Q: Yo-yo dieting (which wreaks havoc on our metabolism) and sedentary lifestyles are two of the main culprits in weight struggles. Why are these bad habits so much more prevalent in America than in other parts of the world?
SL: We are encouraged to yo-yo diet. It's the "quick fix" mentality that is so prevalent in our society. What happens when we do the meal replacement diets, supervised fasting, etc. is drastically cut down our calories throwing us into "starvation mode." Once this happens, you will gain back every pound and inch you've lost and more. This mode slows our metabolism into a storage mode since the brain thinks we are starving. You may lose weight quickly dieting this way, at least the first few times. But people gain it back again even if they start eating a well balanced diet. In other cultures, they are more aware of the rising amount of overweight and obese adults and children due to fast foods and sedentary lifestyle, a more Western way of life. This way of life is relatively new for them, not yet ingrained in their society. So its easier for them to go back to a more native way of life: eating less refined and processed foods and being more active. There is still less reliance on fast food in many Asian and European nations. What I feel has the most impact on this epidemic is the fact that many US school no longer make physical education mandatory. Its mandatory in any other school anywhere else in the world. This is setting the stage for overweight and obesity later in life. I travel all over the world and there is no where with the degree of overweight and obesity as seen in the USA. We eat tons of sugar, fat and refined products and become more and more sedentary.
Q: Tell us about the role that stress plays in weight gain, and also in unsuccessful attempts at weight loss.
SL: Emotional stress seems to be a major player in unsuccessful attempts at weight loss. Stress can elevate cortisol levels and this particular hormone can cause insulin resistance and carbohydrate sensitivity and cause fat gain particularly in the stomach area. When you gain weight in the stomach or abdominal area, this makes you more carbohydrate sensitive. So even if you weren't so carbohydrate sensitive to begin with, a major stress can put you over the top and suddenly you can gain weight from things you've been eating all along. It's really important to deal with the stress by at least getting help, stress reduction, therapy, tapes, self-help groups, there are so many things to choose from. Also, the way in which we deal with stress differs from person to person. If I am stressed the last things I want is food; I will tend to lose weight. But someone else can have the opposite reaction and want to eat all the time. I think that this has to do with "comfort" foods and how food was perceived when we were children. My parents never used food as reward, punishment nor comfort so I was lucky. So stress really must be dealt with; we can't necessarily make it go away but we must find better ways to deal with it. Now physical stress like finding out you have high blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar (diabetes) can be extremely motivational for cleaning up your diet and lifestyle.
Q: People may be surprised to read that the 3 p.m. energy lull actually indicates a sensitivity to carbohydrates. What are some of the other signs of carbohydrate sensitivity that most of us are completely unaware of?
SL: In addition to the 3 PM "crash and burn" people will also experience memory and concentration problems, mood swings and crankiness, difficulty sleeping and carbohydrate cravings. Gaining weight around your stomach is a particular sign that you are or may become carbohydrate sensitive.
Q: Can you share some of your best tips for staying motivated and not getting discouraged?
SL: I think that women more than men tend to beat themselves up when they fall off the wagon. What I make clear in my book is that I expect you to cheat. Stay motivated by knowing that I want you to cheat. I just don't want you to do it every day!! So when you cheat, do it, enjoy it and get back on the program the next day. You are not overweight because you cheated on occasion. And of course, I tell you about specific supplements that you can use to take control of your metabolism, fat intake, carb intake, so that you can continue to lose weight even with occasional cheats. I think what blocks motivation is the thought that you have to eat perfectly every day of your life and never deviated or you won't lose weight.
Shari Lieberman, PhD, CNS, FACN earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from The Union Institute, Cincinnati, OH and her M.S. degree in Nutrition, Food Science and Dietetics from New York University. She is a Certified Nutrition Specialist (C.N.S.), a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition (FACN), a member of the New York Academy of Science and a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Dr. Lieberman's newest book, Dare To Lose (Avery Publishing Group; 2002) is available in bookstores. For more info, visit: www.drshari.net. Click here to order this book now.