Address the Root Cause to Lose Weight for Life

picture showing someone struggling to lose weight, who needs a more holistic, functional medicine approach to weight loss from a naturopathic doctor
A functional medicine approach may help you lose weight and keep it off

Weight Loss is Complex

Eat less, exercise more. Is it really that easy? You may not be surprised to hear that losing excess weight and keeping it off goes way beyond such two-dimensional recommendations. In fact, the concept of calories in and calories out may be the biggest misunderstanding people have about weight. Would eating 1200 kcal per day of nothing but sugar really have the same effect on your weight and your metabolism as eating 1200 kcal of broccoli? It turns out that weight gain and shedding extra pounds are not as black and white as many have been lead to believe.

Let’s look beyond the supposed diet experts and take a functional medicine approach to weight loss. We’ll explore some lesser-known factors affecting weight and metabolism that you need to know if you really want to lose weight and keep it off.

5 Secrets That Contribute to Stubborn Weight Gain

#1: Insulin Resistance

Insulin’s job is to help us move sugar out of the blood and transform these food sugars into stored fuel (fat). But when we consume too many sugary foods and drinks, our body starts to lose its ability to respond to the insulin in our system. The pancreas tries to bring down blood sugar levels by pumping out even more insulin, and as insulin levels go up a vicious cycle is created which over time can raise blood sugar and blood insulin to dangerous levels.

That extra sugar in your bloodstream that cannot be converted into energy is stored as abdominal fat and creates an addiction to sugar. This is called insulin resistance and it is widespread, affecting 1 in 3 Americans and in many cases leading to Type 2 diabetes.

#2: Hormones

Do You Feel Full After Eating?

The hormones leptin and ghrelin control how full we feel after a meal, and the strength of our food cravings. Leptin tells the hypothalamus in your brain that you are full, and to burn calories normally. When you are overweight, your fat cells produce excessive amounts of leptin, as your body isn’t responding to it. If your brain isn’t getting the message that you are full, you keep eating. Ghrelin, on the other hand, tells your brain that you need to eat more. An imbalance in leptin and ghrelin or an inability to respond appropriately to leptin (leptin resistance) contributes to obesity.

Is Your Thyroid Working?

Your thyroid regulates your metabolism, managing the speed at which everything in your body runs, and how quickly you burn calories. When your thyroid is underperforming, it can cause fluid retention, weight gain, constipation, among other issues, making it nearly impossible; to manage your weight. The stats are shocking as 5 out of every 100 people have a low functioning thyroid in the US.

Estrogen Dominance

When your estrogen and progesterone hormones are out of balance, that is called Estrogen Dominance. Having too much estrogen in your body relative to progesterone causes a myriad of symptoms, including weight loss resistance, bloating, mood swings, PMS, endometriosis, and heavy periods.

Stress

Your adrenal glands rule how you respond to stress by regulating your body’s stress hormones. Chronic stress leads to wildly fluctuating cortisol levels, which means more weight gain and water retention.

#3: Genetics

Genetic testing can tell us a great deal about how and why we gain weight, and can be the game-changer for people who have tried everything.

The FTO Gene Variant

One gene that is particularly well documented, the FTO gene, is also known as the human fat mass and obesity-associated gene. It controls leptin, ghrelin (the satiation hormones mentioned above), and adiponectin (which regulates glucose levels). Several other genes affect how we metabolize fats, carbs, and proteins.

Genes that impact stress play a big role in weight management too, especially if you’re a stress eater. These genes impact reward pathways, which can affect how you use food to reward yourself.

#4: Environmental Toxins

Toxins that are present in our environment can be so dangerous that our body needs to protect us by “walling them off” in a casing of fat. The more toxins we have, the more fat cells we need to imprison them. Get rid of the toxins, and the excess weight may well follow.

Lifelong Sources of Toxicity

Current exposure to toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides aren’t the only concern. Research shows that even early-life exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) can increase fat levels, and with microplastics having recently been found in the placentas of some women, the concern is legitimate.

Many toxins are major contributors to thyroid dysfunction, potentially leading to hormonal weight gain.

#5: Gut Dysbiosis

Dysbiosis means the overgrowth of potentially harmful organisms in your gut and a lack of good bacteria that help to keep your gut healthy. There are several ways that dysbiosis may contribute to weight gain. One is through localized inflammation in and around the gut that may contribute to insulin resistance. The other is that your gut makes more of your happy neurotransmitter serotonin than your brain does. If your gut is unhealthy and you’re not making enough serotonin in your gut, you may crave carbs and sugar that will increase serotonin.

7 Easy Ways to Maintain a Healthy Weight

#1: Cut Down on Natural and Artificial Sugars

Are you replacing real sugar with artificial sweeteners? Sugar causes weight gain, and this is the case for both natural and artificial sugar including aspartame. Artificial sweeteners prompt your body to make insulin, even though they do not increase your blood sugar. Monk fruit and Stevia are two much healthier sugar-free sweeteners.

#2: Eat more Fiber

One of the biggest benefits of eating more fiber when you are trying to lose weight is its ability to satiate. Soluble fiber such as that found in beans, flaxseeds, oatmeal and sweet potatoes helps you to feel full longer and slow down the release of sugars into your bloodstream. Soluble fibre cannot be broken down by your own enzymes, so it reaches your gut undigested where it feeds your good bacteria and helps them to flourish. One important aspect of soluble fiber is that it needs water to reach its potential, so staying hydrated is a must.

#3: Chromium, Vanadium and Banaba Leaf

These three supplements have been shown to aid insulin sensitivity and facilitate the entry of glucose into cells, thereby helping to maintain proper blood glucose levels. Optimal insulin sensitivity also helps your body use carbohydrates effectively for energy, which may result in a reduction in the amount that gets stored as fat.

#4: Eat Real Food

Much of what we eat isn’t actually “real” food. Make sure you fuel your body properly by avoiding pre-packaged and processed foods that are chock-full of preservatives, dyes and other chemicals. Focus on fruits, veggies, organic meats and healthy fats. Remember the more toxic your food, the more those toxins will get encased in fat cells.

#5: Meditation

Did you know that calming your mind can be a powerful weight loss tool? Adding meditation to standard weight loss treatments can result in additional weight loss in as little as two months. Managing your stress will help your adrenals and can positively affect your weight loss goals.

#6: Aim for 10,000 Steps Per Day

Getting those steps in can be hard when you’re spending more time at home. But where there is a will, there is a way! A combination of dietary changes and walking 10,000 steps per day was shown to help significantly reduce total weight, BMI and hip size. Bonus: lower anxiety levels are a natural outcome of making these changes as well.

#7: Intermittent Fasting (IF)

One of the most effective ways to get rid of toxins and their corresponding fat prisons is intermittent fasting. How does it work? Designate several hours per day as your ‘eating hours’ and stick to it. This gives your glucose and insulin levels a chance to even out, gives your body a break from the hard job of digestion, and puts the focus on getting toxins out of your body. However, IF is not for everyone, so be sure to check in with me before you begin.

Are you ready to step out of the diet roller coaster? Give me a call at 416-481-0222!

I can assess your insulin, stress response, thyroid, genes, and toxin load. Together we can design a custom-made treatment plan with targeted supplementation, metabolism-supporting nutrients, and nourishing foods. I can’t wait to join you on your health care journey!

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Weight Loss Research

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