Kick Start Your Diet

How To Lose Weight Naturally

Q: Any suggestions to naturally kick-start a diet and fitness regime for the new year? Lillian, Toronto

A: A holistic, naturopathic approach to weight loss aims to take into account the root cause of the problem. Weight gain and difficulty losing weight is for many people more complicated than simply burning more calories than they consume. Our metabolism is affected by our hormones, biochemistry, genetics, in addition to physical and lifestyle factors and because of this complexity, the solution to losing weight can not be found in just one supplement. In addition to encouraging physical activity, a successful weight loss regime incorporates dietary changes and supplements that target energy production, thermogenesis, blood sugar balance, mood and sleep.

Being overweight is not just an aesthetic issue. It can significantly impact quality of life as well as life expectancy due to coronary artery disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke and type two diabetes.

Dietary interventions should always be tailored to the individual and consist of whole, unprocessed foods, with adequate healthy fats, lean proteins, and a reduction in overall carbohydrate intake. To keep blood sugar balanced, eat small protein-rich meals throughout the day and eliminate white sugar, flour, rice, pasta, and potatoes.

Supplementing the diet with L-carnitine enables the mitochondria (the energy-producing factories in our cells) to burn fat rather than glucose for energy. Numerous studies have confirmed the ability of L-carnitine to improve fat loss and repair muscle. L-carnitine also reduces physical fatigue and improves mental clarity, making it a useful supplement for those who feel too tired to engage in physical activity. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil are rapidly used by the body to improve endurance and burn fat. MCT increase the body's metabolic rate and help to spare lean muscle tissue.

It is essential to also address blood sugar as elevated levels rapidly convert to fat, and can lead to insulin resistance or pre-diabetes, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. High levels of insulin increase the production of cortisol, our stress hormone, which further exacerbates weight gain, especially around the mid-section, and decreases muscle mass. D-chiroinositol helps to normalize blood sugar and insulin, reduce abdominal fat, and improve muscle building. Chromium works with insulin to properly utilize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, resulting in more balanced levels of blood sugar and a reduction in sugar cravings. Additionally, the herbal remedy Gymnema sylvestre,  can help to reduce cravings, especially for those who have a sweet tooth.

Since cravings can sabotage the goals of the bes- intentioned dieter, attention should be paid to managing stress, mood, and sleep. Elevated cortisol can suppress serotonin production and this chemical messenger is needed to help us feel full and balance our mood and emotions. Balancing serotonin can reduce carbohydrate and sugar cravings and can improve sleep by increasing melatonin, our sleep hormone. 5-HTP, extracted from the plant Griffonia, is a direct precursor to serotonin and can be a useful adjunct along with Rhodiola and Relora to balance mood and stress.

Dr. Suzanna Ivanovics, ND operates a naturopathic practice in downtown Toronto and is a consultant at The Big Carrot.