Monday, April 29, 2013

How to lose weight the Synergy Wellness way. Part 4-Nutrition

In the previous 3 blog articles we discussed the 4 lifestyle factors that will help you learn how to lose weight.  For nearly everyone, losing weight is something they are terrible at.  For the most part, this has as much to do with the philosophy they follow to lose weight as it does their willpower.  Within the Synergy Wellness Program we use a process that not only teaches you how to lose weight, it also improves overall health and energy while giving you relief from the everyday pain that has become a constant part of so many peoples' lives.  In addition, you will find that you get sicker fewer times per year and the length and symptoms of those sicknesses are far more manageable.  Let's take a look at this process and how it teaches you to lose weight.

Counting calories to lose weight and gut bacteria

Most people believe the way to lose weight is to count the calories they eat and burn and try to make sure they burn more than they eat. This paradigm will help people lose weight, but it ignores quite a large chunk of what we know about factors that significantly contribute to weight loss outside of calorie counts.  For example, what you eat has a fairly large impact on how many calories you burn, as does how much you eat.  In a study performed in 2011 by Jumpertz, et al., people who had a shift in gut bacteria that increased firmicutes and decreased bacteroidetes absorbed 150 calories more from their diet than people who did not have this change in gut flora(1).  While this may seem insignificant, over the course of a year it would lead to a weight increase of approximately 15lbs.  This change in gut bacteria has been seen experimentally in humans (2) and in mice(3).  Furthermore, switching the gut bacteria of obese mice with lean mice causes the lean mice to become obese and the obese mice to become lean (3).  Changes in gut bacteria are generally driven by the content of the diet, and a study in 2011 found that the health of elderly people (Frailty, co-morbidity, inflammation, nutritional status) was strongly related to the composition of their gut bacteria(4).  Something you need to consider if you want to know how to lose weight is that as the composition of your gut bacteria evolve, so do you.  These bacteria manufacture nutrients such as vitamin K2 that you can't make or get through diet.  They also produce a large portion of your serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter that is the target of many anti-anxiety and depression drugs that also has a role in appetite as people with low serotonin tend to overeat carbohydrates because carbohydrates increase serotonin(5)  Your gut bacteria can evolve in a way that helps you lose weight, but they can also evolve in a way that makes it difficult to lose weight as well.

To lose weight, repair your gut

The problems associated with counting calories to lose weight are not solely related to gut bacteria.  As mentioned in this blog as well as this one, the endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS) can induce insulin resistance throughout the body when it attaches to receptors on cell membranes.  LPS normally enters the blood when the intestinal wall becomes compromised, also called a leaky gut.  It is normal for LPS to be in your gut, it's not normal and certainly not good to have it in your bloodstream.  When LPS attaches to the cell membrane of immune cells called macrophages, they secrete the inflammatory messenger IL-1B.  Chronically elevated IL-1B levels have been shown to induce insulin resistance in adipose tissue(6) and negatively impact insulin secretion by beta cells in the pancreas (7).

Compounding the problem is the notion that adipose tissue can secrete IL-1B as well, further increasing IL-1B levels and, potentially, insulin resistance.  IL-1B secreted from visceral fat has been implicated in hepatic insulin resistance as well(8).  Insulin resistant people have problems when they try to lose weight because their insulin levels are always high and insulin blocks their ability to release body fat, increases appetite by not allowing cells to take in glucose that comes from carbohydrates, and can negatively impact energy levels. Chronically high insulin levels also cause a switch in muscle fibers from the more insulin sensitive IIa fibers to the most insulin resistant IIx fibers.  If you are prone to Type 2 diabetes, chronically high insulin levels will get you there.  If you are prone to putting on fat, especially around the middle, high insulin levels will get you there.  If you are trying to learn how to lose weight, high insulin levels will slow you down.

Food sensitivities

The problem with LPS inducing insulin resistance is primarily driven by this immune reaction increasing inflammation throughout the body.  LPS, however, is not the only way you can induce this type of inflammation through diet.  Hidden food intolerance can also be a problem if they increase histamine levels which, in turn, increase IL-1B levels.  Food sensitivities are different than allergies because allergies cause a near immediate IgE immune response while a sensitivity can take hours to produce symptoms and are more chronic in nature.

In both situations histamine is released, the only difference is that a food allergy is an immediate, permanent, and obvious reaction to a food while a sensitivity is typically temporary and the symptoms are not as severe so they are less recognizable.  Since most people know when they are having an allergic reaction to a food due to the severity of the reaction, they do not typically affect your ability to lose weight.  Since food intolerance tends to be hidden, people do not realize they are having an issue with the food so they continue to consume, chalking up the boating, sleep problems, headaches, and other delayed reactions to something else.

Lactose intolerance is a fairly common problem for adults as we tend to lose the ability to make the enzyme that breaks lactose down after the age of 2.  You can also have a dairy intolerance while still making the enzyme that breaks down lactose because casein, a protein in milk, is hard to digest for humans.  Gluten intolerance is another common food intolerance to a protein found in wheat in abundant amounts.  However, all grains and legumes contain storage proteins that are difficult for most people to digest.  Some people have adapted to our current food environment and are capable of digesting these proteins, the only way to find out if you are is by eliminating the problematic proteins for 8 weeks and then begin to reintroduce them.  Enter, the Paleo regression diet.

How to lose weight using a Paleo regression diet

Using a Paleo regression diet to lose weight will cover all of your bases.  Removing grains, legumes and dairy for 2 months and then beginning to reintroduce them one at a time will allow you to determine if you have a sensitivity to any of these foods.  You may be surprised to find out that what you once thought was an allergy or sensitivity to one food is actual coming from another.  A sensitivity to the sulfites found in wine is common and many people avoid red wine as a result.  I've had clients who avoided wine for decades with constant migraines find out during their regression diet that their sensitivity was to dairy, not sulfites.  Now they drink wine and only get migraines when they eat dairy.  Other clients, including myself, have identified food intolerance to be the primary cause of the symptoms related to seasonal allergies.  As long as they avoid the foods they are intolerant to their symptoms never appear.

The regression diet is also a good way to heal any injury to the gut wall and fix an imbalance of the bacteria in your gut.  This will prevent LPS from entering your bloodstream and inducing insulin resistance.  Our specific approach includes ample amounts of soluble fiber found in vegetables.  The bacteria in your gut ferment soluble fiber in to short chained fatty acids, particularly butyric acid.  Butyric acid is used by the cells of your intestinal wall to heal the gut lining, sealing a leaky gut(9).  In order for this process to occur, you need to have the proper balance of gut bacteria in your gut and you have to provide substrate for them to ferment in to the short chained fatty acids that heal the gut.  Since the damage to your gut may be the accumulation of many years of damage, you may be able to resume eating things that once caused a problem after the 2 month regression diet.  As long as you continue to lose weight and remain free of symptoms you are repairing your gut at a faster rate than you are causing damage to it. 

All of this is not to say that you can't lose weight counting calories, only that counting calories while ignoring all of these other issues will lead to lackluster weight loss.  In a metabolic ward where you are fed a precise number of calories and everything else is held constant, counting calories may be effective.  However, in the real world where we are constantly bombarded by snacks and food advertising, appetite is a huge factor in how you lose weight.  In addition, the composition of your gut bacteria is obviously important.  That is not to say counting calories will not affect this, it will.  However, the composition of your gut bacteria as well as the health of your gut barrier is primarily determined by what you eat as specific bacteria consume specific components of foods.  Cutting back on snacks and processed foods can bring you part of the way in establishing gut bacteria that will help you lose weight by providing less food for the bad bacteria, but you also must feed the good bacteria with plenty of plant matter to help maintain healthy gut barrier function.  Eating a large diversity of foods will help accomplish these tasks and set you on your way to learn how to lose weight.


Everybody is different.  How you lose weight may be very different than how I lose weight at the onset of each our journeys.  Each of us is adapted to the environment we have put ourselves in over the course of our life and that will be different for most people.  That environment will shape the health of your gut, the types and diversity of bacteria in your gut, and the inflammation within your body.  In addition, each of us may have completely different sensitivities to food that can be improved by fixing the damage caused by our reckless lifestyle.  On top of all of this, the genes each of us has inherited from our ancestors will dictate how likely we are to become obese, our risk for Type 2 diabetes, and how our internal environment responds to the external environment via hormones.  If you want to learn how to lose weight, your weight loss paradigm should take all of these factors in to account and not merely the number of calories you eat or burn.  Putting yourself in to the proper hormonal state is paramount if you want to lose weight, and a Paleo regression diet can get your body in a position to be in that state so you can identify the things that may be holding you back.  It will also give your gut time to heal so that you can enjoy foods that may have been holding you back and causing reactions via the leaky gut.  Adding foods back one at a time after 2 months will give you the personalized nutrition program you need to learn how to lose weight.

In part 5 of this blog series, we will discuss how regular daily physical activity helps you to lose weight.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

LPS, insulin resistance, and obesity...An update

A new study in the journal Nature has opened up a new understanding in the relationship between obesity, inflammation and insulin resistance that could also have a larger impact on how we view weight loss, and more importantly health and well being.  The study, published in Nature in March of 2013, has lead to a shift in my line of thinking.  Recall from this blog that when Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) manages to find it's way in to your bloodstream via a leaky gut, it induces system-wide insulin resistance.  It seemed as though this would be a good strategy to conserve glucose for the brain, but this new study in Nature implies a different reason.

LPS, fuel selection, and cellular communication

The study, located here, identifies a metabolite called succinate as a signaling molecule in immune cells called macrophages that causes them to increase secretion of the inflammatory molecule IL-1B(1).  Succinate levels increase because macrophages shift their metabolism from oxidative phosphorylation (Fat burning) to aerobic glycolysis (Sugar burning) when LPS attaches to receptors on the plasma membrane.  This would increase macrophage activity as glycolysis produces energy much more rapidly than oxidative phosphorylation, something you want when a foreign invader enters you bloodstream.  Theoretically speaking, when succinate increases IL-1B, it is telling the rest of your cells that glucose is needed to fight the infection rather than for being stored for later muscular contraction.  Perhaps the relationship between inflammation and insulin resistance is simply communication between body systems (Immune and musculoskeletal) to partition resources(glucose) to the more pressing need(fighting an infection). 

This doesn't prevent muscles from burning glucose as physical activity causes glucose transporters to bring in glucose to muscles cells.  What it does is block insulin from increasing glucose uptake in to resting muscles as insulin's primary function is to store glucose as glycogen for later use.  Basically, it shouldn't directly impact the use of glucose by muscles, but it will indirectly impact the use of glucose in muscle by preventing the storage glucose for later use during recovery.  Click here for a not-as-sciencey rundown of this. This is not to say there is no benefit to the brain in this scenario, but since the signal originates from the immune system we should focus there.

When the scientists blocked succinate production with the anti-epilepsy drug vigabatrin, they were able to inhibit expression of IL-1B, cutting down the level of inflammation.  High IL-1B levels are seen in many diseases including diabetes.  Let's take a look at some of my older blogs and see where this all fit's in to the obesity/diabetes discussion.

Previous Type 2 diabetes discussion

Recall from here and here that Type 2 diabetics and people prone to obesity tend to have a higher percentage of Type IIx muscle fibers and a lower percentage of Type I fibers. There are 3 basic muscle fiber types: Type I, Type IIa, and Type IIx.  The type I fibers burn primarily fat, the IIa fibers burn primarily glycogen, and the IIx fibers burn primarily ATP as they do not tend to store much energy in the form of fat or glycogen to recharge ATP.  However, the Type II muscle fiber types can convert in to one another with physical activity or a lack of it.  When a person becomes sedentary over long periods of time, the IIa fibers begin converting to IIx fibers as their need to store glycogen to recharge ATP stores is not needed because they are not used.  When a person begins using the IIx fibers more with physical activity, they convert in to the IIa fibers as they begin to store more glycogen.  This leaves them with more room to store glycogen which gives the glucose from excess carbohydrate consumption a place to go.  However, this point is moot if LPS is inducing system-wide insulin resistance by partitioning glucose to the immune system and away from muscle cells.

This causes a double-edged sword scenario.  On the one hand, having a higher percentage of Type II muscle fiber types means a larger portion of your musculature uses glucose as a fuel supply.  In a trained state this is beneficial but in an untrained state you have a larger percentage of muscle fibers that don't use energy.  The problem is, as discussed in the first blog mentioned in the above paragraph, high insulin levels are what cause the IIa fibers to convert to IIx fibers.  Since the IIx fibers are the most insulin resistant of the muscle fibers, LPS induced system-wide insulin resistance can force adaptation in a way that will just make you progressively more insulin resistant, even when you are no longer directly dealing with LPS in the blood. As such, high levels of LPS need to be dealt with and avoided altogether if fixing insulin resistance is your goal.  However, we still have the other edge of that sword to deal with.

Since people who are prone to diabetes and obesity have a higher percentage of Type II muscle fibers, this means they also have a lower percentage of Type I muscle fibers.  Recall that the Type I muscle fibers burn primarily fat.  If LPS is inducing insulin resistance to spare glucose for the immune system, this means muscle is going to have to metabolize fat.  The problem here is that a lower proportion of Type I muscle fibers means a reduced ability to metabolize fat.  This effect, coupled with a decreased ability to suppress fatty acid release from adipose tissue(2) could be why we see something that is common in people with Type 2 diabetes, high levels of triglycerides in the blood.  We also see an accumulation of triglycerides in tissues that should not have high triglyceride levels such as muscle and liver tissue(2).  In people with a higher percentage of Type I muscle fibers, this may not be a concern as they are more equipped to metabolize fat and the Type I fibers are the most sensitive to insulin. This could help explain why they are less likely to contract Type 2 diabetes.


As you can see, having LPS in your bloodstream is far from an ideal scenario.  It has been hypothesized that the consumption of grains and dairy can increase the likelihood of LPS making it's way in to the bloodstream via a leaky gut.  This could potentially be one of the reasons a Paleo diet has been shown to improve glycemic control at a rapid rate, much faster than a Mediterranean diet (Paleo lowered FBG by 23 mg/dL in 10 days vs 0mg/dL for Mediterranean diet)(3).  The primary difference between these 2 diets is that the Paleo diet is grain, legume and dairy free while the Mediterranean diet is not.  In this particular study, they did not measure IL-1B levels and in other studies they measured CRP levels with no significant change (4).  Given the results of the recent study in Nature, perhaps measuring IL-1B  in a study comparing the Paleo diet with the Mediterranean diet can give us an answer to these questions and bring us closer to understanding more of the mechanisms that underlie insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.

Monday, April 22, 2013

How to lose weight the Synergy Wellness way. Part 3

In the 2 previous installments of this blog series we discussed how to lose weight by collecting data and choosing which data is relevant.  In this blog, we will discuss the specific factors that contribute most to your ability to lose weight.  Most people are familiar with changing diet and exercise, but are unfamiliar with 2 factors that are far more important: Stress and physical activity.  We will discuss all 4 in the hopes of helping you learn how to lose weight.

Dieting to lose weight

You have probably heard the saying, "There's more than one way to skin a cat!"  In much the same way, you can approach diet a million ways and successfully lose weight following completely different plans.  While there are a number of ways that work well to lose weight, the ways that will work for you are not the same as the ways that work for somebody else.  I have many clients in South Jersey who have successfully lost weight doing the 8 hour diet, the South Beach Diet, the Atkins Diet, and any other diet you can think of.  When selecting the diet of choice, it's best to understand which aspects of your current nutritional plan are negatively impacting your ability to lose weight the most and working around those issues first.  You also want to realize that other factors are going to impact which diet is best for you to lose weight.

For example, you may have a problem with late night snacking and choose the 8 hour diet where you only eat during 8 hours of the day and set your 8 hour period to end at 6pm.  This is all well and good, but if you typically work until 5pm and exercise from 5-6pm, you may go from lunch until the end of your 8 hour window without eating, setting yourself up for failure.  The best diet for you will not only provide your body with nourishment and the proper foods, it also must fit around the rest of your life and some diets just don't do that.  For our program we typically start with our own regression diet with 3 meals and no snacking for 2 months.  If you find it difficult to stick to that schedule we can tweak the schedule here or there provided you stick to the other parameters laid out in the program.  During the initial 2 months you will lose weight while identifying the things that you should and shouldn't be eating.  This will be specific to the individual and give each person a firm handle on the diet that best works for them. We are literally finding out how you lose weight from the diet side of things.

Exercise to lose weight

Should I do Zumba?  Is strength training something I should consider?  What about boot camps or Crossfit?  When people are asking these questions, what they truly want to know is how to exercise to lose weight.  The answer to this question is basically the same as the one above, it depends on everything else.  In our program we like to introduce one change at a time to manage stress better.  If you are already exercising, we may have you cut back or perform other forms of exercise that are right for your current state so we can introduce diet and it won't be a shock to your system.

For example, if you are currently doing Crossfit 3 nights a week, Zumba 1 night a week, and a bootcamp on the weekends you probably need to cut back if you can't lose weight.  Chances are, in this scenario, your ability to lose weight is being compromised by an excess level of stress.  Adding more stress to that equation will not help you lose weight, it will prevent it.  So, we'll have you cut back a little on your exercise which will free up some time to help with preparing food for your diet.  In fact, your inability to lose weight may not be  specifically from the over-exercising, it may be a result of not providing the nutrition your body needs to recover from it.

It may also be a situation where you would take one of the Crossfit days and lower the intensity or volume on that day to help speed recovery.  There are a lot of exercise variables you can manipulate to get the desired results you are looking for whether your goal is to lose weight or prepare for an athletic event.  This is why more data is always better.  While you may think your problem is one thing, that one factor could actually be driven by a separate factor or a number of them.  This is also why changing 50 things all at once as most people looking to lose weight typically do is bad, if you change too many variables you can't see which one is helping you lose weight and which one is hindering you.

Physical activity to lose weight

When trying to lose weight, people think physical activity is synonymous with exercise.  While exercise is a form of physical activity, you have to look at physical activity as a whole.  Physical activity can teach you a ton about how you lose weight because it is impacted by all of the other variables we are discussing today.  If you are not eating enough food, physical activity will naturally become less and less.  Supporting the body with diet in a way that doesn't impact physical activity is an important factor in losing weight.  If you don't eat enough food, you will lack the energy to get up and move.  I do not recommend using energy balance as your means of measuring weight loss (Focusing on burning more calories than you can eat) because it is easy to measure intake but difficult to measure expenditure.  If you choose to use this method and you cut your calories by 500 calories a day and unwittingly reduce physical activity by the same amount, where does that get you?  Certainly not in a better situation to lose weight. There are many tools you can use to assess physical activity, we use the Fitbit activity tracker because of the depth of data it collects, but you could use any pedometer-style device.

Fitbit One and Zip

My words are probably not enough to convince you that physical activity outside of exercise is a more important factor to help you lose weight, but maybe a little math will.  There are a total of 168 hours in a week.  If you exercise 5 days a week for 2 hours at a time, that is 10 total hours of physical activity.  That's a grand total of 6% of your total hours for the week, and that's assuming you exercise too much.  Aside from getting constant low grade physical activity throughout the day by walking and avoiding being seated for long periods of time, we recommend 2-3 hours of exercise per week and our clients see fabulous results doing this.  In fact, their results are much better than you will ever see doing it the other way.  To lose weight, it's not about the calories being burned, it's about the genes being activated, and this is time dependent.

Managing Stress to lose weight

How you manage stress is something you really need to pay attention to if you want to lose weight.  In fact, all of the other topics are as in involved with managing stress as they are with losing weight.  In many ways, exercise done properly can help you manage stress by giving you an outlet.  However, exercise done incorrectly can push your stress levels to the limit if you are over-exercising or experiencing high levels of life stress and not cutting back on exercise at the same time.  Think of your stress level as a bank account.  You will take withdrawals from your "stress account", but you better balance your withdrawals with some deposits or you will eventually lose your ability to deal with stress altogether as your account balance crumbles to zero or even negative.

Exercise can take withdrawals from your account AND make deposits depending on which type of exercise you do.  How most people believe they lose weight is through the type of exercise that takes withdrawals such as distance running, boot camps, crossfit, and aerobic classes.  When you look at weight loss from an energy balance perspective this makes the most sense.  The problem is, energy balance is affected by your stress account and if you don't balance withdrawals with deposits, you simple don't lose weight.  The type of exercise that makes deposits in to your stress account include yoga, meditation, foam rolling/stretching, and tai chi.  These are great strategies for managing stress and improving recovery from training.  In fact, performing these exercise modalities can improve weight loss by allowing you to train more without overdrawing your stress account.


Diet, exercise, physical activity, and stress management are the 4 major factors or variables that you need to manipulate in order to lose weight.  Paying attention to these variables either by directly collecting data  and/or subjectively managing them with the way you feel will give you a more thorough understanding of how you lose weight.  Most people look at these 4 factors and try to deduce which one(s) are the most important.  The truth of the matter is, all 4 are important and you will not lose weight effectively without manipulating all 4.  That is not to say that everyone's journey will be exactly the same; we all have different lifestyles, different genetic make up, and different pasts that will shape which approach is best for each variable in order to lose weight.  The reason we use a regression diet as the starting point for our nutrition program is based on the concept that we are all different and are affected differently by foods as well as the other 3 variables.  With diet we just need to bring everyone back to the point where we weren't so different to identify the dietary approach best suited for the individual to lose weight.

In Part 4 of this series we will discuss why we use a Paleo Regression diet to lose weight.  I'll give you a hint...It has to do with evolution, but not just your own.

Part 4

Monday, April 15, 2013

How to lose weight the Synergy Wellness way, Part Deux

How to lose weight?  In the last blog we discussed this very question and why most of your weight loss efforts go for naught.  In it we discovered that the key to losing weight is putting your efforts behind the proper paradigm.  For decades we have been following the wrong paradigm by counting calories and pounding away on a treadmill or bicycle.  While this may help you lose weight temporarily, you typically end up right back where you were in short order because it's not sustainable.  In this blog we will look at tools that can help you learn how to lose weight and give you the feedback you need to make continued progress toward your ideal physique.

One of the things that is invaluable in determining how to lose weight is feedback, or data.  Most people already use some form of data when they try to lose weight because they step on the scale to find out their weight on a regular basis.  The problem is, this doesn't teach you anything.  You are more or less performing an experiment on your self  and while you are trying to learn how to lose weight, all you look at is some number the scale gives us.  Most people don't cross-reference this data with anything else, all good experiments need 2 types of data.  It's a good idea to have something else to compare your weight loss or gain to.  In the research field, your weight and/or the weight you lose or gain is referred to as a dependent variable.

If you were running a study on the effects of standing on bone density, bone density is your dependent variable.  The problem is, just measuring a dependent variable isn't very useful, we want to know the dependent variable, but we also want to know what caused the dependent variable to change.  This is referred to as the independent variable.  In our bone density study, the independent variable would be the number of hours you spent standing.  In an experiment, you would normally set up 2 or more groups that stood for different lengths during the day. When you compare the bone densities (the dependent variable) of each, you would notice an interaction where the dependent variable changes based on the independent variable (Time standing).  This would give you information on what you should do to improve your bone density.  While some of you may care about your bone density, you should, most of you are here to lose weight.  Let's take a look at the independent variables in your journey to lose weight.

If you were designing an experiment, the independent variables on your journey to learn how to lose weight are merely the lifestyle factors you manipulate to attempt to lose weight.  For most people this is going to the gym or running or bicycling over long distances.  The problem is, in the grand scheme of things, these things are actually very tiny components of how your body loses weight.  In most people, they actually slow weight loss because they are done incorrectly and lead to an internal environment that prevents weight loss rather than one that promotes it because they ignore what is going on in the body altogether.  When looking to lose weight, there are numerous independent variables to control.  Of primary importance are diet, sleep, stress, sedentary time, and physical activity.  These can all be measured with the Fitbit activity tracker, the topic of this blog.

Physical activity is a very powerful piece of data because it is one that is easy to measure.  When I work with clients, I have them use a Fitbit activity tracker for 3 days to get a general idea of where their physical activity is.  The Fitbit is a great piece of technology because unlike other pedometers, it gives you more than just total steps per day and allows you to measure most, if not all of your independent variables.  You can extract quite a bit of information out of the Fitbit data.  Having worked with many clients who want to know how to lose weight, I have assessed quite a bit of this data.  In addition to the activity and step data, you can also enter independent variables in to your Fitbit Dashboard that the Fitbit doesn't measure such as what you eat, your blood glucose reading, your resting heart rate, and subjective feelings you record in the journal section.  You can also enter your weight so you can see how your dependent variable is affected by your independent variables.  I have clients enter as much data as they can during their initial 3 day evaluation and when I look over the data I can tell precisely what they are doing wrong.  The best part is, I never have to meet this person, they could be in Timbuktu and as long as they have internet access and a Fitbit I can look over their data and Skype them or send them a report.  I can give them an answer to the question, "How do I lose weight?" because I can see everything they are doing that either slows weight loss down or stops it all together.  From an epigenetics perspective, I can see what they are doing that sends the wrong signals to their cells, not allowing them to lose weight.  Maybe they are spending too much time sitting down, maybe their poor sleep habits are throwing off their blood glucose numbers which prevents fat from being burned, or maybe they are overeating carbohydrates for their particular lifestyle.  Wearing it over long periods of time can also help identify food sensitivities the person may have.  If you are having trouble trying to figure out how to lose weight, the Fitbit is a really useful tool to help you.

In the next blog, we will look at specific independent variables/lifestyle factors and how they impact your ability to lose weight.  These are principles everyone should understand and if you are currently using a fitness professional or wellness coach and they're not driving this home you may want to look elsewhere.

Part 3

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How to lose weight the Synergy Wellness way!

For many people, losing weight is a lifelong battle because they don't know how to lose weight.  The reason it's a lifelong battle is because people lose weight for a short period of time but then begin to pack it back on as they return to their old habits.  While the primary purpose of the Synergy Wellness Program is to live a healthy and happy life, one of the welcomed side effects is fast and effective weight loss.  If you've been counting calories and pounding away on the treadmill with no weight loss results, sit tight and you'll learn precisely why you've had trouble accomplishing what so many people have trouble accomplishing.  In other words, let's learn how to lose weight!

A Paradigm Shift

Looking at yourself as a machine that you pump energy in to (in the form of food) and get energy out of (in the form of physical activity or exercise) is the primary way people look at weight loss.  This approach to weight loss is called the energy balance equation and it states that if you eat fewer calories than you burn you will lose weight and if you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight.  This approach to weight loss has been used for years and, unfortunately, it's wrong on a couple of accounts.  The first law of thermodynamics, which the energy balance equation is based on, states that energy is always conserved in a closed system.  One of the problems with using this law to dictate weight loss is that humans are not closed systems, closed systems do not interact with their environment but humans do.  For one, if your 98.6 degree body enters a 70 degree room, your body will need to generate heat to maintain it's temperature.  This is not a characteristic of a closed system, we are open systems.

Don't get me wrong, I am not denying that there is probably some relationship between the excess amount of energy we have left in our bodies at the end of the day and weight gain, but it is an indirect relationship.  The problem is that accumulating or burning fat is not a process of physics, it's a process of biology.  In other words, physics can't tell you how to lose or gain weight, it can only tell you whether you are in a negative energy state, a positive energy state, or a balanced energy state.  Losing and gaining weight are biological processes carried out by your cells.  You can see how important calories are in this process by looking at the number of calorie receptors on your cells (I'll give you a hint, it's zero).

When a person wants to learn how to lose weight, what they are really trying to accomplish is the burning of body fat.  This process is dictated within you, a biological system, by the signals that are sent to your cells via hormones and enzymes.  If your cells don't get the signals to burn fat they won't, regardless of how big of a caloric deficit you are in.  Your goal, then, should be to send the proper signals to your cells.

How to lose weight using Epigenetics

You are much like the cells within your body.  In the same way you adapt to the environment you are in, they do the same thing.  In fact, you relay information to your cells about the environment you are in via the hormones and enzymes your body pumps out.  So, in a way, your internal environment is a hormonal representation of the external environment you live in.  To understand how this works, we need to understand how your cells work.  Within the nucleus of every one of your cells is something called DNA.  Your DNA is basically a blueprint for you and it is identical in every one of your cells no matter what type of cell.  Within your DNA are thousands of genes which are specific orders for the cells to carry out.  If the DNA is a blueprint for a house, genes are the specific orders such as, "Put the front door here".  If the DNA and genes are identical in all cells, why is a hair cell different than an eye cell?  They are different because different genes are activated based on the environment the cell is in.

Molecules from the environment of the cell attach to the cell and tell it which portion of the DNA to read.  Think of it like a DVD.  The entire DVD contains all of the information, but you can read different parts of the DVD by starting the DVD at different places.  The same thing happens with your cells, the environment the cell is in tells the cell which part of the DVD to read and it carries out this function.  If we are looking to answer the question, "How do you lose weight?", the answer is getting your cells to carry out the function within your DNA that tells them to do so.  But how do you do that?  By providing the proper internal environment via hormones and enzymes for the cell to read that part of the DNA.  This is called epigenetics, how your genes and environment interact.  So how will this help you lose weight?

To lose weight all we need to do is understand the hormonal factors that lead to weight loss and do more of them, and understand the hormonal factors that lead to weight gain and avoid them.  Over time, provided you spend more time doing the former and less time doing the latter, you will achieve the weight loss you are striving for.  The problem with trying to lose weight via energy balance is that counting calories and trying to burn more calories than you eat will only work if it satisfies the epigenetic mechanisms that tell a cell to burn fat.  This will lead to weight loss, at least the type of weight loss most of us are trying to accomplish.  This is what I mean when I say energy balance will only work indirectly.  Let's take a brief look at epigenetics in action.

Burning fat or losing water weight?

How many calories do you need to burn to lose a pound of fat?  Most people would probably say 3500 calories because that is what every trainer, dietitian, nutritionist or doctor has told them.  While there is, indeed, 3500 calories in a pound of fat, that is not the question that is being asked.  The question I asked is how many calories do you need to burn to lose a pound of fat.  From a physics perspective 3500 is the number because that is how many calories in a pound of fat.  From a biological perspective the number is actually much greater, and it increases as the intensity of your activity increases.  This is because you are never burning 100% of your calories from fat, at most you are burning 60% of your calories from fat and this occurs at rest.  So, doing a little math, you have to burn 5833 calories to burn one pound of fat and this occurs at rest.

As the intensity of your activity increases, you may burn more calories but a higher percentage comes from glucose.  This is because this type of effort is primarily powered by glucose, so you send signals to your cells to burn more glucose.  When you finish the effort and go back to rest, you begin burning fat again.  In fact, you burn more fat than if you would have never done that intense exercise because your resting metabolic rate will increase due to your body using fat to recover from the intense effort.  However, if you do this type of intense activity too much, you will exceed your body's ability to  recover and you may get stuck in glucose burning mode, something we will discuss in a later blog.  So while you may lose weight, you won't lose fat.  You will just be shuffling water around in your body as each molecule of glucose requires 4 molecules of water for the cell to store it as glycogen.  The next time you eat any significant amount of carbohydrate and drink any amount of water the weight you lose will come back on...Sound familiar?  All of this occurs via the effect of hormones which dictate what your cells should do, which enzymes they should make, and which enzymes they should not.  Ignoring all of this and focusing your time on energy balance will prevent you from effectively losing weight.  Energy balance is not how you lose weight, epigenetics is.

In the next installment of this series, we will discuss some of the important factors that can tell you how to lose weight.

Part 2

Paleo Diet not working? Part 1-Intense effort

In the 17 years that I have been working with people to help them get healthy and in shape, I have never seen quite what I see with the Paleo diet. No other diet causes so much change so rapidly. I’m not just referring to the weight loss, I am talking about health parameters, energy levels, attitude, systemic pain, and just about anything you would expect is affected by diet. While I think the Paleo diet is the cat’s meow, I think people overstate it’s effectiveness. If you take your average 300 pounder, they will get immediate, dramatic change. However, if you take your average person who only has about 30bs to drop, they may drop 10lbs of fat rapidly, and then they stall. Once they’ve stalled for more than a couple of weeks, they get desperate and feel the diet is failing them. In this respect, the Paleo diet is a victim of it’s own success.  IN this multiple part series, I will go over the important factors that people seem to ignore when following a Paleo diet.

Part 1: Intense Exercise

One thing that I’ve found, whether it is from giving online advice or working with clients, is that these people tend to have little desire to progress their training regimen. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to get bulky, which doesn’t happen unless your diet is terrible, or maybe it’s because they are plain lazy. I don’t know the answer to that but I can tell you one thing, you are not going to get an ideal physique walking and eating the Paleo diet. I’d even argue that you aren’t going to get an ideal physique jogging and doing the Paleo diet. In order to change the way your metabolism runs and lean out effectively, you need to force physiological adaptation at the level of the cell. You need a ton of mitochondria to burn fat, high glycogen storage capacity to give you a cushion when you cheat, and routine activation of muscle fibers you aren’t going to activate doing everyday activities.

When you look at people like Mark Sisson or some of the more ideal physiques in the Paleo community, you need to realize that a lot of work was put in up front to attain that physique. In my opinion the diet takes care of quite a bit, but you need to hold up your end of the bargain. This means putting in low volume high intensity physical activity 2-3 times a week. Whether that activity comes from lifting weights or playing flag football is irrelevant, so long as it is of sufficient intensity. The problem most people run in to is that they have no strength base, so getting in intense activity is difficult to do when playing football because they are slow and ineffective. It’s really difficult for a person like this to get intense activity outside of weight training because how do you increase the amount of force you generate? When you take in to consideration that you are typically losing weight and, therefore, moving less weight, you are actually producing less force. Enter weight training.

Weight training not only provides a way to produce a lot of force, it also gives you a way to measure and progress it. If I do lunges with 20lbs this week and then next week I do them with 25lbs, I am increasing the amount of force I am producing. Even if I lose weight I can account for that by choosing to lift that much more. It has been my experience that most people are going to have to, at the very least, put in some weight training up front so that when they do decide to play football, baseball, or whatever sport they choose they can generate sufficient forces. It really doesn’t require that much effort and time. My clients either do 3 45 minute full body workouts per week or 4 30 minutes sessions alternating between upper and lower body. If you were to calculate how much of that time was spent actually working it’s actually quite low. Doing sets that are 15-20 seconds long followed by 3 minutes of walking around for recovery six times doesn’t really seem that difficult to me. That’s 90 seconds of intense activity and 18 minutes of walking around per day. Seems like an awfully small price to pay for an ideal physique, what do you think?