Obesity is the single most common problem that doctors see in their practices. Unfortunately, it’s also a risk factor for a host of disorders. People who are more than
20 percent over the recommended weight for their height and sex are more vulnera- ble to degenerative diseases—heart problems, certain cancers, diabetes, arthritis, and so on—than the rest of the population is. High blood pressure, strokes, hemor- rhoids, hiatal hernias, varicose veins, kidney problems, infertility, gallstones, and liver disease are all more likely to strike the overweight. And since heavy people are likely to consume high quantities of toxic food, their immune systems are depressed, leav- ing them susceptible to any virus or bug that happens to be going around at home or in the ofﬁce.
But most people with weight problems already know all that. Weight loss is prob- ably the most written-about subject in America, but despite all the diets, pills, spas, and programs, only a small percentage of people are able to lose weight and keep it off. In fact, the rising occurrence of obesity can be traced in part to our attempts to ﬁght it. Take the low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet that in the early 1990s was uni- versally espoused as healthful: People ﬁlled up their plates with so much pasta, bread, and fat-free sweets that they actually ended up eating more calories—and, of course, gaining more weight. Other strategies, such as appetite suppressants, and extreme diets, do indeed help people lose weight in the short term. But they’re also too dan- gerous to use for long, so at some point those people have to return to a lifestyle that is healthful. Because many “diet gurus” haven’t taught people how to put healthful eating in the context of their daily routines, they soon put the weight right back on.
There are several reasons why a person is susceptible to obesity. Genetics is an obvious factor that makes it more difﬁcult for some people to lose weight. One exam- ple is people who have syndrome X (see pages 498–502). This inherited condition makes some people more likely to put on weight from simple carbohydrate consump- tion than others are. Insulin levels spike upward and result in fat deposition. This prob- lem is compounded by the fact that the average American consumes 150 pounds of sugar each year! In addition, some researchers feel that the body has a genetically pro- grammed “set point.” This refers to the theory that the body tries to maintain a set metabolic rate at which calories are burned, especially the fat cells. For people with a genetic susceptibility, it is even more important to be diligent with the diet and lifestyle recommendations we make. Also, nutritional supplements can help to lessen genetic tendencies.
The amount of calories someone consumes is an obvious reason for weight gain. Consuming too many calories without burning them results in a simple mathemati- cal reality—weight gain. To stay within a certain parameter for your metabolism, it is helpful to grasp the concept of general calorie amounts of commonly consumed foods.
The second important concept, after calorie consumption, is the calories expended through movement and exercise. The more calories are utilized for energy, the less will go toward fat accumulation. In this technologically advanced and television- addicted society, people are expending many less calories than they used to.
Hormone balance is also important for the prevention and the treatment of obesity. Many hormones in the body have an effect on metabolism. The most notable are thy- roid hormones, which greatly inﬂuence the metabolic rate in our cells. However, sev- eral others hormones, such as DHEA, testosterone, and growth hormones, have powerful effects as well. We have also found that an estrogen and progesterone imbal- ance contributes to fat deposition and water retention, and thus to weight gain. This seems to be particularly true for women who use synthetic hormones. A hormone bal- ance also includes the level of the brain hormone serotonin. Low levels of this neu- rotransmitter contribute to feelings of hunger and to sugar/carbohydrate cravings. There are natural ways to optimize this neurotransmitter, as discussed in this section and in the section on Depression. Further research in this ﬁeld will shed more light on the role of neurotransmitters and obesity.
Toxins in the body also pose a problem for people who are overweight. Many of the chemicals that people are exposed to interfere with normal cell function, includ- ing metabolism. Pesticides, heavy metals such as mercury, and others are a part of our polluted world. Interestingly, many of these toxins are stored in fat tissue in order to prevent damage to vital body organs, such as the brain and the heart.
In addition, a diet that is devoid of nutrients leads to nutritional deﬁciencies. The body does not burn fat by magic but requires several vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. It appears that certain nutrients can help in the prevention and the treatment of obe- sity. While none should be considered “magic bullets,” they can in some cases be quite helpful as part of a comprehensive weight or fat reduction protocol.
The mental and the emotional, as well as the spiritual, well-being of a person can- not be ignored in regard to obesity. Imbalances in these areas often supersede genetic and physical reasons for weight gain. For example, many people with depression and anxiety consume comfort foods as a way to feel a false sense of love or worth. Some patients with obesity ﬁrst began to have problems with weight after experiencing an unresolved emotional trauma. Treating the whole person is of paramount importance with obesity.
Test #1: Body Mass Index (BMI)
The body mass index, or BMI, helps you deter- mine the appropriate weight for your frame. For most people, the BMI test is more reliable than scales or height/weight charts are, but you should know that people with very muscular physiques may come up with a misleading reading. Because muscle weighs more than fat, many professional athletes have high BMIs—although, clearly, they don’t need to lose weight.
Here’s how to calculate your BMI. After each step are sample calculations, made for a person who is 5’8” and 150 pounds:
1. Write down your height in inches:
(5’8" = 68 inches)
2. Multiply the number in Line 1 by .025:
(68 × .025 = 1.70)
3. Square the number in Line 2: (1.70 × 1.70 = 2.89)
4. Write down your weight in pounds:
5. Multiply the number in Line 4 by .45:
(150 × .45 = 67.50)
6. Divide the number in Line 5 by the number in Line 3:
(67.50/2.89 = 23.36)
Interpreting the Results
If your BMI is between 18.9 and 24.9, you are considered to be of a healthy weight. Like everyone else, you need to eat well and exercise, but if you take the second test here and it doesn’t indicate a health risk, you don’t need to lose pounds.
If your BMI is 25 or higher, there’s a good chance that you need to lose weight. If you have any weight-related health problems like heart
disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint or back pain, or diabetes, you should make a concerted effort to burn more calories than
you take in. People who smoke, who drink heav- ily, or who have a family history of the diseases listed previously would also be wise to lose weight. If you don’t have any of these concerns, it’s possible that you are simply a large but healthy person. Take the second test to further assess your health risk.
If your BMI is below 18.9, you may be under- weight. If you’re an otherwise healthy adolescent who does not have an eating disorder, you’re probably just going through a phase. When you get a little older, your metabolism will likely
right itself. Adults, however, should talk to a doctor about what a low BMI means for them
as individuals. And anyone who suffers from an eating disorder should get professional help right away.
Test #2: Waist Circumference
Measure your waist circumference, using your navel as the deﬁning point of your waist. For men, a waist circumference of more than forty inches is considered a health risk. Women should not have a waist circumference of more than thirty-ﬁve inches.
No one is quite sure why, but large waists are an indicator of possible future health problems, especially of cardiovascular conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure. If you have a large waist circumference, you should read these pages for advice about losing weight.
If you have a high BMI but have a normal waist circumference, are healthy, have no family history of weight-related disease, and don’t drink exces- sively or smoke, your weight is probably just ﬁne. If it bothers you, or if you sense that your weight
is slowing you down or affecting your health, see your doctor for an individual assessment. And remember: Even if you don’t need to lose weight, you should still eat well and exercise on a regular basis.
• Weight gain and fat deposition
• Increased sweating
• Difﬁculty breathing
Obesity is almost always caused by a combination of the ﬁrst two items listed here: taking in more calories than are expended. But, as we described, there can be many factors at work.
• Poor diet (high in calories and sim- ple carbohydrates)
• Hormone imbalance (particularly
• Neurotransmitter imbalance
• Mental, emotional, or spiritual issues
• Preexisting medical conditions
• Side effects of pharmaceutical
medications (e.g., antidepressants)
Instead of counting calories or fat grams, your best bet for health and weight loss is
to focus on eating foods that are fresh, whole, and nutritionally dense.
Don’t rely on someone else: start cooking for yourself. Shop for a variety of basic, whole foods. You can eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds raw for their ﬁber and digestive enzymes; the rest of the time, use light cooking methods like broiling, steam- ing, roasting, or grilling.
Make sure you get enough protein every day. Otherwise, you’ll feel deprived and downright hungry. Fish is an excellent source of protein, but few of us can eat it every
The following tests help assess possible reasons for weight gain:
Hormone testing (thyroid, DHEA, cortisol, testosterone, IGF-1, estrogen, insulin, progesterone)—saliva, blood, or urine
Vitamin and mineral analysis (especially magnesium, l-carnitine, chromium, and CoQ10)—blood
Digestive function and microbe/parasite/candida testing—stool analysis Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal Blood-sugar balance—blood
Toxic metals—hair or urine
single day. Plan on having beans, lean poultry, soy products, nuts, or yogurt with every meal. High-quality protein drinks from whey, eggs, or rice are good choices.
Whole, complex carbohydrates like brown rice, whole-grain bread, and oats are necessary for a healthful eating plan. They’re also high in ﬁber, which helps you feel full and keeps you free of toxins. Use common sense, though; carbohydrates are meant to be one part of your diet, not all of it. Have a small or moderately sized serving at each meal—no more.
Essential fatty acids are just what their name implies: fats that are good for you. Cold-water ﬁsh, ﬂaxseeds, and cold-pressed oils like olive oil are necessary for proper functioning of almost every body system, and they help you feel satisﬁed after a meal. As with everything else, however, use EFAs in moderation. Extra helpings of anything, even of salmon ﬁllets, contribute to your waistline but not to your health. Sauté your vegetables in a tablespoon, not a cup, of olive oil.
Low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, may increase your desire for reﬁned and complex carbohydrates, including for sugar. Eat foods that are high in trypto- phan—turkey, chicken, tuna, soymilk, and live unsweetened yogurt. This chemical encourages the production of serotonin and may stave off cravings.
Vegetable juice is healthful and ﬁlling. Drink a glass a half hour before meals to keep your appetite in check.
Water also takes the edge off your hunger. Plan on drinking a glass of clean water every two waking hours.
Eat a balanced ratio of the major food groups. Many people do well on a diet that is 40 to 50 percent carbohydrates (mainly, complex carbs), 30 percent fats (mainly, good fats), and 30 percent protein. This is just a sample percentage. Some people do better with a slightly higher protein intake.
Eat more small, regular meals throughout the day to quench your appetite and bal- ance blood-sugar levels.
Do not skip meals, particularly breakfast. This puts the body into a starvation mode that can increase fat accumulation.
Food to Avoid
Americans are addicted to sugar. Sugar is high in calories and causes mood swings and blood-sugar crashes that may only increase your cravings. If you’re trying to lose weight, your ﬁrst priority should be to reduce or, in some cases, eliminate reﬁned sugar from your diet. No cookies, cakes, candy, ice cream, sodas, white breads, pastas, and crackers, and especially no low-fat sweets, which contain extra sugar to make up for the missing richness. It’s also wise to limit your intake of natural sug- ars. Fruit sugars, honey, and molasses are less damaging to your body than reﬁned products are, but in large quantities, they can still lead to weight gain. Eat them only in moderation.
Avoid processed and junk food. Food made with artiﬁcial ﬂavors, colors, and preservatives offers you little in the way of real sustenance. Their toxins are also highly addictive. As most of us know, even one fast-food cheeseburger or a handful of greasy, salty potato chips is enough to derail your body from its natural sense of what’s healthful.
Reﬁned ﬂours are another example of the proverbial “empty calories.” Pasta, white bread, and white rice are stripped of most of their nutrients, leaving you with noth- ing but a plate full of calories.
You’ve heard it a thousand times, and it’s still true: you must radically cut back on your consumption of “bad” fats. If you stop eating processed food (including
margarine and shortening), you’ll go a long way toward this goal. Naturally sweet- ened baked goods are also high in saturated fats. If you enjoy any of these items, reserve them for the occasional treat.
If you’re overweight, chances are that you’ve been eating food that’s highly toxic. A short juice fast will encourage your fat cells to release their waste products and tox- ins. A few days without solid food will also help you break your addictions, so that your body “remembers” the healthful foods it needs and begins to crave those instead of junk. Consider beginning your diet with a one- to three-day juice fast.
People who are overweight may also suffer from frequent constipation. The best course of action is to follow the eating plan given here; with less fat and more ﬁber, you’ll soon ﬁnd that you’re regular again.
Identify your food sensitivities. Food sensitivities or allergies can contribute to weight gain. See the Food Allergies/Sensitivities section.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Obesity
Super Prescription #1 Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
Take 3.4 grams daily. Studies show that this fatty acid reduces body fat composition.
Super Prescription #2 Green tea (Camellia sinensis) extract
Take 1,500 mg of green tea extract standardized to 80 to 90 percent polyphenols and 35 to 55 percent epigallocatechin gallate. Studies have shown that green tea extract increases thermogenesis, the body’s ability to burn energy. Note: Green tea
contains caffeine, which may account for some of this beneﬁt.
Super Prescription #3 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
Take 100 to 300 mg three times daily; 5-HTP reduces carbohydrate cravings and improves satiety. Note: Do not take 5-HTP if you are currently using pharmaceu- tical antidepressants or antianxiety medications.
Super Prescription #4 Chromium
Take 500 mcg twice daily. Chromium helps with blood-sugar balance and sweet cravings.
Super Prescription #5 Pyruvate (pyruvate acid)
Take 25 grams daily. Studies show that pyruvate may aid weight loss when com- bined with a low fat diet and/or exercise.
Super Prescription #6 L-carnitine
Take 500 to 1,000 mg three times daily. L-carnitine is involved with burning fat
as a fuel source for the cells.
Super Prescription #7 Essential fatty acids
Take 1 tablespoon of ﬂaxseed oil or 3 grams of ﬁsh oil daily, along with 100 mg of GLA (gamma linoleic acid). Essential fatty acids are required to burn fat as fuel.
A high-potency multivitamin provides a base of vitamins and minerals required for people on a restricted diet.
study involving sixty overweight and obese people demonstrated that people supple- menting conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) had a signiﬁcantly higher reduction in body fat mass, as compared to people taking a placebo.
double-blind study by the
University of Rome included twenty obese people for two phases of time. The ﬁrst phase involved a nonrestrictive diet,
and the second phase focused on a calorie- restricted diet. During both phases, people receiving 900 mg of
5-HTP had a reduc- tion in carbohydrate intake and the consis- tent presence of an early sensation of fullness.
Supplementing 7-KETO (3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone) has been shown in a study of overweight people to help with weight and fat loss. Take 100 mg twice daily.
Dandelion root (Taraxacum ofﬁcinale) improves liver metabolism and detoxiﬁca- tion, which may support weight loss. Take 300 mg or 2 ml with each meal.
Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) supports thyroid function. Use it if you have sub- optimal thyroid activity. Take 100 mg or 1 ml twice daily.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x, 12x, 6C,
12C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Con- sultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Calcarea Carbonica for people who tend to be ﬂabby and chilly. The palms, the feet, and the back of the head sweat easily. They have a strong craving for eggs, sweets, and dairy products. They tend to feel easily overwhelmed.
Ignatia (Ignatia amara) is for highly sensitive people who use food to make themselves feel better. There is often a recent history of acute grief or an emotional trauma.
Pulsatilla (Pulsatilla pratensis) is helpful when there is a strong craving for sweets. The person gets warm easily and strongly desires the windows to be open or wants to be outside. There is a sense of sadness, with a desire to be consoled.
Staphysagria is for people with a history of abuse, leading to overeating as a way to deal with suppressed anger. The anger tends to build over time. They have a craving for sweets.
See pages 668–675 for information about pressure points and administering treatment.
• Conception Vessel 6 stimulates digestion and increases your metabolism.
• Use Spleen 16 to return an out-of-control appetite to a more normal state.
See pages 686–687 for information about reﬂexology areas and how to work them.
Work the liver to increase metabolism and stimulate detoxiﬁcation. For additional cleansing, work the colon.
Instead of eating when you’re nervous, work the diaphragm and the solar plexus areas to calm down.
Bergamot blunts hunger pangs. For an immediate effect, hold the vial of oil directly under your nose and inhale.
Support a cleansing fast by adding juniper oil to a bath. Juniper promotes the release of toxins from fatty tissue.
Try using essential oils, instead of sugar, to lift your mood. Lavender, rose, geranium, and orange will make you feel more cheerful.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Every day, take some time out for deep breathing and visualization. Imagine your- self making healthful food choices and turning down less-nutritious offers. See yourself doing the things you’d like to do but can’t because of your excess weight: run- ning a mile, playing with your grandkids, even climbing a mountain.
Yoga, a technique that encourages control of the senses, will help you learn to han- dle stress without turning to the refrigerator. It’s also a good gentle exercise for peo- ple who haven’t been active for a while.
Stress can make you eat, but sticking to a weight-loss plan can be stressful itself. Find a couple of friends who will lend a sympathetic ear; it helps if they’re also try- ing to lose weight. Or you could join a support group.
Bach Flower Remedies
Consult the chart on pages 648–650 to determine the best remedy for your particu- lar needs. Following are some suggestions. Once you’ve chosen a remedy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
If you think about food constantly, take White Chestnut to stop obsessive thoughts. Heather is for people who ﬁnd it hard to be alone, even for a short length of time. People who are good-humored on the surface but who overeat as a means of han-
dling inner tension should take Agrimony.
Crab Apple, the cleansing remedy, will help people who feel ashamed about their weight.
• Exercise. It’s more effective than dieting alone. But you don’t have to run a marathon to reap the beneﬁts of activity; in fact, it’s far better for you to take a brisk walk every day than to engage in more strenuous activity once or twice a week. Overall, it is best to pick an exercise that you really enjoy. If you’re very out of shape or have heart problems, contact your doctor before starting an exercise program. And whatever you’re doing, ease into it gradually.