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Healthy Weight Management Information Sheet
Healthy weight management involves a complex balance of genetics, food intake, exercise, sensitivity to hunger and fullness and preserving a good emotional relation-ship with food.
Most people with difficulties in maintaining a healthy weight find a flexible personalised plan helpful1 They achieve this by re-viewing current eating habits and lifestyle. Then, with help from a nutritional therapist, bring structure to these habits by creating a mindful eating plan with lifestyle changes.
Beyond healthy food choices and portion control, the ability to maintain a stable weight largely relies on the biological regulation of food intake and processing of the nutrients within the body. This involves a multitude of enzymes and hormones. Weight gain or loss generally occurs when sensitivity is lost between the natural balance of energy intake and expenditure.
Key factors influence this sensitivity Stable blood sugar levels seem important in maintaining a healthy weight2. Our body controls blood sugar within tightly regulated levels by releasing a number of hormones including insulin. Foods that are sweet and high in refined carbohydrates (high glycemic index [GI]) cause blood sugar peaks, stimulating the release of insulin encouraging fat storage unless the sugars are used immediately for energy. So, a low GI diet is generally advisable.
Constantly fluctuating blood sugar peaks can lead to the over stimulation of insulin release leading to blood sugar lows (hypoglycaemia) in turn promoting feelings of hunger and food cravings.
Habitual overeating of high GI foods can result in reduced insulin sensitivity so more of the body’s energy may be stored as fat.
Factors to increase insulin sensitivity
Reduced consumption of saturated animal fats and trans fats from fast/fried foods3,4
Omega 3 fats* from fish oil 5,6
Aerobic exercise-30-60 minutes per day13
Stress reduction such as yoga14 or meditation/mindfulness15 for 20 minutes per day
Herbs such as Fenugreek (Trigonella foenumgraecum)*9 and Gymnema sylvestre*10 can help reduce sugar absorption and support insulin action to lower blood sugar levels.
The Glycemic Index(GI)
The GI of a food indicates the speed which it raises blood sugar and is scored from 0-100 with pure glucose at 100. Low GI foods score up to 55 and high GI is about 70 or above. eg
Less refined carbohydrates tend to be low GI as are protein-rich foods as they take longer to digest.
Healthy digestion is important to pre-vent deficiencies of key nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, vitamin C, E *16, B vitamins and chromium*17 which may result in increased body weight.
These nutrients are required by the body to process the absorbed food so a multi vitamin and mineral supplementation could be required18 or digestive support may be necessary.
Shifts in the composition of gut bacteria have been observed in people with a healthy body weight compared to those predisposed to being overweight and could affect metabolism and feeling of fullness19. In overweight people the bacteria appear to harvest more energy from food so providing the body with more calories from each meal20.
Lack of sleep - less than 6 hours has been associated with weight gain. Lack of sleep impacts on the hormonal control of appetite21.
Food and environmental toxins may interfere with hormonal control22. Eating pesticide-free, well sourced food and supporting the liver in its detoxification function may be important.
Efficient metabolism is a key component of energy expenditure. A reduced metabolic rate is linked to weight gain and suboptimal thyroid function23,24 so relevant thyroid and adrenal support could help maintain an ideal weight.
Other factors to support healthy metabolism include:
Thermogenics to stimulate energy expenditure such as capsaicin* in red hot peppers, green tea* 25, black pepper*, ginger*26, Fish oils*27 and L-carnitine*31 to promote fat burning.
Extracts of Garcinia cambogia* containing hydroxycitric acid as an appetite suppressant and to reduce fat accumulation28
Regular physical exercise, a minimum of 40 minutes at least 4 days a week29
There can be a strong emotional element to weight maintenance and our relationship to food. Individuals vary in their ability to cope with stress, food cravings, motivation, restraint and negative moods. Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) 30 or flower remedies which work on the emotional level may be helpful in this regard.
*for suitability and therapeutic doses consult a nutritional therapist or herbalist