Weight-loss challenge: The difficulty of changing habits

By Gabrielle Duebendorfer, ND
Reader Contributor

You probably know what is healthy and harmful for you. You probably have set your best intention and have resistance prevail. It’s like a strong underlying current that seemingly cannot be rerouted.

The weight-loss industry benefits from that deep current of resistance with ever-new products, diets and promises. Let’s consider the possibility if we were to listen to the resistance itself and learn from it.

The return of softly falling snow the other day beckoned me to go for an energetic ski, even though the first crocuses really had me oriented towards spring.  I was OK until the skis started getting clogged with wet snow — here went my energetic ski venture! Frustration building, I realized it just was making me feel worse, so I decided to snowshoe. This considerable slowing down began to open me towards the beauty of the falling snowflakes, the wind blowing through the trees releasing snow clouds, the softness of the white blanket. Once on top of the mountain I got rid of the snow and sailed downhill — resistance acknowledged (surrender), worked with (snowshoe), understood (wet snow), and when appropriate (going downhill), removed.

Physiologically this resistance to weight-loss can be caused by several factors. Unless they are understood and addressed, regardless of intention or willpower, resistance to healthy changes will continue to take over. One major factor is environmental toxins, which are primarily stored in fat to keep them out of harm’s way. We live in an increasingly toxic world, and some individuals have a genetic propensity for poor detoxification, which becomes a problem when there are too many toxins combined with excessive stress, which further inhibits detoxification. Unless the toxin load is accurately assessed and elimination encouraged, weight will not come off as the body experiences the toxic load as stress, which leads to more fat deposition.

Hormonal imbalances often cause weight gain, especially during menopause. When reproductive hormones go haywire, the thyroid first compensates, but eventually wears out, causing fatigue and weight gain, which usually is treated with thyroid hormone. The whole hormonal system, including the pituitary and hypothalamus has to be evaluated and addressed properly. The adrenal glands, however, play the biggest role in the weight-loss saga. When sleep, stress and blood sugar is off, the body craves sugar to balance out the adrenals.

Have you noticed that you reach for sweets when you are more stressed? Setting the strongest intention for dietary or exercise changes in that case would be just as useless as setting intention for a smooth ski when circumstances just don’t allow it.

Disproportionate amounts of processed foods in the Standard American Diet (SAD) and stress have put a continual drain on our adrenals. Bad fats, high amounts of simple sugars, lack of fiber and vegetables, and high starch diets have contributed to ever increasing inflammation. Chronic stress is contributing to higher cortisol levels, which further increase inflammation. This is a double whammy, because both of these factors play into a viscous cycle of continual fat storage. High cortisol causes more sugar to get converted into abdominal fat, which causes even more inflammation, fatigue, pain and insomnia – one big viscous cycle.

So you would think that low carb diets would be the answer? A colleague of mine, Dr. Christian Anderson, in his book ‘The Adrenal Reset Diet,” actually discovered that this pituitary/hypothalamus/adrenal axis often gets thrown out of whack with long-term low-carb diets, especially when combined with above factors. He recommends low-carb, high-protein breakfasts to maintain the natural cortisol high in the morning, and higher-carb, moderate-protein diets in the evening, which fosters lower cortisol to prepare the body for the night. Ultimately this will reset this axis again. His experiments showed reduced weight and more balanced cortisol rhythms by simply following that regime – of course a more healthy diet than the SAD diet is the basic foundation. This is important, because exercise, sleep hygiene, supplements, detox, hormonal therapy were not changed. When those changes are added the benefits are even greater.

So does intention play no role at all in weight loss you might ask? I think intention is hugely important with keeping one’s focus on the resistance to healthy change itself, as it can be the messenger to discovering how to best rebalance. For that, we need enough quiet time to simply be or have plain fun, like taking grandkids to learn skiing.

Please come to the free talk at Winter Ridge on Wednesday, April 10, from 6-7:15 p.m. to learn more about this exciting topic.

Dr. Gabrielle Duebendorfer has practiced as a licensed naturopathic physician and certified iRest Yoga Nidra instructor in Sandpoint for 20 years. 

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