Despite increased awareness around healthy eating, intermittent fasting, and a plethora of weight loss programs and nourishing food choice availability, our Western society is becoming more obese.

I remember watching Gilligan’s Island (for those of you old enough to remember this program, otherwise it’s the blog pic). As a child in the 60’s, Gilligan seemed of a normal weight and the Skipper seemed overweight. Now as a mature lady, Gilligan appears like quite thin, and the skipper’s weight seems almost  ‘normal’. It’s interesting how our perceptions have changed slowly over the years, and now around 40% of Australians are overweight or obese. Many of us have tried strict diets, fasting and such but it often seems such a frustrating, uphill battle. If there is weight loss success, oftentimes the weight goes back on afterwards.

As a Naturopath of over 32 years, with more than 20 of those targeting weight loss, I have realised it’s often not as simple as just what you eat and increasing exercise. This blog aims to educate you in other considerations if you are struggling. I call them ‘weight loss stoppers’, and when I guide a client through a weight loss journey, I like to ensure most of these ‘stoppers’ are dealt with, so the weight doesn’t just come off, but stays off for the long term.

1. Inflammation: Are you suffering from inflammatory conditions with aches and pains, poorly digested food or diarrhea, low grade infections or an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease? Excessive exercise (along the lines of intense gym workouts every day, marathons or triathlons) are also inflammatory. Insufficient exercise is also inflammatory – you may have heard the expression ‘sitting is the new smoking’? Inflammation increases cortisol levels in the body that increases the likelihood of fat storage especially around the tummy area. It is important to screen for and address underlying inflammation for weight loss. A simple blood test called ‘CRP (C-reactive protein)’ can be requested through GP. Ideally should be <1. If it is elevated it’s important to identify and address the inflammation.

2. Stress: Poor sleep, long work hours, moving home, relationship conflict and rushed eating can increase fat storage by increasing adrenaline and cortisol. Stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga or Tai Chi can be useful, seeking counselling, learning to not take on too much and be able to say “No” effectively. Looking after yourself by ensuring you have enough sleep, water, exercise, are good long-term strategies to stay healthy. Exercising your brain to become more resilient is a healthful strategy – read more on my blog:

3. Toxins: PCB and pesticides in food, heavy metals (from large fish, amalgam fillings, lead lighting), contaminants in tap water, drugs (including recreational ones like cigarettes and alcohol), pollution and environmental toxins like plastics can act as hormone disruptors and effect metabolic rate adversely. Ideally eat organic foods, stick to small fish like sardines as opposed to large fish like flake or tuna. Use stainless steel water bottles or Tupperware (or other smell-less plastics), and don’t leave them in the car to get hot or freeze them. Minimize microwave use, using paper towel or another plate to cover food and if you must, use microwave safe plastic. Use a glass keep cup if you must have takeaway hot drinks – avoid the plastic takeaway cups, especially drinking through the plastic lids which contain phthalates that add to your toxic burden.

I offer several detoxification programs available at the clinic to release accumulated toxins. Email and I’ll email you a questionnaire to see if a ‘Detox’ is indicated for you. Often this is the best way to start a weight loss journey as we all accumulate toxins through our life, and a short ‘Body reset’ is a great way thing to do on a 6 monthly or yearly basis as a spring clean.

4. Excess acidity (also known as acidosis). Acid-base balance is essential for healthy hormone which regulate the body’s metabolism and are highly sensitive to a decrease in blood pH. Balancing the pH of the body has been shown to improve metabolic markers and support weight loss. You can check your urinary pH over a few days. The morning urine pH readings should be between 6.5-7.5

5. Hormone imbalance: Low thyroid function,  postmenopausal low oestrogen, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Type-2 Diabetes and some less common hormone imbalances (like Adrenal tumours), can wreak havoc even with people with what for them seems a ‘healthy’ diet, exercise program and good intentions. There are blood tests to assess these, plus some useful “in-house” tests we do in the clinic. Once armed with information, a targeted program can be recommended. As a general rule, if weight is an issue in a post-menopausal client, I suggest they reduce their calorie intake by around 20%.

6. Nutrient deficiencies: Vitamin D deficiency and insufficient minerals like iodine, magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium, as well as tyrosine can impede weight loss. It’s important to measure the nutrients we are able to (like Vitamin D, iron stores and zinc) and ensure adequate good quality protein is eaten to provide essential amino acids like tyrosine for healthy metabolism. You can take the quiz to see if you may be low in Magnesium (I find this better than a blood test):

7. Low Muscle Mass: For some people, walking is just not enough. As we age, unless we incorporate some resistance exercise into our life, we tend to lose muscle mass. This is especially so when we follow “fad” diets and fasts that do not contain enough protein to maintain muscle. Muscle mass dictates our metabolic rate. I suggest incorporating exercise like yoga, Pilates, weights or a pump class, or simply use your own body weight with push-up, dips and sit-ups at home after your brisk walk. I perform a special Bio-impedance analysis (called a Quadscan) to assess your muscle, fat %’s and cellular health.

8. Negative belief patterns: Is extra weight offering some emotional protection? Sometimes the extra weight ‘protects’ us – against looking attractive, finding a suitable partner or other subconscious reasons that can sabotage our weight loss efforts. Or we may have been brought up to consider food is a reward, and we may feel we are denying ourselves when we follow a weight loss program. Should you feel this is relevant, perhaps some counselling with a psychologist, therapist or hypnotherapy might benefit. ‘Tapping’ is another approach you may consider. Here’s an exercise you can do at home:

9. Genetic Factors: Some people have genetic predispositions that can be identified and modified by strategic changes based on genetic profiling. You can determine your genetic predispositions by a cheek swab that checks for 64 or so gene variants (or SNPs – ‘single nucleotide polymorphisms’). The results show how we may get better results with portion control (Leptin SNP), do better on lower carb (ADIPOQ SNP) or lower fat programs, (PPar gamma SNP) or need to be patient with weight loss efforts (when you have the FTO SNP, nicknamed the ‘fatso’ gene). You may have no issues with these weight loss SNPs but have nurture points in genes that determine your predisposition to inflammation. Then a high omega 3 diet (with fish, flaxseed oil +/- supplements) or anti-inflammatory support (like concentrated turmeric) might be indicated. Remember your genes are the gun, the lifestyle pulls the trigger so you are not at the mercy of these “SNPs” but understanding them can help work out what diet or lifestyle considerations work best for you. I presented a talk on genetics:

10. A Healthy Microbiome (Gut health) The makeup of the microbes in our gut are super important not only for a healthy weight, but also for a host of other health conditions. I wrote a blog that gives tips on strategies to support a healthy gut microbiome while keeping carbohydrates low: You can assess the state of your microbiome with a comprehensive stool analysis that measures bacteria, parasites, worms and viruses, as well as markers of healthy digestion. This test needs to be requested from your integrated health practitioner.

What now?

I hope you can now appreciate why effective weight loss is much more than just counting calories and exercise and may involve comprehensive considerations to not only lose weight but keep it off for life.

About Doreen Schwegler: Doreen is a Medical Scientist and Naturopath with over 32 years of experience helping her clients lose weight, feel great and achieve optimal health by addressing the ‘drivers’ behind her client’s struggles. She is an Ultralite Weight loss consultant – see and is offering a special lockdown deals on virtual weight loss consults.

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