When loss is a gain

Weight loss slims risk of disease, improves quality of life

By Deb Dittner

Losing weight can be a difficult task. Maintaining weight once lost can also be difficult.

But gaining weight back, sadly to say, is easy. Some studies estimate that only 1% to 3% of those who have lost weight are able to keep it off.

There are a multitude of factors that go into weight loss and weight gain but losing weight and keeping it off may lower your risk of developing disease. Studies have shown positive effects in cholesterol, fasting blood sugar and HgA1c (tells you average level of blood sugar over the last two to three months), blood pressure readings, lipids, liver enzymes, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (inflammatory marker), and waist circumference.

Weight loss lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes and keeping the weight off increases those benefits. Once achieving and maintaining a healthy body, the benefits only get stronger.

Effective and healthy weight loss approaches and strategies create optimal health and well-being. Losing weight and keeping it off can help you in evading disease. Many have asked me, “How many calories should I eat in order to lose weight?” I don’t recommend calorie counting but do recommend whole nutrient-dense foods filling your plate with vegetables and clean, lean protein providing food to fuel your everyday needs. You also need to note how the foods you consume make you feel.

Removing inflammatory foods from your daily intake is crucial. Foods such as peanuts (mold and fungus), frozen yogurt (sugar and dairy), agave (sugar), barley, rye, and seitan (gluten), nightshades, seasoning mixes (sugar and gluten), and most products in a box with a long list of ingredients are inflammatory. The top anti-inflammatory foods recommended are celery, kale, extra virgin olive oil, lentils, hemp seeds, grapefruit, turmeric, ginger, pistachios, whole grains, beets, avocado and fatty fish.

A low carbohydrate, high-fat diet such as the ketogenic plan may be of benefit. A clean, well-developed keto diet may lower your feeling of being hungry, provides sustainable energy for your metabolism, and allows you to burn fat instead of sugar. The keto diet lowers inflammation and improves brain function.

Your health care provider can test for food sensitivities as not everyone can eat everything. Food intolerances can be determined by exposures, genetics and overall health status. Food sensitivity testing will provide the information needed to make proper nutritional choices, helping to decrease inflammation and improve absorption. Eating foods that nourish your body will allow you to feel better while losing the necessary weight.

Intermittent fasting basically occurs during the times you are not eating. If you have your last meal at sundown (@6-to-7 p.m.), then fast until 8 a.m. when you would be “breaking the fast” known as “breakfast”, you would have fasted for 13 hours. Another approach to intermittent fasting would be to eat your first meal at 2 p.m. and your last meal at 6 p.m. giving you a 4-to-6 hour eating window. And another approach to intermittent fasting is to eat during an 8-hour period and fast during the remaining 16 hours of the day, which is the number of hours needed to heal and regenerate.

As an example to this approach: first meal at noon, snack at 3 p.m., and dinner at 6-7 p.m.

Seek out nutrition

• Eat nutrient-dense whole foods consisting of the colors of the rainbow, plant based, fiber rich, lean clean protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, and herbs and spices. Be mindful when eating and slow down. Take a forkful, put down the fork, chew and enjoy the taste and texture.

Boosting the immune system by eating a nutrient-rich diet will improve your metabolic health, decreasing inflammation and chronic disease, and improve blood sugar and lipid values.  Lifestyle changes to focus on include:

• Physical movement for a minimum of 2½ hours per week or at least 20 minutes per day. You need to find a source of exercise that you enjoy and will do. If you don’t like running, for example, you’re probably not going to do it. You also need to change things up during the week. You need to get the heart pumping and make the muscles strong.

• A well-hydrated body will increase your performance as well. Aim for half your body weight in fluid ounces. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you will need to drink 75 ounces of mostly water daily. Herbal teas count into your daily intake. If your urine is dark in color, you are not drinking enough. On the other hand, if your urine is pale yellow and clear, your intake is good.

• The quantity and quality of sleep aids in a healthy body. It is recommended to sleep 7-to-9 hours nightly. Sleep hygiene can include an Epsom salt bath with therapeutic grade essential lavender oil, no blue light (from the television, iPhone or iPad, computer), calming herbal tea, a darkened cool room, avoid stimulants (alcohol, caffeine, sugar and smoking), avoiding bedtime snacks or going to bed on a full stomach, reading a book or magazine, breathing techniques, restorative yoga, calming music or sound machine, and the use of melatonin.

• The importance of stress management in today’s world needs much attention. Chronic stress will increase cortisol levels and add to weight issues. Reduce stress by practicing breathing techniques (deep breath in to the count of four, hold for the count of four, and breathe out for the count of four for example), meditation, journaling (gratitude), and counseling.

• Include community as much as possible into every day. Balancing your body with lifestyle changes should include the support and connection between family and friends.

— Find a health care provider who encourages lifestyle changes to improve your weight loss journey. Providers in functional medicine search for the root cause of symptoms and will personalize your plan toward better health.

When embarking on a health journey, a variety of approaches can be personalized to improve your overall health and well-being. Weight loss, boosting your immune system, and lowering your risk for chronic disease is necessary in today’s complicated health environment.

The information provided is for educational purposes only. Any changes you wish to make should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes. For more information, check out her website at www.debdittner.com or contact her at 518-596-8565.