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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jeni St. Onge

Putting to Rest the "Calories In, Calories" theory for Weight Loss - and What to Do Instead

So, I see a TON of people (almost everyone who comes to see) who want or need to lose weight. I'm not talking about a few pounds to fit into a bikini. I'm talking the extra weight that effects self confidence, sleep, digestion, the abiity to move and interact with friends and family. The kind that cause diabetes and heart disease.

Most of these people have subscribed to the "Eat Less and Exercise More Theory". It's all about calories in this scenario. You burn off more than you take in. I wish it were that simple. But, when hormones get involved, it's not that simple! You see, low calorie diets really can cause damage. This becomes even more true if you have a thryoid problem. Why is that, you might ask? A low calorie diet (1,000 calories per day or less) has been show to reduce the production of T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone) by up to 22%. (1) That's a problem because T3 is what makes our metabolisms work, our hair nice, warms us up and does all the good stuff! Even people who do not have a thyroid problem can have a hard time recovering from such a low calorie diet. In some cases, this can be enough to CAUSE a thyroid issue! The lower the calories go, the worse the problem.

The other part of the equation in the "Calories In, Calories Out" equation is movement or exercise to burn more calories. That's a good thing, right? Well... It turns out that moderate to high intensity exercise can actually raise stress hormone or cortisol levels. (2) That can trigger the body to elevate blood sugar and insulin and make weight loss difficult! Cortisol is the reason so many people pack on weight around the mid-section. So, pushing it super hard isn't the answer either. Exercise IS important, but lower intensity is the way to go for weight loss. We don't hear that very often. We hear about how you have to push it and work really hard. Perhaps it's time to re-think this!

So, if eating less and exercising more isn't the right answer... What is? Well, it turns out that focusing on Quality of food vs. Quanity is a good starting place. Focus on eating nutrient dense, whole foods that provide nutrition. There are so many processed, packaged products that promise the perfect macro count or are labeled at "keto" or whatever is popular, but they don't actually provide the nutrition that simply eating clean sources of protein like grass fed beef and organic chicken plus a colorful pallet of vegetables will. Also, make sure to move and do things that increase strength, endurance and flexibility, but keep the intensity lower most of the time (if you are training in a sport, this changes a bit, but most of us are simply trying to look and feel our best :)

It also really helps to have an honest assessment of where you are... What does you thryoid really look like? For a full discussion on what a true, full thyroid panel looks like you can read about that here. What about your insulin and cortisol levels? Are these issues for you? If they are and you aren't able to lose weight, it can be super helpful to troubleshoot if you have good data and a functional perspection on those labs. Someone to talk you through what they found and what you need to do to make the situation better. Ask "Why" questions and get to the root cause of the issue.

If you have a question about that and would like to chat, please use the link below and we will give you a call at the scheduled time and walk you through any questions you have and our process to help. It's free... We just want to help as many people as we can feel the way they deserve to feel!

To your health,

Dr. Jeni

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