Making Sense Of Weight Loss
Obesity is on the march. The numbers are undeniable.
- 127 million adults in the U.S. are overweight.
- 60 million obese.
- 9 million severely obese.
And it's not just the United States. The rest of the world is keeping pace pound for pound. As a species, we are getting steadily fatter, day by day, year by year. This is not just a question of vanity. Along with weight gain comes the increased risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease—not to mention all of those things you don't even think about, such as an increased risk of injury on the job.
What are we to do?
The media reports on all kinds of studies designed to help. Not!
There are studies that rank the various diets (Volumetrics is number one according to Consumer Reports) followed by studies that prove that no diet works. (Those studies say it's healthier to just get slowly fatter and not diet at all.) And then there are the studies that say it's not your fault because.
- It's in your genes.
- It's your intestinal bacteria.
- It's a disease.
- It's the natural state of things. It's thin people who are abnormal. We should embrace the heavy body and accept who we are.
- It's the result of exposure to toxins in your food and environment.
Of course, clothing manufacturers have a different approach. They just change the definition of sizes. Dress manufacturers have steadily modified sizing to fit larger women into smaller sized clothing. (Are you going to believe what you see in the mirror, or what it says on the label?) Heck, I recently bought a men's medium t-shirt (I've always worn a medium), and I could set up house in this thing. It's equivalent to the extra large size that I grew up with.
First of all, enough is enough. Bad genes may have an impact for some, but they are hardly the primary, exclusive cause of weight gain. Obesity is not a disease. It's certainly not normal. None of these things explains the worldwide explosion in obesity that we've seen over the last 30 years. Check out the animated map below from www.weight.com showing the prevalence of obesity in the United States since 1985.
It's a simple matter of consuming more calories than you expend day after day. Over the last 30 years, we have taken to eating more and more high calorie fast food and exercising less and less as we sit passively at desks, typing on keyboards, and talking on the phone. And even those of us who still work in manufacturing now do more controlling of heavy equipment by pressing buttons than actual physical labor.
- As of 2000, the average American took in 300 more calories a day than was the case 15 years earlier. Doesn't sound like much? That translates into one pound gained every eleven days, or 31 extra pounds of body weight…each and every year.
- A Big Mac, medium Coke and large fries from McDonald's contain a total of 1,340 calories, more than half the recommended daily calories for both men and women. (By the way, if that's not enough for you, McDonald's is now marketing the new, even bigger Third Pounder—for those who believe that too much is not enough.)
- Then combine that with sedentary work, which by itself translates to an extra 45-65 pounds of weight every year.
The bottom line is that it's calories "in" vs calories "out." We're taking in, on average, an extra 30 pounds of calories each and every year and burning up 45-65 pounds fewer of them. Is it any wonder we're getting fatter? This is not genes. It's not intestinal bacteria. It's not a disease. It's not who we are. Quite simply, it's a self-inflicted disaster.
Thin people are fat
But it's even worse than it seems. In our obsession for being thin, we've lost sight of what's healthy. Simply being thin, does not necessarily make you healthier. Just because Kirstie Alley lost 75 lbs on Jenny Craig doesn't "necessarily" mean she's any healthier for it.
As I've frequently pointed out over the years, you can be both anorexic and obese at the same time. You can weigh only 90 lbs, but have 30 lbs of that weight be pure body fat. And now studies confirm it. According to the data, people who maintain their weight through diet rather than exercise are likely to have major deposits of internal fat, even if they are otherwise slim. "The whole concept of being fat needs to be redefined," said Dr. Jimmy Bell, a professor of molecular imaging at Imperial College, London and one of the researchers involved with the study. It's not what you see that kills you; it's what you don't see. The internal fat that surrounds vital organs like the heart, liver or pancreas is far more dangerous than the fat you can see under the skin. Obese people who exercise are actually at lower risk of mortality than thin people who are sedentary. For example, as Dr. Bell said, "Despite their ripples of fat, super-sized Sumo wrestlers probably have a better metabolic profile than some of their slim, sedentary spectators. That's because the wrestlers' fat is primarily stored under the skin, not streaking throughout their vital organs and muscles."
Bottom line, merely being thin means nothing (healthwise) if you haven't exercised along with your caloric reduction. You may look "spectacular, " but internally you are an obese walking-diabetic-coronary just waiting to happen.
The Supplement Game
And if the latest scientific studies are to be believed, the myriad of supplements sold on the internet, TV, and through MLM companies are a waste of money. (That's if they are to be believed.)
- According to the studies, ephedra and its fellow stimulants such as bitter orange and caffeine may be effective, but they're dangerous.
- According to the studies, fat blockers such as chitosan and carb blockers such as white bean extract may be safe, but they are ineffective.
- Appetite control formulas based on hoodia might work except for the fact that virtually none of the products pitching it actually contain any of the active ingredient in the formula.
- Cortisol formulas designed to promote weight loss by inhibiting the release of the adrenal hormone cortisol have been attacked by the FTC as unproven.
The above statements, of course, have elements of truth in them, but are mostly incorrect as you will see in a moment.
Up to this point, you're probably thinking that when it comes to weight loss, it's all hopeless and confusing. You might think Dante was referring to weight loss programs when he said, " Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." Or maybe you were thinking Mick Jagger had failed in a diet program when he said, " What can a poor boy do, except sing in a rock and roll band." (Actually, it's yes to the former and no to the latter.)
In truth, the answer to weight control comes down to two key points (points quite familiar to anyone who has read Lessons from the Miracle Doctors).
- Don't look for magic bullets
- Do everything, and do it all at once. We're talking lifestyle change, not just diet change.
And that would include:
- Stick to a Mediterranean diet, low in pastas and grains, but rich in nutrient dense fruits and vegetables, olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids, and a regular exercise program.
- Be careful of allergenic foods that not only cause your body to swell up but also, surprisingly, create cravings for and addictions to those same foods. Chief culprits include wheat, corn, dairy, and soy.
- At the beginning of the newsletter, I mentioned that the top rated diet according to Consumer Reports is Volumetrics. Well, Volumetrics is essentially a rephrasing of Joel Fuhrman's "nutrient density" concept. In this case, I think something is lost in the translation. Dr. Fuhrman's idea is that you eat foods that contain the greatest concentration of nutrients with the lowest number of calories. The Volumetrics plan rephrases that idea to say that you want to eat food that provides the highest amount of volume with the lowest number of calories. These ideas are close, and overlap in many areas, but are ultimately very different when it comes to day-to-day application. Volumetrics leads you to foods filled with lots of water and fiber—not unhealthy, but...Dr. Fuhrman's Eat to Live plan leads you to cruciferous vegetables and antioxidant rich berries. Words matter.
There's no getting around it: you may lose weight, but you won't lose the internal fat that marbles your muscle like a piece of aged, corn-fed prime beef without regular exercise. Make sure your exercise program includes:
- Aerobic exercise to burn calories.
- Weight bearing exercise to build muscle, which burns calories even while you sleep.
Don't believe everything you read in the studies. Although no supplement will work as a magic bullet by itself (you've still got to make the lifestyle changes), there are definitely supplements that can assist the process.
- Oolong tea and green coffee bean extract, for example, seem to assist in weight loss..
- By the way, when it comes to ephedra, it's not particularly dangerous. In studies comparing groups of people who use ephedra products with those who do not, there is virtually no difference in the rate of heart attacks and strokes! Nevertheless, I am not a fan of ephedra because it exhausts the adrenal glands, and I do not use it in any of my formulations—but nonsense is still nonsense.
- Other supplements such as bacopa, mulungu, ashwagandha, and theanine can help ameliorate many of the causes of stress eating.
- Higher levels of free testosterone in the body encourage the body to gain muscle mass and lose fat. Lower levels cause the reverse. Herbs such as nettles, oats, and tribulus terrestris help free up bound testosterone and raise levels of available testosterone—without actually changing the body's overall level of testosterone.
- Regular use of a men's or women's progesterone crème helps the body balance out estrogen dominance, a major factor in encouraging the body to store fat.
- 7-Keto supplementation can also help.
- Herbs such as konjac mannan and nopal cactus can not only help optimize sugar metabolism, but can also substantially assist in reducing the accumulation of internal fat.
I'm really big on juice fasting. I think the single best investment you can make in your health is a good juicer. Both fresh vegetable and fresh fruit juices are great, but I would definitely recommend emphasizing the vegetable juices as they are more alkalinizing and contain less sugar. My basic recommended protocol is:
- Fast one day a week on juice and one of the super foods (chlorella, spirulina, stabilized rice bran, Aktivated barley, etc.).
- Every month do a 3 day juice/super food fast.
- And twice a year, as part of your bi-annual liver detox, do a 5-6 day juice/superfood fast.
Here's an interesting thought to keep in mind. If all you do is fast just one day a week, it adds up spectacularly. In seven years, you will have fasted for one entire year. For the average person, that represents 1.5 pounds saved every two weeks—39 lbs in body weight at the end of the seven years. What do you think a year of fasting every seven years would do to optimize your health—let alone slow down any weight gain you might otherwise have experienced?
Not only is detoxing beneficial for your overall health, it:
- Optimizes your absorption of nutrition so you need less food to get the same level of satisfaction and nutrition.
- Potentially can clean pounds of waste from your colon.
- Can cause the body to purge pounds of accumulated water stored as an allergic response to the presence of highly toxic waste.
- Flush fat from the liver and other internal organs—making you internally thin, as well as externally beautiful.
Does all this seem overwhelming? It shouldn't. If you're following the Baseline of Health® Program as outlined in Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, you're doing most of it already.
It takes a village (I couldn't resist)
The city of Somerville, Massachusetts decided that there might be something to Hillary Clinton's catchphrase. In conjunction with Tufts University, they set up a program that changed the lifestyle of every child in the city. They:
- Modified the school lunch programs.
- Changed the food in vending machines.
- Included in-school education on diet and nutrition.
- Got the local newspaper to include regular columns showing the mayor eating healthy foods around the city.
- Educated parents and community leaders.
- Got 21 local restaurants to develop healthy menu options for the kids.
The result? On average, the program eliminated approximately one pound of weight gain over eight months for an eight-year-old child. This may seem small for an individual, but on a population level this reduction in weight gain,observed through a decrease in BMI z-score, translates into large numbers of children moving out of the overweight category. Also, keep in mind that children of that age should gain weight; they're growing. You just don't want that weight to be fat, and that's what the one pound of difference represented—one pound of fat. Over time, one pound of fat less every eight months makes a huge difference in body weight and health.
If you're not motivated to lose weight and improve your body composition for health and vanity reasons, perhaps these reasons will help.
- The ever increasing weight of airline passengers not only costs huge amounts of money in extra airplane fuel, it dramatically increases the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air as the result of burning that fuel.
- Likewise, the extra weight takes more gasoline to move your car from point A to point B.
- And then there is the " unmentionable" increase in greenhouse gases resulting from obesity.
And then there is the ultimate connection between greenhouse gasses and obesity.
This isn't rocket science. The key to losing and maintaining the proper weight is not a mystery. We all know what to do. There are no excuses. On the other hand, there are no magic bullet pills or diets you can use. You need to change your lifestyle. You need to fundamentally change the way you eat. You need to clean out your system. And you need to exercise.