The majority of us are overweight and obese, and it's killing our healthcare system, our economy, and us.
I know changing eating habits is difficult.
But it's entirely possible to change eating behaviors and get rid of excess weight naturally.
So I'm just going to cut to the chase on the advanced strategies that I would recommend to my own grandmother if she needed to attack these problems head on.
1.) Work with a professional trained in functional nutrition to identify and address imbalance of hypothalamus-pituitary pathways affecting regulation of stress, thyroid function, growth & sex hormones.
- Take practical steps to improve sleep such as reducing caffeine intake.
- High levels of cortisol are related to obesity and reducing stress may help modulate leptin activity (1; 2; 3).
- I’ve previously written on herbal approaches to blood sugar management and stress relief.
- Take practical steps to improve sleep quality and duration. Sleep loss is associated with low levels of leptin and possible increased risk of obesity (4).
2.) Similarly, identify and address neurotransmitter imbalances such as serotonin and dopamine, which can be affected by insulin resistance.
- Work with health professional to assess gastrointestinal function and balance of healthy bacteria & identify possible hidden infections and food sensitivities & intolerances.
- Pay attention to tolerance of dietary lectins found in cereal grains (wheat, rice, corn, etc), potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and legumes (see list). Dietary lectins may offer a missing link in the case of “diseases of affluence” such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. (5).
- Identify high-sensitivity foods such as dairy, soy, eggs, tree nuts, shellfish, wheat, corn, & other cross-reactive grains.
3.) Take practical steps to implement Meditation and a Low-Palatability Diet as championed by Stephen Guyenet, PhD of Whole Health Source. If you are interested in an in-depth (and nerd-friendly) analysis of this topic, I highly recommend reading Guyenet’s “What Causes Insulin Resistance” series.
- Diets high in both fat and fructose are associated with leptin resistance and can create a vicious cycle of poor weight management (6; 7). This vicious cycle may reflect the “addictive” nature of certain foods.
- High sugar, salt, and fat diet may contribute to overeating due to addictive qualities and effect on dopamine neurons (8; 9; 10; 11)
- Stay away from pizza, ice cream, chips, fried foods, and other fatty, sugary, & salty snacks that fit a high-palatability profile
- Do not confuse this with fad "low-fat", "low-carb" and "low-salt" diets.
4.) Mindful eating may be important lifestyle skill to break the cycle of overfeeding.
- Mindful eating can be considered a form of meditation and is associated with improved sugar control, feeding behavior, and weight management.
- Telling someone to eat mindfully can be impractical due to its demand for conscious brain resources & it’s disregard for stress in our lives.
- We love reading advice about eating more mindfully, but we still fail to do actually practice it.
5.) Balance different forms of exercise. A mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercise appears to work better for decreasing leptin and increasing anti-inflammatory hormones than either type by itself (12).
- Some evidence indicates that women may benefit more from a focus on resistance training (13).
6.) Nutraceutical "Food as Medicine" approaches:
- Curcumin from turmeric shown to downregulate leptin (14)
- Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, nuts, seeds, and some plants may help modulate release of leptin (15)
- Probiotics may help to improve gastrointestinal integrity and immune balance, while also improving production of short chain fatty acids which may have direct influence on leptin as mentioned earlier.
- A host of other compounds including, but not limited to L-glutamine, aloe leaf, licorice extract, vitamin D, rosemary, hops, ginger, garlic, monolaurin, green tea extract, & more may offer positive benefits on gut bacteria, gut-brain interactions and general immune health.