Weigh Less, Live More
By Ellen Kittredge
The fifth and final installment in a series of articles on finding the right foods to naturally rev up your metabolism and see lasting weight loss.
In the first four articles in this series, we have learned that the most exciting information on the medical weight-loss scene does not involve the standard concepts of calorie counting, finding that perfect exercise routine or balancing your intake of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Instead, we have examined the science behind the messages that specific molecules in our food send to our genes to either turn on or turn off the mechanisms that control weight loss. Dr. Mark Hyman, a medical doctor and the author of Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss has brought us this groundbreaking research.
Achieving lasting and real weight loss is not an easy endeavor. Frequently there are all too many roadblocks in the way to moving forward with your goals. Despite all the calorie counting and exercising, you may still be unable to achieve the results you’d like, and may end up feeling discouraged and assume you must lack motivation. It’s time you gave up on the self-criticism and open up to the idea that there may be real physiological reasons that you have difficulty losing weight. It may be that some of the foods in your diet are sending the wrong signals to your genes, keeping your weight on. So, rather than starving yourself one more time or trying the latest fad diet, you simply need to learn which foods are the correct foods for your body, and then make those a regular part of your daily diet.
The Metabolic Engine
In past issues we’ve covered the important concepts of how chemical imbalances, oxidative stress, inflammation, hormonal imbalances, detoxification and generalized stress all contribute to weight gain, or the inability to lose weight. My suggestions in each of these areas have mainly been dietary, encouraging you to investigate healthier foods that could start to send the correct signals to your genes and bring about weight loss.
In this final installment, we’re going to discuss the important concept of our “metabolic engine” and explain why addressing the things that help and hinder our metabolic engine can play such an important role in weight loss. To understand how our metabolic engine works, you need to understand a key player we all have on our side on the path toward weight loss: mitochondria. Mitochondria are tiny powerhouses within our cells that burn oxygen to produce energy. When we breathe more oxygen, we burn more energy, i.e., calories. Thus there is a direct correlation between oxygen intake and weight loss. The amount of oxygen you are able to breathe per minute is directly tied to the number of calories you can burn per minute.
If your mitochondria are suffering, you will not be able to burn calories and lose weight as easily as you might hope. What causes mitochondria to suffer? The main cause is probably free radical damage. To help to correct for free radical damage, it’s important to eat food high in antioxidants, because free radicals cause oxidative damage, and antioxidants can correct for this. Raw fruits and vegetables are the best source for antioxidants, and thus should be a large part of the diet of anyone who is serious about weight loss.
Other damaging factors include too many calories, chronic infection, inflammation, mercury and imbalances with the thyroid hormone. Unfortunately there are a lot of causes. The good news is that there is a fairly simple way to address and correct most of these problems. In addition to making the good dietary changes outlined in past articles, the best thing we can do to increase the ability of our mitochondria to do their very important work for us is to exercise.
Exercise not only positively influences your mitochondria, allowing them to consume more oxygen and burn more calories, it also increases the number of mitochondria. When you work out, your mitochondria work out. They get better and better at consuming oxygen. So the key to helping out metabolic engine work optimally is to move.
You don’t necessarily need to adopt a rigorous exercise routine to be successful with “working out” your mitochondria. Just getting up from your desk and walking to the water cooler, or walking down the hall to discuss something with a colleague, rather than sending them an e-mail, will contribute to weight loss. Fidgeters, those who get up and move around a lot, lose more weight. It is important that you find an activity that you love, something that makes moving your body enjoyable. Otherwise, you will likely stop exercising once you lose the initial motivation. So, whatever type of movement works for you, find it and start doing it. Your body will thank you!
Exercise suggestions are listed next. Once you read through these, think for a minute about what might work for you. When you put down this article, start by making that phone call to a friend or sharing your ideas with your loved ones. Reaffirm your commitment to boosting the metabolic potential of those tiny little powerhouses, the mitochondria we have in every cell. They only need a little more oxygen to do their work of calorie-burning that much more effectively, making you happier, healthier and lighter.
How to get your body moving:
1. Swim daily in your community pool.
2. Schedule morning walks with your spouse or a good friend.
3. Find a co-worker who is committed to weight loss, and exercise together during your lunch break.
4. Take your child or grandchild to their soccer or Little League game and walk a few laps around the field, while you watch them play.
5. Work out on your home exercise equipment or at the gym while watching your favorite show or reading a great book.
6. Join a local hiking group.
Remember to keep your chosen form of movement fun, and you will be more successful in the long run.
Ellen is a nutrition and health counselor practicing in Annapolis and Bethesda who helps her clients experience real and lasting weight loss, eliminate cravings, gain more energy and improve overall health and well-being. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202- 577-1940, or log onto www.ellenkittredge.com