Over the last 25 years or so, much has been learned about how the body becomes obese and the complexities of weight gain. It was once thought that calories were the only culprit in weight gain. Overeating had become the explanation for becoming fat. This over-simplification has been disproved many times over. Up until 1994 it was thought that fat was simply a storage depot for excess energy. This was when the fat hormone leptin was discovered and a whole new world was revealed of what causes obesity. It was discovered that the hormone leptin resided in the fat cells and was in direct communication with other organs and the central nervous system. This means that fat cells are actually endocrine organs! Although there is still much to learn, valuable research continues to solve the many mysteries of weight gain. There are thousands of books extolling the virtues of their particular diet but there is no one diet to fit all bodies. Sometimes one needs to experiment to find out what works best.
It turns out that there are many factors involved in the way the human body obtains and stores fat. Genetics, stress, environment, diet, metabolism. Causes can be all or any combination of these factors. Regardless of the reason(s), it all boils down to impaired metabolic function. Impaired metabolic function results in an inability to manage weight. (Bauman 2015):
In cases where weight management is more tied to emotional or hormonal/toxicity issues, additional specialists may need to become involved in the weight loss project.
Client education, mindfulness and targeted nutrition will be used to manage bodyweight. By providing education about important food and nutrient sources, will allow individuals to become active participants in their wellness plans and to make dietary and nutrient choices supportive to their weight management.
Common Signs and Symptoms
Having a favorable BMI or looking thin does not necessarily mean that one is at a healthy weight and having a high BMI does not take into account muscularity.
• BMI greater than 25
• Over 32% body fat for women and over 25% for men • Accelerated aging
• High blood pressure
• Sleep apnea and breathing problems
• Liver and gallbladder disease
• Dyslipidemia(high total cholesterol or triglycerides) • Fatigue
• Gynecological problems
• Type 2 diabetes
• Coronary heart disease
• Nutritional deficiencies
• Impaired movement and functionality
• Joint pain and degeneration
It is only partially true that calories in/calories out cause weight gain but this doesn’t take into account the environment and genetics and digestion. It is now clear that the recipe for obesity = Industrial diet + modern lifestyle + genetic predisposition. (Bauman 2015).
The different drivers and causes will be explained in more detail here.
Nutritional issues: malnutrition which is the result of consuming an industrial diet of high energy/nutrient poor so called foods. These types of foods provide little nutrients. Processed foods that have micronutrients added back to them are in an unnatural state and may not even be absorbed in the body. Overeating is also involved but it has more to do with quality of food in that people tend to overeat when it comes to industrial and processed food.
Metabolic issues: How the hypothalamus communicates with the body and how the neurohormonal system is functioning. The hypothalamus regulates food intake and energy expenditure. Chronic poor eating causes the hypothalamus to become inflamed and leads to leptin resistance and other hormonal effects which thereby raises the setpoint at which body-fat is retained. Once the metabolism is disturbed it creates a domino effect of inflammation, neuroendocrine disruption, mitochondrial poisoning, oxidative stress, gut disfunction, joint disfunction, food addiction, malnutrition.
Lifestyle/Emotional issues: Fitness, trauma such as abuse and neglect, anger, depression, eating habits. How body conscience one is. People that are more aware of their bodies tend to be more discriminating in their food choices. Food addiction is a common participant in obesity causes.
Toxicity: exposure to environmental toxins such as water, household cleaners, personal hygiene products, pesticides, xenoestrogens, antibiotics, etc.
Industrial diet: Extreme palatability from additives like sugar substitutes, MSG, industrial oils, starches, processed salt. This diet is also low cost, nutrient poor and widely available. It also activates the brain’s reward pathways.
Weight gain can start in early childhood but most often occurs later after years of being exposed to toxic environmental and emotional wear and tear. Genetic predisposition can be triggered before birth by nutritional and chemical exposure of the developing fetus. The pathways for adipose development are extremely vulnerable in the developing fetus. Early feeding patterns steer the course of the development of the child.
Elimination of gluten in the diet contains no risks and can be a good strategy for a weight management program. Gluten can fall under the categories of industrial foods and toxicity. The protein gluten found mostly in wheat and other grains is not the same as it was 50-100 years ago. Pesticides and genetic modifications groom the wheat for reliably feeding many people not to necessarily make them healthy.
“Research over the past few decades has revealed that gluten intolerance can effect almost every other tissue and system in the body.” Kresser, C. (2013).
Gluten is toxic to almost all living creatures to one extent or another and manifests itself in many forms from autoimmune disorders to non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
All aspects of the environment should be suspect. Is there a toxic burden in the household from chemical cleaning products, BPA in utensils, teflon cookware, unfiltered water, carpet, paint, new cars, dry cleaning, chlorinated swimming pools, flouridated toothpaste, amalgam fillings, pesticides, processed foods, soy, gluten, casein. This list could go on
and on but the idea here is to scrutinize the environment and be more mindful of how you treat your body.
The next step is to follow the “Eating for Health” model, and eating mindfully. The “Eating for Health” model is about eating whole foods exactly as they are available in nature or close to it. One can be confident that this is the way to start because there really is no risk by eating this way.
High quality Protein is necessary to build and repair lean body tissues. According to the building diet direction, 15-35% of total daily calories should be of high quality protein.
Use the .5g of protein per pound of lean body mass formula. After determining lean body mass in pounds, multiply this number by .5. The result will be your recommended amount of protein in grams per day. Seniors, competitive athletes and pregnant women would need to add 25% more protein than what this formula provides.
High quality protein can be obtained from organic and pasture fed animals, insect flours, wild caught fish and organic dairy.
Carbohydrates maintain blood glucose and replace muscle glycogen. requirements may be increased by strenuous activity. Good sources of carbohydrates are both starchy and non-starchy vegetables and seasonal fruit. There is no limit on non-starchy vegetables buy total carbohydrates should be 20-40% of total daily calories.
Fats are probably the most controversial of the three macronutrients. Fats are an excellent fuel source and provide essential fatty acids. 45-60% of total daily calories should be composed of healthy natural fats. Sources include fat from organic and pasture raised meat and chicken. Fatty cold water fish, nuts and seeds that have not been roasted in industrial oils, coconut oils, olive oil.
Some micronutrients such as Vitamin D, vitamin A and magnesium are difficult to find in food in bioavailable forms and must be supplemented. Kresser, C. (2013). Antioxidant supplements should be used in conjunction with each other to obtain maximum effectiveness.
Vitamin A-(10,000-15,000 IU daily) Anti oxidant that helps to maintain immunity. Should come mostly from whole foods or whole foods supplements. A is depleted by stress and exercise, infection and pregnancy.
Vitamin B12- (250-500 mcg/day) Often low, especially with aging. Only from animal sources.
Vitamin C- (500-1000 mg a day). Vitamin C deficiency is common. Since it is not synthesized in the body it must come from supplementation. Vitamin C is a very important antioxidant, is necessary for overall cell health, and is the first line of antioxidant protection in the body (Murray, 1996). It is particularly potent in the presence of bioflavonoids, which have been shown to protect vitamin C and preserve its action. They also work together to help protect against inflammation by reducing allergic reactions, which is important for improving overall digestion(Bauman, 2015). Eating a wide spectrum of fruits and vegetables should provide sufficient levels of Vitamin C.
Vitamin D3- (4000 IU to start) (works synergistically with vitamin A) Levels should be tested to determine if more is needed. Vitamin D is both a vitamin and a hormone. Deficiencies of Vitamin D can be a marker for obesity. Vitamin D is more of a hormone than a vitamin. Vitamin D has an anti-inflammatory effect and can reduce excess leptin and reduce visceral fat. (Bauman 2015). D3 can only be obtained from animal sources.
Sources include: adequate sunlight(10,000 IU’s in 20 minutes), egg yolks, grass fed beef liver, fatty fish, fish oil, cheese and raw milk.
Omega-3 fats- Eat adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to balance out the naturally high amounts of omega 6 in the standard American diet. Fish oil (Stronger Faster Healthier brand), Cold water fatty fish are the best source. For supplementation a good rule is to add a zero to your body weight and that is the amount in milligrams of DHA/ EPA to consume daily. Ex. bodyweight of 150 lbs= 1500 mg DHA/EPA per day.
Vitamin E-(400 – 800 I.U daily) is an important antioxidant, which is necessary for overall cell health. It’s also an immune stimulating vitamin that helps to ease fatigue and is an important supplement for stabilizing cell walls and protecting fatty acids. Preferably as mixed tocopherols or full-spectrum E. Foods abundant in vitamin E include leafy greens, nuts and seeds and their oils, organ meats, wheat germ, whole grains, seafoods and sea greens. (Bauman, 2015).
Selenium- (200-400 mcg) Works better with vitamin E, supports tissue health and reduces cancer potential, stimulates the immune system and boosts production of glutathione. People with thyroid or immune related issues may benefit from supplementation. 2 or 3 brazil nuts a day can provide the recommended dose.
Chromium- (200-400 mcg) Chromium works closely with insulin to facilitate glucose into cells. Without chromium insulin’s action is blocked and blood sugar levels are elevated. (Murray, Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements 1996). Through supplementation (chromium picolinate, polynicotinate or chelavite) or 1-2 servings of brewers yeast daily provided there are no yeast allergies. Some conditions such as IBS or Crohn’s may have an increased sensitivity to yeast products.
Other synergistic vitamins and minerals nutrients include but are not limited to:
Magnesium: (500-1,000 mg) magnesium glycinate or magnesium malate. Calcium: (850-1,250 mg)
Copper: (2-4 mg)
Vanadium (10 mcg) B complex
Balancing the brain chemistry and providing psychological equilibrium is where proper amino acid supplementation comes into play.
Amino acids with ample amounts of vitamins and minerals provide the substrate to replenish the critical “feel good” hormones such as acetylcholine, dopamine and seratonin. Ross, J. (2002)
Replenishing these feel good hormones can be helpful when one is cutting back on food consumption and having cravings.
Tryptophan and 5-HTP: (50-300 mg of 5-HTP since there are contamination problems associated with tryptophan supplementation. Also requires vitamin B-6 as a cofactor.) Some individuals do not respond to 5-HTP but will to tryptophan. Tryptophan acts as an anti-depressive, anti-anxiety neurotransmitter. In the body tryptophan is converted to 5- HTP and 5-HTP is then converted to Serotonin.
L-Carnitine: Although this is an amino acid it functions more like a B vitamin. Carnitine helps transport fat to the mitochondria where it will be burned off without side effects. Carnitine has the ability promote energy and reduce chronic fatigue while maintaining muscle tissue. Carnitine is found mostly in red meat.
L-Glutamine: (3-10 grams daily) Can also be used sublingually by breaking open a 1/4 teaspoon capsule to curb cravings and for an emergency energy source. is an amino acid that is critical to cellular health, muscle growth and protein syntheses (Murray, 2005). Can also aid in inefficient insulin utilization and to calm sugar cravings.
Herbs and teas
Green tea, dandelion tea, mint tea, rosemary tea. Cinnamon, bitters: dandelion, gentian root. mulberry leaf extract.
Whether taken as a supplement or in natural fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir. Probiotics promote a healthy gut flora which affects all other systems of the body.
Building direction is the best direction for fat loss. A building diet direction of 15-35% protein, 20-40% carbohydrates, 45-60% fat. Most meals in my plan are Paleo with the exception of grass fed butter in some meals for those that can tolerate it.
Experimenting with the higher fat option may bring quicker results and provides satiety. This meal plan is lower in carbohydrates than one may be used to but will provide enough energy to fuel exercise.
Day one of my meal plan contains well over 100% RDA of Calcium, B1,B3,B6,B12, C, selenium and zinc. The macro breakdown is 29% protein, 20% carbohydrates, 51% fat. The main sources for vitamin C are from spinach, red bell pepper, sweet potato, lime. Some of the herbs used in my menu plan help to regulate blood sugar, which is a critical factor in the success of this program. Vitamin A in the form of beta carotene and D (from grass fed meat, butter and fish) is abundant and well over RDA throughout the meal plan.
Lifestyle: What healthy program would be complete without exercise and stress reduction. Exercise, although a form of stress can be used in regulated doses just as a medicine. Benefits of exercise include but are not limited to, stress reduction, improved metabolism and energy. One should have a healthy balance of flexibility, mobility, strength and conditioning. Exercise can help to relieve stress and trigger endorphin release to help calm.
Take mealtime seriously and have gratitude for your food. Take the time to relax with others and chew your food carefully while having a positive attitude. Seek out high quality foods like a predator and don’t scavenge your food by eating whatever is available.
It should also be stressed of the importance of drinking adequate amounts of purified water to prevent dehydration of the skin and body.
Make sure you are hydrated prior to eating. Don’t drink water during the meal. Drink 6-8 glasses of water per day for a 150 lb person. Adjust up or down based on bodyweight, activity level, climate, amount of high water content fruits and vegetables.
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Pizzorno, J., Murray, M., Joiner-Bey, H.(2008) Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine. Churchill Livingstone.
Multiple authors, N. (2004). Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach. Gig Harbor, WA: The Institute for Functional Medicine.
Ross, J. (2002). The Mood Cure. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam. Tobacco, Pgs. 276-277.
Sanfilippo, D. (2012). Practical paleo. Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt Publishing. Love Food(2009). 100 Best Health Foods, The ultimate superfoods for healthy
living including 100 nutritious recipes. UK: Paragon.
Kresser, C. (2013). The Paleo Cure. New York, Little, Brown and Company.