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Achieving a Healthy Weight is Not a Race!

During my senior year in high school, I joined the newly organized rowing team. I rowed in an 8-man shell, and since we faced backward, we had a coxswain to direct us.

The coxswain was the leader of our shell (a long narrow rowing boat), who would yell “stroke” to keep us pulling the oars in sync and help steer us to stay on the course. Some days the water would be smooth, and other mornings it was a challenge to cut through the choppy water and battle the wind. It was a magical experience when we were all in rhythm with each other, and the elements were cooperative.

We attended a Regatta in Canada with tight weight regulations, and to my huge disappointment, at the weigh-in station, I was too heavy and wasn’t allowed to row with my 4-man team. I was embarrassed and felt like a failure.

This failure knocked my self-esteem, my motivation, and interfered with my social interactions for a while. To some people, this exaggerated response to one incident may seem ridiculous. To others, you’re probably saying, “I get it.”

The truth is, about 4 out of 5 of us will need to be thoughtful about what the scale says at some point in our lives. Weight may have been a concern when you went through puberty, or maybe you were lucky and didn’t have to think about it much until you were older. Regardless, the majority of us will have to adapt to lifestyle habits: how much and how often we eat and adjust our physical activity to maintain a healthy weight. Even if you don’t significantly change your diet or exercise habits, your body may be changing, which means YOU have to adapt to the new you.

Traditionally, the foundation for weight loss is based on the calories in/calories out model. If you want to lose weight, you have to eat less and move more. Fundamentally correct, but there is a lot more to it than that. Like rowing in a competitive race, many factors play a role in weight control and overall health. Anyone who has studied nutrition and weight control, or has personally tried to lose weight knows that it is complicated!

When rowing, we depended on our coxswain to keep our team working and our shell on the right course when rowing. For weight control, insulin works a little like a coxswain. This hormone tells our body that glucose, used as energy for individual cells, is available and helps the glucose into the cells that need it. Glucose is supplied to every cell in the body for thinking, working, exercise, healing, etc. The other function of insulin is to store glucose for future energy needs. In other words, insulin is a storage hormone, which causes the body to store fat.

Insulin resistance occurs when insulin levels are consistently high, and the cells “don’t listen” to insulin very well. Sugar remains in the bloodstream; thus, releasing more insulin and storing more fat.  This becomes a vicious cycle that requires a different approach to weight loss, one that decreases insulin in the bloodstream, hence hormonally influencing the body to burn fat rather than store it. Intermittent fasting is one very effective way of doing this. 

Intermittent fasting may be a new concept to you. Seeing results will take time. Pay attention not only to what you are eating but also when you are eating to help the complex systems that regulate your weight to work more effectively, efficiently, and in harmony.

To have a satisfactory race when rowing, we had to listen to the coxswain, be in tune with each other, and adapt to the elements. We made adjustments as conditions changed. Our coxswain helped us work together and course-correct when we weren’t going in the right direction. Weight control is a lot like this. It is a multifactorial system that requires coordination and cooperation with nutrition, physical activity, and hormones. So ask yourself – as your body or conditions change, are you making the appropriate adjustments to maintain a healthy weight? Eating foods that are close to their natural state, in the proper amount, and at the right time will help the hormones that regulate weight work in harmony with your body. Intermittent fasting may be the course-correction you need to be healthy at a normal weight. Talk to your provider to see if this is something that may benefit you. 

If you want to learn more about these principles, here are a few resources.

The Obesity Code by Jason Fung

Intermittent Fasting: Transformational Technique by Cynthia Thurlow

Reversing Type 2 diabetes starts with ignoring the guidelines by Sarah Hallberg

Haley Pledger, PA
Women’s Care
Matthew Walton, DO
Austin Bills, DO
Family Medicine
Aaron Fausett, PA
Family Medicine
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