February 21, 2012

Made for Famine

Posted in Weight Loss tagged , , , , , , at 9:14 am by Dr Michelle Torrance ND, LAc

The most common problem with weight loss, especially for a person choosing to do a Low Calorie Diet (LCD) or a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) is the reduction of lean body mass that happens along with some fat loss. Lean body mass is our muscle tissue and our bones. Muscle tissue is what keeps our metabolic engine running. Without it, we burn fewer calories than we did before we lost the weight. This is why weight gain is easier after weight loss, especially if a person goes back to eating the same way as they did before they dieted.

The crux of the problem is this: The body will choose to use its protein first before it chooses to use its fat for fuel when in a famine state.

This seems an evolutionary faux pas. Why would you give up your muscle and bone when there is fat available? Muscle and bone are necessary for movement, and our heart beating, therefore, one would think, be more important. But to the body, the opposite is true.

Fat for the body is the last defense against the elements. It is a source of hormone-making substrates. It is the primary matter around our nerves. It makes up the majority of our brain tissue. A minimal amount of fat is necessary for pregnancy and is extremely desirable for lactation. Fat surrounds and protects our vital organs.

To the body, fat is the last thing to be used for fuel. Additionally, fat is difficult to convert to a usable fuel source and creates a lot of metabolic debris that needs to be cleaned up after it’s used. Fat is the last thing the body wants to utilize.

These bodies we have are designed to withstand bad weather, poor nutrition and difficult living. Our bodies are exceptionally adaptable to long periods of deprivation. Over the course of time, this has been a most desirable trait – in lean times, the people who could withstand the most and keep their metabolic rate low, tended to fare better than those that burned out quickly. Over the centuries, there has been far more famine than this world of plenty that we live in now. Our bodies just aren’t made for all this rich living! We have old bodies living in a new world.

We need to acknowledge that attaining food is easy. Even easier is attaining high-calorie, nutrient poor foods that do nothing for our health and weight goals. We don’t work for our food anymore, we just pop into the grocery store or a drive thru. We put very few calories out in order to get more calories in.

It is our responsibility is to be aware of this, and make the best choices possible each and every day. That isn’t to say that we need to be perfect, but it does require us to be realistic with what and how much we choose to eat.


February 11, 2012

BMI, Part III – How to change it!

Posted in Weight Loss tagged , , , , , , , at 12:19 pm by Dr Michelle Torrance ND, LAc

This is the last piece of my BMI discussion, and really, at the end of the day, this is the only part of BMI that most of us care about: our weight.

Most of us would love to be truthful when we say that we manage our weight because we “want to be healthier“, but most of the time our primary motivation for weight loss is because we feel better at a lower weight than we do at a higher one. Simple as that. For many of us a lower weight means a smaller dress size. But I want you to think of some of the other benefits that a lower weight brings:

  • If you are active in any sport, a lower weight usually translates into increased endurance, less muscle and joint strain, fewer injuries and better performance. A good example of this is a patient of mine who recently started rock climbing again. His initial modest loss of 8 lbs has already become an advantage when he’s hanging off a wall. Don’t underestimate gravity!
  • Improved fertility. For many women and men, even a small 5-10% change in body weight can hugely impact your ability to conceive. Remember, in Part II, when I discussed the metabolic effects of adipocytes (fat cells)? Well, this is one of the negative effects of carrying around too much weight. That extra weight is increasing your estrogen, decreasing your insulin sensitivity, throwing your adrenal function out of whack and thereby creating havoc with your hormones and your ability to regulate them.
  • Mood. This is an easy one. If we feel better about our bodies, we tend to feel more optimistic about our lives in general.
  • Energy. When we eat right, we feel good. Simple. Many times the food we eat causes our systems to be sluggish. When we clean it up, we literally “run” more efficiently. Less puffiness, bloating, better GI function. All of this translates into better energy.
  • Sleep. Carrying extra weight, especially visceral fat (the fat within the abdominal cavity), causes many of us to have difficulty breathing at night. Snoring is more common in heavier individuals. Sleep apnea has many causes, but extra weight in the torso and neck can hugely impact our ability to inhale & exhale efficiently. If there is enough excess weight on our chest, our breathing can literally stop. If we can get more oxygen during the night, we will feel better in the morning.

These are just a few examples of the real-life ways that being at a healthy weight can impact our lives for the better.

So, how to get there?

Research has proven time and time again that there are really only three things that need to happen for a person to successfully reach their goal weight:

  1. Pick a plan and stick with it. Really, almost any eating plan will work as long as it is followed consistently. This doesn’t take into account eating preferences, health benefits, nutritional or performance goals. To find a plan that you like, that feels right for you and does meet your other health goals, I recommend working with your doctor or a nutritionist or a personal trainer who has the right education and experience to advise you.
  2. Journal. I know, we all hate it. But there is nothing that is more effective at showing the truth of what we consume. You don’t need to write down every gram and calorie, but you do need to make a list of everything that passes your lips. It is enlightening! Many of us have a faulty memory when it comes to what we eat. Generally, we believe that we consume far, far less than we truly do. This is often because our food choices leave us unsatisfied. By writing down what we eat, we can make educated decisions to make better and more effective choices.
  3. Accountability. Find someone to be responsible to. Granted, choosing to lose weight and make lifestyle changes needs to be personally driven decision. However, being accountable to another individual will help you realize your goals. Knowing that you will be following up with your doctor, weighing in with your nutritionist, meeting up with a friend for a workout or training with your personal trainer will help you make the best decision possible when a food temptation comes your way, or when you feel like blowing off a workout that day.

And that is the magic formula – pick a plan and do it, write it down every day and check-in with somebody!

January 28, 2012

BMI – What does it really mean?

Posted in Weight Loss tagged , , , , , , at 12:54 pm by Dr Michelle Torrance ND, LAc

We’ve all looked it up – plug in your height and your weight and you get a number. http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/

But what does it mean? You can reference the table that is usually attached, and see where you fall in the graph. You can look at the calculator’s recommendation about where you “should” be. You can look at the titles, “Healthy”, “Overweight“, “Obese” and see which category relates to you.

But the question really is, what do all those definitions mean to you?

Part I of the Answer

Let’s define BMI. Essentially, all it is is a height/weight ratio. It is very broad in its scope and its only purpose is to give an easy to use guideline regarding healthy vs. unhealthy weight. The higher the your number, the higher your health risks from weight and obesity related diseases.

What BMI doesn’t tell you: It doesn’t estimate your body fat. It can’t tell you how much abdominal or visceral fat you carry. It doesn’t predict your cardiovascular risks. It doesn’t care about your body composition.

What BMI does tell you: People with bigger numbers tend to be more sick. The higher the number, generally, the larger percentage of fat a person carries. The difference between “Healthy” and “Overweight” is fairly mild from a morbidity (the rate of incidence of disease) and mortality (death) point of view. But past that…”Obese”, “Morbid” and “Super”… some serious problems begin to arise.

Part II will discuss some of the metabolic effects that extra fat cells (adipocytes) create, and Part III of this posting will discuss some of the ways we can personally change these outcomes!