Today, 69% of Americans are overweight or obese. Research shows that lifestyle factors, such as sugar intake, hydration, stress levels, and daily exercise are key factors for losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. At 360 Medical Weight Specialists in Walnut Creek, our knowledgeable team is up to date on the current research related to weight loss and healthy living. Highlights of the current research that we incorporate into our weight loss plans can be found below.
Is sugar addictive?
Research has suggested:
Your brain is stimulated by sugar in the same way as drugs. Studies show that consuming sugar results in a flood of dopamine to the reward area in the brain. This “pleasure” sensation far surpasses normal dopamine levels and leaves you wanting more and more sugar, perpetuating the cravings. Sugar can be as addictive as heroin. Consuming sugar affects the opioid pathways of the brain, which is the same area of the brain that is manipulated when using heroin or morphine. The “feel good” effects are short-lived, and leave a person craving more. Sugar cravings are different from hunger. While many confuse a sugar craving with hunger, the urge to eat a high-sugar snack is more similar to the urge to use a drug. While hunger is caused by the body’s need for energy and nutrients, sugar cravings are the result of a signal from the brain calling for more dopamine release. It takes 21 days to break the neural pathways of any habit, including food and sugar intake.
What are some replacements for sugar?
Some ways to break a food or sugar addiction include:
Avoid mindlessly eating, beware of triggers, such as walking by restaurants that smell good, or other personal cues, choose healthy food options that are low in sugar, distract yourself when you have a craving (e.g. leave the kitchen), reduce your stress to avoid stress eating (e.g. play with an animal, meditate, or exercise). Another option is to use artificial sweeteners instead of real sugar. The FDA has approved some sugar replacements, such as stevia leaf extract, which is safe in small amounts.
Artificial sweeteners are not all safe, and it is important to consult your physician about which sweeteners will work for you. Sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose (Splenda), or saccharin (Sweet’N Low) are not recommended for healthy weight loss. Your providers at 360 Medical Weight Specialists can help you to determine the best low-sugar diet plan for you.
What is insulin?
Insulin is the most potent fat storage hormone in the body, which plays a large role in the way the body metabolizes food to create energy. When we eat carbohydrates (or sugar and starch), our body breaks them down into glucose, which then is absorbed into cells to create energy. This is all done with the help of insulin, without which, we would have no way of getting energy from the food we eat. Insulin acts as a glucose transporter, bringing glucose to the muscles, fat, and liver cells for energy use and/or storage.
What is insulin resistance?
When the muscles, fat, and liver cells do not respond correctly to insulin, the body is forced to create extra insulin to get the needed response. This is known as insulin resistance, which can lead to chronic diseases, such as pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. Experts believe that the resistance is caused by excess fat, especially around the midsection. It is important for those who have insulin resistance to seek help from a weight loss specialist to prevent the condition from developing into a chronic disease.
How much water do I need to drink?
While there is no exact amount of water recommended per person (because we are all unique), health authorities recommend, on average, about eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. In addition, replacing sugary beverages with water is recommended.
Studies link hydration with:
Higher energy levels
Increased weight loss when drinking water before meals
Temporary boosts in metabolism
Lowered health risks (e.g. kidney stones, constipation, acne, cancer)
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is the practice of good sleep habits, which leads to quality sleep each night. Some of the most important sleep hygiene habits include:
Refrain from eating less than 1 hour before bedtime
Drink water only until around dinner time
Avoid caffeine after 12:00-3:00pm
Keep a consistent bedtime routine
Do not use electronics in bed (e.g. computer, iPad, cell phone)
How much sleep should I be getting each night?
Research shows that getting seven or more hours of sleep per night is ideal for weight loss and weight maintenance. Good, quality sleep also has correlations to improved work performance and decreased stress levels.
How can stress lead to weight gain?
Stress levels have a direct correlation with weight gain and weight retention. High stress levels can physically cause the body to retain weight, as well as trigger a person to “stress eat.” High levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol cause carbohydrate cravings which can lead to weight gain.
What can I do to avoid stress?
Focus (don’t multitask)
Rest (get adequate sleep)
Play with an animal
Physical contact (hug)
How often do I need to exercise?
Most studies suggest that a minimum of 15 minutes of exercise can improve your cardiovascular health and weight. However, at 360 MWS, we believe that any and all exercise that you can (and will) do is usually the best regimen. Not only this, but exercise can also improve sleep, lower stress levels, and curb your food cravings.
How intensely should I be exercising?
Recent studies show that using high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may lead to an increase in weight loss. Researchers have found that shorter workouts (30 minutes per week with 3 minutes of sprint training) proved to be as effective as a longer, moderate workout (150 minutes per week with no sprint training). Additionally, for those seeking weight loss, studies recommend strength training over cardio, as it decreases weight without losing muscle mass.