Category Archives: Weight loss

Drugs are weight loss blockers just like these jellybeans. Great photo "Don't Cry Over Spilt Jellybeans" from © Mike Chytracek | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The Five Biggest Weight Loss Blockers Ever

It seems like everyone is struggling with weight loss these days and everyone thinks maybe it’s their thyroid, because that is one of the more known weight loss blockers, but if it isn’t then people tend to get a little stuck.  No matter what anyone tells you, weight loss is hard work and there are a number of things that can get in the way.  There are always challenges and hardships because in order to lose weight you really do have to change the way you view food, time, yourself and your social habits.  Piece of cake, right? There are so many things that can get in the way of your weight loss goals, here are 5 of the most common weight loss blockers.

1.  Sluggish Thyroid – The Best Known Weight Loss Blocker

Low thyroid function has become almost “normal” in our society, simply because it is so common.  Your thyroid determines your resting level of energy.  It is basically the gland that controls how fast your engine idles, and it does that via thyroid hormones.  If these hormones aren’t doing their job properly then the resting idle slows down and you don’t burn nearly as many calories or have nearly as much energy to do things like exercise.  You could be at risk of low thyroid function if you have any of these:

  • Chilly, get cold easily or cold hands and feet
  • Tired, slow moving, slow thinking, sluggish feeling
  • Dry skin, dry hair, brittle or coarse hair
  • Depression, lack of motivation, increased need for sleep
  • Retain water, feel “puffy” or if you press hard on the front of your lower leg your thumb will leave an indentation
  • Constipation and slow-moving bowels

Of course the best thing is to have your doctor test your thyroid hormones, but many people experience symptoms of low thyroid, including weight gain or difficulty losing weight, when they are within normal limits.  If you feel that thyroid might be an issue for you then:

  • Check with your family members to see if there is any history of thyroid disease – if there is you may be at higher risk.
  • Talk with your doctor to see if they’ll run proper thyroid tests.
  • Limit your soy intake – soy is known to decrease thyroid function
  • Increase your dietary iodine – either with a supplement like prolamine iodine or kelp supplements or by eating more sea vegetables.  Your body can’t make thyroid hormones without iodine and the receptors for your thyroid hormones don’t work without iodine so this is really important.
  • Check yourself for wheat sensitivity, gluten sensitivity or celiac disease – untreated sensitivities can wreak havoc on your thyroid.  If you don’t know how to check those things then read up on it here.
  • If you’re not finding any balance then it’s a great idea to talk with a naturopathic doctor to get a more personalized solution.

2.  Hormone Imbalance

Your thyroid isn’t the only player in this game.  Unfortunately for us, all of your hormones play a role in metabolism, fat distribution and use, hunger, satiety and general weight management. This includes estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, insulin, adrenal hormones and hunger hormones like leptin and ghrelin.  You may have these types of hormone imbalances if:

  • Your body shape has changed (like from pear to apple) or the areas where you are gaining weight are different
  • Your menstrual cycle has suddenly changed (in women)
  • You are seeing weight packing on around the waist, stomach and back
  • Your stress level has spiked lately or you’re not sleeping because of stress
  • Your blood sugars and triglycerides have been increasing lately

This isn’t a complete list, but it’s the most obvious signs. If this is the case work with your doctor or ND to get to the root of the problem.  Until you address the hormones the weight isn’t going to go anywhere because hormones are huge weight loss blockers.  Some simple things you can do to help begin to address any hormone problem naturally are:

  • Exercise – this is our great regulator and can decrease stress levels, change sugar processing and even help to balance your sex hormones.
  • Water – boosting your water intake helps your body to regulate it’s hormones better and to detox them more effectively.
  • Fiber – increasing fiber allows the hormones that you eliminate via your liver to attach to fiber in the gut and actually be eliminated from the body.  Without the fiber your body can pull the hormones back into your bloodstream to be recirculated.
  • Balance your diet – reducing carbs, which are sugars and starches, will help your body to cope with your hormones far more effectively.  In the long-term this is one of the most effective things you can do for your weight. Eat frequently and every time you eat make sure you’re getting protein, fiber, low carbohydrates and moderate fat. If you don’t know what foods give you carbohydrates then check out this post on Nutrition 101.

3. Food Sensitivities

Eating a food you’re sensitive to raises your resting level of inflammation, keeps your body in a state of panic and makes it much harder to lose weight.  In fact, it specifically makes your body hold on to water and fat in an effort to protect it self. Talk about weight loss blockers! Part of the problem is that one symptom of the food sensitivity is a craving for that food (the food you’re sensitive to) that has nothing to do with what your body actually needs, or even hunger.  It’s literally an addictive response to the inflammation created by that food. Finding and eliminating your food sensitivities will not only help you drop those unwanted pounds, but also help reduce any symptoms you may be having.  Find out more about eliminating your food sensitivites!

4. Check Your Medicine Cabinet – Drugs Are HUGE Weight Loss Blockers

Drugs are among the guiltiest of guilty parties in the weight loss game.  Anti-depressants, steroids, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, and some anti-psychotic medications.  There isn’t really a test for this – just think about any medication changes you may have had in the 1-3 months before you started gaining weight.  There may be other drugs you can switch to that would give you the same benefits without the extra pounds, but sometimes there aren’t. Talk with your doctor about this one – sometimes you just have to try a few things before you find the one that’s right for you.

Drugs are weight loss blockers just like these jellybeans.  Great photo "Don't Cry Over Spilt Jellybeans" from © Mike Chytracek | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Drugs are weight loss blockers just like these jellybeans. Great photo “Don’t Cry Over Spilt Jellybeans” from © Mike Chytracek | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Some of the worst weight loss blockers (or drugs that cause weight gain) are:

  • Paxil (paroxitine). Alternatives include Prozac (for short-term use) or Zoloft
  • Depakote (Valproic Acid). Lithium is a good alternative as a mood stabilizer, but also causes weight gain, just less than Depakote.
  • Prozac (fluoxitine) taken long-term.  For the first six months studies show prozac generally helps with weight loss, but over long term use that weight often returns with interest.
  • Remeron (mirtazipine). Another anti-depressant that is implicated in weight gain, although in the elderly it can be a useful tool to help keep weight on.
  • Zyprexa (olanzipine). This atypical anti-psychotic is known to pile on the pounds. Geodon or Abilify are more weight-neutral alternatives.
  • Clozaril (clozapine). This weight-gainer is a cousin to Zyprexa.
  • Deltasone (prednisone). Prednisone and other oral steroids are potentially the most famous drugs for causing weight gain. The higher the dose, the more likely you are to gain weight. You can help to reduce your weight gain by exercising, drastically reducing sugar and carbohydrate intake while you’re on the drug, and getting off of the medication as soon as medically advisable.
  • Elavil, Endep, Venatrip (amitriptyline). Tricyclic antidepressants are used less commonly now, but have historically caused huge weight gain in the people taking them.
  • Allegra (fexofenadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine).  As it turns out allergy medicines that act as anti-histamines, can also disrupt an enzyme in the brain that helps to regulate food consumption.
  • Diabinase (chlorpropamide), Insulase (also chlorpropamide), Actose (pioglitazone hydrochloride) and Prandin (repaglinide) – these anti-diabetic drugs all stimulate insulin production, which lowers blood sugar and tends to make people hungry – which is really the last thing most diabetics need.
  • Insulin – obviously this is necessary for many people with diabetes, but it does promote weight gain so tightly controlling diet and using the lowest necessary dose is helpful.
  • Tenormin (atenolol), Lopressor (metoproplol), and Inderol (propranolol) are all beta-blockers and help to control blood pressure, but they also tend to make people more tired and heavier.
  • Birth Control Pills – lets not forget these little babies.  Many women do not experience this unwanted side effect, but the rest of us tend to gain 10-15 pounds in the first 6 months of use.

5. Poor Sleep.

If you’re not sleeping then you’re not losing weight.  It’s just a simple fact.  Poor or inadequate sleep causes an increase in hunger, more carbohydrate cravings, a decrease in the hormone that makes your body feel “full” and it slows down your ability to lose fat.  Basically this means that even if you’re doing everything else right, if you’re not sleeping then you’re going to have a hard time shedding the pounds. Sleep is complex and takes time and work to fix, but here are a few basic tips:

  • Keep your bedroom DARK and restful.  No loud TV, block out lights and even LED lights.   Your body really is meant to sleep in the dark.
  • Try to begin “winding down” a couple of hours before you actually go to bed.  Dimmer light, quieter atmosphere, no work and calming activities like yoga, meditation, reading, journaling or cozy time with your partner are great for this time of day. Did I mention no work?  That includes the last minute email checks too!
  • Developing a sleep routine can be helpful, almost a sleep ritual.  This helps you get into the mind frame for sleep.
  • If you are having sleep problems that are more complicated then talk to your doctor or practitioner.  Sleep is a big deal and your health and happiness suffer in every way without it.

The biggest thing to remember with weight loss is don’t give up.  Sometimes it just comes down to finding that one key to unlocking your body and then the pounds just melt away.  I’ve seen it happen many times – one of my patients fixes their inflammation, their hormones, or their sleep and all of a sudden the pounds come off without any other changes.  Just keep trying to listen to the signals your body is sending you, and if you’re not sure then come talk to me about your weight loss blockers.

Rapid weight loss might be a myth, but real weight loss can and does happen. It's just that there isn't a shortcut.

The Biggest Loser Rapid Weight Loss – Why Isn’t This Real Life?

Rapid weight loss is what everyone seems to want and expect from themselves, in spite of the fact that it never seems to actually happen. Don’t you love TV shows where people go from morbid obesity to a relatively normal weight, losing what amounts to a couple of small children within a year?  It gives hope that you can probably shed that extra 15 lbs in a week.  Two at most, right? If those people on the television can lose 300 pounds in a year then surely 15 lbs in a week is reasonable. Except that in real life it doesn’t ever happen and the sad part is that it’s really easy to fall into the trap of beating yourself up about that.

Why Doesn’t Rapid Weight Loss Happen In Real Life?

Please be gentle with yourself – it’s not that you’re not strong enough or not dedicated enough, or sacrificing enough.  It’s not happening because it’s darn near impossible. When you lose weight the first weight you lose is water.  If you’re starting out at 450 lbs then there really are 20 lbs of extra water hanging around to lose in the first week.  If you’re starting out at 250 lbs, all of your extra water is probably 8-10 pounds.  If you only need to lose 15 pounds then maybe there’s only four or five pounds of water weight. It’s a whole different ball game. Of course you can lose the water weight quickly – just take the most inflammatory foods out of your diet. Lose the grains and dairy and processed foods and usually those pounds will drop off. But after that? Things turn real.

Rapid weight loss might be a myth, but real weight loss can and does happen.  It's just that there isn't a shortcut.

Rapid weight loss might be a myth, but real weight loss can and does happen. It’s just that there isn’t a shortcut.

There is a common misconception that fat weight doesn’t do anything, but research has shown that the fat in your body plays an important role in hormone balance or imbalance, toxin processing and storage and metabolic weight.  When you go for serious weight loss you are asking your body to re-distribute those tasks to other tissues. That means detoxifying and eliminating the toxins stored in the fat tissue you’re trying to lose, re-adjusting your hormone balance (usually for the better, but it’s still a slow process) and changing your basic resting metabolism. Not to mention that for every pound of fat you lose your body needs to re-organize, eliminate or reabsorb A MILE of blood vessels.  Whaaaa??? Literally a mile of blood vessels are necessary to properly feed and circulate each pound of fat and your body has to deal with that each time you gain or lose fat. Rapid weight loss sounds do-able but rapid elimination of a mile of blood vessels?  Not so much.

The obvious complexity of fat tissue! Image by Philipp E. Scherer  Touchstone Diabetes Center, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, published by NatureMedicine.

The obvious complexity of fat tissue! Image by Philipp E. Scherer
Touchstone Diabetes Center, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, published by NatureMedicine.

The Unreality of Reality TV Weight Loss

I am in no way trying to minimize the accomplishments of the people who go on reality TV and actually do the hard work to lose weight and keep it off. Just remember that most of the people on TV reality weight loss shows are going from 6000 calorie all fast-food diets with absolutely no activity to 1500 calorie diets (usually cooked by someone else) with personal trainers pushing them around for hours of every day.  Even if it’s possible for you to quit your job and devote your life to weight loss, it’s probably not possible to also pay a personal trainer, motivational coach and personal chef.  It’s just not real life – which of course is what makes it fun to watch on TV.

Real Life Weight Loss vs. The Rapid Weight Loss Dream

Today all I want you to know is that real-life weight loss is different than “reality TV” weight loss. It happens in fits and starts, there are pauses in progress.  Some weeks you might lose two pounds and some weeks you might not see the scale move at all. In fact, six weeks might go by where you’re doing everything right and the numbers on the scale aren’t changing.  That is totally normal.  It’s so easy to get discouraged and to be aiming for the numbers without paying any attention to how you feel, how your clothes are fitting or the tremendous amount of work your body is doing in that six weeks to normalize and re-adjust to this new you.

Even if you’re only losing two pounds a month, you’re still losing weight and getting healthier and making positive change.  The best part is you’re learning the behaviors as you lose to help you keep the weight off for the long run.  Just be gentle with yourself, be forgiving that you have to work in weight loss as a side activity and not as your whole purpose in life.  That isn’t a bad thing. Rapid weight loss isn’t real life and setting that as your expectation just sets you up for failure. Celebrate every progress and take time to admire how much hard work your body is doing in the times that the number on the scale isn’t changing.  It really is a big deal.  Your body is an amazing tool and an amazing gift – sometimes it benefits from a little appreciation as well.

Are You Emotional Eating?

To some degree emotional eating is just part of being a human – we all do it now and again because the bottom line is that it works. Food really does translate into comfort in the human brain and that comfort feedback can get out of hand. It’s easy to use food as a reward, as a treat, or as a way to calm down when you’re anxious, depressed or angry.  It’s easy to do because a lot of the time it works – food does help you feel better in the moment when you’re emotions are getting the best of you.  It can also hurt you in the long-run because then you have to struggle with weight, self-image, powerlessness and body issues. This is a no-win cycle, but there are ways out.

Candy!! A great emotional eating trigger food. Take Five!

Candy!! A great emotional eating trigger food. Take Five!

Six Signs of Emotional Eating:

  1. You often eat so quickly or so much that you feel over-full, uncomfortable or bloated
  2. You find yourself eating ‘for no reason’ or ‘because you’re bored’
  3. You eat more when your schedule becomes tighter as a sign of stress
  4. You gain weight in stressful times or in emotional times
  5. You feel ‘addicted’ to food or to certain foods
  6. Your cravings are compelling and changeable (ice cream for sadness, chips for boredom, snickers when you’re feeling lonely)

Fixing Emotional Eating:

Emotional eating isn’t easy to fix, but it isn’t hard either, there isn’t a complicated technique or months of waiting, just some honest emotional processing.  The hardest part is being willing to actually sit down with yourself and feel exactly what you’re feeling instead of self-medicating. Sort of like an eating meditation, or a food contemplation. There is not really a big difference, grand scheme of things, between hiding from your feelings with food and hiding from your feeling with heroine. These are both just ways of escaping from what you really feel, even if one is a little more dramatic than the other.  It sounds really easy to admit that you’re feeling crummy and sit with that; maybe cry or get angry or be scared but this is honestly one of the hardest, most wonderful and most terrifying things you can ever do as a human. Real, honest emotions can be genuinely world-changing. This is some of the scariest, most honest work you will ever do along with some of the most rewarding, so let’s get to it.

The Cure for Emotional Eating: Take Five

  1. Take a tour of your kitchen and pantry and find your emotional trigger foods.  Chances are you know what it is you go for when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed or sad or lonely.The usual list includes things like brownies, snickers, sweets and candy, ice cream, chips, pop corn, etc…
  2. Write on the outside of those food containers with a sharpie to “Take 5” in big letters so that when you’re in a vulnerable place you don’t have to try to remember whether or not that’s a trigger food for you, you can just read the package. Make sure that when you go grocery shopping you label your trigger foods when they come into the house.
  3. When you grab something out of the pantry, check the package to see if it says “Take Five”
  4. Sit down as usual, but set your kitchen timer for five minutes.
  5. In that 5 minutes, just sit and look at your food but don’t touch it yet.  Just sit, and look and pay attention to how you feel. Not how you want to feel, but how you really feel. If emotions are hard for you to get in touch with, then just focus on your body. How does the air feel in your lungs when you breathe? Is your stomach tight? Do you feel relaxed? Are you hurting anywhere? What does it feel like to be inside your body?
  6. In that 5 minutes, you may feel angry for having to wait, impatient, frustrated, sad, or irritable.  You may burst into tears, start thinking about a fight you had with your partner or have a grand realization about your life.  You also may not notice anything, or think about the toe you just stubbed on the chair as you were sitting down. Just pay attention to however it is that you feel and when the buzzer rings then eat like you normally would.
  7. As you’re eating, notice what the food feels like in your mouth, why you chose the food you did and how you feel as you’re eating it.  Really think about whether or not that food is making you feel any different.  Really think about if that food is giving you what you thought it would or not. You don’t have to change anything else about the eating other than just paying attention to it. Honestly, if you’re paying attention to how you really feel the compulsive eating will resolve itself.

That’s it! That’s all you have to do – is just wait five minutes and really be in your body before you eat and while you’re eating. This is an exercise in finding out about yourself.  Emotional eating is different in every person because we all have different hurts, fears, traumas, anxieties and life situations.  The only way to fix it is to notice that you’re doing it, notice when it happens and acknowledging those feelings in a healthy, honest way. The idea behind this is that you can’t deal with whatever is under there, unless you know what it is. Pretty simple, right?

If you work through things on paper, like I do, then keeping a journal about what you’re feeling can be really helpful.  If you’re more of a talker then finding a food buddy can be helpful or talking with a counselor. If you like to read about the idea then the best book I’ve found about this subject is Geneen Roth’s Women Food and God.

Women Food and God is just a great resource for anyone who really wants to get to the root of their emotional self, and the book uses the idea of food as a pathway to everything – life, beliefs about yourself, and god. Essentially her idea is that your relationship with food is your relationship with life, so if you’re eating for comfort or solace or escape, then what does that say about the rest of your life? Emotional eating is a challenge for sure, but it is also an opportunity for growth and a tool that you can use to explore yourself more deeply.  Of course there are many health reasons to do this, but the most important reasons are about happiness. After all, nobody self-medicates happiness.

Paleo Diet For Your Body Type

Nobody talks about customizing paleo diet for your body type but it’s kind of a big deal.  Paleo can be a great option for everyone, but it’s a little bit intuitive that people who are having a hard time keeping weight on might have to do things differently than people who can’t seem to take weight off. We are all individuals and we all have different body types, different health tendencies and different genetic makeups. This is precisely why there is no one-size-fits-all diet even if there are diets that are generally good for most people – you still have to remember who you are and what your particular body likes.

Paleo for thin, wiry, “vata” types:

If you fall into this category you’re probably really thin, lean, or wiry and tend to be quick or high energy. You may be prone to anxiety or rapid thoughts when things get stressful. People with this body type do incredibly well with fats and oils and may need a higher dietary intake of good fats and good oils than other types. For this type plenty of veggies – cooked more than raw and lots of good fat sources.  This could be avocados, coconuts, grass fed butter, grass fed beef, fatty fish or nuts and seeds.  This type can cope with a larger amount of meats too, but you should listen to your particular body on that front.  Lots of oils topically too – your skin is probably more prone to dryness than others.

Paleo for medium build “pitta” types:

PItta types tend to be average to muscular build with lots of strength and energy. You  may be a little more prone to anger or irritability when stressed or if it’s been too long since you’ve eaten. This type is very dependent on regular meals and each meal should have a good protein source like grass fed grass finished beef, naturally raised poultry, nuts and seeds, eggs, or beans and rice.  Good fats are always important, but should be less of a part of your diet in this type than for vatas. For this type lots of veggies and reliable, regular protein intake is most important.

Paleo for heavier build “kapha” types:

If you’re a kapha type you might be more prone to holding weight than others seem to be. You’re probably also pretty laid back, easy going and have better energy than a lot of the people around you. This doesn’t mean you’re carrying extra weight, just that your body would if you’d let it. Kaphas do best with most of their intake being vegetable source with animal sources as the smallest part.  This type doesn’t need as much fat or protein as the other types, but does incredibly well with lots of veggie intake – especially when it’s spiced well.

Paleo diet for your body type

Paleo diet for your body type could lean more towards veggie heavy, or could be a higher fat diet – that just depends on you.

The examples above are basic constitutional types from ayurvedic medicine – but the types are universal and the names don’t really matter. It’s just about honoring your body and it’s differences from other people’s bodies.  Most people don’t fit into just one catagory – we’re generally a good mix of two predominant types but we all have aspects of each. The most important thing to remember with paleo diet (or really any diet) is that you are still in your own body and your own body has it’s own unique needs.

Just because the classic paleo diet says you need lots and lots of meat doesn’t actually mean that you particularly will feel best when you eat that way.  Low grain diets like paleo are overwhelmingly a great idea because culturally we’ve become too shifted in a grain direction – we’ve had too much grain intake for too long.  Still, that doesn’t mean that hard-core NO grains is the best thing for you in particular – it’s really important to listen to your body. When you’re eating the diet that is right for you your body will feel great after meals, you’ll have stable energy and not a lot of energy fluctuations and it will be easier to maintain a normal weight (not always easy, but easier). Your body is always your best teacher – you just have to listen.