10 Most Common Non-food-related Reasons We Gain Weight

The conventional opinion as to why people gain weight is typically: eat too much, exercise too little, get fat.  

But this is actually far from the truth.  And there is no simple answer to what causes one person's weight gain over another.  Of course, food plays a big role, but there are many other things to consider.  

1. POOR SLEEP, or undiagnosed sleep apnea.  

Many who read this will skip over this, but if you are not getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, toss and turn at night, are waking up groggy, and are tired during the day, you are detrimentally affecting your body's time to heal and "reset" the hormones that keep your metabolism optimal.  More on this in an upcoming blog post...

2. STRESS.

Stress involves the release of adrenaline and cortisol, two hormones that stimulate an increase in blood sugar (increasing the risk of diabetes, and increasing the fat storage hormone known as insulin).  Stress can come in many forms - from the obvious (a high-pressure job), to the not-so-obvious (strenuous workouts).  When the body is under stress, it is not interested in shunting energy to burn fat, but rather you go into survival mode and store fat/breakdown muscle as a mechanism of protection.

3. NOT EATING ENOUGH.

You heard that right.  If you don't eat enough (especially eating at least 3 meals a day - stop skipping breakfast!), your body perceives you are starving and puts your limited food quantity into fat cells for storage.  If you are working out in addition to eating too few calories, you are not going to burn this fat, but rather breakdown your muscles.  

4. HORMONE IMBALANCES

Many hormones play a role in maintaining your weight.  These include thyroid hormones, sex hormones (testosterone, estradiol, progesterone), fat hormones (adiponectin, leptin), adrenal hormones (cortisol), and gut hormones (insulin, ghrelin, incretins).  All of these are impacted by the amount of inflammation in your body, by nutrient deficiencies (many vitamins and minerals are needed to make hormones), by stress, by our level of activity, and especially by what/when/how we eat.

5. NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES/IMBALANCES

As mentioned with hormone imbalances, vitamins (especially B vitamins, iron, fat--soluble vitamins like vitamin D) and minerals (especially zinc, magnesium) are vital in the pathway to create hormones.  And these are not always deficient - they may be in excess, which is why you need a comprehensive blood test (and a practitioner who knows the "optimal" numbers, not the "normal" ranges) to assess your nutrients.

7. CHRONIC, LOW GRADE INFLAMMATION.

Inflammation is your body's way of protecting itself from a perceived stress or harm.  It's important in short bursts (for example after an injury), but if it is ongoing or chronic, it can disrupt metabolic pathways and prevent optimal functioning of your metabolism.

8. POOR GUT HEALTH

Most of your immune system is in your gut, and if this is out of balance, you may not only have symptoms (heartburn, bloating, constipation, diarrhea), but imbalances lead to more work from your immune system (and thus less focus on your weight).  Eating more vegetables, taking daily probiotics and having daily servings of fermented foods are a good first start to improving your gut health.

9. SOCIAL INFLUENCES

How often have you been at a restaurant with friends, and told yourself you would not order that dessert or that appetizer, but your friends encouraged you to "live a little" and you order it against your best intentions?  One of the top influences on your weight is with whom you associate.  If your friends, spouse, and/or coworkers are at an unhealthy weight, and are not motivated to improve their health, you are twice as likely to fail in achieving your weight loss goals. 

10.  FOCUSING ON "CARDIO" AND IGNORING YOUR MUSCLES

Cardiovascular exercise is good at burning calories and improving your heart health, but our muscles actually have the highest concentration of our mitochondria (which are responsible for keeping our metabolism revved up throughout the entire day).  And we all know that a higher metabolism helps with weight loss.  Not to mention, weight resistance training (e.g. lifting weights, doing yoga/pilates, body resistant exercises such as push ups or squats) protects our bones from osteoporosis!

In summary, weight loss is not as easy as it sounds.  If you need guidance/support, contact us for more information!

 

 

8 Best Carbohydrates for Weight Loss

We are bombarded daily with the latest and greatest weight loss plans.  In particular, is the subject of “Low-Carb” diets.  Yes, there are many studies that show significant weight loss while on a low carbohydrate diet.  However, the key here is that these are “diets” – and typically a “diet” connotes a temporary change in eating habits, and very low carbohydrate diets should not be a permanent lifestyle change (we need carbohydrates for good thyroid function).

For permanent success at obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight, we at Texas Metabolic Centers promote good “nutrition”.  And part of this way of eating involves the consumption of healthy carbohydrates in moderation.  Keep in mind, if you’re looking to lose weight, any starchy carbohydrate (such as bread, oatmeal, potatoes) should only make up ¼ of your plate…

Here is a list of our top favorite healthy carbohydrates:

Sweet potatoes: Easy to prepare in bulk, goes great with any meal.  We recommend baking up 4-6 potatoes at once (375 degrees for 1 hour), so you have them on hand for a few days.

All green vegetables: Especially dark green leafy vegetables.  Can’t stand the thought of eating a salad?  Try a couple handfuls of sautéed spinach or kale with your morning eggs or sausage, or in a protein smoothie!

Legumes (especially lentils and chickpeas): Hummus anyone?

Nuts (especially walnuts and almonds): Aim for ¼ cup per day of nuts, which serve as great snacks!  Try mixing them up with different flavors as well (maple cayenne, ranch, honey mustard, BBQ, teriyaki).  How?  Heat up 2-4 tablespoons of your chosen flavor, add 4 cups of nuts.  Stir until well coated (about 3-5 minutes).  Cool on parchment paper.  Refrigerate!

Berries: High in fiber, naturally sweet.  Great dessert option!

Squash: Trade your pasta for spaghetti squash or zucchini spirals!

Ezekiel bread: Best source of unrefined whole grains.  Recommend maximum of 2-3 slices per day.  Great when topped with almond butter and cinnamon!

Steel-cut oatmeal (i.e. Irish oatmeal):  Great when mixed with 1-2 Tablespoons of chia seeds or ground flax seeds, and/or 1-2 Tablespoons of almond butter.

Does vitamin B12 help with weight loss?

Basic answer, no.  

Here's why:

1.   Anemia:  Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a condition called megaloblastic anemia, which is characterized by extreme tiredness.  Once this deficiency is corrrected via vitamin B12 supplementation, these people will have more energy and be less tired.  And since they have more energy, they are able to be more active.  Studies have not supported this level of improvement in those who do not have anemia and take vitamin B12 supplements.

2.  Accountability:  Weight loss clinics that recommend vitamin B12 injections along with their program (which usually has a nutrition plan as well) often are recommending weekly injections, in addition to weekly weigh-ins.  What this suggests is that people know they are getting weighed, and are more likely to adhere to the recommended diet plan.  Thus, the misconception that the injections are directly causing some of their weight loss.

3.  Metabolism:  Vitamin B12 helps make enzymes that are needed to break down food and convert this food into energy.  There is no scientific evidence to show that increased vitamin B12 consumption will increase the break down or metabolism of food (i.e. it will not speed up your metabolism).

 

So, what is vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is a water soluble B vitamin, made by bacteria (i.e. our bodies cannot make it – we have to get it from our diet).  The majority of vitamin B12 will come from animal products, which is why vegetarians are more likely to be deficient.  

 

What does vitamin B12 do for our bodies?

-Optimize nerve health

-Help with red blood cell production 

-DNA synthesis

-Makes the enzymes that help our body produce energy (i.e. help covert the food we eat into energy) and maintain balanced metabolism

-Regulation of homocysteine (high homocysteine has been associated with cardiovascular disease and poor memory/cognition)

-Mood/memory stabilization

 

How can you tell if you are deficient?

A basic lab test can show you if you have low vitamin B12, or if you poorly absorb vitamin B12.   Ask a knowledgeable integrative healthcare provider if your levels are "optimal" (i.e. within lab ranges does not mean levels are optimal).

 

People at risk for deficiency:

1.       Vegetarians/vegans

2.       Elderly

3.       Anyone who has undergone surgery for weight reduction

4.       People afflicted with Crohn’s or celiac (gluten-intolerance) disease

5.       Anyone taking the prescription metformin

6.       Women who are pregnant

7.       Anyone taking an acid-reducer for gastrointestinal reflux disease (i.e. heartburn)

 

Where do you get vitamin B12?

1. Supplementation (best option), in pill form or injectable.  Best form (most active form) of vitamin B12 is methylcobalamin.

2. Clams

3. Beef liver

4. Trout

5. Salmon

 

There are different names found in supplements when it comes to vitamin B12.  How do you know which type of vitamin B12 is the best to take?

1. Cyanocobalamin: this is the most readily available on the market, is the only type approved by the FDA for treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency, and is inexpensive.  However this is synthetic, and the body has to convert it to the active form (methylcobalamin) to be able to use it.

2. Methylcobalamin: Most active form of vitamin B12 (thus, best form to take).  Studies have shown this to be beneficial in patients with autism and patients with dementia, as well as multiple sclerosis.

3. Hydroxocobalamin:  A natural form of vitamin B12, and the only type recommended by the World Health Organization for treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency.  Difficult to put in supplements without adding "stabilizers", so often obtained from a compound pharmacy.

4. Adenosylcobalamin: The type of vitamin B12 found within the mitochondria of our cells (mitochondria = energy producers).  Best when used in combination with methylcobalamin.

 

For more information on the details of vitamin B12, and some studies that look into vitamin B12, click the following link: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/

Choice

We are born with many things chosen for us: our family and genetic, our skin color, how tall we will be, etc.

But we are fortunate to live in a world where we have freedom of choice in what we eat to sustain our bodies and minds.  Start today and choose optimal health - for your body, for your  mind, for your loved ones...

If you need team support and/or guidance, contact Texas Metabolic Centers today!

Key hormones that affect weight

Because excess body weight can lead to many health problems including inflammation, diabetes, and heart disease it is (obviously) important to keep your weight under control.

For many - in fact, most - people this is easier said than done. Although everyone knows that frequent exercise and proper nutrition leads to weight loss, many people find that the generally accepted rule of eating less and exercising more simply does not work for them.

An imbalance of hormones could be to blame for why your efforts to lose weight may not be working.

Research shows that your body fat acts as an endocrine organ that secretes hormones and receives hormonal signals from other areas of the body such as the brain, adrenals, pancreas, and gut.  Here are some key hormones involved in weight maintenance:

Leptin

Leptin, known as the "satiety hormone", is a hormone secreted by your fat cells that signals the brain to tell you to stop eating when full. When your fat cells become sick due to increased visceral fat, also known as the fat surrounding your organs, excessive leptin is released and leptin resistance occurs. In the presence of leptin resistance, your brain does not get the message to stop eating and a vicious cycle of over eating, weight gain, and leptin imbalance occurs.

You can optimize leptin levels by getting adequate sleep (in particular, get checked for sleep apnea and if you have this, partake in the recommended treatment), taking a 3-4 hour break between meals (and make sure you are not going longer than 5 hours between meals), and limiting sugar and processed food consumption to minimize your chance and/or treat insulin resistance. High levels of fructose found in agave, high fructose corn syrup, table sugar and honey triggers leptin resistance, however, the amount of fructose consumed in moderate amounts of WHOLE fruit is fine.

Adiponectin

Adiponectin is another hormone secreted by fat cells that helps regulate blood sugar and increases fat-burning when levels are high.

This hormone helps to decrease inflammation and increase insulin resistance.

Levels of adiponectin improve with weight loss via aerobic exercise, reduced carbohydrate consumption, omega 3 supplementation, and improved fitness level.

Insulin

Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas in response to rising blood sugar. This hormone brings sugar inside the cells of the body so that it can be used for energy. When this hormone is consistently high in the body, cells can become insulin resistant. This means that although the pancreas begins to produce more and more insulin in response to sugar in the blood stream, it is unable to do its job appropriately. Excess insulin levels increase fat storage, block leptin signals in the brain, and make it more difficult to lose weight.

Keep insulin levels in check by limiting sugar and fructose consumption in processed foods and by taking supplements such as vitamin D and omega 3 (make sure a medical provider is following your vitamin D levels, though - you don't want these to get too high). Reducing chronic stress and adding muscle building exercises to your weekly routine will also help to prevent insulin resistance.

Cortisol

Cortisol is also known as a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. Many receptors for this hormone are found in abdominal fat cells which is why chronic stress can lead to increased belly fat.

Keep this hormone optimized by getting adequate sleep, avoiding excessive caffeine, and reducing stress levels.

Thyroid Hormones

Thyroid hormones set your metabolic rate. A low thyroid level leads to increased body fat, low energy, and inability to lose weight.

Chronic stress, over-exercising, and being too restrictive with your diet can lead to low thyroid levels. In addition, imbalances in vitamin D, iron levels, iodine, B vitamins, and selenium all play a role in activating our main thyroid hormone (T3).  A blood test is needed to determine if you have a deficiency in one or many of these.

In summary: having good stress management strategies in place, avoiding sugar and processed foods, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and taking certain supplements will help you to balance your hormones and make weight loss easier.

How do you know if you have problems with your hormones?

If you feel that hormones might be to blame for your lack of weight loss success, blood tests can be done to detect any hormone or nutrient imbalance you might have that could be getting in the way of reaching your weight loss goals.  With the exception of thyroid hormones, all other hormones mentioned are considered newer and thus are not routinely checked by most primary care providers.  Click here to see a more detailed article on these hormones, and call Texas Metabolic Centers if you are interested in long-term weight loss.  We can check these hormones for you, and advise you as to how we can optimize your health and weight!

Meal automation

I love the movie Groundhog Day.  It’s one of those movies that I can watch over and over.  And when I came across a term “groundhog daying” a meal, aka “automating” your meal, I knew I needed to address this.  Why? Because I only recently recognized that my success in health has come from practicing this. 

Benefits of automating your meals:

-eliminates temptation
-eliminates mental stress associated with deciding what to eat
-develops a habit, and habits are more likely to be sustained to maintain healthy weight

 

What science says:

-It takes 2 weeks of repetitive actions to make an action a habit
-behavior changes are CRUCIAL for a healthy lifestyle
-research shows that thin people typically have specific habits that they consistently follow every day (or nearly so, since some days everyone needs to indulge!)
-those who are successful at achieving a healthy weight have done so by eating the same foods, or similar ones, every day
-research terms this “habituation”- basically less variety leads to better health; for example, have you ever been at a restaurant and had a large meal, and exclaim “I can’t eat another bite”….and then the dessert tray comes by, and suddenly you’re “hungry” again?

 

How do you get started?

1.       Plan ahead: choose 2-3 repeat meals for the following: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, beverages, and desserts.  I’ve included some recommendations (many are what I practice) at the end of this article.
2.       Don’t try to implement these changes all at once.  Start with your problem times (typically lunch or dinner), and stick with this for at least 2 weeks. 
3.       Eat out a lot?  Keep up the habit at restaurants as well! 
4.       Eat and repeat for other meals!
5.       Finally, remember that the purpose of weight loss is to gain health and improve quality of life! 

 

Breakfast:

Steel cut oatmeal with 1 Tbsp protein powder, 1 Tbs walnuts/pecans/hemp seed/almonds, ½ cup berries, 2 tsp shredded coconut or 1 tsp grapeseed oil or avocado oil

Protein smoothie: frozen fruit (1/2-3/4 cup), unsweetened almond milk, 1 tsp grapeseed or avocado oil, 1 scoop protein powder (I like Sun Warrior brand), 8 drops (or 1 packet) stevia

Hard boiled eggs (2)

Chicken sausage with ½ avocado and sautéed kale or spinach.

 

Lunch:

Baked sweet potato (with skin) mashed up with ½ avocado and chicken/turkey (1/2 cup ground, meatballs, or 4-6 oz marinated chicken breast)

Soup (e.g. turkey chilli or tortilla soup) with salad (mixed greens with 1-2 hard boiled eggs, topped with balsamic vinegar or lemon/lime juice, with ¼ cup goat cheese or feta)

Turkey meatloaf with pureed squash or sweet potato

Bison/chicken/vegie burger on Ezekiel brand English muffin (or on a bed of lettuce) with carrots/celery on the side

 

Snacks:

8 oz homemade bone broth (see blog post on benefits of this)

Fruit (fresh, not dried) and ¼ cup nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews preferred)

½ cup hummus with carrots, celery or Beanitos (chips made out of beans instead of corn)

Unsweetened Yogurt with cinnamon and 1/8 cup of nuts

 

Dessert:

1 oz. dark chocolate with 1 orange or apple

Fruit ice cream: frozen fruit of choice blended to a consistency of your choice, with almond/coconut milk and a few drops of stevia (sweetened to your taste)

Apple (fresh or baked) topped with cinnamon and nutmeg

 

Drink choices:

Unsweetened sparkling water (e.g. Perrier or LeCroix)

Green or herbal tea, with lemon/lime/orange slices

Fruit or herbal infused water (e.g. lemon, lime, cucumber, rosemary, parsley)

All calories are not created equal

calories.jpg

In our practice, we encounter many patients who appear to eat "perfectly" (watch calorie intake, eat regularly, eat wholesome healthy foods, exercise), but who cannot seem to lose the weight.  Of course, there are many things to look into when evaluating someone who falls within this category, and we always start with blood work (which can reveal a lot of what is going on within the body), stress evaluation, and sleep evaluation.  After we get baseline evaluations, we evaluate nutrition.  

Here are 6 reasons why all calories are not created equal:

1. The 2 main types of sugars we get from our food are fructose and glucose.  Studies show that fructose (added fructose, NOT the naturally occurring fructose in fruits) has more negative effects on satiety regulating hormones, metabolism, and appetite.

2. Foods are metabolized differently, called the "thermic effect of food".  For example, protein and whole foods (fruits, vegetables, sprouted grains) requires more energy to metabolize, which is why metabolism is boosted when eating protein.

3. Protein suppresses appetite and leads to decreased calorie consumption, leading to "automatic" weight loss (i.e. not having to count calories, etc)

4. Satiety index of foods is variable.  What is the satiety index?  It is the measure of the ability of a particular food to reduce hunger, increase satiety/fullness, and reduce the amount of calories/energy consumed.

5. Low carb diets lead to automatic weight loss.  Multiple studies show that eating a low carb diet leads to 2-3 times more weight loss/maintenance, especially if this becomes your diet for life (i.e. not a "temporary" quick fix).   

6. Refined carbs are bad, and a lot of this is due to the glycemic index.

Click here to read more about each of these 6 items.  

How does stress affect your weight?

Are you eating healthy and exercising regularly, but still can't get rid of the belly fat?

Hormones may be to blame!  And a hormone we often ignore is cortisol, our "stress hormone".  Cortisol is made by the body in response to a perceived threat, but in today's society we have "perceived threats" daily: deadlines, traffic, constant stimulation via smart phones, TV and internet, the need to measure up against our peers, and even intense workouts on an already stressed body.

What results from all this daily stress?  Increased cortisol production, more insulin release, higher blood sugars, overeating (particularly of endorphin-releasing carbohydrates and processed foods), more depression/anxiety, and... increased belly fat.  So how can we manage this?  Click here to read more.

Is sleep affecting your weight?

Sleep is very under-rated, particularly in our busy lifestyles.

Multiple studies show a connection between poor sleep and weight gain.  Sleep deprivation (getting less than 7 hours of good, continuous sleep) leads to:

  • poor glucose metabolism, leading to higher blood sugar levels (which increases the risk of diabetes)
  • hormone imbalances, particularly with your "satiety" hormone leptin
  • activation of our sympathetic nervous system ("fight or flight" system, associated with spikes in adrenaline)
  • decreased immunity, affecting your ability to fight off infections

Click here to read more about how sleep and weight are connected.

Mission...I'm Possible

Mission...I'm Possible

We want to help you reach your goals! We are recommending 10 day challenges and "missions" to guide you towards optimal health.

For the next 10 days:

  • Avoid "liquid sugar" (sodas, sweet coffee drinks, juices), and replace with infused water (lemons, cucumbers, oranges, parsley...whatever you want to try!) or herbal tea

  • Drink 80 ounces (10 cups) of pure water, infused water, or herbal tea

Remember, you need at least 80 ounces of water per day for optimal weight loss, for healthy looking skin, and for good overall health!

 

See more information about the benefits of water: http://www.webmd.com/diet/20100823/water-may-be-a-secret-weapon-in-weight-loss

Mission...I'm Possible

Mission...I'm Possible

We want to help you reach your goals! To help you out, we are suggesting 10 day challenges and "missions" to guide you towards optimal health.

Your first mission (if you choose to accept).... Sugar detox!

For the next 10 days:

  • Avoid "liquid sugar" (sodas, sweet coffee drinks, juices)

  • See if you can only take in 15 grams of sugar or less per day (this means you have to read nutrition labels) - and don't forget to check out your milk and milk substitutes (a big source of hidden sugars - natural sugars, but still sugar that contributes to many health problems when consumed in excess!)

Consider following our Empowered PURE plan to really detox from sugar....Call us for more details!

How much sugar should you really be taking in every day?  Read about the World Health Organization's guidelines: http://www.nature.com/news/storm-brewing-over-who-sugar-proposal-1.14854