WEIGHT LOSS BASICS- FIGHTING INSANITY
Brandon J Kim PhD DPM | Camelback Health Care
Obesity remains one of the biggest epidemics in the United States. One in three adults are considered to be obese. Health care insurance spends over $40 Billion Dollars annually to treat conditions related to obesity. Additionally, it is estimated that $20 Billion Dollars are spent annually on personal health care. We are the fattest nation on Earth. How did we as a nation get to this alarming level?
In order to better understand how to lose weight, we must first understand two basic principles. First, we must understand why we gain weight in the first place. Second, we must create an imbalance in our diet in order to lose weight (that is, we must consume less than what we expend in the form of energy).
It behooves everyone who is in need of weight loss to understand that weight gain is really a story of energy and how we use that energy for survival. In order for us to maintain all body functions to sustain life, we must produce a basic unit of energy that is universal to all life forms, which includes plants, animals, and insects. That basic unit of energy is called Adenosine Tri-Phosphate, or ATP for short. The need to produce ATP is basically the story of life and death.
ATP is generated from the foods we eat. Whether we eat vegetables, animal protein, fats, fruits, or whatever strikes your fancy, the end goal is to produce this basic molecule of energy. We can derive ATP from two processes biochemically: We can produce it by breaking down simple or complex sugars or carbohydrates; or we can synthesize it by breaking down fats and proteins from animal or plant sources.
One of the phosphate bonds of ATP must chemically break to release energy. This release of energy is what sustains life.
Stated another way, we measure the energy value of foods or activities by a term called calories. This is a standardized measurement, but, essentially, it is another way of describing energy content or expenditure.
How we derive calories can also be described as two basic units of metabolism: catabolism and anabolism. Catabolism refers to physical breakdown of something already stored, while anabolism refers to construction of something from materials that we ingest. The net balance of catabolic and anabolic reactions results in energy production and maintenance of weight.
What does all of this mean?
It means that we must understand that the foods that we ingest and how our body utilizes those foods either creates energy or stores energy in the form of triglycerides (or fats) for later use. It is this battle of energy creation and fat storage that is central to the obesity epidemic. As a society, we do not fully understand why we gain weight. Thus, it can be inferred that when someone says, “I gain weight because my metabolism has slowed,” simply means that the body has become more efficient at storing the food that was ingested than utilizing it immediately for energy.
We must understand that there are three basic components of foods that we eat:
Our body, by virtue of its design, utilizes carbohydrates first as energy. It will use proteins (in the form of muscle breakdown) or fats only after all carbohydrates have been depleted from the body. Additionally, carbohydrates carry the smallest concentration of energy when compared to muscles and fats. In fact, stored fats in the form of triglycerides have the highest concentration of potential energy that can be generated, but remain the most difficult to extract once stored as fat.
As a nation, we are addicted to sugar. In 1905, the average American consumed about 5 lbs. of sugar per year. By 2009, the latest year for the availability of statistics, that number had risen to between 150 and 250 lbs. per year! No wonder we are the fattest nation in the world!
Sugar cravings are in direct correlation to the fact that carbohydrates generate less energy than proteins or fats. Additionally, these cravings have a direct causal relationship to metabolic syndrome or Syndrome X. Syndrome X is a description of metabolic syndrome which is derived from a dysfunctional or overactive pancreas. Syndrome X consists of:
- Abdominal obesity
- High Cholesterol, or Dyslipidemia
- High Blood Pressure, or Hypertension
- High Blood Sugar, or Pre-Diabetes or Diabetes
When we ingest more food than our body needs, especially carbohydrates, it is stored for later use in the form of triglycerides in our adipose (fat) cells. As a result, we gain weight and develop health problems. This storage of fat is not necessarily a bad thing. During the early historic phase of human existence, we went for days or weeks without food, in search of game and fruits/berries. From this nomadic hunter/gatherer stage, our bodies have evolved to help us during the “lean” times. In fact, it is this evolutionary survival mechanism built into our bodies that keeps us fat, because our bodies know best and know that famine might be just around the corner.
What is the solution?
Now that we know some basics of why we gain weight, we need to have a plan in order to lose weight. We must create an imbalance. Imbalance in our diet and metabolism must be created. Most importantly, everyone who has struggled with weight and has tried every diet known to Mankind must give their pancreas a break. We must shut off the dysfunctional pancreas. That is because insulin, by design, stores foods that you eat in excess in the form of fat. This is also the reason why we get carbohydrate cravings and uncontrolled hunger. There has to be a safe and effective plan to shut the pancreas down and “reset it.”
Additionally, we must reduce the amount of foods eaten. Because the body’s second preferred source of energy is from proteins, the problem with reducing calories to reduce weight is that, during weight loss, muscle mass is lost. Muscle is the engine that burns fats for energy. If you lose muscle mass during any diet and gain weight back, that lost muscle mass is replaced with additional fat. This is why many dieters experience yo-yo dieting cycles. They usually gain back the weight they have lost plus even more weight. Because they have lost muscle mass in the process, when they try to lose weight again, they find that it is two to three times more difficult to do. Even though fat contains the highest concentration of energy compared to carbohydrates and proteins, it is more difficult to extract that energy from fat.
So what do we do?
We have to induce our bodies to enter into Ketosis. By definition, Ketosis is when the body has depleted all of its carbohydrate sources in the form of glycogen and begins to tap muscles and fats for energy. It is during this Ketosis cycle that the body becomes an efficient machine for burning stored fats for energy. Ketosis must be monitored by a physician as part of a strict medically-managed weight loss program. However, when done appropriately, it is a safe and effective means of losing weight and trimming inches.
Ketosis alone is not enough to guarantee that the weight loss will be successful. During Ketosis, the body does not distinguish between fats or muscles to gain energy that it would have otherwise gotten from carbohydrate sources. It is imperative that there is a strategy to minimize the muscle mass or lean mass loss during Ketosis. The answer is to introduce a highly biologically available adequate protein source into the diet. The diet must drastically reduce excess fats, carbohydrates, and extreme amounts of protein. There is a significant reason why high protein diets often fail and are unsustainable. The body is capable of losing weight rapidly if the correct ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates exists. Therefore, a proper nutritional balance geared towards Ketosis and muscle sparing must be employed.
Additionally, once a dieter has lost the target weight, they must be transitioned to additional fats and carbohydrates in a measured fashion. Otherwise, the pancreas becomes overactive again, and dieters will oftentimes find themselves in the same predicament as they were in previously.
Furthermore, nothing can replace a prudent balanced diet rich in low-glycemic index foods, complex carbohydrates, and unsaturated fats. A regular, regimented exercise program to promote cardiovascular health and lean muscle maintenance is a very important component. Also largely ignored is micro-nutrition, or supplements. Supplements, or micro-nutrients, allow our bodies to efficiently utilize our ingested food for energy, repair, and regeneration with minerals and co-factors. Eating a balanced diet of low-glycemic foods is not enough.
It is highly recommended that a prospective dieter acquire the assistance of a physician or a wellness coach to help guide them through the often confusing murky waters of weight loss. Remember, gaining and losing weight has as much to do with a psychological component as it does to poor eating and exercise habits. People often overeat during times of intense stress or emotional instability. In this way, every pound has a story, and it is very beneficial to have a “coach” who will help guide dieters through these complex issues. Many people use food as a crutch or become dependent on food to cope with their stresses. It is imperative that everyone understand and get retrained to view food as a necessity for survival and as an energy source rather than viewing it as “comfort food” or as a means to “celebrate.” Remember, people gain weight while stressed or while celebrating.
Weight loss, no matter how revolutionary the approach may be, requires commitment and guidance. It essentially has two contracts:
- Contract and commitment to lose weight.
- Contract and commitment to maintain the weight after the weight loss.
While there are many diet programs available, from Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Medifast, Optifast, HCG diets, MIC diets, Phentermine, green coffee leaf extracts, raspberry ketones, Lepticore, and the list goes on and on, all of these diets will doom the dieter to a perpetual yo-yo cycle of dieting. That is insane. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results each time. That is the vicious cycle of “yo-yo dieting” that is promoted with the programs above.
There is one diet program that bucks this trend. It is called the Ideal Protein Method. This program melds the medical management of a coach and physician and the sensibilities of a Ketosis-based, muscle-sparing program. This program was designed for France’s Olympic athletes twenty-seven years ago, and has been shown to be highly effective.
Whichever program a dieter might choose, they stand a better chance of losing and maintaining the weight loss by:
- Understanding the basics of weight loss.
- Understanding the commitment requirements.
- Employing accountability and coaching as part of the program.
- Understanding the Ketosis-based, muscle-sparing weight loss program.
- Transitioning into a balanced, low-glycemic index foods with regular exercise.
The most important thing to do is to get out there and commit to a program and then stick with it.