Last week I got together with the lovely people I did my Master of Nutrition and Dietetics with. We went to see Dr. Libby’s ‘Road to Sustainable Weight Loss’. I hadn’t heard of her before, but she’s a dietitian with quite a following in NZ.
Dr Libby is here in Australia promoting her books: the newest of which is ‘Calorie Fallacy‘. She’s a fantastic speaker, and she targeted her talk to individuals wanting to lose weight, but there was a lot for me to learn too!
As many people know, the ‘calorie-in/calorie-out’ equation does not always work. One of my favourite phrases is ‘human bodies are such mysterious things!’ We definitely do not work like in/out machines. The human body is so complex, and there’s still so much to learn.
Dr Libby presents two basic ideas in her book:
- Toxin build up causes fat gain.
- Stress increases fat gain.
Dr Libby’s first theory is that our livers are overloaded from added sugar, trans fats, alcohol, caffeine and other toxins. She says that if there are just too many toxins, the liver will not be able to cope, and will dump excess toxins, which will have to be stored in fat cells.
While this does seem to make sense, I haven’t seen the research and cannot comment on the validity of this theory. Her solution to this is to consume less of what is bad for us: excess junk food, alcohol and caffeine. And more of what is good for us for optimum liver function: fruits and vegetables, and other whole, nutritious foods.
I think the label ‘toxins’ is interesting, because it’s all in the dose. Even things that we think of as harmless, such as cinnamon, can be toxic at higher doses.
So for alcohol and caffeine, I think to treat them as ‘to limit’ foods is a good idea.
Neither has been linked with weight gain, and moderate caffeine intake has been linked to weight loss. A moderate intake* of alcohol is linked with reduced mortality. If you think maybe caffeine intake is affecting your sleep, then it’s worth cutting down, to see if your wellbeing improves.
Her second theory is that stress causes fat gain: Having stress leads to high levels of cortisol, which messes with our metabolism. We do know that excessive cortisol causes weight gain – as in the case of Cushing’s Syndrome- although whether elevated cortisol plays a big factor in those without the syndrome remains to be seen.
Dr Libby recommends deep, slow breathing, such as meditation or tai chi, to reduce cortisol. There are many scientific studies that prove this. Reducing stress is good, whether it causes weight loss or not.
Although I haven’t seen all the evidence behind Dr Libby’s recommendations for weight loss, they are definitely good for health and wellbeing:
- Eat whole foods.
- Limit junk food, alcohol and caffeine.
- Reduce stress.
*(no more than 1-2 standard drinks per day, and two alcohol free days per week)