Do you ever wonder why some people, no matter how hard they try, just can’t seem to achieve their healthy weight goals? It doesn’t matter what diet and exercise program they follow or how diligent they are—the weight just doesn’t budge. Or worse, they add more fat, rather than burning it. What’s going on?
For some people, a wholesome diet and regular exercise can help them reach their weight goals in good time. But for many others, there’s more to the story. The truth is that healthy weight loss often requires an in-depth look at issues such as hormone balance, stress, digestion and mitochondrial efficiency, inflammation and other factors that play roles in determining how the body metabolizes and utilizes fat. These issues are best assessed with an integrative practitioner who can recommend the right protocol for each person's individual health goals. To start however, there are simple ways to support overall health that can also go a long way toward balancing the scales.
1. Target Inflammation
Chronic, low-grade inflammation damages cells, organs, and tissues, leading to loss of function, immune dysregulation, and a host of other problems. Chronic inflammation is also a major culprit in weight gain, mainly because it leads to insulin resistance, which causes the body to store glucose as fat, instead of getting it into our cells for energy. This is a key issue with the development of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and obesity.
One of the most effective ways to fight inflammation is with diet. Certain foods are shown to drive inflammation—mainly sugars and processed foods, but also dairy and some grains, including wheat and other gluten-containing grains. On the other hand, foods such as green vegetables, low-glycemic (low-sugar) fruits, certain botanicals, and other supplements offer targeted nutrients that help control inflammatory processes. In general, a low-glycemic diet emphasizing unprocessed foods, organic meats and produce, and healthy fats can help reduce inflammation and support overall vitality.
In addition, the supplement Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP), which is derived from citrus peels, is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent shown in research to support numerous critical areas of health. MCP works by controlling the rogue protein galectin-3, a key driver of chronic inflammation and fibrosis (uncontrolled scar tissue build-up) leading to organ failure and chronic disease, including heart disease and obesity.
2. Take Probiotics
Probiotics play key roles in digestion by helping break down food, eliminate waste, improve the lining of the digestive tract, and more. They control inflammation, support immunity, and keep harmful bacteria at bay, while producing numerous enzymes and nutrients we need for digestion and overall health. Emerging research over the last few years shows probiotics also play key roles in healthy weight management, influencing how our bodies store and utilize fat. One probiotic species in particular, Lactobacillus gasseri, is shown to reduce visceral fat (the dangerous fat around your midsection), by up to 9 percent after three months.
3. Reduce Stress
Ongoing stress raises inflammatory proteins in the body, reduces immune function, and impacts metabolism, among other negative effects. Cortisol, one of the primary stress hormones, raises blood sugar levels and can inhibit insulin production, causing the body to store glucose as fat and increasing the risks of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
One of the most effective ways to reduce stress is daily meditation practice. Even just 10 minutes a day can offer clinically significant benefits for numerous areas of health. While there are countless styles of meditation practice, one of the most profound is the ancient Tibetan practice of Shamatha meditation. Shamatha is Sanskrit for “calm abiding.” The technique involves focusing the breath on a specific object and letting go of all other thoughts, as attention is consistently trained on the process of breathing.
Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit, and pick a small object such as a pebble to place on the ground in front of you. Focus your eyes and your breathing on the object. As thoughts inevitably arise, simply acknowledge and then release, letting them slip away with each out-breath. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breathing, visualizing each inhalation and exhalation going to and from the object.
Cortisol, one of the primary stress hormones, can inhibit insulin production, causing the body to store glucose as fat.
4. Improve Sleep
Poor sleep habits (such as a lack of sleep, sleeping during the day, with lights on or right after a huge meal or too much alcohol) can raise the risks of chronic disease, including diabetes and obesity. Disrupted sleep patterns interfere with our natural biological clocks, or circadian rhythms, which in turn affect hormone balance, immunity, repair processes, and much more.
So what can we do to promote better sleep? One important recommendation is to avoid bright lights and electronics a few hours before bed, and be sure to sleep in total darkness. These measures allow the pineal gland to optimize production of melatonin, a powerful anti-inflammatory hormone that influences our circadian rhythms and supports key areas of health including metabolism and weight.
5. Embrace Healthy Fats
Of all the food groups, fats are the most commonly misunderstood. We’re taught to believe that our obesity problems and related conditions come from eating fats. As a result, many people avoid any kind of oils or fats in their weight management programs. However, the truth is that in moderation, fats are crucial to numerous areas of health and can help the body reduce unhealthy weight. They just have to be the right kind.
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs): These fats are generally liquid at room temperature, and can be found in many common oils such as flax, sesame, olive, sunflower, and others, at various ratios along with polyunsaturated fats and saturated fats. Some studies suggest that consuming foods with MUFAs can support healthy cholesterol, balance insulin, and control blood glucose.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs): These are found mostly in vegetable or grain oils as well as fish oils. They demonstrate benefits similar to MUFAs, and essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and -6 fats also fall into this category. They’re obtained from foods such as flax seeds, chia seeds, fish oil, and other sources. However, a balanced ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 is critical for preventing chronic illness. Our modern diets are laden with omega-6 (abundant in many commercial vegetable oils) and deficient in omega-3s—a dangerous ratio that can lead to chronic inflammation, free radical and oxidative damage, and related conditions. A good solution is to supplement with additional omega-3 oils to balance this ratio. Some nutritionists even recommend a completely balanced 1:1 ratio of omega-3 and -6 fats to address inflammation, cardiovascular health, and more.
The dangers of trans fats: The worst fats are trans fats and their newest relatives, “interesterified” fats. These industrial fats are created from a chemical process designed to give oils and processed foods a longer shelf life. Trans fats should be avoided completely, as they fuel inflammation, disrupt cell signaling, and interfere with numerous critical functions. Furthermore, the body doesn’t recognize them and has a difficult time processing and eliminating them. As a result, these harmful substances build up and contribute to weight gain, unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels, and arterial plaque.
These fundamental wellness practices have ripple effects across all areas of health, not just weight. The first things you’ll notice from these simple steps are increased vitality and a better sense of overall well-being, offering greater energy and momentum to help keep you moving forward with your healthy weight-management program.
9 supplements that can assist in a sensible approach to weight loss
1. White kidney bean extract. Made from the white kidney bean pod native to Central and South America, Phaseolus vulgaris (white kidney bean extract) is a common ingredient in starch-blocking supplements. It’s thought to work by inhibiting amylase, the body’s starch-digesting enzyme responsible for the breakdown of carbs. It may also act as an appetite suppressant. In one study, women who took 445 mg before starchy meals lost significantly more weight and showed a greater reduction in fat mass and waist-hip-thigh circumference than those who took a placebo.
2. Bitter orange. Derived from the bitter orange tree native to Africa and Asia, bitter orange contains synephrine, a compound with many of the same metabolic effects as ephedra, but not as likely to cause the increases in heart rate and blood pressure associated with ephedra. In one study, people who took a supplement containing bitter orange showed significantly greater losses of body fat and increases in metabolic rate than control groups.
3. Green coffee bean extract (GCE). Made from green, unroasted coffee beans, this extract is high in polyphenolic antioxidants known as chlorogenic acids (CGAs). CGAs have been shown in several studies to inhibit fat accumulation, modulate glucose metabolism, and lower body weight. In one study, people who consumed 700–1,050 mgs per day lost 16 pounds in six weeks.
4. Garcinia cambogia. This extract comes from a tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia that’s traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to activate digestion and make meals more satisfying. Its active ingredient is hydroxycitric acid, or HCA, which some research suggests may promote weight loss, lower appetite by increasing serotonin levels, reduce belly fat, and inhibit enzymes the body uses to make fat from carbohydrates.
5. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). A type of polyunsaturated fat that boosts weight loss and helps reduce body fat, CLA is found primarily in animal products, especially beef and dairy. Several studies have found that taking 1,700–3,400 mg of CLA per day improves muscle-to-fat ratio, regulates cholesterol levels, and maintains insulin sensitivity, which helps balance blood sugar.
6. Chromium and Vanadium. The trace mineral chromium can help reduce sugar cravings for most people, usually within a week. Take 200–300 mcg every morning. Chromium works because it helps insulin get glucose into your cells where sugar can produce energy, not love handles. Look for products that combine chromium with other helpful ingredients, such as vanadium, a trace mineral known to help tame sugar cravings.
7. Green tea extract. A compound in green tea known as EGCG may play a role in weight loss by increasing metabolism, decreasing fat absorption, and promoting fat oxidation. One review of 14 clinical trials found that green tea supplements reduced body weight more than placebo.
8. HGH. Human growth hormone (HGH) is naturally produced by the pituitary gland, and regulates sugar and fat metabolism. However, production declines with age. In 1999, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that injections of HGH could result in fat loss and muscle gain. In 2012, a supplement featuring a special combination of amino acids (SeroVital-hgh) was shown in a double-blind study to stimulate the body’s natural production of HGH. The study showed HGH levels increased by more than six times—and resulted in significant improvements in metabolism and endurance in both men and women.
9. Fiber. Fiber not only makes you feel fuller, but also helps to keep blood sugar levels steady. A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine showed that participants who simply made a point to eat 30 grams of fiber a day—without making any other changes to their diets—lost weight (an average of five pounds), lowered blood pressure, and improved insulin response after 12 months.