A Functional Medicine Approach to Weight Loss

Posted on February 2, 2016 by Admin

A Functional Medicine Approach to Weight Loss

Weight Loss

Did you start off this year by vowing to lose those stubborn pounds? Is this your second, third, fourth, or umpteenth time trying to lose weight that just won’t go away? If so, I want this year to be different for you! I want this to be the year that you take back your health, and if that includes weight loss, I want to help you reach that goal!


To help you do that, I’m going to guide you through my approach to weight loss, which includes finding the perfect diet for you, overcoming underlying causes of weight gain, and fine tuning your diet for your unique needs. Let’s get started!


How to Find the Perfect Diet for You

My first recommendation for anyone struggling to lose weight is always to complete The Myers Way ® Comprehensive Elimination Diet to remove all toxic and inflammatory foods, and identify any personal food sensitivities. If you’re eating a diet of processed junk food (yes even junk food labeled, “healthy’, “gluten-free’, “low-calorie”, or “low-fat”!), or foods you have a sensitivity to, you’re continuously damaging your gut, disrupting your hormones, and stressing your immune system, all of which can cause you to gain weight.

Your body was designed to eat and digest real food – meats, vegetables, and fruits – not packaged foods, even those labeled gluten-free. When you feed your body processed foods that are calorie dense, nutrient poor, and full of toxic chemicals, it doesn’t function properly. Your systems go haywire, the pounds start piling on, you tire easily, and it can become difficult to concentrate. Sound familiar?

How to Beat Underlying Causes of Stubborn Weight

For a small group of people, switching to a clean, anti-inflammatory diet is helpful, but isn’t quite enough to get them all the way to their weight loss goal. If you’re in this camp, it’s very likely that there are underlying health issues sabotaging your weight loss. Let’s take a look at what underlying health issues might be, and how you can overcome them.


1. Underactive Thyroid

It’s estimated that 20 million Americans have a thyroid problem, and up to 60% of them are completely unaware of it. Hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid, accounts for 90 percent of all thyroid imbalances, and one of the primary symptoms of hypothyroidism is unexplained weight gain or the inability to lose weight.

This is because your thyroid is responsible for regulating many of your body’s processes, including metabolism. So if your thyroid is underactive, your metabolism slows down and your overall energy production decreases. In addition to an inability to lose weight, hypothyroidism can lead to fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, muscle and joint pain, hair loss, constipation, brain fog, and a low body temperature.

If you suspect that you may have an underactive thyroid, it’s important to get a complete thyroid panel to get a proper diagnosis. Most conventional doctors only use one or two tests, as opposed to a full panel, and use the “normal” lab reference ranges as their guide. For a full list of all of the thyroid tests I run on my patients, and optimal lab ranges, see this article.


2. Chronic Stress

You’ve likely heard that stress contributes to weight gain, but it goes far beyond the urge to reach for the chocolate after a long, stressful day. When you experience stress your body releases a flood of cortisol, the hormone that powers your fight or flight response. One unfortunate side effect of cortisol is that it can actually cause you to gain weight and prevent you from losing weight. Furthermore, when you’re chronically stressed, your cortisol levels go up and stay up, which can cause progressive weight gain or a weight loss plateau.

Numerous studies have shown that when animals are stressed, they gain weight, even if they’re eating the same number of calories as they did before they were stressed. These studies also show stressed animals gain more weight than unstressed animals eating the exact same number of calories. 

If you are having difficulty losing weight, take an honest look at your daily stress levels. Are you constantly feeling overrun and overworked? Are you doing anything to reduce stress? If not, you’ll want to incorporate stress reduction techniques into your program. You can read more about how stress impacts your health, and how to relieve it, in this article.


3. Other Hormonal Imbalances

Imbalances in thyroid and stress hormones are common causes of an inability to lose weight, but they’re not the only hormones that can cause an issue. Imbalances in insulin and sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) are also common culprits of stubborn weight.

When insulin and blood sugar levels are off, it can cause sugar cravings, weakness, irritability, and excess belly fat. An imbalance in sex hormones can lead to an inability to lose weight, in addition to muscle loss, poor sleep, memory problems, and sexual difficulties.

So how can you get your hormones in balance so that you can start to see the weight coming off? Follow all four pillars of The Myers Way® to support your body’s natural hormone production and regulation, and work with a Functional Medicine doctor who can order functional hormone testing.


4. Toxic Overload

Today’s modern world is filled with dangerous chemicals, heavy metals, medications, and other toxins that can wreak havoc on your endocrine system. Many of the toxins in your foods, water, and personal and household care products, like shampoo, lotion, candles, and makeup, mimic the activity of hormones, like estrogen. This disruption in your natural hormonal cycle can cause an inability to lose weight, as well as other more serious issues, like autoimmune diseases.

Taming your toxic burden is the third pillar in The Myers Way® and it’s a critical component of the program. Check out this articleto learn more about how to identify and minimize your exposure to toxins, and how to support your body’s natural detoxification processes.


How to Optimize Your Diet Even Further

Have you adopted a clean diet that is right for your unique needs, addressed all underlying causes of weight gain, and want to optimize your weight loss even further? If so, let’s dig a little deeper. Here are some additional tips to help you fine-tune your diet, and find the lifestyle balance that works best for you.


1. Get a Clear Picture of Calories In vs. Calories Out

I generally don’t recommend counting calories since it can create added stress and extra work for many people, but if you’ve ruled out all underlying causes and you’re not making as much progress as you’d like, the cause may simply be that you’re eating too many calories. Even excess calories from healthy foods can cause you to gain weight.

There are many free fitness and calorie trackers out there that you can download right to your phone. These tools estimate your optimal daily calorie intake based on your height, weight, and gender, and then compare that to the actual number of calories you eat throughout the day. Most of them also allow you to track your exercise, so that you can compare total calories in vs. total calories burned.

You don’t have to count calories throughout the whole program, but spend a few days to a week inputting your meals and workouts to get a feel for where you stand. If you notice that your daily calorie intake exceeds your recommended calorie needs, scale back by reducing your portion sizes or cutting back on high-calorie foods. 


2. Find the Right Carb to Protein to Fat Ratio

If you’ve tracked your calories and you’re within your recommended ranges, take a look at your ratio of macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fats. In the 1980s and 1990s, low-fat diets were all the rage. Fat was demonized and blamed for excess weight and health problems. We now know how important and beneficial healthy fats are, and the pendulum is swinging back the other way, with low-carbohydrate diets gaining popularity. 

The truth is, there is no silver bullet for weight loss, or health in general. It’s true that fat is higher in calories than protein, and carbohydrates can cause unwanted blood sugar spikes, but the goal is not to completely cut out entire macronutrient groups. All three of the macronutrients are essential for your body to function, the goal is to find the right balance for your body. 

If you need to reduce total calories, you can cut back on (but not eliminate) fat. If you don’t do well with carbs, focus on getting them from lower carbohydrate foods, like green vegetables, instead of higher carb food like sweet potatoes.