01.12.2006

Metabolic Mysteries


"Weight loss is no mystery. It's just a mathematicalequation: energy in minus energy out equals fat lossor fat gain," I was informed by a paradoxicallylarge-girthed weight loss expert. "Should makeperfect sense," I replied, "but a lot of peopledo seem to do the right thing and still struggle. Andthere's more than one reason why things can go wrong,and they all relate to a sluggish metabolism."

Unfortunately, for many of the overweight and obeseindividuals in Australia today who do the right thingand still struggle to lose weight, the maths just don'tseem to add up and it becomes more of a mystery thanan equation. And just like all good mysteries, it isthe subplots that prove just as important as the mainstory.

Years ago, I found myself stuck in my own personal'Groundhog Day'. The recurring problem involved patientsswearing that they ate like a bird and exercised often.The mystery deepens.
Despite there being a new book or expert appearing aroundevery corner, all touting the latest diet to "meltaway those unwanted kilos", the number of heavierAussies overtook their slim counterparts at an increasingrate of six to four.

The plot thickens. I do acknowledge that there area good many overweight, over eating, binge drinkingcouch potatoes who are very deserving of their increasedgirth. No mystery there. But I am also aware that thereare many people who do the right thing with fair adherenceto the golden rules of weight loss and yet still meetwith problems in losing their excess fat. Thus, it hasgradually become very clear to me that there is no oneperfect weight loss rule or remedy that suits everyone.

For some lucky people, eating from smaller plates andadding an extra 15 minutes of puffing a day is enough,but for the rest, an individualised approach is required.

For starters, let's look at exercise. While many peopletrying to lose weight take up walking, not everyoneachieves the expected fat loss. Walking is touted asthe perfect form of exercise, but unless the pace isstepped up to make you puff it may not be adequate toinduce fat loss. This makes perfect sense when you realisethat puffing is designed to get more oxygen to yourcells to accommodate an increase in your cells' rateof metabolism. Such a metabolic increase means a fasterburning of fat. Therefore, walk at a brisk pace andpuff for an hour and you will burn more fat than ifyou stroll for an hour. Add to this the fact that thefaster walk leaves you with an elevated metabolism forthe rest of the day and the total calories burnt throughmore vigorous exercise become even greater. Move itfaster to lose it faster.

Consider also, the fact that heavier individuals havean advantage if they wish to use it - the extra weight.Researchers at the University of Iowa found that wearingweighted vests increased the metabolic cost in walkers.So, while overweight walkers may already achieve thiseffect, as they lose weight the same walk may not offerthe same metabolic challenge. By adding weights theycan prevent hitting a weight loss wall. Get heavierto get lighter.
Many overweight females have an ovarian dysfunctioncalled Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD), which manyhave been led to believe caused their weight problem.This alibi will not stand up. PCOD is actually causedby insulin resistance, whereby the body's cells becomeless effective at responding to the blood sugar controllinghormone insulin. The primary culprit, insulin resistance,is a lifestyle disease which is sweeping the nationcaused by a variety of influences including inactivity,stress, over-eating and deficiencies, resulting in abouta quarter of the population having the condition whichhas dire health consequences.

Dysfunctional thyroid and adrenal glands can bothalso contribute to weight gain and do so frequently,bringing with them an array of telltale symptoms thatlet on that there is more to this individual's weightproblem. These glands tend to be very susceptible tostress, an obvious big issue these days.

Chronic inflammation, low androgen hormones (testosterone,DHEA and androstenedione), low muscle mass, free radicalexcess, nutrient deficiencies, infections and depressionare just a few of the problems which can impede weightloss.

It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to work out that manypeople are overweight because they simply eat too muchand don't get enough exercise. But for many others,the answer can be more complicated. So, if you havefound yourself embroiled in a weight loss mystery, perhapsit was the serving size that did it after all, or maybeit was the fact that your butt rarely left the seat.But before you convict the usual suspects make sureyou consider the obscure characters lurking in the shadows.Solving your own personal mystery can help reveal abetter state of health and wellbeing, so go seek.

Good health,

Jeremy Hill.
Jeremy Hill (Diploma of Natural Therapy)
is a Qualified Naturopath

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