Nova Health Naturopathic Centre Blog

True Health and Well Being

Re-thinking Weight Loss: A Naturopathic Approach November 26, 2010

Filed under: weight loss — novahealthnaturopathic @ 6:52 pm
  • Twenty to 50% of all adults in Canada have a weight problem and these numbers continue to rise.
  • Obesity has been strongly correlated to a number of pathologies including type II diabetes, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease and hypertension (Diabetes Care 2001; 24: 683-689).
  • A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association used a waist circumference of 100 cm (36 inches) as a reference point and showed that each increase of 15 cm corresponded to a 60% increase in the risk of death (JAMA 1993; 269: 483-7).
  • Obesity is a serious health issue that must be addressed in an appropriate manner to avoid these detrimental consequences.

Fad Diets and Quick Fixes

Many individuals attempt weight loss by subscribing to the various gimmicky pills, machines and devices, or quick fix programs seen on television, billboards, and in magazines.  Most of these ads and programs promise results and show dramatic and almost unbelievable before and after pictures to entice you to buy in. Most often these are what are labeled as ‘fad diets’ and are ineffective long term, and can even be dangerous.

There are many diet programs that are based on pre-packaged meals, shakes, and supplements.  These programs tend to work while the dieter is subscribing to the meals meal replacements, and/or supplements they are offering, but once the program is complete dieters are at a loss of what and how to eat.  The dieter does not learn how to create healthy meals or about nutrition in general.

Supplements have minimal effect on weight loss as calorie intake and energy expenditure are the main determinants of body mass.  These meals and supplement programs are not sustainable for lifetime weight management and the dieter, more often than not, gains the weight back once off the program is completed.

Finding the Root Cause

Naturopathic Doctors have a unique approach to weigh loss, which is quite the opposite to the quick fixes that are readily available. It involves determining and treating the route cause of the weight gain and adopting positive lifelong lifestyle changes.

It is important that physiological causes, which impair weight loss, are first ruled out.  Relevant blood allows the identification any predispositions to difficulty with weight loss such as thyroid dysfunction or glucose imbalances.  All patients should also receive a full physical exam and urine analysis to rule out any underlying health conditions and determine the level of physical activity appropriate for the individual.

It is also important to address emotional obstacles to weight loss.  Some individuals eat to fill a void within themselves, or to escape from issues in their life, and thus must first address emotional aspects before embarking on a weight loss program.

Optimal Weight Loss Stems from Prositive Lifestyle Changes

An optimal weight loss program focuses on adopting a healthy lifestyle and is designed for individuals who are committed to not only losing weight, but improving their health overall.  This is the best way to a lifetime of health and weight maintenance.

A diet that focuses on learning how to eat healthy, is based on scientific evidence and recent nutritional research, and that can be adapted to individual’s lifestyles is imperative.  These programs result in fat loss, enjoyment and appreciation of food, and an overall improvement in ones health.

Appropriate Weight Loss and Weight Management

With moderate physical activity the average women needs approximately 2500 calories per day and the average man 3000 calories per day.  If a person burns 2500 calories per day and consumes that same amount per day, weight remains constant.  One pound of body fat contains approximately 3500 calories.  If a person burns 2500 calories per day and limits calorie intake to 1500 calories per day, the result will be a loss of 2 lbs of weight loss per week.  This is a subtle caloric restriction that will allow for a healthy amount of weight loss and lead to long-term weight loss goals.

Foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients should be the focus of any healthy diet.  These foods include vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, raw nuts and seeds, whole grains, and minimal low fat dairy or dairy alternatives.  It is also very important that portion sizes are monitored.

As weight loss occurs due to calorie restriction, the body naturally reacts by decreasing its basal metabolic rate (metabolism). This means that the amount of calories burned per day decreases.  It is common to feel a generalized feeling of fatigue as calories are being restricted.  This is an attempt by the body to decrease non-essential activity.

Moreover, the body will not only rely on fat stores for fuel, it will also start to use muscle mass and thus some weight loss will come from loss of muscle.  The more severe the calorie restriction, the more drastic the body will react.  Drastic calorie restriction can make it very difficult to maintain the diet for an extended period of time.

This decrease of caloric intake and its effects is why physical activity is essential to any weight loss program.  Exercise blunts the decrease in metabolism and fatigue that occurs with calorie restriction, and inhibits the use of muscle mass as a source of fuel.  Exercise on a daily bases overrules any fatigue signals and shifts the source of energy use towards fat and less towards muscle.  Muscle mass will not decrease when the muscles are being used.  Lean muscle mass will be preserved and even increase with continued exercise.

Mental preparedness is also a key factor for weight loss.  This includes being emotionally and spiritually in tune with the body to recognize individual obstacles to weight loss and to overcome them.  Increasing emotional and spiritual strength will enable challenges to be taken on and to better manage, achieve and maintain weight loss goals.

Group support is beneficial.  ‘Strength in numbers’ is more than an expression.  Being in a group is a valuable component of weight loss because weight loss is influenced by positive feedback and emotional encouragement and support.   Group meetings including information about healthy eating, weight loss tips and facts, and group discussions can go a long way to the achievement and maintain of a goal weight.


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