Struggling with weight is an issue that has been near and not so dear to my heart for the past 45 years! After the birth of my youngest (now 15), I was so pleased to be back to my “pleasantly plump” pre-pregnancy weight within 2 weeks. To my dismay, over the next 2 years, the weight slowly began to creep on, and before I knew it, I was a whopping 215 on my 5’7” frame. Not so pleasantly plump any more!
I would look in the mirror and see my long dead grandmother who was so morbidly obese and arthritic that she was in a wheelchair. For me, walking up and down stairs became painful and caused shortness of breath at only 35 years of age! I had already been on just about every diet known to man (since the age of 10!). I resigned myself to being heavy, and made the decision that I could be beautiful at any size. In other countries, heavier women are the PRIZE. I decided that women’s size was simply a cultural issue and resolved to ignore it! But I still saw Big Mamma every time I looked in the mirror!
It was about this time that the Atkins’ diet was becoming popular. I read the books, and the physiology made perfect logical sense, so I dove right in. I ate voluminous amounts of meat, cheese, and eggs, as well as about 3-5 servings of low carbohydrate vegetables daily. The weight seemed to melt off. Within a week, I had more energy, and within a month, I WANTED to exercise (that had never happened to me before!). I had NO food cravings, and would sometimes FORGET to eat (that had never happened to me before, either!). Seven months later, I had lost over 50 lbs and felt great.
Since the science of nutrition is a passion of mine, I have not been able to ignore the research on saturated fats and their effect on systemic inflammation. With mounting evidence that inflammation is the underlying cause of almost every disease, I had to rethink my strategy. It is no longer appropriate for me to tell patients to get triple cheeseburgers and just remove the bun! But, there is a happy medium! It is still important when combating obesity to limit carbs. In my opinion, this is the trick to fighting insulin resistance, which is what is behind the vicious cycle for those of us who have a tendency to gain unwanted pounds. As the pounds add up, it’s like a switch “flips” in our physiology causing our tissues to become resistant to the effects of insulin. When you eat carbs with this switch flipped, the insulin levels must go higher and higher in order to process the sugar. The result: you are famished and craving carbs after a couple of hours, due to all that circulating insulin.
So, my happy medium is an “anti-inflammatory, low-carb” diet. This entails eating fish, nuts, seeds, beans, and 8-10 servings of vegetables (not potatoes) per day. Occasional skinless chicken and poultry breast are ok, but not to be eaten daily. I tell my patients to shoot for 50-75 grams of carbs/day. After getting to your ideal body weight, add fruits and limited whole grains, closely monitoring the pounds to make sure your physiology won’t go berserk again!
Integrative therapies, which have some evidence behind them for helping with weight loss, include acupuncture and fish oil. But the bottom line, as always, is diet and exercise. The only problem with that old adage “just eat everything in moderation” is that without limiting carbs, your body won’t “flip that switch!"