Weight Loss- the Perennial Quest- a few Simple Thoughts

Every third or fourth person over forty who seeks a shamanic consultation asks about losing weight. In some cases, their concern is urgent. A standard measure of body fat percentage in the body is often figured as the BMI (body mass index), defined by the Cleveland Clinic as “the ratio of your height to your weight to estimate the amount of body fat you have. Healthcare providers calculate BMI by using weight in kilograms (kg) divided by the square of height in meters (m2).” Thus, as I am 1.8542m and 79.832257 kg, mine is 23.22, or in the optimum range, while persons who are over 30 in the scale are more susceptible to all manner of health challenges.

There are a lot of articles on these correlations to health outcomes, and if you’re curious it can easily be searched by something like “health outcomes and BMI over 30.” Not the only search terms, but this will work…

This seemed to be a good time to just look at simplifying the whole diet topic, about which so many MD’s have built cults, sold books, set up workshops or clinics, and bought themselves yet another sailboat or another vacation home on some palm studded coast. Why not just try to come up with a few dietary practices which, in general, enhance healthy weight loss, some general guidelines?

Well, I’d like to approach this as an un-doctor, opening a non-patient discussion and would love any feedback readers may have on their own strategies for weight loss. As I see it, there are four areas to consider and I’ll try to put a few sample topics under each heading. The hope is that all, combined, become a comprehensive weight maintenance plan.

1. Satiation: I believe the maxim that it’s not fat that makes us fat but sugars (simple carbohydrates).

> Glutamine or Glutamic Acid; I do a lot of health research and found a simple strategy for reducing sugar cravings: I took about a tablespoon (15mL) of L-glutamine under the tongue when i started craving ice cream or a chocolate bar. After 10-15 minutes, the brain felt sated, as if I’d already had the ‘treat.’ I don’t recall where i read this brain hack, but it worked for me.

> Simple Carbs -> Resistant Carbs: What if we can make the simple carbohydrates, at least some of them, less worrisome? To that end I heard a great presentation by Dr. Mandell, DC (Motivational Doc on YoutTube). He said that when we freeze simple carbs like bread and then toast it, much of the simple carbohydrate is converted into resistant starch, which actually has a beneficial effect on the gut biome and yet a much lower glycemic index than the original product. So, I do this with my gluten free whole grain waffles, with the occasional gluten free everything bagel, and even with my staple bread, Mestermacher German whole rye bread, you know, the thin stuff like a slab rather than a fluffy slice of bread. I also extended his suggestion to my potatoes. I like to steam potatoes not until they are super soft, but until the skins just yield to the pressure of the blunt handle of the butter knife, while they are in the steaming basket. Then i freeze them, both sweet potatoes and my preferred Yukon Gold yellow potatoes, overnight. Then i take them out of freezer and place into lower drawer in refrigerator to be used any time I want them in a dish or on their own, say, just heated with a bit of butter and some lemon pepper…

This way, i get the satiety of eating a carbohydrate without too many ill effects. Likewise, i recently found that one of the chocolate bar makers was offering a “no sugar added” dark chocolate bar with almonds, so for the occasional treat, this is a better choice.\

> Where Timing May be Important; Now this hack may even sound simpler and more self-evident: I tried to slow down my eating. I’ve had jobs where lunch was a half hour and often it was less than that by the time one got all food items onto the table. I have tired to slow down the rate at which i consume food when eating. I try to do this with the occasional treat as well. My going more slowly, the three little squares of chocolate do seem as filling as the whole bar. Eating a slower breakfast or lunch has meant going a longer time before wanting a snack or the next meal. It takes some time after mastication and swallowing for the brain to get the message that I am full, so a longer meal time means a longer time of satiety.

2. Thermogenesis: I think that’s the correct term for what facilitates fat-burning or speeds up metabolism. I did a simple search of “herbs to increase metabolism” and there were many different lists by different authors. I’m going to throw together a few of these which I’ve found seem to rev up metabolism and/ or lower appetite. These are in no particular order. 

Please consult your healthcare professional before taking any capsule or patch which contain any of these and watch your own reaction to them. Most are in popular use because there are usually no side effects but if any do produce discomfort or leave you too wound up late in the day, consider taking them no later than the noon meal, and, to repeat, all of this is covered by just getting a consultation before using and reaching out to your provider if you do experience any discomfort.


Garcinia cambodgia (bitter melon)

Green tea extract (can be found as decaf for those sensitive to caffeine)

Yerba mate


Caralluma fimbriata

3. Fiber: With a greater amount of our food’s containing insoluble fiber, we tend to feel ‘fuller’. Fiber may help regularity and  help digestion. Subjectively, I can say that it certainly does for me. 

Legumes are a good source of fiber as are many vegetables such as cauliflower and many fruits such as berries, especially compound fruits such as blackberry or small fruits with thick skins such as blueberries. Be a label reader and you will find that the fiber content per a selected portion of food is often listed on the label. If I’m buying cornmeal for making pancakes, I look for “unbolted” or whole grain cornmeal. 

Personally, I make an insoluble fiber booster by ordering bulk bags of wheat bran, rice bran, and oat bran. I put a coffe scoop (around 20 ml) of each into my little Mr. Coffee grinder and grind them together into a fine meal. I set a jar of this aside and add it to eggs, soups, stews, or even work in my hand to sausage or ground beef. You really can’t taste it, but you feel fuller longer and I have read of other benefits of a high fiber diet to health.

4. Kitchen Culture:

> Don’t overcook:  In addition to eating more slowly, how we prepare food may have something to do with how much we eat or want to keep eating. Example: yesterday, I picked up some green beans at my local health food super market. I did not cook them to mush. They were cooked on medium in just enough water to cover them until firm but not rubbery. I know that sounds very subjective, but what I’m emphasizing is that they were sterilized, but still a bit chewy. That, to me, is part of kitchen culture. One feels more ‘done’ with a meal sooner and with less food if it offers a bit of resistance, a bit of chewiness. I do the same if making a German style potato salad, not with mayo, but with extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, herbs, uncurled bacon pieces, and sea salt. I don’t use softened potatoes. Rather, they are cooked until done, as in not having the harsh taste of raw potato, but still firm to the bite.

> Set aside mealtime as time to enjoy the meal. Don’t eat when super stressed, sad, or worried. Don’t, in other words, let food be your companion, or substitute therefor. Rather than comfort food, or food as providing comfort, let’s return to food as sustenance, and if we can enjoy the preparation and taste as well, so much the better!

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