BY: DR. LYDIA THURTON
I’ve helped hundreds of patients lose weight. When I first started, I would get incredibly nervous treating weight loss clients. What would I say to them? Eat healthy and exercise? Ugh. Everyone already knows that! Particularly patients that have carried extra weight most of their lives. By the time someone finds their way to my office they have usually been struggling with their weight for years. They’ve tried diets, they’ve joined boot camps and some of them had even seen other doctors for help. What did I have to offer? When I first started practice, I can honestly say, not much. I really disliked treating weight loss.
I’m happy to say that six years into practice, and countless hours studying metabolism has given me a real handle on what it takes for people to not only lose fat mass, but keep it off long term. By far, the most impactful thing you can do for your health and risk of chronic disease is to shed excess belly fat. This is particularly the case for my Caribbean patient base. Many people of Black and South East Asian descent (including Guyanese and Trinidadians) carry excess abdominal fat and are at greater risk of metabolic cancers (colon, breast), cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Enough is enough.
I’m going to give away two of my weight loss secrets in this article. All my techniques are safe and have been shown to reduce your risk of chronic disease. And some of what I’m going to tell you goes against conventional wisdom. I will start by letting you know that much of the nutrition research we follow was funded by food companies that do not care about your health and only want you to consume more of their product. Always think critically.
The first thing to understand, is that if you are overweight your body resists using fat as a fuel source. If your body wants energy, it is using carbohydrates and sugar from your blood stream and liver. And your storage form of energy, fat, just sits there and accumulates year after year. When your body metabolizes carbohydrates and sugars it releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin tells your body to store any excess sugar as fat mass. If you are steadily gaining weight it is because you are secreting a lot of insulin and this is signalling your body to gain more fat.
You can still eat carbohydrates if you teach your body how to burn fat. You do this by depleting your body of carbohydrates over night by fasting. If you go between fourteen and sixteen hours without eating your body has no choice but to start using fat as fuel. You will have burned all available sugars overnight. If you stop eating at 8pm do not have your breakfast until 10am. This will ensure you go into a fat burning mode every day, not just when you are on a “diet.”
Secondly, your breakfast is absolutely critical. If you eat a high fat, high protein breakfast for your first meal, your blood sugar remains low and you do not secrete insulin. And you are full! You’ve just eaten a breakfast that has plenty of calories, but no carbohydrates. Avoid bagels, toast, cereal, and muffins like the plague. Eat them later in the day if you must have them. This high fat, high protein breakfast keeps your body burning fat. It must – there are no carbohydrates to burn. If you don’t eat enough fat, your body will burn protein instead. That’s not what you want. Don’t be afraid of healthy fats and oils. They will keep you full and keep you in fat burning mode.
If you fast for fourteen hours and then have the breakfast I suggest you will go approximately eighteen hours of a 24-hour span burning fat as fuel. Do that for a couple of weeks and your body will reduce the amount of insulin it makes and you will stop the signal to keep gaining weight and start losing weight without suffering through a low-calorie diet. Reducing your insulin for most of the day also makes it ok to have some carbohydrates so you don’t have to restrict yourself from foods you love. To top it off, low insulin levels can prevent many of the chronic diseases that are ravaging our community. Live longer and feel great!