Nora Gedgaudas

Weight loss

Weight loss

Although The Paleo Way 10-week program does not bill itself as a “weight loss program”, per se—the vast majority of its adherents readily find excess ballast melting away in the wake of improved diet and health.

Although The Paleo Way 10-week program does not bill itself as a “weight loss program”, per se—the vast majority of its adherents readily find excess ballast melting away in the […]

We here at this program happily refer to needed weight loss as a positive “side effect” that comes with this way of eating.   Conversely, a number of people that may otherwise be underweight often also find relief here.   Do we make any such guarantee, however? The truth is, no one possibly can.  Short of inducing unhealthy starvation, weight loss experienced through any dietary approach can be highly variable.   We believe that the (ideally) lifetime dietary approach and lifestyle associated with this 10-week program provides the best possible foundation for improved health and well being (first and foremost) and that this may very often result in subsequent weight normalization.

To cover all of the underlying potential factors that influence undesirable weight gain and problems with weight loss would literally require space enough to fill a book (something I have researched considerably and am working on eventually publishing a more extensive book about).  I have also highlighted a number of mechanisms and have provided useful information relative to this subject in my book, Primal Body, Primal Mind.

Given the limited space we have here to cover a very complex issue, I think a lot of helpful mileage can be gotten from addressing some of the basics, as well as some of the more common pitfalls that accompany issues with desired weight loss.

First and foremost, metabolic diseases are truly symptomatic of modern times, and something that would never have existed among our Paleolithic ancestors in any currently recognizable way. Our Paleolithic ancestors were extraordinarily lean, muscular and fit— even as they never subscribed to gym memberships, never owned a pair of running shoes and didn’t have the dubious “benefits” of interference by government authorities or dietary dictocrats proclaiming dietary guideline expertise (influenced predominantly by corporate interests).   Once upon a time everyone had a first-hand knowing where their food came from, everyone’s food was 100% naturally, organically, wild-caught and free-range produced (i.e., pastured), and everyone knew what they needed to eat instinctively, without any particular confusion or conflicting advice.  –In those days, food was not a subject tainted by politics and economics, much less wishful ideology.  Food was all about foundational nourishment and survival, and was infinitely more straightforward.  Seasons, climatic conditions and opportunity dictated the menu—and it was ALL wild caught, free range and “organic,” untainted by pesticides, herbicides, freakish GMO’s, refined vegetable oils/trans fats, processed foods or depleted soils.  And for the vast span of our evolutionary history we would not have had the ability to effectively digest the starch in roots and tubers of plants (those always require extensive cooking for this—and our capacity as a species to produce fire at will likely wasn’t more recent than 75,000 to 100,000 years).  In other words, our ability to even digest the naturally-occurring starch in some plants is pretty new to us as a species.

The vast tidal waves of insulin modern humans produce today in response to a metabolically compromising diet unnaturally focused on carbohydrate (sugar and starch-based) foods promoted by mainstream authorities (and to which many are addicted) would have been something utterly unknown to our Paleolithic, pre-agricultural forebears.

Although our ancestors likely experienced minor bouts of insulin resistance seasonally—as with the explosion of late summer ripe fruits and berries in places and times of year where such things were actually available—this would have represented an adaptive response to the need to survive long, cold winter months where excess calories and just a bit of excess body fat might have made the difference between life and death when resources were scarcer.   Even Australia’s hottest Outback is capable of reaching freezing temps (especially during the night) during certain times of the year.  –I have been a witness to actual frost on the ground, in fact, near Kata Tjuta.  And remarkably, Aboriginal people lived mostly without clothing or insulating shelter during any and all weather.  But regardless of whether any of us happen to live in the tropics, desert or arctic climates, the vast majority of us live in climate-controlled environments of near-perfect comfort and temperature today.   In short, “winter ain’t coming anymore.”  Body fat—the favorite fuel for your mitochondrial furnace and for keeping you toasty warm inside—is seldom used much for warmth today.  –Yet one more recipe for inadvertently overstocking your metabolic larder in the form of love handles…

All living beings in the wild operate with a feast or famine mentality. When food is abundant, creatures instinctively eat as much as they can while food is available, so that when food is scarce there is enough energy stored in the body to be able to outlast meager or famine-like conditions. Unfortunately, we today are a species still retaining our primitive “feast or famine” survival instincts in an environment where we now have access to an unnatural abundance of largely unnatural kinds of foods (and food like substances) we are conditioned to value as a form of nutrient devoid entertainment.

We are given conflicting and confusing messages by mainstream authorities of what is and isn’t healthy, as well as what is likelier to make you fat and/or thin.   We are taught (erroneously) to count calories.  We equate “health” with being slender— even as being slender in no way automatically correlates with being necessarily healthy at all.  We are also given the mixed message of valuing slim figures (sometimes unnaturally slim) and body types—often relegating those having excess weight in the population (including even ourselves) to second-class status.    Today there are more weight loss programs, potions and pills then there is woodwork for them to ooze out of.  We want to have our cake, eat it too, and be without any of the accompanying consequences.

The Paleo Way automatically aligns your dietary habits with a more natural way of eating we were designed through millennia to eat.   Is this a cure-all? Absolutely not. But it is—make no mistake—an absolutely critical starting place toward rebuilding your health and helping to reverse deranged metabolic function.

For starters, insulin—frequently referred to as “the fat storage hormone”—is largely generated through our diets by one primary macronutrient, and that is carbohydrates in the form of sugar and starch.   The majority of protein and fat calories we consume literally go to maintaining structure first and foremost, and not necessarily your energy reserves (i.e., fat tissue). It is only nutrients in excess of what are needed for the replenishing, rebuilding and regeneration of your tissues that encourage insulin’s role as the gatherer of excess nutrients to be placed into storage (i.e., body fat) for future need in case of a famine.   Seeing as carbohydrate plays an almost literally negligible role with respect to physiological structure, virtually every molecule of sugar or starch we consume that is in excess of what we need in the immediate moment for immediate “rocket fuel” energy is going to be treated as “excess”—commonly invoking a storage response (in the form of more body fat) from insulin.   Therefore, seeing as we are admonished by mainstream dietary authorities to consume a diet consisting of at least 65% of our caloric energy from carbohydrate foods (mainly starch), it should be no surprise that obesity is a rampant and growing problem. We were simply never designed to eat this way.

 

But, as with many things, this subject is more complicated than that.   Although foundationally, macronutrient ratios DO absolutely drive the underlying impetus for undesirable weight gain in the vast majority of cases, weight gain and resistant weight loss cannot always be relegated entirely to skewed dietary macronutrient ratios.   Other things stimulate insulin, too.  Excess cortisol production can also result in weight gain, for one—which is not all that uncommon in a society driven by stress, fight or flight.   Yet another insulin-provoking phenomena involves chronic inflammation.   Inflammation can be readily driven by not only chronic blood sugar surges, but also the excessive consumption of other inflammatory foods such as GMO’s, dietary antigens, pesticides and herbicides, and refined vegetable oils (often partially hydrogenated or interesterified—associated with numerous inflammatory disease processes)—also high in pro-inflammatory omega -6’s.  Excess estrogen levels (due to estrogens in tainted meats, and chemicals) or impaired estrogen metabolism (in the form of poor biliary function/elimination or self-perpetuating endocrine feedback loops) can also be a big issue for some. There’s obviously more to consider.

First and foremost: Are you operating as a fat-burner or a sugar burner?

The version of “Paleo” embraced by this program is one that almost uniquely seeks to cultivate a metabolism relying on fat (in the form of free fatty acids and ketones) rather than sugar as a primary source of fuel.   We seek to cultivate this advanced metabolic state by minimizing the intake of the kind of fuel you want to burn less of, and increasing the type of fuel you want your body to rely more upon. By eating sufficient fat in the absence of sugar and starch, one cultivates a greater focus and reliance on the use of fat for every day fuel.   Seeing as fat often literally meant “survival” to our Paleolithic ancestors, by eating enough fat (and it doesn’t take excessive amounts) you send a message to your brain that “hunting is good” and that there is no need to ration your body’s precious fat stores. This technically liberates them for free use and an almost inexhaustible supply of readily available, stable energy—even in the absence of regular meals.   The dietary fats you consume supply you with ample fat-soluble nutrients critical to the health of your DNA and genetic expression, while also helping to facilitate the healthy utilization of protein and minerals in your diet, as well as critical fat-soluble nutrients. It’s a win-win.  By minimizing your intake of sugar and starch, you quiet the tendency toward inefficient and craving-ridden sugar burning as a primary source of fuel and focus on generating a far more efficient metabolism.   Rather than simply fat burning during limited bouts of prolonged exercise, you can become a bona fide 24/7 fat burner naturally and effortlessly, even as you sleep!

Common pitfalls along the way

One thing that is very easy to overlook is that dietary protein in excess of what is needed for daily maintenance and repair of tissues can also be converted in significant part to sugar and used the same way.   This is a common sticking point of beginning adherents to this dietary approach.   There is nothing easier than over consuming dietary protein.    We had been culturally conditioned to think that our plate has to be filled with food and that eating whole big steak at mealtime makes for a reasonable portion.   If you happen to be struggling with weight loss on this program the first two places to look are:

  • Are there any hidden carbohydrates in your diet?

And/or…

  • Are you eating too much protein at meals/in a day?

Hidden carbohydrates that may be derailing your weight loss efforts are usually fairly easy to ferret out.  They can include fruits and fruit juices, residual sugars commonly found in commercial kombucha/kefir products and the like, plus hidden sugar in condiments.

As for protein— how much is too much? 

I wrote a blog post for the 10-week program on this particular topic I encourage you to review.  Protein in EXCESS of that required to meet our rebuilding and regenerative needs triggers certain metabolic pathways that in some cases are undesirable from the standpoint of aging and immune function.  But also, a significant portion of those excesses can also get readily converted to sugar to be used the same way!  This has been a tripping point for many who are prone to being metabolically challenged, and it is extremely easy (in our affluent culture where quality protein foods are highly abundant) to inadvertently fall prey to.

Although we at The Paleo Way don’t like to promote overly formulaic approaches in this program, a little math can go a long way to demystify your own individual needs and establish clearer guidelines for those that need them.

So here is the protein requirement math equation (get your calculators ready…):

ASSUMING you are not pregnant or a baby, child or teen with significantly greater protein needs— and assuming you have no pre-existing malabsorptive condition precluding you from properly absorbing the protein you consume…

Take your ideal body weight in kilograms (so if you’re overweight, approximate how much you think you should weigh once you’ve lost the weight you need to) and multiply that number by 0.8 to arrive at the number of grams of actual protein you should shoot for consuming in an entire day (NOT “per meal”) Now mind you, meat fish and eggs are all made up of more than just protein, so you have to figure out how much actual protein is in a single serving of these foods for you.   The rough guideline that I use here where I am in the US is roughly 7 grams of protein for every ounce of meat or fish (each one ounce is supposedly equivalent to approximately 28 grams of meat or fish where some of you are Down Under and elsewhere that is “metrically inclined”).   The average medium to large egg will contain anywhere from 6 to 7 g of actual protein.  It’s a good idea not to exceed about 21 g of actual protein in any given meal.  So if you want to have bacon with your eggs you might want to cut back to just one egg to allow sufficiently for the accompanying meat, for instance. I go into this concept and other reasons why this is so beneficial in my book, Primal Body, Primal Mind.  –And yes—this calculation includes all sources of protein (including nuts).

I also frequently recommend the use of an inexpensive digital scale for weighing your raw meat/fish portions in the beginning.  It is extremely easy to overeat protein and underestimate how much is really on your plate.  In our culture we are conditioned to think that we aren’t being properly fed unless we have a mountain of food on our plates—or at least eating more than we need.  Using a scale to weigh your meat and fish (raw) in the beginning can help “train your eye” to where you would not eventually need it.  I still pull mine out from time to time and even still get surprised by what I “thought” was the right amount and wasn’t.

Just to offer one story:  I was once approached by a woman at a large Paleo conference who had followed my material for years. She had struggled mightily with her weight.   She said that the absolute turning point for her was finally increasing the amount of quality dietary fat that she was consuming and decreasing the amount of protein to within the recommended guidelines. She said the weight just fell off of her after that. She was thrilled.   I have seen this effect and heard this kind of story more than once.   At the very least, it’s worth a try!  If in doubt—eat fewer carbs, a bit less protein and more fat!

Snacking

Another issue for many involves the common compulsion to snack (often, even if we aren’t hungry).  “Healthy snacking” is still snacking, and still has the potential to provoke undesirable weight gain for some.  If metabolic dysregulation is an issue for you (i.e., being overweight) then it is important to resist this compulsion as much as possible.  Allowing your body to rest between meals also better allows for the restoration of insulin sensitivity and normal hunger signaling.

Inflammation!

One of the other, most common issues involves as yet unidentified food sensitivity issues and/or chronic inflammation as a result of immune issues that may need to be addressed.  The most common (seemingly “Paleo friendly”) foods that may be culprits for some include eggs, nuts/seeds—especially almonds and cashews– and nightshades (i.e., tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, capsicum, eggplant, goji berries and potatoes—which really aren’t on the program, anyway).  Citrus, coconut, fish and shellfish can also be problematic for some.

So for example: if you happen to have an egg sensitivity and you eat eggs for breakfast, for instance, then your body will mount an inflammatory response to that food.  Inflammation causes swelling, bloating, water retention, can raise your blood sugar (and trigger insulin) and will absolutely stop weight loss in its tracks.  You may need to identify through systematic elimination what foods might be at issue.  I have listed the most common ones on our program, but there are potentially others.  We live in far more complicated times immunologically than our ancestors did (or even than those living in Weston A. Price’s time did) and we need to take the unique challenges of 21st century modern life into account here.

An inexpensive home screening tool

One cheap and easy method to help identify potentially problematic foods—though I would NOT necessarily take this to the bank, as it is far from perfect—can be through implementing a technique called the Coca Pulse Test.   Arthur F. Coca, MD was a clinical immunologist and the original founder of the Journal of Immunology.  He observed that immune reactions tend to lead to a more rapid heart rate and pulse in his patients.  Using this understanding he devised a simple screening tool to help determine whether or not someone might have an immune-reactive issue by developing a simple Pulse Test anyone can use at home.

The general approach to this test is as follows:

Check your pulse before you get out of bed in the morning. –The key here lies in counting each beat for 60 seconds.  Don’t cheat and just take it for 15 seconds and then multiply by four, or for 30 seconds and multiply by two.  COUNT EVERY BEAT.  Then check it again 30 and 60 minutes after each meal. If your pulse goes up 10 points or more you are probably sensitive to something.  Note that if you happen to be on a beta-blocker (i.e., blood pressure medication), or if your immune reaction to certain foods is delayed (as some are), your pulse may not respond—so the test isn’t perfect.  Caffeine can also lead to a faster pulse (for up to 36 hours), as can nicotine (increasing your heart rate for shorter periods of time).  But despite its imperfections this simple pulse test can be decidedly useful.

The Coca Pulse Test can also be modified in order to test a specific food.  The way it works is this:  Take your early morning pulse (before eating or drinking anything) just as before.  Once you have your morning resting pulse (and you have written it down), go sit quietly with the food you suspect might be a problem.  If it’s eggs, then use, say, a hard-boiled egg and take a bite of it (being sure to include some of the yolk).  Do not swallow it, but instead chew it for a good 30 seconds or more so that your taste buds and neural-lingual receptors are sufficiently saturated/activated.  NOW take your pulse for 60 seconds again (with that food still in your mouth).  IF after 60 seconds your pulse has increased by even 4-6 beats (or more) that food is a likely problem for you.  In that instance you probably won’t want to swallow that bite.  The rub here is that some food antigens impart a delayed reactivity in certain people—up to 36 hours—so like I said, this isn’t remotely perfect.  Nonetheless, if your pulse does pick up, chances are that food is a real problem for you.  If your pulse doesn’t increase right away, though, don’t automatically assume that the food is necessarily 100% okay for you.  –That’s not how this works. This approach obviously provides a pretty crude indicator, but it is also the simplest and most affordable means of quickly  identifying problematic foods.  Elimination diets are another highly affordable method, but they take a good 6 weeks and they are far more difficult to perform accurately (one cheat or inadvertent exposure and you’re back to square one again).  By FAR the most accurate, sensitive and comprehensive testing is through Cyrex Labs, but they are not yet available in Australia and the testing is not inexpensive (though it is decidedly well worth it, if you have the means/opportunity).

Some extremely common sensitivities that can lead to inadvertent weight gain/resistant weight loss are environmental, such as molds (a biggie in places where mold issues are common); or related to chemical exposure (pesticides, herbicides, GMO’s, heavy metals, airborne pollutants and pollen, etc.), which might also be an issue for some.  If you have eliminated the likelihood of certain foods being the problem then you may want to find help testing for some of these other potential antigens.   Also, for those having gluten sensitivities, even trace amounts absorbing through your skin via personal care products (such as lotions or shampoos) can be suspect.

The bottom lime here is that exposure to antigenic foods/substances ARE inflammatory—and chronic inflammation frequently leads to weight gain and/or resistant weight loss issues.

Estrogen

Additional issues to consider (especially for women) include estrogen-based medications, such as with hormone replacement therapy or the pill.  Undesirable estrogen exposure can also come from feedlot meats, pesticides/herbicides, household chemicals and personal care products (listed as parabens on the label).  Keeping the sources of your food clean, pastured and organic, as well as choosing more natural/non-toxic household/personal care products can all help.  Constipation or compromised biliary function can also lead to estrogen dominance/issues in women or men, as they either prevent proper estrogen conjugation through the liver (bile) and/or slow the elimination of conjugated (spent) estrogen, often leading to its reabsorption and recirculation.  If you are experiencing constipation, read my blog post about that and take the necessary steps toward correcting the problem.

Hydration

It may sound counter-intuitive, but one of the most common causes of water retention in the body, leading to general puffiness and excess water weight is actually dehydration.  The body literally starts to cling to every water molecule it can when you aren’t drinking enough of it and this can also lead to problems losing weight.

Need to detox?

We store many toxins in our body fat and some also theorize that such a buildup can lead to a certain “reluctance” by your body to break down fat as a means of protecting you by preventing these toxins from flooding your circulation.  During periods of rapid weight loss such a phenomena (when occurring faster than the body feels ready) can result in what are called “detox symptoms,” such as headaches, nausea, mood changes, brain fog, bowel changes and other unpleasentries.  Undergoing a supervised detox program supported by certain helpful nutrients/supplements may help you more appropriately and comfortably eliminate toxic build-up in various tissues.  This can also help better open your body’s avenues of elimination/detoxification, potentially freeing your body to more readily and comfortably lose weight without untoward consequences.   Drinking extra water is always helpful here, too!

Dysbiosis

It turns out that the composition of your internal wildlife in your gut can frequently make or break your weight loss efforts.   One particular strain of bacteria known as firmicutes has been found to be significantly more prevalent in those suffering obesity, where other species (most commonly bacteroides) will tend to naturally dominate instead in those having fewer weight issues.   Undergoing an appropriate colon-cleansing protocol (preferably supervised) and following that up with healthy probiotics and quality cultured/fermented foods can make a big difference for some people!

Other things to consider or try include:

  • Getting sufficient quality sleep (close to eight hours each and every night)
  • Don’t eat for at least 3 or 4 hours prior to going to bed
  • Avoid too many liquid calories such as juices or smoothies
  • Avoid excessively prolonged exercise and stick to short bouts of more intense exercise, less than 20-30 minutes three or four times a week, instead.

In conclusion

Again, there is WAY more to weight loss than counting calories (which is, incidentally, the poorest way to do it) or in some cases even eating a better diet!  Individual circumstances, immune issues/inflammatory issues and various conditions can interfere in ways that many find frustrating.  Undiagnosed endocrine issues such as (obviously) insulin resistance, estrogen dominance, adrenal insufficiency and thyroid problems can all be problematic culprits and may require further evaluation and support through a qualified and knowledgeable health care provider.

This entire weight loss subject can become quite involved and complicated, but this article has attempted to help you consider some of the more common and basic issues or sticking points when it comes to making sense of those stubborn bathroom scales.  There’s always more to consider, but the information I’ve offered here can absolutely provide you with a great start!

By Nora Gedgaudas

You Might Also Like

Back to Blog Home

Unlock the secrets to a happier, healthier life

Our experts are here to share with you some enlightening thoughts and viewpoints to help you on your own personal journey to become the best version of you. Discover more with our 10 Week Activation Program.

We would love you to join the Tribe!

Join Our 10wk Program