“Healthy Monday is our way of kicking off the week with useful health tips and information put together by our team of health consultants.”
In this week’s edition, we will be discussing two major factors that may be preventing you from losing weight despite all your diet plans and exercise regimen. Having tried all the weight loss tips we gave last week (click here if you missed it) in the past without much success, you may be probably discouraged, but don’t give up yet – your inability to lose weight may be due to some other factors – insulin resistance or hypothyroidism, or both!
Insulin Resistance: Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It helps the body convert glucose to energy that is used by the cells. In insulin resistance, the body resists insulin, so more insulin is produced, but since glucose cannot enter the cells to be converted into energy, a lot of glucose is left in the blood. This excess glucose is then stored as glycogen (fat) in the liver. A person carrying excess weight runs the risk of serious health disorders such as coronary heart problems, high blood pressure, stroke, and most importantly, diabetes!
To fight insulin resistance, one must take a glucose tolerance test to confirm if this is the hidden problem. If a positive confirmation is received, strategies which must include consistent routine exercises change of diet & lifestyle, and use of supplements must be embarked upon.
- Exercise: Since the liver has limited capacity to store fat, excess fat is stored in the mid ribs, vital organs etc. or where it disturbs the healthy functioning of the organs, and worse still, provides an abode for toxins to hide underneath its folds. Besides, the liver is put under stress and its functions become highly compromised. The only way out is to burn the excess fat and the most effective way is through exercise which increases insulin sensitivity. Walking is often considered as the best form of exercise. Other beneficial forms include swimming, cycling, aerobic dancing etc. But, the most effective form to counteract insulin resistance is muscle building exercises such as push-ups and weight lifting. These forms of exercises help the body build new muscle cells which then use more glucose, thereby leading to a faster reduction of insulin circulating in the body. Exercise is so important for combating insulin resistance that one can hardly think of a permanent weight loss achievement without it.
- Change of Diet and Lifestyle: One of the first lifestyle changes you will need to make is to remove or greatly reduce the intake of refined carbohydrate foods, such as white flour products, refined sugar etc. and fatty meats from your diet. Limiting refined carbs reduce insulin resistance. Also, you should ensure most of your calories are obtained from foods with low glycemic index such as vegetables, some fruits and whole cereals. Foods with low glycemic index are carbs rich in fiber which slow down the rate at which glucose enters the blood stream. Secondly, if you smoke, you will need to quit smoking because it raises insulin levels. Additionally, you should ensure you take a lot of protein with your meals because it builds lean muscle and also assists with fat burning. An example of a relevant amino acid is L-Carnitine which assists with the transformation of fat into energy.
- Vitamins, Minerals & Antioxidants Supplements: You should also supplement your diet with a good multivitamin/mineral because some vitamins such as Vitamin B Complex serve as fuel for the body, minerals such as boron speeds the burning of calories and antioxidant such as alpha lipoic acid unlocks energy from food calories by redirecting it from fat production to energy production. In fact, some minerals such as Chromium increase the effectiveness of Insulin.
- Essential Fatty Acids: Flaxseed oil, a food containing essential fatty acids, aids in ensuring maximum muscle development and is of vital importance in weight loss. Others such as coconut oil even turn fats into energy.
- Herbs: Ayurvedic herbs such as gymnema sylvestre, mormordica charantia (bitter melon) and fenugreek all help to control blood sugar levels. Others such as garcinia cambogia even ensures that fatty acids are not stored as fat. However, it is important that the use of herbs be done under the supervision of a competent doctor or natural health practitioner.
Hyporthyroidism: The thyroid gland secrets thryroxine, a hormone which controls virtually all body functions. Hypothyroidism is a condition whereby too little of this hormone is secreted for the body’s needs. This shortfall results in a wide range of disorders ranging from poor circulation, sensitivity to cold, and very cold hand and feet to menstrual problems, infertility, depression etc. Prominent among these symptoms is weight gain or the inability to lose weight despite constant dieting. If you suspect that you might have abnormal thyroid secretion, you have to see a competent endocrinologist for treatment. Once, this abnormality is corrected, it becomes relatively easy to lose weight. We will discuss this more fully in the future but a quick home test which can give you a lead, but not a fully conclusive one is the Dr. Broda Barnes temperature test: Get a mercury thermometer and insert it under your armpit first thing in the morning, before you get up from bed. Leave it there for 10 minutes. Do this test over several days. A consistent temperature below 97.8 degrees Fahrenheit suggests hypothyroidism. You can then confirm through a laboratory test. This test is based on the experience that people with low thyroid secretion often have subnormal temperature.
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