In This Article
Autumn is in full swing and just around the corner are the holidays. And with the holidays and the cooler weather moving in, many of us find ourselves gaining some weight during the fall and winter months. This is, of course, nature’s plan to insulate both humans and animals with a naturally-occurring higher fat and higher protein diet during the cold, winter months. I’ll give myself leeway to gain 5 pounds or so in the winter, but often this season is the beginning of rich and sweet treats at family gatherings and events, and it’s easy to get way off track. In the case that you do find yourself holding onto a little more than what you’d like, in this article, you’ll find some tools to self-diagnose why you might be struggling with stubborn weight that you just can’t drop and solutions to address each specific issue.
Weight Balancing Starts in the Gut
When the mucus membranes in the gut and sinuses dry out from the dehydrating effect of cooler weather, they produce excess reactive mucus which breeds bacteria. Healthy digestion and strong immunity depend on the quality of our intestinal and respiratory mucosa. It is crucial that we understand nature’s winter strategy because 70–80% of our immunity lies in the gut. (1,2)
The villi and lacteals inside our small intestine play an essential role in the healthy function of our digestive and immune systems. These finger-like villi, when flattened out, are about the size of a tennis court and are the key players for absorbing nutrients, vitamins, minerals and removing toxins. (3) If these are not functioning correctly, nutritional deficiencies – which are a hidden cause of weight gain – will become more prevalent.
Toxic Lymph Can Make You Gain Weight and Hold Onto It
When the villi and lacteals are compromised, (4) our body has difficulty processing fat-soluble toxins out of the body efficiently. These include heavy metals, pesticides, environmental pollutants, preservatives, plastics, parasites, and more. These fat-soluble toxins are broken down by the bile and sucked up by the villi and lacteals. The lacteals bring these toxins into the Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue (GALT) to be broken down further by the white blood cells in the lymph nodes. If this process is congested, the gut can swell, resulting in bloating and excess belly fat. (5)
The lymph in the legs, hips and pelvis drain through the GALT. If it is not functioning properly, you can experience cellulite, extra weight around the hips, occasional constipation and reproductive issues – to name a few. (6-9) If these villi and lacteals are compromised, the problem just gets worse. The toxins reach the end of the small intestines and can be reabsorbed by the liver, along with about 94% of the used bile. (10)
The liver becomes overwhelmed, the bile becomes thick, fats are not broken down, stomach acids are not neutralized by adequate bile flow, and digestive enzymes are unable to support adequate digestion. The bottom line: digestion stalls, the liver starts spilling toxic fats into fat and brain cells, and a degenerative process can ensue.
Weight Balancing Requires Balanced Blood Sugar
The key to any weight balancing plan is to be sure that the body has the ability to burn fat. Fat is the most precious source of fuel for the body. Fat is the body’s calm, non-emergency fuel. It burns slow and steady – providing energy for many hours straight, unlike sugar, which burns quickly. Sugar and carbohydrate fuels provide quick bursts of energy that often end in a crash.
Fat is a fuel that detoxifies us as well as neutralizes excess acids that build up from stress. The problem is that many of us have lost the ability to burn fat effectively and are chronically storing fat and, in turn, gaining weight.
Why Does Snacking and ‘Grazing’ Discourage Fat Metabolism?
Our culture is telling us that eating many small meals a day is a better way to stabilize mood and balance weight. This only temporarily covers up symptoms if you are hypoglycemic and have unstable blood sugar. Eating 6 meals a day can never provide permanent blood sugar stability, as the body will become dependent on being fed every 2-3 hours. If a meal is missed, the blood sugar crash cycle starts again.
If we want the body to burn fat, we must give it a reason to. Why would the body burn its stored fat reserves if it is getting fed every 2-3 hours? When we eat this often, the body burns what it has just been fed and has no motivation to burn stored fat. (11-17) If we needed food every 2-3 hours to survive, humans would simply be extinct. This way of eating is just not sustainable.
In the old days, folks had supper at 5 or 6pm and then ate nothing until breakfast at around 7am. It was common to go 13 hours without food and break that fast (and thus reset fat metabolism) every day with “break-fast.” This is the tradition that has been in place for thousands of years around the world.
Obesity is all too prevalent in America. More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults fall into the obese category. (19) After a couple of decades of eating 6 meals a day and/or snacking between meals, our blood sugar levels have become notoriously unstable. Yes, at first people feel better, but shortly thereafter the blood sugar issues tend to become worse. (11-17)
How To Burn Fat
Eating breakfast, and then nothing until lunch, and then nothing until supper, and then nothing until breakfast again will provide a natural fast in between meals that will encourage fat metabolism. If you have a healthy snack, like a carrot, in between breakfast and lunch you will burn the carrot, but not any stored fat. If you have nothing between breakfast and lunch, your body will be forced to burn stored fat to get you to lunch without a blood sugar crash.
I did a study based on my book, The 3-Season Diet (18), in 2000. We had the group eat 3 meals a day with no snacks and measured weight loss and a host of psychological factors. Within two weeks their moods, cravings, sleep, exhaustion after work, and fatigue were all significantly improved. And they lost an average of 1.2 pounds per week during the two-month study.
Losing Weight CANNOT Be a Struggle
The more you strain and starve yourself, the more the body perceives the weight loss program as a fat-storing emergency. To get the body to burn fat naturally, you have to convince it the war is over. We do that by encouraging the body to burn fat naturally and effortlessly.
Easy Weight Balancing Program
Follow these 4 simple steps to permanent weight balancing:
- Eat 3 good, healthy and relaxed meals each day – with no snacks.
- Start with 4 meals a day if you need to, but work down to 3.
- Note: If you cannot shift from 4 meals a day to 3 meals a day, you may have a more serious blood sugar imbalance. Please get your blood sugar checked by your primary care physician, start monitoring your own blood sugar with an easy at-home glucose monitor, or set up a LifeSpa consultation.
- Graduate to Step 2 only when Step 1 is effortless.
- Make supper smaller – such as a soup or salad.
- Graduate to Step 3 only when Step 2 is effortless.
- Make supper earlier. Eat before 6pm
- Graduate to Step 4 only when Step 3 is effortless.
- Skip supper 3-7 nights per week.
- Drink copious amounts of warm water between meals.
- Enjoy one cup of herbal tea with raw honey before bed.
Do You Have Stubborn Weight?
Below is a list of symptoms and solutions that have been proven effective in supporting digestive health and weight. If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, this could indicate that the villi, lacteals, lymph or liver are not working properly and could be a cause of stubborn weight gain.
QUESTIONS Regarding Villi and Lacteal Health (Inner wall of small intestine):
- Do you have mucus in your stools?
- Do you have occasional constipation?
- Do you have looser stools?
- Do you have alternating loose or sluggish stools?
- Do you have occasional heartburn?
- Do you have frequent gas or bloating?
- Do you feel the need to avoid certain foods for optimal digestion? Such as gluten, dairy, sugar, etc?
- Do you eat more veggies or fiber to aid digestion?
- Do you take any supplements to help with digestion? Such as enzymes, antacids, HCl or laxatives?
SOLUTIONS: To support the inside wall of the small intestine, consider the following:
- Turmeric and fenugreek tea clean excess mucus off the gut wall. To make fenugreek tea, simmer a small amount of fenugreek for 20 minutes and strain. Experiment with your taste preference – try 2 teaspoons in 2 cups of water the first time.
- Loose stools: Triphala, slippery elm, licorice and bilva combine to make an herbal formula I call Elim 2, which can support the intestinal mucosa if so much excess reactive mucus exists that stools are loose.
- Sluggish elimination: Read about triphala, as well as triphala in combination with slippery elm and licorice in a formula called Elim 1.
- Mucus in stools, occasional heartburn: study
- Eat a diet rich in greens.
- Probiotics are also good for the gut, but only if your digestion is balanced.
- Avoid rich foods – like baked goods, wheat, dairy and spicy food – to help support intestinal villi and lose the extra weight. Slowly re-introduce these somewhat harder-to-digest foods.
QUESTIONS Regarding Lymphatic Health:
- Do you hold on to excess water?
- Do your breasts swell or hurt during menstruation?
- Do your joints ache in the morning and does the pain move?
- Do you have any skin rashes or itching?
- Do you experience cramping?
- Do you have any swollen glands, scratchy throats or frequent headaches?
- Do you have recent moles, freckles or skin tags?
SOLUTIONS: To support lymph health, consider the following:
- Manjistha is an herb that is best for general lymph congestion.
- Red Root helps with swollen lymph glands.
- Rejuvenate the inside of the small intestine needs through cleansing. Do our 4-Day Short Home Cleanse
- Eat a mainly alkaline diet of about 70% alkaline and 30% acid.
- Powerful lymphatic cleansing also occurs when sipping hot water every 10-15 minutes each day for 2 weeks, combined with daily skin brushing or gharshana, and daily self-massage (abhyanga) with Lymphatic Massage oil.
QUESTIONS Regarding Bile Flow and Liver Function:
- Do you ever get nauseous after a meal?
- Do you ever feel heavy after a high-fat or greasy meal?
- Do you ever feel occasional heartburn about an hour after the meal?
- Do you avoid fatty foods and generally eat a low-fat diet?
- Do you have bowel movements that keep changing?
- Do you ever have green or greasy stools?
- Do you have a history of any gallbladder issues?
SOLUTIONS: To support liver and gallbladder health, consider the following:
- Read up on Liver Repair and turmeric.
- Read my article on Gallbladder Health, which lists foods to eat more of, foods to avoid, and three recipes to eat every day for a few weeks.
- Caraka,Caraka Samhita, Chaukhambha Orientalia, Varanasi, India. 1981, Chikitisasthanam, Ch 1. vs.30-35. Ch XXVI, vs. 5-6, 7-10.
- Guyton and Hall. Medical Physiology. p.785. Saunders. 2011
- Douillard, John. The 3-Season Diet. Harmony: 2001.