Is Weight Loss Simply Calories In VS Calories Out?

“It’s just calories in vs calories out.”

While the simplicity of this statement is appealing, there’s a lot more to successful weight loss than decreasing your caloric intake and increasing your exercise to create a caloric deficit. Why doesn’t this theory of simple math hold up?

  1. Not all calories are equal. Fats contain 9 calories/gram and carbohydrates contain only 4 calories/gram, but increasing your carbohydrate intake (especially processed carbs) by 1% increases your risk of obesity, while increasing your fat intake by 1% decreases your obesity risk. Different macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) are metabolized differently in the body and set off different chain reactions. Some promote weight gain, while others support weight loss. No single group is strictly good or bad, but processed carbohydrates are more likely to promote fat deposition when eaten in excess.

  2. Your energy expenditure (calories out) isn’t static. Restricting your caloric intake results in a proportional decrease in energy expenditure. This makes you feel cold, tired, and weak, and makes it more likely you’ll regain the weight you do lose.

  3. Your metabolism is also heavily influenced by many hormones. Ignoring a hormonal imbalance and focusing solely on calories alone won’t get you very far.  

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So, if it’s not all about calories, what’s preventing you from losing weight when you’re eating nutrient-rich foods and exercising regularly?

The three of the most common weight loss obstacles I encounter in my practice are: high stress, poor sleep, and eating too frequently.

Prolonged stress increases hormones (namely cortisol) that promote cravings for sugary and fatty foods, and disrupt hormone signalling (of insulin, thyroid, and growth hormones) to increase fat accumulation, especially in the abdomen. Higher cortisol levels also increase your risk of metabolic and cardiovascular disease. Lowering and managing your stress is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall health and support weight loss! Exercise, deep breathing, meditation, and time spent outdoors are all helpful.

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Similarly, lack of sleep can throw a wrench in the works. Even just one week of insufficient sleep can increase fat mass. Over the long term, too little sleep promotes increased hunger, disrupts blood sugar regulation, and promotes loss of muscle-mass rather than fat-mass. So, what’s the magic number? This can vary, but 7 hours nightly is a good rule of thumb.

And finally, when you eat is as important as what you eat. Our bodies rely heavily on insulin to regulate blood sugar levels and fat storage. Eating too frequently – snacking consistently or eating late into the evening – leads to chronically elevated insulin (and eventually insulin resistance) which promotes weight gain and impairs weight loss. Your body needs breaks between meals. Cutting out snacks and fasting overnight for a 12-hour period can be good places to start. Although, certain conditions (eg. diabetes, hypoglycemia, and pregnancy) can require more frequent nutrient intake, so be sure to discuss this with your doctor.

If you’ve been working hard to lose weight with little success, take a look at your stress level, sleep, and meal timing. And if you’d like some additional support, seek out a Naturopathic Doctor, we’re always here to help.

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What do I do after a car accident?

One inherent risk of driving on our roads is the possibility of having an accident. Although they happen daily, the majority of people do not end up with injuries that require treatment. However, if there are aches and pains that do not appear to be resolving or improving week to week, or if you’re having difficulty returning to work and other activities of daily living, it’s best to seek out a care plan from a rehabilitation professional.

There have been several recent landmark changes to ICBC’s health coverage for those injured in a motor vehicle accident no matter who is at fault. There is now treatment coverage that is pre-approved for all the following services for 12 weeks post accident: Physiotherapy, Chiropractic, Massage Therapy, Counselling, Psychology, Kinesiology, and Acupuncture. Importantly there is no longer a user-fee to access these allied health professionals, meaning, there is absolutely no cost to those injured in the accident. 

You do not need a referral for these services, you can access them directly. What this really means is that it will take you less time to find a practitioner who can go through a thorough examination with you, determine a diagnosis, and most importantly a plan of care. During your session, you can expect to be provided education, advice, and movement strategies to get your injury on the road to recovery. Many of these injuries have a two to three-month recovery timelines, so patience, perseverance, and a bit of work is to be expected. Nonetheless, it is now easier than ever to access the services you need to reach your goals.

Should I stretch before I run?

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Running is a safe and effective form of exercise that results in endless amounts positive health benefits. There are often questions though on how someone should warm-up prior to the run and historically this has been a no-brainer to answer. Many of us were taught that you need to do a proper warm-up prior to running and that required us to thoroughly stretch the lower body prior to hitting the road or the trail. But does the evidence back this up? Does stretching truly prevent running injury or increase performance?

The short answer no. There have been a large number of reviews since the late 1990’s that attempt to answer this question and found that there is no reduction in injury risk with static stretching immediately before running. In fact, some reviews have suggested that there might be a slight increase in injury risk due to reduction in performance measures. Why the reduction? One theory is that stretching temporarily reduces pain with end of range positions and could cause us to overstretch without realizing during exercise. Further, authors suggest that static stretching doesn’t seem to help with running tasks since we don’t need to reach end of range positions, but might be more helpful when you need maximal flexibility (think gymnastics or dancing).

“there is no reduction in injury risk with static stretching immediately before running”

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How does stretching affect running performance? Again, there isn’t great news for static stretching immediately before running. There seems to be a reduction in various measures of performance - speed, strength, jumping ability and endurance. Why are there potential reductions in performance measures? Stretching may temporarily reduce the stiffness of tendons in the lower body and some stiffness is actually advantageous for runners! Think of having a stiff versus a loose trampoline spring, which one would provide more bounce? Likely the stiffer the spring. Again a certain degree of tightness is actually helpful for running providing more spring and forward propulsion in runners steps.

“Think of having a stiff versus a loose trampoline spring, which one would provide more bounce?”

Well now the question becomes: what should we do prior to running? What is an effective warm-up? Doing some dynamic exercises may be more helpful in increasing blood flow to the muscles that are being utilized during running. This could be done using slow controlled mid-range movements such as squats, lunges, calf raises, high knees, butt-kickers, etc. Another effective warm-up is to simply go for a slow (sub-maximal) jog prior to going on your normal run. For example, if your normal pace is 5 minutes per kilometre, you could start with a short run at a slower pace - 6 minutes per kilometre - and then start at your normal pace. Always keep it simple, the most important thing is to get your body moving and warm prior to any exercise routine.

For all runners, very effective strategies that reduce the risk of injury come in the form of good training load monitoring and muscle strengthening exercise which has been written about in more detail here. Does that mean we completely discard static stretching? I would argue not. To be clear, the above recommendations are specifically for stretching immediately prior to running. There is reason to believe that having a general stretching routine is helpful for reducing injury risk to muscle, ligaments and tendons. One such protocol suggests stretching key muscle groups for 30 seconds at a time, which I believe is a good starting point if you are wanting to start a stretching program.

How acupuncture helps anxiety

By Lucy Mei Lee

Anxiety is a normal reaction to a high-stress situation, but in some cases it becomes excessive, chronic and can cause people to dread everyday situations.  

In 2013, an estimated 3 million Canadians (11.6%) aged 18 years or older reported that they had a mood and/or anxiety disorder.  Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive and persistent feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and even fear.  Anxiety can be experienced in many different ways with many different triggers, often producing a sense of overwhelm and racing thoughts.  These symptoms can be accompanied by a pounding heart, chest tightness, sweating, muscle tension or other physical sensations.

In my acupuncture practice, I treat many who struggle with anxiety.  Addressing underlying anxiety can benefit other areas of health such as insomnia, chronic pain and digestive issues.  When a person is anxious, there is a tendency to worry or overthink, which in Chinese medical terms causes the qi (pronounced chee – meaning potential vital energy that animates the body) to scatter or knot.  The acupoints chosen aim at restoring open and smooth flow and calming the mind and heart spirit.

The Acupuncture Evidence Project, co-authored by Dr John McDonald, PhD and Dr Stephen Janz, provides an up-to-date comparative review of the clinical and scientific evidence for acupuncture.  Their study included a 2016 systematic review with over 400 randomized patients that concluded that “the effects from acupuncture for treating anxiety have been shown to be significant as compared to conventional treatments.”

In the most recent systematic review published in 2018, it revealed that all of 13 included studies “reported an anxiety decrease for their treatment group relative to the control groups.” Three of these studies used pharmaceuticals as controls.

The main way that acupuncture works for anxiety is through its effect on the nervous system.  There are two components of the nervous system, one which releases signals which are excitatory (sympathetic nervous system) often called the “fight or flight system” and another which releases relaxation signals (parasympathetic nervous system), often called the “rest and digest system”.  Acupuncture has been shown to have an effect on both these systems.  These signals direct the body for heart rate, blood pressure, and contraction force.

How acupuncture can help you

When receiving acupuncture treatment, and for a period of time following, a vast majority of clients report a sense of calm well-being and increased stillness of the mind. Racing or intrusive thoughts have a tendency to bring someone’s mind into the past or the future. Being able to stay present more often is helpful in reducing anxiety, and acupuncture can assist people to recognize how to do that.  Some people report feeling more grounded in their bodies and an increased self-awareness around boundaries or other needs. Many find that regular acupuncture treatments help to better adapt with to stress in their lives, whether it be at home, in the office, or simply within.

lifestyle recommendations that can help you:

  • Remove any barriers to getting good quality and quantity of sleep.

  • Drink adequate water – even mild dehydration can affect mood and ability to concentrate.

  • Eat a balanced diet - avoid blood sugar imbalances by eating regularly, avoid sugar and limit caffeine. Eat a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables.

  • Make time for self-care practices, such as meditation, breathing, yoga, Qigong, TaiChi, or other types of exercise.

  • Apply acupressure to Heart 7/Spirit Gate (see photo). This acupoint is located on the inner wrist crease, about one centimetre inwards from the pinky edge on the inside of the bony prominence. Apply firm pressure for the count of three then rub in circles for the count of three. Breathe and continue like this for 3 rounds then end with holding the point for 5-10 seconds.

 
Tall Tree Integrated Health Centre
 

Most importantly, recognize that you are not alone and talk to somebody whom you can trust, whether it is a friend, family member, counsellor or health practitioner.  There are many strategies out there that can make a big difference. I’d love to hear from you what methods you have found to be helpful.

And yes, in case you were wondering, acupuncture is worth pursuing even if you are anxious about needles.  Find someone that you communicate well with and can trust. It may surprise you just how little you feel the needles and how relaxing the experience can be.