While it’s not the hottest summer on record here in New York City, it certainly feels that way, given the temps reaching 100 degrees last week. Very little motivation to get away from the desk, table, laptop, TV indoors, with the A/C blowing away. Add to that the onslaught of barbecues, weddings, graduation parties and other food-focused events that almost anyone over 40 is invited to all summer long, with kids or without, and you’re probably seeing three to five stubborn pounds that make you long for the winter holidays, albeit its own feeding frenzy! As a professional food marketing consultant, I consider foods of all kinds, in moderation, a very good thing. Provided you also figure out the quality and quantity of exercise you need to keep your weight in check.
But, maybe there’s something else going on that is keeping those stubborn pounds on board, something I discussed with an associate I trust, Diana Soloman, who is an author and nutritionist/homeopath. Several possibilities to consider:
1) INSULIN ISSUE: Do you crave food, sugary sweet things especially? And it seems the more weight you gain, the hungrier you are? This could be an insulin problem. You’ve heard of insulin with regard to diabetes, but many Americans are in some stage of pre-diabetes with its fluctuating blood sugar and resulting fatigue, hunger, and weight gain. Researchers have found that people who secrete high insulin levels have a far more difficult time losing weight than those secreting lower levels of insulin.
If this is true for you, what does this mean? Maybe your insulin receptors have stopped working effectively. You have begun to secrete too much insulin, which lowers blood sugar. When your blood sugar is low you feel hungry and tired. So you reach for sugar, or caffeine (which raises blood sugar and wakes you up), and more insulin pours out to deal with this spike of blood sugar, and you are in vicious cycle – downward!
Solution? Keep your insulin levels low, by reducing sugar intake, including processed carbs, and keep up your exercise – walk, cycle, jog inside if you can, or just sweep out the garage, do housework, dance around your living-room, take more steps! Park a long way from the grocery store or train station and walk the rest of the way! You can test your insulin levels by asking your doctor for a simple blood test. And, substitute: If you crave sweet and crunchy, try apples with just a tiny smear of peanut butter. If you crave salty and crunchy, hit the veggie bin: celery, carrots, radishes, cucumbers.
2) ALLERGIES: For me sweets are not the problem, as much as salt and crunch. Like many people who don’t crave sweets, maybe your favorite comfort food is bread, cereal, pasta or other white carbs. Oddly enough, if you have weight issues that won’t resolve, and you crave a certain food (in this example, wheat) you may be allergic or sensitive to that food. Wheat, corn, and dairy are among the highest allergy foods in the USA. And many people don’t realize it.
When people complain of migraines, IBS, depression, skin rashes or eczema, bloating, etc., food allergies could be the culprit. The same applies to weight gain or weight that is hard to lose. When you stay off wheat, corn or dairy and you find yourself literally drooling over an ad or TV cooking segments that feature those items, you just might be allergic to those foods. Just as an addict suffers symptoms when the substance they crave is withdrawn, allergic people experience symptoms or discomfort when they stop eating the suspect food.
If you think this may apply, ask a Nutritionist or a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) about trying an elimination diet to pin down the offending food. Or research the method online and give it a try. There’s no down-side except a few days without a food that you believe is your friend. The cravings will pass!
3) ADRENAL FATIGUE: Do you have a hard time losing weight, feel tired a great deal of the time, have low blood pressure, feel dizzy if you stand up quickly from a prone position, and/or have cold hands and feet? You may have an adrenal exhaustion issue. It comes about from prolonged stress. Pre-menopausal and menopausal women may be even more susceptible.
Very simply, your adrenals create adrenaline, one of the hormones that is produced during fear or stress (the Fight or Flight mechanism), as well as cortisol. They are both pumped into the blood in response to stress and make you feel wired. But after prolonged stress, you burn out. You begin to feel foggy, crave salt, and feel dizzy when you stand up quickly. Your skin gets dry and wrinkled, you begin to store fat, and you feel fatigued.
The answer? Rest, and reduced stress, of course. And consider getting help from a Nutritionist, Naturopath, or Registered Dietitian, for the right amounts of nutrients/herbs that could help. Also, talk to your natural health care practitioner about using natural hormone replacement. This helps to balance the estrogen dominance. Be sure to take a good daily multi-vitamin, especially B vitamins and Vitamin C, or choose foods that are high in those vitamins.
4) LACK OF SLEEP CAN MAKE YOU FAT: THE LEPTIN / SLEEP CONNECTION: That’s quite a dramatic statement. But have you experienced feeling tired and sleepy after a bad night, and reaching for food all day (more than usual!) to try to give you energy, or wake you up? And then you never feel full on days like that?
This is probably due to the see-saw workings of the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Simply put, ghrelin (produced in the gastrointestinal tract) stimulates appetite, and leptin (produced in fat cells) tells the brain you are full, and signals you to stop eating. The problem is, if you do not get enough sleep, your leptin levels fall, so your brain doesn’t hear the message that you are full. At the same time, too little sleep creates an increase in ghrelin. So your appetite is stimulated. Nasty combination for those of us trying to keep our food intake down!
The answer? More sleep of course. Find ways to ensure good sleeping habits, and enough sleep. Eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise. Try a small amount of high carb food or warm milk before you go to bed to help you get to sleep. Listen to a meditation tape when you’re trying to sleep. In fact, hypnosis tapes for weight loss are extremely effective both in working with your subconscious to encourage good eating habits, plus relaxing you to sleep. And keep stress and alcohol to a minimum. All of these are important in ensuring you get a good night’s sleep.
There are so many possible factors that may be involved in your weight issues, besides the most obvious: thyroid issues; lack of exercise, or plain old overeating. Unraveling it feels like a full-time job sometimes, doesn’t it?
Consider checking out whether any of these other possibilities are in play for you. It might be easier than you think to lose weight and keep it off.
Please note: none of the tips, ideas or insights in the above blog-post are intended to provide or substitute for medical advice, nor are they diagnostic in nature. They are tips, ideas and insights that have been researched and reported in various media by diverse professionals in the scientific community. As such, they are not to be interpreted as solutions for individual health problems or chronic dietary issues that are the purview of reputable licensed physicians or dietitians.