Excess weight is a very serious problem in the western world. In the UK obesity affects around 1 in every 4 adults and around 1 in every 5 children aged 10 to 11. There are many reasons for people being overweight and Functional Medicine aims to help you find your root causes to effectively tackle the problem. Problems we see frequently include:
- Overeating and food addictions. This can be driven by food intolerances, unstable blood sugars, comfort eating due to stress and the nature of the high carbohydrate, junk food environment which surrounds us.
- Sedentary lifestyles. Long hours seated in the office, limited travel options and lack of time all contribute to lack of movement and exercise.
- Low resting energy output (basal metabolism), can be due to problems with thyroid health, or high cortisol (chronic stress) and sleep disturbance.
- Dysbiosis. Even the balance of bacteria in your gut can change your appetite and metabolism.
Identifying your personal causes for weight gain can help you to take charge of the situation and learn how to be free from excess weight.
Genetic / Metabolic Factors:
There are many genes that have been implicated in the causes of excess weight and obesity. Genes may contribute to the causes of obesity in many ways, by affecting satiety (the sense of fullness), affecting metabolic rate and thyroid function. They may also influence food cravings, body-fat distribution, and the tendency to use eating as a way to cope with stress.
Genetics are likely to play a part in Obesity if;
- If you have been obese most of your life and can’t lose weight even if you increase physical activity and reduce caloric intake
- One or more of your parents are obese or several family members.
- There is a strong Family History of thyroid problems: The Thyroid produces hormones that affect every cell in the body. If we don’t produce enough of these then everything begins to slow down. An underactive thyroid can cause weight gain along with other symptoms such as low energy, cold hands and feet and constipation.
However, this doesn’t need to be a cause for despair. Identifying the underlying problems means we can help you to create a strategy to overcome genetic predispositions and low thyroid states and create healthy habits for the future.
Environmental factors: These are things that affect us from the outside making us eat too much, or eat the wrong foods or exercise too little.
Childhood habitstend to stick with us into adulthood (too much screen time and snacking on sugary foods). Being overweight as a child means there is a high risk of adult obesity and associated health problems.
Forming healthy new habits can be challenging – but with patience and support everyone can change and transform their eating. Health coaching can help you to identify behavioural patterns and instil new ways of eating and moving.
Stress and lack of sleep are closely connected to psychological well-being, which can affect appetite and food choices (as anyone who's ever gorged on biscuits and crisps when feeling anxious or sad can attest). Many people eat more when feeling low, stressed or tired and being overweight in itself can promote mental health problems. Repeated failure to lose weight, or success followed by the failure of gaining it all back again, causes tremendous frustration over time, leading to a vicious cycle of weight gain and unhappiness.
To break the cycle of failure, often re-framing the picture is needed. At these times holistic health – not weight loss needs to become the focus of our treatment.
- Maybe weight loss can only happen once chronic pain or unhappiness have been addressed.
- Perhaps major micronutrient deficiencies are causing food cravings or insomnia.
- There could be an untreated thyroid issue which is making you feel depressed, making you comfort eat and causing your metabolism to run too slow to burn the calories?
Whatever your problems, we will never judge you for being overweight, but will work with you to find out how to empower you to take charge and start your journey back to health.
By preventing cancers, improving blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, bolstering sleep, attention, energy and mood, exercise has indisputably proven itself to be the world’s best drug.
According to NHS guidelines an adult between 19-64 should take part in:
- Strengthening activities (resistance training, yoga, heavy gardening) twice a week
- At least 150 minutes of moderately intense (brisk walking, bike riding, dancing) exercise per week
- Or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (jogging, running, walking upstairs).
As the average person in the UK does less than third of this, it is an area which can usually be improved. However, for many of our patients with fatigue, this is simply not an option and it’s important to take into account the need to tailor any exercise plan for the needs and capacity of every individual.
However, though great for health, dietary changes are the major contributing factor to successful weight loss for most people.
The problem is that while your food intake accounts for 100 percent of the energy that goes into your body, exercise only burns off up to 30 percent of it – with the rest being used up by general basal metabolism. Studies have also shown that after exercising many people engage in compensatory behaviours (eating more or resting more), which will largely wipe out any caloric deficit generated by the exercise.
Of course we are not saying not to exercise – but for weight loss we always advise an appropriate nutritional plan alongside for success.
Getting a plan together:
The aims of Functional Medicine are to help you to:
- Break the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting and form and maintain healthy habits for life
- Discover the sources of food cravings and sluggish metabolism
- Reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality
- Improve energy and vitality so you can improve your exercise levels and burn more fat
Empowering you to make the right nutritional and lifestyle choices and offering a full range of functional testing and advice, we are here to help.