My current top tips for weight loss

by Carolyn Matthews

Since 1990, the population of the United States has undergone a sea change in our weight and our health. In 1992 , according to the CDC, approximately 10-15% of our population was obese. By 2015, approximately 35% of the population was obese. Genetic mutations in a single generation cannot account for this big (no pun intended) change.

In the last 100 years we’ve had some huge changes in our environment that I believe are encouraging this push towards obesity: increasing sugar in our diet, antibiotics changing our microbiome, GMO foods, habitual snacking and feasting on high calorie, nutrient poor foods, and what I call “fake foods” – these are foods that have been modified in one way or another such that they no longer are close to nature, and not ones that our microbiome and our immune system have evolved with. These would be foods with emulsifiers, dyes, fillers, chemicals, preservatives, etc.

So here are my current recommendations to patients:

  1. Rather than focus on calories, focus on QUALITY. Eat only food that is as close to what it would have been 500 years ago, “REAL” food. Organic vegetables, organic fruits, whole milk and butter from grass fed cattle, first pressed organic olive oil, grass fed and grass finished cattle, pasture raised chicken feeding on bugs and not GMO pesticide laden grains.
  2. Limit your eating to 8-10 hours per day. A study from the Salk institute in LaJolla on mice gave two different groups of mice the same number of calories per day. One group had access to those calories ad libitum throughout the day. Another group had access to their food for only 8 hours a day, and they gained less weight and were healthier than the mice which were allowed to eat all day long.
  3. Part of whether we are overweight can relate to our microbiome, the collection of bacteria, archaea, fungi and viruses that are intricately related to every single aspect of our physiology. Study after study shows that the diversity of vegetables in our diet is related to the diversity of bacteria in our microbiome. Try to include 6 to 8 vegetables every day and 1 to 2 fruits.
  4. Encourage low glycemic foods. These break down and are absorbed slowly, leading to a lower insulin response. Insulin is the hormone that is one of the main ones responsible for the most unhealthy weight gain, that around our waist. There are multiple lists available of glycemic index; in general, most vegetables will be low glycemic.
  5. Whenever you are eating, the combination of a protein, fat and carbohydrate will lower the glycemic load of that “eating occasion” and will leave you feeling more satisfied so that you aren’t hungry shortly thereafter.
  6. Eat the protein part of your meal first …this also lowers the insulin response.
  7. Avoid added sugar (desserts) and processed foods which come in a box, or a wrapper. Aim for unadulterated real foods which don’t have a label with several ingredients to comprise the majority of your diet.
  8. Try to get 30 to 60 minutes daily of some type of movement. You can’t exercise off the extra weight, but the exercise does “set the stage” for healthy mitochondria, weight loss, and better health. In general, I recommend movement (like walking, biking, tennis, bringing in the hay) most days of the week. Two to three days a week an activity like weight lifting, yoga, pilates, or stacking the hay is helpful for building muscle mass.

Carolyn M. Matthews, MD; Director of Integrative and Functional Medicine, Baylor University Medical Center