How to Keep Weight Off and Stay Healthy

Apr 20, 2022 10:55:37 AM

Written By:
Dr. Ian Bier


No magic pill or fad diet will lead to sustained weight loss.

Like it or not, losing weight and keeping it off is a slow and steady process that requires some basic understanding of human biology and patience.

As a society, we’ve been stuck in a paradigm of calories in-calories out for a long time, leading to increasing numbers of children and adults who struggle with a healthy weight. While the amount you eat and exercise certainly plays a role, your food quality, underlying health issues, hormonal balance, and stress levels are key components to long-term weight management.

the calorie myth

Many integrative dietitians, nutritionists, and doctors agree that the idea of burning calories to lose weight is a myth that does not offer long-term weight management solutions.

The measurement of calories originated at an engineering conference on diesel engine heating in the mid-1800s. The concept was introduced to the medical world in the 1890s as a way to understand how the body burns food, as well as the heat generated during that process. Unfortunately, while we now understand that burning calories in the body is not the only way to gauge health and weight management, the idea has been firmly embedded in modern-day nutritional policy.[1]

As a culture, we are obsessed with the quantity of food we eat but put much less emphasis on quality when it comes to weight management. While starvation diets might work for short-term weight loss, the body adjusts by metabolically shutting down non-essential systems to conserve energy, as if it were experiencing a famine. Many people get stuck in a cycle of yo-yo dieting, which has metabolic consequences that make it much harder to keep weight off.

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how to keep weight off and feel your best

Not only are weight loss and maintenance important to how you look and feel in your body—the same strategies also support energy, vitality, and prevention of future health problems.

avoid toxic exposures

While not all exposure to toxins is under your control, you can avoid specific chemical culprits that contribute to weight gain. Today more than ever, chemical and toxic exposures in our homes, foods, and environment significantly contribute to body fatness and weight loss resistance.

Plastics play a huge role, as they have an estrogenic effect that is linked to weight gain. Even BPA-free plastic food containers and water bottles are problematic, so strive to stick with glass or stainless steel. Other common toxins found in household cleaning products, cosmetics, and personal hygiene items have known endocrine disrupters and obesogens that can impact hormonal balance and lead to weight gain or an inability to lose or maintain a healthy weight.[2]

Many toxins impede the body’s natural functions, but xenoestrogens are among the most problematic. These compounds are toxins that mimic estrogen and bind to estrogen receptor sights. This disruption to the entire hormonal cascade can profoundly alter lipid homeostasis, meaning the body can no longer distinguish whether to store or burn body fat.

Xenoestrogens that impede weight loss are rampant in home and skincare products, plastics, pesticides, insecticides, and other common chemical sources. Check out the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disrupter List to learn more about these hormone-altering chemicals.

support adrenal health

This same hormonal cascade includes the body’s primary stress hormone produced in the adrenal glands: cortisol. Intricately connected to the entire endocrine system, over- or underproduction of cortisol can negatively affect estrogen, leptin, insulin, and nutrient assimilation needed for weight loss, such as iodine.[3]

While a certain amount of stress is normal and necessary to human survival, high levels of ongoing stress combined with inadequate rest set the stage for hormonal imbalance and weight gain. Being in a constant fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous state releases excess cortisol, contributing to unstable insulin and leptin production. Adopting a blood-sugar and adrenal-supporting diet and other stress management techniques is essential.

test your thyroid

The thyroid gland plays a major role in regulating metabolism, and thyroid problems don’t always appear in conventional thyroid labs. Many integrative and functional medicine doctors see patients whose initial thyroid labs came back normal but are experiencing trouble keeping weight off, weight gain, and other common low thyroid-related discomforts. If you’ve lost weight in the past and the same (healthy) methods aren’t working anymore, it’s essential to do a complete thyroid panel that includes reverse T3, especially if your TSH numbers have already come back normal.

eat for blood sugar support

Balanced nutrition provides your body with the raw materials for hormone health and weight management. Along with an abundance of colorful fruits and vegetables, strive to get plenty of protein and a serving of healthy fat with each meal. High-quality dietary fats, in particular, are precursors for hormone production.

exercise just enough

Physical activity is also a foundation for losing weight and keeping it off. Exercise is critical for insulin receptor sensitivity, detoxification, and stress management: all factors that play an enormous role in weight management. It’s also important to understand that over-exercise acts as a stress on the body, which can be counterproductive to maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise should leave you feeling more energized rather than wiped out, so adjust the intensity if you’re pushing yourself too hard during workouts.

consider your healthy weight

We live in a weight-obsessed culture, and it’s vital to consider your body’s healthy weight. For older adults—especially women during and post-menopause—some studies reveal that a small amount of weight gain for those with an already healthy weight isn’t only appropriate but healthy.[4] Being markedly overweight and working to lose extra pounds is one thing, but obsessing over a few pounds as you get older might be doing more harm than good.

related content: how cortisol levels impact weight gain

focus on gut health and uncover food sensitivities

Along with thyroid testing, it’s important to look closely at gut health with certain functional labs. Growing evidence shows that an unhealthy gut microbiome could be closely linked with excess weight.[5] Common microbiome offenders include overuse of antibiotics, processed and packaged foods, refined sugar and grains, a low fiber diet, and high stress. 

A damaged intestinal tract can impact weight in several ways, such as increased food intolerances and poor nutrient absorption. Sometimes referred to as leaky gut or intestinal permeability, these terms refer to a heightened inflammatory process in the lower gut. When swelling occurs, the immune system is activated, and the body becomes hesitant to release excess weight that it deems essential for future emergencies.[6

takeaway: a low and steady approach to weight management

Crash diets or extreme fasting are likely to help shed pounds initially but probably won’t produce long-term results. Instead, think of weight loss as a marathon and not a race, even if this means losing 1/2-1 pound per week. If this seems impossible, talk to your integrative provider about how you can get to the bottom of underlying issues inhibiting weight loss.

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[2] Okada H., Tokunaga T, Xiaohui L, Sayaka T, Ayami M, Yasuyuki S. Direct Evidence Revealing Structural Elements Essential for the High Binding Ability of Bisphenol A to Human Estrogen-Related Receptor-γ. 2008. Accessed December 4, 2019.

[3]  Eline S. Van der Valk, Mesur Savas, Elisabeth F.C. Van Rossum. Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals? 2018. Accessed December 30, 2019.

[4] Singh PN, Haddad E, Knutsen SF, Fraser GE. The effect of menopause on the relation between weight gain and mortality among women. Menopause. 2001 Sep-Oct;8(5):314-20. doi: 10.1097/00042192-200109000-00004. PMID: 11528356.

[5] Davis C. The Gut Microbiome and Its Role in Obesity. 2017. Accessed December 4, 2019.

[6] Karl, J. P., Hatch, A. M., Arcidiacono, S. M., Pearce, S. C., Pantoja-Feliciano, I. G., Doherty, L. A., & Soares, J. W. (2018). Effects of Psychological, Environmental and Physical Stressors on the Gut Microbiota. Frontiers in microbiology, 9, 2013.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.