Common Pitfalls for Weight Loss I see in Clinical Practice


Are you overeating because your blood sugar and hormones are all over the place?

In clinic I find that a lot of people over eat due to low blood sugar and neurotransmitter imbalance. Cravings mean that the body has its signals mixed up. When you are tired sad or run down, you can have low blood sugar and/or low levels of our feel good hormone serotonin. Low blood sugar or low serotonin sends a signal to the brain that it needs a pick-me-up. It is this signal that causes a craving for sugar or carbohydrates.

Sugar or simple carbohydrates help release a burst of serotonin, so you feel good for a little while. But almost as quickly, you “crash” and return to your low-serotonin state, and the cycle starts all over again. Ironically, the more sugar you eat, the more you crave it because over-consumption of sugar can lead to insulin resistance. I call this the sugar rollercoaster.

Investigate your thyroid; this can, even at sub clinically low hormonal levels dramatically decrease your metabolic rate. Look at my thyroid blog, for a simple temperature test you can do yourself at home.

Don’t overeat! I know it sounds like an understatement but it needs to be said! Find another healthier way to self soothe.

How do I avoid the sugar crash?

1.    Make sure you don’t skip meals; you’d be surprised how many people skip breakfast having just a coffee on the run, which incidentally also spikes your blood sugar-an absolute no no for weight loss.  By the way don’t eat commercial processed breakfast cereal, I don’t know who the marketing genius was that managed to persuade us that sugary Carbs for breakfast are healthy was, but after they receive their advertising award, they need to be locked up!

2.    Plan your meals around the low GI principles. Complex Carbs in moderation, no processed food or simple sugars. Increase your protein aiming for a palm size piece of lean meat/fish/vegetable based protein at least 2-3 x per day

3.    Fill up on fruits and vegetables instead of bread (and I don’t mean corn, potatoes and frozen peas I consider these the Candy of the Vegetable world) Fruit and Veg will keep you full from their fibre content and help balance your alkalinity

4.    If you’re feeling blue, don’t reach for the Tim-tams, have a handful of nuts and seeds, 1 square of healthy raw dark chocolate and grab your sneakers and head out the door for a walk in the sunshine. Trust me you will feel a hundred times better!

Is your PH ok?

Another factor for weight loss is assessing your Acid/Alkaline balance. Keeping the body alkaline, as opposed to acidic, is critical for good health and to maintain healthy weight. The body will retain fat as a protection against the overproduction of acids produced by the typical Western diet.

Excess acid starts a break down in your tissues and organs. Fat may be used as a way to store those acids. By keeping acids out of your body, your body can let go of the excess fat.

Sounds terrible! What can I include or avoid?

1.    Excess acid in the system is caused by sugar, alcohol, coffee or tea, fruit juices and soft drinks, processed foods, sugar, heavy meats,  certain sugary fruits, and high GI simple carbohydrates. Minimize or get rid of them!

2.    Stress also creates an acidic environment in the body (check out my stress article on my blog for some tips on dealing with stress. ) Stress also increases cortisol levels, which is our famine or “store” stress hormone.

3.    Cigarettes make you acidic (Seriously just stop smoking there is NEVER a time that it’s not hurting you)

4.    Stay Hydrated. Drink plenty of water! Soft drinks and other sugary beverages do not hydrate cells—avoid them. Funnily enough the more dehydrated we are the more likely we are to carry bloat/ fluid, which can look and feel like excess weight.

Get moving!

Exercise encourages cellular metabolism. Even if you are simply walking, get out and move! I can’t stress this enough, remember even if you can only manage a slow 20 minute walk you’re still lapping that person sitting at home on the couch.

Here are some tips for getting back in control of your food consumption both at home and out at restaurants:

  • Instead of meeting friends for food drinks or coffee meet for a walk. You can still chat and be sociable while also avoiding unneeded food and getting exercise.
    ·       It’s easier to avoid it if it is not on your plate.  Don’t order fatty Carb laden foods, for example chips, mash and pasta. Substitute more of one thing for less of another. E.g. If your meal is served with salad and chips or ask to substitute chips with more salad. Ask for lemon juice and a small drizzle of olive oil on your veggies instead of butter
    ·       Increase serotonin levels with exercise instead of emotional eating of sugars and simple carbohydrates; it doesn’t need to be a chore, choose a fun activity. I encourage my patient to have a chart (like you would for a reward chart for children) every time you don’t reach for a sugary snack or achieve a goal like a walk record it. When you have collected enough points “redeem” it for a positive reward like a massage.
  • Talk to your waiter/waitress. Many food venues are happy to adjust a menu item slightly to keep a customer happy.
  • Ask for all dressings/sauces to be served on the side. Or better yet not at all, ask for fresh lemon to squeeze on your food instead.

·       Be aware of the hidden ingredients and sugars that can be included in many sauces and dressings-read all your labels, ask lots of questions
·       If possible have a look at the menu online before you go out. Make note of the healthiest options or decide on what you are going to eat before you get there to avoid impulse decisions.
·       Don’t feel pressured to eat something because ‘it’s a special occasion’ setting yourself backwards as you work toward your goals is a lousy birthday present
·       Fill up on a vast array of Low GI colorful vegetables. It is the minerals such as calcium and magnesium in our vegetables that help to keep our bodies alkaline.
·       Avoid alcohol especially sweet and sugary varieties. Drink plenty of water instead. When you’re out ask for a champagne glass of mineral water, so you don’t feel like you are the odd one out.

Last but absolutely not Least, Make friends with your body type. This will help you to make realistic goals if you are a curvaceous bombshell don’t set a goal to look like a super skinny Kate Moss. Having realistic goals will help keep the stress down (remember how this gets in the way) Try to avoid fad diets and commit to exercise and healthy, real food!

DIETElla Doyle