As a healthcare provider in the United States, I’ve learned that weight is a serious issue for many of my patients. If a new client schedules an appointment with me, I know there’s a roughly 70 percent chance that they will be overweight. And they will likely be dealing with other health concerns, especially inflammatory conditions. This is the reality for most healthcare providers today. Yet providing an effective healthcare plan to treat these inflammatory conditions is nearly impossible without addressing the primary cause: diet.
It’s no secret that obesity affects the majority of Americans, but it seems all too easy to turn a blind eye to the problem. Tough conversations between patients and doctors about the link between excess weight, poor diet, and overall health are often avoided. While patients seek answers to their health issues, the underlying cause of these issues is rarely addressed. And I constantly ask myself, as a healthcare provider, where we went wrong.
This isn’t a simple question, and it has no simple answer. The truth is, there are a multitude of different reasons. However, though there many causes of obesity, most of them originate with malnutrition. To find a solution to this epidemic, we must first overcome the hurdles that patients and doctors have put in place to impede discussions of weight loss. Whether these hurdles are unrealistic expectations from the patient, negligence from the doctor, or some combination of the two, we have to come together to get this health storm under control.
There’s no quick fix to the epidemic of inflammatory conditions in our society, but here are a few guidelines that may get us moving in the right direction.
Be real—there’s no secret miracle for weight loss.
No matter how good the diet program or multilevel marketing sales pitch, it’s not the answer to your weight issues. When you approach a fad diet with the sole intention of losing weight, you are ignoring the fact that you need proper nutrition to fully nourish your body. Moving the numbers on the scale in your bathroom instead of improving the functionality of the organs in your body causes a disconnect between health and food and an unhealthy relationship between you and your diet.
When the next weight loss miracle program fails—and fail it will— you’ll be left feeling more hopeless than before you started. The seven pounds you lost will come back, plus five more. More unfortunate still, the catastrophe of yo-yo dieting has more negative effects than just failed attempts at weight loss. Each trial run of carbohydrate and calorie restriction leaves your thyroid gland gasping for air, destroying your metabolism.
We must break away from the notion that weight loss is a standalone process unrelated to any other health factor. Take a step back and look at the big picture: your daily diet, your weekly regimen of nutrition, and your eating habits add up to much more than just gaining or losing a pound of weight. Rather than focusing on miracle pills, you must look at the full spectrum of factors, including improving your overall health, maintaining muscle tone, and making other necessary diet and lifestyle changes. With proper nutrition, all of these factors will come together.
Be truthful about your daily habits.
When a patient brings me their concerns, I take a detailed history to help me pin down the underlying causes of the dysfunction. This history includes diet habits, bowel movements, water intake, stress levels, and even details about work. It would be great if I could treat all cases of low back pain with a simple side posture adjustment, but that’s not realistic. Many cases of spinal pain aren’t directly related to the mechanics of the spinal segments. Let’s face it—if a patient comes in with low back pain and they only have one bowel movement every three or four days, it’s time for a discussion about proper nutrition and digestive health to address visceral somatic pain referral patterns. If a patient has sharp midback pain that gets worse after eating french fries, instead of doing an A to P spinal adjustment, I can move right into a discussion of how gallbladder health is distressed by foods fried in rancid oil.
But sadly, patients often don’t tell me the whole truth about their daily habits. Look, if you don‘t drink as much water as you know you should, tell your doctor. If you’re a nighttime snacker and eat more sugar than you should, tell your doctor. If you want an effective treatment plan for your chief complaints, you need to give your doctor the information they need to do their job. I get it—talking about the number, color, and consistency of your bowel movements isn’t fun, but your doctor needs these details to clearly understand your health status. The best way to explain your dysfunction is through your symptoms. So be open, be clear, and offer up all of the details that you can.
Be responsible for your health.
There’s a reason the weight-loss industry spends more than $64 billion per year. Speaking from my experience in functional nutrition, I know how tempted patients are by the possibility of a quick fix. The weight-loss industry knows this as well. They make easy prey of so many because taking a pill is easier than going for a walk. Starting a seventeen-day crash diet is easier than making permanent lifestyle changes. Patients also want to be told that their weight struggles are rooted in a “slow metabolism” or a family predisposition. Hearing that their battle with obesity is doomed from the start offers an odd sense of comfort. No longer must they feel that their daily habits are the actual reason for their struggles with weight. It’s easier to give up hope and stop trying altogether if you’re stuck with a body that just “doesn’t work right.”
It’s a difficult mindset to overcome, and the medical industry bears some responsibility for pushing it. With ad after ad selling us on the idea that one pill a day will solve our weight problems, it’s easy to succumb—far easier than teaching ourselves how to avoid those addictive sugary treats. As hard as it is to be obese in this society, for many of us it’s even more difficult to clean up our diet and start an exercise program. Instead, we blame our weight on that diagnosis of hypothyroidism and do nothing.
Your doctor isn’t responsible for your health, you are. You’re in charge of what you eat, drink, and expose yourself to every single day. Your overall health status is affected by everything from your stress level, sleep patterns, and water intake to the type of cookware and household cleaners you use. Even the sunscreen or makeup you apply to your skin matters. And you are responsible for it all. There’s no simple recipe for good health. But with each good choice you make, you can significantly improve your health and well-being.
Your doctor might not have all the answers.
Discussions of nutrition and health fall short in all walks of the medical field. Physicians simply don’t receive enough education on the subject. This even includes chiropractors. Though my profession prides itself on providing a holistic style of health care, nearly every single day I see a colleague of mine pushing some new “weight loss” program that doesn’t incorporate the functionality of human health. They’re attempting to sell an idea of weight loss that ignores the connection between nutrition and health, continuing to advance the narrative that weight loss is separate from lifestyle choices.
I wish I had a dollar for every patient of mine whose primary doc has prescribed a medication like Adipex to help them lose weight. The primary weight-loss strategy that they hear from their doctors seems nearly unanimous: “Take this pill, it works!” Zero regard is given for the negative side effects of these medications. And most of us cannot help but take the advice of our doctor as truth. They are the experts, after all, and we are supposed to trust them implicitly. But this thinking has negative consequences on our health.
The United States represents about 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we consume about 50 percent of the world’s pharmaceuticals. I would say we have an over-prescribing issue going on. And all too often, a simple side effect of our most common prescriptions—including antidepressants, beta blockers, insulin, and anti-inflammation steroid medications—is weight gain.
As a patient, you must do some of your own research. Part of taking control of your own health is learning what you’re being fed by your doctor. Second opinions are always a good option, and you should avoid any doctor who discourages you from getting one. Your health is too important to take a medication and then seek more medical attention to alleviate the side effects from it. Of course, medications are warranted in many instances, such as surgeries and other invasive therapies, but there are also plenty of times that they can be avoided by pursuing a natural option instead.
Let’s Work Together to Create Change
I consider myself an avid researcher, and I try to gather as much knowledge as I can about how nutrition and biochemistry work together. These days, thanks to the internet, research is easier than ever. But I still find myself going back through the decades’ old work of Dr. Royal Lee to find the links between food and health. Even as far back as 1943, he was warning us about the health crisis we’re in today:
We have drifted into this deplorable position of national malnutrition quite inadvertently. It is the result of scientific research with the objective of finding the best ways to create foods that are nonperishable that can be made by mass production methods in central factories, and distributed so cheaply that they can sweep all local competition from the market. Then, after there develops a suspicion that these “foods” are inadequate to support life, modern advertising steps in to propagandize the people into believing that there is nothing wrong with them, that they are products of scientific research intended to afford a food that is the last word in nutritive value, and the confused public is totally unable to arrive at any conclusion of fact, and continues to blindly buy the rubbish that is killing them off years ahead of their time.
—Dr. Royal Lee, “Recent Conclusions in Malnutrition”
For nearly five years I’ve been gathering as much information as I can to put together educational material for my patients. Thanks to Dr. Lee’s work (much of it available for free at the SRP Historical Archives), as well as continuing education courses such as Endocrine Mastery with Dr. Michael Gaeta and the Essentials of Nutritional Therapy with Dr. Jay Robbins, I’ve been able to compile a complete picture of this information, putting the pieces of the puzzle together into one detailed book about the absolute majesty that is our human body. From how our food system has shifted to the hormones related to hunger, from stomach function to our fight-or-flight response, I lay out the interconnections of human function and their relationship to diet and lifestyle in The Weight Is Over: The Links Between Food, Health, and Weight That Your Doctor Hasn’t Told You.
The Weight Is Over covers many of our health issues in great detail, using real life analogies to help you understand how your body works and how your diet and lifestyle choices play a vital role in maintaining your overall health. As you can imagine, this is a wide-ranging topic. But I want to help people understand the importance of whole-food nutrition as well as the intricate role that whole-food supplementation can play to get your health back on track.
As I’ve noted, the weight issue that many Americans suffer from isn’t a stand-alone health issue. The sooner we come together to battle the inflammation epidemic that’s been driven by our diet and lifestyle choices, the sooner we can start pushing a narrative that works. Obesity isn’t the only issue we need to worry about. Depression, diabetes, heart disease, and thyroid dysfunction also plague millions of us every year. We have a lot of work to do, and when we work together to ask the right questions, we can achieve much more.
Images from iStock/dragana991 (main), AndreyPopov, (man looking in the fridge), Zinkevych (woman talking to the doctor), Zinkevych (woman exercising).
holistic nutrition | weight-loss