Boris Johnson has taken the hint that he needs to lose quite a bit of weight. The evidence shows that one of the biggest risk factors for suffering badly from Coronavirus is being overweight or obese. And weighing in at 17 stone 7, and measuring 5ft 9″, that’s a BMI of 36.2. Ouch. He’s not just losing weight himself. He anounced this week that he is going to fully prioritise reducing our obesity epidemic.
As you can imagine, I have a few ideas on how this can be done. And if you have been following me for a while, or have read The Good Stuff, you will have learned that this is not going to be solved by everyone going on a restrictive diet or running off the calories!
Losing weight by eating less and exercising more works for some people, but a lot of people hit a brick wall with this approach. When they don’t achieve their weight goals, their self-esteem gets a bashing, and this can end up with them eating more and then putting on even more weight!
It’s rarely someone’s “fault” that they pile on the pounds – family members of the same household can eat the same meals, and some stay slim and others put on weight. This is because we are all as different on the inside as we are on the outside. There are many factors which can affect metabolism such as: thyroid health, gut health, stress response, sleep patterns and age.
In many cases, being overweight or obese can be part of a very complex metabolic issue such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or a sign of Perimenopause or Menopause. Even children can show soft signs of the start of metabolic issues, and we are seeing more kids with thyroid issues, blood sugar imbalance and early puberty in our clinic than ever before. Thankfully these can usually be nipped in the bud nice and early once the parents have the knowledge on how to manage things.
If your digestion is not working well, it can affect how efficiently you extract the nutrients from the foods you eat, which can disrupt appetite and satiety. An out-of-sync gut microbiome and gut function can also mean excess bloating and inefficient elimination which will add to the feeling of sluggishness. There is now a probiotic product that has been found to help aid weight loss and it is thought that the health of the gut microbiome is critical to keeping a healthy weight.
There are also many social factors which can affect access to healthy food – everything from being short on time, to difficulty accessing fresh fruits and vegetables. Many people in cities and towns have the temptation of fast food outlets on their doorstep and country-wide petrol stations are bulging with sweet, crisps and fizzy drinks which are very hard to walk past.
Overeating is often due to compensating for an unmet emotional need from a wide range of factors from boredom, to a recent loss, a lack of love or even low self-esteem, and this is something that needs to be investigated if you are stuck in a weight loss rut. Finding time to exercise can be tricky too, and thankfully research is now finding that more movement over the day could be more effective than attending formal exercise classes a few times a week. It’s so easy to fix, that just by getting up more often and doing more things yourself, for example of one person getting everyone’s tea means they don’t move!
Research has found that the seeds for metabolic health are sown right from the start of life. Even the food intake, sleep and stress response during pregnancy can affect the child’s metabolism. Equally putting in place some simple & positive healthy habits can swing things the right way, so that weight worries do not become part of your children’s lives. That’s why I am so passionate about getting things right from the outset and educating new parents on the foundations of a healthy diet and metabolism. And my message is VERY simple – cook from scratch, nourish the gut and eat real food! And remember it’s never too late to start changing things for the better.
So what can you do right away to start resetting your metabolism?
1) Cook from scratch as much as possilble – aim to make your own food from simple ingredients 80% of the time, which is 17 out of 21 meals per week.
2) Cut back on convenience ultra-processed food. If you don’t recognise an ingredient on a packet as real food, then this chemical could potentially be a metabolic disruptor.
3) Eat three well-balanced meals a day and stop snacking. You should feel full enough after each meal so you could only eat one or two mouthfuls. Do not leave a meal still feeling properly hungry as this will come back to haunt you shortly afterwards.
4) Aim to eat within a 12 hour window during the day – 8am – 8pm works best for most people – and only drink water after 8pm or before 8am. This gives the digestive tract and metabolism a rest. It also allows the gut bacteria Akkermansia to proliferate and these are the microbes in the gut that help to keep us slim.
5) Nourish your gut with a broad range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses and olive oil as well as fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, miso and apple cider vinegar. Consider taking a probiotic.
6) Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night – a lack of sleep will make it harder to stick to just eating three meals a day and you may well crave snacks.
7) Aim to move for 5 minutes every hour of your waking day – this could be a few squats, climbing a flight of stairs or taking a walk round your garden.
8) Organise some blood testing to include: thyroid markers: T4,TSH,T3 and thyroid antibodies; blood glucose, insulin and HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin which is a measure of your blood sugars over the past 2-3 months) and liver function tests, inflammation markers, lipids and iron levels.
My NatureDoc team is there to help you work out which food choices work for you and the best way to optimise your metabolism. We can also arrange functional medicine laboratory panels to test hormones, blood sugars, thyroid and gut health to establish any core issues that might be driving a sluggish metabolism. It’s pretty hard to do this on your own, especially when there are underlying metabolic and gut issues in the background and we are there to help to support you all the way along your health journey.