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Weight loss, why aren't you getting over the hump?


It't the time of year where everyone is thinking about summer and how to lose weight. I get the question multiple times every day in my clinic. The patient has been following a strict diet and getting a little weight loss but they get to a point that the pounds stop coming off. Frustration starts to take over and they start to give up. You know that feeling, why try so hard when you are getting no results? It's a time that you must listen to your body and understand what is happening.

This critical point tells me your body has some issues. This could be with the GI system, hormones, adrenal stress system or all of them combined. The human body loves to trip into starvation mode when the GI tract is inflamed and hormone balance is out of whack. The key ingredient is now figuring out how to balance the body systems and get your body out of the starvation mode and into the fat burning stage.

We have to start to look into GI health, specifically the gut microbiome and any food sensitivity issues. See my past blog post about food sensitivities for more clarification on that. Many times we see gut dysbiosis, bad bacteria overgrowth that creates inflammation and "leaky gut syndrome". This will prevent weight loss and decrease the absorption of the good foods that you are eating.

Hormone imbalance is also a huge issue especially in women. Leaky gut and GI health issues trigger estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance then leads to hypothyroid which in turn slows metabolism. All of this leads the body to think it is in a starvation state. Instead of burning fat your body wants to store fat.

The adrenal stress system can also contribute to this issue. I see a lot of patients with increased cortisol levels. While cortisol increase is normal when exercising, elevated cortisol in the plasma especially at night is no good. This can cause excess weight gain especially in the mid section. Patients with excess cortisol that are working out for long periods every day of the week are actually contributing to this issue. For patients with excess cortisol I recommend no more than 30 minutes of exercise 5 times per week. That exercise should be more along the line of yoga, pilates, HIIT, and weight lifting. I tell those patients to not do straight cardio until cortisol levels are under control.

Example patient:

Female patient in her early 30's with 2 children. Youngest child is around 1 and she has been trying to lose the baby weight. She has done strict whole 30 paleo for 2 months and lost no weight. She presents frustrated and exhausted.

Initial examination reveals GI dysfunction, thyroid dysfunction, female hormone imbalance, and adrenal fatigue. She is sensitive to multiple foods that include: wheat, dairy, MSG, saccharin, soy, sodium nitrate, and white sugar. The good news in that she has been on a paleo diet which did not contain any of her food sensitivities. The thought is that she should have lost weight but her body systems are not working properly and she is in starvation mode. I suggested multiple supplements to address her organ issues.

1 month after taking the supplements she has lost 9 pounds and states she has a ton more energy and has been sleeping very well. Now 2 months in and she has lost another 6 pounds for a total of 15 pounds in 2 months. She states that she has cheated just a few times on the diet, but has gone right back to her proper diet and still feels great.

That patient was at her wits end when she came to see me. Personally as a physician I'm not all that concerned with weight loss, I'm much more concerned about organ system function. Once the organ systems are balanced and working properly the patient will lose weight if they stick to a good healthy diet.