What is holding you back from losing weight?

(In this article I cover the basics of the underlying mechanism beneath weight gain as well as the confusion regarding choosing the right "diet". In the second part of this article, I will share some of the simple and effective ways that can help you focus on the right "diet" for you which is an integral part of the weight loss process)

 

I had done a recent survey about the health and wellness goals that people have these days. The objective was to uncover the most common goals that people want to work towards as well as the major obstacles that usually come in the way of meeting them. While the sample size was small (under 50), this was the first time I had directly reached out to people like you so that I could fine tune my services and offerings in line with what most of you are struggling with.

Once I analysed the results of the survey, I realised that I had seen similar issues being raised in many other groups and communities that I am a part of around the world. The health issues that we are facing in our societies and communities are not really unique to any particular country or location. Weight loss (in a healthy and sustainable manner) came out as the number one issue on most people's minds everywhere. This is also corroborated by the fact that there is a multibillion-dollar global industry with different "diets", "pills", books, gym memberships and other resources to help us lose weight.

However, as most of us may realise, inspite of all the awareness about exercise and "healthy" diets, there is something missing here, something that is not right. This approach is simply NOT working for most of us. Otherwise, there would not be more people (including children) who are overweight and in many cases, chronically ill.

There would be much less!

Weight loss is usually NOT what I focus on with my clients as the main objective since there is always an underlying reason why your body is holding on to the weight. For our bodies weigh gain is usually a protective as well as a defensive mechanism in order to survive in the environment in which we are asking it to live in.

Many of us are leading a life that is inherently stressful due to

  • poor lifestyle choices like lack of restorative sleep and relaxation practices
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • poor food choices like sugary foods  including beverages, refined carbohydrates and edible food like substances

Is it any wonder that our bodies are struggling to keep us healthy given the circumstances?

In fact, one of the main reasons (there are others as well) that we put on weight in the first place is often a diet that is full of refined carbohydrates containing empty calories (think pasta, breads, pizza, sugary foods and beverages) due to the mechanism of a critical hormone called insulin.

You may not know that insulin

-is released from the pancreas when blood sugar rises

-escorts the sugar out of your blood and into the cells for energy

-promotes limited storage of glycogen (it provides the body with a readily available source of energy if blood glucose levels decrease) by the liver

-triggers fat storage in the body

As a result of the poor food choices mentioned above, many of us have chronic blood sugar spikes leading to cells becoming "insulin resistant" over a period of time making the pancreas work harder and harder to secrete more insulin to FORCE the cells to accept more sugar. Meanwhile, your cells suffer from both low energy and too much sugar as insulin ensures that first the excess glucose is converted into glycogen and stored in the liver and muscle tissue and the rest (excess sugar) as fat. What used to be a life saving mechanism in the distant past when food was scarce and sugar consumption was negligible is now working against us due to our modern lifestyle and diet.

Once you are able to grasp this concept, it becomes that much easier to work WITH our bodies to lose the excess weight rather than AGAINST it. When we finally understand that our body has been only trying to protect us all this while and needs to be given the attention and support that it needs to lose the excess weight, we can start going beyond fad diets and exercises that may not be suiting our unique body types and circumstances.

There is no ONE right "diet"

I come across many people in my practice and elsewhere who are thoroughly confused about what to eat (and what to feed their children). I cannot really blame them given the often contradictory views that are shared on the same topic by different experts and nutritionists. For eg. there is much controversy regarding whether ghee and coconut oil is good OR bad for you; whether we should be on a low carb, high fat or all the other combinations possible in this space and many more. No wonder many people simply give up trying to even make sense of it all! 

Going into all the reasons why there is so much of controversy is beyond the scope of this article, but I will share a few things that are foundational to figuring out the approach that is RIGHT for you. Our individual weight loss journeys are and always will be unique to each of us and needs to happen from a place of strength rather than deprivation or at war with our own bodies and selves. Nourishing our bodies and mind depends on focussing on fresh, plant based foods, healthy proteins and fats which contributes to our optimal weight leading to long term and lasting changes. There is no "calorie counting" which is required.

Please keep in mind that sustainable and healthy weight loss 

is NOT about starvation or deprivation but actually about maintaining good gut health so that our microbiome supports our weight loss endeavour by moving from a fat and sugar processing machine to a fat burning one (read this article to learn more)

depends on addressing chronic underlying inflammation due to insulin resistance and other health conditions; inflammation can also be due to hidden food sensitivities which creates chronic inflammation and prevents our body from shedding excess weight

depends on eating consistently instead of restrictively (calorie wise), our bodies may get the message that food is scarce and become more efficient in extracting more calories in order to ensure our survival

depends on good quality sleep since lack of sleep can increase hunger and food intake primarily due to the effects of the hunger-regulating hormone ghrelin

is difficult when there are nutritional imbalances due to a calorie rich and nutrient poor diet; low nutrition status leads to suboptimal metabolism due to lack of nutrients 

is difficult when we are constantly bombarded by environmental toxins which act as "obesogens" like BPA, phtalates, PFOA and PFTE (found in non stick coating)

What else is holding you back?

There may also be some other more subtle reasons some people are unable to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable manner. You may find that these mental traps are true for you as well.

You are looking at ways to hasten and shorten the process without actually putting in the time and effort required. Infact, I remind my clients that this kind of goal is like a marathon and not a sprint and takes patience, hard work and is best viewed as a transformative process where you are no longer the person you used to be

You dislike or even hate the body that you have right now. Due to the constant bombarding of messages conveyed to us by our society, advertising and media about having the perfect shape, size, skin tone etc many of us struggle with low body image and self esteem

You are trying to lose weight for the wrong reasons. Do your reasons for losing weight align with your internal value system and things that are important to you in your life? If you are losing weight to simply fit into some clothes or to become a "perfect" body size, you may not be able to sustain the weight loss. But if you want to lose weight to finally be able to do what you really want in life as you become healthy and vibrant, it frees you to explore endless possibilities available to you. As a result, you are able to consistently put in the time and effort required to reach your health goals

At the end of the day, a happy and healthy weight is so much more than a mere number on your weighing machine. It is an indication of a body and mind that lives in harmony 

Here is some food for thought which can help you figure out your "WHY"

why is it important for YOU to lose weight?

what is the ONE or TWO main things that have held you back from losing weight before?

What is the FIRST step that you can take today to get you started on your own health journey?

 

I would love to hear from you!

Please make sure that you take out some time to REALLY think through these questions and write them down. Better yet, you can either share your thoughts in the comment section below or connect with me on my FB page "Nourish Heal Connect"  

Sign up to receive newsletters and articles on various health-related topics in the future

Is your child’s immune system at risk? (Allergies, asthma and eczema- how it all comes together)

There is an epidemic of chronic illnesses in the world right now and it is our children who are the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, health conditions like allergies, eczema and asthma have become only too common in our children today. In fact, the new "normal" for many children is chronic illness.

When our older child, our daughter, was diagnosed with eczema about 11 years ago, it was not very common in India. Sadly, a lot has changed since then and now it so much more common to hear of babies and children who have some kind of chronic health issue. Obviously, there is something going on here, something that is not right. As a parent of a child who had immense health issues, I know only too well the tremendous toll that any kind of chronic health issues of a child can have on the entire family. These include but are not limited to missed school for children, missed work and stress for parents, poor concentration in school and at home, chronic use of medications, hospitalisations and even social stigma. This is not the kind of life our children should be living and we need to educate ourselves so that we can become empowered to do something about it.

Contrary to what we think, genetics alone cannot explain this rise in childhood health illnesses. Genetics pretty much remains the same from one generation to the next (barring uncommon mutations) but the environment can and does have a huge impact on the expression of genes that we are born with. In fact, the foods that we eat, toxins that we are exposed to, infections and even our experiences alter the way our DNA is expressed and shape our appearance, function and overall health. That means that several factors (including but not limited to) like our environment, foods and our lifestyle are all factors that can determine epigenetic changes and determine whether we will move towards health or towards disease. This kind of change is a regular and natural occurrence and the study of this type of change in gene expression is known as "epigenetics". 

The health challenges that are being faced by our children today are driven by three major changes (there are others as well) due to which their immune system is showing abnormally high sensitivity to the environment

increase in exposure to toxins

undernutrition due to poor food choices as well as nutritionally depleted foods

poor gut health (with or without intestinal permeability)

(I have written about intestinal permeability and gut health in one of my earlier articles, you can read it here)  

Given this background, we can now appreciate the role of our immune system. The role of our immune system is primarily that of tolerance- surveillance for threats and then NOT react. Thus, most immune function in our body occurs without our knowledge. However, under fire due to the multiple forces at play, our immune system (and especially that of our children where the immune system is still developing) is increasingly overwrought and confused. This imbalance in the immune system along with the associated chronic underlying inflammation can show up as "symptoms".

Symptoms are a way of our body asking for "help". But only too often we either treat these symptoms as "irritants" (like fever, earache, runny nose, tummy ache and headache in children) to be medicated or otherwise as signs of "growing old" (like swollen or achy joints, migraines, skin rashes, fatigue, depression, digestive issues in adults). When we keep ignoring the body's distress communication, the symptoms ultimately manifest as "clinical diseases" like diabetes, asthma, autoimmune diseases and others. Ultimately, medication is not a long term solution to getting well, healing the root cause of any kind of imbalance is. 

The role of our gut in our immune system

Our gut plays a very important role as a part of our immune system. In fact, more than 2/3 of our entire immune system resides in our gut! The integrity of the gut mucosal lining is important for a balanced immune response and any damage can lead to various health challenges like protein deficiency, leaky gut/intestinal permeability and constipation. Also, a balanced gut microbiome helps to keep the immune balanced and not over-reactive (otherwise leading to allergy, asthma, arthritis and other autoimmune conditions). It is important to remember that whatever happens in the gut, affects the rest of the body. Not just as a nutrient deficiency but as inflammation! And as we know now, inflammation is at the root of many chronic conditions.

Intestinal permeability (leaky gut) can further develop in the gut aggravating the situation by triggering a strong immune response. This can be caused due to various factors like Vitamin D deficiency, antibiotics, gut microbial imbalance, gluten, stress, toxins, medications, stress and highly processed foods.

(Image source: Asian Scientist July 2014)

(I have written about intestinal permeability and gut health in one of my earlier articles, you can read it here)  

Allergies, asthma and eczema- how it all comes together

Key sources of inflammation like foods, toxins and intestinal permeability in our gut play a key role in the activation of allergies, asthma and eczema (and even other childhood diseases) but there can be other contributors as well such as

  • Birth by C section and not being breast fed
  • Low Vitamin D
  • Nutrient deficiencies (Zinc, Vitamin A, Omega 3)
  • Environmental toxin exposure and poor detoxification capability
  • High antibiotic use and other medications like NSAID (affecting gut lining integrity and the microbiome)
  • Family history

There is a loss of tolerance which shows up as an inflammatory response to a typically innocuous substance in the environment in case of allergies (food, pollen, chemical, medication etc). As a key part of the immune response, cells secrete chemicals which are either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory.

However, if the response is chronic or inappropriate (which is true for many people today), this can lead to chronic inflammation which can then be harmful. In particular, food sensitivities are an immune system response to certain foods (like wheat, dairy, corn, soy and many others) which have become a common occurrence in children today due to this type of immune system dysregulation. 

 

Asthma is a chronic airway inflammatory disease and once again the root cause of this inflammation can be toxins, infections, allergens. This may be different from the asthmatic triggers like dust, smoke, certain foods. However, the underlying chronic inflammation can make the system more sensitive to these triggers and this factor has led to a steep rise in the incidence of asthma in children today.

Similarly, eczema is an external symptom of an internal problem of an immune system which has become hypersensitive to the environment. Once again, like asthma and allergies, eczema occurs when there is an imbalance in the body's immune system and it is actually a sign that the body is inflamed from within.

In ALL of these cases then, the solution is to figure out what's wrong and lower the inflammation and not just treat the symptoms. This is what healed my daughter's extremely severe eczema and got her off all her oral and topical medications (which she had been on for 5 long years). You can read about our story here.

True healing starts from within

As you probably realise by now, we need to work along with our body and give it the full support it needs in order to heal. For our children, finding out the root cause, eliminating the triggers (foods, allergens, toxins, infection)and lowering inflammation in order to calm and balance the immune system is the key to true healing.

Some key takeaways from this article are

beware the prevailing definitions of being "normal"

our immune system and our gut are intricately linked

our "symptoms" are our body's distress signal

childhood conditions like allergies, eczema and asthma are all external symptoms of an immune system imbalance

chronic inflammation lies at the root of these (and other) conditions

lowering inflammation and finding out the root cause is the KEY to this health challenge

 

(I will be writing more about the steps that you can take in subsequent articles)

To know more on this topic-

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO WATCH A RECORDING OF MY WEBINAR "Is your child's immune system at risk?"

Date: 15th February, Friday
Time:1230 PM
Duration: 60 minutes

You can WATCH the recording of this webinar by clicking HERE

I covered the following in this webinar-

how the new "normal" for children's health has become chronic illness
rise in chronic inflammation in children leading to eczema, allergies and asthma
gut health and immunity
honouring the body's innate ability to heal
how to get started

Click HERE to watch the recording

Resources for further reading

What is epigenetics? -  https://www.whatisepigenetics.com/fundamentals/

Early Nutrition as a Major Determinant of 'Immune Health': Implications for Allergy, Obesity and Other Noncommunicable Diseases.-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27088328

Epigenetics: The New Frontier in the Landscape of Asthma-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4879257/

Linking allergy to autoimmune disease-  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1471490609000076

Serum IgG antibodies to gliadin and other dietary antigens in adults with atopic eczema-  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2230.1985.tb00561.x

A Functional Approach to Eczema-  https://kresserinstitute.com/functional-approach-eczema/

 

 

Watch the recording of the webinar “Is your child’s immune system at risk?”

Is Your Child’s Immune System at Risk_

Watch the recording of the webinar "Is your child's immune system at risk?

In this webinar I covered the following-

how the new "normal" for children's health has become chronic illness
a rise in chronic inflammation in children leading to eczema, allergies and asthma
gut health and immunity
honouring the body's innate ability to heal
how to get started

WATCH THE RECORDING OF THE WEBINAR

What you need to know about “leaky gut” and how it affects our health

"All disease begins in the gut"

Hippocrates had said more than 2000 years ago and it is being proved by science to be true today.

You may have heard the term "leaky gut" since it increasingly in the news lately. The "gut" part that we are referring to in "leaky gut" is a specific part which is our "intestines". Any damage to the internal lining can lead to a cascade of health issues. The cells that line the gut wall keep bacteria, undigested or partially digested food and toxins from entering our blood stream. The gut lining is in fact selectively permeable and only allows digested food particles to enter the body under normal circumstances. Also, it is our body's first line of defense against foreign particles entering into our body and about 70% of the immune system resides in our "gut". But, if for some reason, this one cell thick gut lining becomes damaged and starts allowing large protein molecules and other foreign bodies to go through, our body naturally mounts an immune response and attacks them.

Our gut is also home to trillions of microbes and our body actually has about 10 times more bacterial than human cells!

Our gut flora is responsible many important functions like manufacturing and absorbing key vitamins; maintaining the integrity of the gut lining, promoting normal digestive function, providing protection from infection and regulating our metabolism. If there is any imbalance in our gut flora, the above mentioned functions can get disrupted leading to weight loss resistance, metabolic disorders, allergies and many other common modern diseases.

The triggers for this gut health imbalance can be

  • medications and other medications like antacids and NSAID (Non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs)
  • chronic stress
  • chronic infections
  • poor diet which comprises refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
  • low fibre diet
  • high toxin exposure from household products and environment

An unhealthy gut can eventually lead to leaky gut due to a reduction in biodiversity leading to a preponderance of pathogenic bacteria over healthy ones. These pathogenic bacteria produce endotoxins (toxins generated inside the body) like LPS or lipopolysaccharide which can be harmful to our health. Our body does not like LPS and the immune system attacks it with full force thus beginning an inflammatory process. This inflammatory response is helpful initially but if it goes on long enough, then what should have been a temporary attack leads to chronic inflammation. This chronic intestinal inflammation can lead to breaches at critical junctions in the gut lining leading to what I have mentioned earlier in this post as "intestinal permeability" or "leaky gut".

One thing that is important to note at this point is: you do not have to necessarily suffer from digestive symptoms to have a leaky gut. 

It can manifest as other conditions like

  • skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis
  • asthma
  • arthritis
  • autism
  • food sensitivities
  • autoimmune conditions
  • thyroid issues
  • weight loss resistance
  • type 1 and type 2 diabetes and many more

Healing the gut

The gut starts healing the when the damage stops and the nutrients for healing are readily available. Starting with food, we can make several changes to our diet which can help restore our gut flora. I will be covering the 5R gut healing protocol that we use in Functional Medicine in another post in details.

Some basic steps that you can take to heal your gut are

  • eat whole, unprocessed foods with plenty of fibre, focusing more on plant foods
  • if you think you have food sensitivities, try an Elimination Diet (I will be covering this in another article)
  • add plenty of healthy fats like omega 3
  • have foods rich in gut healing nutrients like zinc and glutamine
  • add more fermented foods like yogurt/dahi, kefir and sauerkrat

 

Ready to find out how you can start your own gut healing protocol?

Schedule a 60 minutes "Initial Health Session" session with me today!

What is an autoimmune disease and why you need to know about it

I have mentioned in my earlier post about how chronic conditions are increasing worldwide. And inflammatory chronic conditions like autoimmune conditions, allergies, asthma and arthritis are increasing at dramatic rates. Hidden food sensitivities, stress, toxins, inflammatory foods and poor lifestyle are usually the real reason for these inflammatory conditions.

Autoimmune conditions prevail when your body's immune system attacks it's own tissues rather a potentially dangerous foreign substance like an allergen, bacteria or virus, a toxin. The immune system fails to differentiate between the foreign molecule and parts of your body and develops antibodies against itself rather than the intruders. In some cases it’s your thyroid under attack, in others it’s your intestines, or your skin, your brain, your pancreas, or another organ. There are more than 100 types of known autoimmune diseases that have been classified. For instance rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease among many others.

Various symptoms associated with autoimmune conditions (but not limited to) are

  • joint pain, muscle pain, weakness or tremor
  • feeling tired or fatigued, weight gain or cold intolerance
  • dry eyes, mouth or skin
  • difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • weight loss, chronic diarrhea

The role of chronic inflammation

Apart from a complex genetic component, research shows that all autoimmune conditions have an epigenetic component as well. That means that a large part of the risk for developing an autoimmune disease is due to lifestyle factors; in other words, how much you move, what you eat, how you live your life, your social connections and your exposure to environmental toxins play a very large role. Due to this reason, chronic and systemic inflammation due to the misplaced immune response is an underlying factor for many autoimmune conditions. The good news is that by finding out source of the inflammation can help in managing the condition. This is where Functional Medicine can play an important role.

There are only a handful of Functional Medicine practitioners in India as of now; you can find them on the Institute of Functional Medicine website. There are many medical professionals (based in the US and UK) who are trained in the Functional Medicine paradigm whom you can reach out to as they do consultations online.

Some things to think about

Since autoimmune conditions develop due to the body's immune system going rogue, the solution lies in getting the immune system back under control. I will discuss this in more details in a separate post later, but there are some basic steps that you can take today to move towards health and vitality-

  • Consume a maximally nutrient-dense diet and avoids foods that you have a sensitivity towards (this can be identified by doing a comprehensive elimination diet)
  • Reduce your toxin exposure
  • Move your body and activate and use your muscles.
  • Control your stress hormones using restorative practices (yoga, tai chi, massage, deep breathing) and meditation
  • Maintain or build social connections with supportive people

My role as a Health Coach

My role as a Functional Medicine certified Health Coach is to guide and support you in taking the steps mentioned above. Even with knowing what needs to be done, it is not always easy to make the necessary changes. Keeping the principles of Functional Medicine in mind, I guide my clients through the process of making important lifestyle and dietary changes.

In my coaching sessions you can expect customised guidance and support on

nutrition

– movement

– sleep and relaxation

– social relationships and connections

– mindfulness and stress management

If you are interested in knowing more about how I can help you, please feel free to contact me using the form below


Please enter your name.

Please enter a valid phone number.

Please enter a message.


Thanks for your message! We’ll be in touch soon.