I was reading an e-newsletter on weight loss recently. They were recommending a very sexy-sounding supplement that suggested the pounds would melt away like bacon fat in a hot skillet. I looked at the ingredients — most were old favorites that are found in most weight loss blends from time immemorial. In general, we know these products have very limited efficacy (unless appropriately prescribed, more on that in a second); but sales are huge for them, given the promise of rapid weight loss.
My enewsletter prompted me to think about weight loss among patients in my own practice. When we launched our website last year, I was reviewing the testimonials that people had offered who came to my clinic.
I remember thinking that every single person in the testimonial group who needed to lose weight did so. And the weight loss wasn’t a central focus of our work together for any of them, rather it was a byproduct of the restoration of health.
It was like an afterthought. In fact, I remember adding parenthetical statements to some of the testimonials to note total weight lost, as some of the individuals who offered the testimonials had forgotten about the issue! And no one counted calories. And everyone ate as they needed to. Amazing, isn’t it?
I wish I could tell you I have some fabulous secret program, but I really don’t. It’s Systems Medicine — individualized medicine — the type any good integrative clinician practices.
And it’s pretty darn straightforward: First, we look for food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities. We can do this though laboratory testing and/or an elimination diet. Next, I “cast a wide net” of laboratory investigation for most of my patients, looking for nutrient insufficiencies, gut issues, hormone imbalances (including insulin, thyroid and sex hormones) and toxin exposures (like mercury or PCBs) as needed.
With this body of information, I can design an individualized diet — exactly what that person needs to be healthy. And I also can see, through the testing, exactly what nutrients they need. So, that sexy supplement I mention above? Well, if a person actually demonstrates on laboratory testing that they NEED carnitine — one of the darling nutrients of the weight loss industry — then they are far more likely to respond to a sufficient dose of carnitine (which is generally a lot higher than one finds in a combination supplement). Tyrosine, the amino acid precursor to thyroid hormone (and another diet supplement superstar)? Well, if they actually have lower levels of tyrosine, or lower thyroid function, then it could be very helpful, as well. But if you don’t have a NEED for all the various weight loss nutrients piled into these products, ingesting them likely will yield only really expensive urine and no weight loss.