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Five Keys to Weight Loss

It's that time of the month I receive my writing assignment for my next article.  As I open the e-mail from the editor it reads, "This is your mission if you choose to accept it, report the five key factors to effective weight loss."  Okay Chief!  A dream assignment, one every writer hopes for, to write about something you're considered an expert in.  Well if not an expert, at least someone who has dedicated the last 25 years researching this subject of weight loss and sharing with hundreds of thousands what I have discovered.  Losing weight and most importantly keeping it off consists of several variables, which in themselves are only pieces of the puzzle to a problem of epidemic proportion.

As I share each of the "Five Keys to Weight Loss" they are like the identification code to your bank account, you must have all of them to gain access to that which is yours.  The evidence is indisputable, numerous studies support the most effective short term and long term weight loss comes from a lifestyle that combine balanced nutrition, exercise, behavior modification, proper hydration and prayer.

Balanced Nutrition for Weight Loss

Now here is a subject few experts will agree upon, what is balanced nutrition for weight loss?  Just losing weight does not imply you are obtaining better health.  Optimum health comes when we supply our body's sufficient nutrients to maintain gastrointestinal health, blood chemistry (blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipids), energy levels, immune system, hormonal responses and numerous more, while losing weight.

I believe one of the major mistakes of ineffective weight loss has been lack of essential nutrients forcing the weight loss to a plateau long before the desired goal.

If weight loss was simply a matter of fewer calories ingested than calories expended, the problem of obesity would have been solved long ago.  The human body has been magnificently created in design by the Creator to be self-adjusting.  If the body temperature rises, it perspires to cool down, this self-regulating is one of a multitude it can perform.  So how does this self-regulating effect weight loss?  Answer, if continually underfed the calories and nutrients required your body  self-adjusts by slowing its metabolism. 

In a recent study conducted by David Ludwid MD. at Boston Hospital participants were divided into two groups.  One group received a diet well balanced using low-glycemic whole grain food, while the second group less-balanced low-fat foods.  Both groups lost about 20 pounds in 10 weeks, and both groups decreased in resting metabolic rates(RMR), which the study reported commonly occurs while dieting.  The low-glycemic group dropped 96 calories per day in RMR, while the low-fat group dropped 176 calories per day in RMR.

So why did the well-balanced group drop?  Answer, because both groups were daily underfed calories which resulted in the loss of muscle, and they became trapped in what I call, "Catabolic Syndrome." You must maintain a balance between anabolic and a catabolic metabolism.  In simple terms anabolic means building up or repairing of tissue and catabolic refers to breaking down of tissue.  This is the most common reason why most diets fail, and the body becomes trapped in the catabolic phase.

In effective long term weight loss it requires balanced macro-nutrition (30% protein, 50% high fiber, low-glycemic carbohydrates and 20% fat), and provide essential micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytochemicals) found in whole grain fruits and vegetables.  A basic nutritional knowledge tells us that proteins repair and rebuild cells, carbohydrates energize cells and fats provide hormonal foundation for cells.  Though the macro-nutrition must remain balanced to maintain optimum health, the calories must cycle to keep the metabolism from slowing down.  In simple terms, if you reduce your calories daily to lose weight, you'll slow down your metabolism and start to lose muscle.

The secret to effective weight loss is not attempting to lose weight daily.  So how do we cycle  calories?  What works best, is to reduce calories by 250-500 under daily metabolic expenditure for two days, then replenish back to your daily requirement on third day.  The reduction in calories on the first two days should come from carbohydrates. 

The theory here is when carbohydrates the muscle cell's prime energy source, is depleted this trigger fatty acids stored in adipose tissue (fat cells) to be released into the blood and through a process called gluconegenesis to be converted into energy for the muscle.  Unfortunately, this also depletes the glycogen (glucose and water) in the muscle.  If the glycogen is not replenished, it would cause a loss of muscle tissue and reduction in the metabolism.  This is why you add back the calories in the form of carbohydrates on the third day.

The beauty of this is you have two fat burning days, then a recovery day.  This will allow you to lose fat without the loss of muscle or reduction in the metabolism, which is essential for long term weight loss.

Exercise for Weight Loss

If your 30 pounds or more overweight and have chosen exercise as your solution for losing weight and keeping it off your chances are only 1 percent.  That is if you believe a study called the National Weight Control Registry, headed by James Hill PhD., and Rena Wing PhD.  The study which consisted of 784 participants who had lost at least 30 pounds and had kept it off, for more than a year were tracked for similar behaviors.  James Hill, one of the founders of the study was quoted saying, "We could identify few commonly shared features of how these people lost weight.  The only common characteristic was, 89% of registry participants used both diet and exercise, only 10% used diet alone, and 1% used exercise alone."

This supports numerous studies which show exercise alone is a poor solution for long term effective weight loss, however combined with proper diet is the only thing that seems to work.  It like having the Yin, without the Yang, the two go together to have balance and make it work.

If you try to separate diet from exercise, it can negatively impact your health, even if you lose weight. Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis lead by Dennis Villareal found that individuals who lost weight from diet, without exercise were more likely to lose bone mass.  This study points out the importance of both diet and exercise for effective weight loss.  It was theorized by the researches that the bone loss came from lack of sufficient nutrients to maintain strong bones and lack of physical stimulation to promote bone growth.  Villarel was quoted saying, "Calorie restriction is beneficial, but if you don't combine it with exercise you lose bone,  This can be extremely harmful, especially as we age, because the bone loss comes in areas the elderly are at highest risk of fracture; like upper leg, the spine and hips."

The evidence is hard to dispute exercise must be combined with balanced nutrition for effective weight loss.  The question becomes, what type of exercise and for how long?  The simple answer, the right type of exercise is the one you stay with.  Most studies would support the most effective is cross training, one that combines resistance training and aerobic training.  Surprisingly, it's not because cross-training offers greater weight loss results, than doing aerobic's alone.  It's because cross-training offers a better type of weight loss ( without the loss of muscle) and broader range of health benefits, and minimizes more of the health risks, during the weight loss process.

Of special interest, the longer into the weight loss process, more time should be allocated to resistance training than aerobic, which prevents or slows down the weight loss plateau. Most experts agree 30-60 minutes of exercise, and 3-5 times per week will get the job done.

Behavior Modification for Weight Loss

 Weight management isn't something you simply try to do, it is a lifestyle you develop as you become a healthier person.  New eating habits must develop and mature into a way of life. Numerous studies show the highest success rate of individuals who lose weight and keep it off  participates in behavior modification.  The question becomes, what type of behavior modification works best?

In a study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers lead by Rena Wing PhD., tracked 314 participants who had lost at least 10% of their body weight in two years.  The participants were broken into three equal groups; one group received one on one counsel, the second on-line counseling, and the third, no counseling, but received a news letter on behavior modification.  After 18 months of observation the results were reported.  In the first group who had received in person counseling 45% had regained weight of about 5.5lb's.  In the second group who had received on-line counseling, 55% had regained weight of about 10 lb's.  The third group who had received no counseling, 72% had regained weight of about 11 lb's.  The evidence is clear the best behavior modification is one on one counsel.

What components should one look for in a behavior modification program for effective weight loss and maintenance of weight loss?   Most behavioral experts suggest one on one interaction. The materials used should challenge the participant's attitude to remain positive and visualize obtaining the desired results, before the physical manifestation of them.  You should follow a system that requires both short term and long term goals.  The goals should be both actions taken and results achieved.  Participants should create an environment that welcomes support from family, friends and co-workers. You should commit to a schedule of check-ins creating accountability, first within the participant, and second to someone they view having authority.

Hydrate Yourself for Weight Loss

Can something simple like drinking water be a powerful tool for losing weight?  The answer is yes, If you believe, a German study reported in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.  The researchers lead by Michael Boschmann MD. in the study reported that participants, which consisted of equal numbered women and men metabolism's increased within 10 minutes and lasted for about 30 minutes after drinking water. The findings showed that for every 16 ounces ingested the subjects metabolism rose 25 calories.  If you were to follow most expert's advice and drink the recommended 64 ounces or more daily, this would raise the metabolism by at least 100 calories daily.

The theory of the researchers was most of the increases in the metabolism came from the energy the stomach used to warm the water.  Now I know what some of you might be thinking, I can see the magazine headlines reporting, "Magical Water Diet" - lose weight, without dieting or exercise, just drink gallons of water each day.  This thinking will not only fail, but it could be dangerous.  So how could drinking excessive water be dangerous?  It could throw of your electrolytes, your sodium, potassium balance, causing extreme muscle cramping or heart failure.  This would be especially true for someone who fasted, or gone long periods without eating.  It could also be dangerous for high endurance athletes like marathon runners who lose large amounts of blood salt, through perspiration and replace with just water causing hyponatremia (salt imbalance) risking death.

The importance of water consumption is beyond just calorie burning.  Water is the most important nutrient for good health. The human body consists primarily of water, about 66 percent of your weight is water, your muscles are 75 percent water and your blood is 82 percent water.  Water is essential for most bodily function.  Water plays a role in digestion of nutrients, transportation of nutrients and elimination of metabolic waste from metabolized nutrients.  You should drink at least 64 to 96 ounces daily, and avoid beverages that have caffeine, which acts as a diuretic, increasing the need for more water.

Prayer and Meditation for Weight Loss

As a nutritionist, herbalist and healing minister I believe the power to lose weight and be healed in the process is naturally within each of us.  I encourage each of my clients why only rely on the natural, when they could have the supernatural.  This supernatural power I'm speaking of in not found in religion, but in relationship with God.  So how is this relationship developed?  Like any relationship, with time and through prayer.  Is the purpose for prayer to change God, or to change you?  If you believe God is all knowing, all powerful, and all loving, the answer is clear, prayer is to change you.  That is the final piece in is this puzzle of effective weight loss, if your overweight you must change.

Once I was praying with a client and the door to my office opened and quickly closed.  A few days later I had heard back that someone had said, "His weight loss concepts are so hard, he has to pray in order for them to work."  After hearing this I laughed and responded, "How quickly we can believe in a money back guarantee, but miss the supernatural guarantee, that with God all things are possible."

Many believe prayer to be communication with God.  A time where the natural world connects with the supernatural.  The question becomes, are you having a one way, or two-way conversation?  Do you spend most of your prayer time informing an all-knowing God, what He already knows, or opening up your heart to hear His response?  This is the mystery of God, are we waiting for God to act, or is He waiting for us to receive?

Western medicine until recently has ignored the importance of spirituality in the healing process.  Though scientific studies and medical research still have natural limitation to prove the power of the supernatural, that gap is evaporating.  Science is now quick to ask the question, "can faith heal?"  As for millions of Americans, scientific verification isn't required.  When interviewed Dr. Harold Koenig director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center was quick to point out, "praying for your health is one of the most common alternative treatments people do on their own.  About 90 percent of Americans pray at some point in their lives.  I think many people are convinced that prayer works.  Otherwise, I don't think they would do it."  Dr. Koenig said, His own research and recent studies by other universities have convinced him that prayer, much like diet and exercise has a connection with better health."

In a recent government nationwide survey, 36 percent of Americans over the age of 18 years reported to use some type of Alternative medicine.  In the survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, questions on 27 alternative therapies, divided into provider-administered or self-administered were asked.

The survey reported the 10 most popular alternative therapies and percent of Americans using them were:

Prayer for own health 43%
Natural products (Vitamins, herbs, enzymes) 19%
Deep breathing exercises 12%
Meditation 8%
Chiropractic care 8%
Yoga 5%
Massage 5%
Diet-based therapies 4%

In closing, if losing weight has you puzzled, its time for action.  A lifestyle built on these five keys to weight loss will end your frustration, and they will stand the test of time.