Monday, May 10, 2010

My Weight Plateau, or Body-Fat Set-Point

Photo courtesy of tibchris' photostream

I have been on a plateau with my weight for about 15 days now, with zero change in my food protocol. Weight-loss was not the goal, but it should be a large by-product, and it has stalled. After reading dozens and dozens of research papers online, I think I am beginning to understand some of the 'why'.

The human body has some amazing built-in abilities, one of which is the normal regulation of body-fat. What we consume is either burned for energy or stored for later energy use as fat. That system of regulation monitors our body-fat 'set-point' much as a thermostat on your heat/AC monitors the temperature and adjusts accordingly. When we have adequate stores of fat, that system tells us to eat less (few hunger pangs, and feeling fuller on less food), and conversely, to eat more when our body-fat storage is low, such as after lots of physical activity. There are many players (like insulin) that are part and parcel of this regulation, but I only have a general idea of how they work together.

When our bodies get out of whack from any number of reasons, the body-fat regulation suffers. One of the players is the hormone Leptin, which is made and secreted by fat cells, and it affects energy output and food intake via several neuro-endocrine pathways. Leptin's job seems to be reducing appetite and stimulating fat burning.

The more body-fat I have, the more leptin in my bloodstream, which should be stimulating fat-burning. So, why do I have an excess of body-fat? Well.... it seems I probably have built up leptin resistance over time with my previous food habits. That old diet of foods my body was not designed to handle caused (among other things) some inflammation. Not the kind of inflammation you can visibly see, like when you hit your thumb with a hammer or your ankles swell, but an internal (and probably widespread) inflammation.

Some of the inflammation is probably in my intestines, where they have had to deal with all the anti-nutrients I have eaten in the last several years. (The inflammation cause could be considered stress... dietary stress or cellular stress.) Inflammation raises the levels of insulin which cause my body to make more fat cells. My body has a response to stress-induced inflammation: my adrenals produce a hormone called cortisol, which fights the inflammation. However, cortisol also increases belly fat. Sigh.

The effects of inflammation have no doubt affected many of my body systems, including hormonal balance... and in particular, my thyroid. Fortunately, I do not seem to be insulin-resistant as far as I know, which could have led to diabetes. It's hard to say what may have developed (besides weight-gain) had I continued that disastrous way of eating.

I believe the food path I was on has built-up my leptin resistance slowly, over the last several years.
Recent studies suggest high HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) increases leptin resistance. High levels of triglycerides also are thought to build leptin resistance. Mine are probably high (or were when I started this protocol several weeks ago) since triglycerides are made in the liver from any excess sugars that have not been used for energy. The source of these excess sugars is any food containing carbohydrates, but particularly refined sugar and grains.

What can I do about it, short of medical intervention? For one thing, keep eating Real Food. Eat the foods that can counter this kind of inflammation that is linked to fat gain. According to my doctor, good fats are top of the list, and those are mostly saturated fats... meat, bacon, egg yolks, cream, butter, cheese... but no regular milk because of the sugars.

It is imperative I get more omega-3's into my diet (and fewer omega-6's), which means grass-fed meats only, eggs from pastured hens, some fish high in O-3 like salmon (but not much ocean fish because of mercury), and leafy greens.

For now, my doctor has me on almost zero carbs to see if we can get past the leptin resistance just by giving parts of my system a rest, and giving the balance of my system a highly nutritious diet. I have to be absolutely sure I get about 10,000 IU of natural Vitamin A daily, and 4,000-6,000 IU Vitamin D daily. One third of my D comes from a high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil in the form of D2. I supplement at lunch and again before bedtime with 2,000 IU's of D3. The cod liver oil also has almost of the 'A' I need.

Other foods to eliminate entirely for now are ALL grains (even soaked grains), ALL sugars and ALL legumes. I really thought it would be hard to give up sugar, as I have been a sugar addict. I thought the half-teaspoon of sugar in my coffee would be the worst to eliminate because it was first thing in the morning after an all-night fast, but the real cream I can have instead replaced the satisfaction (and energy) of sugar without the problems. It has actually been easy to give up sugar. Giving up bread was very hard for the first 2 weeks, but the craving is almost gone. I love fresh, warm Old World breads or a good sourdough slathered in butter!

My intuition, my Guides/Angels, and my doctor all tell me I may get past the leptin resistance in another week or three. Regardless, I AM feeling lots better, even though I know I must be still shedding toxins.

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