Weight Optimization

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Weight Optimization

With many Zoomers coming up during the 80’s “age of excess” it is little wonder that waist lines have steadily expanded across all socio-economic, geographical and gender lines in the past few decades to match the “bigger is better” consumer trends. As Canada faces the super-sized health epidemic of obesity, Zoomers  need to take a good look in the mirror and consider that the diet and lifestyle habits they partake in daily could be at best shaving years off their lifespan, at worst shaving decades off their Zwellspan.

In a cohort study of over 500,000 AARP members between the ages of 50 and 71 conducted over a ten year period, the New England Journal of Medicine reports an undeniable link between obesity and increased risk of death. Participants with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30.0 or more are considered obese and have a two to three times greater risk of death than their healthy weighted counter-parts.  What the study goes on to illustrate is that even overweight conditions (defined as a BMI of 25 to 30) can increase risk of death by 20 – 40%. (1)

Overweight and obesity are risk factors for the most common diseases causing death amongst Zoomers; cardiovascular disease and cancer but statistics from Canada’s Public Health Agency suggest that one’s own skewed perceptions may also be contributing to an early demise. While approximately 17% of surveyed Canadian adults suffer with self-reported obesity, the actual rate of obesity amongst Canadian adults is a much higher 25%. (2)

While overweight status is unclear to some Zoomers the options for weight loss can be even more difficult to decipher. Although a plethora of weight loss strategies circulate much of the information available is incomplete, misleading, unscientific and downright unhealthy. With a cloud of confusion hanging over healthy weight loss many Zoomers find themselves drowning in a sea of frustration and simply give up.

Contrary to popular media advertising, there is no magic pill, potion or piece of equipment that will ensure a lean body. Instead, a combination of internal and external factors working together can create energy, vitality and strength in a body that has achieved an optimal weight. Although statistics indicate that weight tends to creep up over time, overweight is not an inevitable part of aging.

Factors to Consider

Exercise Elements.

Contrary to what some popular weight loss programs would have you believe, true and lasting weight optimization cannot be achieved from calorie cutting alone. Although the ratios vary from 50:50 to 80:20 depending on who is giving out the advice, health & fitness experts from every profession agree that it takes some combination of proper nutrition and physical activity to sustain a healthy physique. Your personal fitness level and medical history will determine where you begin in terms of physical activity but where you should aim to end up is of the utmost importance to your healthy weight goal. Cardiovascular exercise such as brisk walking, biking and jogging exert tremendous benefits over the strength and condition of the heart muscle, arterial vessels and lungs. The duration and intensity of your cardiovascular activity will dictate the rate at which your body burns calories. During a weight loss phase, you will want to burn more calories than you are taking in and during weight maintenance you will want to achieve a balance.

Weight resistance exercise targets other muscles in the body besides the heart. The larger muscles such as those in the arms, legs, back and abdomen are placed under tension to build strength and mass. The benefit of incorporating this type of exercise into your work out regime is that for every pound of lean muscle tissue you build, your body burns an additional 50 to 75 calories at rest. That means even if the number on the scale does not change and your total body weight remains the same, but a larger percentage of your body weight is made up of lean muscle tissue instead of fat tissue, you will burn more calories at rest.

This is important information to understand for long term weight maintenance and why many Zoomers experience a slow and steady weight gain as they age. Losing muscle mass is not an inevitable part of aging, but often a by-product as the muscle building hormones of youth begin to decline along with activity and energy levels. The old adage, “If you don’t use it, you lose it” rings true here. The more you use your muscles the more you maintain that important lean tissue that fuels the fires of metabolism and can help bolster important “youthful”  hormones levels like human growth hormone. (3)

Hormonal Help or Hindrance.

 Hormones, chemical messengers in the body, are powerful substances that can boost energy, help you sleep better, feel happier and manage stress more easily. But when hormone levels go out of balance it can feel like the whole world is out of tilt. Energy dips, weight creeps up and seems impossible to lose. For many, hormone imbalances are the missing piece when healthy eating and exercise don’t seem to be budging the number on the scale. For both men and women, there are many factors that can conspire to throw hormones out of whack.
  • Excess Estrogen. The term Estrogen Dominance refers to an imbalance in hormone ratios in both men and women. In females, the hormones estrogen and progesterone are meant to keep each other in proper balance. In healthy men, the hormones estrogen and testosterone are produced in specific ratios to each other, with testosterone more abundant in the blood than circulating estrogens. Unfortunately in our environment we are surrounded with an excess of estrogen-like compounds called Xenoestrogens. These compounds mimic estrogen in the body and create harmful imbalances. Exposure to herbicides, pesticides, hormone laden meat and dairy, plastics, certain cosmetics and contaminated drinking water can flood the body with Xenoestrogens. The result is an increase in fat around the abdomen, hips and thighs in premenopausal women and an enlarged waist circumference in post-menopausal women and men.
  • Cortisol Catastrophe. Chronic, persistent feelings of stress, whether from physical, emotional or mental stimulus trigger several fattening metabolic processes in the body. The stress hormone, cortisol consumes lean muscle tissue, leading to an unfavourable change in body composition. Cortisol also further diminishes the metabolism by interfering with proper thyroid function.  Elevated cortisol levels can cause the lowering of another hormone called serotonin, the “happy hormone” and in doing so lead to increased cravings for carbohydrate foods. Cortisol blocks the hormones that are responsible for appetite control and boost the ones that trigger over-eating.  By contributing to increased cravings, lack of appetite control, low mood and muscle wasting cortisol can sabotage even the most disciplined dieter, making stress management as important as healthy eating and regular exercise to long term weight management.
  • Insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas and is responsible for stimulating the bodily cells to take up blood sugar (glucose). When the cells become insensitive or resistant to the action of insulin, sugar becomes elevated in the blood stream. Not only can this lead to diabetic conditions but insulin insensitivity can impair the body’s ability to burn fat stores for energy.

Conventional Treatment

 Many physicians recognize the importance of balanced eating and regular physical activity to promote optimal weight and decrease the risk of a multitude of degenerative diseases. In certain cases, such as those where metabolic diseases are involved a physician may also use prescription drugs to promote weight loss in over weight patients.

Sibutramine. Sibutramine helps control feelings of hunger and appetite by regulating neurotransmitters involved in energy intake and expenditure. Sibutramine increases signal transmission between nerves in the central nervous system.

 Sibutramine is generally well tolerated. However, safety concerns have arisen regarding possible increased heart rate (5–6 beats per minute increase) and blood pressure (1–2 mm Hg increase) (4). Individual response to sibutramine may vary; therefore, blood pressure and heart rate should be monitored carefully.
 Sibutramine should not be taken with other centrally acting antidepressants such as tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, ergotamine derivatives, opiates, herbs such as St. John’s Wort, supplement precursors to serotonin (e.g., L-tryptophan), and certain other medications because of the very rare but potential risk of serotonin syndrome (5).

Orlistat. Orlistat is an inhibitor of intestinal lipase, an enzyme involved in the breakdown of dietary fat. At a therapeutic dose of 120 mg three times daily with main meals, Orlistat inhibits the absorption of approximately 30 percent of the dietary fat ingested.

Orlistat is generally well tolerated, although side effects can include flatulence, frequent loose stools or intestinal malabsorption (6). Consistent with Orlistat’s mechanism of action, malabsorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin D and Vitamin E is a potential risk (7).

Metformin. Metformin is a prescription drug used to treat type II diabetes. Published research shows that Metformin can also help non-diabetics lose weight (8) by reducing the release of glucose (sugar) stored in the liver as glycogen. This prevents blood glucose levels from rising too high, so the body does not need to produce as much insulin (9).

Metformin can be used with relative safety to lose weight (10). Metformin is not recommended for individuals who have kidney disease, heart failure, or any medical condition that could make blood acidic (11). Consult your physician about the appropriateness of combining metformin with any of your medications. Nausea or diarrhea may occur when using metformin.

Dietary Recommendations

 Fibre. A multitude of studies conducted have demonstrated that adding fibre to your daily diet promotes weight loss. The best results are seen with water-soluble fibres such as guar gum, pectin, chitin and psyllium. When taken with ample water, these fibres mix with liquid to form gelatine, creating a feeling of fullness in the stomach. When taken before meals, fibre supplements can help prevent over-eating but the benefits of fibre go beyond this simple mechanism. Fibre supplements have actually been shown to reduce the number of calories absorbed from food by enhancing blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. (12) Clinical studies have shown that use of fibre supplements can produce a reduction in calories absorbed by 30 to 180 per day. Over the course of a year, this results in a 3 to 18 pound weight loss. The benefits of fibre appear to vary based on the amount consumed; the more fibre added to the diet the greater the weight loss results seen. That said it is important to increase your dietary fibre gradually over time and ensure ample water is consumed when fibre supplements are taken.
Meal Timing. It has been said that weight loss is a simple matter or arithmetic; calories in cannot exceed calories out, however there is a body of research that suggests this is not entirely the case.  When you eat seems to play a role in the body’s ability to use food as energy efficiently, reducing the chances of calories being stored as fat. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study that demonstrated food eaten earlier in the day produced an increase in diet-induced thermogenesis. (13) What this means is that food consumed earlier in the day, when the metabolism is more efficient, creates an elevation in body temperature. The heat created causes the body to “throw off” energy thereby reducing the amount of energy left over for storage as fat. A multitude of additional research indicates that eating your first meal of the day shortly after waking promotes blood sugar balance and reduces the likelihood of over-eating later in the day. (14)

Eating Raw. In a study comparing the effects of consuming foods cooked at higher temperatures to foods cooked at lower temperatures, results showed weight loss, a decrease in LDL cholesterol and improved blood glucose levels in those eating foods cooked at lower temperatures versus no weight loss, an increase in LDL cholesterol and blood glucose levels in those eating foods cooked at high temperatures. (15) One does not need to completely change their diet to raw or lightly cooked food to experience a benefit. Simply by increasing the amount of raw fruit, vegetables and using tools such a slow cookers and blenders to increase the proportion of lightly prepared food Zoomers can achieve a favourable weight management outcome.

Powerful Protein. Good food choices are essential for weight loss and maintenance but even more important is how you put good foods together to create a meal. Over the years dozens of fads have promoted cutting out one macro-nutrient or another to promote weight loss. The problem with this strategy is that it is unsustainable. The body is designed to thrive on a combination of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.  Problems arise when too much or too little of one macro-nutrient is consumed. Many convenience foods and commercial breakfast foods are extremely high in sugars and refined flours, creating an imbalance of carbohydrates to protein. Studies have shown that eating equal ratios of carbohydrates and proteins improves weight loss and body composition in over weight and obese adults. (16) This finding is particularly relevant when choosing breakfast foods as adding protein to breakfast daily has proven a key to success in weight loss and long term weight maintenance. (17)

Zwell Lifestyle Recommendations

CRON. A recent report published in the Journal of Nutrition states that “empty calories” from saturated fats, alcohol and sugars are over-consumed by virtually all North Americans up to age 70. In addition to this finding, almost all study participants under-consumed dark leafy greens, orange vegetables, legumes and whole grains. (18) In spite of our fortune as Canadians to have an abundance of produce available year round, this study illustrates dietary habits that are moving Zoomers away from health and towards overweight, obesity and degenerative disease.

Achieving an ideal body weight is not just about calories. Simply restricting calories to provoke a drop in body weight will not necessarily produce an optimal outcome. The CRON diet, or Calorie restriction with Optimal Nutrition is a formula that has demonstrated in many clinical studies to promote longevity, delay the onset of degenerative disease and nourish a health body.

The team of experts at Zwell recommend a diet rich in whole foods that are naturally low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, flavonoids and fibre. Without gimmicks, harmful stimulants or food scales, good food as nature intended with minimal preparation will provide your body with the raw materials it needs to achieve balance and maintain health.

Sleep & Stress. “Great quality sleep is absolutely vital for fat-loss success.” writes Dr. Natasha Turner, ND, author of the Canadian best seller The Hormone Diet. (19) The body responds to a sleep-inducing hormone called Melatonin by falling into a deep, recuperative sleep. Once this occurs, the body then releases another chemical called Human Growth Hormone. HGH is known as an anti-aging hormone because if it’s potent restorative effects. Growth Hormone acts on muscle and bone, building strength and density. By slowing muscle breakdown HGH promotes a healthy body composition and optimal body weight.

Chronic, persistent feelings of stress, whether from physical, emotional or mental stimulus trigger several fattening metabolic processes in the body. The stress hormone, cortisol consumes lean muscle tissue, leading to an unfavourable change in body composition. Cortisol also further diminishes the metabolism by interfering with proper thyroid function.  Elevated cortisol levels can cause the lowering of another hormone called serotonin, the “happy hormone” and in doing so lead to increased cravings for carbohydrate foods. Cortisol blocks the hormones that are responsible for appetite control and boost the ones that trigger over-eating.  By contributing to increased cravings, lack of appetite control, low mood and muscle wasting stress management is as important as a good diet and exercise plan to long term weight management.

Lack of sleep, especially when triggered by stressful feelings is a double whammy for your waistline. Engage in activities that calm and soothe the mind and body, especially towards the end of the day to encourage the relaxation needed to assist in your weight loss goal.


Sweat. The benefits of regular activity on weight management are numerous and impact almost every aspect of vitality. Calorie burning and the stimulation of muscle development will occur at various rates, depending on the intensity and type of activity you engage in. Regardless of the kind of exercise you choose, getting active is always a good choice. Physical activity triggers a cascade of chemical messengers in the body. Effects range from mood elevation, appetite suppression and stimulation of the metabolism to improved sex drive.
Connect. The World Health Organization predicts that anxiety and depression will be the number one disability experienced by adults in 2010. Depression signals diminished Serotonin in the body, the “happy hormone” that elevates mood and improves sleep habits, digestive function and appetite control. Many studies are suggesting that the epidemic of low serotonin is not unrelated to the epidemic of obesity that our society is facing. In addition to zapping energy and disrupting sleep/wake cycles, low serotonin is also responsible for intense food cravings, predominantly for sugars and refined carbohydrate foods.

Depression among Zoomers can be caused by a variety of psychological, social and biological factors. Being a woman, a widow, having physical illnesses and abusing alcohol are all risk factors. (20) Grief at loss of a life partner, family, or friends, and changes in social roles and health can lead to depressed feelings if these stressors persist over long periods of time or there is a lack of support during recover. (21)

Connecting to family, friends and social activities that enhance your feeling of community is as important as a good diet and exercise plan for weight loss success.

Safety Considerations and Contraindications

  • This information is meant for educational purposes and is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure disease. If you require medical attention, please seek a licensed health care provider.
  • Therapeutic use of natural food constituents (such as vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts) may potentiate the effects of prescription medications. Speak with a licensed health care practitioner about possible interactions.
  • Check with your health care professional before beginning any exercise or diet program.
  • These recommendations may not be suitable for children, pregnant or lactating women.
 Resources :

1.    Kenneth Adams, et al. NEJM 2006; 355: 763-778
2.    Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/2009/oc/index-eng.php
3.    Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2010 Feb;20(1):21-6. 12 weeks of combined exercise is better than aerobic exercise for increasing growth hormone in middle-aged women. Seo DI, Jun TW, Park KS, Chang H, So WY, Song W. Institute of Sports Science, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.
4.    de Simone et al 2005; Gaciong et al 2005; Faria et al 2005; Jordan et al 2005
5.    Trakas et al 2000; Giese et al 2001
6.    Harp 1999
7.    Cahill et al 1999
8.    Paolisso et al 1998
9.    Davidson et al 1997; Maggs 1997; Pugh 1997
10.    Mogul et al 2003
11.    Bralow et al 2004
12.     G.A Spiller. Dietary Fibre in Health & Nutrition (Boca Raton, FL CRC Press, 1994)
13.    Romon et al 1993
14.    Pereira et al 2003
15.    Vlassara et al 2002
16.    Wycherley TP, Noakes M, Clifton PM, Cleanthous X, Keogh JB, Brinkworth GD A high-protein diet with resistance exercise training improves weight loss and body composition in overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2010 May;33(5):969-76. Epub 2010 Feb 11.
17.     Vander Wal JS, et al. Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. Int J Obesity, London. 2008
18.    Report published online on August 11, 2010 in the Journal of Nutrition.
19.    Dr. Natasha Turner, ND., The Hormone Diet, Random House Canada, 2009
20.    Canadian Mental Health Association http://www.ontario.cmha.ca/seniors.asp?cID=5800 (Gallo & Lebowitz, 1999)
21.    Canadian Mental Health Association http://www.ontario.cmha.ca/seniors.asp?cID=5800 (Conn, 2002)

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