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Dr. Andrea Maxim ND
16 January 2016

Obesity - Is it Possible to Bounce Back?

by: Andrea Maxim, ND

Healing Journey Naturopathic Clinic
25 Caithness St W
Caledonia, On

Obesity - Is it Possible to Bounce Back?


One in four adults in Canada, which is equivalent to 6.3 million people were diagnosed with obesity by the end of 2012. This is a 17.5% increase from 2003. With obesity comes fatigue, malnutrition, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and can lead to the diagnosis of other serious chronic illnesses.

As we know, the old-school methodology of calories in-calories out is not so cut and dry when it comes to losing weight. If 3500cal is equivalent to 1lb of fat then with simple math, a reduction of 500cal per day should provide a guaranteed weight loss of 1lb per week. Now if it was that simple, then anyone who is on a calorie restricted diet would be losing weight no problem. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Adopting the mindset that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie is not so appropriate with the standard North American diet. That would mean that if you consumed 1000cal per day on just carbohydrate-based foods, assuming you typically consume 1500cal per day, you would still achieve weight loss. With more and more research showing issues around carbohydrates and weight gain, starchy foods and weight gain and gluten-sensitivities or celiac and weight gain, we must readapt our mode of thinking about foods. Let’s not forget all of the food additives and artificial sweeteners that are in our foods.

Therefore, obesity is no longer be classified as just a byproduct of laziness. It is more associated with emotions, genetics, immune responses and other biological factors, not one acting in isolation. This is not to say that you do not need to take responsibility for what you consume every day or how much energy expenditure (or “the number of steps”) you perform daily. What one expert, Dr. Howard Rankin, suggests is that humans believe that we have more control over our behavior that we actually do [1]. Our behaviours are very much determined by our stress responses, habits, addiction, mood, sleep quality and our support groups. For instance, choosing junk food over healthier food options can be both a habit and an addiction. Companies invest millions of dollars every year to create foods that people will crave. Therein lies the problem. These foods are manipulated to trick our brains and turn off satiety. They are literally “tricking” your natural signaling pathways to either think they are not consuming any calories so eat more, or that you “need” to have another sugary snack. Every time we choose a high-fat, high-sugar meal or snack, it automatically alters our endocrine, metabolic and inflammatory processes, meaning it raises blood glucose, triglycerides and inflammatory markers, all signs of metabolic disease [2].

Where most people fail with weight loss is, “How long is this going to take before I notice results?” Depending on how much weight you have to lose will determine how quickly you may be able to see the results, and have them stick. Tracking over 270,000 participants for a decade showed that 5% weight loss was achieve in 1 in 12 men and 1 in 10 women annually. Losing 5-10% of your body weight has tremendous health benefits. However, maintenance showed to be difficult in these groups, finding 53% regaining their weight back within 2 years and 78% after 5 years [3].

These trends are not so unreasonable when we think about human nature. Most people will have done at least one fad or yo-yo diet in their lifetime. Weight cycling is common in more than a third of the people who attempt weight loss [4]. In fact, this form of drastic weight loss and gaining actually promotes enhanced inflammatory processes within the fat cells, which can have serious health consequences [4].

Even more challenging, the higher your BMI (body mass index) the more difficult your weight loss will be. Research is showing that people who were are classified as obese (BMI of 30-35) only have a 1 in 124 chance for women or 1 in 210 chance for men to obtain a normal body weight. If the BMI reaches or exceeds 40, then the odds of obtaining a health weight reach to 1 in 677 for women and 1 in 1290 for men [3]. That is an 83% and 28% reduced rate of success for severely obese women and men respectively. What this concludes is that the majority of obese and severely obese patient may never reach a healthy body weight in their lifetime.

With these alarming discoveries, it has never been more important that we need to stop focusing on disease-care and put more focus on prevention of pathological weight gain. This includes dietary modifications with some form of tracking, proper supplementation and establishing a positive support system.

Lifestyle Modifications for Weight Loss Lifestyle Modifications for Weight Loss

Certainly we are familiar now with the “processed foods are bad, real food is good” mantra when it comes to healthy eating. What about what you are seeing on a daily basis? One study showed that people who keep cereal boxes and sugary drinks in plain sight weighed 20-lbs more to those who kept healthier food options, like fruit, weighed 13-lbs less [5]. Such evidence as this proves why controlling ones environment is such a huge aspect of weight loss. This includes not only what you see on a daily basis, but plate size, food budget and home environment [6]. People who are successful at maintaining a healthy weight typically surround themselves with smaller food packages, hide the snack foods behind cupboards and keep the healthier food options in plain sight [5]. As stated above, even one high-fat or high-sugar meal can trigger signs of metabolic disease. So cheating is not an option, not even once.

Simply put, just by eating an extra daily fruit (mostly berries, apples or pears) or non-starchy vegetable (green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables) and avoiding starchy vegetables (potatoes, turnips, beets, carrots) can promote weight loss [7].

Supplementation for Weight Loss Supplementation for Weight Loss

Above any beyond a good quality multivitamin and fish oil taken daily, the following supplements should also be considered throughout your weight loss program.

Probiotics: You are as good as your gut. This not only applies for digestive health, but weight loss too. The bacteria living in your gut may actually impact your weight and cholesterol levels. Maintaining health microflora in the gut, with the use of probiotics, can help you digest your food better, improve your immune system, and new research shows that they modulate good cholesterol (HDL levels) and bad cholesterol (triglycerides). In fact, there was almost 5% improvement in fat loss, 6% reduction in triglycerides and 4% improvement to HDL in those individuals with healthy microflora in their digestive tract, independent of gender or age [8].

Antioxidants: Whether overweight or obese, concerns about oxidative stress is imperative, especially those diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. Antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin A, , vitamin C, vitamin D and selenium are just a few [9]. Berries, acai, mangosteen, chlorella and spirulina also count as superfoods and are incredibly high in antioxidants. Whether from food or supplementation, antioxidants are a must to prevent chronic illness from progressing.

Get Adequate Sleep Get Adequate Sleep

Both quality and quantity of sleep matter. A restricted sleep, less than 4 hours per night [10], or failing to achieve deep sleep for at least 8 hours [11], meaning your sleep is very superficial despite being all night long, will automatically raise blood sugars, increase insulin sensitivity and promote hunger. All of these things can sabotage all of the good work you’re doing during the day. With busy lifestyles, I know sleep quality can be difficult but do try to make it a focus as part of your weight loss régime.

Align Yourself with a Positive, Like-Minded Support System

The people who you surround yourself with will be the key to your success. If you go it alone, you are more likely to fail than if you align yourself with 1 or more people who are making the same health-based decisions as you are. You also need to align yourself with a great health care practitioner who will support you with all of your dietary tracking and medical needs. If you have a high-quality, empathetic, clear communication and trust with your practitioner or health coach, you are twice as likely to lose more weight [12]. In fact, seeing your health care practitioner for 10 to 15min, face-to-face, for at least 14 weeks, can promote weight loss of up to 14.5lbs [13]. Continuing to work with your practitioner for years to come will also help you continue to lose weight and prevent any rebounding effect.