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40 things your doctor wishes you knew about weight loss

We asked doctors, dietitians, therapists and other weight loss experts the key facts their clients most often miss. Make sure to master these oft misunderstood facts if you’re looking to shed a few kilograms.

Even nutritious foods can make you gain weight

“Many people think if it’s healthy, you can eat as much as you want, but it’s important to limit ‘recreational’ eating, no matter how healthy the snack.” – Fiola Sowemimo, MD, Board-Certified in Internal and Bariatric Medicine.

When you eat is just as important as what you eat

“When you eat is important for weight loss. Starving all day and eating a big meal at the end of the day is counterproductive. No matter how nutritious a meal is, if eaten too late in the day, one does not have the time to burn it off and use it for fuel for the day. It ends up being stored in a body gas tank (the fat cells) you can’t readily access.” – Dr. Sowemimo.

Check your medications

“Some common medications prescribed for chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes  and depression are weight positive – as in, they make you gain weight or make it difficult for you to lose the excess weight you already have. If one needs to be on chronic medications, it’s best to be on weight neutral or weight negative alternatives. Talk to your doctor about your medications.” – Dr. Sowemimo.

Reaching your goal weight isn’t the end

“It takes fewer calories and more energy expenditure to maintain weight loss than it takes to initiate weight loss. So if you let up once you start losing weight, you will gain it all back and then some! The good news is that when you start losing weight, it becomes easier to do more things like spending extra time on the treadmill or doing more resistance training reps. The idea is to continuously challenge yourself.” – Dr. Sowemimo.

 

You need to get your thyroid checked, the right way

“If you’re having a hard time losing weight, get a proper thyroid assessment. Most people need a test that goes above the standard medical thyroid profile. A standard thyroid test reads as ‘normal’ in 80 percent of overweight individuals, which is incorrect. A proper thyroid assessment includes checking eight different parameters of thyroid function and comparing them to optimal, not normal, values. Evaluated this way, over 80 percent of overweight individuals will actually be properly identified as being hypothyroid. This is a key contributor to overweight.” – Kyrin Dunston, MD, author of Cracking the Bikini Code: 6 Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss Success.

Your microbiome is one key to weight loss

“Tweaking the gut microbiome – the balance of good bacteria in your digestive system – can help your body shed kilograms. Certain healthy bacteria in the gut predispose you to a faster metabolism. You can actually sequence the gut microbiome and look for imbalances and then working on rebalancing.” – Wiegand.

Not all calories are created equal

“Calories are not just calories. There are foods that will nourish the body, preserve and protect lean muscle mass, and foster a healthy metabolism – such as lean proteins, fresh produce and whole grains. And there are foods that will contribute calories but very little else nutritionally – such as refined grains, processed foods and added sugars. Having a calorie limit is a good idea, but it’s critical to meet that goal with as many healthy choices as possible.” – Caroline Apovian, MD, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Centre at the Boston Medical Centre, and vice-president of The Obesity Society.

You have to exercise too

“Exercise is important for so many reasons, with metabolic health and weight loss being only one. While it is true that focusing on diet makes more of a difference in terms of weight loss, the two disciplines work together to maintain a healthy body and metabolism, especially as you age. I advise my patients to strength train twice per week and work in cardio most days of the week.” – Dr. Apovian.

Sleep is the missing link in weight loss

“I refer to sleep as the third pillar of weight loss. Getting less than 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night ramps up the hunger hormone ghrelin and decreases the satiety hormone leptin. Lack of sleep also interferes with impulse control, making it less likely that you will stick to healthy food choices and portion sizes the following day. Getting less sleep than needed also heightens cortisol, which prompts the body to overeat to refuel after fighting off a stressor.” – Dr. Apovian.

Muscle may weigh more, but it works in your favour

“The amount of lean muscle mass we have is the primary determinant of metabolic rate. In other words, the more muscle mass we have, the more calories we will burn. Our muscle mass naturally begins to decline around age 30, and that process, called sarcopenia, accelerates around age 40. Lift weights and eat a protein-rich diet to preserve your muscle strength as you age.” – Dr. Apovian.

It’s about progress, not perfection

“Attitude is everything. When shedding weight, progress is more important than perfection. Small steps lead to big changes. And, if you fall off the wagon, jump back on. Each day is a new day to eat and be well.” – Jared Koch, certified health coach and nutritional consultant, founder of CleanPlates.com.

It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle

“I wish clients understood that losing weight is about more than the number on the scale. Following fad diets may promote quick weight loss but typically results are fleeting and may lead to even greater weight gain once you resume your usual eating patterns. To lose weight for good, you need to adopt an all-around lifestyle change that includes what you eat, how you prepare food, and how often you move your body.” – Chanté Wiegand, ND, Naturopathic Doctor and Director of Education at The Synergy Company.

There is no perfect diet

“There is no one-size-fits-all weight loss diet for everyone. Ketogenic, Paleo, low fat, vegan – the options are numerous. But you must take into account the individual’s overall health concerns in the context of their weight loss strategy. What works for one person may make someone else ill or may simply not be effective.” – Dr. Wiegand.

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