Reasons for weight control problems include insulin resistance, an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, blood lipid disorders, hormonal imbalance, self-image, and the many erroneous beliefs around body weight, healthy living, exercise and fitness.

I’ve struggled with my weight since turning 40 years ago – I’ve put on 15 kg. I’m especially unhappy about the ever-expanding spare tyre around my abdomen! I’ve tried so many diets. Why can’t I lose the weight once and for all? A.J.

DR ARIEN VAN DER MERWE REPLIES:

This is a very common health challenge, affecting mostly women but also many men during the middle years of life. The answer revolves around insulin and the metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a lifestyle disease consisting of the following symptoms occurring together: medium-risk or high blood pressure (hypertension); high triglycerides and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) ‘bad’ cholesterol; low HDL (high-density lipoprotein) ‘good’ cholesterol; high fasting insulin (insulin resistance) and/or high blood sugar (diabetes mellitus), together with overweight or obesity, especially around the abdominal area.

The metabolic syndrome is identified as a major cause of cardiovascular disease, but it also increases the incidence of female reproductive disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes mellitus, significant changes in body essential fatty acid status, and certain cancers.

More than 150 million people worldwide have metabolic syndrome and the figure is expected to rise to 300 million. Compare this with the 35 million HIV-positive people worldwide, and it becomes clear that metabolic syndrome is a major health crisis that has to be addressed.

THE STRESS CONNECTION

Adrenalin (the hormone that increases in response to excess levels of insulin in the body) is a stress-response chemical, released under conditions of emotional upset. Glucocorticoids (such as cortisol) are also stress-response chemicals in some women, based on the unconscious, ‘cold and hunger,’ primary instinctual drive, for which fat is the best protection! These hormones also increase storage of abdominal fat and raise blood glucose levels. One study demonstrated that people with elevated levels of serum cortisol (caused by chronic stress) developed abdominal obesity, insulin resistance and lipid abnormalities.

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It is clear that management of stress factors is critical to addressing the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Shift work, sleep deprivation and exposure to bright light at night also relate to increased body mass, leading to metabolic syndrome. Recently vitamin D deficiency was linked to the risk of cardiovascular disease, and low vitamin D levels were strongly associated with overweight, obesity and metabolic syndrome.

THE SOLUTION

The solution is an integrative medicine approach that includes health screening with a comprehensive stress and depression assessment, followed by a medically assisted weight release programme with motivation and ongoing support from the health care practitioner, fun fitness, nutriceuticals (e.g. specific vitamins, herbs, amino acids and minerals), mental, emotional and nutritional guidance, advice on combating carbohydrate addiction, and a support network that will assist in changing unhealthy lifestyle choices and behaviour to healthy and sustainable ones.

Of the utmost importance is addressing subconscious emotional blockages from stressful or traumatic events in the recent past, or long-forgotten memories, which play an important role in causing the specific symptoms of the metabolic syndrome. In short, if you struggle with metabolic syndrome it is not due to lack of willpower – there are many more factors involved in this health challenge, found in more than one-third of the general population!

MEDICALLY ASSISTED AND SUPPORTED WEIGHT RELEASE

Find a medical practitioner that will identify medical and dietary reasons for weight gain and obesity, and apply scientific and clinically proven treatment protocols, mental-emotional health coaching and educational components.

Treatment should consist of a comprehensive, individualised medical weight release programme, a scientifically formulated eating plan and an integrative medicine approach, including effective and well-researched botanical medicine and scientifically formulated and proven nutriceuticals. There are many medical, mental-emotional and dietary reasons for weight gain and obesity. Health practitioners need to work with the individual to establish the cause and provide the best possible treatment, with ongoing motivation and support.

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