My Philosophy on Weight Loss
In my practice, I’ve seen many frustrated overweight women who have starved themselves, tried every diet on the market, and exercised regularly—sometimes intensely—in an attempt to lose the weight they put on as they aged. Some lost weight for a while, but once they returned to so-called normal eating, the pounds also returned. A friend once joked that she had lost over 100 pounds—but it was the same ten pounds over and over again! If this sounds familiar, you might be asking, as many of my patients have, why you gained weight, how it could have been prevented, and whether there is any way to shed it now.
If it feels much harder for you to lose weight now than it was 10 or 20 years ago, you’re not imagining it. When most women reach their mid-thirties and beyond, they tend to gain weight more easily—and have an extremely hard time taking it off.
I’ve been there myself, struggling to lose excess pounds. So I know how it can affect your self-confidence, relationships, and even your outlook on life. Not to mention the toll it takes on your health.
Over the years, I’ve worked with thousands of female patients who were struggling with this very issue, and I’ve found that chemical imbalances (none of which are addressed in fad diets or standard weight loss programs) are the root cause of weight gain for women over 40. These include:
A sluggish metabolism that comes with aging
Food allergies which can cause the accumulation of inflammatory fluids or “false fat”
Mood swings which intensify food cravings
Learn more about Dr. Lark’s Weight Loss program.
Rev Up Your Metabolism
Ever wonder why slim people stay slim and fat people stay fat? A key factor is what I call “energy conversion.” Food broken down in the digestive tract is absorbed into the bloodstream and dispersed into cells throughout the body where it fuels energy. In lean people, heat production goes up by as much as 40 percent after a meal. In overweight people, it may rise ten percent or less, which means food energy is stored as fat rather than burned.
There are natural nutritional supplements you can take to help activate your nervous system and boost your metabolism rate so that dietary fat is converted to energy, not stored as body fat:
Green Tea contains polyphenols, which have powerful antioxidant properties. But, the real “kicker” is its ability to help you burn calories. In a recent study, participants taking green tea extract burned an additional 500 calories a week compared to those taking caffeine or a placebo. I recommend drinking at least three eight-ounce cups daily (to provide roughly 240-320 mg of polyphenols). If you prefer not to drink the tea, try: 300-400 mg daily of green tea extract (Be sure the product is caffeine-free and standardized to 80 percent total polyphenol and 55 percent epigallocatechin.); or 100 mg of green tea polyphenols, taken three times daily. (This is caffeine free.)
L-carnitine. I’ve been recommending L-carnitine for years because of its outstanding heart-healthy benefits. But I also found it was helping my overweight patients speed their metabolism and drop extra pounds. Other patients told me that they had greater energy, and could exercise more frequently and vigorously.
L-carnitine is an amino acid that picks up fatty acids in your blood and takes them to your cells where they’re used for the production of ATP, your most readily available form of energy.
Many women are carnitine-deficient, especially vegetarians and those in mid- life and beyond. Red meat is the best source of carnitine, but too much red meat can disrupt the acid/alkaline balance that is so important to overall good health. I recommend taking 1,000 mg of L-carnitine a day.
Calcium & Magnesium. I recommend you take both calcium and magnesium to help counteract acidity when trying to lose weight. This will bring your body back to an alkaline state, which gives you the necessary oxygen to efficiently break down and get energy from the foods you eat. Plus, magnesium helps promote a healthy inflammatory response in your body. If you’re trying to lose weight, take at least 1,000 – 1,500 mg of calcium and 500 – 750 mg of magnesium per day.
Learn more about Dr. Lark’s Weight Loss program.
Reduce “False Fat”
After years of clinical practice treating thousands of patients, I’ve learned that, for many women, weight gain is related to the accumulation of fat as well as the accumulation of “false fat.” Excess fat is stored when we either eat too many calories or can’t burn those calories efficiently. But “false fat” is due to the accumulation of excess fluids, which we experience as bloating and swelling. This can come from:
1. Injury to Digestive Organs
When tissue is damaged or injured, whether from trauma, bacterial or viral infections, toxins, or allergens, an inflammatory response occurs.
2. Allergic Reactions
Food allergies can trigger responses that cause bloating or fluid retention. When the body detects an allergen, it releases histamines and other chemicals to the affected areas, which swell up in response. As we age, our production of digestive enzymes diminishes, creating a greater chance of developing allergic reactions to foods. The two most common food allergens are wheat and dairy.
Wheat contains a protein called gluten, which is difficult for the body to break down, absorb and assimilate. Women with wheat intolerance are prone to fatigue, depression, bloating, intestinal gas, and bowel changes. Try breads, crackers and cookies made with alternative grains such as rice, millet, amaranth, quinoa, or soy and oat flours.
Dairy products are a primary source of food allergies. Instead of milk and cheese, choose soy, rice, nut, and multiple grain milks.
3. Prostaglandin Hormones
The body converts dietary essential fatty acids (EFAs) into prostaglandins. The type of prostaglandins we produce depends on the fats we consume. Series 2 prostaglandins are hormone-like chemicals that cause inflammation. Simply increasing your consumption of the good fats, omega-3 EFAs, found in cold-water fish, flaxseeds, soybeans, walnuts, etc instead of highly-inflammatory dairy products, red meat and poultry skin will help eliminate this source of false fat.
4. Natural Anti-inflammatories
A number of natural anti-inflammatory supplements can help eliminate false fat. Try any one of the following until you find which one works best for you:
Bromelain. Digestive enzymes help promote a healthy inflammatory response in your body, which also helps prevent false fat. I recommend 1,000 mg of bromelain, either with or immediately following a meal.
MSM is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatories from natural foods. In a study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, MSM enabled food-sensitive people to eat foods they normally could not tolerate. I suggest 250-750 mg of MSM granules three times per day with meals.
Quercetin, a bioflavonoid in apples and onions, has been found to decrease inflammation and inhibit the release of histamines and other inflammatory substances. I recommend 300-600 mg quercetin once or twice a day. To increase its absorption rate, take it with bromelain.
Ease Stress to Help Control Mood Swings
For many women, overeating and weight gain start in the brain. Many of the chemicals that play a role in the regulation of appetite and metabolism also play a role in mood swings. Anxiety and occasional blues are triggers for overeating—whether because of chemical imbalance or as a way of coping. It becomes an endless cycle. When anxious or down, many people turn to food, which leads to weight gain. Extra weight, in turn, adds to feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and social alienation.
There are several nutritional supplements that can balance mood swings:
L-phenylalanine is an amino acid found in protein. Your body converts it into tyrosine, which it then transforms into “feel good” neurotransmitters that improve your mood. L-phenylalanine is in soybeans, fish, meat, poultry, almonds, pecans, pumpkin and sesame seeds, lima beans, chickpeas, and lentils. Aspartame, which is used to sweeten soft drinks, contains phenylalanine; but aspartame can cause negative side effects such as headaches and anxiety in susceptible individuals. Start with 500 mg L-phenylalanine; if necessary, increase to 1,000 mg twice daily, in the morning and again in the afternoon.
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). Serotonin is a critical neurotransmitter in your brain that influences your mood, diminishes, hunger, and improves sleep. To make serotonin, your body converts the amino acid tryptophan to 5-HTP. I recommend supplementing with 5-HTP, instead of tryptophan, because it’s much more direct. Plus, unlike tryptophan, 5-HTP doesn’t compete with other amino acids for transportation into your brain, where it’s needed.
I recommend 50-100 mg of 5-HTP one to two times daily, taken with a carbohydrate snack (cracker or slice of apple or banana), taken 20 minutes before a meal (to ensure the timely conversion of 5-HTP to serotonin). If you experience side effects such as nausea, lower your dosage for the first few weeks as your body adjusts. Note: With 5-HTP, take a high-quality multivitamin that contains a complete B-complex (including at least 50 mg of B6), vitamin C, and magnesium.
Regulate your appetite
Willpower alone won’t help you lose weight. The cravings will eventually overwhelm you. That’s where protein comes in. The right types of protein, in the right amounts, will help you stay full. Soy protein is a good source of protein for women because it contains phytoestrogens, which help to balance your hormone levels, support a healthy heart, and there’s evidence that they can help you maintain normal bone density.
Whey and pea protein are ideal protein sources for women who cannot tolerate soy. Whey is a low-fat milk protein rich in amino acids. It is well-tolerated by most women, including those with milk protein allergies. Yellow pea protein is also an excellent source of amino acids, plus it is free of gluten and cholesterol.
Many women find that consuming a meal replacement shake, with one or more of these protein sources, along with a sensible exercise and meal plan, helps them to lose weight safely and conveniently.
Eat for Your pH Type
To be truly successful with weight loss, you have to incorporate a healthy diet into your daily routine. But, how do you know which foods are right for you? The typical American diet is composed of foods that are either highly acidic or, once eaten, cause an acidic reaction in the body. Learning whether you are overly acidic or more alkaline is the first step. For example, overly acidic women need more carbohydrates to feel their best; those who tend toward alkalinity feel better eating more protein. Once you begin eating foods that properly nourish your system, you will find that you’ll eat less overall.
If you are naturally alkaline, you are likely to have strong bones and muscles, high energy, and healthy digestion and immune function. Your body has large alkaline mineral reserves and produces many alkaline buffers like bicarbonate, so you have more flexibility in your diet:
You can eat a nutrient-rich, more acidic diet.
You probably feel best on a protein-based diet with several servings of game, free-range poultry, or fish a day. I recommend fish for its health benefits.
Lemon or vinegar dressings and acidic fruits and fruit juices don’t upset your stomach. Nor do goat cheese, yogurt, vinegar, olives, and olive oil—all components of the Mediterranean diet.
As you have a tendency to put on weight, try to avoid dairy products, sugary desserts, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and soft drinks.
If you are acidic, you are likely to have small bones and muscles, a weak digestive tract, frequent muscle aches and pains, a tendency toward colds and allergies, and you probably feel sluggish in the morning and brain-fogged and lethargic after a high-protein meal.
Choose more alkaline sources of protein, like fish, shellfish, and tofu. Eat cold-water fish like tuna or salmon once or twice a week.
Plan more meals around vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, rather than meats and wheat products. Experiment with non-wheat flours such as rice, millet, quinoa, or soy.
Reduce your intake of acidic foods such as lemon juice, tomatoes, caffeine, or vinegar, which can cause upset stomach.
Check all phrases that apply to you in each section below.
If you tend toward acidity, it’s likely that you:
Do not feel your best when you drink alcohol, coffee, or colas.
Do not feel your best when you eat red meat or sugary desserts.
Do not tolerate vinegar, citrus fruits, and white flour.
Feel best when you eat a more vegetarian diet.
Often feel exhausted after vigorous exercise or very physical work.
Often experience fatigue and lack of stamina.
Are physically and mentally tired after an hour of deSKW3rk.
Are subject to frequent flus, colds, bronchitis, or sinusitis.
Are susceptible to heartburn, canker sores, and food or environmental allergies.
If you tend toward alkaline, it’s likely that you:
Have great physical endurance, and can sprint up stairs easily.
Are always on the go and full of energy.
Need a few hours of sleep each night.
Prefer highly active sports and gravitate toward high stress activities.
Feel bright and energized after a steak dinner.
Are able to digest a wide variety of foods.
Feel de-energized after a low protein, high carbohydrate meal.
Typically have lots of energy in the midst of intense situations.
Are able to do deSKW3rk for long hours at a time without becoming tired or losing mental clarity.
Rarely get a cold or flu, and are free of allergies.
Have a great digestive system.
Are strong, with a large frame and big bones.
If you have more checks in the acidic area, it is more likely you are overly acidic.
If you have more checks in the alkaline area, you have a tendency toward alkalinity.
Along with a healthy diet and supplement program, exercise is key to helping you lose weight, and keep it off. Exercise not only helps metabolize fat and burn calories more efficiently, but it has been shown to reduce food cravings for women with food addictions or women who binge on high-stress foods prior to menstruation. It also helps stabilize blood sugar levels, preserve body contours, tone muscles, and keep skin supple. If you exercise less than three times a week, you need to increase your level of physical activity. I recommend a brisk, 30-45 minute walk three to five times a week to burn off enough calories to lose a pound a week—provided you aren’t loading up on doughnuts or ice cream.
If you haven’t been exercising regularly, increase your level of physical activity gradually until your body is conditioned to the point where exercise is easier to do. Start with five or ten minutes, and after a week or two, add ten minutes to each workout.
To get the most out of an exercise program, follow these tips:
Stretch. To avoid injury, stretch for at least five minutes before and after every exercise session.
Get the right equipment. This means proper shoes and comfortable clothing. And make sure you replace your shoes every few months, especially if you are a runner or walker. Invest in some good-looking workout clothes, too, even if you’re just working out in your basement. If you look good, you’ll feel good.
Stay hydrated. Drink at least 8 ounces of water before you begin, and, if possible, continue taking sips of water while you’re working out. Drink another 8 ounces when finished.
Don’t go for the burn. You should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising. If you’re breathing so hard you can’t talk, slow down. Hard anaerobic exercise decreases oxygenation and blood circulation to muscles. This causes muscle fatigue and overacidity.
Vary your routine. The two main reasons people quit exercising are time and boredom. If you vary your exercise routine, you’re more likely to stick with it. Try an aerobic exercise three times a week, mixed in with a Pilates workout or weight-lifting session on the other days. And alternate the type of exercise you do. One day it could be a brisk walk. The next, an hour working in the garden. The next, rollerskating or biking with your kids.
Track your program. Buy a pedometer and hook it onto your pants to track how far you walk, not just when you’re walking for exercise, but throughout the day. Ideally, you should be walking at least 5,000 steps a day; if you’re trying to lose weight aim for at least 10,000 a day. Another good tool is a heart rate monitor. For most healthy people, the American Heart Association recommends an exercise target heart rate ranging from 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program if you have any heart conditions.
Stick with it. Research has shown that it takes at least three weeks to form a habit.