B.Sc, CN
Juli Keene, B.Sc, CN, is a Licensed Clinical Nutritionist with over 20 years in the Mental Health and Nutrition fields. Juli began her career with a degree in psychology, working with children and adolescents with mental health and substance abuse issues. As she became aware of the food and mood connection she went back to school to get a degree in Nutrition Science and Biochemistry from Chapman University and her CN from American Health Science University. Juli has a thriving practice since 1996 for children and adults in Redondo Beach, CA. She was trained in the early 90’s and is an expert in optimizing health using blood chemistry testing, as well as other specialty lab testing. Juli works with nutritional support for mood issues, Autism and children’s moods, food allergies, weight problems, hormone balance, thyroid and endocrine issues, and chronic GI and Immune issues. Juli is a dietary supplement expert and has done technical writing, teaching, and consulting for the supplement industry for over 15 years.
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