In last week’s column we investigated many of the most important dietary concepts for weight loss and improved body composition. We learned that sugar consumption is the most important dietary factor because excess sugar/carbohydrate intake leads to increased fat storage. We also learned that timing is extremely important. We discovered that when the body goes for more than about 4 hours without food it shifts into a fat storage mode. Finally, we discussed the negative effects of large portions on blood sugar, insulin secretion, and nutrient absorption. In this week’s column we will discuss the most important lifestyle changes we can make to encourage weight loss and improved body composition.
Stress Leads to Weight Gain
High levels of stress, especially chronic stress over years or decades directly leads to the deposition of abdominal fat and overall weight gain. High stress and/or insufficient stress coping mechanisms causes the body to produce high levels of stress hormones, especially cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands in response to perceived emotional or physical stress. It is an essential hormone and without it we could not live. However, in excess it has significant consequences on the body and has the potential to be dangerous.
Cortisol, through a largely unknown mechanism encourages the deposition of fat in the abdomen and upper back. It also inhibits the activation and proper function of thyroid hormones, which reduces overall metabolism. These 2 properties cause many people to gain weight and have great difficulty losing weight despite their best efforts with nutrition and exercise.
If stress is an issue for yourself it is vital to find ways to decrease your overall stress load and improve your stress coping mechanisms. This may involve re-organizing certain aspects of your life, working with a counsellor/life coach, talking with friends, acupuncture, massage, meditation, deep breathing or any other technique that helps.
Toxins are Stored in Fat
Most environmental toxins and metabolic waste products are fat soluble. This means that they have an affinity for hanging out with other fat soluble substances. Therefore, if we are exposed to or consume toxins our bodies are prone to store these substances in fat cells. Toxins may also be stored in fat cells in order to dilute their toxic effect on the body. There is a phrase that describes this scenario: “the solution to pollution is dilution”. This means that the body places the toxins in the fat cells because fat cells can grow and as the fat cells grow the toxins become more dilute.
It is important to reduce or eliminate your exposure to toxins. It is also important to ensure that your organs of elimination are functioning well. The liver, kidneys, lungs, bowels, and lymphatic system are the most important organs of elimination. I recommend assessing these organs at least once or twice a year and undergoing a medically supervised detoxification program when support is required.