Investigation is key
There are many facets to weight gain, and it is not just calories in calories out. Getting a detailed plan for you is important as, depending on our genetics and environment, we all have different nutritional and biological needs. Getting to the source of the problem is going to make things easier in the long term and may point to why weight management has been difficult for you. We want to look at weight gain as a singular symptom rather than a disease or disorder as there are many etiologies behind weight gain.
Some causes of weight gain:
- insulin resistance
- leptin resistance (our satiety hormone)
- gut distress
- improper macro balance (protein, fat, carbohydrate balance)
- hormonal imbalance (e.g. PCOS).
- Circadian rhythm & sleep – I have deliberately chosen to put this point first. Adequate quality sleep (over 7 hours) is important in improving any metabolic and weight problem. Sleep plays a large role in regulation of appetite and in reducing inflammation.
- Fasting – this is a twofold point, being aimed at both non-fasting individuals and those already fasting. Fasting can be a powerful add-on to your treatment plan, improving blood glucose, reducing inflammation and increasing longevity. However, it needs to be used with caution, keeping to a 13-hour fast overnight and then an occasional longer fast e.g. 16 or 24 hours, or longer. If you are regularly fasting, you may notice a reduction in weight initially, but this can reduce your metabolic processes, downregulating metabolism including downregulating thyroid hormones. To mitigate these issues, ensuring there is a refeed period, with an adequate intake of food afterward, is very important to help retain proper metabolic processes.
- Gut health – this is such an important facet of treatment and can lead to many other issues such as inflammation, mental health issues (increasing stress and emotional eating) and fatigue, all having an impact on weight. It also directly affects weight, as we now know that certain strains of bacteria can help reduce weight and some non-beneficial bacteria may lead to weight gain. Often when patients are experiencing dysbiosis, it can lead to food cravings as many bacteria thrive on sugar.
- Protein – If you have ever been in a consultation with me, you would have heard me harp on about protein. A quality protein intake boosts metabolism by preserving lean muscle mass, balances blood-glucose levels, reduces appetite and affects several weight-regulating hormones. Fat loss associated with a high-protein diet includes subcutaneous and metabolically active visceral fat. Protein helps increase the thermic effect of food, meaning we are burning more calories naturally.
- Reducing inflammation – inflammation can stem from many causes and can increase weight gain as it has a direct effect on the gut, affecting the bacteria within the gut. It also has an impact on insulin resistance, a major component of diabetes. Reducing inflammation is an important facet of weight loss plans.
- Exercise – while cardio is a good way to burn a lot of energy quickly, it doesn’t have the long-term effect that resistance training does. You would have to continue to keep up the same amount of cardio exercise each week to maintain the weight loss. It can also have the opposite effect in some people as it is stressful on the body and increases stress hormones, signalling the body to retain weight. Further, it can cause some metabolic damage if done for extended periods of time. The inflammatory effect can cause damage to mitochondria, which is why some individuals feel exhausted after long bouts of exercise. If you are going to incorporate cardio exercise, even just 10 minutes of 10 box jumps, burpees or kettlebell swings every minute on the minute can be beneficial and still help to improve the cardiovascular system whilst not causing damage. Resistance training helps with excess fat loss by increasing calorie burn after exercise, and increasing muscle size, thereby increasing the number of calories we burn at rest.
We live in a society that prides itself on busyness, and some people cannot reduce that amount of busyness incoming. Chronic stress activates the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This can result in systemic elevations of stress hormones, including cortisol, which can lead to increased hunger, increased visceral adiposity, metabolic syndromes, changes in eating patterns, increased food intake, binge eating and reduced physical exercise.
If we can address stress by rebalancing our pathways through herbal remedies, we can start to tip the stress scales (pun intended) in the other direction, making us feel more balanced and in control rather than overwhelmed.
If you would like a detailed plan specific to your nutritional and biological needs, speak to one of our naturopaths: book an appointment. Also, check out our Metabolic Balance program, specifically designed for long-lasting weight loss and resetting your metabolism.
Written by Ally Stuart, BHSc
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