WHY YOU'RE NOT LOSING WEIGHT

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (Adv Dip Nut Med, BHSc Nut)

Weight loss isn’t always as simple as calories in vs calories out, and this confusion can leave many of us feeling defeated and frustrated after trying time and time again to reach our goals. What many don’t often realise is that there are so many other players involved when it comes to our weight. The body can often resist weight loss purely form a survival mechanism but with hormones, stress, lifestyle and environmental influences mixed in it can create a whole cocktail of roadblocks stopping you from reaching your goal.

#1 Stress

Stress can inhibit weight loss, this is largely due to elevations our stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol disrupts our appetite and leads to increased weight that’s predominantly stored around the abdomen. When stressed we are in a state of sympathetic nervous system dominance, this is also known as our ‘fight or flight response’. When in this state blood sugar levels rise and fall that may trigger cravings for refined carbohydrates and sugars.

What can you do?

Focusing on stress reduction either through lifestyle practices like gentle exercise, meditation and mindfulness, Epsom salt baths and use of essential oils, as well as diet to include more healthy fats, quality proteins, and smart carbs. Not to mention specific nutrients like magnesium and B group vitamins, these are best sourced from a qualified practitioner like me for the appropriate script.

#2 Over-Exercising and/or Under Eating

This is another form of stress, and particularly important for women to note. Too much exercise can place too much of a stress on the body and when combined with calorie restriction, this can trigger a starvation response, signalling to the body that there aren’t enough resources and now is not the time to lose any more! Exercise also increases the elimination of estrogens and simultaneously reduces the production of estrogen – this may be of benefit with women with estrogen levels that are too high, but a deficiency of estrogen can also lead to weight gain – more on this to come!

What can you do?

Take a break, take a long walk and swap out your CrossFit or HIIT sessions to more outdoor walks, pilates or a Barre class to minimise that cortisol production but still, provide the many benefits of movement. Focus on nourishment at meal times, work with a practitioner to put together an appropriate meal plan for you that will give your body the nutrients it needs for pre and post exercise as well as the correct macronutrients needed to support healthy weight loss.

#3 Sleep

Getting quality sleep and the right quantity of hours of sleep is crucial for healthy weight loss and body composition. Studies have found that those who slept between 3.5-5.5 hours a night consume nearly 385 more calories the next day compared to those who sleep between 7-10 hours. Lack of sleep also increases your risk of chronic disease, cancer, diabetes, anxiety, depression and many more.

What can you do?

Focus on sleep hygiene as well as including dietary and lifestyle practices that will promote restful, restorative sleep. See these tips to get a good nights sleep here.

#4 Toxicity

We may not be aware of the toxins we are exposed to, but it’s now estimated that food alone is sprayed with toxins in numbers that are 17 times greater than what they were 40 years ago providing us with a chemical cocktail of toxic substances. What’s more is that for many of us before we leave the house we have already exposed ourselves to an alarming amount of different chemicals and pollutants. They are in skin care, makeup, cleaning products, cookware, electronic devices, car fumes, factories, in our food and drinks, through alcohol and even coffee consumption. Toxicity places an additional stress on the body, which as we have discussed, can lead to obstacles with healthy weight loss and many of these substances now being shown to disrupt our hormonal systems, wreaking havoc on our body.

Vitamin D and calcium work together to promote weight loss yet we are living in a culture that is largely deficient in vitamin D, common skin care products contain substances that strip our skin of the compounds needed to convert the rays from the sun into active vitamin D in the body.

What can we do?

Detox! Take a good inventory of your household, your workplace and the environments you spend a lot of your time in. You can either go all out and throw out everything or work through it one item at a time consciously swapping over chemical-laden products for natural alternatives. Using food, olive oil or coconut oil works wonders in terms of moisturiser, you can use essential oils with baking or bicarb soda for cleaning, or fill a spray bottle with water, vinegar, and lemon essential oil as a surface spray and wipe. I use essential oils instead of perfume, I don’t wear deodorant (eating clean and keeping clean fights and funky smells) and I clean my teeth with baking soda toothpaste. There are many different options to support your low-tox lifestyle! Getting adequate sunlight for that vitamin D! Being outdoors for 20 minutes at least with skin exposed in large enough areas to increase absorption - think tops of legs, arms and chest.

For more advice on cosmetics and beauty products, I encourage you to check out Emily Banks from Depths of Beauty she is a wealth of knowledge and an incredible resource.

#5 Poor Gut Function

The way we digest, extract and absorb the nutrients from the foods we eat is pretty important. With any digestive disturbance, it’s important to investigate with a qualified practitioner to get to the root of the cause. The microbiome plays an important role in metabolism, food cravings, and nutrient absorption and this may need to be addressed, pesticides on foods, antibiotic use, chronic stress, fibre deficient diets and use of microwaves can all disrupt our microbiome and lead to dysbiosis. Parasites are also very common and can cause nutrient deficiencies, bloating, fatigue and changes to appetite. There may be specific foods that cause an immune response, triggering a cascade of processes that may result in inflammation, further sustaining weight loss resistance.

What can we do?

For an individualised approach and appropriate prescription I would encourage you to work alongside a practitioner, I see many clients for digestive complaints and all will involve a completely different approach to their treatment. Simple dietary tips to support gut function is to get adequate fibre, lots of colour and antioxidant, drink plenty of water and even trial the inclusion of fermented foods. Please note that when trying ferments for the first time start slow, depending on the state of your microbiome you may respond with some bloating or gas. Fermented foods are histamine-containing foods as well as bone broth which is also important for gut health, to address histamine issues please work with a practitioner for support.

#6 Hormone Imbalances

The thyroid gland is responsible for the metabolic functions within the body. It secreted hormones T3 and T4 which are important when it comes to our weight and body composition. The intricate hormonal dance we have going in on can be disrupted, the thyroid is particularly sensitive to a diet that’s low in iodine, or too high in iodine, toxicity, and stress as well as inflammation and autoimmunity. With this, the thyroid can produce too much or too little T4 and this can impact on your metabolism.

 Steroid hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone also need to be in balance. Estrogen deficiency can occur just as easily as estrogen dominance can. This can happen in cases of increased stress as the body’s precursor to these hormones is also needed to create cortisol so the body will make more cortisol to get through the stress at the expense of our sex hormones. Too much exercise as we have discussed will also promote estrogen excretion and reduce the production of it.  

Fat cells act as a secondary source of estrogen. So, when estrogen is low, the body will create more fat cells necessary to maintain adequate levels. The body is resourceful like that!

What can you do?

Stress reduction, dietary analysis and nutritional treatments work beautifully to balance hormones. If you suspect a hormone imbalance is going on definitely go and speak with your health care practitioner to conduct the appropriate testing to confirm. Symptoms experienced with thyroid imbalances include:

  • Nervousness

  • Insomnia

  • Racing heart

  • Increased sweating

  • Muscle weakness

  • Multiple bowel movements

  • Thin, brittle hair

 This would indicate an overactive thyroid.

Additionally, there are symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue

  • Dry skin

  • Weight gain

  • Feeling cold

  • Low mood

  • Constipation

  • Muscle weakness

 And these would point more towards an underactive thyroid gland.

#7 Medications

Your medications may be playing a part – and this is in no way to tell you to stop taking them, but to learn to be mindful of the implications on your weight that they can cause. Common culprits are the oral contraceptive pill, antidepressants, steroids, and angiotensin-receptor blockers.

What can you do?

If your medication can be changed, then work with your prescribing physician to slowly come off them. If it’s the pill you’re on for contraception only then there are other options you can explore, if it's for skin or period complaints it’s worthwhile working with a practitioner to get to the root of the problem – is it a zinc deficiency? Do you have endometriosis or PCOS? Are your natural hormones off balance? These are worthwhile investigations to bring your body back to a state of balance.  

#8 Overeating or simply eating the wrong thing

We are all uniquely and wonderfully made, meaning that one diet fits all is not a sound approach to health or weight. For many we simply may not be eating the right amounts, or tricked into consuming ‘superfoods’ that are not so super after all, foods like the trendy acai bowl, many store-bought dips, dressings and condiments, marinades and seasonings in foods, vegetable oils used like grapeseed, sunflower, canola, safflower and ‘natural’ sweeteners like agave.

What can you do?

Keep it simple, choose to eat SLOW:

  • Seasonal

  • Local

  • Organic

  • Whole

Studies have shown that diets that are moderate-low in palatability work well in supporting weight loss. Consuming adequate protein to increase thermogenesis through digestion as well as taking ‘diet breaks’ to help lower the body’s set point and also give you a break from it all. These are all areas worthy of another article in and of itself, but we can see from this one alone just how many other factors there are to consider when it comes to weight loss.

I always encourage you to work alongside a practitioner to support you, give sound advice and prescribe necessary nutrients for you. We are all so beautifully unique and this is something to treasure and work with it, rather than work against it by taking the advice from Dr. Google or the latest celebrity endorsement.  

Yours in health,

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WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH VITAMIN D?

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip. NutMed)

With some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and predominantly most of Australia’s population residing along the coastal fringe yet there is a notable number of people having sub-optimal and even deficient levels of vitamin D. The Australian Bureau for Statistics (ABS) concluded that during the years of 2011 and 2012 approximately 4 million Australian adults were considered vitamin D deficient. It was found that 23%, or 1 in 4 Australians adults suffered some form of vitamin D deficiency (ABS, 2013).

We know for one, that we increase our levels through sun exposure, [through a complex procedure within the body which I won’t go into detail] but we also need to obtain this fat-soluble vitamin from dietary sources such as butter, egg yolks, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) and dairy (Paxton, 2015).

So, what is the deal with vitamin D? and why do we need to have more than adequate levels? 50nmol/L is recommended to prevent osteoporosis, however optimal levels should exceed 100nmol/L and most of us are not hitting this mark.

Vitamin D is known for its benefits to our bones, maintaining skeletal homeostasis, however it is also a vital component of our immune system, acting as an immuno-modulator, targeting specific immune cells, which contain vitamin D receptors, including our T-lymphocytes, B-lymphocytes, dendritic cells and macrophages (Baeke et al, 2010).

“Several epidemiological studies have linked inadequate vitamin D levels to a higher susceptibility of immune-mediated disorders, including chronic infections and autoimmune diseases”

(Baeke et al, 2010).

Vitamin D adequacy can be attributed to telomere length… Studies found that those with lower vitamin D levels had shortened telomeres which correlated to additional years of age and subsequent cellular damage (Richards et al, 2007).

Side note: Telomeres are caps at the end of our DNA strands which protect our chromosomes and are a biochemical marker for aging and cell damage. As these telomeres shorten with every new cell division (which is occurring all the time throughout our lives) they ensure that the DNA remains intact. Eventually telomeres get to the point where they are too short to continue to function, this results in our cells to age and cease functioning properly themselves. Telomeres can therefore be considered as an aging clock in every cell within our body.

Deficiency of vitamin D is also associated with autoimmune disease (AID), occurrence of AID in Australia has also been increasingly apparent (AIDA Report, 2013). Low vitamin D levels has also been attributed to obesity through its mechanisms of influence on insulin secretion, as well as showing positive effects on blood sugar levels (Earthman et al, 2012; Alvarez & Ashral, 2010).

The purpose of this article is to educate on the many functions of vitamin D in humans, backed by research. As we can see there are a multitude of benefits of having optimal levels, however too much can be toxic to the body. If you’re wanting to increase or assess your own levels of vitamin D please consult with your health practitioner to get appropriate supplementation and dietary interventions for your own individual needs.

I am happy to have a consultation with you, if you haven’t found yourself a practitioner to work with. You can book online here

Yours in health,

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References

Alvarez, J. A., & Ashraf, A. (2009). Role of vitamin D in insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity for glucose homeostasis. International journal of endocrinology2010.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Nutrients, 2011-12.

Baeke, F., Takiishi, T., Korf, H., Gysemans, C., & Mathieu, C. (2010). Vitamin D: modulator of the immune system. Current opinion in pharmacology10(4), 482-496.

Earthman, C. P., Beckman, L. M., Masodkar, K., & Sibley, S. D. (2012). The link between obesity and low circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations: considerations and implications. International journal of obesity36(3), 387.

Paxton, F. (2015). Foundations of Naturopathic Nutrition.

Richards, J. B., Valdes, A. M., Gardner, J. P., Paximadas, D., Kimura, M., Nessa, A., ... & Aviv, A. (2007). Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women. The American journal of clinical nutrition86(5), 1420-1425.

CHOLESTEROL.. IT'S NOT A DIRTY WORD

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip. NutMed)

There’s a lot of fear associated with cholesterol, with it "being linked to an increased risk of heart disease & all" (which is another blog post all in and of itself). But, what you may not know is that cholesterol is required for a number of different reasons; hormone synthesis, as an antioxidant, aids the bodies healing process, is required to form vitamin D, neurotransmitters and is also needed for our cells membrane’s (the outer layer) structure (Marieb, Hoehn & Hutchinson, 2013).

Cholesterol is found in the foods we eat, but misinformation may have you believe that dietary cholesterol will increase your blood levels… When in fact our liver produces about 85% of it! You may be familiar already with the different types of cholesterol; HDL (known as the 'good' cholesterol) & LDL (known as the 'bad'). These terms in fact are referring to the lipoproteins which act as transporters carrying the cholesterol throughout the blood stream.

Dietary cholesterol will not effect your bodies cholesterol levels, saturated fat however, will & you know what else will?...

Stress.

When you’re stressed the body creates more cholesterol as it helps to mop up endotoxins. Endotoxins are released during this time of stress and are damaging to the body, creating inflammation. So, to counteract this effect, cholesterol is produced (Marieb, Hoehn & Hutchinson, 2013).

Diets low in saturated fats (commonly in vegan/vegetarian diets) can reduce the total level of cholesterol within the body, and this can result in depression and anxiety (Colin, Reggers, Castronovo & Ansseau, 2002; Papakostas et al, 2004).

As I’ve mentioned earlier, cholesterol is needed for hormone synthesis. Sex hormones testosterone, progesterone and estrogen are all dependent on cholesterol. Cholesterol is also a pre-cursor to vitamin D, an essential fat-soluble vitamin required for multiple functions in the body (too many to list here).

Morale of the story; cholesterol is GOOD, its needed by the body and it’s also created by the body. So you can stress less & as always, be kind to yourself x

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References

Colin, A., Reggers, J., Castronovo, V., & Ansseau, M. (2002). Lipids, depression and suicide. L'Encephale29(1), 49-58.

Marieb, E., Hoehn, K., & Hutchinson, M. (2013). Human anatomy & physiology. [San Francisco, Calif.]: Pearson Education/Benjamin Cummings

Papakostas, G. I., Öngür, D., Iosifescu, D. V., Mischoulon, D., & Fava, M. (2004). Cholesterol in mood and anxiety disorders: review of the literature and new hypotheses. European Neuropsychopharmacology14(2), 135-142.

EFFECTS OF STRESS & HOW TO COPE

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip NutMed)

We’re all busy, our lives are full of hustle & bustle, families, kids, work, friends, cooking, cleaning, shopping, travel, events, oh, life!

With these busy lives can come a whole lot of stress. For our bodies when stressed, can enter into a ‘fight or flight’ response – it can even occur due to intense exercise/physical exertion. This ‘fight or flight’ response involves many physiological and biochemical changes, making the nervous system hypersensitive. The body responds to any sort of stress, be it physical, mental or emotional by activating our sympathetic nervous system and our adrenal glands to start releasing hormones: cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Through this the body will conserve energy from other organ systems, thereby slowing down their function and divert this energy to our arms, legs and brains. This was for our survival, originally a ‘stress’ would occur to man from an attack or some sort of threat, a tiger for example. So by the body slowing down other processes and directing the extra energy to our limbs we could then turn to ‘fight’ or to get away from the threat, fast! After this attack or danger would occur, cortisol would turn off the release of adrenaline and the body would return to function as normal.

But now, in this day & age the stressful event could be long term & ongoing from time constraints, job pressures, study, relationships, weddings & other events to more serious conditions of long term illness, chronic pain or emotional distress. Our bodies will remain in this stressed out state, still experiencing the same physiological and biochemical changes –leading to slow digestion, decreased immune system, changes to menstruation, effecting fertility, increased blood glucose levels, depleting our adrenal stores & keeping our cortisol levels high. During this, the bodies nutritional demands are increased, but with our digestive system being effected it leads to poor function & nutrient absorption. The elevated cortisol, the depleted adrenal stores & the effects on blood sugar can then in turn effect our moods, leaving us feeling irritable and even anxious. Sleep is also effected, that feeling of being ‘tired but wired’ leaving us as insomniacs or waking unrefreshed after a long nights sleep.

This long-term stress and adrenal depletion can leave us with a label of ‘adrenal fatigue’ – you may or may not have heard this term already. Basically, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol, following a diurnal cycle. Levels should be high in the morning when we wake, then steadily decline throughout the day. People who are chronically stressed will have elevated basal cortisol and a flattened diurnal curve, resulting in flat cortisol – this response is referred to as ‘adrenal exhaustion’.

Chronic stress is inflammatory, it raises our biochemical inflammatory markers which affect our serotonin levels, leading to anxiety or depression. It’s associated with poor memory, that ‘foggy headed’ feeling, with mood changes and irritability. With stress also decreasing our immune function leaves us susceptible to allergic diseases and the development of conditions such as chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases, premature aging, atherosclerosis, abdominal weight gain and even cancer! In women their menstruation & fertility are also effected.

As we can see, being stressed out can have some serious side effects, so what can we do about it? We can’t always escape the stress in our lives but there are ways we can deal with it.

The first thing is to assess the stress – look at what you can change, what is in your control & what you are willing to let go of, you might be able to lighten your load with work or other commitments & have more time for yourself (SO important!).

The second is to slow down. You’re busy, I get it & this doesn’t mean that you should have hours of meditation and stillness, but you can incorporate small pockets of ‘still’ into your day. What’s one thing you do every day? When you shower, or brush your teeth, even when you make a tea/coffee or are driving from one place to the next – make these moments a time of mindfulness. Breathing long, slow, deep breaths. Create awareness in that moment, noticing how you feel, your thoughts. Science has shown that by changing our breath from short, shallow breaths to long, slow & controlled we can get our bodies out of that ‘fight or flight’ response and back into a rested state. This can even be including 5-10 long breaths upon waking, taking your time to get up and out of bed – doesn’t have to be a radical change to your routine or take up too much time but you can find these pockets of still & embrace them.

Thirdly, single task! Do one thing at a time, for at least a few of the tasks you have to do in your day, not all of them – or you probably wouldn’t get anything done, ha! It is impossible for us to be focused on more than one thing (sorry self-proclaimed multi-taskers out there). When stress is rising focus on one thing you are thankful for – it can be as simple as ‘clean water’ or ‘your pillow’, changing your thoughts in the moment does not make the stressful event go away, but at least your body will be focused on something positive & help to diminish the negative effects associated with stress - worrying will not solve the problem either!

And lastly, what can we do nutritionally –

For one; (I’m sorry) but caffeine will have to go! This raises your stress hormones and puts more pressure on your adrenal glands.

Two; sugar also – get rid of it, stress raises your blood sugar levels, as well as sugar being highly inflammatory. This means no soft drinks, confectionary, cakes, chocolates, biscuits, even white, refined carbohydrates from breads, pasta etc

Three; get some vitamin C! Your adrenal glands need it, and they need to be supported – you can talk with your qualified practitioner about supplementation specific for you and include more coloured vegetables and fruits in the diet

Four; B vitamins – these are depleted in times of stress, again speak with your practitioner about supplementing and doses needed. This way you know you’re getting the best quality practitioner only supplements at a dose that is tailored to you and your current needs

Five; Magnesium - this mineral is also depleted during times of stress and is required for hundreds of enzymatic functions within the body, relaxes muscle & assists with energy production - deficiency can contribute to anxiety and depression, again consult your nutritionist/naturopath for the appropriate form of magnesium & the correct dosing. 

Six; Eat fat! Yep, lap it up! Good fats I’m referring to here (I’ve written a blog post on fats which you can find on this site, so you can know which ones to eat). This can include oily fish, avocado, olives and olive oil, nuts and seeds – these fats are anti-inflammatory, great for brain health and development and help to balance blood sugars. Fats also give flavour to your foods & increase satiety with meals, they are not to be feared!

Seven; Practice mindful meal times; digestion begins before you take your first bite. The site of food, smell of food & the thought of it begins to prepare your body to eat and digest. This in turn triggers saliva to begin to secrete digestive enzymes ready to break down this food. When we are eating on the run, working through our lunch breaks, or mindlessly eating whilst watching TV this process is inhibited. We can end up eating way more than we need to, leave us feeling bloated and sluggish, or with indigestion and we wonder why? Maybe you have food allergies, or maybe you’re just approaching food and mealtimes with the wrong mind set. Sit down at meal times, give thanks for your food - practicing gratitude, enjoy each bite, CHEW your food (its crazy how many of us don’t chew enough) and really be present, noticing how you feel, how it tastes – it can be almost a meditative experience.

With impaired digestion, some might find benefit in utilising a slow cooker, having more soft, water rich foods in the form of soups & stews – the slow cooking starts to break down the foods, with the water increased can help to aid digestion and reduce any digestive disturbances you may be experiencing.

Also to note – exercise can help with stress relief & the body’s ability to cope with increased amounts of stress, however if you’re already in that burnt out ‘adrenally exhausted’ phase, I recommend to exercise in a way that will not be overly stimulating, as that can create more stress on the body, but through a walk in nature, pilates & stretching – does not have to mean HIIT classes at the gym & can even just be 10mins of movement included in your day – even if you just park further away from work or wake a bit earlier each day to include this.

And lastly, seek help – if you’re not coping, or have in fact experienced a trauma, don’t try to tackle it alone. There is a big difference between being stressed out, and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – please, speak to your health professional about getting the appropriate support & treatment. Vulnerability is strength and asking for help is in no way showing weakness.

Be kind to yourself, listen to your body.

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