Rejuvenate and Lose Weight With Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes
Julian Whitaker, MD
Any healthy weight loss program must address several factors in order to work and have lasting effects. At Whitaker Wellness, our therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) program does just this. Here’s an overview of the major components.
In order to lose weight, you need to cut calories, and the easiest way to do that is to build your diet around low-glycemic plant foods with moderate amounts of lean protein and healthful fats.
Low Glycemic-Index Carbohydrates
The glycemic index is an update on the old distinction between simple carbohydrates (white sugar, brown sugar, honey, corn syrup, fructose, and other simple sugars) and complex carbohydrates (starches and fibers made up of many sugar molecules bonded or chained together). The glycemic index provides an accurate way to evaluate foods according to how quickly they are metabolized into glucose, which is the body’s primary source of energy.
Foods with a high glycemic index enter the bloodstream quickly, prompting a rapid rise in blood sugar followed by an equally dramatic drop a few hours later. Fueling your body with these quick-burning carbohydrates can leave you feeling tired, hungry, and irritable.
On the other hand, foods with a low glycemic index are a dieter’s best friend. These foods are broken down more slowly, promoting a slower release of glucose. They provide a sustained source of energy and satisfy your hunger over the long haul.
Vegetables, modest amounts of fruit, nuts, and seeds should be a big part of your diet. These foods contain an abundance of health-enhancing nutrients. They’re also excellent sources of fiber, which, among its many attributes, is very satiating. In addition to filling you up, fiber stimulates the release of a hormone in your intestines that signals satiety.
Limit your carbohydrate intake to about 10 grams per meal and five grams per snack. This may not sound like much, but it would be tough to eat enough salad and green vegetables at one sitting to get those 10 grams. Because fruits contain more natural sugars, I recommend only moderate amounts if you’re trying to lose weight.
Once you achieve your weight loss goals, you can increase your carbohydrate intake by eating more fruit, beans, an occasional bowl of fiber-rich oatmeal, or a sweet treat such as a square of dark chocolate from time to time. But don’t make the mistake of going back to a steady diet of bread, pasta, potatoes, and sweets. These are the foods that contributed to your weight problem in the first place.
Lean Protein and Healthful Fats
Protein is an important dietary constituent and a tremendous aid in weight loss. Of the three main macronutrients, protein, fat, and carbohydrates, protein is the most satiating. It fills you up and tides you over. Make sure every meal and snack contain some protein. That doesn’t mean you should chow down on t-bones and bacon. Low-fat protein—poultry, fish, lean beef, egg whites, and low-fat dairy—are your best bets.
Chose your dietary fats carefully. While some fat is necessary for good health, most Americans eat far too much of the wrong kinds—saturated fats from meat, eggs, and high-fat dairy products, and overly processed vegetable oils found in margarine, peanut butter, baked goods, and fried foods. Better choices are olive oil and unrefined vegetable oils.
Cutting down on calories is an important step in reaching a healthy weight. But keep in mind that your body adjusts to a lower caloric intake by slowing your metabolism, causing weight loss to taper off. The best way to avoid this problem is to rev up your metabolism with thermogenic (heat-producing) agents. And the best thermogenic agent is exercise. Of all the requisites for optimal health, none is as neglected as exercise.
You probably know that your metabolism shifts into high gear while you are exercising. But did you know that your metabolic rate remains elevated even after you kick off your walking shoes and collapse on the sofa? Studies have shown that regular exercise resets your body’s thermostat for hours after you stop exercising—which is precisely what you want.
Exercise is also the only way of building lean tissue (muscle), which is metabolically more active than fat. Increasing your lean tissue increases your body’s energy demands and promotes weight loss. Besides its benefits for shedding extra pounds, exercise will enhance virtually every aspect of your health, from cardiovascular strength and immune function to mood and mental activity.
To get the benefits of exercise, you must commit yourself to a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week. Plan what, when, and how at the beginning of each week, and keep a log of your activity.
Walking is a form of aerobic exercise I can recommend heartily to almost everybody. Unlike many athletic activities, walking doesn’t require a lot of fancy equipment or lessons in technique. All it requires is a pair of comfortable shoes. I recommend you start your exercise program by walking briskly 20 minutes, four times a week. Once you can do this comfortably, it’s time to increase your pace. To do this, don’t lengthen your stride; instead, increase the number of steps you take per minute. Work up to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise four or more times per week.
Whatever form of exercise you choose—fast walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, or other fast-paced activities—exercise to the point where you get your heart and respiration rate up. If you feel like you’re not working hard enough, you probably aren’t.
It not only strengthens your bones, it also builds lean muscle mass, strengthening the muscles surrounding and holding bones and joints in place. We lose more than six pounds of lean muscle mass per decade of life after our twenties, a loss that accelerates after age 45. Some of this decline is age-related; however, the primary reason our muscles shrink is because we don’t use them. Only one thing restores muscle mass: using them. And weight training is an effective method.
Strength training can also provide many of the same benefits as aerobic exercise, including improved cholesterol levels and enhanced cardiovascular fitness. In older people, strength training may actually be more important than aerobic exercise in preventing functional decline. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine now recommends that sedentary adults over age 65 begin their fitness program with strength and balance training, adding low-impact aerobic exercise later.
I wish there were an easy way to begin weight training on your own. Believe me, I’ve been looking high and low for such a program. However, I am convinced that you need some instruction in order to get started right. It doesn’t have to be with a personal trainer, although this is the option I chose. A group class at your gym or a friend experienced in weight training would be fine. Once you get the hang of lifting and understand the basics of proper technique, you can continue on your own. Try to build three sessions of weightlifting a week into your exercise regimen.
3. Nutritional Supplements
Nutritional supplements can help increase your body’s natural energy-burning mechanisms. These supplements are meant to enhance a sensible weight loss program—not replace it. Here are the ones I feel are most helpful. You can find them in your local health food stores.
Medical foods, which contain protein, fat, carbohydrate, and targeted vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, may be used as a low-calorie, nutrient-dense meal replacement or between meals (in a smaller portion) as a snack.
Fiber from your diet (such as a juicy apple before meals) and supplements (psyllium and glycomannan) staves off hunger by causing a slower release of glucose.
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) cuts cravings, particularly for carbohydrates, by naturally balancing serotonin levels.
Hoodia gordonii, a succulent native to southern Africa, is another one of nature’s appetite suppressants. Used by San Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert to stave off hunger and thirst during long treks, hoodia activates the hunger/satiety center in the brain. In one study, obese people taking hoodia extracts ate 1,000 fewer calories than a control group taking a placebo—they just didn’t feel hungry.
Thermogenic agents aid weight loss by increasing the rate that the body burns fat and by curbing appetite. The easiest one to incorporate into your diet is caffeine. When you feel the need to reach for a snack, drink a cup of coffee instead—it often takes the edge off of hunger. Another safe and effective option is green tea.
Calcium deficiencies stimulate the release of hormones that not only help convert calcium, but also promote fat storage and retard fat burning.
- To learn more about the Whitaker Wellness Institute’s Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Program, call a Patient Services Representative at (866) 944-8253 or click here.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2006. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.